Interview With ‘Juha Raivio’ of ‘Swallow the Sun’


Juha RaivioFinnish death/doom metal band Swallow The Sun are known to be the ultimate bringers of melancholic death doom and melodic death metal – a reputation they established right away with their mammoth debut album “The morning never came” in 2003. This release is an absolute fan favorite, and so it`s a perfect pick for an anniversary tour exactly ten years later!!! Swallow the Sun – embark on „The morning never came“ anniversary tour. The trek begins on October 25 in Aarau, Switzerland and ends on November 3 in London, UK. During their anniversary tour, they will also perform at the annual Brainstorm Festival, saturday, november 2. Below you can read an interview with founder and guitar player Juha Raivio.

TMR: Hello to you from´The Metal Resource’ Holland, how are things going there in Finland ?

Juha: All is good, we are touring a bit this year to celebrate our first album 10 years ago, The Morning Never Came. Im in a middle of writing process of next chapter of Swallow the Sun and hopefully we got something out next year.

TMR: Will you Introduce yourself and the line-up please [name and instrument]

Juha: My name is Juha Raivio and im the guitarist, songwriter and I put this band up in year 2000. Also in the band plays Mikko Kotamäki – vocals, Matti Honkonen – bass, Kai Hahto – drums, Aleksi Munter – keys, Markus Jämsen – guitar.

TMR: Tell us the brief history of the band.

Juha: I got few songs that didnt fit my other band Plutonium Orange back in year 2000, so I got people around me to be able to record demo out of those songs, that demo got us instantly signed with Firebox records for first two albums.

swallow1TMR: Are you guys full time musicians ? If not what kind of job or school do you do beside the band ?

Juha: Im the only one who only does music for living, but then again im the songwriter and got a bit more money than the others. But to live with this music I had to give up my home and normal life, so you also have to sacrifice a lot of your life. Its all about dedication at the end.

TMR: Why the name ‘Swallow the Sun’ ? Is there a story behind it ?

Juha: The name comes from our long and dark winter time. When winter comes it feels like something has swallowed the sun from the sky because you dont see sun in ages.

TMR: What is your musical background ? 

Juha: Been playing guitar 27 years now and had some bands I played and composed during the years before Swallow the Sun. All the 90´s I had a progressive metal band and then in beginning of 2000 a riff-rock band Plutonium Orange and Swallow the Sun. Never studied a music, theory or thecniques because its all about trusting your own ear what sounds good and playing with feeling, not with thecniques. If you write music you love then there is no way you can go wrong with it, always trust your heart.

TMR: Who writes the music/lyrics in ‘Swallow the Sun’ ? .. how do you get in the mood for writing music? And which bands/situations have influences you for writing music and lyrics ?

Juha: I write most of the the lyrics and music for this band because I know exactly how this band should sound like. When I pick up the guitar im already in the mood to write music and right away when I feel its not flowing naturally I stop writing and do something else. There is few bands that have had big influence on me like Type O Negative, Marillion, Rush, My dying bride, Duran Duran and Candlemass. There has been so much love and loss, good and bad in my life that its not hard to get inspired to do this music that I describe as gloom, beauty and despair.

TMR: How do you describe the music of ‘Swallow the Sun’ the best ?

Juha: Haha, well I think I just mentioned it, but I think Gloom, Beauty and Despair has always been the best way to give and idea what Swallow the Sun is.

TMR: How does ‘Swallow the Sun’ stands in life till events in the world, religion and politics and in which proportion stands that till your music and lyrics ?

Juha: I have always said that I dont want to mix politics and religion in our music. I know this would be a good forum to put out your own truths, but at the end you have to be wise enough to let people to come up with their own mind of those things. Its not my thing to preach whats right or wrong, everyone will know whats right or wrong when just listening your heart, its pretty easy. Then again people are basically full of shit, so thats why we stand where we stand at the world at the moment, and dont know if the past was any better.. Still you have to hold a small glimpse of light and hope in you heart or othervise you can just go and end it all today.

TMR: For a lot of bands the lyrics are just a accidental circumstance, but for some bands they use them to communicate ! ..can you tell us how that is for ‘Swallow the Sun’ ?

Juha: Lyrics are very important in Swallow the Sun in a way that they go along with the feeling of the music. For me listening the music gives me strong images on my mind, so it is actually like watching a movie and thats where the lyrics come in, they are like subtitles in the movie. If I dont see these pictures on my mind when writing the music I dont use it.

TMR: Is there a highlight you will always remember, since the beginning of ‘Swallow the Sun’?

Juha: Theres been many, like playing huge festivals or touring around the world, playing in Tokyo or New York first time, these are kind of dreams come true and big highlihts for me. Still the biggest highlight for me was when Steven Rothery from Marillion played in one of our songs,, I still cant believe it!! Hes my biggest inspiration as a guitarist.

TMR: And the worst thing were ? [if there is one]

Juha: Theres also been so many of those.. But I think there is just way too many assholes in the music business, too many dicks as a tour managers etc. Just way too many people giving broken promises and bascially lying for their own benefit, but it will all come back to you at the end, so no worries.

TMR: What is your favorite album top 5 of all times ? 

Juha: Defenitely October Rust from Type O Negative, Light at the end of the world by My dying Bride, Nightfall by Candlemass, Script for Jester´s tear by Marillion, Signals from Rush.

TMR: What makes you laugh? 

Juha: Sadly its the mirror! Seeing your own face is the biggest joke for sure!

TMR: How do you promote your band and shows ?

Juha: We dont…we should.. Well, we are not the best of promoting our band for sure. But maybe one of these days we will overtake the internet and spam around everywhere all time about Swallow the Sun. But seriously, I feel that lots of mystery has been taken away from the bands you like because they update evertyhing all the time. I dont want to know much about the process in the studio or see my heroes digging their noses or taking shit while recording album.. who does? I want the mystery back in music and I think that facebook and youtube has taken so much off it, I think you should have a good balance in how you present your band and music, just because music is holy.

The_Morning_Never_CameTMR: ‘Swallow the Sun’ is Headliner for this years edition of ‘Brainstorm Fest’ [Netherlands] Do you have any expectations ? And what can the crowd expect from ‘Swallow the Sun’ ?

Juha: Well we are very excited to play this festival and especially because we are playing our first album from start to the end there. So its gonna be dark journey through the first album there.

TMR: How do you prepare for a show?

Juha: No hugging, no streching, no high fives, why?, because we are from Finland!

TMR: Name some of your favorite bands to play with live [past and future] and tell us why ?

Juha: We have had honour to play some tours with Paradise Lost and Katatonia and those lineups been fantastic because the music works well together. In the future would be totally fantastic to play with mighty My dying Bride. Sadly Type O Negative wont happen anymore, that would have been a dream come true.

TMR: What is the dumbest question you have ever been asked? 

Juha: Im sure there´s been so many, but actually cant remember any at the moment, maybe they been so stupid that they rot my brains and destroyed my memory.

TMR: Do you have a life philosophy / favorite quote ? 

Juha: “who ever is sentenced to love will bow down as a servant of sorrow”, well without it there would not be much to write about.

TMR: Are you visiting many gigs and what do you listen to these days?

Juha: Usually im touring that much every year that I dont want to go to the clubs and listen live music after. Its very hard also to find new music because there is just so much of it coming from every direction. But the last big find has been the band Hurts, I love them. Also went to see them live last time.

TMR: Tell us about the hardrock/metal scene in your area please?

Juha: I have no idea, I live in the middle of the forest and even the nearest shop is further away than 10 kilometers, haha.

TMR: What’s your outlook on the record industry today?

Juha: Its very sad to see how even big bands manage to sell only some thousands of albums, when they used to be hundred of thousands or even millions.. But I still believe that many people want to own actual recordings and support the bands, not just downloads on their computer. Im very happy that people have been getting back to buy even vinyls, I personally want to own the music I love, just becose its something I can hold in my hands and keep it safe for the future. Not something that can dissophere from my computer. Also im very much against this trend that bands only release one song at the time. When I think our music, you need to listen the album as a whole to understand most of the songs and why they are like they are, or why are they on the certain place on the album. How many people want to read a book or start to look at the movie from middle or jump from the end to beginning, no one.

Emerald-Forest-CoverTMR: What can you tell us about your latest album “Emerald Forest and the Blackbird” [such as the recording proces, the songs, who did the artwork]

Juha: Its based on a old Finnish lullaby, a song to put childer asleep. I alwasy felt even as a child that this song is about death, a trip to beyond. The whole album is all about this trip basically. We record the album in few different locations, but most of it was done in very isolated old wooden house in the middle of Finland, in middle of nowhere. You could easily be eaten by wolves or a angry bear, or eating wrong kind of mushroom just outside of the studio, you could end up drowning in the near lake stoned as hell. Dangerous place, but perfect for the feeling of the music and album. Rami Mursula did the artwork, I told him I want the the bird eye on the cover, eye that reflects the emerald forest. He did amazing job, as he did with New Moon artwork too before this album.

TMR: “Emerald Forest and the Blackbird” has been released on February 1st, 2012 by ‘Spinefarm Records’. How did you get signed by them ?

Juha: After our deal ended with Firebox they felt the best option as being big and Finnish label, so you could acually speak Finnish when talking about things.

TMR: What are your plans for the [near] future with ‘Swallow the Sun’ ?

Juha: I hope new music comes out next year. We have been touring in Finland now for the this celebration tour for the first album and next its Europe in couple of weeks, this tour will visit your festival too which is fantastic. We got The Foreshadowing and Antimatter with us so its gonna be great tour with very atmospheric music through the whole evening. Cant wait.

TMR: What advice would you give to fellow bands?

Juha: Just be true to your music because that will last forever even everything else around you crumbles. So hold it dear.

TMR: Juha thanks for your time and the interview, we wish ‘Swallow the Sun’ all the best … Is there anything you wanna say at last? [any final statement ?]

Juha: Thank you so much. All the best for you and hope to see you on this festival, its gonna be dark night of gloom, beauty and despair. We promise no high fives or useless talking, why? Because we are from Finland!!

Swallow European Tour 2013

“The Morning Never Came” Anniversary Tour dates:

25 – Aarau, Switzerland – Kiff
26 – Milan, Italy – Rock & Roll Arena
27 – Munich, Germany – Backstage
28 – Prague, Czech Republic – Nova Chmelnice
29 – Darmstadt, Germany – Steinbruch Theater
30 – Hamburg, Germany – Grünspan
31 – Oberhausen, Germany – Helvete

1 – Paris, France – Nouveau Casino
2 – Apeldoorn, Netherlands – Brainstorm Festival
3 – London, UK – Underworld

Band members:
Mikko Kotamäki – vocals
Juha Raivio – guitars
Markus Jämsen – guitars
Aleksi Munter – keyboards
Matti Honkonen – bass
Kai Hahto – drums

Out of This Gloomy Light, Demo [2003]
The Morning Never Came [2003]
Forgive Her…, Single [2005]
Ghosts of Loss [2005]
Hope [2007]
Don’t Fall Asleep (Horror Pt. 2) , Single [2007]
Plague of Butterflies, EP [2008]
New Moon [2009]
Emerald Forest and the Blackbird [2012]

Weblinks: Facebook Website / Twitter

Video below ‘The Morning Never Came’

Video below “Cathedral Walls” [ft. Anette Olzon]

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