Interview with Antti Kokko


Northern Finland used to be a fertile breeding ground for death metal bands in the later 80s and early 90s. One of these early purveyors of boreal brutality was Ancestor, founded in 1991 by guitarist-vocalist Pekka Kokko and drummer Petri Sankala. After two demos, Pekka’s brother Antti was added to the fold as lead guitarist. Ancestor disbanded after five more melodic demos in 1998, leading to the formation of Kalmah.


‘’I started guitar playing at age of 11. At first I played in various line-ups with fellow youngsters. It was about having fun by playing and learning via cover songs but from the very start for me it was clear that writing own music is the thing. After trials and errors in 1996 I joined Pekka´s Ancestor. We did bunch of demos and teached each other or kicked each other forward in song writing and learning process.’’ - Antti


‘’Palo’’ is the apex of Kalmah’s 26 years of work. With its poignant, almost beautiful melodies intertwining with relentless rip-your-face-off aggression ‘’Palo’’ is everything its equivocal name suggests and more – a testimony to and a prime example of burning passion for music; a piece of unbridled all-consuming wildfire of melodic death metal mastery likes of which come by maybe once in a decade. ‘’Palo’’ was released on April 6, 2018 by Spinefarm Records.


We feel so, so lucky that we got to do this e-mail interview with guitarist and long time member, Antti Kokko!


‘’How are you doing?’’

Antti: ‘’Thanks, fine.’’


‘’Are you excited about the release?’’

Antti: ‘’Yeh, sure. It is always highlight. This time it seems there is a lot of good vibes going on.’’


‘’First off, my compliments for ''Palo''! It is an awesome record and I enjoyed every second of it, I even scored it a 10/10! How do you feel about it personally?’’

Antti: ‘’Thank you! We all have very good feelings in the band about this album. Everyone is satisfied with the mixing and mastering and the songs we have on it. For me writing this album was a long process due to personal projects but I never had doubts. About 2 years ago we decided to start pushing things and here we are.’’

‘’What makes ''Palo'' different from Kalmah's previous releases?’’

Antti: ‘’For me it is Kalmah. I always trust only the inspiration and this time it gave these songs. If we all like the songs written then I know it will end up on our album and it meets Kalmah standards. At the end we do have new elements there. On pretty "easy" song for Kalmah and then songs that for me represent Kalmah from the early days about 20 years ago combined with what we are today. We are getting older but our axe is still sharp.’’


‘’Is there anything new on this album that makes it special? Did you do something different in some way?’’

Antti: ‘’It is maybe special because we wanted to get back to roots. Forget about the plastic sound every so called "metal" band have today. All pumped to limit. We used same studio as before of course but we avoided every digital sound or sound library. Just the real amps and real drums like the good old days.’’


‘’Who is the main writer in the band, or are you all equally involved in the creative process?’’

Antti: ‘’I am the main writer. This time I did 8 songs and Pekka did 2. Usually keyboard player writes one song too but this time he was busy with other bands he has. When the song is written in guitar and we all like it we start to arrange it together. Everyone can say opinions and we try them if the idea is good. Then before the studio everything is ready and we can just concentrate on the sound.’’


‘’What is your favorite song from ''Palo'', and why?’’

Antti: ‘’I’d say Take me Away. Maybe because it is a bit different from other songs on this album. Maybe more unlike Kalmah.’’

‘’What band(s) / artist(s) have inspired you to become musicians?’’

Antti: ‘’There are lots of bands Kiss, Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth. Then the heavier stuff as I grew older. Sepultura, Pantera, Paradise Lost, Death to mention few. At the end Megadeth Rust In Peace gave the last kick.’’


‘’How would you describe your music to someone who doesn’t know the band?’’

Antti: ‘’People say it is extreme melodic death metal. I say it is swamp metal.’’


‘’What is the main inspiration behind the music?’’

Antti: ‘’For me it is the nature around me. "I live from the nature". Basically all my other hobbies and personal life interests are in nature like hunting.’’


‘’Does it get hard to find inspiration after more than 15 years of Kalmah?’’

Antti: ‘’So far inspiration has been good and solid. The moment I find my inspiration getting dry I know it is time to end.’’


‘’Why did it take five years to release a new album?’’

Antti: ‘’I had house building project and three of us moved to Helsinki area so the rehearsing became pretty impossible. There was personal things going on with everyone so we just took 5 years this time. On next one I believe you don't have to wait another five years but that is up to inspiration. I never know what it will give me and when.’’

‘’Do you have any touring plans?’’

Antti: ‘’We do have couple of release shows here in Finland and then some festivals. After that we have negotiations going on all over but nothing is sure yet.’’


‘’What is the best thing that happened with Kalmah until now? What is your favorite memory/show/moment?’’

Antti: ‘’I guess the best thing was finally after 5-6 demos getting the record deal in 1998. The best show I must say was in Slovenia. We played at main stage just before Slayer.’’


‘’What was your favourite concert? Best venue? Strangest venue? The worst concert?’’

Antti: ‘’There are lots of great concerts. One was pretty peculiar in Germany.

It was old DDR area and pretty odd surroundings. There was a band before us with real pig heads and all kinds of costumes..:) We have had some bad shows as well but I can't remember where anymore. Pretty much all things broke up and the playing was hard.’’


‘’What do you think about the way music affects people’s lives, even changing them?’’

Antti: ‘’I do have read some stories about our music playing a big role in somebody's personal life. They have been able to go on with their lives due to our music. It always gives good feeling. But at the end I don't feel we are doing such music after all. For us it is about doing great music from which we like. It is just a bonus if someone else likes it and even feels it life changing.’’

I want to thank Antti from the bottom of my heart to do this interview with us, and I really hope to see Kalmah live one day!


Read our review of ‘’Palo’’ here!


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By Tamar