Thursday, November 25, 2010

Interview with M. Lehto of October Falls

I've been a fan of October Falls for just about as long as I've really been into music. The beautiful sonic combination of Finnish folk music, Western classical guitar meanderings, and engulfing, layered, passionate black metal truly sets M. Lehto's music as a separate entity from the rest of the new school of black metal, or even metal in general. Being able to converse with this enigmatic artist had always been a dream for me, and it truly was otherworldly to be able to hear M. Lehto's philosophies first-hand.

Hey there, M. Lehto. Thanks so much for letting me interview you - it really is an honor.

Hello Jon and thanks to you.

October Falls has gone through many changes over its existence; starting off as a metal band before moving into neofolk/neoclassical territories and ultimately ending up a folk/black metal band. What brought about these changes?

The biggest reason for the musical changes has been the changing interest towards the harsher approach. At the very beginning I was still quite tied to the metal-oriented approach, but soon it begun to feel more like a limiting factor instead of a real opportunity to work with something interesting. It felt better to continue without the wall of distortion and just focus on the acoustic material I had written earlier and all that lead to the first acoustic albums. After the second all-acoustic release the approach started to feel quite limiting again, so I simply decided to split the path into two and release harsher and acoustic material under the same name, only by using different logos for both paths. Overall, the music or the atmosphere hasn’t really changed that much since the beginning, it’s the way of performing the material that makes the real difference between the albums.

What drove you to start making music? What continues to feed this drive?

I can’t really say, as it was something that just happened and keeps happening. Usually a full length’s worth of material takes over a year to compose and record, some parts can be done in a few days but then there can be weeks or even months before I feel an urge to continue or even play anything. After an album is finished, it always feels like the end, like there’s nothing left in me to continue on this path; that I’ve basically given everything I can. After some time passes, something lights the spark again and everything starts from the beginning, it can be a great new record I hear or something totally different.   

Are you involved in any other music projects or is October Falls your sole means of musical output?

Actually I do have one other thing I’m involved in but I’ve decided to stay anonymous there and not connect it to October Falls or myself as a person at all - not because it’s something I’m ashamed of but simply because of the fact that I want to keep the focus on the material and not on who’s behind it. Overall it takes so little of my time that I can say October Falls is the sole view of my current visions and as it can be all acoustic or something towards a harsher approach, and basically it feels useless to spread the material for different projects, there’s no need for such actions at least right now.

With October Falls being a very pastoral, nature-oriented project, what is your opinion on the current state of the Earth?

The conditions are getting worse and worse; there are too many people, too much use of natural resources. We’re only getting our selves cornered, I think nature is eternal in some ways no matter how it’s destroyed, but humans are not. We’re changing the natural choice; the survival of the fittest is distorted by us and the modern urge to help others. Like with every animal, if the weakest are kept alive, it drains the resources for the ones who are important for the species to survive. It sounds harsh and the moral dilemmas make it an even more difficult and extreme thing to say, but I think humans are distorting the nature’s circle. It’s actually quite a difficult subject, in some ways I think humans are now travelling much more than would be wise. Diseases travel along with the humans, not only the diseases considering humans, but also the ones destroying the natural environment and the original species in them.

Your lyrics feature extensive use of wolves as metaphors for various themes. What do wolves represent for you?

I see wolves as a perfect example of a primal force behind every individual, no matter what their background is. Be it a tranquil person or a god fearing man, the ultimate circumstances can bring the strength and brutality out of everyone. They’re willing to do anything for their survival and I think that humans have the same primal actions within them as wolves. It just needs the spark to light the long forgotten primordial flame within them.

What are your thoughts on the current state of music?

I basically never listen to radio or know what the charts are currently, so the state of music overall is something very unfamiliar for me. I’m very involved with underground metal, but pop- and rock-scenes are a total blur for me. If the same holds true for everything other than metal-oriented music, it seems that everything has gotten worse. Records don’t sell that much anymore, the focus is too much on something that seems to be trendy at the moment; the interest is more towards fast moving products and money. There can be a new group that sells a lot on the over the top advertised debut album, but the sales drop on the second and the whole band just vanishes. Everything is so disposable for the listeners and most labels these days. If you think about the current mega bands, in most cases their debut albums haven’t been that interesting and sold poorly, but they’ve had the time to grow into huge figures in music. All that seems to be an absurd idea these days, it’s now or never basically. If you think of bands like Genesis, Pink Floyd etc., in the current flow they’d be dropped and likely disbanded after their debut album and no later classics would even be made. With the modern haste, there’s no time for bands to evolve into their prime.

You recorded a promo entitled "Kaste" in the early 2000s. Will these recordings ever see the light of day? If no, why not?

Actually, if everything goes as planned, next year when it’s been 10 years since I formed October Falls there will be a package including almost all the acoustic material I’ve recorded with the exception of the exclusive track on the new “Whom The Moon A Nightsong Sings” compilation by Prophecy Records and the Katatonia-cover released on “December Songs”. It’s still undecided whether “Kaste” will be included on it, since it has some hints of electric guitar on it, but basically “Kaste” is the demos of the songs that were re-recorded for “Tuoni” a bit later. In some ways it would feel a bit wrong to not include them on the package as it’s an important part of the path for myself, but we’ll see about that and the possible additions of other previously unreleased material some time in the next spring.

The October Falls website boasts a "NO MySpace, NO Facebook, NO Twitter" ultimatum. What keeps you from entering the realm of social networking? How do you feel the internet affects music?

I wouldn’t consider myself an anti-social person; I have nothing against people approaching me with emails or using the internet to find new bands or interests, but MySpace, Facebook and Twitter - it all feels totally wrong for me, as if this modern age isn’t offering easy enough contact already, but you are expected to be a part of these formats, filled with unknown people who consider you their friend and there are all these “hope you’re well” messages from people who don’t really know each other at all. Of course all that can be a great promotional channel for bands, but I decided on this policy a long time ago and I don’t want to be one of those who later explain how “they just had to join” because it’s part of today’s society; I’ll stand behind my words unlike too many others. It’s actually quite laughable how some people or bands don’t give interviews to netzines or big normal magazines because they want to stay on the underground, but they still have no problem joining these social networks. Then again, I have no problem with netzines or bigger magazines, but am still avoiding the social networks, so basically there’s no difference. When it comes to the internet itself, it has good and bad sides. People can listen to music easily and if they like it enough, they’ll buy a real record, but naturally it’s not that simple. These days a lot of people don’t care about having the original records or even think that when something is recorded and released, it’s not free to make. I’m not against downloading myself, I think it’s a good thing that people can preview the material before buying and just skip the weaker releases, but maybe too many are just fine with downloads, even if they like it a lot.

What plans do you have for October Falls's future? Any chance of a live concert?

It’s quite unlike there will be any live performances, at least next year. I’m personally not too keen on performing live just for the sake of playing live. If there would be any live appearances, it should be something special and unique. So, no gigs next year but we’ll sure return with a new full-length at some point; the material is already mostly composed and demoed, so now it’s all about working out our schedules and seeing when it would be possible to get together for recordings. This time there’s going to be a bit bigger step forward musically than there was between “The Womb of Primordial Nature” and “A Collapse of Faith”; there will be more songs that will be much shorter, but it won’t be a radical difference.

What is the songwriting process for an October Falls album like? Does it differ between the genres with which you experiment?

Some of the releases were composed and recorded in a very short time, for example “Sarastus” was mainly composed and recorded simultaneously within a week and that was actually a very good choice for it as it still feels natural and genuine. Then again, most often I have a lot of themes that I’ve composed within a longer period and at some point I just start to gather them into full songs and record the demos for others to hear. They then suggest some changes and things somewhat evolve before the actual recordings. Overall, it’s not important whether it’s acoustic or harsher material, the basic structure is same, some parts are just evolving into the direction I choose but the basics are the same.

In 2008 you released a split with "wooden metal" project Varghokhargasmal. What brought about this split? What are your opinions on "outsider" music like Varghokhargasmal? Would you ever consider doing a split release (with anyone) again?

The person behind Varghokhargasmal contacted me and although I usually avoid any splits, I decided to agree as it was something beyond the normal email of “would you do a split with me?”. October Falls and Varghokhargasmal are not that similar really, but in a way I think it’s a good split and I still like “Polku” a lot. It was a good break between the harsher material I was working on. There are a few bands that I’d share a split these days, but overall, it’s more than possible that this one was the one and only. 

Your classical guitar work is simple yet effective and quite stirring. Have you received any formal training or are you self taught?

Basically I’m self taught, I took a few lessons on electric guitar over 15 years ago but nothing I’d really even remember anymore or actually benefit from it. I think the best thing I ever did with guitar was to buy an Yngwie Malmsteen tablature book and realize that it would be better for me to focus on the atmosphere than virtuoso playing. Nothing wrong with Yngwie, Jason Becker, Tony MacAlpine etc, but I’ve never been a really good player, so it was good to understand that at least for me the composing was far more important than the skills.    

Any closing thoughts?

Thanks to you and the ones who were patient enough to read this through, thanks a lot, kiitos!

Be sure to check out the new October Falls album, "A Collapse of Faith," out on Debemur Morti records, and a new, compilation-only track on Prophecy Productions's masterpiece "Whom the Moon a Nightsong Sings"!


1 comment:

  1. I have been trying to hard to find his music and i cant find it anywhere. its frustrating and i love his music. i just want to know where i can find it


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