The Hirvi (Finnish for the Moose) were a thrash mainstay in the late 1980â€™s in metro Finland. After a series of personal and personnel issues they never got around to recording some of their well known local thrash hits. This record is their first and captures their aggressive version of thrash and the spirit of their unique musicality. Guitarist/singer/songwriter Juha Virtanen recently caught up with Sea of Tranquility Staff Writer Mark Antony Rossi to discuss the excellent debut Old School Killspree.
SoT: Obviously the world has changed a great deal from the late 1980â€™s to 2018. I am pleased to say your music stayed authentic. Can you tell us briefly (and if necessary discreetly) what happened to the band and its players?
Juha: Our first guitar player went bazooka insane and the drummer killed himself. This was kinda before whatever success we had back then, though. Our bass player from the latter years now plays with us again, I do not think he had that many bands in between. The early drummer mixes for Darude and does reggae nowadays. I have played in various bands all my life, but most of the money comes from other aspects of life.
SoT: The bandâ€™s name Hirvi has a connection to a Moose and I noticed two songs sung entirely in Finnish. Please elaborate on these meanings to an audience that mostly is not familiar with Finland or the Finnish language.
Juha: The first one, "Vihan pĂ¤ivĂ¤" is a killsong. Finns kill drunk and usually their family members. I wanted to mirror the state of mind when the final snap happens. The second one is â€śJumala on hyvĂ¤â€ť, I wrote it completely drunk on a Gospel camp that I attended for strange reasons. Yes, there was a girl included.
SoT: While I heard a few thrash influences in the beginning songs the later songs seem to take on the bandâ€™s unique identity. Does that transition happen naturally over time and practice or is it a conscious effort to forge your own stamp of thrash music?
Juha: We wanted to make like a real album, with structure and logic, instead of a collection of songs. I seriously do not know how the artistic processes came to be.
SoT: One of the best songs Iâ€™ve heard in years, in any genre, is â€śKiller Instinctâ€ť a masterpiece of a production in every aspect. Some musicians are too close to hear what tunes stand out. Are you able to tell which songs are good for today and which just might be great forever?
Juha: Oh thank you very much!! It is not an easy task to know which songs will work out the best when you are making the actual record. You are like really close to the stuff then and usually takes at least a year before you can listen to it anyhow objectively. But surely "Killer Instinct" was one of everybody's favorites from the beginning.
SoT: We are living in a day where records do not have the value, monetary or promotional, as they used to in the 1980â€™s. These days some bands nearly tour a year to make a full living. Others tour part time due to families and hold other jobs in-between. Have these decisions changed your outlook on things?
Juha: Touring is totally fucking awesome and a reality of itÂ´s own. Hopefully someday we will be able to do like a month on the road, now itÂ´s max a week exactly because of the reasons you stated. When you get older you kinda grow roots faster than you can cut them off. Although I have spent unbelievable amounts of sweat and tears on burning my bridges down.
SoT: Is there a formal plan for the near future to write and record a brand new record of thrash songs?
Juha: We will start working on the new material during fall, but there is no plan for a whole new album right now. Nowadays it seems to be more about individual songs anyways.
SoT: For the record, what are the major influences that got you started in the music world?
Juha: I grew up on early Metallica, Kreator, Slayer and Voivod, but have always been too restless to concentrate too long on anything. Later big influence include at least Korn, Nine inch nails, Type O Negative and Meshuggah. I have always had a perverse relationship with dance music as well, starting from Duran Duran all the way to Die Antwoord.
Mark Antony Rossi
(Click here to read our review of Old School Killspree)