Stephen O’Malley

GRUNT interview

Posted: Jan 27, 2007

GRUNT interview

First Interview Feature on this site is with Mikko Aspa, the person behind many music projects based in Lahti, Finland. He runs the excellent Northern Heritage and Freak Animal record labels, which focus on black metal and noise, respectively.

Do you see a common link (objective or subjective) that connects your musical outlets (Clandestine Blaze, Stabat Mater, Grunt, AM) and your record labels?

Yes. If you read the lyrics or follow the themes, there is definitelty connection point of all projects (and not only these mentioned). If there wouldn't be, I would be surpriced. Most often same themes follow in everything I do, because it would be nearly impossible to stay away from them. Angle how it is dealt with and how far it is taken depends on the case. Music is just music to represent things behind it. Some of lyrics might be slightly cryptic for people to actually understand what it is about.

The latest CB album "Church of Atrocity" seems like a "progression", although the approach and essence remain consistent with past releases. Do you believe this is true? Would you say that you are always becoming better at recording and gaining focus of musical vision with CB?

I believe it is true. Album took longest time to compose and record. Plenty of riffs was discarded (and forgotten) in the process, and in the end result was therefore culmination of several years best moments. What comes to the sound, it is often based on spontaneous and accidental creation. Equipment is always minimal and cheap. Overall idea how it should be sounding usually develops after accidental recording already happened. So strong key factor is always unpredictability of poor conditions combined with authentic intent to do something about it. Only aim there was for "Church of Atrocity" was to sound different from previous album. Choice was either go to utter lo-fi extreme or clean the sound. Latter one suited these songs better, and sound is still "clean" only by standards of CB. There are no rules for sound always go "cleaner". Next album may as well become roughest yet, if it feels like it. What comes to music, I have become much more critical towards riffs than in past. Plenty of those which would have been taken into previous albums was no longer sounding good enough or reminded too much of something what is already done.

CB always has distinguished artwork for its releases, how is the art derived? Have you experience with this side of things? (I always found the art on the cd of "Delivers of Faith" to be unusual, it reminds of a big rock spectacle and yet the image also shows the basic and primal nature.)

Artwork always follows the basic lines of what I have always had. Same symbols and elements are being repeated from first demo tape till now. But each release has also its own spirit, and one could say, if you strip down those repeated elements, there is very little in common with the artwork on each of the album. While music/sound of new album was kind of "improved" and with plenty of details and textures, I wanted the artwork of album to be dull and flat. They contain no visually pleasing gimmicks or modern printing techniques. Printing method is chosen to be matte, grey'ish, with very weak contrasts. Trying to resemble crude statue, decaying printing or fading "icon", not anything vivid or lively. Something that most of people would find worthless, simple and unpleasing, but those who see behind the surface (and connect it with songs/lyrics) see the purpose.

In following the NH label, it seems that there are growing frustrations... What do you see as the cause?

Label is these days balancing on verge of becoming "too big" and staying as it should be. Frustrations are caused by the unwanted attention of bootleggers, semi-mainstream indie media, ebay kikes, rip offs and useless bullshit on internet-forums on whatever topic related to whatever I may have or may have not done. Due both, project and label, has been always rather private matter, it is sometimes frustrating when you are no longer in control of even when, how and why you want to release your music.

I'm very pleased to see fanatical supporters and people who find true inspiration from what label or band(s) has done, and of course gladly welcome the orders from mailorderlist. Negative side of the mailorder are the extremely busy times, when being "obligated" to run between e-mail program and packaging table for 7 days a week, easily 12-16 hours a day. It's not always easy task, if you have urge to create or do things other than wrap CD's in envelopes. Of course this is not the constant situation and luckily all the tools of making label smaller are in my hands if such things needs to be done.

Throughout life will you continue to make endevours with other labels/musics to present different sides of what interests you at that time?

Most likely. There are only handful of the main outlets. Things what happen besides them, are not necessary less of importance, but they might not be intended as "public" or long lasting, but made due personal obsession or urge. My interest are almost the same as they ever were. Shift of interest made by natural progression of "growth" (/ regression) can be seen, but often it is mere wave, which is getting back to the same place.


Northern Heritage:

Freak Animal: