Psychedelic rock band Death Hawks based in Finland have released their third full length album “Sun Future Moon” on November 13th 2015 through Svart Records. The band shows its absolute best on that record breaking all boundaries of reality and building new dimensions of colorful sounds through their music. A proper visualization of Death Hawks experience was incarnated in official clip on songs “Behind Thyme”, you’ll easily find that fantastic video down along the text. Rich sound full of nuances, ethereal bliss in every chord and shamanistic chants of singing guitarist Teemu Markkula will hold your attention till the end. Teemu was kind enough to reveal few secrets of Death Hawks musical magic and answered on my questions.
Terve Teemu! How are you? Death Hawks new album “Sun Future Moon” has been released by Svart Records a few months ago, what's your next plan?
Terve Aleks! Doing alright thanks for asking! Preparing a new music video and our upcoming European tour. So keeping it busy here.
New music video?
We are doing a video for the song “Dream Life, Waking Life”. It’s a video full of glistening colors and different viewpoints.
And what about tour? How many cities do you already have in your list?
Well we are in the middle of finalizing the tour but I can say we’ll be visiting at least Estonia, Poland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic and The Netherlands.
Teemu, that new album “Sun Future Moon” sounds literally staggering! How long did you work on it? And one more thing – all songs sound really natural, how easy was it to record that?
Glad to hear that our music affects in the way it’s supposed to. We wrote the songs in winter-spring time of 2015 and then in May entered the studio. The album was mixed and mastered by the beginning of August. Then the album came out in November 2015 so pretty fast after getting it done. Of course a lot of stuff happened there in between but basically that’s how it went this time.
We worked in the best studio we’ve been and with the best possible people we wanted to do this album with. So it was a dream scenario for us. We put a lot of effort in the recording and it went fairly easy I must say. We did the basic tracks on tape and builded a setup which allowed us to play the songs together on the same take as a whole band. I think that really comes through when listening to the album and that is why the songs sound really natural.
It seems that the album consists of two separated parts: first one with vocals and second one includes instrumental tracks. Why did you decide to divide the album this way?
I think there’s plenty of vocals and just two instrumental tracks so I don’t see it that divided. Sometimes songs just work better on their own without any vocals and instrumental tracks work good as a change of scene. You can always tell a story with a different way also and sometimes it gives even more to wonder about.
Death Hawks music is a balanced combination of psychedelic rock, with elements of blues, krautrock and – some may say – post rock. I just wonder how did you keep this balance? You really have a unique and recognizable features, so is it a conscious process?
For this album we strived to do melodic and fascinating songs. How they ended up to sound on the record was a whole lot different than on the demos. That comes from our working method as a band. When we practise and do the arrangement for the song everyone does their own share pretty much at first. That is where the fun begins! Then we refine the process by talking, throwing in ideas and doing a lot of experimentation.
I guess the sound on each album comes from the elements we are currently enthusiastic about so therefore it’s not strictly controlled in anyway. We love to hear new sounds and combinations in our music and why not music in generally also.
Speaking about influences, have you ever heard of old Russian rock band Picnic? Your singing strongly reminds me on their stuff, though I have doubt that they're well known outside my country.
No I haven’t heard about Picnic so I can’t say much about that. I’m not so familiar with music from Russia. I know the early Aquarium stuff and 70’s Yuri Morozov stuff and that’s about it! Both are great though. Seremonia bass player Ilkka sometimes plays some old Russian punk for me and that sounds good too.
Teemu, how does your surroundings influence upon you? I see some local features, nuances in your brilliant video “Behind Thyme”. You know... this pagan or probably shamanistic feeling.
Surroundings do influence on me although our music is more of a journey to the center of the mind than to the open wide. Still I like to keep the feeling of scenery in our songs. I like to see places when listening to music. Finland has a great nature and a lot of space if desired and people do appreciate that. So maybe the need to keep the music rich in dynamics and breathing as wide as possible comes from there.
What can you tell us about the idea of filming such an expressive video for this song?
It was fun to script this video and even more fun to shoot it. I produced the video together with the director Sami Sänpäkkilä. Sami had the first idea of UV colors in the woods and then we just started tossing in ideas and the video developed to what is visible for all now. There was a super moon and a moon eclipse on the same night we shot the video and we basically had a garden party at my place on the countryside.
I'm sure you know that you look like Jim Morrison on some photos. Do Doors’ old groupies bother you with indecent proposals?
I haven’t really heard from Door’s old groupies but there were people kind of staring at me when I visited Morrison’s grave on my trip to Paris.
By the way, how do you see criteria of Death Hawks popularity? Haven't you reached this status already?
I guess I have my satisfaction when we can visit every corner of the world with our music and meet all the like-minded people who get their kicks in the sort of stuff we do.
Another band where you also play is Seremonia, what will you do after the release of “Kristalliarkki” album and “Hasiskultti / Hulluus” single?
We are preparing a new album for Seremonia now and also recording soon!
Such swift! How many songs do you already have? Will you continue to move in the same direction you followed on “Kristalliarkki”?
The new Seremonia album will be dystopian scifi in cold dreary distorted space surrounded by psychedelic eeriness.
Once Death Hawks participated in Fullsteam Ahead Tour (organized together by Makia Clothing and Lapin Kulta) which featured selected Finnish bands touring with a steamboat in the Finnish archipelago in 2013. I guess that's a great idea in itself, so which role do gigs and touring play in band's life?
Well like I said previously I’m just anxious whenever there’s a possibility to travel with our music. I get a lot of inspiration from travelling and seeing different places. It’s of course a bonus if you can do it with style. Like touring with a steamboat.
Can you name three most memorable shows of Death Hawks?
Psykjunta festival in Sweden, Celebration Days festival in France and Kontufolk festival in eastern Finland. All of these festivals were located in somehow extraordinary or atmospheric places and we could really sense the feeling from the audience that things are good.
Psykjunta is held at an old communal amusement park from the 60’s and the feeling there was just amazing. Celebration Days is held in the middle of an old forest. We were doing our festival soundcheck and just playing when at some point I just realised that what we were improvising sounded really good actually and we had been doing it for some time already. So we continued doing that and just played our gig without a break in between. When things start to happen it’s usually better to just let them happen!
Kontufolk festival is held at a barn in the forest with a nice pond on the side. For some reason we had a really manic show at this small hippie festival. I remember for example trying to smash myself through a wall and our bassist Riku crawling on the floor.
Also memorable have been Stereoleto festival in St. Petersburg, Desdemona Club in Gdynia, Poland and Bättre Folk Festival on an island in Finland. I mention these for the same atmospheric reasons. On the stage of Bättre Folk it felt like we would be playing in the middle of the sea.
How does differ experience of playing in Death Hawks and Seremonia?
Seremonia is usually more raw, punk and improvising in a way when Death Hawks quite easily turn to experimentation, harmonics and creating haunting ambiences. So I guess both of the bands are in the same game but with a different ball. I play one of two guitars in Seremonia so I can turn my focus on more detailed things and giving continuous high energy song by song whereas in Death Hawks we develop a different kind of deep drama and my role lies a lot in connecting to the audience with the songs. Both bands are one of the greatest bands in their way and both actually give a lot to each other through me.
And what do you see as the greatest success for the band?
The feeling of success comes whenever I see that someone who has been on our show writes something about how great it was to see the show and how inspiring it was.
What is the mission of Death Hawks? What’s your message?
We carry a message of harmony and the mission is to connect through music.
And it feels exactly this way! Thanks for the great interview Teemu! How would you like to sum up What should we expect in 2016?
I think that previous question was a good sum up. Death Hawks will be touring the whole 2016 and making new music of course!
Interview by Aleksey Evdokimov/2016
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