Maximum Violence
CoC chats with Jari Laine of Torture Killer
by: Jackie Smit
"I don't really mind if people ask me about Chris Barnes", laughs Jari Laine, guitarist for Finland's latest death metal hopefuls, Torture Killer. "I've already exceeded all the goals I ever had for this band, and if it were me reading the interview, I'd probably want to know the answers to those questions too."

It's a rare thing indeed to come across someone so grounded and down to earth when it comes to matters involving their musical endeavours. For Jari Laine however, one gets the feeling that he's probably just as befuddled by his band's turn of fortunes as everyone else. Certainly very few people would ever have predicted that former Cannibal Corpse and current Six Feet Under frontman Chris Barnes would offer to lend his talents to a band that, by their own admission, was never more than a casual project and a guilty pleasure for its fans. Yet the band's Metal Blade debut, _Swarm!_, is a vivid testament to the enormous artistic leap that they have taken since 2003's _For Maggots to Devour_. Before we get stuck into any other topic however, we need to dispense with the obvious.

Jari Laine: Chris' involvement with the band started a little over a year ago. We were doing a small European tour, and about two days before we were due to leave we had a falling out with our previous vocalist and he pulled out. Luckily we managed to find a replacement for him from one of our friends' bands. So that was a great help to us, but at the same time we had been planning to head into the studio pretty soon after the tour; obviously that wasn't going to happen. But we put a posting on our website saying that we'd still be making the tour despite what had happened, and we also said that there would be no guarantees on the future. I don't know how Chris found out about us initially, although I think that a couple of journalists in Europe asked him whether he knew about us. So it must have been through that, and he basically went on to our website and saw what we were about. I guess he must have appreciated how open we were about our influences -- him in particular. <laughs> I think that's one of the reasons he probably listened to a sample that we had on the site, and like a big Hollywood movie, here we are now.

CoC: You must have been absolutely stunned when you got contacted by him though?

JL: Yeah, actually he sent an e-mail at first and I was one hundred percent certain that someone was playing a prank on me. Eventually though it all started becoming clear and we started putting everything in place. But it was definitely a huge surprise for us; we didn't have a clue what to say to him, and here he was suggesting that if we needed any help with anything he'd be there for us.

CoC: So, as far as the previous vocalist is concerned, did it come as a shock when he announced that he was leaving?

JL: <pauses> Not really. It was in the air. It was a personal thing -- one guy didn't get along with the four other guys and the four other guys didn't get along with him. The timing was just so bad though and we're kind of sure that it was his plan all along. He probably thought that his leaving the band at that point would do the most damage possible, but here we are, still standing.

CoC: The split wasn't amicable then?

JL: <laughs> No, not really.

CoC: One of the most striking things about the new album is the sense that with Chris Barnes in the band, you were all really motivated to step up your game. The influences are definitely still there, but they're not as blatant as they were before and you've also added a lot of new elements to your sound that weren't there before. Is that a fair assessment?

JL: Yeah, absolutely. Pretty much everything about the first album was done in a very short amount of time. And we didn't care either; if it sounded good, then we kept it. We really just did that record for us, and that's probably why you'll hear riffs that you have possibly heard on other albums too. <laughs> But at the time, we didn't care about it. The plan was to just record an album, and put it out on a small label that I was running at the time. Then when we started to listening to it, we thought that we might approach another label and see whether they'd put it out, rather than us doing it with our own money, and that's where Karmageddon picked us up. So, like I said, the first album was done in a really short amount of time, whereas this record was started three months before we went into the studio. We really put a lot more thought into the songs, and like you said, we tried our best to make sure that the influences would be much more considered and not so obvious. We didn't want to change ourselves completely, but we just wanted to put a lot more thought into what was going to be recorded.

CoC: What I found especially interesting on this new record was the melodies that you used -- particularly on "Forever Dead" and "Multiple Counts of Murder" -- because they sound so much more distinct than a lot of the stuff coming out at the moment and really inject a huge shot of creativity into the mix. What brought all of this on?

JL: What happened was, when we were doing this album we felt that we'd need to break up some of the heavier sequences somehow. Most bands do that with really fast leads or solos, but to be very honest, that's not really something that we do well. So the album needed that to be more dynamic, and the way we did it was to use those more melodic parts. I think the final thing that helped us make the decision to use those parts was when we sent the demos to Chris and we were like: "Well, we like these parts, but we're not sure whether they're going to work or not." And he was really into those right away, so that was the final call for us to use them.

CoC: Having your producer act as your vocalist as well would obviously create a fairly unique situation in itself; what was it like for you having Chris perform both those roles?

JL: Well, as far back as the first Cannibal Corpse album, Chris has always been heavily involved in producing every record he's ever been on. He wasn't ever credited of course, but it's always been something he took part in to a huge extent. Of course for us this wasn't only the first time we had a situation like this, but it's also the first time we had a producer at all. Previously we had a studio engineer pushing the buttons and twisting the knobs and that was it. But actually the first mix that was done on this album, back in May of last year, didn't really appeal to us. Even though it was Chris overseeing it all, it just didn't sound very good to us. The vocals in particular were way in the background, and we actually had to tell him to bring that forward in the mix, because he has one of the most distinct voices in this genre. Keeping it the way it was, would have been like holding back one of your biggest assets for us. Overall though, it's hard for us to compare this situation to what it would be like to use an actual hired producer.

CoC: So this being really your first experience of the recording process in the professional sense of the word, how did it compare to your situation the first time around?

JL: It was different. <laughs> I can't pinpoint anything in particular, and obviously now when I listen to the album I can point out things that I would like to change. Not necessarily things about the production, but more like things that we as a band will have to do differently or better the next time around. There's stuff that goes back to when we did the original recordings in Finland and it's stuff like the bass sound and the guitar sound. I like the rawer, rougher death metal sound, but by the same token, I wonder how that would work with the more melodic stuff.

CoC: Outside of the point you just mentioned, is there anything else about the record you'd like to change?

JL: Well, the more I listen to the album, the more I hear parts that I'd like to re-arrange. Most of the music had already been written and finalised when Chris stepped into the band, and before that we were really struggling with stuff like lyrics and vocal patterns. So when he joined us, we had maybe four songs that we were happy with, because after those had been finished, we had total writer's block. When Chris came along he really fixed up a lot of those areas and honestly, if anyone was going to know what to write as far as lyrics and vocal patterns are concerned, it was him. But when I listen to those parts now, I do think that musically we could have done better and I think that in the future we'll definitely take more time doing the songs and maybe send some more ideas back and forth before we finalise things.

CoC: Knowing that Chris' involvement in the band was going to raise expectations for you and that Torture Killer was going to get a lot more attention than you had before, was there a feeling while you were in the studio that this was a make-or-break situation for the band?

JL: Yeah, absolutely. It's something you can't really avoid. It's too big just to ignore, so it's something we were aware of all the time while we were working. It got pretty tormenting at times, because whenever we had finished something we'd very quickly hear the flaws in what we were doing and we'd start thinking that everything was going wrong. The songwriting itself wasn't at all affected, because as I said earlier, most of the songs were already written and Chris really just stepped up and wrote a bunch of lyrics and vocal lines for us. At first when Chris contacted us, we had to go through some serious self-examination and ask ourselves whether we were able to really handle this, because we knew that Chris' fans would be looking at us in a much different way if we did. But at the end, we just knew that we couldn't give up an opportunity like this. This band may have started out as a fun project, but it's definitely more than that now. We still don't really care about what people think, but we're definitely out to make music that satisfies and challenges us a lot more.

CoC: Over the years Finland has become very well known for bands like Children of Bodom and HIM -- two bands that are probably polar opposites of the style you play. How do you fit into your local scene, musically speaking? Is there a lot of support for your brand of death metal?

JL: Not very much. Finland is a small country and we have a lot of bands that get a lot of attention, which I don't really mind. But we play death metal and there's not a lot of that going on around here -- maybe five or six really good bands, and hopefully they'll get some more attention in the future. I don't worry about that sort of thing though. We don't want to sound like a Finnish band anyway.

CoC: So looking to the future, does Chris now figure into the equation on a permanent basis?

JL: Yeah, making more albums definitely. About touring, I'm quite confident that something will happen, but at this point we're just waiting to see what will happen. The album's only just come out, so we'll see what the response is like and what the opportunities for us in Europe and the States before anything happens. As you can imagine, before anything like that can happen, there are a lot of schedules that are going to have to match, so we'll see what happens. Six Feet Under is a big band and they're all professional musicians who are either touring or making records all the time. We're all working class guys, and it's not really possible for any of us to just tell our bosses that we're leaving for three or four weeks to go and play some shows. Like I told you though, hopefully we can get this all sorted out and I'm pretty confident that it will happen, because when it does, it's going to be an amazing thing.

CoC: Well, thanks for your time, Jari. Is there anything else you wanted to add?

JL: No. <laughs> Thanks for the interview, and if people want to check out my pages on MySpace then this is the address.

(article submitted 27/2/2006)


ALBUMS
1/29/2006 J Smit 8 Torture Killer - Swarm!
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