Finland’s Mausoleum Gate is the latest in a line of bands trying to do their own thing rather than just copying the NWOBHM, which has already been the flavor of the month, for some time now. Their self titled, debut album has just been unleashed onto the metalheads longing for some really obscure metal influenced by acts from both the seventies and eighties. We spoke to guitarist Count La Fey about most things related to Mausoleum Gate. In short: the past, present and future. Enjoy!
The info that followed the promo talks about your “out of nowhere appearance”. What have you being doing prior to Mausoleum Gate?
– We started Mausoleum Gate in the autumn of 2008, I think it was during October.We have played in different bands around here in Kuopio. Our bass player, Ischanius, played in Deaththrasher Kuopio and death and black metal bands. I was playing in various heavy metal bands, but mostly on demo level, that never got any further. The two of us met through an advertisement in the paper, and before Mausoleum Gate, I had a long break for about four years where I didn’t do any band stuff or anything.
Apparently the band was formed by yourself and Wicked Ischanius. Did you have the concept for the lyrics, music and image already then, or did you develop this through the years?
– There was a baseline for the musical direction: The British heavy metal thing mixed with seventies influences like Uriah Heep, Deep Purple or Black Sabbath. We both like these bands, and that was basically were we started. Along came Timo Raiti, the artist that painted the album cover and the band logo. He is a friend of ours. For the first demo, we wanted a cover art painted by hand, not a photoshop thing. By accident, Ischanius knew Timo from work and asked him if he could paint something for us . Timo got excited too, so he did all the artwork since then.
Do you think its important to have a signature artwork for your releases?
– Yeah, I think its good. The album is a whole package, the music, the artwork and the lyrics. I always like a certain concept, look at the bands we enjoy, the likes of Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden, Angel Witch and Judas Priest. They all did something similar in the past.
What would you name as you biggest influences, both musically as well as for the lyrics?
– Iron Maiden obviously, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and seventies Scorpions. Then there is Black Sabbath. Me and Ischanius also appreciate the improvisation thing from the seventies, and are fans of jazz like John Coltrane. After rehearsals in the past, we used to talk about how we wanted that kind of improvisation, a very free improvisation, in our sound as well. Along with the other influences of course.
I think you can hear that in your music. Some parts sound quite spontaneous?
– Yes, that’s true. I mean the rhythm gets pretty wild at times. It’s almost like we’re playing out of time. There is some circling around the beat of the songs, an approach which is really rare in heavy metal. On the other hand, it all sounds tight but loose, a bit like Led Zeppelin used to sound.
Do you draw inspirations from other things than music, especially when it comes to writing lyrics?
– Yes, I like to read. Lovecraft and a lot of history. I am very interested in that. This has affected the lyrics. I guess you can add science fiction to the list as well. I have read Isaac Asimov and so on. For example, the song “Lost Beyond The Sun” is some kind of science fiction meets a horror story.
You didn’t mention any Finnish bands among your inspirations. Are you influenced by any at all?
– Yes, I am very inspired by Finnish progressive rock music from the seventies. And of course Sarcofagus, which is nowadays more of a cult heavy band in Finland. I also like Tarot which are from Kuopio too, and especially the early material which is very good.
Semisti Miinuksella put out both your tape as well as the single. What is the idea behind this “label”?
– It’s not really a label, it’s a collective of persons who release underground art. The first release was our 7 inch, the second was actually the CD-collection and then also our T-shirt. Semisti Miinuksella is basically run by our bass player, Ischanius.
There was a lineup change in 2011 where you got a new drummer as well as a guitarist. How did this affect the band? Was it hard finding new members?
– Well, actually the change came as a bit of surprise to us. The guys who left the band, wanted to play more extreme things, and they actually play thrash metal now. The band is called Brainthrash. You can find some of their music on YouTube. We found Oscar, our new drummer first, and then we got the guitarist, Kasperi. We found them pretty quick, but the rehearsing to get that chemistry took some time. As I’ve already mentioned, we like to improvise a lot, and to do that, you need to have a certain kind of chemistry between the musicians. You need to know the other’s playing, so you can question and answer that. I think it all was for our best, as Kasperi also plays solos now. We now have two guitar players with different sounds. Think of Lynyrd Skynyrd, they had three guitar players using different equipment, you could hear when it was a change in solos and so on. Also the first drummer, we had, Pasi, was much more of a metal drummer, while Oscar is more like a sixties or seventies drummer. He is playing rhythmically very freely, much more freely than Pasi did. So this had an effect on the songs too. For example there are no double bass drums on the album.
Were the new members involved in the songwriting as well?
– The songs were pretty much ready when they entered the picture, so they are more involved in the arrangements. Then there are of course some things they added, they could do what they wanted to do and bring their own things to the songs, for example solos and so on.
You have received quite good feedback on your previous recordings. Do you read reviews and take notice of what people think about your music, or aren’t you concerned with those things?
– We like to read reviews and to analyze them. If we get a negative one, we like to see what the critic thinks doesn’t work. Is it the sound, or is the way the solos are played? On the other hand, this band has decided that this is what we want to do, and this is the way we want to do it. So it doesn’t affect us a lot. Of course if you get nothing but bad reviews, that might have an effect at some point, but we have a strong vision of the music we want to do and how we like to sound. There are some unusual elements in our music, like improvisation and free rhythm section, so we are pretty much prepared for both negative and positive feedback. At this point, what we have received are beyond our expectations. I am particularly pleased that we have stayed true to our vision, and that there are people who appreciate what we’re doing.
Talking about your vision, do you feel that you have fulfilled it with this album, or do you think you can improve and get even closer to what you want to achieve with the band?
– You can always get better…I talk for myself, but in my opinion, when you have done some riff and play them, you always think you can do better. Write better riffs, melodies and go further lyric wise. And improvisation is another part of our music. There is obviously a lot of things we can develop, dynamics and nuances. A lot of different things. The band has come very good already, but I think we can continue to improve. If everything would be perfect already, it would be very boring.
The improvisation you are talking about, does that come from your love for progressive rock?
– Like I said, me and Ischanius like jazz, progressive rock and seventies stuff. Take Deep Purple when they play live, if you listen to “Made In Japan” for instance the song “Space Truckin” goes on for about half an hour there. Haha! We’re not there yet, but for instance “Lost Beyond The Sun” there is no restraining arrangements when we perform it live. When I start the solos, I play as long as like. There is a lot of freedom that way. It gives an excitement to the music. Also, there are not so many bands that do that anymore. They might do some smaller things, like having more choruses compared to the records, while we might do something really radical with the songs. This is also a part where we can develop, so that you can do on stage whatever you want with the song, as long as you keep it together so it doesn’t fall apart despite the improvisation.
Some of your songs are pretty long. Do you think you can achieve something different with a long tune compared to a shorter one?
– We’ve always made different kind of songs. I think the long songs have always come very naturally. We haven’t thought: This has to be a long song! It’s just the way they have turned out, with parts fitting with each other. For example the title song, “Mausoleum Gate”, is a result of a long process. It started out in 2008, and the last part I added was around 2013. We have never actually played the song live, it has always been a kind of problem child for us. The tune has developed along the way, and we added more and more to it, and if we had recorded it, let’s say two years ago, it wouldn’t have been as good as it is now.
Would you say that sounding original is important to you? Or are you trying to show where you are coming from and who your influences are through your music?
– Of course the influences will show off in the music. That’s not a problem for us. Our bass player once told me he wanted the kind of the sound he would hear on some Neil Young-albums, where the bass and drum sound like he is playing somewhere really near you. On the other hand, we wanted to have some old, seventies instruments like mellotron and Hammond on the record.
What is it about these instruments that you like so much?
– We are big fans of that seventies progressive stuff, like Yes and King Crimson, and we think both instruments have a really cool sound. The mellotron is not a very usual instrument in heavy metal, well not anymore you can say, but was important in the old Uriah Heep albums and things like that. That’s actually the influence from the progressive rock, the mellotron, and the Hammond is of course from the seventies, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and those bands. I also like Captain Beyond a lot and progressive bands like the Italian band called PFM and lots of those very old bands which are not so famous.
I really like the fact that you mix the seventies stuff which, at least sometimes, can be quite complex, with pretty much straight ahead heavy metal…Is that what you have in mind when you create your music?
– You can hear different kind of songs on the album. For example “Magic Of The Gypsy Queen”,which is kind of Rainbow if you like, with lyrics that are quite similar to Dio. I remember writing the lyrics back around the time when Ronnie James Dio died. I wanted to pay respect to him and took some of the imagery that he used to create the lyrics. “Demon Droid” is more like Mercyful Fate, while “Lost Beyond The Sun” and the title song are the most progressive ones. Also, when you move from “Mercenaries Of Steel” to “There Must Be Demons”, there is a bridge there with bass and drums and organs. We didn’t want to end “Mercenaries Of Steel” like a normal heavy metal song, so we developed this strange idea to take the two songs and bind them together with this bridge. It adds a twisted and psychedelic vibe. When a heavy metal song ends that way and is followed by an ever heavier song start, you create something of a surprise.
The song “Lost Beyond The Sun” was chosen as the first taster from the album on the internet. Do you think this song is representative for the whole album. I think it’s a quite diverse album, which must have made it a challenge choosing the preview song…
– That’s what we thought too. We had no idea what song choose as the first one. “Lost Beyond The Sun” has everything that this band is about, but it doesn’t represent the whole album. The album is to be heard as one piece, and it’s really hard to take anything out of there. Take the vinyl version, there is an A-side that ends with an epic song, and a B-side which ends in the same way. But in the end you need to take something out of it to give the listener an idea of what’s to come.
One thing I like about the album, is that it doesn’t contain songs that you already recorded in the past, either for the demo or on the single.
– There is only a year or something since we released the seven inch, and it would have been a bad idea to put those songs on the album. We carefully considered which songs to use on each release in the past. For example when we started planning the single, we thought which songs are good to release on the single, and nowhere else? Then we thought: Which songs are good to release on the album and nowhere else? We also had the song, “Through The Aeons Of Sorrow” which was first only available on the internet, and released there mainly to promote the single, which is kind of a crazy thing to do. It was just one of those ideas. We don’t want to move in ordinary ways, but in more obscure ways.
Where is it easiest to hear the improvement if one compare your new album to your previous works?
– I think it’s mainly in the song writing. The songs are simply better written. On the other hand, there are some songs on the album that are actually older compared to those on the single. “Obsessed By Metal” and “Infernal” are newer songs than for example “Mercenaries Of Steel”. There are some great ideas on the album too, for instance, what I just mentioned about the bridge between “Mercenaries Of Steel and “There Must Be Demons”. There has been development because we have played the songs a lot and performed them live too, so the band has evolved with the songs. Also we had some good ideas, for example the title song that came out as late as when we were recording it.
What function do the lyrics have in your overall sound?
– The idea is that they should create an atmosphere. I like to write lyrics that can be interpreted in many ways, and you can find your own meaning from them. Then there are some straight science fiction and horror stuff, “Demon Droid” and magic and fantasy in “Magic Of The Gypsy Queen” as well as some crazy, evil stuff like “There Must Be Demons” along with some epic, very tragic stories like “Mausoleum Gate”. Different kind of things, and it’s also important that they fit to the music.
So if I ask you what the song “Mausoleum Gate” is about, you won’t give me an answer?
– No, I wouldn’t tell you too much. Somebody is in the mausoleum…I don’t know. He gets out there at night only, and the whole thing is kind of tragic. He can’t get out, only when its dark. You might wonder, does he even want to come out in the daylight? Is he, or she even, maybe some kind of vampire?
It seems like your music and your lyrics are pretty closely tied together?
– Yes! For example what I just told you about the title track, the tragic thing, the music is also tragic, the melodies are sad and kind of gloomy and melancholic. I like old Black Sabbath, a song like “Solitude” for instance, which is very sad and melancholic. The lyrics are not about blood or gore, just very dark. And the lyrics fit great to the atmosphere. Also Mausoleum Gate is a very good name for the kind of heavy metal we do. It tells a lot about what this band is about.
Apparently you recorded more material than the six songs that ended up on the albumCan you give us some titles? Were these songs that didn’t fit the album, or did you know that you would use them for something else?
– There are two more songs, I think. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to do with them. First we want to put this album out, then see what happens. It’s possible that they will be included on some kind of release later on.
Can you reveal the titles of these tracks?
– One of them is “Apophis”, of which parts of the song can be found on YouTube. By the way, the songs are not mixed yet, just recorded. So they’re nowhere near finished.
You will be performing at next year’s KIT. How does your material translate to a live setting?
– On this album we had in mind we didn’t want to use too much keyboards. We used them only in the epic songs, “Lost Beyond The Sun” and in the title track and there’s a bit of moog in the “Magic Of The Gypsy Queen”. I think its pretty easy to play these songs live, we have done them live without keyboards, although they sound a bit different. The exception is the the title track, which we have never performed live and I doubt if it ever will, because the keyboards are such an essential part of it. We once made a decision that the title track would have a lot of keyboard arrangement.
You haven’t discussed adding a keyboard player to your line up, at least live?
– Not at the moment. Ischanius plays the keyboards,and when you have a keyboard player in your lineup, you should arrange keyboards for the other songs too. And we have only two songs that would need keyboard. To arrange all the songs for keyboard, is a big job, and I don’t think we will do that, at least not for KIT.
What are your expectations for the festival?
– It’s a great honor for us to play there. There are some really good bands there, the original lineup of Exciter for instance. 30 years ago I was listening to “Violence & Force” on cassette, now we perform at the same festival! Also it will be great to see Uli Jon Roth, who played guitar for Scorpions in the seventies, and of course Riot too.
Final question: Are there any new bands at the moment you feel you have anything in common with?
– Well, I don’t really know. What can I say, nothing comes to mind. Dark Forest is a good new band, I just heard their album, “The Awakening”, but they don’t have the seventies thing like we have.
You should check Tarot from Australia! They are not exactly similar, but they have some of the Uriah Heep and seventies stuff going on too…
– Yeah, I know them. They’re on Heavy Chains Records. Our bass player is very excited about them. I think they’re cool too.