Through An Intriguing Darkness with Welkins Boreal
Through An Intriguing Darkness with Welkins Boreal
Welkins Boreal was founded in 2018 by Finnish songwriter Teemu Kautonen as a follow-up to his former band Nattvindens Gråt, which released three albums 1995-2000 and played a European tour in 1997. The debut album Phantoms Of Yesteryear was released in 2019 as as solo endeavor. On the new EP Ashes, the line-up was augmented with Aki Koponen on guitar and Toni Paananen as session drummer.
Highwire Daze recently caught up with the Welkins Boreal mastermind to discuss the unveiling of Ashes, his previous band Nattvindens Gråt where he worked with Tuomas Holopainen and Sami Vänskä of the soon to be legendary Nightwish, releasing new music in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, and other topics of intrigue. Read on…
Introduce yourself. Tell me what you do in Welkins Boreal and how long the band has been together.
My name is Teemu and I am the founding member of Welkins Boreal. I play bass, guitar, keyboards and sing. So far, I am also the sole songwriter in the band, although Aki – who joined the band early this year – will participate in future songwriting. The band was founded in late 2018 as a follow-up to my 1990s band Nattvindens Gråt. I preferred a new name for a fresh start, even though the debut album ‘Phantoms of Yesteryear’ was a look into the past, containing completely new versions of nine songs that originally appeared in Nattvindens Gråt’s 1996 and 2000 albums.
Where are you based out and what is your local music scene like there?
I’m based in Helsinki and my bandmate Aki is in Turku, in the south of Finland. The music scene here is very active. Metal is very popular in Finland which shows in a large number of concerts by domestic and international acts – well, except for in these testing times of corona restrictions.
Is there any overall story or concept behind the Ashes EP title?
Yes. Even though the lyrics are intentionally relatively abstract, they address the polarisation of contemporary society where opinions are increasingly extreme, history gets forgotten or ideologically rewritten, and nobody is able to see beyond their own narrow point of view. The point of the EP is enjoying good music, not making any political statements, but I felt more inspired to write modern lyrics after dealing with historical and fantasy themes in my bands in the 1990s.
What is the story behind the lyrics of the song Are You A Witch?
It is directly related to the overall theme of the EP title: inability of people to appreciate points of view that deviate from their own increasingly narrow ones and this leading to harassment and even persecution reminiscent of the 17th century witch-hunts.
Where did you record Ashes and what was the experience like?
We recorded the EP in the renowned Astia Studio in Eastern Finland, which is particularly known for the early Children of Bodom albums. The reason we chose that one is the producer/engineer Anssi Kippo and his uncompromising pursuit of organic analogue sound. We wanted to have that experience, which is quite different from the modern process of recording on a computer. So instead of the focus of the process being on the mix as is typical in computer productions, we actually rehearsed like crazy and played everything live. Most of the studio time went into playing and singing, not sitting in front of a screen and correcting things with a mouse. So there are some mistakes and not everything is perfect. Both the producer and us in the band think that some human error makes a record sound livelier and more interesting, instead of everything being edited to robotic perfection on the computer. ‘Ashes’ was recorded without any computers at all on magnetic tape on a classic 24-tracker; then mixed on magnetic tape too. The only digital conversion is from the final master tape to a wav-file for distribution via streaming services.
Who did the cover art for Ashes and how much input did you have on it?
Pavel Kurbanov from All4Band Design. I had used him for the debut album too and was very happy both with the quality and process of generating the artwork. The concept for the cover is mostly from me but with inputs from Pavel and his colleague Vladyslav. I can highly recommend their services for band: professional, pleasant to work with and they do as many iterations as necessary to get the job done.
What has it been like to record and release new music in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and so much social unrest in the world?
Having more time to do it, not having to go to the office! For small bands like Welkins Boreal, there has not been much of a difference really. We do not perform live at the moment so we did not experience such problems as bigger bands who lost their sources of income. For us music is a hobby that loses rather than earns us money, ha ha! The only problem we had was the risk of having to postpone our studio session because my province in Finland was in lock-down in May and I was not allowed to cross the border to the province where the studio is located. But the lock-down was lifted on time, so no problem there.
How close is Welkins Boreal to recording a full length?
We are starting the process of writing new material for a full-length album right now. I would expect it to take at least a year to have enough songs for a new record. I mostly work on music in spells, when there is a good time to take some time off and distance from work. I’m hoping to get such a spell in the autumn and be able to start demoing some new material.
Has Welkins Boreal ever played live and if so, what could one expect from a live show?
No we have not and at the moment we do not intend to. We have busy professional and family lives and limited time for music. For the time being, we prefer to prioritise our music time for writing and recording songs, rather than putting together a line-up for live shows. However, should suitably attractive opportunities for playing live emerge, we will obviously re-consider our attitude!
If Welkins Boreal could open up for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Mercyful Fate/King Diamond and Candlemass are the first ones to come to mind. Musically, it would work pretty well and those are some of my personal alltime favourite acts. From contemporary bands, Ghost would work pretty well musically I imagine.
When you look back on your work with Nattvindens Grat, what do you think of it now in retrospect?
The debut album ‘A Bard’s Tale’ in all its juvenile naivety (we were 19 years old when we recorded it) is a product of its time and fine as such, despite its obvious musical shortcomings. The second album ‘Chaos Without Theory’ had really strong song ideas but poorly executed partly because of my arrangements leaving a fair bit to desire and us having to rush through the recordings in just 5 or 6 days because of the minimal budget we had. That combination led to a final product that screamed for a better version – which is what motivated me to record ‘Phantoms of Yesteryear’. Now those song ideas are available in versions that I believe do them justice.
What was it like working with Tuomas Holopainen and Sami Vänskä of Nightwish during your time in Nattvindens Grat?
They were very good musicians even back then and Tuomas was very creative with his keyboard parts. We had also been friends for years before the band was even started. Sami and I had played together in diverse local bands (no records released) since we were 15 years old or something like that. Tuomas came to the band scene later, closer to when we were 17-18. However, we had known each other since we were 13 years old and Tuomas and I were in the same class in school.
What’s up next for Welkins Boreal?
Releasing the EP officially 11 September 2020 and at about the same time a digipak CD version of the debut album will be available for those who prefer a physical record. Then we’ll start working on new material aiming at a full-length release probably in 2022.
Any final words of wisdom?
No wisdom left to add apart from thanking you Ken for your support!
Teemu Kautonen • Lead & backing Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Keyboards
Aki Koponen • Guitar, backing Vocals
Toni Paananen • Session Drums
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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