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April 3, 2020

Interview Antipope

  • Hi! Give a brief history of Antipope, music style, and the members.

Mikko Myllykangas: Hello to you too! Well, I try to keep this one short, but as we have been around since 2004, there’s quite a bit of history for Antipope already. Currently, we’re a three-piece act, with me on vocals and bass (and guitars in studio), Antti on guitar, and Tuska E. on drums. We started off as a progressive black metal project, as I wanted to combine elements from my favorite black metal outfits, such as Cradle of Filth, and from (strangely enough) free jazz and hard-core bands, such as Painkiller and Naked City by John Zorn. Well, we soon found out that we couldn’t mix all that together very well, and we began to develop our own style of progressive extreme metal.

When our original drummer Jyri died in 2008, we were understandably worried about what’s going to happen with the band. We managed to find a new drummer rather quickly and for the next five years we hammered down two EPs and three full-length albums while also playing gigs in Finland to promote our music. By 2013 we were quite exhausted by all that, having day-jobs and personal lives at the same time, and we ended up putting the band on hold. I had a PhD thesis to complete, so I wanted have time and energy to focus on my academic career. I guess the obsessive work that I put into Antipope during those years had something to do with dealing with the loss of a friend and member of the band.

However, rather soon after we chose to break up the band I felt that the artistic outlet which I had had since early 1990s, a band I mean, was missing. By the Christmas 2013 I began to write new music, which ended up on Denial/Survival, our fourth album. Roughly a year ago we began to seriously consider getting the band together, and our longtime guitarist decided to quit the band, it kind of gave me the final push (paradoxically maybe) to get the band going again. You know, when something happens in your social circle it makes you re-evaluate what you do and why you do it, or don’t do it, as it was in our case. Since then we started to rehearse again together and have fun playing music together, which is the original reason why I started my first band when I was 12 years old.

  • Give in more detail, some information about “Denial/Survival” and how well it sells?

MM: Denial/Survival was written as a sort of a departure from the style of our two previous albums, House of Harlot and 3 Eyes of Time. Even though I still like both, I wanted to explore the more progressive side of music writing, especially in the sense that the album would consist of songs of various styles. While I was writing the album, the situation with the band was rather unclear, so I didn’t think too much about how well do these new songs fit in with our old material or how would they work in live setting. After all, there’s are a few nice live pieces there, though, and we are currently re-working our setlist to included songs from Denial/Survival.

Sound-wise, while mixing the album, I wanted to make sure that you can actually hear what is being played by different instruments, so I think the general sound also differs from our previous efforts. While the past two records have a kind of a industrial metal undertone with rather uniform sound characteristics throughout the albums, Denial/Survival has more experimenting with different sounds. The rhythm guitar tracks are recorded with active pickups but here and there I used my other guitars that have passive pickups to give the album more organic and dynamic sound. I guess this is also in line with that sort of vintage sound thingy that I had going on while writing and mixing the album. But don’t get me wrong, it still sounds ‘modern’, but it’s not as compressed as it could be and therefore there’s room for dynamics.

In the end, I think it’s an album for the kind of listeners who actually like to sit down and listen to an album all the way through. It has explosive energy, darkness, humor – not very often found on metal albums –, things that you would want if you watch a good movie. Because of that, it might be a difficult album to wrap your head around, as there are various kinds of moods and tempos and all that. So, on the first try, it might even be a little exhausting, but over time I hope that it will keep on giving new things to those who come back to it. Luckily, there are people out there who don’t want to listen to monotonous albums that keep repeating the same attitude on each song. To my surprise, most of the reviewers have also appreciated the multifaceted nature of our new album, which is nice.

The sales have been ok, nothing spectacular, but as we are an unknown act with no label supporting us, I wouldn’t expect the sales to be anything else. In time we’ll get the printing costs of the album covered, which is nice and keeps this thing sustainable. Slowly but surely we gather more followers in social media and our videos gather more and more views on YouTube.

  • Antipope has signed with no label still, tell more about that?

MM: In the past, we have worked with a small independent label, our previous two albums were released by Violent Journey Records. But as I wanted to get Denial/Survival out as soon as possible after finalizing the album, we didn’t want to spend time looking for a publisher. And as we have been in the game, so to say, for quite some time, we know good deal about how to put an album out and decided to do it by ourselves. In case a record label comes up and shows interest in releasing Denial/Survival or our future work for a larger audience, we will listen to the offer.

  • What is the difference between your latest and the very first records?

MM: When I began to write the music that ended up on Denial/Survival back in December 2013, I felt that I wanted to write an album that would be more in line with those 70s prog albums that have songs from many different styles. Of course, the prog side of our music has always been present, but House of Harlot (2011) and 3 Eyes of Time (2013) were deliberately written to be more straightforward pieces than this one.

In comparison to our first records, the difference is huge. Both technically and from song writing perspective, they from completely different worlds. And that’s understandable as Antipope has been my project during which I’ve tried to teach myself how to write music, record and produce it. So, in a way the history of Antipope is a history of self-initiated public humiliation. But hey, you either win or learn, right?

Esthetically, we have moved quite far from the progressive black metal style that we used to employ back in 2000s. As we have went through phases of industrial and gothic metal, I think the recent description “progressive extreme metal” is actually quite fitting for Antipope’s music.

  • What inspires Antipope music and lyric writing? What does Antipope lyrics talk about?

MM: Through the years there has been a multitude of things that have inspired Antipope’s music. Obviously, there’s the pure pleasure of creating something out of thin air, carving these pieces of invisible drama that you can see in your minds eye when you listen to a good song. As I’ve gotten older and written more songs I’ve come to realize that writing music is also a kind of an emotional purification. As music is not thought but felt, any new riff or idea has a certain emotional quality to it and therefore it represents the underlying emotional state I am in when I’m writing. Previously, I tried to write music more consciously to sound like something that I had in mind, but nowadays I just try to let it flow as naturally as possible. Of course, there are conscious ideas floating around all the time, but I try not to pay too much attention to that.

Same goes with lyrics. Even though the lyrics are not just stream of consciousness type of ramblings, the idea of the song lyrics emerges usually only after I have written down something, usually the first line of a song. As I always write the music first and lyrics last, there’s a nice opportunity to view my own music from a fresh perspective when I begin to figure out what should the vocals do and about what should the song be about.

Each album tends to have a certain loose theme, lyrics-wise. On Denial/Survival it is about the journey to self-realization that was started on the previous album, 3 Eyes of Time. This time, however, the focus is on the hardships that rise when one begins to understand who you truly are, as a physical human being and as an individual in a society. I don’t personally believe in a kind of narcissistic, self-absorbed way of being and that’s not what I’m talking about as self-realization. It’s more about finding out who you are and after that how do you live with other people and maintain the harmony.

  • Do you play live often? Do you like abroad gigs?

MM: We haven’t played any gigs since 2012, due to the break we had. But as for the future, I think there’s a possibility that we will present our new songs to the live audience.

  • How often does the band practice and work on new material?

MM: We gather to rehearse as a band roughly once a week, and currently we are reworking our live setlist to include some of the songs from Denial/Survival. We’re also working on a couple of possible cover songs, which might get release in one form or another in not so distant future. I’ve just began to write the follow-up for Denial/Survival, so it will be sometime before we put the new songs to test in our rehearsal place.

  • How did the band come up with the name Antipope and tell what does it means for you?

MM: Around the time when we were starting the band project that turned out the become Antipope, in the summer 2004, we were just playing around with some name ideas when out of nowhere the name ‘Antipope’ came up. Initially, we thought it was good name as it is easy to understand (or, misunderstand, as we soon found out), it has multiple interpretations, and it’s also somewhat humorous. As I was a history student back then, I immediately thought about the historical concept of ‘antipope’, a pope elected when not everyone agreed with the original pope, back in the Middle Ages.

However, what Antipope means to me is rather different than a historical figure or some ‘ghoul pope’ who tries to burn churches to the ground. I think it’s best explained by comparing ‘Antipope’ to such concepts as ‘antimatter’ or ‘antigravity’, you know, an absence of something rather than some opposing entity. And in the case of Antipope, it’s the absence of ideological or religious authority. But it’s not about ‘anything goes’, either. When you have no one to tell you what to do, there’s a huge responsibility that you must carry, or everything goes to shit.

  • What does the band plan on doing in near time?

MM: Right now, we’re back into systematic rehearsing for possible future gigs. Also, we have to figure out what to do with the fact that the band needs one more member to be able to perform the tracks in live situations. So, there are some plans to take care of that.

And, as I finally got Denial/Survival out of my hands, it’s also time to start writing new music and start planning the next album, which, I hope, won’t take four years to be released.

  • Any message to Sick and Destroy readers?

MM: I’d like to say a ‘thank you’ for listening to our music, and in case you haven’t so far, go check out our new album on Spotify or antipope.bandcamp.com, or some other websites!

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