Interview with The Flatfield
The Flatfield come from Finland, and with only 2 albums (Passionless and manie sans délire) are already part of the groups that stand out in the current Gothic Rock and Post Punk scene.
The obscure nature of their melodies together with the energy they draw from a Punk attitude capture the attention from the first moment, and it’s clear that not only amongst the lovers of the genre. We interviewed Ville Gray (vocals), Dr. Jay Ravine (guitars), Juha Juntunen (bass), Risto Juntunen (synthesizer) and Jaako Korhonen (drums).
The Finnish Gothic scene has always been identified with groups like Two Witches, but in recent years people have become more aware of bands like The Flatfield, Silent Scream or Masquerade, thanks to the work of labels like Gothic Music Records… What other bands are we missing? Are you happy with the health of the Gothic/Post Punk scene in your country?
Risto: Yeah, the scene is and has always been quite ok. There are legendary bands from the 80s like Musta Paraati, Syyskuu, Ret Marut, Psyyke, Hexenhaus, Kuudes Tunti, Dorian Gray, Russian Love, Tiistai just to mention a few and This Empty Flow from 90’s. For current bands I would mention bands like Kuudes Silmä, Rue Morgue and Aus Tears. Most bands sing in Finnish.
We know you started in 2011. Given the quality of your debut (Passionless), it is logical to think that you have previous musical experience. Have you been involved in other bands? Have you shared other projects with members of The Flatefield before?
Everyone: Jay has played with Jaska [Note: Jaska is Jaako, the drummer] and Juha in some earlier band, including The Shadow Dance where Juha and Jay met each other for the first time. Risto played with Juha in Neu Zaum just before joining The Flatfield. Prior to The Flatfield Ville Gray played bass in a post-rock band Fauxmoor.
The Witch theme (from the album Passionless) is so fucking atmospheric, getting you into a witch hunt. Could you tell us what the story is, and what was your source of inspiration? Which side are you on in this story?
Ville: The song captures the very essence of goth. The unfulfilled love, love that does not get response. In the 15th century many people got proclaimed and even burned as witch for political or other reason. It often was a way to revenge or to get rid of the unwanted people. In the song man’s lover rejects him and he decides to denigrate the woman as witch. I am of course on the side of the alleged witch.
Why such titles for your albums like Pasionless and manie sans délire? is it a declaration of your intentions, observations from the distance or acts of complaint?
Ville: We, I mean humans, are emotional creatures and we feel ourselves to be most alive when we are passionate about something or someone. If we are passionless we are either dead or very depressed. Our first album is very dark and bleak and it opens a door to abyss. In the song Passionless is simply a synonym for dead and death.
Manie sans délire is a very early term for psychopathy. It seeks to conceptualize madness without a clear disease or illness. Madness, ardour and frenzy are major themes of the album song. Psychopathy is the darkest side of human behavior and existence.
It is difficult to find a current band within the Gothic Rock scene that sounds fresh, aware of the legacy of the bands that precede you and with interesting elements to contribute to the genre. In my humble opinion, you sound very genuine and you have plenty of quality. How do you manage to develop those melodies and that strength in your songs?
Jay: Thank you very much for the beautifully phrased if very difficult question. The process of how we compose and arrange our songs varies a lot; sometimes we just keep jamming until something comes out of it, and sometimes someone, usually Ville or I, come to the rehearsal studio with a practically ready song – which often magically transforms into something completely different. So every song simply has to go through the band’s ‘tone grinder’ (cf. meat grinder) before it has a genuine The Flatfield flavor and texture in it.
I also believe that notwithstanding our love for gothic and post-punk, we also have our own diverse and distinct musical tastes, varying from Britpop, shoegaze, post-rock, art-rock, industrial to classical and even jazz.
Ville: For me, and for us, music is a form of art and artist is in the center of it. The melodies, harmony, rhythm etc. already exist in the sense of platonic idea, but if you just copy them you are not able to create anything new. The artist’s work is to carefully choose the right elements, (re)arrange them into a dynamic order, and what is the most important, to add his/her life experience and artistic visions into it. Our music is defined by our life experiences and essentially tied together with our time.
On the other hand, for some occasional listeners of Gothic Rock or Post Punk the songs of today’s bands may sound like a style already exploited at its peak. Maybe the reason is that they don’t discern the nuances that are evident for a follower who is up to date with the novelties. Do you think that these styles have already become independent from the 80s and have been renewed, or do they still sound like that decade?
Ville: Gothic and post-punk scene is very open and wide. There are a lot of different musical styles, visual aesthetics and a wide array of themes in the genre, and, in my opinion, that makes the goth/post-punk scene the most interesting and artistically ambitious.
Art lives like languages. New words and tones and meanings are born and created every day. It is old and new at the same time. It is a continuum from history until today. You are supposed to hear the intertextual history in music. It is the beauty of it! You may as well throw your guitars in garbage if you think that world of rock and roll is ready and exhausted.
From the 7 tracks of Passionless you increased to almost double (12) in manie sans délire. Besides, being a very good debut, the leap to the second album was a qualitative one… What happened to make that explosion occur?
Jay: I still like ‘Passionless’ a lot, the album didn’t have so clear common thread but still, in my opinion, it conveys the zeitgeist of the early years of the band. When we started to plan ‘manie…’ we had quite clear idea of how the album should sound. We pictured the album to be an imaginary soundtrack of a nonexistent underground movie. ’manie’ comprises the tracks of different feelings, moods, styles and soundscapes. To enrich the internal dialogue of the album’s songs, Ville came up with an idea of sewing in a small, hidden musical fragment that repeats itself in different variations throughout the album.
As a DJ, I think we have to keep claiming dark Rock as music that you can enjoy dancing to, and a perfect example is your song The Moment. What do you think about this capacity of Rock? Do you compose any songs with the intention of making them danceable?
Ville: Sure! As we consider goth/post-punk scene to be as a vast, ever evolving artistic space, we love to do all kinds of songs; slow and distressing, fast and frantic and gloomy but danceable, long and short.
Jay: Yeah exactly, we don’t want to be bound by certain aims or expectations but to retain our artistic and creative freedom. I, however, need to confess that there are some very danceable songs coming up.
The artwork printed on the CD of manie sans délire shows a photo on a spiral staircase’s nadir plane, and on seeing it brings to mind the cover of Swing The Heartache. Is it another conscious tribute to Bauhaus? How long is their shadow in The Flatfield?
Ville: The album covers are of my design. I am professional visual artist and I love intertextual references to art history. In this case album cover art history. There are lot of hidden references in our visual and musical art. We like Bauhaus very much and i think that Bauhaus started the real gothic aesthetics of the scene. We owe them a lot but they are not the only band we refer to.
Manie sans delire cover is a reference to cinematic history, early horror movies such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu as well as to Kubrick’s classic A Clockwork Orange.
Passionless cover is a photo from Venice I took on the way to Venice biennale. Venice has a great tradition of landscape painting and I am a huge fan of William Turner who painted Venice many times. Album cover is a dark side of the beloved city of Venice. It can also be seen as reference to my paintings and our song New Time. Btw. i like your middle name. It is a reference to Venice 🙂 [Note: Ville alludes to Casanova as my middle name].
Do you already have an upcoming album in progress?
Jay: Oh yes, we’ve been working on new songs for a couple of months now. We’ve planned to record first new songs in the autumn, so that we’ll be ready to release one or two singles, and the video, in late-2018 or early-2019.
Now that Gothic Music Records has announced its closure, do you already have a record label in mind for future releases, or will you turn to your own label Passionless Records?
Jay: GMR boss Oscar Terramortis has always been a man of surprises, so I wouldn’t be too pessimistic about the future of the label. We’ll see. We have a couple of other options open to us, but we haven’t made any decisions for the time being.
Have you ever thought about making a video clip?
Jay: Yes we have – many times to be honest. In fact, we are currently planning the manuscript for the video and if we are getting on fine with the project, we should be able to release our first official video of a brand new song already by the end of the year.
And now the question that will be on the minds of your Spanish followers… Are you planning to play in Spain?
Everyone: We’d love to come to Spain. Just please, spread the word among local fans, promoters and other activists. We’re sure that together we can make it happen.
Thank you very much for your predisposition, it has been great to interview you. Anything else you want to add?