Interview with Damage SFP
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 10, 2023
The thrashing Finnish trio Damage SFP, formed in 1989, were part of the first speed/thrash metal wave in Finland in the mid-eighties. However, the band jumped on the train a bit late because when they released their debut 4-track demo back in 1993, the death metal boom had already reached this northern European country and the band split in 1996, but fortunately, not for good.
2018 seemed to be the optimal time for the band to come back since thrash metal had made a resurgence years earlier. In June 2019, the wait was finally over, and the Finns released their self-titled debut album via Rockshots Records. They did some touring behind it both in Finland and elsewhere, then the pandemic hit and put gigging plans on ice for a while. This break from gigging gave them some time to work on new material and after a bit of hard work, the band's follow-up album, Punished by the System, was finished, set to be released officially on March 7, 2023.
We contacted this wildly rocking and furiously thrashing bunch in order to get some more details about the album including the making of it, the lyrical themes, why "Iron Fist," the band's future gigging plans - and so on...
So, how's life Liminka? Have you built your first snowmen and/or snow castles or done some skiing yet?
DAMAGE SFP: The winter has been great in Finland and, of course, we have built snowmen. Our drummer has also been doing some ice swimming every now and then, so we have taken all the joy out of winter.
ALBUM NO. 2. - PUNISHED BY THE SYSTEM
Apparently you have been working hard on your as-yet-unnamed follow-up album, and from what I have heard, it's ready to be unleashed. First off, could you tell me something about the songwriting and recording sessions of this new album and how it differed from your self-titled debut, released in 2019? Was it a more relaxed session now that you are more experienced with the aspects of what it takes to make a full-length record?
DAMAGE SFP: Yes, our second album is ready and will be released on March 7, 2023. The title of the album is Punished by the System. The first riffs for the album were written at the end of 2019 and, from then on, our guitarist Jaake Nikkilä, who is responsible for the compositions and lyrics, brought new ideas to the practices, which we worked on together.
Perhaps the biggest difference compared to the debut album was that the second album has only two songs from the '90s and the remaining six are completely new, so it really took a lot more time and effort to practice them. The album has eight Damage songs and one cover, Motörhead's "Iron Fist."
Otherwise, the recording sessions went quite smoothly. Our drummer went to D-Studio under the direction of Jarno Hänninen to lay down the drum tracks in three days, and the guitars, bass and vocals were recorded in the home studio.
Would you say all of you were more involved with the making of this new album, i.e., bringing in suggestions and/or ideas on how you wanted your new songs to sound?
DAMAGE SFP: Since most of the songs on the album are new, naturally ideas and different perspectives were tried out during the composition and arrangement phase. Jaake's compositions came quite naturally. The whole band participated in the arrangement of most of the songs.
Would you say the new songs are pretty much in the line with the material found on your debut or would you say you did more experimentation this time around that may take some people by surprise?
DAMAGE SFP: The general vibe of the new album is rockier, punky and melodic compared to the debut, even though the sound is tight and aggressive (thrash) metal in its basic nature. As a counterbalance to the fast and aggressive going, the album also has one great ballad, which will definitely wet the panties of female fans and perhaps some male fans also. ;)
As your debut album was pretty well received, at least here in Finland, did you want to raise your quality bar higher this time around?
DAMAGE SFP: Yes, definitely. With the new album, we wanted to raise the quality level and show that old-school metalheads can make an awesome and fresh-sounding album.
Does this follow-up album contain all new songs or is there some old but reworked material from the band's '90s era?
DAMAGE SFP: As we mentioned before, the album has a total of nine songs, six of which are completely new compositions, two songs from the '90s and these songs were rearranged to match our current style and high-quality level. In addition, we wanted to honor the memory of the king of heavy metal Lemmy Kilmister by covering Motörhead's "Iron Fist," in the style of Damage SFP, of course!
Are there any specific songs on this new record that you are extra proud of?
DAMAGE SFP: We are extremely satisfied and proud of the new record as a whole and it is difficult to find any weaknesses on the record. It's great that we were able to renew ourselves quite a bit compared to the debut, and this makes us believe, with an eye on the next record, that we will definitely come up with something new and innovative again.
Jaake: To be honest, I'm really proud of the outcome, as many tracks on the album exceeded my expectations, especially the slow one, "Unfreeze Me." We did a great job also with "Track, Load and Charge," "Face Your Demons," "Betrayal in Your Eyes" and "The Greedy and Selfish."
Do the lyrics reflect some ugly facts about the current situation in the world right now, or do they have a more personal tone to them?
Jaake: When I was writing lyrics to the album's title track "Punished by the System" in 2021, I didn't think it would become as relevant as it is now. When I wrote the song, I had the Russian regime and the tyranny that is increasingly restricting the freedoms of its own citizens in mind, but I would not have guessed that the situation would get so bad there. That means that there will be a war, and that another million people will flee the country to escape the totalitarian force of their own administration. At that time, of course, there had already been assassinations and imprisonment of opposition politicians and "traitors," and demonstrations were broken up with violence, so there were indications that we were headed in a worse direction. "Betrayal in Your Eyes" also deals with similar themes of when citizens are screwed under the guise of religion. In a way, it's about faith in Russia's activities as well, when citizens are asked to believe that Russia is right and that the system works in the best interests of the citizens. The truth, as is well known, is quite different. A corrupt and crooked government leads a kleptocracy where no one trusts anyone. The Russian people I know are hospitable and very nice. It's a shame that they have to suffer under such a regime like millions of other Russians.
Other themes on the album include so-called white rage on "Track, Load and Charge," in which a person bullied at school has been driven to the point where he can no longer keep his bad feeling inside. The subject of "Face Your Demons" can be deduced from the title of the song, specifically old traumas should be dealt with; otherwise they will hinder the rest of your life. The subject for the song "Greedy and Selfish" came again from the political patterns of America and other countries, where populist politicians offer an "alternative reality" without the connection to the real world. As if opinion has the same weight as researched information. When this is combined with the unfortunate fact that even stupid people have the right to vote, unfortunately one cannot predict a very rosy future for humanity. Populists are voted into power, and they can wreak a lot of havoc. "Fallen Star" and "Exiled from Paradise" both deal in their own way with how a person can lose a previous good and successful life. As if they remind you that you often realize the importance of things only after losing them. "Iron Fist" is a cover song from Motörhead and "Unfreeze Me" is basically a cry for help. The person in the song has experienced very hard times in his past life and asks the listener to melt his "frozen" mind. Or his heart, as the song tells.
How do you keep your creative inner fire burning as far as all the comings and goings of Damage SFP are concerned? Is it easy to lose the spark and motivation at times, for some reason or the other?
DAMAGE SFP: COVID messed up our plans and we had to cancel a longer tour arranged in Russia before the war and the release of the album was also delayed because of some personal life issues we had. Motivation was sometimes a bit lacking when the future wasn't really clear, but now the situation is completely different. We are full of energy with the new album and it's great to be able to play new material to people and hit the road.
CHOOSING THE DIY METHOD
You mentioned that you may well put this new Damage SFP album out using the DIY method. Why is that? Were you dropped off from the roster of Rockshots Records?
DAMAGE SFP: We received several offers from record companies for the new album, but we decided that this time we will do everything ourselves and keep control and the strings in our hands. We didn't fall off the roster of Rockshots Records, they got a proposal for cooperation to release a new album, but we really wanted to finish this on our own way.
How was it working with the aforementioned label for your debut? Did you get all the necessary and needed support from them that you expected to get from such a well-known label?
DAMAGE SFP: From Rockshots Records we got the support we had agreed on and the cooperation went well. Through them, we got good visibility in foreign metal media, with album reviews and interviews from abroad, and naturally it has great value when the band's story is told outside the borders of Finland.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST GIGS
You did some gigging in 2019-2020, playing in countries like Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Russia. How would you sum up those gigs? Did people know your music, where the band came from, etc.?
DAMAGE SFP: Before COVID, we really went to gigs abroad a lot and going there is absolutely amazing. Some of the people knew some of the songs, some had never heard of us, and yet the mood at the gigs was almost always furious and energetic, and the audience really participated. During the trips, a few unusual situations sometimes happened, but they all got resolved.
For example, in Poland our promoter had inadvertently booked us a gig at the wrong "club" and when we arrived, we found out that it was a local pizza place and the waiters behind the counter had no idea that we were coming there to play. Well, we reached some sort of agreement that we will play the gig anyway. We got our equipment in and in the evening the audience consisted of only two people, both of whom were deaf and completely wasted. :) We had a good time laughing when we played a few songs and got the fuck out of there. A pretty strict message was sent to the promoter in the aftermath of the gig and they had to have a couple of drinks to understand what the hell just happened. :)
One of the most recent gigs that you played was this Speed Metal Party event in Tampere, Finland, on August 14, 2021, that had Whiplash headlining the event. How was it for you? Did you get a chance to talk to the Whiplash guys and give high-fives to some of them at least, either before or after the show?
DAMAGE SFP: We played at Speed Metal Party August 2021 but, unfortunately, Whiplash had to cancel due to COVID, so we didn't have a chance to meet them.
GIGS IN 2023?
What kind of plans do you have for 2023, gigging-wise? Are you intending to do some sort of a promotional tour in Finland and some countries in Europe to support the release of your new album?
DAMAGE SFP: We already have gigs scheduled for 2023, for instance the album release gig in Kantakrouvi on April 6th in Oulu, Finland, and the Sopenkorpi Metal Festival in Lahti, Finland, on July 15th and more gigs in Finland are coming. In addition, we have plans to tour Europe this year. Schedules are still a bit open, but we definitely want to tour after a long break.
What about the so-called "festival train"? Are you aiming to jump on that for some festival dates in Finland in 2023 (Nummirock? Tuska? Metallivuori?), or would you rather put all of your energies and efforts on a proper club tour in Finland (or abroad)?
DAMAGE SFP: In 2023, we won't be able to get into most festival rosters anymore, but the goal is to be able to play at the metal festivals in Finland in the summer of 2024. Naturally, we want to play good gigs (club and festival gigs) both in Finland and abroad and we are open to new territories. It would be great to get to, for example, South America to play a gig and feel the atmosphere of the local metal scene.
What about your initial plans for some audiovisual things, like shooting one or two promotional videos to support the release of your new album if a reasonable budget can be arranged?
DAMAGE SFP: We have a video for the single ready and the single will be released on the 10th of February. We will see if we can also make a video for another song in the near future.
(Link: "Face Your Demons" video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4_pd3zyOe8)
WELCOME THE YOUNGER GENERATION
Of course, back in the eighties the Finnish underground speed and thrash metal scene was truly blooming and we had a pretty sweet scene. How do you see the speed/thrash metal scene in Finland in 2023? Do you still find it strong and attractive, like back in the eighties when we all were roughly about 30 years younger or so?
DAMAGE SFP: Yes, we think the heavy and thrash metal scene is in really good shape in Finland at the moment. There are a lot of very talented bands and our gigs have also been visited by a lot of younger people and not just old farts, so it's great to see that the younger generation is also interested in metal music, and they don't just listen to some Billie Eilish. :)
What kind of hopes and plans do you have for 2023 as far as the band's next steps are concerned? Gigs, more gigs, more beer, more fun, meeting your fans, etc., the usual stuff and remembering to keep your feet firmly on the ground, so to speak?
DAMAGE SFP: Our goal is that people like the new album, we get to play as many good gigs as possible, and in that connection, of course, you have to remember to correct your fluid balance after the gigs in the way metal men prefer, i.e., by drinking enough beer. Sometimes you can also have a few spirits or wine, but generally we like to drink beer after the gig.
I guess that's all I had in mind for this conversation, so thanks a lot for having this "chat" with me, and all the best to all of you in Damage (Suomi Finland Perkele)!! Any closing comments to wrap this interview up properly enough, eh?
DAMAGE SFP: Thank you Luxi, was really nice to speak with you. To all metal fans, see you at the gigs!!
|Other information about Damage SFP on this site|
|Review: Damage S.F.P.|
|Review: Punished by the System|
|Interview with guitarist and vocalist Jarkko "Jaake" Nikkilä on February 16, 2019 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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