“The Gigs Really Keep The Band Alive”

Interview with Mors Subita at the dinner table after their blast of a show at the Dark River Festival 2021. We spoke of the obvious, the topics that have been concerning each of us such: how to cope with this demanding situation? Few things are as we tend to picture them; there is, however, good news, too: Mors Subita do push on by working hard on a new album the compositions of which are mostly done already!

An Unexpected Interview

Honestly, it was not planned to be an interview. At least not from my side. But this is what happened when I texted Mika Lammassaari, something like, ‘with you guys playing at DRF, maybe we’ll have time for a short hello’. Yeah well, a “short hello”, I meant, a few words only, nothing special. Nothing big. Nothing formal. But then, what Mika read was like, let’s do a short interview. And that we did.

Mors Subita came a long way to from the North of Finland to the Dark River Festival at its sunny southern shores; and this only on short notice standing in for another band that dropped out only a few weeks before the festival. Being flexible is more essential than ever these days. They had to play one hour earlier than planned too because running list had to be condensed by three hours which makes it more sort of ‘dehydrated’. All this happened only days before the gates opened and due to the virus spreading more rapidly again. Consequently, I expected the guys from the far-away Oulu region to be in quite a hurry, way more than usually on a festival. I would rather not bother them but when I ran into Mika, he invited me to join them backstage, this being an open tent merely a few paces behind the main stage.


A Hard Day’s Night

Possibly our imaginations of what it is like to be a metal band and play on great festivals does not exactly match with reality. Getting no sleep does rarely go back to partying all night after show and the glamorous tour Nightliner might only be a battle-worn band van packed with equipment to the roof top.

Mors Subita’s show ended approximately two hours ago, their equipment has just been packed and they are taking their most-deserved dinner as we speak. Soon, I find myself in a casual table talk with Mika Lammassari (guitars) and band mates Mika ‘June’ Junttila (bass) and Ville Miinala (drums). Mika mentions that his breakfast (and only food today) dates about twelve hours back. He must be starving, I think if only because of devastating amount of energy he, well, they all delivered on stage not to think of setting up and packing their equipment just after arriving here. Mika tells me hungrily as he is at the buffet putting some vegies and stew on his plate: “Yeah, it takes even more energy than I anticipated”. He refers not only to the show but the whole day, of course.


Sleep Is For The Weak

I wonder, “how did you manage with the new, really tight schedule?”“Well, Ville didn’t sleep at all”, replies Mika and Ville adds: “Well, thirty minutes.” Mika continues: “And he lives approximately 100 km up north from where I live. So it’s like a seven-hours drive …” OMGoodness. –  “… in total, so yeah, he didn’t sleep at all.” “Actually I left home at half four in the morning” Ville specifies which is is before sunrise even up there in the very North in late summer! “Yeah, it was dark. Actually, I am on my annual leave from my work right now. I totally messed up my sleeping schedule and I only managed to sleep half an hour last night.”

“So you guys have six/seven hours back home and then you have like half a day to get rest before working on Monday again?” They mostly agree – Lost Society are rocking on main stage and every now and then it is hard to understand what was just said. Like right now. “Well, rest”, Mika says putting the word rest in quotation marks with his hands. Interestingly it is not that much about the few time that will be left after unloading the equipment, but “Can we sleep?”, Mika asks and Ville adds, “Luckily, I have Monday free.” – “I don’t”, Mika drops.


You just have to do, what you have to do  (Ville Miinala)

The situation is like this. Each gig requires quite some preparation from making a setlist and live arrangements, to rehearsing, getting the equipment checked and packed up to getting to the venue and then all that in reverse order back. Quite an effort for only one show, so is it all worth the while? “Yeah, I think today was”, Mika replies.” I think today was! We were planning to go to Saarihelvetti as well last weekend. But since Eemeli [Bodde, vocals] had to go to quarantine, we had to cancel the show. And now our second guitarist [Juho Näppä] was in quarantine as well for this gig.”

 I had missed him on stage already. “Yeah, he had to stay home. So he recorded all the guitars at home and we played them playback, you know. It was like a group decision. Anyways, but …” Ville explains: “Better this way than to cancel it all.” He adds after a short break: “You just have to do, what you have to do.”


We hope to end the rising trend  (Mika Lammassaari)

That gets the unavoidable topic on the plate. Accidentally, I was speaking to some other people from Oulu I met lately. They were happy as can be as be as only lately a traditional rock and metal festival could take place. Interestingly, Mika picks up just the thread: “There had been the big festival, QStock, a couple of weeks back, and then Nightwish got a surprise gig as well. And there haven’t been too many infections, you know, after these shows. Considering that, it has been quite good but the figures are rising in Oulu as well. Two turning to five. Five turning to ten, ten turning to 35. 35 turning to 75. It’s been building, so we hope to end the rising trend. Yeah. I don’t know.” He adds with audible frustration: “We hope the politicians make the right calls to make things better.”


What’s Worth the While?

We stick to the question when and where regular shows can take place again. “Let’s see how it goes”, June replies. Mors Subita has two more autumn shows scheduled: “One show is scheduled in October”, Ville says. “On KaaosFest in Vaasa”, Mika and June explain. “And then there is one other show as well in the South of Finland”, Mika adds between two bites of his meal. “But, yeah, let’s see, what happens because the restrictions can continue until that. There is no point playing those shows if only a handful of people can attend. That’s not worth the while.”


We are definitely not easing up (Mika Lammassaari)

We’re getting to the core of it all. How do people adept to hardships? And how have Mors Subita’s members coped with it? The situation has blocked some people’s creativity entirely while others seemed to burst with creative energy set free by the crisis. Have they perhaps even defined a point from which on they would sort of pause their band activities as the constant need of rearranging whatever you have just planned might get too heavy? Apparently it hits a nail as they all begin to speak at the same moment. Mika clears their position: “We hope to play as many gigs as possible during these hard times. And we are definitely not easing up when we are composing the new album. And I think the compositions are nearly finished. So we have been quite active even though we haven’t been on tour and haven’t been able to play shows. So we have tried to be effective, anyways.


Fighting Frustration

So apparently not the block but the burst? They managed as they have always done, June comments stoically. “We do our thing”, Ville adds and Mika illustrates the Oulu way of things: “Just typical day in Oulu: You go to work. You come home. You stay home. You go to work. You come home. You stay home. … No, jokes aside. It’s been really a bummer to promote the new album and then this is only the second show since the ‘Extinction Era’ was put out. That’s definitely a bummer because we can see that people really like the new songs. The best reactions were from the new songs. It’s really a bummer that we cannot play them more”, and his tone gives away all the emotions that go with it. “But situation is what it is. So we try to adept and that’s why we’ve been writing new music. It can be a little bit depressive when it feels like nothing is happening.”

It’s been so frustrating to cancel all the booked gigs (Mika ‘June’ Junttila)

Fitting the situation there is a break from the music echoing over from main stage as Mika gets really emotional. “It’s our thing that it is a little bit easier because I can keep myself active you know through composing. But for these guys and for the band a whole, and I think, the gigs really keep the band alive! I think our main weapon is to play live.”We just experienced that in a most impressive way! – “We really enjoy it.” Ville adds: “And it’s quite the only opportunity to see each other as we live all around Finland.” June explains: “By this age, we have so much going on with all our personal lives. But in life-wise, it’s been so fucking tough, I have to say. It’s been so frustrating to cancel all the booked gigs. But we keep pushing on.” – I am happy that you are doing!!! – June continues: “There is no other way!”


This Is Worth The While

I comprehend and have all compassion with those who surrender to the situation. Giving up seems so easy. So many things that seemed to be just normal before the pandemic have become so extra special.  “Yeah, you can see it from the audience just now”, Mika says. “That’s why it is a big reward for the band as well to have a gig like this during times like this. The audience is really into it. They appreciate us and that we have been here.”

That reminds me of what I observed. Although I admit something might have slipped my attention. But as far as I could see, Mors Subita got the second pit of the festival. The first was achieved by the first band. “And we played early”, they insist laughing then again we cannot count that really, as all bands play early – apart perhaps from the headliners. Still; we stick to discussing the early slot they played until Mika sums up: “We were really pleased with the crowd reaction over all.” Ville: “Very surprising actually”; Mika again: “He having no sleep and being just exhausted and it being such a struggle just to get here you know and not having Juho and everything. It’s such a big reward after all the struggle.” Ville sums it up: “After all the struggle it all worked out great. It’s quite rewarding, as Mika said.”


Mutually Rewarding

So apparently you are happy with the festival? “It was my first time here”, June points out. “Seems like a nice festival.” This makes a great finale of the interview I think, and thank for their time and openness. But then I end up sitting longer with them because our conversation has just not got to its end. The current situation affects all our lives and we all feel the need to speak of it. I do mention this here for a good reason. The pandemic has put the gaps running through our societies under a looking glass and even more nourished those with uncertainties and deprivations. To me, it was most valuable to experience community again, seeing ourselves in the same boat not fighting each other!

Thank you Mors Subita! Thank you Mika, June and Ville!


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