British/Finnish apocalyptic post-punkers Grave Pleasures were in Hamburg recently as support act for Kadavar and to promote the new record “Motherblood”. As a fan who has been familiar with the band’s past, I was beyond curious about certain concepts… so before the show in Hamburg, I had the chance to sit down with Mat McNerney (vocals) to talk about Motherblood, the beauty of death, the awesomeness of David Tibet and… some interesting ways to die. Rainer Tuomikanto (drums) also had small but interesting contributions during the interview… Read on! 😀
Hello guys! Welcome to Germany. How are you? How is the tour going so far?
Hello! It has been going good so far. It has been a short tour so far for us.
Congratulations on “Motherblood” as well, it has been my favorite of 2017!
How has been the feedback so far? I think the album got good feedback, right?
Yes! It’s been really good, especially in Germany. We are really happy about the reviews from the magazines. It was especially good to get positive feedback because it’s been a very busy time with respect to albums.
When I look at the previous album “Dreamcrash” and “Motherblood”, I see many differences in dynamics but also soundwise. What was different for you this time?
A lot of stuff was different because we had a new line-up and a new way of writing and working. It was also natural; we didn’t want to rush this time. With the last record, we had a very tight schedule to release it. We only had a short time to get things together, record and release the album. It was very stressful. This time, we had a longer time to write the material and put it together. We collaborated lot more as a band together as well because we had the chance. The musicians that came in the band brought a lot as well.
In the beginning, we had the idea about the sound we wanted. You can call it the reaction and the music. When we first started, it was the reaction to the black metal days. With “Motherblood”, we gave that punk vibe from the beginning. We had a lot of anger and determination in us.
So can we say it is a milestone for Grave Pleasures?
Yes definitely. We can say it is the rebirth for the band and going back to the roots and what we wanted to do when we started this band. In a lot of ways, it is like a reset button; taking the strength of the past works and moving it forward. That’s also the feedback we have been getting as well; a lot of good stuff that people remember from our previous works but also a lot of new stuff.
The blood-y cover artwork was the first aspect that captivated me as well as the imagery for Kali. How did you come up with this?
It came into mind pretty soon after we decided on the album title and everything. It would be a logical image for the record. As we decided, we were like “Yeah, this is a great idea for the album”. It was a quite ambitious task because we didn’t know if it was gonna be a success because it would be a huge production and photography. We wanted the models to be the Kali and there was a dancer who became Shiva. We made all the skulls and collected all the bones together. There’s a girl who made these bone pieces, a guy painting the women, people building the set doing the lights and there was the photographer. So we spent about three months and had been talking to the photographer every day about the props and things like that and we kept formulating the ideas. When we got to the shoot, it was a one day shoot but from morning to night so there was a big production. It normally costs a lot but we used our connections to make it work in a good way. She has done great works but never in this level so I really wanted for it to be something like a high-production.
That was also the part of the feeling of the album. From the beginning, we wanted to make a statement so it was about that. It’s about bringing fresh direction. A lot of people are using this photoshop for covers and things like that but we wanted to do it the other way.
[Regarding the theme of the album and the concept of Motherblood] Motherblood is based on ancient egyptians sacrificing the mother and drinking her blood.. and it has now become Christ; eating the flesh and drinking blood. The motherblood itself is all about the sands of time and time running out. The motherblood is filling up. Kali sits on top of the universe in the life and death cycle. She is the mother. She is like us, reflecting the chaos of the universe. She is life and death together. So that is the theme of the album.
You talked about these aspects like death and darkness… What inspires you to write about these themes?
If you think about it, the core of all good rock’n’roll is about sex and death basically. I think that these are the stories that lead us to understand ourselves. If you go back to the death songs like murder ballads or folk music, you see that the core is about tales of life and death that allows you to know your place in the universe. Lot of our music is about the catharsis and getting to understand about our place in the universe and mankind and what we are. We [the mankind] don’t like to look at ourselves scientifically, we like to abstract ourselves; man is the special thing on this planet. But if we looked at ourselves scientifically, we would see that we are just the agents of death. We are very good at creating death; especially if you consider nuclear fears and wars, the humans have created the ultimate form of death. If we looked at ourselves in a scientific way though, we would be a lot happier and peaceful… kinda like yin-yang but whereas we abstract our darkness as mankind.
One highlight of the album is definitely “Atomic Christ”, in which you worked with David Tibet. Can you tell me about this process?
I am a huge fan of him and I thought of contacting him just out of the blue and ask him about it. When we talked, he said from the beginning: “I don’t do guest musician thing; I don’t just come and sing what you want. I like to create” and I was like “That’s just great” because that was what I wanted but I didn’t wanna ask him in the beginning to create the whole thing because I thought he would say “I am too busy” or something. He is very particular about how he works with the bands. When he got into the song, he really enjoyed it and we got a great feedback from him as well so I really felt like his part of the record has been big. If you also get that song, you get the record.
For me, that song is the turning point of the album. It is also like an epic statement from us. It opens a vista on what this band can do. It’s like looking out, you see a mountain, some forests… the song redefines the album lyrically as well. I really wanted to have an artistic statement from us and that intro with David Tibet on vocals really fits to the climax of the album.
Also when you think about the concept of the song, language doesn’t survive so the only way to spread the message is through religious messages. When you think about ancient mythology, you have to have religious aspects to tell stories about places. The only things that survive is mythologies and religious.
Rainer: It’s actually my favorite from the album. I absolutely love the lyrics!
You also sing and play guitars in Hexvessel whereas in Grave Pleasures, you only sing. What do you prefer? Singing or playing the guitar?
Everything I am doing is a matter of necessity. In terms of what I like doing, I like doing both. I guess everybody in the band would like to do more but when you get home, you gotta think about what you have time for and what you have to commit to. Now I am learning more what it takes to do stuff and you have to invest a lot for that. We are giving so much to Grave Pleasures. So we mostly dedicate our times to Grave Pleasures and to the record.
Since we talked about death.. I have an interesting question for you. What would be a beautiful way to die for you?
I think about it a lot in different ways. However, I feel that to discuss about this would be insulting to my family but death itself is a beautiful way to go… Isn’t it fascinating? I do think about it a lot.
Rainer: One of the most interesting ideas I heard from a friend is not about the death but the aftermath of death. So he is gonna die and his body would be cremated and from the ashes, they will make one final vinyl pressing with only his favorite songs from the guy and hand out.
Mat: Spike Milligan, the comedian, wanted to be buried inside the washing machine and underground. He would be trapped inside there and when the archaeologists from the future would find the washing machine, they would be like “what the fuck”!
Some last words from the band comes from Rainer, who told us an amazing story about a way to die/hang oneself. So you would take the piano chords and use them as the rope and at the same time, glue the hands to your face. When you hang yourself, it would look like you tore your face off with your hands… Thanks for the interesting concept Rainer! 😀
Many thanks to Century Media Promotion, Mat McNerney and Rainer Tuomikanto
Photos by Heavy Harlequin