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Exclusive Interview with
October Falls’ M. Lehto

October Falls is the project behind Finnish mastermind M. Lehto, who has been creating dark folk and melodic black metal for a decade. Over the years he has been honing his craft and fusing the two genres into a grandiose vision that results in the quintessential soundtrack to the beautiful North. His newest effort, The Plague of a Coming Age, is the most epic of his releases and sees the addition of new ideas, more dynamic sounds and the inclusion of a few other Finnish greats.

Congrats on the new album! Are you happy with the final result?

Thanks a lot! I have to say, that after endless problems and delays, it feels great to overcome them and finally get this out. I’m very happy with the result, it has something new, but there’s still the old elements included. Naturally, as always, you can never be complitely satisfied with the result or if you’d be, there would be no reason to continue anymore.

The early years of October Falls focused heavily on instrumental folk music, but it’s been six years since the last release of that type. How has the focus of the music changed over the years and is that a style you would return to?

I think when Marko joined on The Womb of Primordial Nature, that inspired me to make more music with this direction as I knew he was a perfect drummer for this style and with him on board this could be taken into new dimensions. Yet, the acoustic style is not abandoned, there has been some new acoustic tracks on compilations or split-releases and within few years and I’d really like to write a new album with acoustic material again at some point, maybe next, then again maybe not. It’s all about the current inspiration I have, sometimes I write acoustic material, sometimes the music works better with harsher approach.
October Falls

Here in the Pacific Northwest we refer to your sound as Cascadian Metal – black metal inspired by a folk aesthetic and drawing inspiration from the natural world. Do you have much knowledge of this scene? Why do you think this combination of styles is so effective and intriguing?

Not that much really to be honest. I know some bands that are labeled as Cascadian Metal, but I know there’s a lot more to be heard. I think this combination of styles is quite emotional and also reaches some people who might not be that interested about black metal itself, yet still enjoy the harshness of the music, but also needs it to have melodies and more nature oriented approach.

Your last three releases have been full-lengths but EPs used to make up the majority of your discography. Are shorter releases still a format you are interested in?

Sure, but maybe more when doing all acoustic material, as when we make the albums with full band, arranging everything and building the setups are so time consuming, that it’s better to make full albums instead. Maybe if we’d have too many songs for an album and we’d still record at least the drums on the full length-session, there could be an EP with metal-oriented material too, but otherwise EPs will either be all acoustic releases or something a bit more experimental, maybe with a full band, but not with the regular approach.

You’ve worked with Moonsorrow’s Marko Tarvonen a couple times now, but how did Ensiferum’s Sami Hinkka and Tomi Joutsen get involved in the project? How did they contribute to the writing process?

We were already in the studio recording the drums for the album when it became obvious that V.Metsola would not be part of the band anymore, so we quite urgently needed a new bass-player. Marko said he knows a great bassist and called him from the studio, just an hour later Sami was at the studio listening the demos and freshly recorded drum-tracks and agreed to step in, so what a lucky break, as Sami was a perfect match for us. I even know few guys from Rapture where Sami played earlier, yet I had never met him before that studio-day. The case with Tomi was that when it became obvious that the new material would require also some clean vocals, me and Marko started to think possible singers for it and at some point Marko said that lets ask Tomi as they knew each other already. Personally I really like his voice, so naturally that sounded like a great option for me, especially as he was located close, so we could record together instead of sending files through the internet or regular post. After few messages and demos, Tomi agreed to sing for the songs where the clean vocals was needed and then it was just about arranging a right time for everyone involved.

What comes to the writing process, Sami had free hands for the bass-lines, so he arranged all the basses for the album. Naturally, he stepped in so late, that song-arrangements were already done as the drums were already recorded, but otherwise his contribution was very important. What comes to the clean vocals, I ”sung” a rough demos for both of the songs and the melodies mostly follow those, but Tomi made some changes and also added some harmonies for certain parts, as the demos were just one take without overdubs.

October Falls is your brainchild. Do you enjoy the diversity of new artists in the mix or do you prefer constructing music on your own?

At least so far I’ve composed all the material and made all the demos by myself, but usually those evolve when we’re starting to go through the songs before the actual recordings or even when we’re already recording. I don’t want to over-control everything and prefer to give free hands to the others for their parts and it’s great to have new views and suggestions to the songs, so I’m surely open for ideas, but I do like to have the final word on everything.

Now that you have more musicians involved, are you planning on playing live or possibly touring?

Personally I’m not too interested about playing live or touring. Also with the fact that Marko and Sami are in much bigger bands, it would be hard to find enough time, when everyone would be free from other obligations. Also, playing live would require at least one new member to the band, as these songs are impossible to play with just one guitar. I never say never, but I say it’s quite unlikely.

You used to switch between logos depending on what sound the album would have. But your last two releases have dropped the logo completely, and that seems to fit with your music growing in a new direction. Why did you decided on this aesthetic change?

Yes, I decided to have two different logos when The Streams of the End and Sarastus came out and partly shared same compositions between them, so I thought it would be easier for people to see the style of release just by looking the logo. What comes to the later albums, actually both of the latest albums do have the logo somewhere on them. On A Collapse of Faith the logo is on the front of the digipack, but printed with transparent glossy varnish, so you can’t see it directly. The Plague of a Coming Age does have the logo on the cd itself and on vinyl-labels, but as I thought the cover art was so big part of the album, I didn’t want to include the detailed logo on front and only used a font instead.

In terms of length and structure, The Plague of a Coming Age is more traditional with shorter songs and clearer divisions between each track. What made you interested in writing an album this way?

After A Collapse of Faith was released, I felt that it took the concept album-approach far enough and decided to try something completely different this time, so instead of huge long pieces, I focused on shorter songs with traditional song-writing and took everything towards more band-oriented sound.
M. Lehto
Two tracks stick out on the album. “Snakes of the Old World” has a very classic October Falls feel to it, while “Boiling Heart of the North” is almost a ballad exclusively using Tomi Joutsen’s vocals. Can you speak to the writing process for each of these tracks?

There’s actually a quite good reason why Snakes of the Old World has the same vibe as the older material as part of it came from a demo I already recorded over 12 years ago, but never used earlier for some reason. For this song I also used nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, just like on all previous releases, so that way it bear the similar feel too. Overall, this was one of the first songs written for the album, so there might still be shades from the previous record.

What comes to “Boiling Heart of the North,” it was the last song written and finished in these sessions. Originally it was an all acoustic instrumental intro for the title song of the album, but then I tried few things and eventually if became a full song with clean vocals by Tomi Joutsen, something we had never used before and overall quite different from the rest of the material on the album, but I still think it found its place. It became a bit more ballad-like than what was planned, but the beginning sounded a bit empty and my original plan didn’t really work out, so just before the mixing, I decided to add the piano.

The artwork by Santiago Caruso is absolutely stunning. What’s the inspiration behind it and how did you end up working with him?

When the material for the album was already written, I felt that as the music differs a bit from the past, I’d need to take the same step in artwork too, so I started to browse through various pages, galleries etc. My main goal was to find someone who was an awesome artist, but was still not overused as an cover-artist. Finally I saw some works of Santiago and that was it, just what I was looking for, a real unique artist with amazing style. I contacted him, arranged the things and send him the title, some of my ideas and lyrics from the album and he painted the piece you can now see. It was beyond anything I would’ve hoped for, there’s a lot of details from the lyrics and some ideas Santiago brought in, I’m still amazed from his work.

It’s very clear you take your time on albums and don’t rush the process. When do you know, if ever, that the final product is ready?

We’ve never worked fast, things evolve slowly and until certain point it’s a good way to work. With this album, it could’ve been faster, but certain issues were beyond our control, so its useless to think about that anymore. I don’t know if any album ever feels completely ready, even if it feels finished at some point, later I’m often still thinking what could’ve been done differently or what should’ve been added. Maybe it’s best to think that an album is ready when it has enough material and everything is mixed, mastered and you have the pressed record in your hands. If you’d go back to fix everything you have a doubt for, the world would be filled with unfinished albums. Naturally every band should always have some self cencorship and standards for what they release, but you can’t work with something forever.

Did you expect the project to last this long? What’s next for October Falls?

I didn’t really expected it, but then again, I didn’t really think of it either. It’s hard to understand how time has flown, I still remember vividly when I was making the digisleeves for the self-released version of Tuoni or how I was roaming in the woods at night listening the demos of Marras and that was eleven years ago. I really can’t say what’s next, at least something, but at this point it’s impossible to say what.

The Plague of a Coming Age was released March 15th on Debemur Morti Productions.

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