Photo by Ester Segarra
V Santura (pictured far left) is the guitarist of Triptykon, Dark Fortress and Noneuclid – the former of which released their album Melana Chasmata earlier in the year. In addition to this, he also runs Woodshed Studio, a recording studio in Landshut, Germany, and has worked with a myriad of incredible bands – including one of our favourites, Kuolemanlaakso. See what happened when we sat down with him in Manchester to chat Melana Chasmata, Kuolemanlaakso and plans for 2015.
So 2014 finally saw the release of Triptykon’s second album Melana Chasmata. How would you say you approached that album in comparison to Eparistera Daimones?
Well, Melana Chasmata finally came to life in a very different way than the last one did and for us as a band, it felt quite simple to create it. We started rehearsing together in early 2009 and a few months later, we had the entire album written. Of course, Tom had songs written before that, but the arranging sessions as a full band all felt really smooth. Everything worked in the whole production process and turned out the way we wanted it.
There was a gap of four years between the albums though, and if everything had gone smooth and effortlessly we definitely wouldn’t have had that gap. It was a quite difficult time, especially on a personal level for Tom in many regards.
When we were together in the rehearsal room and arranging the songs as a band, it felt similar to Eparistera Daimones and I took great pleasure in finishing the songs but on the other hand, when we started with the studio production, Tom started getting a lot of doubts about the material but I was convinced it was even stronger than Eparistera Daimones. It was a really hard fight to complete the album and also my feelings are a bit mixed towards it – it was a hell of a time for us and in a way, I hate it!
With that in mind, would you want to go back and change anything?
I don’t want to re-touch it! (laughs) I’m very proud of it and the reception it’s received has been absolutely overwhelming but on the other hand I hate it because it took away all the fun in my life for a year at least! (laughs) That’s maybe a bit exaggerated, but I think that’s why my feelings are a bit mixed. However I am very proud of it and I greatly enjoy playing the songs from that album.
I really like it – it’s good how Melana Chasmata feels like a natural progression from Eparistera Daimones.
I agree, it felt like that for me too!
I enjoy the fact they’re not exactly the same.
Yes, that would be very boring and would be disappointing – especially when you look at Tom’s musical history, as two albums are never the same with him! You could perhaps even criticise that about Melana Chasmata, the fact that it is kind of close stylistically to Eparistera Daimones when you look back at the history of Celtic Frost in the 80s. There was a huge step between To Mega Therion and Into The Pandemonium for example, and our step in Triptykon was perhaps not quite as big. But there was still new elements included, like acoustic guitars and stuff like that, and I think that the palette of colours used on the new album was bigger than that of Eparistera Daimones – but it’s still all dark ones of course!
Changing the subject a bit, you’ve also worked as a producer with one of my favourite bands, Kuolemanlaakso. How did that working relationship first come into fruition?
I played with Triptykon at the Finnish Metal Expo in February 2011 and I met Markus and Petteri there. [editor’s note: Laakso and Kouta respectively] I know that’s not their official stage names though! (laughs) It was at the aftershow party at a pub; we started talking and it was just so great hanging out with them. They had this idea they were just starting and they wanted to know if I’d be interested in mixing it. I was like “yeah of course, why not?” and we stayed in email contact after that.
We then developed the idea that we could maybe do the entire album together, so they flew to Germany and recorded the entire debut album with me – except for the vocals because at that time, they weren’t even sure if Mikko was going to be the singer. They had him in mind but it wasn’t clarified, but then he actually joined the band and Petteri, the guitar player, recorded with him in Finland – and then I mixed the entire thing.
The whole production was very very pleasant and I absolutely love working with the guys. With the second album, I actually flew to Finland to record it!
How did it compare to work in that secluded cabin in the middle of the Finnish woodlands rather than at Woodshed Studio like normal?
I really loved it. It was something completely different and we were surrounded by beautiful nature. Plus it was in August so the weather was pretty good! Of course, we did a lot of work and put in long working days but it was really relaxing to a certain extent. It was a very creative and good atmosphere.
Tulijoutsen is a very important album to me personally as well as musically. How did the music come across in the studio during the recording session of that and the EP Musta Aurinko Nousee? [editor’s note: The second album and EP were recorded in one session together.]
It was really great. The drums were done in two days and the rhythm guitars were a piece of cake, as well as the bass and all that, so we actually had the time to sit down for a whole day and just listen to the songs.
That must have been good to take a step back and be able to take it all in.
Yeah, and by doing that we could see if we wanted to add any elements here, or a lead guitar there, or something else over there. It was really cool to have the actual possibility to be creatively involved as a producer as well; I didn’t just press the ‘record’ button and moved a few sliders about!
It must be great when you get a chance to have a bigger involvement.
Yeah, it’s always very pleasant to do that.
Which track would you say is your favourite on Tulijoutsen?
(there is a very long pause.)
Wow, I don’t know if I have a favourite track! I don’t think I can choose just one.
It is an awesome album, all the songs are really great.
(laughs) I actually did have a favourite on the first one though, Etsin.
That is definitely one of my favourites as well. The lyrics are so powerful and meaningful.
I love the verses, myself. They have that very primitive pumping rhythm guitar behind them and then you have those fantastic harmonies. It just gives me goosebumps. I love the groove and the vibe, and it’s just so dark and atmospheric! Also Minä Elän is another one I love from that album.
Good call, that’s a great one.
The melodic themes are good but that opening riff is just…yeah, I was actually headbanging whilst I was mixing it! I was like “hey man, focus on the mix, stop it!” (laughs)
And speaking of mixing and producing – what have you got in store for 2015?
A lot of studio work! I’m right in the middle of a mix, but I had to quit it for the moment whilst I’m on tour, and it’s for a new band called Alkaloid. It was founded by Hannes Grossmann, the now-ex-drummer of Obscura. It also has Christian Münzner and Linus Klausenitzer from Obscura involved, as well as Morean as vocalist, who is also the singer of Dark Fortress. I’m currently mixing that album, and it’s really fucking great progressive metal.
Sounds incredible! What’s it like?
There’s a big range of sounds; very silent parts that are almost like Tool, and then other parts that’s brutal death metal. It’s a lot of work and that’s basically what I have to finish when I get back home. I’m also going to mix the new Secrets Of The Moon album in January, and then I’m going to produce the next Obscura album. I also have one or two other mixes, so that will keep me busy for a while! I will also be playing a couple of festivals with Triptykon and we are thinking about a few tours too.
So nothing set in stone yet?
No, nothing quite concrete. Basically my time schedule is very full already, and since I worked a little bit too much in 2014, I’m going to close my studio for like two or three months in the summer and just play a few live shows. I’m just going to take a little bit of a break so I can get the chance to get creative again. And that’s pretty much what I have in mind for 2015!