Rami Jämsä (Convulse) interviewed

Finland’s Convulse returned with new album Cycle of Revenge (Svart) earlier this year. As with the trajectory of the past (meaning: early ’90s), so too with the band in 2016. Whereas Evil Prevails, the first post-hibernation album, had its claws deep in death metal’s roots, Cycle of Revenge is, nominally at least, a lot like ’94 gem, Reflections. It’s different. Musically, Convulse in 2016 are diverse, unapologetic about it, and ready for whatever Pink Floyd and Kingston Wall throw their way. There’s still plenty of old-school death metal in Cycle of Revenge, but it’s just not purified. Actually, that’s a good thing. World Without God was already in the proverbial grave, Evil Prevails exhumed the corpse, so there’s nothing left for the Finns to do, but move on and animate the corpse in new ways. ‘Cause a corpse is nothing but a corpse if nothing’s done to it. Read on as we interrogate Convulse leader Rami Jämsä.

Cycle of Revenge is a different album from Evil Prevails. Describe your thoughts as you were putting it together.
Rami Jämsä: Cycle of Revenge is a different album, that’s sure. The whole process broke out when we started to play as a trio in the beginning of 2014. At the same point we begin to play more freely and jammed a lot at rehearsals. Gradually, we found our new combination. We focused on groove and dynamics in our playing and new songs wrote themselves quite spontaneously. I threw also all the expectations away when writing new album. We wanted to challenge ourselves properly this time and managed to get our music to the next level in Cycle of Revenge album. For 18 months we rehearsed weekly and I recorded almost all the rehearsals. In next rehearsals we played some different versions of the new songs and I recorded it… Gradually, we had a 10 new tracks ready to record. We decided to record the new album in two separate sessions during 2015.

There’s a little bit of history repeating itself on Cycle of Revenge. Not so much in sound, but in Convulse’s ability to redefine itself. Would you say the approach on Cycle of Revenge was similar to Reflections, insofar as Convulse had to do something different?
Basically, I make music for myself. I have to satisfy my hunger and keep things interesting for me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care about the opinion of old Convulse fans. But I have to challenge myself as a musician and composer. I want to create new open-minded music and for me it has been always somehow like that, even in 1992 when we recorded the Reflections album.

And you did re-record “Rite of Sunshine”… Clearly, you were in 1994 mode during this album, right?
With re-recording “Rite of Sunshine”, we just wanted to make sure that we have enough songs to put an organic album together. We had played “Rite of Sunshine” on stage during the last two years and it was easy to put together. After all, we abandoned “Rite of Sunshine” and couple of new tracks as well. I think we were in a 2026 mode during this album, not in 1994 mode.

Your bio mentions bringing influences from Pink Floyd and Kingston Wall. How important are these artists to Convulse?
I’ll be honored, if somebody finds influences from Pink Floyd and Kingston Wall in our new album. It’s not a big secret that I have listened to music with a very open for almost 30 years now. Pink Floyd and Kingston Wall are the bands that will follow me forever. Everything you hear and see during your journey has an effect on your output. I believe so.

Would you say Convulse are a death metal band at this stage?
Jämsä: I don’t see any interest in categorization of our music. Perhaps we are somehow beyond the all categories with our new Cycle of Revenge album. I hope the fans and listeners grow with us and take an open-hearted attitude to our music. I now there are puristic listeners who will judge this album as a piece of shit. But what can I do? I am not here to satisfy everyone’s hunger. I have to feed my and my bandmates’ hunger. As long as I do so, we are able to make new Convulse albums.

Why did Kristian Kangasniemi leave Convulse?
I see the divorce of Convulse and Kristian as a lack motivation and different taste in music. But Kristian has shot our videos and took brilliant Convulse photos. So after all, everything went quite smoothly.

The album is pretty diverse musically. Were you aware of that going into the recording sessions?
Diverse and solid. We were very aware of the idea of our direction already in 2014 after Kristian left Convulse and we decided to go on as trio. We all understood, that we just have to play more cocksuredly and tighter together. It’s somehow easier to play as a trio. Everything is grooving better this way. The fact is that the decision to stay as a trio shaped a lot how Convulse sounds nowadays. We recorded a lot of rehearsals and talked afterwards. We found what works as a trio and what doesn’t work. After a couple of years we learned how to play as a trio. I am over 40 and old enough to take this challenge.

Tell us your favorite tracks and why you think they rule.
If I have to pick couple of favorite tracks, I would choose “Cycle of Revenge” and “God is You”. As a matter a fact, they are conceptually the same song. Lyrically, they have very strong storyline of the cycles of revenge and the consequences of circle of evilness that we do as a human beings. Musically, the “Cycle of Revenge” track has been written around the main theme melody. At the end of the song we quickly release the band in a fast part, which is based on free jamming. Song ends with a clean guitar arrangement from the previous main melody and cross fades to the next song, “God is You”. “God is You” opens with a fast guitar slicer effect and whispering voices. The whole song is based on a fast riffing added with some synths/clean vocal melodies. I like the combination of these two tracks, because they show quite strongly what Convulse is nowadays. Solid, versatile, heavy, capable and unpredictable.
Would you say Cycle of Revenge is a grower? It’s taken me a few spins to really appreciate it.
You are absolutely right. Personally, I am not so keen on albums that are already done with the very first time you have listened to them. I wanted to make an album that takes a time to get understood. It is the way you make an album to stand the test of time.

I like how you break out on “Ever Flowing Stream”. Pretty different for Convulse. Was it your first inclination to sing on the track? Also, is that a Dismember reference?
This one is composed at first with acoustic guitar (A-part). The chorus melody of this song has been ghosting me for years. The beginning of this song reminds me a little bit King Crimson’s later years (Thrak) with some weird backward drumming added. I tried very different styles of singing on this song. Growling, yelling, whispering and nothing worked so well. So, I tried clean singing and asked Rolle and Juha’s opinion. When I got their green light, I arranged vocals a little bit more and it was ready. Some may say this song reminds of Sentenced’s Amok days.

Lyrically, what inspired you this time around?
The whole album is around the same Cycle of Revenge theme. I see the world burning and falling apart. All I see is the circle of evilness.

We interviewed you for the Finnish Metal Issue. How much of Finland is in Convulse? Is there anything, outside of the band being Finns, that is distinctly Finnish?
I am sure there is some Finland in Convulse. The one important thing is, when we decide to something, we just do it. Musically…In Finland, we love gloomy and longing melodies.

What were the recording sessions like? I gather, normal as usual.
Jämsä: We recorded Evil Prevails in full analog and it was a very interesting method, but this time I wanted to enter to a different studio with a new recording engineer. I got into contact with my old bandmate Janne Jokinen (from the ’90s) and we started to discuss the new Convulse album. Pretty soon it was clear for me that Janne was the right person to record the new Convulse album. He understood my thoughts of a ‘live feeling’ with aggressive sounds. The first sessions were in January 2015 and then we recorded for new songs. The next recording sessions were in October 2015 and then we recorded six tracks.

Can you give us some of recording details? Studio, length in the studio, etc.
We recorded Cycle of Revenge album at V.R. Studios (in Turku). I remember the recording hours were around 60-70. Then, we had a one week break and Janne started the mixing sessions. We got the online versions and started to discuss what should be done differently. I suppose we put Janne (mixing engineer) under huge pressure with our demands. Some tracks were mixed seven times and after that, we all were satisfied with the result. In December, we traveled to Virtalähde, which is a great Finnish mastering studio. After that the whole album was finally ready to send to the pressing factory.

What’s next for Convulse?
I hope Cycle of Revenge gives to Convulse more opportunities to play abroad. I have a cool band to travel with. Gradually, we have also started to make new tracks. A new Convulse album 2018? I am quite sure about that.

** Convulse’s new album Cycle of Revenge is out now on Svart Records. Available in CD and LP at this LOCATION.