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Omnium Gatherum (I)
Interview mit Markus & Jukka [Omnium Gatherum], 28.06.2014, Helsinki/Virgin Oil Co.

Freitags noch mit Insomnium auf dem „Rock am Härtsfeldsee“-Festival in Deutschland, samstags mit Omnium Gatherum auf der Bühne des finnischen Clubs Virgin Oil Co. und sonntags einmal mehr mit Insomnium auf dem Tuska Open Air in Helsinki – Markus Vanhalas letztes Juni-Wochenende schien ein wenig stressig zu sein. Dennoch nahm sich der Gründer und Gitarrist der Melodic-Death-Metal-Band Omnium Gatherum (OG) zusammen mit Sänger Jukka Pelkonen Zeit für ein ausgiebiges Interview mit NEGAtief. Ich traf die beiden Herren am 28. Juni 2014 in der finnischen Hauptstadt und sprach mit ihnen über die Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft, Demokratie und neues OG-Material.

Did you celebrate midsummer recently?

Jukka: For me it was just hanging around with friends at the summer cottage, barbecuing and watching some football. The weather was cold, so we also went to the sauna.

And you’re also watching the world cup, although Finland’s not taking part in there?

Jukka: Of course I watch. It doesn’t matter if we’re a part of it or not. There are so many good teams and football is football.

I missed the Germany game on Thursday…

Jukka: Oh yeah, I watched all the Germany games. I teamed for Colombia first, but Germany is the second for me. I would like to see Colombia and Germany in the finals. That would be perfect.

But now let’s talk about the band Omnium Gatherum, which is much more exciting than football. How would you describe the band and its sound to someone who doesn’t know it yet?

Jukka: Well, it’s melodic death metal, of course – maybe with the twist.

You have already six albums out. Where do you see the band’s musical development over the years?

Markus: As Jukka said it’s melodic death metal – and it’s always been melodic death metal with a twist. We’ve always taken our influences from the outside of the melodic death metal field and also listen to really none metal bands. That brings so much unique melodies and atmosphere for the music – at least we hope so. But to answer your question: Maybe our sound was a bit more aggressive on the previous albums and now we’re going in a more melodic direction.

Jukka: Omnium Gatherum is a band whose entity evolved a long way from the beginning with the first album that came out around 2003. The melody has always been the main thing in the music, but still there’ve also been these fields we have experimented with during the years. I’ve done, you know, like four albums with OG and if I compare the first one I did with the last one, there’s a really big difference. But you can sense melody wise that there is a connection between those two albums, for example.

Markus: Yeah, and also if you compare the debut with the newest album there is a huge difference. But if you listen to the albums like one by one in the timeline, then you can see it’s going in that direction with every album. It’s always a hard question to answer, because we’re inside the box…same with the new album. Maybe in two years we can say something realistically to the “Beyond” album. A new album is of course always “the best album”, “the most melodic album”, “the heaviest album” and “the most diverse album” a band has done so far…

Bands have to say that… [laughter]

Markus: Yeah.

Jukka: But to some degree it’s true, because I like to believe that musicians always try to create something more and new with their music. It doesn’t always happen, but I think in the metal scene it’s especially true, because metal – as popular as it is – still is underground – worldwide. We had the times when metal was selling a lot, but still you can say that 90 percent of the metal is underground. In a way it’s a good thing, because it keeps things fresh.

Omnium Gatherum was found back in 1996 by you, Markus. Is it nevertheless a democratic band or are you the bandleader?

Markus: I think, as Joonas our guitar player says, the band is never democratic, but we always have a good and long discussion. I formed the band in ’96, but I was in the 8th grade in school and about 15 years old, so it wasn’t really serious back then. [laughs] The first demos were like just playing with some friends – like it’s still, but now it is a bit more…well, it’s not serious [laughter], but at least we know what we’re doing and what we want to do. And there is some redline in the stuff.

Jukka: About the democracy stuff in general: We always have a long dialog going on with the songs, you know, it’s like one or two persons have a vision about things. And it’s a good thing for a band to be able to lean on that vision to a certain degree. And if something bugs us, we say it to each other – at least drunk. [laughter] But well, we say it to each other what’s disturbing us etc. Decisions are made not democratically all the time, but still the band as an entity is a democratic one. Markus is the leader in this band, but still the democracy plays a big part in the decision making.

Markus: I might be the leader in music, but Jukka is doing all the lyrics and I don’t have anything to say about the lyrics. I don’t even want to say anything about them. But if Jukka would start to sing about football and comedy, I might say something. [laughter]

Jukka: I would like to sing about Formula 1…

That would be really innovative…

Jukka: But still, you know, we decide which places are the best places for each individual in the band. For example Joonas, our other guitarist, also has this band named Malpractice where he does almost everything including the lyrics. I´ve been cooperating with him lyric wise. So when you need help from someone, you can directly ask the right person. In that way there’s democracy.

Markus: It’s funny, now as you mentioned Malpractice which is like Joonas’ band – but I am also playing in Malpractice. So Joonas is the bandleader there and I am just like a servant. In Omnium Gatherum it’s the other way around. A band always has to have like one guy holding the strings together.

How does an OG song usually come into being? Who starts with the first riff?

Jukka: It depends, of course, as we have a couple of people within the band. Markus is doing most of the music, Joonas is doing something, I’m creating ideas and then we just send everything via email to each other. Then we have a discussion and maybe start with some demos. So there’s a brainstorming thing going on, of course, but I respect the fact that somebody has a general idea and we follow it, add something, take something away…in the end around 80 percent of a song is from the person who had the original idea and 20 percent is like producing the thing.

Markus: Now, as I’m also playing with Insomnium, I respect that there Ville is like the musical leader, but I also do some songwriting…

When you start writing a song, a melody or a riff, do you already know then if it’s for Omnium Gatherum, Insomnium or Malpractice?

Markus: I don’t know anymore. [laughs] To be honest, one of the newest Omnium Gatherum songs I started to write for Insomnium, but then after two riffs I decided, no, it’s for OG. It’s a mess. Yesterday there was a funny situation: We had a gig with Insomnium in Germany and I was speaking with Michael Amott from Arch Enemy. He gave some respect to Insomnium. He didn’t watch the gig, but was speaking about Insomnium and that our old albums were really different like more metallish and now we would do this melodic stuff. The Insomnium guys were quite confused. And Michael said: “We played a show together in Helsinki like two years ago.” And then I said: “No, it was with my other band which has almost the same name. It’s Omnium Gatherum.” Then Michael said: “Ahh, yeah, that was the band!” [laughter] It’s a weird destiny to be part of those two nearly same named bands.

How do you actually manage all the gigs, dates etc. with all the bands?

Markus: I don’t know. [laughs]

Do you also have another job “besides”?

Markus: Yes, I’m working as a guitar teacher at the moment when I’m not touring. It’s a mess, but somehow it works.

What about you, Jukka?

Jukka: Yeah, I work as well. I teach and I take care of mentally unbalanced people. Musically it’s only Omnium Gatherum I’m a part of and my own projects. I used to have another metal band, but we quit back in 2009. For me it’s a good situation to be in just one band.

It’s more relaxed…

Jukka: Yes. I prefer that way for me. I do my own music stuff, composing…and OG. But I also like my day job. I don’t put the music above my day job, because those are two important things in my life.

Do you listen to that kind of music you’re playing by yourself also back at home privately?

Jukka: Sometimes, yes, but I listen to everything that is well played and good…

The same with you, Markus?

Markus: I listen to a really large music scale from Frank Sinatra to Emperor. It’s always good music. Back in the teenage days it wasn’t like this. Then I only listened to extreme metal.

So now you’re more open minded?

Markus: Yeah.

Jukka: Of course you have to be. Well, you could stay in that metal genre you’re playing in forever if you’re fine with it. But if you think this is not enough, then why the hell should you be afraid of listening to other kinds of music? Music is music, it’s basically notes.

Markus: Influence wise, it’s just a moment for you that you’re listening to such a different type of music, because it would be really boring as many bands might play melodic death metal and then they say that their musical influences are In Flames, Soilwork…well, you can hear it. It’s like they’re copying the same thing on and on. So it’s better to have some Frank Sinatra moments in melodic death metal – it makes the sound more unique.

Which other inspiration sources do you use?

Markus: It’s usually the state of mind.

Jukka: As I say in many interviews, the inspiration is all around. There is no certain way, at least for me, to get the inspiration.

So it’s the life itself?

Jukka: Ja! I know that’s like a standard thing to say, but that it is. There is a continuing in the lyrics, in all the songs, but still, you know, it’s not darkness and it’s not light. It’s basically something in between.

Are you already writing new songs for Omnium Gatherum at the moment?

Markus: Yes, we just started to work with some new ideas. We already had the first rehearsals with the new songs. So the process is on.

Will the album be published next year?

Markus: Yeah, that’s the plan. But now we’re just taking it nice and easy. We don’t want to have any pressures. It’s ready when it’s ready. And it’s ready when it’s good. We’re selfish as we don’t wanna rush anything anymore.

How do you handle the rehearsals? Do you meet regular?

Jukka: No, because the members of the band all live in different parts of Finland, so we really have to plan as we all have our private lives. Sometimes we use the weekends.

How many guitars do you actually have, Markus, and what is your favorite one?

Markus: Too many to mention. [laughs] At the moment it might be 17. But my favorite one is my first Randy Rhoads – the white one with the black width. It will be presented today. I always use it on Omnium Gatherum gigs. It’s my baby!

Why is it that good?

Markus: It’s simply a good guitar and I’ve been playing it for ages. The more you play a guitar, the better it sounds. But of course it will break someday…

Do you have a guitar in your hands every day?

Markus: No. Sometimes many, many hours a day and sometimes not at all for many days.

Do you have other hobbies besides the music?

Jukka: Running. I was so proud today, went to Markus during the soundcheck and said that I run six kilometers yesterday. But he said: “A couple of days ago I did it, too, man!” [laughter]

Markus: It was my first record referring to the time. But it’s nice. When you’re getting old, well, we’re not 20 anymore, so we also have to do some sports.

Jukka: Doing sports in general, I mean, for me it’s like…if I go for a jog, you leave everything behind. You run away from things. That’s so liberating!

Markus: I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie. You get the kicks, when you’re playing gigs and doing music, and it’s the same with sports. Otherwise it would be boring.

So you’re an action guy? Ever did something like bungee jumping?

Markus: Not yet, but I would do.

What can we expect from OG’s show tonight here in Virgin Oil Co.?

Jukka: Lots of headbanging and metal. Of course we’re three good bands playing here today. We’ll be the last ones. Rämlord is kinda of a new project and Medeia is also a good metal band from Finland we’ve been already touring with outside of Finland.

Markus: You can expect good times with lots of sweating. We’re not that type of a band going on stage with a melancholic mind. You will see more happy faces playing melancholic music – it’s paradox.

Jukka: …but it’s getting late. We’ll be on stage around 00:30 am.

Markus: It’s a Tuska Festival After Party – that’s why it’s getting really late. And I don’t even know if anyone is still awake from the audience then. But we will see…we’ll try to wake the people up!

How would you continue the sentence “Music is…”?

Markus: Music is light itself for me.

Interview & Fotos: Lea S.
Website Band:

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