Interview with guitarist Timo Ahlström
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 28, 2019
Demonztrator starting out as a cover band, which is not strange considering there have always been tens of thousands of cover bands around the world. The lads wanted to pay tribute to the speed and thrash bands of the early Finnish metal scene by recording a bunch of their songs for an album titled Forgotten Acts of Aggression.
Like nearly every other band, they started to make music of their own. They went to the studio in the summer of 2019 to record four original songs for an EP called Myriad Ways of Dying which they released digitally on August 15, 2019. The EP gives a big nod to both European and American thrash without sounding like retro or modern wannabe shit.
We here at the headquarters of The Metal Crypt became curious about who they really are and what they are up regarding their current comings and goings.
Timo Ahlström, the band's second guitarist, kindly took some time to answer our questions...
Luxi: How's life these days, Timo?
Timo: Hey Luxi! Life is quite good right now and I've learned not to take that for granted. I've been going through some difficult times the last couple of years, so I feel pretty good and everything seems to be going in a better direction. This summer has been nice and we just played a gig a few days ago at On the Rocks which was fun and it was nice to see you there! Always fun to talk with you!
OLD SCHOOL PACK OF AGGRESSION
Luxi: Likewise, mate. Anyway, as Demonztrator is still an unknown entity for many, would you kindly tell us what this band is all about and where you got the idea to put this band together?
Timo: Jari Hurskainen, our singer, had the original idea. I was easily talked into joining and then we just had to find other musicians to fully form this project. Our original mission was to do a covers album and then play at least one live show. When that mission was accomplished, we decided to keep going because we had a lot of fun as a group.
Luxi: How did the name Demonztrator originally come about? It's quite an unusual name, to be honest...
Timo: It's a secret. Hahahaha...!!!
Luxi: Forgotten Acts of Aggression, your debut album of well-selected Finnish underground speed and thrash metal covers was released in 2017. The album got good reactions especially among Finnish speed merchants and thrash bangers and even resulted in a slot at the famous Tuska festival. Did you expect that things would escalate in such a good way?
Timo: Well I knew that we would get some attention for doing this because nobody had done it before. We worked really hard learning those songs by ear. Some of it was really difficult to figure out and luckily we got some of the original musicians to teach us some of the parts. It was really cool and we got some of those musicians to do guest appearances on the album and at our live shows later on. Of course, it was nice to see people getting really interested in what we are doing. That always helps!
TUSKA, METAL MASSACRE, VERNISSA MOSH FEST – BURNING STAGES LEFT BEHIND
Luxi: What was it like to play at Tuska in 2017 for the almost full and intensely headbanging crowd? Were you nervous with all those crazy metalheads out there in the audience?
Timo: That weekend was really special for me personally because I played at the Tuska afterparty show at Virgin Oil a day before our performance, filling in for Sami Yli-Sirniö in Barren Earth (which is funny because Sami would then do a guest performance at our Tuska gig the next day playing "Have No Mercy" by Brainwash). That was a big moment for me as a guitar player.
I guess it made it a little easier for me than the other guys in the band to get on stage the next day when I had just performed a day before but I was definitely feeling nervous. It was our FIRST show with this band and we were playing a big festival and there were so many guest musicians hopping on stage and everything. So many things could have gone wrong but didn't. The audience was crazy for sure and it turned out great. Just a big METAL party with a lot of moshing and smiles!
Luxi: Since then you have appeared at a couple of other important festivals in Finland, like the legendary Metal Massacre festival in 2017 and Vernissa Mosh Fest in 2018. What were those experiences like?
Timo: Metal Massacre was quite soon after Tuska. It was a comeback show for The Hirvi and A.R.G. also played there so it was a good show for us to play and I really enjoy playing at Nosturi. Vernissa Mosh Fest was a bit different because we played an outside stage and we were the first band to play there that day. Also, it was mainly newer bands playing there excluding Rytmihäiriö. It was a fun gig too and people seemed to like it.
Luxi: At Vernissa Mosh Fest you took the audience by surprise by playing one of your own songs at the end of your set, which was very well received. I suppose that it was your main intention to get some original songs done and not just be considered a cover band, right?
Timo: Yup. We wanted to see how the audience would react to one of our own songs. They seemed to think it was cool so that gave us more confidence in continuing on that path.
Luxi: Other than these festival shows, you actually haven't played much live and people perhaps expected to see you gigging more actively. Why is that?
Timo: Well we're not against playing gigs but we didn't want to overdo it with the covers thing, and I hope to be playing more shows especially now that we have more of our own material in the set too.
MYRIAD WAYS OF DYING
Luxi: In August 2019, you released your first four-track EP digitally, titled Myriad Ways of Dying, which only contains original songs. Did you feel it was the next crucial step so people would see that Demonztrator is more than a cover band?
Timo: Yes, for sure. We talked about it and we decided that we want to continue as a band and the only logical way to continue was to start writing our own songs. I think that was necessary to keep things interesting. We still play some covers in our set though and it's fun.
Luxi: The songs on the EP truly represent old school thrash metal the way it was done back in the heyday of the genre, '80s style, with nuances from the US and Teutonic scenes. How important was it for you to get the right kind of vibe and feeling incorporated into these songs so that people would see the band as old school rather than just another New Wave of Thrash Metal band?
Timo: Thanks, man! It's good to hear that the songs sound convincing. I guess I didn't think so much about our music needing to be old school but maybe there could have been a little bit of that in the back of our heads. I think what makes us a bit different from the new wave bands is that we actually have some old school guys playing in Demonztrator. Our other guitar player Jökä played in the Defection back in the '80s, so he brings in an old school vision. We all listen to newer music too but I guess we share the love for old school thrash so it pretty much happened without any extra effort.
Luxi: Could you tell something about the songwriting process for this EP? Who was responsible for what?
Timo: Jökä and I wrote the songs and recorded demos of them for the other guys in the band. Then we rehearsed them and added more ideas and everybody gave their thoughts about what riffs and songs seem to work and we went on from there. I think it's been a natural process. We've just tried to do cool thrash metal songs that make you wanna bang your head. I think the EP has a nice amount of variety while keeping the message quite clear at the same time.
IN OLD SCHOOL THRASH WE TRUST
Luxi: What are some of the thrash bands that have been a major influence on Demonztrator's sound?
Timo: I don't know how well these four songs give a picture of our sound, but I think you can maybe hear Slayer, Exodus, Kreator, The Haunted, Annihilator, Megadeth and Metallica in our sound. I think you will hear more influences from different bands in the future because we have some interesting ideas...
Luxi: Is there one specific thrash album that you could say is the one that made you grab your guitar and start ripping in the name of thrash metal?
Timo: It's hard to just name one. It might not be surprising that Metallica was a big influence in the beginning. In thrash metal I'd say that there are many incredible albums for a guitar player. Some of the most important albums for my guitar playing in thrash have been Rust in Peace and Never, Neverland. Those are classic albums with unbelievable guitar players doing unbelievable riffs and solos.
NEW WAVE OF THRASH METAL – BEING FOR OR AGAINST IT
Luxi: Speaking of the prevailing NWOTM trend, have you been following this new rise in the popularity of thrash metal that's been going on? Have you found it fascinating or would you rather go back to the genre-defying albums that were recorded when the hype was on from the early eighties to the late eighties?
Timo: I'd say that I'm not as interested in the newer thrash bands as the old ones but I've enjoyed some of the stuff that bands like Evile and Havok have done. I also have to mention Generation Kill from those newer bands! I'm quite picky but I don't close my ears to the newer bands. I check some of them out every now and then, but I go back to old school classics more for sure. I also really enjoy listening to some of the newer albums that the old school bands are putting out! Some of them are great. Testament has been putting out really good albums. Possessed just released an awesome new record and I keep following the old school bands with what they're up to. I love the fact that so many of them are still around showing us how it's done! Also, there are some really cool bands formed in the '90s that don't really count as New Wave. Bands like The Haunted and The Crown.
Luxi: How much new material do you have in the works currently? Could you tell us something about it?
Timo: We have some songs that are almost ready and we have a lot of riffs and ideas that we'll be working on now that Myriad has been released. Myriad is very straightforward, I think. We have some thoughts about adding more twists to the upcoming material but it's difficult to say much about it beforehand. Let's see how it turns out! Sometimes you have a very clear vision of what you're going to do and then it changes along the way as things shape up so it's better to just wait and see.
FUTURE ACTS OF VIOLENCE AND AGGRESSION?
Luxi: If we speak of the future of Demonztrator a little bit, I guess the next logical step is to find a suitable record label for a physical release of the EP, plus perhaps continue the cooperation for a full-length studio release. Is this correct?
Timo: Yes. We'd really like to get a record deal and continue from there. We'll see what the future brings but hopefully people will be interested in what we're doing with our own music now.
Luxi: Any plans to release a video for one of the songs off your recently released EP? It would surely help in spreading the word...
Timo: You're right. A video could be a smart move and we've thought about it. We shall see!
Luxi: I want to thank you for your time, Timo, for making this interview happen and all the best for any future endeavors with the band. The last commentary is left for you now, sir...
Timo: Thanks for doing this interview with me! We are looking forward to destroying and killing in the name of thrash metal so come see us play and listen to the new EP! I am Timo Ahlström, the Matlock of Metal.
|Other information about Demonztrator on this site|
|Review: Forgotten Acts of Aggression|
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