Interview with guitarist Seba Forma and vocalist Johnny Nuclear Winter
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: March 17, 2018
Finnish thrashers Axegressor haven't vanished and the earth hasn't swallowed them, if you were wondering why they've been silent. Yes, it feels like forever since their previous album, Last, came out (on France's Listenable Records, in 2014). Obviously, there's been reason for our curiosity about the band's comings and goings.
The silence is broken. The Finns are back with their fourth album, Bannerless, to be released on New Orleans' own Brutal Records, on April 13th (hey, that's a Friday!) Be prepared and expect something a bit more unconventional and even unexpected this time around.
It's time for some extensive talk about the band's new album, Bannerless.
AWAKENING THE THRASH BEAST
Luxi: Axegressor are back and Bannerless is the title of the band's fourth studio album, to be released on US underground label Brutal Records on April 13th. Could you tell us why it took four years to get this new opus out? What kind of things delayed the process?
Seba Forma: Hey Luxi, that's a good question. I didn't actually notice it until you said it. The main reason might be that we changed our style a little bit, although I think the process started in a normal way. After Last was released, the very first song from Bannerless was already finished; "Truth Prostitute". Maybe you noticed it has the same style as the previous album so it could have been in Last, in my opinion.
We actually recorded Bannerless in January 2017. It took a while to mix and it was finished in May 2017, if I recall correctly. As we were mixing the album, it was getting clear that Listenable did not want to publish it because they wanted a pure Thrash Metal band, so they were bit disappointed and I can understand why.
Johnny Nuclear Winter: I had some personal "mind blocks" and times of frustration during the years between the Last and Bannerless because at first, I couldn't relate to some of the upcoming material at all. For example, most of the lyrics for "Truth Prostitute" were written back in autumn 2014 but the last lines for some songs were finished in the studio in January 2017. During this time, I was kind of fighting with myself to get back the inspiration, to concentrate on the new material with a bit more variety than before and to adjust my mindset. There were months I didn't write a line, didn't attend rehearsals, just feeling out of focus and too critical about everything that was happening (or not happening) with the band. I'm mostly over it now and I can say my love/hate relationship towards the 11 songs on Bannerless has turned to respect; this is something we have created together from nothing.
Luxi: What kind of a process was it for all of you to get these 11 songs composed and finished for this album? Did you know the direction you would go in musically or was this something that was argued quite a bit inside the band?
SF: It was great! After our previous album, I personally felt a bit tired of our style (and I think Atte did, too), I was frustrated with my technique and when I grabbed my guitar I had this feeling of, "oh no, these riffs again". At first, it was more like, "okay can we play this riff, it does not sound like Axegressor at all" or "this song is too soft, this is not Thrash Metal anymore", but eventually it all came naturally and we went with the flow so to speak. I think Jussi can answer that last sentence, heh!
JNW: I already answered most of this in the previous question I think. At first I was very much against many of the "new" influences in the upcoming material and even for a short time considered leaving the band because I felt I had nothing to give to such material. I'm pretty much ok and satisfied with how Bannerless turned out in the end yet I still don't give a shit about Rush, Genesis or Yes, hahaha!!
OLD THRASH STYLE MEETS SOMETHING NEW
Luxi: To me, Bannerless is the band's most diverse album. You have some true Thrash torpedoes like "In Safe Place No One Can Hear Your Scream" and "Truth Prostitute", more unorthodox, Voïvod-inspired numbers like "Terminal Ignition" and "The Lethality of Mediocrity" and even a hard-pounding Rock 'n' Roll song à la Motörhead, "Don't Be an Asshole", which ends the album. Where did all this diversity come from?
SF: You got that right. It is more interesting to do different songs than 10 superfast Thrash Metal strikes. The reason for such a diversity could be adjusting to a new style. We want to keep it heavy but also create some nuances like those in King Crimson/Voïvod-style songs. Another reason is that we are listening more to different kinds of music nowadays, there is still Metal involved but also progressive Rock, Jazz and it definitely changes your approach to music.
"Don't be an Asshole" is a rehearsal jam and to be honest I don't remember how it ended up as a song. Personally, I didn't want it to be on the album because it was too far away from the other stuff but it is a nod to Motörhead and Lemmy for all the influences they have given musically for so many years.
JNW: When Seba and Atte played this Rock 'n' Roll song at our rehearsals after some beers, Aki and I insisted that we should make a song of our own out of it because we felt the drive in it, even though the other guys thought it wasn't worth anything other than drunken jamming, hehe! Sure it's the most different song in the whole Axegressor catalog, but in my opinion, this shows one end of the spectrum whereas the preceding song, "Peace at Last", represents the other, more complex approach to Heavy/Thrash Metal. I would consider "Don't Be an Asshole" as a bonus track on the album; a kind of a special surprise to close the album.
Luxi: The song "Peace at Last (Armageddon)" may well be the band's most Voïvod-inspired song ever, so I guess it's fair to ask how much the band was under the influence of Voivod albums when you were writing for this opus?
SF: It was also the last song we composed for Bannerless and like you said it is a Voïvod/King Crimson inspired song. Voivod is an awesome band and I have listened to a fair share of it starting with Killing Technology, but to be honest, I like the new material more and I am pretty sure that it has had an impact on me. The style of "Peace at Last" fascinates me, so there might be more songs like this in future. The reason I keep mentioning King Crimson here is I think Voivod was influenced a lot by this great band.
Luxi: Would you say that making this album was a collective effort all in all, in which each of you contributed something?
JNW: Honestly speaking, Bannerless is more an effort of Seba and Atte, where Aki and I more or less added our parts to the almost complete molds. Of course, there were a lot of rearrangements, changing parts, riffs etc. but compared to the first three albums this was a work of two with the other two giving their share as frosting on the cake, so to speak. We are trying to be more "collective" these days and in the future, actually, because personally, I felt quite isolated during the process of making the new songs, as I explained at the beginning.
Luxi: The recording lineup of the band has stayed the same since the release of the Axecution EP in 2007. I suppose this has been an advantage for the band when it comes to your songwriting process; everyone knows what Axegressor should sound like so not many compromises need to be made and the most brutal headbutting can be avoided. Is the case with the unity of the band, or am I mistaken?
JNW: Too old and cold to create any real drama at this point when the music is basically a nice hobby for everyone. However, I'd like to keep Axegressor a bit more straightforward headbanging fuck-off mentality type of a band whereas Seba would maybe like to approach more progressive and non-Metal influenced territories and somewhere in between we collide and the songs find their final shape. I cannot prog but I can fuck it up. :)
SF: I have a good relationship with Atte (drummer) and the chemistry is very good altogether. I think we will go as a foursome until the end, wherever that may be. We had those little collisions making Bannerless, but it went alright eventually. Sometimes you have to just sit down and talk it over (like turning Jussi's head around, heh!).
Luxi: Axegressor have always been known for clever, sarcastic and even provocative lyrics and this new album is no exception. For example, your song "Bridges to Cross and Burn" is very smartly written, reflecting our times and tough decisions that people need to make. "At the end of the day, for the sake of yourself, when there's nowhere to turn you have to decide which bridges to cross and which you have to burn". Can you enlighten us a bit more about the lyrical idea behind this song?
JNW: To put it simply, you cannot please everyone. When you bow to one direction, you bend over to another. And it's insane even trying to please everyone. We have a relatively short period of time to do what we can during our life, so why waste it by pretending to be something you're not for the sake of others? It's better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.
Luxi: Coincidence or not, the guitar riffs in this particular song remind me of the defunct Finnish Thrash Metal act, Terrific Verdict. Is this band familiar in the Axegressor camp?
SF: To be honest, this is the first time I've ever heard about them, but I will check it out!
BORN UNDER NO BANNER - DYING BANNERLESS
Luxi: Would it be wrong to say that Axegressor is very much a socially aware band that writes about current events rather than nonsense fantasy type of lyrics?
JNW: No, it would not. The lyrics are not to preach or tell the right way to live or whatever, yet I believe that IF people think a bit more about the consequences of their actions - AND especially things they leave undone, we would have more stable societies all over the world. But you just need one of the following things and people get fucked up; religion, politics, and money. And usually, these come in pairs which obscenely secure mental, spiritual and infrastructural destruction all in the same package.
Luxi: Could you open up a little bit about the symbolism used on the album cover? There's a hooded guy with his back turned to the viewer, spreading his arms in front of a huge crowd... And a nuclear explosion, uh! There's more than meets the eye here, right?
JNW: For me, the hooded figure represents the minority, the few people who could possibly "save the world" from the herd-like humans. But while the majority is just looking and running in the other direction, towards destruction, this figure stands alone when then the end comes and just spreads its arms without hope. Born under no banner, died bannerless. On his own terms yet without the real possibility of changing the world under the crushing weight of the sheepish majority. It may sound and look like a biblical allegory as well, yet this refers basically only to very secular, down-to-earth misanthropic realism.
Luxi: The album will first be available on CD and digitally. The old school way to release stuff nowadays is to get it out both as vinyl and cassette. Just out of curiosity, do you have any plans for those formats?
JNW: Brutal Records have not shown interest in releasing the album on vinyl or cassette. We have plans to release our three previous albums in small cassette editions, just for the fun of it, like a collector's items limited to 50 copies or something like that.
Luxi: By April 13, 2018 (release date of the new album), do you believe the band will be actively gigging? A set of shows would promote your new album more...
JNW: There will be some shows in Finland which will probably be announced by the time this interview comes out.
STAGES ARE CALLING OUR NAME
Luxi: The last show you played happened in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 9, 2017, where you played with Romanian Black Metal mofos Negura Bunget. Do you miss playing live with Axegressor? Is playing live a "necessary-evil" thing for you?
JNW: I could not be in a band without playing live shows. For me writing and recording new songs and albums are only a means to get out, play gigs and tours and meet like-minded underground Metal retards.
SF: For me, it is a "necessary evil" and I don't feel very comfortable on stage, but I understand it is almost the only way to advertise the band. I would rather be in dark and stinky rehearsal rooms to write some songs, haha!
Luxi: With your other band, the grinding steamroller named Cannibal Accident, it's been more active in the past months. Do you believe it will stay this way; C.A. being more active than Axegressor?
JNW: CA is more a live band in many aspects, visually and musically. The music is more straightforward, simple and boneheaded so it's easier to build a sick sideshow to support the music while on stage. However, with Axegressor I have experienced one of my best moments while on stage, during our tour in Eastern Europe some years ago. So yes, there's a time and place for both of these bands in the black hole where my heart should be.
Luxi: As you are known to be a guy with multitasking skills, at least on Finnish territory, and you always seem to have something going on, do you still feel as passionate and devoted about being active in the scene as you did some years ago?
JNW: Of course. The flame still burns. You should know this quite well, I think?! :)
Luxi: If Axegressor did a song about President Donald Trump's "America First" campaign, how would this song be titled? A couple of excerpts taken from this song's lyrics would be a nice bonus too... ;o)
JNW: Would be too obvious and self-delusional to participate in that circus of redneck monkeys and social justice snowflakes. Let 'em grind the fuck out of each other.
Luxi: Haha! That sums it up, I guess. Many thanks for your time and all the best with Axegressor in the coming months. Thrash on! \,,/
JNW: Eternal Thrash thanks and hails from the tormented Metal town of Turku! Come to Brazil and return my stamps, please!
SF: Thanks Luxi, your interviews are always top-notch!
Order Bannerless here:
https://www.levykauppax.fi/artist/axegressor/bannerless/#568881 (in Finland)
https://www.recordshopx.com/artist/axegressor/bannerless/#568881 (outside Finland)
|Other information about Axegressor on this site|
|Interview with throat tormentor Johnny Nuclear Winter and guitarist Seba Forma on June 14, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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