Interview with Pekka Kokko of Kalmah

Now you are in the middle of a long tour with numerous gigs. Are you guys tired?

I don’t think so, I’m not tired. I have had a very good night’s sleep. I don’t party anymore, so I’m always fresh. I don’t know about the other guys as they have been drinking all night, on and on.

You have released your new album in 2018. How was the feedback you had?

Most feedback has been great, no complaints because… we usually do the same stuff over and over again, so nothing has changed, basically (laughs). Only the titles of the songs (laughs), but the elements are the same anyway, so there’s nothing to complain (laughs).

How would you define what kind of music you play? Can you categorize it?

I don’t know. I have done this for so many years… I just play melodic death metal, that’s it. I don’t know about the scene today, who are there, because I mostly listen to the radio. I’m completely out of the metal scene myself because I don’t know all the new bands, they sound all the same to me.

As far as I know, Kalmah has no songs written in the Finnish language. What’s the reason behind that?

Finnish sounds stupid in metal music, that’s the reason. I have had it in my mind but well, it’s only my mind.

So no plans to do anything in Finnish, you stick to the English language.

That’s right.

You started with ‘Ancestor’ during your childhood. How was that formed?

It was the start of this whole metal scene back in the late ’80s. There were a couple of us, metal music fans with long hair, and we just found each other. That was the start, simply. I started with the bass guitar. Actually, I have been the vocalist since the start and then took the bass guitar. Then we found a bass player, so I decided to start playing guitar, because it’s more sexy (laughs), but I haven’t got any use of that. That’ it.

Why did you change to the guitar, simply because it was more sexy on stage?

Nooooo (laughing), not really. I think there are more challenges with the guitar and you can actually compose a real melody, writing riffs and stuff like that.

How complicated was the change?

Not really, because I was at the beginning of playing anything so it was kind of a small change.

Have you ever had the chance to learn music or you just managed to grab the guitar and you started to play everything on your own?

I just used my ears and then the technique came naturally. I have not studied anything.

Why you did you become interested in guitar and not in piano or in violin or in anything like that?

There were no piano parts in the metal [music] in those days, at the end of the ’80s. There was even no keyboard in any band at all, so the guitar was a natural choice.

How do you guys compose the songs within Kalmah? Who is the main engine?

The main engine behind this whole thing is my brother, Antti. He usually writes the melodies and stuff, and I do the lyrics and that’s it, mostly. I write some of the songs by myself also but… well… we have recorded some of them. But he is a kind of a tough chap, my brother. Some of the songs are put together as well [by somebody else], but mostly Antti does all the job.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Inspiration comes from the nature mostly, because I have spent a lot of time in nature. In Finland, we have this great nature anyway, there you have your own peace, you can find the place to think about things and listen to your heart… something like that.

Why are swamps so important to you?

Because I come from an area where 80 percent of the whole landscape is formed by swamps, and they are… they are really important areas to the microclimate mostly, and to the climate change. People are raping them all the time, so this is [also] a kind of… statement.

In your mind, what makes a good song? The solos are more important, or the verses, the riffs?

The whole [thing]. The whole song is important, of course, the solos… and the choruses are the most important thing I guess, because I’m the vocalist and the singer (laughs).

Often there are constant solos during the lyrics and all over the whole song. Where do those solos come from? Also from Antti?

From Antti, completely from him. I can’t play any solos. Often I feel I’m stupid because Antti is such a good [guitar] player.

What’s the most important in the life of musicians: to practice as much as possible, or the talent?

No, it’s how you look with the guitar in your hands, nothing to do with the talent or practicing (laughing). I don’t practice… to speak the truth, I don’t practice nearly at all, because I have found my level and I can’t get any better.

Before starting to play a gig, you don’t do any kind of warm up, so you just go there and play?

Of course, I do something, but it’s mostly that nervous picking.

As a musician, you are either hanging on the studio, or you are on tour, or dealing with the band somehow, but what about the family part?

I don’t have any family.

And how was it in the past, with your parents, with girls, and with stuff like that?

We did not tour that much even then. There are kind of short periods that we do this stuff, so it doesn’t take that much time from anything, so we can do this. I don’t know, things would be different, obviously, if we were doing this as a full-time job. But let’s keep this way, it’s better.

Is Kalmah your main job and full-time occupation at the moment?

It is not. I work in a full-time job actually. It is a kind of hurry business… I have had spent lots of time with that stuff in every year, so I can’t get on tours and stuff, just like snapping my fingers.

Do you have time for any kind of other activities, because Kalmah and job are time-consuming? Have you had anything else in your life?

Well, for the past year, the answer is no.

Do you have any kind of dreams you want to make real in the future?

I don’t know… I’m not a dreamer, I’m a realistic man, so let’s see what happens!

You are a guitarist and you are a musician, so what does the music, what does playing guitar mean to you?

Well, it’s hard to say, it’s a part of me I guess. It doesn’t have any special meaning, it just that comes with me… that’s it.

Thank you very much!

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