Wednesday 14 December 2016

An Interview with Jaakko Heinonen from DEMONIC DEATH JUDGE

Demonic Death Judge have been playing their blend of Psychedelic fused Sludge/Doom/Stoner Metal since 2009. Since then they have released a stunning array of EP's and albums that have won the band critical acclaim within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community.

I've been fan of the band for a long time and I was pretty excited when they announced they would be releasing a new called – Seaweed from January 13th 2017. I've heard the album and I'm happy to say that the album ranks as one of their finest works to date. A haunting and complex odyssey that sees the band play a more distinctive blend of Sludge/Stoner Metal with the band adding elements of Ambient/Post-Rock vibes to their overall sound.

I wanted to catch-up with the band as it's been quite a while since we last chatted. I'm happy to report that Jaakko Heinonen (Vocals) from Demonic Death Judge agreed to this interview.

Hi Jaakko. How are things with you today.

Things are just great! Can’t wait to get the DDJ show on the road with the new album next year.

We are here to talk about your stunning new album – SEAWEED. So what can people expect from the album.

Thank you for the compliment. People can expect some good old solid DDJ material once again. I don’t think that much has changed, there might be a little bit more groovy rock and roll type of stuff at times, but we do still turn the heavy sludge screw on big time on this album. There are lots of different aspects there, which I really like.

Was this an easy or hard album to record compared against your previous albums.

Maybe the preparation for this one was a bit more difficult than on the previous ones as we all live around Finland these days. But that didn’t turn out to be a problem after all. We just basically didn’t have that much time to potter around and drink beer. As for the actual recording of the album things went as smoothly as possible. Couple of days in a proper studio recording drums and the rest we just did at Lauri's sauna house by ourselves which was really enjoyable. There we had time to do what we do best and what is essential for any good recording session, drink beer. Lots of it.

Did you do anything differently recording this album compared to SkyGods.

Not really no. Different locations as where we did Skygods but pretty much the same set up. We recorded the drums in studio with an engineer behind the buttons and the rest we did by ourselves as we’ve done before.

I've listened to the album non-stop recently and can say it's perhaps your strongest work to date. I admire the different tones and styles you've incorporated onto the album. It feels like the perfect continuation from SkyGods but also matching the heaviness some of your earlier releases. Is that a fair assumption to make.

Yeah I think you’re quite right there. We didn’t have a plan or anything to try to sound like this or that. But obviously there’s a certain style to what we’re doing and it just turned out to be heavy and sludgy once again. Not a huge surprise there. But of course there are some new elements to it and we are always very open to try new and different ideas.

Is the album a concept of sort. What is the overall story of Seaweed.

No it’s not a concept album as such but there are some recurring themes about the Baltic sea and the worrying state of it. We all come from a southern seaside city of Kotka so the sea was and is a big part of our lives. And for me personally, as I lived on an island there and did a lot fishing and stuff it influenced me a lot writing this album. The pollution, the way people treat wildlife and that sort of thing made me really wonder what is going on here? There’s this seaweed that makes the water unswimmable and the fish die out and it’s all to do with pollution. It’s sad stuff and I had to write about it.

Another thing that impressed me about the album was your use of ambient and almost post-rock sounds. Especially on tracks such as Cavity. Did you want to experiment with different sounds and atmospheres on this album.

Every time when we start doing new material we try to bring in some new aspects, we don’t necessarily know what but more just experiment with some effects and stuff and see what we can come up with. There are some guitar sounds and riffs that Toni and Eetu came up with that are really cool and they both have a bit of a history with the post-rock thing so I think that’s where it might have come from.

What influenced you all when writing and recording this album. As this album does contain some of your strongest work to date.

For me lyrically I was influenced with lots of stuff as it was written in a span of a year. But the biggest thing was the nature and sea and coming back from it to your hectic daily life in the city. There are definitely both sides on the album, some stuff is about the evils of money and some about getting wasted in the woods and fishing. Musically I think the biggest influence were some classic rock albums by Thin Lizzy, Eagles etc. Don’t know if you can hear much of that on the album though.

I think the album cover makes the album stand out. Who designed the cover. Did you have much input into the final version.

The cover came out really well I must admit. We keep it in the family as we did most of the recording by ourselves and the cover is designed by my girlfriend Päivi Luoma. She’s a really talented graphic designer and she’s done many of our shirt designs and everything. We had a really clear idea of what we wanted and gave her the idea and she produced the goods.

The album is being released via Suicide Records. How did you hook up with them. Did you have any other label offers to release the album.

I think we could’ve continued with Inverse Records as before but Suicide Records showed more of enthusiasm and had good ideas about the release so we switched our alliances to them as they were expanding their operations from Sweden to Finland and the person who started running the Finnish side of the operation, Taru Honkonen is a super cool person and we know her from before, it was a no-brainer to start working with them.

The album is being released on Vinyl. You excited for another of your albums being released on vinyl and limited edition vinyl as well.

Yeah, it’s great to have it on vinyl as well. I think the covers work extra well on the vinyl version and the limited edition with colored vinyl looks amazing. I only buy albums on vinyl these days myself and I know I’m not the only one so there’s definitely demand for them at the moment which is awesome.

How hard is it being a band in today's world. What are the most difficult aspects in being in a band.

It depends how you take it really. Doing what we do I don’t really have any fantasies about paying my bills with slinging a few vinyls and playing some clubs, you know. I think we’ve found a good balance of keeping the wives, girlfriends, kids and the bosses happy and still be able to go out and play some gigs and do some tours. It’s not always easy of course but we’ve managed so far. We’ll see what happens when we break big time and start doing stadium tours and that.

Will you be touring this record heavily. I know it maybe too early to ask. Any plans to tour Europe more..

We will do shows in Finland over the weekends during the winter and spring. There has been some talk about short stint in Sweden and maybe conquering the rest of Europe later on in the year but nothing has been confirmed as of yet. I’m sure we’ll get something sorted.

Do you have any more exciting plans in 2017 that you could share with your fans.

There might be some surprises coming later on next year but we’ll see what happens. There’s a second music video coming nearer the release of the album, so stay tuned for that, it’s going to be great.

What influenced you to become a musician. Was it a specific artist or album that made you decide to play music. And why did you decide to focus primarily on Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal.

For me the biggest influence was my fathers record collection with some classic rock and blues albums. I was probably 5 years old when I was already rocking ZZ Top, no wonder I’ve had this beard for twenty odd years! Also watching Blues Brothers over and over as a kid made want to go and rock on a stage! We all have been doing different sort of rock/metal stuff for years so it’s not just the Doom/Sludge/Stoner thing. But at the moment it’s a priority. First bands that got me addicted to this thing were Iron Monkey and Electric Wizard, they played a really big part in forming DDJ. And you can probably still hear the influence loud and clear.

Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans.

First of all thank you all who’ve turned out for our shows, or bought our albums and shirts! Come and say hello when we’re in town. Let’s drink beers and party! Hard!

Thanks for doing this. All the best with the new album as its' a brilliant album. Would have made my best albums of 2016 if it was released early in time. Definitely got a spot already on my best of 2017.

Thank you! It’s been my pleasure!

Words by Steve Howe and Jaakko Heinonen

Thanks to Jaakko for doing this interview. Seaweed will be available to buy via Suicide Records on CD/DD/Vinyl from January 13th 2017.