An Interview with Margaret of Seven Gates Of Hell magazine (Apr 2006)


1. Aarni isn't rather well-known band in my country so please tell me something about Aarni's origins.

MW: Aarni has always existed, but we started making recordings only around 5998 Anno Luminae (1998 EV). I had quit a local 'gothic metal' band and was soon joined by Count Saint-Germain. We began composing slow-paced metal and tried for some reason to resurrect Moominpapa in order to use it as a vocalist in Aarni. Our little ritual apparently failed and we got Doomintroll instead, which in hindsight turned out to be quite fortunate as he has proven very valuable to us. Alas, he cannot sing.

2. You've been asked this question many times probably but please disclose once again what 'Aarni' means?

MW: In Finnish it means 'treasure' and/or the spirit entity guarding it. It also signifies a heroic group of imaginary musicians fighting bloodily against religions, governments and other slavers and forms of ignorance using every weapon available. There probably are other meanings as well, but I forget them. Consult the Aarni website or failing that, your pineal gland.

3. On Demo'01 you've placed the track called 'Persona Mortuae Cutis' which is your rendition of Slayer's 'Dead Skin Mask'. Why did you do this?

MW: It seemed like a good idea at the time, because we like the Slayer song...groovy riffs and solid lyrics. Somehow I feel the song inexplicably strikes a strange chord in me personally. The Aarni version has probably all the hallmarks of an underground production...

4. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to listen to your promo "Duumipeikon paluu" yet. Could you tell something more about it?

MW: Yes: you can order both demos from us as a special double feature re-remastered cdr. The songs on DP may be slightly better than on the very first demo. Actually you can listen to almost all of the tracks in full online at Mikseri.net and MySpace.com. Despite its rather low technical quality (at least in my opinion) the "promo" in question got Aarni the record contract we presently have with Firebox Records. I made the material in my usual pleasantly obsessed state of mind; intuitive outpouring without much rational analysis. That has always been our favourite approach to making music.

5. I like the cover of the promo 'Duumipeikon paluu'. It's similar to the picture placed in the booklet of 'Bathos'. Who is the author of these pictures?

MW: Nobody knows apparently. Scholars debate who or what is their author and to what purpose they were originally made. The pictures were published as illustrations to an edition of Rabelais' splendid 'Gargantua et Pantagruel' in the 17th century and I merely coloured them. We like the images as we enjoy all things delightful, surreal and absurd. By the way, here is a lovely suggestion for gaining some hidden data: look at any of the images closely and pay special attention to their postural alignments, bodily proportions and such.

6. Well, I'm looking at it and I can't see anything unusual. Could you tell something more about this hidden data?

MW: Maybe you are not looking hard enough. Or maybe you haven't studied enough "sacred geometry" to appreciate the proportions. Or maybe you are not stoned enough. Or maybe I am just fucking with you. Or maybe...?

7. Tell me about the musical content of the Split CD by Aarni with Umbra Nihil. Is this music much different from 'Bathos'?

MW: Not that much perhaps, but I think it is somehow darker, slower and technically more 'underground'. Bathos can be viewed as slightly more of a sell-out recording. The Split also has some Cthulhoid themes while Bathos has none. I made that decision consciously because I wanted to save all the Cthulhu stuff for our second album, which probably features a few such songs as well as a number of other topics.

8. A propos Umbra Nihil, you play the guitar there. Are you Umbra's permanent member? And are you involved in the process of composing?

MW: Yes, I suspect I am indeed a permanent member for longer than I live. So far at least I haven't involved myself in composing for Umbrella, as the band is very much Vilpir's personal brainchild and he rules Umbrella as a demented, yet gentle, heinous and loving tyrant.

9. You point to the works of Carl Gustav Jung as one of the sources of your inspiration. Why him? What was particular in his philosophy that inspired you?

MW: I wouldn't describe it as a philosophy, as that term equals idle unscientific speculation to me. Jung's work could perhaps more accurately be described as theories of analytical psychology. I became interested in his theories many years ago partly by a series of interesting 'coincidences'. Also I and my friends & allies think we have been personally able to verify his theories for ourselves, particularily concerning the workings of archetypes of the personal and collective unconscious. But having said that, currently I feel I have progressed past what Jung has to offer and moved to further illuminations. Wishful thinking or mere sagacity on my part? Anyway, there seems to be danger in restricting yourself to just a single model or reality tunnel. If you enter the Jungian reality tunnel, everything you experience and encounter in life seems to verify the validity of Jung's theories. The same goes if you enter for example the Freudian tunnel. Or the Christian one. Or the Pagan, Islamic, Judaistic, Buddhist, Satanist etc. religious/metaphysical models. It seems that the subconscious mind, whatever it may be, behaves more or less as we expect it to. So this all becomes a question of selecting the reality tunnel that has the most benefical effects for you. It appears important to change from one tunnel to another every now and then, just to keep your sense of perspective and not be misguided into thinking you have found an 'absolute truth' in one of the models. I would suggest mainly sticking to a tunnel that enhances your quality of life, for example an Optimist tunnel. If you think you need to have a 'supernatural' element in your worldview, I'd suggest selecting a polytheistic, pantheistic and/or animistic model - monotheistic models tend to be very unhealthy and lead to mental unbalance, monomania and monotony. Just witness the state of the world, with all the fanatical true believers following the three most atrocious subhuman desert religions.

10. And what about Lovecraft? I'm curious about one thing. Lovecraft was a child prodigy and then a distinguished writer. However, during all his life he struggled with depression and financial problems and finally he died in oblivion at the age of 47. This kind of fate was characteristic of many famous painters, writers or composers. How do you think why it was happen?

MW: I can only offer the cliché explanation: like all great innovators, HPL was ahead of his time. Or maybe he just marketted himself poorly? We in Aarni look forward to sharing his fate. I already suffer/enjoy from mental swings, existential perplexity and financial problems. Also my lifestyle can look quite unhealthy to the casual observer.

11. Is 'Kalevala' still one of your sources of inspiration? There were already some bands which based their lyrics on this epic story, i.e. Amorphis. Do you think that Finns are much more attached to their culture and tradition than any other nation?

MW: I have no idea. According to some current research in archaeology and bioanthropology, the Finns (among the other Fenno-Ugric populations) seem to be one the oldest peoples of Europe linguistically and possibly genetically; predating the Indoeuropeans and being physically closest to the Cromagnons (the Swedes come in second). This appears to be very much a result of geographic isolation and the enviromental climate. Maybe that also explains why many Finns seem stubbornly attached to their ancient music-driven culture in both the good and bad. Pity most people seem unable to tell the difference...
As for Aarni, the Kalevala has never been our inspiration. It has been written by a single man (Elias Lönnrot) around the mid-19th century and somewhat loosely based on assorted folk poem-songs. Instead we like to directly use the collected Finnic folklore in some of Aarni's material, as well as make our own. Finland has been lucky enough to have the world's largest body of collected folklore (stemming from the Stone Age to modern times), so that's a nice source of material and likely won't soon be exhausted. Plus I've always been psychologically fascinated with Finnic folk music and its minor/major pentatonic phrasings as well as the most ancient prepentatonic stuff. In fact rumors tell us that the third Aarni album will almost exclusively feature this kind of folky scheisse and shamanistic feel-good shenanigans.

12. Don't you mind that everybody classifies Aarni as a doom metal band even though your music is much more varied and rather hard to pigeonhole?

MW: Everybody? Not according to my experience, but yes, I guess I do mind occasionally if some ignorant and/or pretentious "music journalist" pigeonholes Aarni in such a manner in an album review. I ultimately consider that as their personal problem and I can even offer therapy to them, but it doesn't come cheap.
Unawakened people often tend to label things they don't understand in order not to lose whatever peace their tiny minds have. I think music shouldn't be analysed verbally nor discussed, just listened to or ignored. Words tend to limit the mind. To analyse is to dissociate. Enough witty shitty proverbs?

13. I fully agree with you but I think this is the "role" of "music journalists", who are professionally assigned to take the music to pieces...

MW: I think it tells you much about the nature of "professional assignation" and the taking of roles in general, don't you think?

14. Aarni is your single project but in spite of that on your website and in the booklet of "Bathos" you mention some more people as permanent members of this band. Let's talk about them then. Comte de Saint-German is a vampire, who was born in the year 1665. He's really a long-living creature I must say. Tell me which historical period seemed to be the most interesting for him and why? And what does he think about the contemporary world?

MW: I have asked him the same questions every now and then. He claims not to be a vampire at all, but confesses having completed the Magnum Opus centuries ago and also being a heavy drinker of the Elixir Vitae. I have squeezed from him some obscure references to having deciphered what is nowadays called the Voynich Manuscript. The Count maintains that it has been written in the Enochian tongue, possibly by Eddie Kelley, but using a certain numerical code based on the Hebrew angelic names from the Apocalypse of John. Anyway, he claims the content of the text therein has enabled him to "travel non-locally" over vast distances. The Count counts these years as "having interesting occurances" in his opinion: 1776, 1840, 1888, 1901, 1923, 1945, 1967, 1998 and 2012 EV.
Apparently he likes our current world, because it has "become post-modern in a Medieval sense". He says that the latest crusades and reconquistas will reach their peak by late December 2012 EV, followed by deep silence. Aarni will play a not unimportant role in these events destined to propel the worthy part of humankind to the next evolutionary level.

15. Do you think that Tove Jansson would be proud of Doomintroll? He plays in the band after all and one day he may become even more popular than Moomintroll or Snork Maiden.

MW: Funny you should bring it up, as Tove recently contacted me and told that she feels very proud of Doomintroll. He drinks alcohol, does drugs, refuses to be anyone's slave and practices deviant sexual acts, just like the Moomins in her books and original comic strip. She wasn't happy with the lame Japanese cartoon adaptation of her works, however. Tove also regretted to inform me that some religious ignorants will make a bomb attack in an European city soon.

16. Do you think that the Mistress Palm would agree to clean my bathroom?

MW: Are you kidding? She would love it! Mrs. Palm constantly seeks new scatoculinary experiences. That seems to be the only thing keeping her insane and "helpful" to Aarni's lovely little recordings.

17. OK. Let's be more serious now. Why Aarni is the single project? Are you of the opinion that the less musicians the less problems?

MW: I think that isn't the main reason for working solo with Aarni. Rather I use it as a form of personal psychotherapy, purging and spell-casting, so we want to make the music alone and without needless outside interference. Musically speaking having no-one to offer you their opinions and critique can of course be a bad thing, but then again we are not making most of the Aarni stuff for anyone else but myself. Yes, this seems to be an amusingly introverted trip and after all I have a penchant for considering myself an extreme individualist. Anyway, on Bathos and the forthcoming material I at least don't play the drums myself. The same goes for some vocal tracks, so after all Aarni does have outside contributors.

18. 'Bathos' is excellent and very original material. Are you pleased with it? Are you satisfied with the response of fans and journalists to this album? To assess this CD in retrospect, would you change anything in it?

MW: Why, thank you. I mostly feel astounded by the amount of positive response from both fans (members of the Aarni Army) and journalists, as I had no expectations whatsoever when releasing the album. There has also been some lucky 'coincidences' regarding the promotion etc. of Bathos. I believe these have been the result of certain embedded subliminal stuff in the music on the album itself. Magick isn't merely its own reward, it seems...
I haven't really listened to the album after its release, however. For one reason or another I don't like to hear past Aarni material, at least when sober...I guess I'm not pleased with some of the sound selection and mixing work we did on Bathos, because I feel our studio engineering skills etc. were shamefully poor then. Since the release I have updated both my equipment and knowledge somewhat. I hope that will eventually show in Aarni's new material.

19. What do you mean by these lucky "coincidences" regarding the promotion of Bathos?

MW: Well, they manifested in what I think of as happy accidents. For example, Bathos was 'the album of the month' for nearly a full year at the Doom-metal.com website, "because of" certain technical/personnel problems therein at that time. A shipment of Bathos copies was also ordered for some reason into the stock of a popular Finnish general store-chain, which usually almost never stocks any music by artists outside Top Ten charts or not on major labels. Also numerous unprovoked positive reviews appeared in mostly the online media.

20. In my opinion 'Bathos' is a very intelligible record. The main positive aspect of it is that a listener doesn't feel tired or bored with listening to your music as opposed to some other doom metal bands. What do you think about it? What is your opinion about such an extreme attitude to doom metal music as presented by e.g. Tyranny?

MW: Well, there appears to be different schools of thought when it comes to putting a record together. Some think that all the tracks should form a coherent whole, whether sound-wise, thematically or stylistically. As Bathos probably shows I don't count myself among those folks. We think an album should offer the listener maximum variation in length, tempoes, atmospheres and whatnot, so the listener can select individual tracks to fit her (or his) current mood, if playing the whole recording through at one go feels undesirable. Furthermore we like to frequently feature changing melodies, riffs and parts in Aarni's songs as a matter of course. It just seems something we enjoy. As for Tyranny and their ilk I think they have chosen to play funeral doom pretty exclusively, featuring long songs that build up gradually like e.g. ambient music often does. Aarni enjoys having more variation usually, even if we too have toyed with funeral doom on the song 'Reaching Azathoth'. Also the second album looks like to feature at least one track in that style.

21. I must say that the cover and all graphic settings of 'Bathos' are the most colourful stuff I have ever seen in any release of metal music genre. You play doom, shouldn't you be much more gloomy? And the cover and the whole booklet shouldn't be black or grey at least?

MW: Heh, I thought you said earlier something to the effect that Aarni "is not" doom. We do not consider ourselves a doom metal band either just because we like making slow-paced metallish music. Aarni despises self-pity, pessimism, defeatism, dogmatism, displays of insecurity, conventionalist black-clad mascara vampire romanticism and other such traits that many people claim to be defining characteristics of "doom". We like to think we have transcended that stage and are making adult oriented music of some description instead.
The graphics of Bathos reflect this emphasis on mature open-mindedness and widening/changing your reality tunnels. They can additionally fool children into buying the album, which in fact has a highly educational and beneficial content for juvenile psychological development. We delight in colourful psychedelia and consider featuring gloomy graphics an astounding display of unoriginality, conventionality, ungrooviness and sad unintelligence. By the way, the second Aarni album will feature gloomier graphics :)

22. Tell me something more about the graphic settings of 'Bathos' and about Aarni's webpage. Where do all these pictures come from and what is the concept of it?

MW: The cover artwork on Bathos and the general layout of the website have been done by Tuomas Mäkelä of the ambient band Jääportit. Most of the original art of the Bathos booklet is courtesy of Aslak Tolonen (Nest; The Mist And The Morning Dew), the rest have been taken from various sources, classical occult imagery, the Pantagruelist illustrations mentioned above or been made by myself and/or the genius Albert Frankenstein. We have tried to match the imagery with the concepts of individual songs. These themes include Discordianism, the Cthulhu mythos, Finnic shamanism, Chaos Magic(k) and others.

23. One of the pictures placed inside the booklet shows that you aren't an European Union enthusiast. Tell me about the origins of this picture. Could you explain why are you against the EU? What do the Finns think about this organization in general? Do you think there is enough place for such "strange" countries like Turkey or even Poland? :)

MW: I think you have been mistaken in assuming I "am not" an EU fan. Featuring that image or similar ones in CD booklets isn't meant to be some kind of statement about our political views or lack thereof. Rather I intended to display a popular conspiracy theory for people to evaluate without myself taking any kind of stand. Or did I? Anyway, we in Aarni like to portray different and conflicting reality tunnels for the audience, perhaps to show that all of them are equally true and equally false; thereby underlining the meaningful meaninglessness of the human condition and the universe. As for the Finns' opinion on the EU (or anything else for that matter), they are probably the same as people have everywhere on the Earth: some are against, some are for and some (probably the wisest) don't give a fuck.

24. I suppose that a lot of people have already asked you about the questionnaire placed on the last two pages of 'Bathos' booklet. So why have you placed this survey there:

a) there was a spare room,
b) You wanted to show your wit and indulge in "childish rebellion",
c) You wanted to help people help themselves,
d) None of the above,
e) All of the above?

MW: Only a couple of journalists have asked me about it for some reason, as I thought the questionnaire is almost perfectly clear. I will answer 'e' to you, because I suspect it has the highest probability rate and also because certain friendly astral entities suggested the questionnaire's inclusion to me.

25. Had your underground agents a lot work to do with collecting the results of this questionnaire? And what are the results?

MW: No work at all, but a lot of play. I believe the results for the people have been as promised in the booklet, although no-one has so far guessed right the number of sold Bathos copies. Anyway, everyone who has followed the instructions has been contacted in their sleep whether they remember it after awakening or not. Everyone has been changed as a result, the psychic seeds sown and the mind altered to be better able to cope with certain future events. Hail Eris, hail Suurnikkuri!

26. One of the tracks of your debut album is titled 'V.I.T.R.I.O.L' which is an abbreviation of your motto and famous alchemic formula as well. Are you interested in alchemy or occultism?

MW: Yes, considerably. Let's just say I have been involved with esoteric thought and practice from an early age onwards and I consider the band Aarni to be just one outlet or tool for furthering my workings. Currently we regard ourselves as practicing Chaos Magick with elements from Discordianism, Thelema, (Finnic) shamanism, Enochiana, Taoism, the Cthulhu Mythos as well as other sources.

27. 'Bathos' was recorded in Doominvalley Studio. What is this place like? Who is the owner of this studio, you or perhaps the Doomintroll?

MW: The studio appears as a vast underground complex and if it was built above the surface, it would be visible from the Moon and smellable all the way to Uranus. The studio facilities of course form only one part of the complex and the rest has been reserved for other uses, such as ritual, meditation, agricultural, recreational and living quarters for the occult society Disordo Templi Lemminkaeinensis. No single person/entity owns the complex as it is overseen and maintained by a collective of anarchist adepts.

28. 'Bathos' was released as number 1 CD by Firedoom Records. Why did you choose particularly this record company? You work there, don't you?

MW: I knew the owner of the net music store Firebox, Rami Hippi, from a Finnish metal newsgroup and had worked as an album reviewer for the firm previously. As Rami decided to also start a record label in 2002, it felt natural to suggest Aarni to him. Along with Umbra Nihil we were the first bands to be signed and our split album became the first Firebox release. Choosing Firebox was easy as no other labels would have us...
I currently do not work for Firebox, but functioned as a talent scout, net promoter etc. in the past.

29. And what do you do for a living now?

MW: Breathe, eat, drink, shit, compose & record music, read books, watch quality movies, play games and do neurological research.

30. Firedoom becomes more and more popular label now. Almost every item of their catalogue may be bought by people sight unseen. Not many record companies have such status, have they? What do you think about Firedoom and what is your favourite band from their catalogue?

MW: Firedoom Music is one of the sub-labels of Firebox Records and the main company seems to have established a satisfactory status among indie labels in a comparatively short time period. I guess it has been the result of hard work, persistence and luck. As a talent scout I originally suggested many of the current bands to the boss, so I cannot state I don't like any of them...maybe Mar De Grises is my current favourite.

31. Why was the track titled 'Pandemia' running only on the Internet? Do you believe in a pessimistic vision propagated by some people that the music will be available only on the Internet soon and the traditional music carriers' time is almost over?

MW: Pandemia has been freely available only on the net, because we don't consider it good enough to be released on an album. We don't want anyone to waste their money on that song...
I don't regard myself as an expert on the subject, but I think legal Internet music distribution is probably the future at least for the big music business. Even currently many major labels practice it - you know, downloading a complete album or just individual songs for a fee, at least from the label's out-of-print back catalogue. Hopefully the artists get their due royalty payments from this without the labels trying to fuck them over as usual...
The option of downloading just the songs you happen to like from a record can of course lead to the death of the whole traditional album concept. Maybe in the future artists/labels cease to make albums per se, instead just releasing more songs to be added as entries to their downloads list. This may not be a bad thing at all for people unafraid of change. Technological innovations have revolutionised the way music is made/distributed many times in the past already. But as long as lossy audio file formats such as the MP3 are used, I think people will still prefer 'cd quality' (which itself is comparatively low) music on records as usual. The growing popularity of the Super Audio CD and other higher quality formats would emphasise this.
Yet if Internet bandwidth and/or related technologies would suddenly improve considerably, thus making downloading and storing large lossless audio files easy and accesible to many users, the situation would likely change radically. Who knows?

32. What will be the successor of 'Bathos'? And when are you going to release it?

MW: The current working title for our second album is 'Sound And Fury Signifying Nothing'. It may change yet. We have been lazily compiling new material since early 2005 EV and have recently tried to speed up the process. We got slowed down recently by doing two unrelated tracks; one for an upcoming Lovecraftian music project and another for the Skepticism tribute album.
One complete new song for the second CD has been recorded and I'm working on the finishing touches now. Also a couple of other tunes are in production. The new material appears generally somewhat heavier than 'Bathos' - you can expect better sound quality and production values as well as more nuances, diversity, complexity and whatnot. Hopefully also the quality of songwriting has improved or at least not degenerated too much. You will see a return to Cthulhoid themes among other developments. Languages featured include at least Finnish, Enochian and English. The album will be distributed by Firebox when it has been finished, I won't lie to you and try to give a particular date - later in 2006 EV hopefully.

33. Please tell something more about this Lovecraftian music project and the Skepticism tribute album?

MW: I cannot tell much more currently as the Lovecraft project has been decided to keep classified until its release date draws nearer, but there will be a bunch of "doom", "not-doom" and "maybe-doom" artists playing on the album, among others Jääportit and Umbra Nihil. Helpful information? ;)
About the Skepticism tribute: it is titled 'Entering The Leviation' and to be released in 2006 by Foreshadow Productions (Poland) in association with Red Stream Records (USA) and Oak Knoll Productions (USA). Other featured bands include Shape Of Despair, Nest, Rigor Sardonicus as well as many more. I don't know the current state/exact release date of this project, but hopefully the Foreshadow website has information.

34. One more thing. I can see some kind of contradiction in your creation. On the one hand the whole Aarni's concept is very consistent and prepared in details, but on the other hand you seem to wink at the listener saying "All this is only a joke". Correct me if I'm wrong.

MW: I don't believe that I am a fundamentalist who thinks he possesses some kind of "absolute truth", so I cannot say if your opinion "is" wrong or right or in between. Probably Aarni is no more or less of a joke than any other phenomenon of existence.

35. Thanks for this interview. Give my regards to the all doomintrolls :-)

MW: Thanks yourself. I will give your regards to any and all doomintrolls I encounter before 2012 EV. So far I think I have only seen one.