TOC 2004

Another find from the archives is Dan's interview with Taneli Kiljunen.

7/22/200412 min read

Conducted 7/21/2004 by Dan Barkasi

Taneli Kiljunen, guitarist of the Finnish metal band TOC. It was a cool interview to do, and Taneli is a very fun guy to talk to. I hope you all enjoy it!

Dan: First off, how did the show you had a couple of weeks ago in Helsinki go?

Taneli (TOC): It was ok. As a matter of fact, it was great. I think it was one of the best shows we have ever had. Everybody was in a good mood, and we played well. We had a nice show on the stage, too. It was really great, but I think we should have had more audience. We only had about 300 or 400 people there, so.

Dan: I noticed that you guys have a more progressive direction on Loss Angeles. Is there anything particular that drove you guys to head that way?

Taneli: No, there’s nothing particular. I don’t know. It just happened. Natural development. I know it sounds like a cliché, but that’s really what happened. We didn’t make any decisions to try to write some more progressive stuff or anything. We just wanted to write good songs, and this is what we came up with.

Dan: Well, you guys did a pretty good job!

Dan: Do you guys have any plans for a tour in the near future?

Taneli: No. Of course we would love to have a tour in Europe, and in the States too. But, it’s not very likely in the near future. We’re out of contract. We don’t have a deal with any label at the moment. And we’re not going to take care of the expenses for a tour from our own pocket.

Dan: I can imagine that it’d be really expensive to do that yourselves.

Taneli: Yeah, it is! We’re not such a big band that we can have our own tour. I think we should start by supporting some bigger band, and it’s always very expensive. So, not in the near future, but we have to see what happens when we, and if we, get a new recording contract.

Dan: Did your contract with InsideOut just come up, or were they just distribution?

Taneli: It’s a licensing contract.

Dan: What motivated you guys to cover Deep Purple’s "Smoke On The Water" on the album?

Taneli: Basically, it was just an accident at the rehearsal place. We didn’t plan to do it. We were just having a good time and jamming, and suddenly our guitar player Joiku started to play the "Smoke On The Water" riff with a really fast tempo, and in a split second, all the other guys, we caught up with his idea and we started to play it with a really thrash style. We had a really good time. It sounded so cool, and we just laughed, and we thought that we should record this when we go to Sweden to record the new album. And basically, that’s it!

Dan: Is there a reason where you guys went from Throne of Chaos to the abbreviation TOC?

Taneli: Well, actually, a couple of reasons. First of all, the musical style has developed quite a lot. We have been growing out of the death metal scene, so we thought the name doesn’t fit into our musical style anymore. The other reason is that, in my opinion, Throne of Chaos is a damn stupid name for a band. You know how it sounds like! It sounds like we are 15 years old or something.

Dan: It kind of sounds like a black metal band.

Taneli: Yeah! As a matter of fact, we were when we were 15 years old when we came up with that name. But, of course we didn’t want to burn the bridges behind us, because we’re not ashamed of anything that we did under the previous name. It was kind of the easy way to just shorten the name, and still maintain the connections with our past. It’s not a different band. We want it to make it clear that it’s the same band, with a bit different name.

Dan: Is there a specific lyrical theme to Loss Angeles?

Taneli: Yes, there is a pretty open concept behind the album. It’s like a bunch wicked incidents happening in a wicked city called Gothamburg. And one of the main themes on the album is of course Mary Lou, who is dead, of course. It’s a good starting point for any kind of story in my opinion, someone being dead. So that’s what it’s about. It’s not a chronological story, ya know? The same style that, for example, King Diamond does. We didn’t want to do that. I consider it more of a David Lynch movie. We try to give the listener some background information and some small clues of what’s happening so the listener gets to use his or her own imagination to create the story or whatever is happening. So that’s the theme behind the album.

Dan: How did the recording process for Loss Angeles go?

Taneli: Well, it was pretty easy and ok. We spent 3 weeks recording stuff and 1 week to mix it. This time, the process was a bit different because first of all, we had only two months time to write the new songs. So when we went into the studio, practically none of the songs was completely ready. So, we had a lot of arrangements to do it in the studio. But anyway, it was pretty easy. We didn’t have to kill ourselves! We went into the studio knowing what we wanted to do. We had a really good time, and of course the studio was great. It was easy to be there, because we recorded our previous album there too. The staff there knows us too, so they let us stay as long as we wanted. We used to work like 12 or 15 hours a day, so we had a lot of time to experiment on different kinds of stuff, different instruments and sounds, or whatever. It was a really nice experience this time.

Dan: That’s nice that you guys didn’t have to rush anything. I know I’ve heard from a lot of bands who had limited studio time, so they’re rushing and rushing to get everything done.

Taneli: Yeah, for sure!

Dan: Is there any specific process that the band abides by when writing new material?

Taneli: No, not really. Basically, someone has an idea for a song, and then he shows it to the other guys at the rehearsal. Then we start to work on it. Usually we don’t get it ready the same day that the idea comes. So usually we just let it get mature in the back of our head. There isn’t any certain recipe to write the songs. We just gather them and build them up from small pieces.

Dan: In what ways do you think your band has progressed since Pervertigo?

Taneli: I think the biggest step that we have taken since Pervertigo is the songwriting. The attitude towards songwriting is the area I think we have developed the most. Because when we were younger and doing our debut album, we wanted everything to be very technical and challenging. But, this time, we decided that the most important thing is the songwriting, so we didn’t want to pay any attention to the technical difficulty of the songs or anything like that. I think we did a pretty good job. I think we have developed as songwriters very much since Pervertigo.

Dan: You can definitely tell. I think it’s a much more mature album.

Taneli: Yeah, I think so too!

Dan: If you could tour with any band, who would it be?

Taneli: Strapping Young Lad or The Devin Townsend Band, I guess.

Dan: Devin’s a cool guy! Really talented.

Taneli: Yeah! I think he’s a really wicked man laughs. I really dig everything that he has done. It’s kind of funny how he is so good in everything. As a singer, a guitarist, songwriter, producer, everything. So it’s really amazing.

Dan: Yeah, he’s the jack-of-all-trades of metal.

Taneli: Yeah! So I think it would be really fun to do something with him.

Dan: How would you describe your band’s music to someone who has never heard you before?

Taneli: Hmm. Alternative metal, I guess. It’s always pretty difficult…actually, pretty damn difficult to describe the style, especially now with the new album because we have such a wide variety of different influences presented on the album. So I can’t come up with one single term to describe it, so I’ve usually taken the easy way and called it alternative metal.

Dan: Yeah. I can hear so many different kinds of music in your album. It’s such a really nice combination of a lot of things. I really dig it.

Taneli: Yeah! That’s good! I’m really glad at the moment that we’re getting a lot of good feedback, especially because of the variety and diversity of the album. At first, when the album was released in Finland, we got a lot of negative feedback because of the diversity and the wide scale of influences. A lot of the musical critics have a red line; a thread that should be followed. That there was too much on the album. I was pretty disappointed, because that it’s something that we always wanted to do, to do a very diverse album and have a lot of influences. So it doesn’t get boring. Now that the album has been released in Europe and North America, we have had a lot of excellent reviews and we’ve had a lot of good feedback, like I said, from the diversity of the album. So I’m glad that it has turned out this way.

Dan: The cover of Loss Angeles has kind of a psychedelic feel to it. Does it have any special meaning?

Taneli: I really don’t know. There are some small details that I know that we have, that there is a link to the album cover and the concept of the album. I think you should ask our bass player. He has painted the picture. Maybe he knows what it’s about. I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t! laughs

Dan: What are some of your biggest musical influences?

Taneli: Hmm. I really, really don’t know. Maybe Queen and Faith No More, probably. They are some of my biggest favorites. They have influenced me at least in some ways. It is really difficult to pick one band or anything. And quite frankly, I think David Lynch’s movies have really influenced our music very much. Because you know, I listen to anything I can get my hands on. Lets say from ABBA to Brian Setzer, Tom Waits. Whatever. So, I think I’m influenced by everything I hear, so it’s really difficult to pick and certain band or artist.

Dan: Do you guys think you’ll be releasing a DVD or anything like that in the future?

Taneli: Ahh, I don’t know. We haven’t made any plans, but now that you mention it, I think we would have a great, great time doing a DVD or something. That would be a new area for us, and maybe we could get to experiment on some funny things again. I don’t know, it would be cool! But first we need to make a new contract with a label.

Dan: What’s your opinion on sharing music over the Internet?

Taneli: Well, I think it’s ok. In some ways, it’s kind of a negative thing. I think that if someone downloads our whole album as a MP3 from the Internet, if he really likes it, he’s going to buy the actual album. With the whole package. With the booklet, the artwork, and everything. So I think it’s ok, and it’s a nice promotional channel for us. So, what the fuck? laughs We don’t sell like, tens of millions of albums, so we don’t even lose that much money. So it’s okay.

Dan: Do you have a favorite movie or TV show?

Taneli: Yes, I do. A TV show Twin Peaks is one of my favorites, but it’s an old one. At the moment, I think 24 is great. We just had the second season here in Finland. It ended last weekend. I watched each episode of it, so. It was a great season for that show. From the movies, I don’t know. I think my favorites are all David Lynch’s movies. Except the Dune, which sucks! The other ones…for example Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart. They are excellent movies. I really love them.

Dan: What do you think you’d be doing now if you weren’t a musician?

Taneli: I would probably be a construction engineer.

Dan: Really? That’s kind of what I’ve been going to school for.

Taneli: You have? Cool! Yeah, I’m studying that at the moment. Because you know, I have to have a profession for me. I can’t make a living with the music at the moment. You can’t rely on it. So, you have to have a plan B. So, I’m working as a boss at a construction yard at the moment. It’s pretty nice. I like the work.

Dan: What kind of music have you been listening to lately?

Taneli: Today, I have been listening to Devin Townsend’s Infinity. A guy gave me last night, a CD of his own music. Some instrumental 80’s stuff. I listened to the CD this morning, and it was pretty ok. 80’s stuff is pretty fun. A lot of Tom Waits albums, I’ve been listening to. I can’t wait to get his new album. I think it’s going to be released in the fall.

Dan: Do you have a favorite place to play live?

Taneli: Yeah, I think the place where we played 2 weeks ago. It’s a nice place. It was the second time we played there. Club Nosturi, in Helsinki. It’s a very nice place. Good backstage. Good food. A big stage, so you have a lot of space to move around. So it’s a very nice place to play.

Dan: Which do you prefer: live performances or working in the studio?

Taneli: It’s hard to tell, because they both have their own side. Working in the studio is really great. My favorite part is where the song begins to be ready, and you hear how it’s growing from the first drum track to the last vocal tracks and everything. And when you hear the actual song for the first time, when it’s recorded with good sounds and everything. It’s a very nice experience, because it usually always turns out to be something else than you expected. So, that’s always great. I do enjoy doing live shows, too. It really gives you a good burst of adrenaline. It’s very nice. I dig them both!

Dan: Is there a place that you’d like to play live that you haven’t got the opportunity to yet?

Taneli: Yes, in Japan. Definitely! And the States.

Dan: I hope you guys get over here soon!

Taneli: Yeah, me too! It would be like a dream come true to come there. That’s one thing that we have never really done yet, is a big tour. I think our biggest tour has been 12 gigs in a row in Finland. So, you can’t really say we have a lot of experience about touring.

Dan: Besides music, do you have any kind of special talents?

Taneli: I don’t know. Probably not! laughs Well, I think I’m pretty good at the work that I do. The construction thing. I guess that’s it.

Dan: I remember when I interviewed Devin Townsend last year…he can turn his foot completely backwards.

Taneli: What?!

Dan: He turned his foot backwards. He got up, turned his foot around backwards, and started walking around the café they were playing in that night.

Taneli: laughs That’s really cool! laughs

Dan: I was pretty shocked!

Taneli: Yeah! laughs I know one thing that I can do, also. I can have beer come out of my nose! laughs

Dan: laughs

Taneli: But that’s not pretty! You’d get a good laugh!

Dan: When you guys come to the States, I gotta see that.

Taneli: laughs Ok, I’ll show you!

Dan: Do you guys pull any practical jokes on each other?

Taneli: Yeah. We really like to make fun of each other. Yeah, our drummer did one night, a practical joke on me when we were at the studio recording the album. While I was sleeping, he used my electric beard shaver. He used it to shave his balls! laughs I was pretty upset about it!

Dan: laughs Yeah, I wouldn’t be too happy!

Taneli: When I think about it now, though, it was actually pretty funny! laughs

Dan: Where do you hope to have TOC in the next few years?

Taneli: At least I hope we get a new contract and the possibility to continue making albums. And of course, I hope that in the next few years we would get the possibility to go touring. You know, like Japan and stuff, like I said. That would be really great. I’m not expecting to become a enormous rock star or anything, but I hope music can maintain its position in my life, because it’s really important to me. At least as a hobby.

Dan: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Taneli: Not really. I think my cup is empty! laughs

Dan: Thanks a lot!

Taneli: Yup! It was good talking to you!

Note: Be sure to check out TOC's latest album, Loss Angeles, which has been the album of the week here. It's an amazing work that I'd recommend to anybody.

I'd like to thank Taneli for taking the time to talk to me, and Eric Corbin at InsideOut Music for setting this up for me. You guys rule!