Vergil is looking forward for feedback

Vergil are a group of gothic dark rockers from Finland. They’ve just released a new EP, Tomorrow Will Be Worse Than Today, and the fans are going wild about it. After a quick review of just how good it was, the band got a hold me to host an interview. Naturally, I was excited, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Band members Jani Koskela (guitars), Mika Musakka (vocals) and Jukka Penttinen (drums) were kind enough to answer a few questions about the album and the band.

Vergil has been around since 1997. What influences have made the band turn to the dark rock/ gothic rock genre it performs today?
Jani K: Mainly such bands as The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, The Fields of the Nephilim, or Nightingale (Swe). We were (and still are) playing with different types of metal groups, but we also wanted to create music that would be a bit more rock oriented - dark, moody and catchy music. Therefore we formed Vergil.

You've done some touring here and there. Got any crazy tour stories or favorite bands you've performed with so far?
Jani K: Not really. It is mostly about driving, traveling and working your ass off. I guess some people might call it crazy, if you drive 28 hours to play a show that will last for 30 minutes?
We have had opportunities to play with interesting underground groups; most of them we probably would have never seen live any other way - The Morlocks, Darkside Cowboys, Two Witches and The House of Usher to name a few of them.
Mika: With Vergil it seems that every trip or tour is an adventure in itself. Even the most common-day situations turn into a great wonders when done in the Vergil way, or as we call it, is Vergilized! But I think one the fondest memories is when we were playing in Umeå, Sweden and after the bands had ended their shows, there was a gothic-fashion show with about 20 good looking Swedish models dressed in latex and all that... Or maybe more accurately said not all that much! And after their show most of the band got into a picture with the girls! Just wished I could've kept them all and brought them home with me...

Being the drummer of the group, when did you start playing drums, Jukka? Any skin beating heroes you want to mention?
Jukka: I started to play drums when I was about 15 years old. I have to mention Mikkey Dee of Motörhead, Lars Ulrich and Phil Rudd of AC/DC. I love their drum playing.

First show you ever went to that made you realize you wanted to pursue being a rockstar?
Jani K: The sooner or later you would realize that this particular word would need to be modified to a “rockstarver” and dreaming about being one would be total waste of time. I think that I got myself a guitar and some notebooks before I saw any shows. The first show that truly had an effect on me was probably Danzig around 1994. I had been creating music for 6 years and seen several shows before that day, so it didn’t influence me in this sense really. It just showed me, for the first time, how to make a show with a real meaning.
Mika: I've always liked performing and doing art-sy stuff, but I think the final nail to the coffin, was when I saw Manowars "Hell on Earth part 1"-video. All those girls and motorbikes and especially those big shows... I wanted to do that too! And then witnessing some great classic bands such as Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, Helloween, Dio and (of course) Manowar live just made that will that much stronger!And well, also I have to mention the first time I got on stage to do a show with my first band... The rush I got from it was unbelievable. We played mostly covers at that time, which might have been a good choice since the older guys (we were at the ripe age of 14 or 15 or so) knew the songs and were singing and moshing along to the songs. I think I kind of got addicted to that rush. And still doing a good show is one of the greatest things I know!

What inspired Vergil to take their name? Did you all know each other before hand or was it a lucky string of auditions to find the right members?
Jani K: I and Jari (Keyboards) are cousins and Antti (Guitar) knew our original drummer (Ari) from his childhood. The rest of us met through the local band circuits of Riihimäki & Hyvinkää. The name Vergil appeared to us by accident, but in the end it turned out to be a very suitable name. Vergil (Publius Vergilius Maro) was a roman poet and is also a character in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Some of his works and also his presence in the Divine Comedy story have had a brief influence on our lyrics.

Does Vergil work on their music together, or is it an individual process?
Jani K: Usually the music and most of the lyrics are written by me and Antti. Mika (vocals) wrote lyrics to two of the songs on our latest EP. Everyone can have their influence on the arrangements of the songs and how they are being performed.
Mika: Many times these guys bring songs to the rehearsals and when I ask how are they supposed to be sung, I'm told "Sing something!". So, I get to influence the vocals a lot myself, which is nice.

What's the inspiration for the musical process and lyrics that flow from the band?
Jani K: Lyrically, life and history. Musically, the moods that are due to what we experience in life. Sometimes it’s the works from other people, that influences us to create our own music and lyrics, but most of the time it’s different experiences in life and a cup of coffee.
Mika: I know it's a cliché, but I have noticed that the best lyrics arise from suffering. Or even lyrics in general. When I've had happy times in my life, I've written very few lyrics and they've usually sucked. But when everything's going down the drain and you just wanna crawl to some tiny hole and die... Well, that is the moment you write some of the best shit ever.

During your 'off time' what do you like to do when you aren't writing music for the band or performing at shows?
Jani K: Most of us are playing in other bands, having families & day jobs, arranging gigs, writing and working for alternative music medias. I guess that we know quite well how to keep ourselves busy.

On your Myspace you mention that the band split up for a bit after 2000. What caused the hiatus and what inspired the reunion?
Jani K: We didn’t split-up really, we just stopped rehearsing with Vergil and were busy with other things for a few years. We became active again when we asked Jukka to play drums for us. Our original drummer had died and the drummers we had as a replacement earlier had no time for Vergil. Our original vocalist quitted quite soon and that’s when we got Mika in and were able to continue on the chosen path. There was no particular reason to re-activate. The will to play this type of music had been always there. I guess we just decided to try, if there would be enough time for us to keep the band active and do the things that we had wanted to do with Vergil.

Compared to the first release, Beyond The Gates Of Fall, how does Tomorrow Will Be Worse Than Today compare in the band's maturity and musical growth?
Jani K: The biggest difference is the production and the playing is a bit tighter. The opening songs "Back to my Arms" and "Vanity of Life" were originally written around the same time as the material for "Beyond the Gates of Fall", so the musical difference is not that big. The vocalist, drummer, the studio and the lyrics are different. Otherwise half of the new EP could have been recorded already 10 years ago. I guess that one of the reasons to re-activate was a bunch of old and new songs that we wanted to record down. Meanwhile we wanted to keep the band's sound close to what it had been originally.

What do you, personally, like best about the new album so far?
Jani K: I‘m satisfied with the EP. The only think that I don’t like that much is that "Back to my Arms" is the opener on that EP. The song structure is a bit repetitive on that one I think. The production and playing is good. It gives a good picture what we are about. Some of the vocal harmonies might be a bit too much though.
Mika: Personally, as the vocalist, it was fun doing all those layers of singing and I quite like the end result. For example on Vanity of Life the many layers of vocals bring a great power to the chorus. Though it is hard to recreate that on gigs, since only I do the singing. But, that's what brings the excitement to live performances, to do things a bit different from the recording, but still maintaining the spirit of the song.

Are there any songs off the album that have personal meaning you'd like to share with our readers and metal fans?
Jani K: I wrote the music and the lyrics for the closing song "Sister September’s Soul", so that one is definitely the most personal one to me. I also like the epic nature of that song. It reminds me of the feeling of such songs as "The Last Exit for the Lost" by the Fields of the Nephilim. I'm glad that I managed to write such a track. Straight forward rock tunes are so much easier to come up with.

Let's talk a bit about metal and rock in general. Do you think the genres have become more diverse in the past ten years or has it become slightly generic?
Jani K: I think that the present ways to produce sound makes it sound generic and kills the feeling a bit. I wouldn´t mind if people would return to more live type of recording environments, instead of relying too much on the opportunities of the digital technology. I do think that you have to play tight and correct when you are in the studio, but you should also allow having a certain amount of natural chaos in there.
Mika: I've grown a bit tired of the whole genre-based thinking. I mean, it's okay to say that something is "Metal" or even "Black Metal" or "Power Metal", but all that "Ultimate Norwegian Style Progressive Vegetarian Grindcore Black Metal"-sort of categorizing is a bit in vain in my books. Usually I hear two genres of music "Good" and "Bad", to simplify things a bit. And of course when you think too much in genres when making music, you might start to think that "You can't do this, coz it's too Speed Metal or this or that..." and end up leaving something really good out of a song, or adding something utterly stupid into it, just because "In this genre you have to do it like this!".
Jani K: Vergil is a cross-over band for sure. It will be hard to try to make us fit in any genre, but I say that it is dark rock if someone asks. A little bit of traditional gothic rock influence and a little bit of metal influence here and there, the rest is just whatever we might come up with and what feels good and suitable for Vergil. I do have to confess that I’m a bit genre purist though. If there is a genre description, then I would like it to be used correctly. Like for example if you say death metal, you should be meaning bands like Autopsy, not bands like In Flames. If you say gothic rock – that should mean bands like The Bauhaus, not Evanescence.

Are there any recent bands that have unleashed themselves in the past five years that you really respect or despise? Any major reason why?
Jani K: Some of the new bands that I respect a lot are The Devil´s Blood and Triptykon. A lack of feeling is what I despise, without real feeling the music is nothing.
Mika: I have to say that Morlocks from Sweden really got to me, great music, great guys. I like the industrial influences in their music and the way many little pieces mix into one. And of course Finnish Embassy Of Silence. I just fell in love with them. So beautiful music with a great atmosphere and feeling.

What do you think of the future of digital downloads versus people buying hardcopy CDs? Is it a bright or bleak future for bands financially when so many people download illegally?
Jani K: I don´t mind if people buy mp3s instead of physical CDs or vinyls, as long as they buy it. I do despise people who illegally download music of the groups that they adore and expect them to release new music in the future. I don’t see any reason why an artist should pay you, so that you could have his new album for free. After all, producing albums is never free. I also deeply hate big markets that push the prices of the albums down. They have other products to sell that will allow them to recoup with the loss of the music department. This only leads to deaths of real record stores, who cannot recoup their losses by selling milk and therefore can't compete with the prices. Eventually this type of sales will lead to the “death” of music industry, due to the fact that in the end the big markets won’t care shit if that business is gone or not. Most likely this will not kill the underground labels as efficiently, but it will certainly have affects on that level as well. It will not kill underground bands either, they are used to this pay to release concept. However, in the future the bands have to pay more, if they want to do things in a bit more profession way – even if they would be on a label. Illegal downloading will make touring harder for new bands. You cannot convince clubs and promoters by telling them that at on how many blogspots your album is on. Illegal downloading will of course bring you new audience as well. I recently noticed this with my other band. The day when someone saw as his/her right to put our latest release for free distribution via torrent sites, was also the day when we had the highest visitor hit numbers on our MySpace so far. Most of the hits came from countries where people can afford to buy music releases.
Mika: I think that internet-services such as Youtube and Spotify are good. I myself have found some very good bands through them, that I might have never found without them, but all this torrent-downloading bullshit sucks. What I've learned in life is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. As in: if you want to hear good music from good bands, you got to pay for it.

The fans are probably the second most important thing to the band beside their musical inspirations. What's the best thing you like about them?
Jani K: Any kind of feedback is cool. Showing up at gigs is probably the best thing. It is one of those things that will help the bands (and the promoters) to do something else than just having the ordinary show, with your local bands playing.

Craziest fan encounter for the band or perhaps a really weird token of appreciation given?
Jani K: A lot of crazy things happen around Vergil and our shows. A lot of them are more related to the members of the band, rather than to the audience.
Mika: As cliché as it is, having a female member of the audience reveal her tits to me while I sing has been one of the most rock'n'roll things. Oh, and another female grabbing my balls in middle of a song. And then girls complain to ME how hard it is to be a sex symbol! :D

Again, Jukka, thank you for your time and giving our readers and fans a bit of insight on Vergil. Any last words for our readers?
Jukka: Thank you for the interview and your support. Doom on.
Interviewer: devilmetal747
Jul 2, 2010

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