Oranssi Pazuzu Seek Outer Limits With Värähtelijä (Interview)

photo by Pauliina Lindell
photo by Pauliina Lindell

Lots of modern black metal bands – of a certain stripe, anyway – will tell you they derive inspiration from the ultimate-chill vacuum of space, from the violence of the cosmos at large, from the spiritual understanding that you are nothing and the universe’s basic unfeeling misanthropy.  Most of those bands also ply blast beats like they were invented last night and just went on sale, and the frenzy of the attack is pretty hard to reconcile with the sparseness of matter in most of the space we can see.

Enter Oranssi Pazuzu, Finland’s gift to anyone hoping to spliff out with the alien invaders just before their extra-dimensional reality-shuffling machine divides and conquers and sends all our psychic energy back to their home planet as quaint souvenirs.  The band’s new album, Värähtelijä, released at the end of February through 20 Buck Spin, rarely sounds familiar or simple, but consistently satisfies the need we have for rock music to truly progress.

Before we completely melted into self-aware organic goo, we asked guitarist/vocalist Jun-His a few questions and recorded a few of his responses in an article for Issue #138 (April 2016, Decibel Tour cover).  Keep reading to get the full interview and find out why, while you could probably continue to exist without hearing Värähtelijä, you really shouldn’t want to.

Have you been listening to any music since releasing Valonielu that has influenced your work or intention on the new album?

I’m not very good at listening to new music while working on an album. But since we started writing material for Värähtelijä, even before the release of Valonielu, there has been less intense periods as well and [I] have been able to take in some new stuff.  It’s a bit hard to say which ones have influenced the OP writing but I believe everything I like eventually works its way to being a part of the influence. And yeah, OP is a fusion of styles anyways. From heavier side of things, Vorum and Aevangelist have left their mark. From jazzier stuff, it’s at least Gabor Szabo`s Bacchanal album. And in that one especially the guitar work has been a big influence. Then there`s Palmskin Productions and Aphex Twin from electronic music. Oh yeah, and Scott Walker`s The Drift.

When writing music, do you start out with concepts you would like to incorporate, or do your musical ideas steer the lyrical direction of the songs?

Both. Sometimes you have a pretty good idea of the bigger picture in your head before actually writing anything. Or there might be a a method you would like to use for making a song. In these cases I really love to explain my ideas to the other guys in the band and then start working with them together. Usually me and Ontto discuss about these ideas on several occasions before they turn into anything solid. Then of course we do more traditional writing of riffs and parts that work together and Ontto will find a lyrical theme that will fit into those when we have the song structure jammed together. The idea for Värähtelijä actually was to make a seamless combination of these bigger, free flowing abstract ideas and solid composing.

Your music seems to focus far more on atmosphere than virtuosity, but do you feel you have been expanding your instrumental capabilities, and has this influenced the ideas you use in your music?

Sure. The atmosphere and feeling comes first. There’s already enough heavier music that is focused around really good and precise playing but that lacks emotion. Mastering the communication between members when making music like this is the most important thing. Its quite demanding to concentrate when so many musical noise things happen around you so you really have to dive into the atmosphere in order to make the jams work and turn them into songs. Also its pretty challenging to drop off your OCD mindset and just go with the flow and try new things while jamming. And without any fear. Hahahaha… And on the guitar playing side, changing sounds (the right kind of tones) and using fuck loads of different kinds of pedals require its own initiation of course. Practicing a certain sensibility for all of these things has been and still is the hardest part, at least for myself.

How easy/difficult was the process of writing and recording this album, as compared to previous albums?

Like I mentioned, we started with jamming some new stuff before Valonielu was released. So it was in the summer of 2013. We wanted to do things patiently and started just by jamming new ideas really freely and without pressure. We didn’t even want to think about which ideas would turn into songs or anything like that. Just the idea of learning how to jam better and listen to each other better was on the table. We recorded some stuff at our rehearsal space and did Valonielu tour and some festivals. After that we slowly started to work on the idea of combining jammy free flow stuff to solid riffs and prog structures for the next album. We also wanted the album to be the most hypnotic one we have ever done. The words ”Black” and ”Hypno” were said many times, hahaha. After that is was pretty natural and consciously forward moving project. Of course the more intense the composing and arranging gets, the more it requires and it can sometimes be hard and pain in the ass as well. In the end of the recordings and mixings we all felt we really can’t make another album for a while. So it was pretty exhausting and long project. And it is a long album as well.. But its now done and I feel we took ourselves to a new level with this album and gave more than ever to the music.

Do the heavy, rock-based parts of your songs always come before the trippier psych sounds?

It’s been more or less like that before. But on Värähtelijä we consciously wanted to get away from this. So that all the trippy and mellow stuff would serve as important as the heavy stuff. And we wanted to see if we can get mellow stuff to sound as intense as heavier stuff so that calming down a song wouldn’t actually let the listener to escape the demanding atmosphere.

Your previous album covers have seemed to be richly symbolic paintings, while the cover of Värähtelijä appears to be a stylized photograph.  Does the shift in visual aesthetic mark a shift in approach or mentality in the music?

We wanted the album to be really intense like I mentioned. A raw photo cover simply relates to that idea. And we didn’t want to do another painting cover. We have had many of those and they have all been amazing so it was time to try out something else. This time we wanted something from the real life but with a frozen magical feeling captured in the moment. This is partly a theme of the album as well. Finding the mystery and enigma in our existence and gazing straight into it in awe without trying to find an explanation to everything with naive religions or foolish assumptions. Just being part of it and feeling you are one with it.

Looking back over your recordings, how would you characterize the growth or musical shifts from album to album?

I think all of our albums have been the kind of albums we needed to do at the time to evolve as a band. Kosmonument took a big leap into really dark, unknown cosmos. Valonielu brought things back to earth and to the cellular level so to speak. And Värähtelijä stretches out to the outer limits of both I think.  We like to draw inspiration from majestic themes, I know.