Kimmo, present dayUsing the most conservative interpretation of the word, how many Metal acts really deserve the revered title of 'Cult Band'? Ten perhaps? Well, Finnish legends SARCOFAGUS are without a doubt worthy of inclusion on this very exclusive list of bands. With a private 7" out as early as 1979 they were one of Scandinavia's first genuine Heavy Metal bands and with the "Cycle Of Life" and especially "Envoy Of Death" following the year after, they established themselves as the heaviest, most sinister Hard Rock band in the world, at least in these earliest years of the spurring Metal-scene. To this day, their pitch-black 'Egyptology-Metal' still stand out as one of the most original, disturbing and ahead-of-it's-time sounds in Metal history, even predating other comparative cult-acts like CIRITH UNGOL, LEGEND(Jersey) and MERCYFUL FATE.
In 2004 we were blessed with a most surprising and extremely welcomed return of these Finnish Gods of olde. A new website was introduced, with a promise of a new SARCOFAGUS album in the making. The Corroseum are more proud than ever to present to you, the first in-depth interview with the mastermind of one of the most important and underrated Metal entities ever: Kimmo Kuusniemi of SARCOFAGUS!


You must have been one of the hardest and heaviest bands on earth back in '79-80. Where did the unique and brutal SARCOFAGUS-sound originate from? Listening to tracks like "Black Contract", "Megakone" and the "Go To Hell"-suite on CoL you get the impression that it wasn't only heavy rock that were spinning on your turntables in your younger years.

SARCOFAGUS '79From the very beginning I’ve always composed my own music. I have never been interested in learning and playing other people’s songs. I guess this is the origin of the “unique” sound. Back in 70’s I listened mainly Heavy Rock (Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep...) but also Progressive/Jazz (Mahavisnu, Black Widow, ELO, Pink Floyd, Genesis...). Alice Cooper’s “Killer” is the album that got me playing!


The Egyptian images and sounds have run like a dark, common thread throughout your old recordings. Ever felt ripped off when IRON MAIDEN and DIO made billon-dollar tours around the same ideas years later?

No! I actually liked the Iron Maiden “Powerslave” album cover and the songs. I’ve never thought that I would have some kind of exclusive right for Egyptian symbols and mythology. I think the original copyright goes back at least 5000 years... I just hope if the original copyright owners (Horus, Seth and Osiris) come to collect their fees they would first visit the Iron Maiden HQ :). I have also been asked about some Maiden song resembling an earlier Sarcofagus song, but I have never noticed any similarities what so ever!

Buy - this - album - now.No matter how brilliant and groundbreaking their old recordings can be, you still hear how some (ex)musicians violently slag their old records as "unprofessional" and "underproduced". How do you feel about "Cycle Of Life", "Envoy Of Death" and "Moottorilinnut" today?

Hmm! I'm very PROUD of all the albums! The late 70's and early 80's was the worst time ever for Heavy. I had to work hard and be innovative to get the albums done. What I like in all the the early albums is that the songs are still good and timeless. Most of them could be recorded today and they would still sound original! A musician friend of mine here in the UK played the new Re-Mastered Motorbirds to his brother who thought it was a new 2004 album. That's Cool :) From production point of view "Cycle Of Life" and "Envoy Of Death" suffered seriously from uneven lineups. This was the main reason for me to get the best Finnish musicians possible, at that time, to play on Motorbirds album. I also managed to raise money to get a full album video done. This required a lot wheeling and dealing as at that time making a TV Production Standard video cost A LOT. All this took about a year to do as I did most of the stuff myself (producer, recording engineer, video director etc...), but it was fun. To me there was a clear progression from album to album. When the Motorbirds was finished I felt that I have achieved what I could at that time when the international markets were still closed for Finnish Bands (Hanoi Rocks was the first one a few years later). It was time to do other things! Musician's and a fan's point of view is always slightly different and I do understand that my fans have all the right in the world to decide to like any of the albums best! We musicians just want to make better albums! It would be very sad to have produced the perfect first album and no way to match it up!

I read on your website that all 3 SARCOFAGUS albums were critically acclaimed by both fans and media at the time. How many copies were made of each LP? How much did they sell?

Kimmo aflame!The copies of albums made is a mystery to me... The record company had their own Compact Cassette Duplication Unit so I have a feeling there where plenty of unaccounted copies around. Quite a big portion of the albums went for International distribution. I received a fair amount of letters from around the world. The albums were played in Campus Radios in USA. Motorbirds was played and reviewed in Holland and we received letters asking when the English version is coming out... From media point of view we got a lot attention. As the Lonely Warrior of Heavy Metal I did many radio interviews about Sarcofagus, explaining metal to cynical reporters :). Sarcofagus was in all TV music shows at the time and all the main newspapers/magazines did articles about us. I have a thick scrap book from those years. As I mentioned earlier the early 80's was the worst time for metal ever. I received letters from fans in Finland saying they were happy that there were other metal headz around :) Due to the stage show (flame thrower guitar, pyrotechnics, pyramids and makeup) we also attracted people who came to see the show, even when they weren't metal fans.

Several old band members have died an unnatural and untimely death through the years, and the band was even blamed for a suicide of a young fan. Care to elaborate? Is there a curse on SARCOFAGUS?

Perhaps this is due to the Egyptian copyright issues mentioned earlier :) Yes, it is true that 2 drummers, and 1 bass player have died. People die which is unfortunate but I'm sure there is no curse on Sarcofagus! I received a letter from a parent accusing Cycle Of Life album for her child's suicide (the theme story on that album was about reincarnation). People want to find somebody to blame. I think this was prequel to what happened to Judas Priest in USA.

When looking at your 3rd LP you get the impression that MOOTTORILINNUT is the name of the band and not the album title, since it's written with the same font and style as the old SARCOFAGUS logo (and that's how you usually find it listed). On the back it says Kimmo Kuusniemi Band. Kinda confusing. Which is it? (I might need to correct my old review;)

MotorpippifågelsThe band was Kimmo Kuusniemi Band. The album title was "Motorbirds". It should have been Sarcofagus but there were a lot of record company politics and at that time it was easier to sell it as Kimmo Kuusniemi Band to separate it from Sarcofagus. Something new for the record company... As Sarcofagus has always been my "creation" so this album should have also been Sarcofagus. I have now fixed this with the Re-Mastered Internet release of Motorbirds with the cover design as it should have been and under Sarcofagus name! The new cover is the one that I should have done for it the first place. The original cover is seriously bad! It got through as I didn't have the balls to decline the Artist's work.

How did you get the Babitzin-siblings involved with doing some of the vocals for "Moottorilinnut"? From what I've heard they're million-selling superstars in Finland today. Think they're proud of their contribution? (They should be!)

Kirka is very happy about "Motorbirds" album. I met him 3-4 years later and he was just making a Heavy album. This he said was a result of the "Motorbirds". When I approached Kirka about singing on Motorbirds, he was instantly in. When the album was about to be released Kirka's Record Company CBS phoned me and said they didn't know about Motorbirds and that they had an exclusive deal with Kirka. Luckily they were really cool about it and gave the permission without any fees! I asked Kirka if he would like to sing as a guest star on the new album "Core Values". He was very enthusiastic but unfortunately his record company wasn't flexible this time. I think involving his sister Muska might have been Kirka's idea in the first place. Muska took some time to be convinced to sing on "Motorbirds" . She had moved on from being a singer into being a music agent. I haven't spoken with her after the album came out so I don't know what she thinks of her contribution. I personally think she has a great rock voice. As a kid I had been listening to both Kirka and Muska so it was really cool to have them on board! I think it would be fair to mention here also the third singer Jukka Ritari (John Knight :). He is great singer who back then was totally unknown but since then has been earning his living as a pro in the mainstream music.

Nina-Hagen-MetalThe EXCITER - "Automania" 12" of '86 was quite a funny chapter in the history of SARCOFAGUS & Co. Musically I think it's not that far away from the early stuff ("Home Made Hero" is a great track!), but the cover art and new wavey vocals of Tanja were perhaps a bit, well, odd. Your own thoughts on the music? Do you think of it as a SARCOFAGUS-release?

Nope! This doesn't have anything to do with Sarcofagus. This "band" was called Exciter. Tanja and I made a TV Series called "Automania" for Finnish Television. We wanted to do the funny rock title song and few other songs for it. The rest of the music was from other bands including a new band called Tarot (late 80's Finnish Metal worth checking!). Automania was also a funny rock video which was shown in movie theaters as a ad for the TV Series. Home Made Hero was also used for another Movie Theater short film. This music is what I would call "commercial" music. It was made to promote the TV Series. The singing style was influenced by Nina Hagen. We wanted to do something wild and weird but on the rock department rather than metal. Tanja has an extremely versatile voice so doing 'Nina Hagenisms' was easy :) However we did one track called "Under My Heel" which did not end up on the Single. This is a very metal, in your face song. Future release on the www site? (Oh yes. Very yes. Very much yes indeed./DaN) Juha "Pulla" Kiminki from Sarcofagus was also playing on this! I still like Automania; it is funny and it rocks... That was the goal! If you compare Automania with Motorbirds (5 years a part), Automania sounds very 80's but Motorbirds remains more timeless....

What was the "Automania" TV-series about anyway?

It was a series about car crazy Finns! We met and filmed all kinds of VERY car crazy people; their cars and opinions. It was a funny and entertaining series....

What was your reaction when Mellotron records offered to re-release your 2 first albums on CD? Were you surprised by the interest in the band? Are you pleased with the result?

Well... Actually I found out about these re-releases through a friend of mine! I had to buy copies through Internet... The good old Finnish Record Company :) keeping me informed. I was REALLY pleased with this re-release! I only wish that the Record Company would have informed me so that I could have done a re-mastering to enhance the experience! COOL!

The Holy Grail!The only old SARCOFAGUS-recordings not yet re-released in any way is the impossibly rare "Go To Hell" debut 7" and the '78 demo tape. Any plans to share these recordings with your fans? I imagine plenty of reissue labels would be dying to engage in such a project!

HAH HAH HAH! I have 7 (nice biblical number... 7 deadly sins..) copies of The Single and the Demo tape is here on my computer!!! (more evil laugh..) Yes.... To promote the new album I'm planning to create a competition with the main prize: THE SINGLE! I have been receiving a surprising number of e-mails where people offer their soul, granny or even money to get a copy of The Single! The plans for what we do with the single and demo tape are still open. They might end up on the Sarcofagus Motorbirds DVD as bonus material.... I was back in Finland this August and I recorded the guitars for Got To Hell and Astral Flyer. When the new album is done and dusted the plan is to make 2005 versions of these Golden Oldies! So the diehard fans will have the original and the not so diehard fans the new 2005 versions to listen to! Something for everyone :) In the end there will be the demo version of "Go To Hell", Single Version re-mastered, and a 2005 version.

The instrumental "2nd Coming" available for download is a fucking killer track! Is it representative of the rest of the album? Can we expect more doomy & experimental songs a la "Black Contract" etc? Who's doing the vocals?

Thank You! The Internet Instrumental is just an early demo! If you like the demo you will love the final one! So what to expect? This new album started to occupy my mind in 1992. The working title was "Chemical Sunglasses". Then we moved from Finland to UK and the album had to go into back burner as the new life assimilated us... Around 2001 I started to actively think about this album. I spent the next two years going through a lot of guitars, pickups, pedals and recording systems to find the right combination. This might sound weird to music listener but the SOUND is the most important thing to a guitar riff based Metal Band! So in the beginning of 2004 I had mastered the the new Sarcofagus SOUND! Next phase was to decide which songs... I have always loved Black Contract. I think it was a turning point in Sarcofagus history. I and Esa Kotilainen made the decision to change the drummer at the last track of the Envoy Of Death album. Ronnie Ísterberg (Wigwam) was a great drummer and he had an important part to make this song as the best song on this album. Unfortunately this was the last recording he did :( Rest In Peace Man! So I recycled the two first riffs of Black Contract and added new riffs! => 2nd Coming This was the working title for this album but it has now changed into "Core Values". Album Of The Year 2005All the other 10 songs are brand new! During the years in "exile" I never quit being a musician. During the past 20 years I have done 1000's of film sound tracks! The good thing with commercial music is that you can reach millions of people with one piece of music, you get paid (most of the time:) and you have instant feedback. This is great but in the long run the "real musician" in you urges you to make music that is personal and original... Also when you are working around the world for the big global corporations you start to realize there is plenty wrong in this society! So this is the mental background for this album. 20 years of bottled up rage! Perfect for Metal! I called up Juha "Pulla" Kiminki and Esa Kotilainen to ask if they are interested in doing a new Sarcofagus album (the real original members of the Sarcofagus). Both Juha and Esa were instantly excited! Juha flew right away here to UK to do the 5 string bass tracks and Esa agreed to record his keyboards in his studio in Kuusankoski, Finland. The strange thing was that after these 20 years we might be older and slightly wiser but in a bizarre way nothing had really changed! We have been having really good times making the album. We had a video/photo shoot for the new album in February 2005. I don't remember the last time I've had so much fun! The result?
Kimmo - post modern progressive metal sound & riffs
Juha - 5 string booming bass
Esa - The Original Hammond B3, Mellotron and Minimoog (Mellotrons rock!/DaN)
Tanja - Strange & Dark Progressive Vocal themes
= The 70's meet the 2010 in unique and original way!

Your "easy listening favorites" on the website include some rather controversial bands, nu-metal/neo-thrash acts like SYSTEM OF A DOWN, KORN, FEAR FACTORY, MACHINE HEAD, CLAWFINGER etc. Not exactly the kind of stuff any SARCOFAGUS-fans would get off on. Is there an influence of this more mainstream music in the new album? If so, does the likely negative reaction of all of those who have worshipped and cultified your old material worry you?

METAL from the heart!NO! There is none what so ever influence from the bands I listen to on this new album! Like I said before I don't learn other band's songs or try to copy them... I have my personal private song farm to chose from:) This album started without any "commercial" ambitions. The driving force was to make a kick ass Metal album we want to listen to! Then if other people like it is a welcomed bonus! The main thing is that Sarcofagus doesn't have any pressure what so ever on this project! No record company to dictate and influence us. The music comes from the heart.

With the new album soon coming out, "Motorbirds" re-released and the website up and running, the next miracle would of course be to see a SARCOFAGUS reunion gig. Where and when? (Old-school festivals like Keep It True and Headbangers Open Air would hardly say no;)

No miracle needed! This album is not a one off thing! This is the 2nd Coming or the new beginning! We are not talking about one song wonders or boy bands here! Sarcofagus is the real thing. All of us are really excited to get on stage and do a proper stage show! We'll take one step at time and the gigging is still few steps ahead.

There has been some speculation on SARCOFAGUS' influence on other "extreme" and ahead-of-their-time Metal legends like MERCYFUL FATE, HELLHAMMER/CELTIC FROST, VENOM, DEATH SS etc. Did you ever get any fan-mail from these or other bands and future musicians back in the days?

Back in 80's we didn't have the Internet so information was hard to get! If Sarcofagus has influenced these bands: I'm honored! New bands have contacted me telling about how they've been influenced by Sarcofagus. This is great!

Immortalize yourself with some final words of wisdom to the Heavy Metal kids of today!

Don't believe what people tell you! In 70's a lot of people were saying that Heavy is just a phase in music which will disappear. My parents told me I will get over Metal but I have proven them wrong! I still love Heavy Metal and I always will! Metal is not a fashion thing, it is a state of mind!

It's a state of mind!

 

Take me to the top!