Interview with guitarist and vocalist Viljami Toikkanen
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 3, 2023
Sigir is a relatively new Finnish 4-piece death metal outfit formed in 2019, who released their debut album, Rainmaker, on Gramophone Records (part of Warner Music Group) on November 3, 2023. These young Finnish lads have already gained a lot of positive attention from fans of melodic death metal and, after checking some of their work out, it's easy to admit there's something that makes their sound intriguing and appealing. Also, it could be said there's this special Finnish flavor to their sound, but naturally we are all entitled to be the judge.
We here on The Metal Crypt wanted to learn more about Sigir, so we contacted the band's driving force behind the mic and on guitar Viljami Toikkanen, to satisfy our curiosity. Curiosity killed the cat, but fortunately not us...
Hey there, Viljami! How's life in the snow-covered lands of Vesanto, Finland?
Viljami: Hello you all! Life's pretty good since we finally released our debut album. Besides that, it is cold as hell here, which I hate but we will get through it!
THE DEBUT: RAINMAKER
You released your debut album, Rainmaker, on Gramophone Records on November 3, 2023 and, in fact, the label belongs to the international Warner Music Group. How did you end up signing a deal with Gramophone?
Viljami: In 2019 we recorded our first demo, which consisted of three songs that also made it onto the Rainmaker album. We shared that demo EP with some record labels and managers in the hope that someone would be interested in it. Jani Wilund and Toni Nuotio from Gramophone Records were the only ones that liked it, so we did a studio/live event for them to show that we can actually play the songs properly. After that we discussed the deal and signed to Gramophone.
The label doesn't have many bands that would slip under the metal category that easily, so do you see Sigir as a sort of icebreaker regarding this unforgivable "crime" by the label? ;o)
Viljami: Yeah, that's true. I don't know that much about their reasons for choosing bands, but I think they saw something different in our music that made them believe in us. We are really stoked to be signed with them! Zero regrets!
As far as Sigir's music is concerned, it's easy to tag you with the "melodic death metal" category, but do you see this subgenre as too limiting for a band like Sigir in the sense of what else can be found in your music?
Viljami: We often label our music with the melodic death metal genre, but I think our music is a bit more primitive and brutal compared to many others in this genre. I don't think the melodic death metal title is too limiting. In the end, the fans are the ones that label our musical style as they like.
Did you compose the songs for the album equally or did some of you have bit bigger roles?
Viljami: I composed like 90% of the riffs and melodies. I usually made the riffs and song structures at home, then when I was completely satisfied with a song, I brought it to the table and we finalized it as a group. Valtteri added some new melodies and Eetu composed half of the song "Enter." Our producer Euge Valovirta came up with some cool new structures and riff ideas when I felt lost, which was a big help. Petri Alanko who finalized all the orchestral parts, also added some new melodies. And he really nailed them big time!
Does Sigir have a certain type of musical rule as to what type of material can be accepted to fit the band's core sound and what will be rejected?
Viljami: I would say that the material needs to come from the heart, before even showing it to bandmates. We also try to make all the songs different from each other. It would be too easy to just make songs all with the same feel and structure.
What bands would you name as Sigir's main influences and/or inspirations?
Viljami: The main influences are pretty much Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Wintersun, Ensiferum and maybe Opeth.
OF THE ALBUM'S RECORDING PROCESS
Strangely, the drums and vocals were recorded at Top Floor Studios in Gothenburg, Sweden, whereas the guitars and bass were recorded at Euge Valovirta Studio in Allschwill, Switzerland. How did you end up recording the album in two locations outside of Finland?
Viljami: Actually, only the drums were recorded at Top Floor Studios. After that we recorded guitars and bass in Switzerland. After that I flew to Gothenburg to record vocals at Jake E's studio, with him as a producer. Euge came up with this plan, as he knew this way we could have the best sound. Jakob Herrmann at Top Floor is a beast of a man for producing and recording drums! And Euge knew our sound preference in guitar and bass, so we decided to record them there. Euge is also a really laid-back type of a guy, so we also knew that besides having a great sound, we would have a really fun experience recording there with him. Euge suggested that I should try to take advantage of Jake E's producing skills, and so I did! He helped a lot with vocals, both the rhythmic and expressive sides.
The album production sounds really good. How satisfied are you with the final result?
Viljami: Thank you! We are stoked about the sound. It couldn't have been any better, in my opinion.
You also thank Jacob Hansen for making this album possible. What was his role?
Viljami: Jacob mastered this album. That was also Euge's idea.
PROMOTIONAL TOOLS, I.E., VIDEOS
Making promotional audiovisuals is very important in the digital age in order to get more visibility for your band. You guys shot a video for the title track of your album Rainmaker, in which Finnish actor Aku Hirviniemi was chosen to play the main role. How did you persuade him to be a part of this video project?
Viljami: I met Aku accidentally getting coffee one time, as we have some mutual friends. We talked about our music, and he became interested in it. At the end he said, kind of jokingly, that he would play a role in our music video. After that he and our management planned everything and we heard that he was actually coming! That project was super cool and Aku nailed the role. I am really proud about how that video came out.
Your debut album has been well received around the globe so far, did you expect, in your wildest dreams, to get such an overwhelming flood of positive reactions regarding your work?
Viljami: Of course, I have dreamed about it, and I'm stoked about the good reviews it has gotten so far! And I hope it gets recognized even more outside Finland.
What will be your next steps as far as the band's future comings and goings are concerned?
Viljami: Right now, I am writing some new songs for the second album. We have some shows booked for next year here and there, but not abroad yet. We hope to do some touring next year and possibly start planning the recording for the next album.
Apparently you are aiming to get over the borders of Finland and playing some (bigger) festivals would provide you that fertile ground for sure. Is there anything you can reveal about playing at any festivals in 2024?
Viljami: We are certainly aiming for some bigger festivals, but, unfortunately, it is too soon to say anything for sure yet.
Do you hope to make your living playing music only in the future, or do you see Sigir as a good hobby band for each of you, more or less?
Viljami: It's between a hobby and work to us right now. We all hope to make it a full-time job someday for sure.
The future is, of course, very hard to predict, but what do you see ahead in the next 2-3 years or so? Just put your Nostradamus glasses on and look far into the future now... ;o)
Viljami: We aim to be touring in that time. That's the main big dream for us right now. Hopefully, our second album comes out in a couple of years, too!
Well, I guess that's all I had in mind for this conversation, so I sincerely thank you for taking your time with all the questions and let the mighty gods of power and fortune be with you in your world conquest. Any more appropriate closing comments to wrap up this conversation?
Viljami: Thank you for doing this interview! Hope to see you all at shows and remember to stream the hell out of that Rainmaker album! Cheers!
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