Hi Jesse and welcome to Grande Rock webzine. First, tell me how you got the idea to form The Abbey and how you did come up with the band’s name?
J: After an episode of severe depression in spring 2021, I had to re-evaluate my life a bit. I wanted to do something new, to express myself in some other way than I had done before. I was asked to do guest vocals for my friend’s doom metal band and after recording those bits I realized that that was something I had to do more. So, it was born from the need of a new kind of self-expression.
About the band name… We still didn’t have a name for the band when I was having a conversation about Aleister Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema. At some point of that conversation I realized that “Abbey” was a perfect name for this band! There already was an artist called Abbey, so we decided to add “the” in the beginning. The name has a majestic and dark sound in it and I think it suits us perfectly. There are also lots of references to Crowley’s work in our lyrics.
Did you intend to make The Abbey your personal project, or did you want it to be a “real” band from the start?
J: I don’t think the two necessarily cancel each other out. The Abbey was and still is a very personal thing, but I also think of it as a “real” band. Since my creative method was based on free writing and improvisation, creating the material was sort of a spiritual and psychological exercise for me. Those songs came directly from my “creative unconscious” and I don’t know if there can be anything more personal than that. Still, one of my main tenets from the beginning was that I want to give every musician in the band the opportunity to use their self-expression as freely as possible.
How challenging was it to get Natalie Koskinen (Shape of Despair) on vocals, Vesa Ranta (ex-Sentenced) on drums, Janne Markus (The Man-Eating Tree, Poisonblack) on guitars, and Henri Arvola on bass, to complete the band?
J: I had written a post on social media where I was looking for musicians. Janne was the first one to write to me back. After a short discussion it was clear that we were on the same page – we talked about forming a doom metal band with an organic, 70’s kind of twist. From the beginning I knew that I had to get Vesa as our drummer. The way he hits the drums is just out of this world – It’s like a monstrous wrecking ball crushing everything on its way! I sent Vesa two quick demos and after a while, thank goodness, he said yes! He was also an old friend of Janne and they had already played together in The Man-Eating Tree.
It was Vesa’s idea to ask Natalie to join in. Natalie had just decided that she wouldn’t join any new bands, but after she heard the first demo of “Widow’s Will”, she fortunately changed her mind and joined us! By the way, we now also have a new atmospheric black metal band with Natalie, Monachopsis Art.
The last one to join was Henri, a skilled sound engineer and amazing bassist who I used to study music with. On and on it wasn’t too hard to come up with this lineup, and I couldn’t be happier how it turned out! We have just the right people for this band.
How do you feel now that your debut album “Word of Sin” is out?
J: I feel relieved, but also somehow empty. We had the album ready for over a year so it was a really long wait for us. Now when it’s out, I feel like we should be touring and promoting it all the time. But the crushing reality is that booking tours and gigs as a new band is f*cking hard these times. Nevertheless, we are all committed to work hard to get things rolling.
How much time did you spend to the debut album’s music? Have you been working on it before the other members joined you?
J: I skipped the traditional songwriting step, so it was all composed really fast. I probably spent about half a day per song. As I mentioned before, I used free writing and improvisation when creating these songs, so instead of being too analytic I decided to forget everything I knew about theory and just let my creative unconscious speak. I plugged in my guitar or keyboards, started to record and after a while I had all the parts needed for a song. Janne said in one interview that during the time he had written one song, I had already created six, (haha). But that’s a process you can’t force – if your soul hasn’t got anything to say, then it’s better to do something else. I think “Widow’s Will” was the only song that was done before we had the lineup ready.
In what ways did the other member contribute to the creation of the album’s music
J: I gave everyone free hands to do whatever they wanted with their instruments, there were no restrictions. I really feel like you can hear everyone’s own voice from the album, even if most of the songs are originally created by me. The song “Starless” is the only piece on the album where I wasn’t a part of the creative process – the music is written by Janne and lyrics by Natalie. That song adds a lot of depth and richness and I’m really happy it made it to the album.
You’ve also cooperated with Kyösti Rautio, who also co-produced and mixed the album. How was the whole experience and did the album’s production meet your expectations?
J: I really didn’t have any expectations and I surely didn’t know it was going to be this big! Kyösti did an amazing job both as a co-producer and a sound engineer. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him, but without him the album wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is now. So, a real big thank you for Kyösti!
Can you tell us about any challenges you faced while recording this album? Did you experiment with any new techniques or approaches? Have you had to make any changes to your recording or writing process as a result of the pandemic?
J: The pandemic was probably a blessing in disguise, since I had the time to concentrate on creating instead of touring with my other bands. There really weren’t too many challenges, at least not for me. Recording an album had actually never been this easy and fluent. The way I wrote the songs was a new technique for me and I’ve used the same method many times after “Word of Sin”. My new avant-garde black metal band Henget will release its debut album in May via Season of Mist, I published my fourth solo album under the moniker Iterum Nata in February and the Monachopsis Art debut is out in a few days. So, I have written four albums in less than two years by using this songwriting technique – and these records include the best songs I’ve written so far!
How did you choose the title “Word of Sin” for the album? Is it in any way related to the cover artwork?
J: The title is taken from a passage in Aleister Crowley’s Liber al Vel Legis: “The word of Sin is Restriction”. There are lots of references to Crowley’s works in our songs and even the name of the band is influenced by him. The cover art features some elements from the lyrics and the album title is closely tied to the lyrics so yes, there is a relationship between the title and the cover art.
Do give us a hint about each track… (just a line or two)
J: “Rat King”: Will devour everything on its way. The end of the world as we know it, but doomy and progressive.
“A Thousand Dead Witches”: The Abbey – supporting witches with rock ‘n roll since 2021.
“Crystallion”: Ascend to reach for the crown! A straightforward song with the lyrics of the poet Jori-Ville Rahkonen.
“Starless”: Heavy, dark and beautiful. A song from the desolate corners of the Soul, written by Janne & Natalie.
“Desert Temple”: The fastest song on the album. A very intimate story about smearing the balsam and lighting the beacon.
“Widow’s Will”: The things you do for love…
“Queen of Pain”: Another song with Natalie’s lyrics. Beautiful harmonies with lyrics about carnal pain and pleasure.
“Old Ones: Prequel”: My tribute to Dead Can Dance. The lyrics are based on a vision I had while doing a spiritual exercise.
“Old Ones”: A gigantic piece about the wheel of karma. The puny existence of mankind means nothing in the realms of the Ancient Masters.
How would you describe The Abbey’s music style to someone who hasn’t heard band before?
J: Our foundation is built on doom metal, but there are lots of elements from 70’s progressive rock and even extreme metal. The themes of the songs revolve around the occult and the dark side of the human psyche.
Are you satisfied with the collaboration you have with your record label Season of Mist so far?
J: At first it was hard to adapt to the reality that everything happens so much slower with a big label. There was also a lot of paperwork and whatnot, but they sure are true professionals and they do their job very well. Working with their PR people has been great and I feel like we are being taken a good care of! I also signed Henget with them, so I really do trust them!
What are your expectations from the debut and what do you wish to achieve with The Abbey over the next years?
J: At the moment we are hungry for more live shows, that’s our priority. We have also written some new material, so maybe at some point we start working with our second album!
You’ve already performed some live gigs. Are you planning anything else as we speak? Do you plan to go on tour or play at festivals?
J: As I said before, our top priority at the moment is to get more live shows!
It’s time for our “Strange Questions”!!! How have you been coping with the challenges and uncertainties brought on by the pandemic?
J: I have done only a handful of live shows in the last few years and that has been the worst part of it. On the other hand, I have been able to have a better understanding of myself and develop myself as a musician with my new bands. I have been going through some big changes in my personal life as well, so it has been actually good that I’ve had the time to deal with those things.
Are “social media” a “compulsory part” of music biz these days or bands, artists & labels can do without them as well?
J: Well, of course they can exist without social media, but then they wouldn’t get that much visibility. Personally, I don’t like social media marketing at all, but it’s something I have to do. The fact is that people read their news mostly from social media nowadays.
What do you think about the “downloading & streaming issue” of our time? Do you prefer the streaming services more or not?
J: If a song plays 12k times on Spotify, the artist(s) get 14€ from it with a 50/50 royalty share deal. Let’s say the lyricist gets half of it and the composer another half. That leaves them with 7€ each. It means that one play is worth of 0,003€. What do you think, does that sound like a good share?
Beloved TV series at the moment??
J: A German Netflix series “Dark”.
What are those things that you do not like in the music industry nowadays?
J: Well, let’s start with the 0,003€ compensation per Spotify stream! The distribution of the money from streaming services is just ridiculously unfair. I’m also worried about the trend where venues are taking a share from the merch sales – they don’t have any valid argument to do that. Also, as I stated before, it seems almost impossible to get shows these days as a new band. Still, the worst thing is that it doesn’t seem to matter anymore how skillful a musician or songwriter you might be – music is becoming more and more of an entertainment than art, and that makes me, as an ambitious musician, really sad. We don’t have time (or mental capacity) to appreciate a great composition, but we rather take a generic beat with a funny phrase, use it to get likes on social media accounts and then move on to the next just as dull and unintelligent song and repeat. Maybe I should stop here before I decide to sell my gear and quit, (haha)! (in.: Unfortunately many musicians have done so)
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words:
J: Rockstar: Dick
Doom Metal: Shirtless men with chest hair
Eurovision: Why are they dressed like that?
Music Realities: Pink Floyd – Have a Cigar
Fill in the phrase… “Doom Metal wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
J: Shirtless men with chest hair…
Which are the best 3 Doom Metal albums of all time according to you?
J: These are my picks today; the list is probably different tomorrow. Let’s do this decade by decade:
70’s: Black Sabbath – “Sabotage”
80’s: Candlemass – “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”
90’s: My Dying Bride – “The Light at the End of the World” (you just need to get over with the snare sound).
Which is the album you wish you had written and why?
J: The Abbey’s “Word of Sin” or Iterum Nata’s “Trench of Loneliness”, because those albums have taught me a new way to express myself musically. Oh, but wait, I did write them! Seriously, I can’t come up with any good reason why I should’ve written an album that’s written by someone else! It wouldn’t be my self-expression then, would it?
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
J: At the moment I feel like saying Igorrr or Dead Can Dance!
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in metal history?
J: I hate choosing the best anything! I might say some names now, but I might change my mind the moment after! Mikael Åkerfeldt is definitely in the all-stars with Amalie Bruun, but naturally there are other players in the team as well!
Which is the composer/songwriter who influenced metal music the most?
J: Come on! I’d say it’s probably the first hominid who ever learned to clap its hands! That was way before Black Sabbath or even Bach!
If you could be someone else (man, woman, fictional character, historical figure) who would you chose to be and why?
J: Some creature that lives in the depths of the ocean, enjoying its time, surrounded by solitary darkness. Just because I’m terrified of the deep waters and I want to get rid of that phobia!
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
J: I don’t think there is such an album… yet! I better start working on it!
What are your thoughts on A.I.? It appears to have taken over the world in the last months in every aspect of our lives, and this is only the beginning.
J: “Every aspect of our lives” is maybe pushing it a bit too far! I see lots of good things in it, but also lots of risks. In the end it is up to us humans how we decide to utilize A.I. It is funny how there have been sci-fi flicks, written by humans, for ages about A.I. that realizes how pestilent humankind is and how it needs to be destroyed before it creates a total havoc, so we basically know that we’re doing things horribly wrong, and we know things can go pretty bad with A.I., but we still keep on behaving like a flock of pests! Talking about collective denial! In the end we get what we deserve – “The Rat King” is already on its way!
Thank you very much for talking to Grande Rock webzine. Say anything you feel like saying before we close… take care dude!
J: Thank you for featuring us in Grande Rock (special thanks for the “strange questions” part)! For all the readers: The times are hard for new bands. Remember to support your favorite acts by attending live shows, buying merch and sharing your favorite songs on social media. Bands can’t afford to exist without the support from their fans!