Monday, 25 August 2014

Interview with Jussi Lehtisalo (Circle, Arkhamin Kirjasto, Steel Mammoth, Krypt Axeripper and more)

Jussi Lehtisalo is the leader and the only constant of the seminal experimental rock band Circle from Finland. Outside of this long running project (almost forty albums under the moniker), he's in plenty of interesting and oddly named bands like Krypt Axeripper, Steel Mammoth, Motorspandex or Arkhamin Kirjasto and is also the man behind the eclectic Ektro Records label. He's one of my favourite musicians and interviewing him was an opportunity I couldn't ignore. I reviewed some of his projects and I have so much ask to ask him! Tag along!

METANTOINE'S MAGICKAL REALM: I hope it's nice in Pori right now? I have a friend who's visiting Helsinki at the moment and he enjoys the Finnish sauna experience. I hope I'm not disturbing you with these questions!

JUSSI LEHTISALO: Pori is a quiet small town in Finland’s west coast. It’s active just for ten days a year during the world-renowned jazz festivals. I’ve witnessed for example Urban Sax and McCoy Tyner, so there’s definitely great things going on in there. You’re not disturbing me at all. I’m touched when someone is interested about things up here in the north.

MMR: The recent Circle situation is pretty confusing, the project changed its name to Falcon (ex-Circle) and released an excellent AOR/hard rock album but also kept the Circle name and released an album called Incantation which was basically a doom/death metal record featuring the entire lineup of Pori based death metal band Stench of Decay. But now, the true Circle resurfaced with your usual experimental blend with Leviathan. Care to explain all these lineup changes?

JUSSI: In short, it’s a brand research. Which is more important, a work of art or people behind it? Are artists free or slaves to their brand?

MMR: Circle is well known for its constant experimentation and its huge discography. What are for you the most important albums this project has created? Is there some experimentation that you thought worked better than others? I can think of the acoustic elements in the latest album Leviathan, the drone of Mountain or the heavy metal/glam or the psychedelic rock/proto metal of Sunrise.
If you were to meet someone who never heard Circle, what would be the first album you'll show to him/her?

JUSSI: Circle’s records are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and the whole picture unfolds only as the pieces don’t get together smoothly. I’m intrigued by the sober plunge of Miljard and the shapelessness of Infektio, as well as the versatility of Manner and the agility of Leviatan. I recommend people attend Circle concerts in a happy frame of mind.

MMR: You worked with Bruce Duff from Jesters of Destiny in Circle (Hollywood) and Pharaoh Overlord (the excellent album Out of Darkness) and your label recently re-released their cult classic album. Considering this, with what other veteran musicians would you like to work with?

JUSSI: Here’s a few of my favourite musicians: Mark Shelton (Manilla Road), Jimmy Page, Christian Vander (Magma), Mark Lanegan, Kaija Saariaho, Läjä Äijälä, Jaki Liebezeit, Robert Hampson... Circle is a dream group for me, so things are looking very good.

MMR:-You released a single with Chris Black (Dawnbringer, High Spirits, Pharaoh...) under the name Aktor (I really liked it!) How did you manage to form a band with him? It's mainly a long distance project, right? And also, can you tell me about the upcoming album for this project. It will still have the awesome Blue Öyster Cult influences, I hope? I met Black at a High Spirits event and he said he's writing the lyrics so I guess you compose the music?

JUSSI: It’s been really great and easy to work with Chris. Aktor’s forthcoming album is in the home stretch now, and it’s going to be brilliant. On the other hand, I’ve always thought the records I’ve made have been suberb, but that’s gone unnoticed by the wider audiences. The riffs on the Aktor album are at times a bit weird, but I hope it meanders somewhere between Jesters of Destiny, Molly Hatchet and Angel Rat era Voivod.

MMR: I'm a big fan of all your heavy metal projects such as Krypt Axeripper, Motorspandex or Steel Mammoth. There are many similarities between them, and I like the fact that they all have their own names, but why is that so important to you? I mean Tractor Pulling is pretty damn similar to Krypt!

JUSSI: I wanted to build a whole NWOFHM scene, but I was pretty much the only one who got excited by the idea, so I decided to start 10–20 different bands. The bands sound alike to some extent because I’ve done all the riffs at least for Krypt Axeripper, Mercedes Hell, Tractor Pulling, and Motorspandex. I have in my drawer new EPs of almost all of the abovementioned bands, but I’ve been wise enough not to release them.

MMR:Arkhamin Kirjasto explored a more extreme side of metal with its groovy death metal sound. What influenced this project?

JUSSI: Metallica’s Kill em´ All, Xysma, Morbid Angel, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Slauter Xstroyes, Otis Reaper...

MMR: I always liked the NWOFHM (New Wave of Finnish Heavy Metal) tag, I believe it was your idea, am I right? I like the tongue in cheek feel it has and like the NWOBHM tag, it includes a wide variety of your ideas and sounds. Can you talk a bit about that?

JUSSI: With Tractor Pulling, I did my best to make music like Antiseen and Accept. Krypt Axeripper was meant to sound like Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol and Cloven Hoof. Motorspandex was influenced by Brocas Helm and Rudimentary Peni. With Mercedes Hell, I dreamt of crossbreeding Satan and newer Darkthrone, but as I’m such a helpless heavy guitarist and singer the influences may not always be audible. But nowadays I’ve developed into an outstanding riff machine, so it was worthwhile to do these experiments.

Favorite Finnish meal that everyone should know about: reindeer meat, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.
Favorite beer: BrewDog Dead Pony Club.
A beer to try!
Favorite movie(s): Satantango (Bela Tar), Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky), Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard).
Favorite rock album of all time: Jesters of Destiny’s Fun at the Funeral.
Favorite metal album of all time: Iron Maiden’s Powerslave.

Favorite Finnish hockey player (Teemu Selänne!!!???): Tapio Levo, Veli-Pekka Ketola, Mika Niemi.

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