Swallow The Sun – lullaby as an inspiration for guitarist Juha Raivio
text: Helena Torstensson
Finnish death, doom metal band Swallow The Sun is since their beginning in 2000 very successful, formed by guitarist and songwriter Juha Raivio. After their debut album ‘The Morning Never Came’ (2003) they gained worldwide success.
With their new, sixth album ‘ Emerald Forest And The Blackbird‘ more progressive elements are added to the melodic, and very own sound, of Swallow The Sun.
During a short break between the Finnish tour and the European part with Paradise Lost, mastermind Juha Raivio answers some questions by email. What follows is a very open, dynamic and personal story from this musician and songwriter.
How would you like to introduce Swallow the Sun as a band and your music to those who have not heard of you yet?
Juha Raivio: “I think the best way to have an idea of Swallow the Sun’s music, are these three words: gloom, beauty and despair. We also have a song called ‘Gloom, Beauty and Despair’ and I always felt like that this title says it all. I guess we are a death, doom band with a very Finnish sound.”
When it comes to influences, are there any bands or persons that have inspired your creative work as well as your style?
Juha Raivio: ” Yes there are many. The bands that has influence me the most are Rush, Marillion, Type O Negative, My Dying Bride, Candlemass, Iron Maiden and Duran Duran. Without Type O Negative our sound would be quite different. That is why I wanted to write a tribute to Peter Steele on our new album, ‘April 14th’ is the song title. “
Juha Raivio: ” I am very closed person and I don’t talk much about my feelings. So music is a huge channel to let the inner demons lose, and it makes life much easier to live. Music has saved me many times!
It’s the best compliment when we got mail, or talk to the people, whos life we also have saved. I guess if I was not doing music I would end to be a carpenter, its all about creating something with your hands and put your soul into it.”
Can you explain more about your new album “Emerald Forest and the Blackbird”? Like for example, would you like to tell me about your main source of inspiration and maybe describe the process of making the album?
Juha Raivio: The main influence for the new album is an old Finnish lullaby called ‘Sininen Uni’. I have always loved this song and it was sang to me many, many times when I was a child. There is something really mystical in this song: there is a golden forest and a blue bird, of a dream what brings children to a sleep.
I felt that this forest is a journey between life and death. The bird symbolizes death, so the idea for a new album came from there. And the whole album is, kind of, a story through this night and the things you might think in this limbo between dusk and the dawn. This album was really easy to write and the music just flowed out of me, so it only took couple of months to write.”
After writing my review for “Emerald Forest and the Blackbird” I have continued listening to it, and like most albums it grows on you the more you listen to it. A song that really moves me is “Hearts Wide Shut”. Would you like to tell me about this song, like for example inspiration and maybe your own feelings regarding it?
Juha Raivio: “Thank you, it’s a really an important song for me also. In this album there are lots of themes of how to forgive yourself for the things you have done to other people, and this song is one about that. I really don’t want to explane much about my lyrics, because it might take away lot of things what it means to other people.
Everyones own truth about the music and lyrics are right ones, we all live the songs through our own experiences and emotions. That’s the beauty of music and that is why songs shouldn’t be explained too much.”
Which song or songs are your own personal favorites at the moment and why?
Juha Raivio: “I love the ‘Emereald Forest And The blackbird’ song, also ‘Hearts Wide Shut’ and ‘Night Will Forgive Us’ are my favourites at the moment. I think those three songs gives a good example of the new album also.”
You are currently out touring in your homeland Finland. How does it feel to travel around with your new album, when many people hear the new songs for the first time live?
Juha Raivio: “Our Finnish tour was fantastic and the new songs are working so good at the gigs. It’s starting to be really hard to make setlists for the gigs. Because we have six releases to choose songs from. That’s why we have been playing almost two hours shows recently.”
What are your expectations and hopes for this tour?
Juha Raivio: ” Well, right now we have done the tour and it was a fantastic one. We hadn’t played together in a year and we had quick rehersals just before going on tour, so it was a bit nerve breaking.
But all the songs worked out so well. People seem to love the new songs. Even when they aren’t that familiar yet, as the old songs are to them. I can’t wait to tour other countries also and bring these songs with us.”
I’ve read somewhere that you started playing instruments when you were twelve years old, is this correct? What was the reason you started playing back then and when did your love for music start?
Juha Raivio: “Yes I was about that age, when I picked up my friends guitar and fell in love with guitar right away. I am from very musical family and it was just matter of time to find an instrument. I really wanted to play and compose music with it.
I always have been ‘doing’ songs on my mind, when I was a kid already. Also I always love music that brings pictures and short movies on my mind. That is what happens when I write music also, if it doesent bring me pictures and these kind of short movies on my mind, then I stop writing.”
Was it obvious that you would be working with music?
Juha Raivio: “Yes. I always knew its gonna be a hard job. Because the way, and the style of music, I have been making during my life. But I always have known that I need to do it to keep my self sane. I guess I have no choice than write music and if someone else likes it too, then I can’t be more happier. But first of all I write for myself, so I guess its not work, its way to stay alive.”
Juha Raivio: “I do both, but usually I dig deep into the music and then the lyrics come after that. For me the music is already like a lyric, because of the images it brings to my head. Lyrics just make it even stronger to feel. First I dig deep into the music, then the lyrics widens the horizon and then its all together. That’s why music – that takes time to get into – is most rewarding at the end, at least for me.”
How has your own taste in music changed through the years? What did you listen to when you were younger and what do you listen to today?
Juha Raivio: “I am actually quite stuck with my old favourites and its been really hard to find new music or bands that I fell in love with lately. The bands that have influenced me, are the ones I am still listening. Over and over again, and I still discover new things on the albums that inspire me.”
If you were hit by a car and lie dying on the ground – but you got to sing one song that people would remember you for, a song that would sum up you, which song would that be?
Juha Raivio: ” It’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ from Monthy Python, haha! That would be a total black humour way to go!”
In May the band will tour in Europe together with Paradise Lost.
More information about Swallow The Sun on: http://www.swallowthesun.net/site/
MW would like to thank: Juha Raivio & Swallow The Sun , Spinefarm Records