“PEEKABOO PRIMATE” Interview by Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela
PEEKABOO PRIMATE… “DYSTOPIA-METAL” FROM FINLAND
Get ready for some really serious, or maybe not that serious, alternative music… Since the beginning of their career these guys have been kicking asses with their alternative, progressive, nu, groove… Might call it modern metal, mixing about every different element from different music genres to one tight package and kicking old narrow minded “metalhead” asses… Time to find out more about these guys… Let’s go, the mastermind, Lauri Lepokorpi is waiting.
So honored to have this chance to have a moment with You Lauri, how are You doing ?
Good sir, the pleasure is mine! Well pretty good as a whole but sure enough life has a tendency to be a kind of a roller coaster so once you get excited there’s another thing coming around the corner. Anyway nothing too serious so far to substantially hinder my meager existence. Actually about six months ago I was lured into an ongoing fitness boxing group by our manager Ari Pietilä and it turned out super! Might be a cliche but additionally to the physical benefits I really do feel a serious boost in mental performance also so big thumbs up for that. But there’s no need to get alarmed by all this “happy happy joy joy” – I’m still wallowing in the post apocalyptic mind set with the world burning as we, the crown jewel of creation struggles to party once more before it’s too late.
As always, I’m very interested to learn about the history… Would You tell all of us the story behind Peekaboo Primate ?
Around 2003 with already more or less 10 years as a teenager in different demo bands and genres like power metal, death metal and grunge I finally got emotionally pretty attached to what they basically called nu metal since it seemed to combine all the bits and pieces that rocked my world at least at the time. Me and my close friend, drummer Riku Airisto who was part of all the earlier projects got together with brothers Kumpula and we started Airhead. We already had some raw material available and me and Hannu Kumpula managed to technically scrape together an EP called ‘Universal’ with our sound engineer hobbyist backgrounds in 2005. Despite our abilities, it’s was utter crap but at the time it was cool I guess. Nevertheless we went on gigging for couple years and put out single’s like ‘Urban’, ‘True, True’ and ‘Tomorrow Is Today’ with a video in 2009. “TiT” was actually maybe the first good song we came up with. In 2011 we finished the debut ‘Peek-a-boo Primates’ and managed to get it distributed by Playground Music. This was also produced and recorded by our selves while the mixing was done in Grand Recordings in Göteborg. I remember flying out there with a HD and laptop and staying at this dudes house (cheers Ilias) after contacting him through Cough-Surfing backpacker site. Then spending all night basically consolidating the tracks for Sven to pick up on the next morning. The outcome was great (and cheap) but in the end I was just happy to get the album done.
Releasing ‘Peek-a-boo Primates’ was a kind of a pivotal point in the band’s history as my state of mind started to lean more and more toward a title change along with other basic issues that virtually every band’s goes through at some point in the timeline. So it was time to grow out of the teen infused mixture of straight on nu metal imagery and random musical material even on our standards (…kind of). Fortunately a spot on title was right there on the cover of our debut. Peekaboo Primate combines this Joker like wackiness with a more serious type of interpretation. This ever ongoing schizophrenia describes perfectly the contradiction we all face in our everyday lives, both in good and bad. Personally I really like the outcome, how it sounds, what it means in terms of making people potentially losing their shit. Also the fact how it yields more room when it comes the music and image where we constantly try to go on our own path but still fall under the flag of metal music. The marriage or should rather I say war between dark and light is as old as the cultures in the world but still is ever so intriguing and also part of Peekaboo Primate. After 2011 we parted ways with the Kumpula brothers as it was best for Hannu to concentrate on his primary project Blackstar Halo. The group was accompanied by Juhani Rytkönen and Henri Rantanen and ultimately Matti Auerkallio on guitar. During all this commotion Misanthropical long play was being prepared in Studio Tuulensuu that also functions as the residence of yours truly. ‘Spray Tan’ single and video was released late 2015 followed by the album release in may 2016 by Inverse Records as Ari Pietilä was taking a bigger role in managing the release and the band for the first time. From that point on a lot has changed but the drive to keep creating and doing shows will never fade out!
The world of music was obviously ready and waiting for something new, someone to step up… How was the reception after Your first recordings, what kind of comments did You get by media, Your soon-to-be fans and by those who seem to know it all, the critics ?
I think in the beginning as young little bastards it was actually a separate goal to make people and critics either hate it or love it but mostly hate it. I remember clearly thinking that most people at least in Finland would either laugh or just get a blank “wtf” face. Downside is that want it or not, everything comes out as a joke as the metal scene tends to be somewhat serious, even if the actual songs are pretty serious and a lot of effort is put in ‘em. We knew that ‘Peek-a-boo Primates’ would make a pretty big gap between those who dig it and those who absolutely don’t, but it’s fine. The thing I don’t get is for instance one review from some metal media dude who probably was the kind of old school Airborne fan or something who smashed the album in the review and kept going on things like what kind of shirt I was wearing in the promo pictures (it was the while sleepless Karl Kani while I was hitting Riku in the face promo picture). So in the end the dude didn’t like the shirt and there he was making a review of a music album. But I guess you get what you order later on I did kinda took the feedback and decided not to complicate our career just for no reason and so we took a new name etc. Even clothing style went back to black so that those who actually like the music but are ashamed to admit it can now take a second round and maybe feel comfortable enough to give us some support.
Personally think Your music is a work of genius who just don’t give a fuck about those borderlines drawn by narrow minded people who believe music is supposed to be straightforward with absolutely nothing fancy… Where do You get all the ideas and influences to Your music since You surely do things Your own way… A well planned decision not just to please everyone, but more like shock everyone ?
Seen as a band for a marginal crowd but I think it’s possible sooner or later. Don’t get me wrong it’s not like I go overboard and do something that for example For The Imperium did, a band I like very much, even now with the new material but still I kinda think the new stuff could have been under totally different project name. But I respect their decisions and know very well when you are unease inside as an artist and just wanna follow “the call” no matter what.Well thank you! Maybe not a genius but certainly something worth checking out. Firstly I guess I grew up in surroundings where lots of different music was available and also consumed. My dad had loads of jazz records like Billy Cobham, Arild Andersen, Trio Töykeät, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and he also played the drums in some jazz and other groups. Mom played the flute and Sis and I learned the piano when we were about 6 years of age playing baroque and other classical stuff. Later on her favorite was Michael Jackson and I progressed into Duran Duran, Raptori, Cypress Hill, etc. before the heavy age broke loose starting with WASP, KISS, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, GnR, Nirvana and Metallica. This was also when I took on the guitar. First the classical nylon string version completing 3/3 basic courses at Tampere Konservatorio but soon switched to the electric version. Was pretty much the whole nine yards of metal with Slayer, Sepultura, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Machine Head, Meshuggah, Göteborg-metal like At The Gates, black metal like Immortal and Emperor and the progressive Schuldiner’s Death as one of the greatest influences of all time. Couple curiosities like Sadus and maybe Dan Svanö. Then the progressive era really came with the likes of Dream Theater, Tool, Allan Holdsworth, Fates Warning and Symphony X and of course grunge took a hold on with Pearl Jam, SoundGarden (rip Cornell) and Nirvana continuing to punk like Millencolin, NOFX, Bad Religion and many more. This point I guess I took a liking toward more groovy stuff like Primus, Living Color continuing to Trip Hop, dub and reggae like the Cinematic Orchestra, Portishead, Massive Attack, DJ Shadow and other down tempo acts mixing DJing and jazz influences to more of a pop rock like the early Coldplay, Radiohead etc. Come to think of it we even made couple EDM tracks with Hannu during the years just for fun but I was and still am huge Prodigy fan and appreciate other electronic stuff as well like Apex Twin, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode and dubstep like Datsik, Nero and Skrillex. And of course I’ve always digged rap big time starting from Cypress Hill, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Old Dirty Bastard and Beastie Boys. That stuff has stayed with me ever since and definitely the influence can be heard.
It’s pretty much this “big mess” of various kinds of music that I just get interested perhaps due to my mood or just for now reason at all. I think that if you have any musicality in you then you pretty much will find the idea and red line in any kind of music and as you love music in general there is not that many genres or styles you wouldn’t listen, in other words I couldn’t imagine listening to one or two types of music for years on end, impossible. However I do state that the most basic rock, pop, metal or whatever with little or no soul and effort in it is not that important to me since it’s made for people who actually don’t care about music but still want to listen to something. Sadly this is true in many of the modern day pop tracks power played in the radio etc. To me music has to have passion and genuine feel and a reason behind it before it becomes real music. So while naturally been interested in various genres I therefore have been struggling to get it together in something that the band could make a name with.
I guess if I had to name a traditional category I’d say alternative metal like Korn, Deftones, SOAD, Sevendust, Coal Chamber, Hacktivist sums up many of the elements that I try to incorporate in Peekaboo Primate but it doesn’t stop there because I really want to look ahead and not go a path some other has created. Lately I’v been in a serious trap phase with Future, Travis Scott, Bones, Suicide Boys, Xavier Wolff and all the likes. I get these visions of incorporating bits and pieces to the mix that I know will work if produced and composed properly, but it still needs the decision to just do it and see what happens, and most of bands won’t go there. Like with Trap it’s a no brainer when you think about really slow ass beat and the fast rap or a sung melody on top of it and then you imagine it with serious metal sounds with guitars and all that comes with it – to me it’s already something I’m gonna try no matter what. Maybe spice it out with a female voice like Die Antwoord (huge fan). The aim is to wisely combine influences that transcend the audience and potentially become big hits even among the masses (not a particular goal though). I mean look at Madonna for instance, how many times has she evolved and created something totally new that still fits her. Compare that to AC/DC and I think I could be somewhere in the middle always reinventing the good old stuff if you will. Initially this seems crazy talk since for now we’re pretty mu
It’s been one hell of a ride from the day I got my first C-cassette deck like a hundred years ago, I’ll say. I guess there could have been multiple projects also to fulfill all this vision but I just know that there’s a way to create something that other bands will eventually follow. Some might argue that the pace of PP releases have been somewhat sluggish which is totally agreeable opinion. Throughout the musical history as a whole I have personally been on a constant look out for styles, material, moods, sound etc. that actually matter and have meaning which has translated into an ever ongoing search for self so to speak. Lot’s of bands out there havin’ the package ready right from the start who also seem sometimes to have no need for self introspection or an ambition to evolve musically and artistically. This of course is totally fine and even something that I envy but as a firm follower of one’s heart there’s no option but to pursue what ever feels right. In other words I’m willing to do some crazy ass shit and get it right once rather than staying in the comfort zone and repeat what metal bands have been doing since the dawn of black sabbath ‘cos I’d be bored to death.
How do You think the world of “metalheads” has changed during these years of Your career… Are people more open minded, ready to experience something different, is it a real struggle for bands who are not “mainstream” to get the attention they deserve or… ?
Well frankly I think metal scene is one of the hardest to approach with something “different” but I don’t blame anyone. There seem to be these few static genres that probably will remain until the end of time and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, quite the contrary, I’d like to think there’s room for every kind of heavy music to flourish and take space from the plastic shit that sometimes seems to drown the whole world. These certain genres like thrash, death, black etc. have to be 100% what people expect ‘em to be and I’m 100% sure a new wave of “the same bands” is always going to present itself. But this is also why I’ve never felt quite home in the metal circles and I kinda can relate to Mike Patton when he did basically everything back in the day not to get labelled as a metal guy and looking at he’s roster it’s obvious now. Gladly a lot has changed also and there are many bands that definitely have shaped the metal (and not just metal) landscape like Enter Shikari, Hacktivist, Sikth, Dillinger Escape Plan and all the new ones I don’t even know about. If it weren’t for those who got sick of the old stuff and did something else I’d pretty much had quit the metal stuff a long time ago and actually, I listen to it very rarely these days anyway. I mean c’mon as much as I get and respect the legacy of hard rock music I only get excited when encountering something new. To me it’s somewhat hilarious that they’re willing to set up holograms of late great Dio and do “live” shows once again, like what the fuck are people thinking?! Or about Metallica and Megadeth, who said what, new song coming, new tour, it really just get’s old. Let’s at least try to move on to the current millennia while we can still cherish Iron Maiden and they’re fans in 4-5 generations. In the end I think the feedback for us has mostly been good however. No matter where our show is there’s always people coming up saying something like “at first I was like wtf is happening but after a while it was fucking’ awesome!” so this is more than enough for us.
Tell us a little about Your songwriting process ? How do You combine all those different elements to a well organized chaos ?
It’s mostly rocking at the rehearsal crib or Studio Tuulensuu and coming up with new riffs, foolin’ around with synths and samplers and gradually stitching stuff together to form a track with beginning, middle and ending. I’m eager to experiment with all kinds of structures also, tracks with no chorus etc. After that it’s time to come up with the lyrics. I rarely go vice versa on the creative process meaning lyrics first and then the song. But sometimes when you feel stuck it’s good to do something random and different and see how it affects the process and outcome. Lately the biggest challenge has been to incorporate elements like the samplers and other stuff into the band picture so that it feels authentic and natural. Actually takes quite a bit effort, time and skills to sort out the production so that you’ll end up with some serious badass track with sick sounds and clever gimmicks rather than something banal and mundane.
This is something that nowadays every producer has, the gadgets, aids, plugins, hardware, everything you can possibly think of. I mean thinking about the volume of musical products (and non musical products that can be utilized as musical products) these days, it’s mind boggling. And then think about what is actually used in a typical metal production. Well there’s Mesa heads, EMG pickups, 8 Strings and trigger drums, maybe some basic synth but that’s about it. Just another thing that kinda pisses me off but I also understand it since a certain genre begs for certain way of production and that’s that. But again, I definitely wanna try out different producers and mixing engineers in the future, meaning maybe someone who hasn’t done metal ever and it could turn out pristine, or it can be horrible shait, but you never know. It sometimes feels like you’re against this huge machine putting out metal music, and the whole chain is “enslaved” to the production line all the way from the rehearsal crib to the studio and the to clubs and festivals. So it’s David vs. Goliath stuff right here. Fortunately I think today’s consumer is more adapt for eccentric and even weird stuff and so it’s more widely accepted which is definitely a good thing.
How do You relax and just take it easy… My guess life is not just 24/7 pure anger, hatred, making music, eating and living “metal”…. Or is it ?
Hahaha… you got me there. Over the years I’ve noticed that much of this is actually a way of life and so you easily get into a sort of loop that can be hard to break. Obviously some time off is essential in order to keep on going but it presents a dilemma of trying to stay away from the one thing you love. Fortunately mother nature in her almightiness pretty much takes care of the “time off” when the situation demands it, otherwise you’d go mental. It’s the basic stuff that everyone does, physical exercise, traveling, DIY tech, reading, sleep(!), movies, foolin’ around with friends etc. Being “offline” is also crucial from a creative point of view – when you remove yourself from the everyday surroundings your brain chemistry starts to act differently and new ideas pop up I guess. This simply means new lyrics, riffs, thoughts or whatever which is great. Only downside of stepping out of it all is that you start to contemplate just about everything and as an avid thinker myself I’ve found myself in odd places every now and then, sometimes a bit too often I think. You know, you start to question about what is the meaning of this and that? why I’m I doing what I’m doing? And why everyone else sometimes seem like zombies going to work, breeding children, staring at a TV with glassy eyes? Is it really worth it? You can actually get pretty deep in that stuff, the cosmic loneliness etc. but then it’s best to have friends and loved ones who pull you out and get you back to the stuff that still make some sense to you – music, art, love, life as hard as it is, but it’s still life.
I pretty much suck in labeling bands and music, putting them in different “genres”, I’ll just let wiser people to play with Wikipedia and other very reliable sources of information. How do You feel about this labeling thing and how would You describe Your band and music Yourself ?
I once came up with the term Dystopia Metal and I think it’s Fucking’ awesome! Yes, labeling is shait but it’s also an opportunity to go crazy and push the envelope. It can be there to say “hey… let’s finally get the fuck out of 60’s,70’s,80’s,90’s and 10’s and break on through to the future!”. I think it’s there just to helps people and promoters to navigate in the endless stream of bands to make some sense of it all. But anyway, I don’t know, it’s more of a fun thing to me than something scientific and serious. The artist makes the name and the genre and not the other way around. Dystopia Metal for us is indeed all the crazy elements put together translating into Peekaboo Primate.
What have been the most memorable moments during Your journey so far ?
I think basically every gig has it’s moments, good or bad, but memorable. It seems that as a small band sometimes it feels like 90% of time it’s about something totally else than playing live. You know, composing, recording, producing, making lyrics, album covers, promo shoots, posters, merchandise, social media, interviews (!lol!) and also work to finance it all. So once all that shait is ready and done and you get to express your selves live on stage, there’s absolutely nothing that compares. That’s why the live moments have always been the absolute best. I do like to dabble in the studio of course and plan new tricks for the future but it all aims to that one moment when you get to blast it all live!
It’s always been a huge challenge to cope with the fact that you gotta start somewhere and gradually build it up, but I have learned that there’s no shortcuts. So a live show for me is in the ballPark of 60% music and 40% of other entertaining elements, maybe even 50/50. Once the musical part is pristine and the crew including the band has rehearsed the set, tech stuff etc. so it becomes a routine the rest is reserved for a good show that anyone can enjoy whether they like the music or not. If people leave the show thinking’ “oh man that was fun, I gotta tell my friends, so we all can go to another show sometime”, then we have succeeded. And while currently it’s just the band, lights, props, and sound I can tell you my mind is bursting with elements that further aid the cause of becoming a serious and official rock show (as Les Claypool described the live Primus) at some point along the line. For instance I’m talking about 2.5m tall Vlad LS-9 (one of our mascots) going berserk on stage while sweeping the audience with his blue laser sights covering the left eye. Vlad could also be smacking the living shit out of additional characters like “the Suit”, a business man and his “Bloody”, idiot woman escort representing the culprit roles of the modern day demise. So all in all fun stuff ahead given that I stay in the real world working on it instead of floating too far in the imaginary realm created by my mind.
How does the future look like for You guys… Some news, upcoming events, working on new material etc ?
Now that the Heroine video production is finally finished the preliminary plans include getting in live shape during the summer and hopefully book some shows for the fall of 2017. During the past year we have had some discussions and events among the members regarding the future for instance possible others projects, the miracle of new family members and other personal stuff. So all things considered we are adapting to the conditions at hand and take it from there. While the live set is being prepared it’s also a time to get the new material under the magnifying glass. At this point I’m not thinking about the next album but more of an EP or even just single tracks with video releases. This makes sense in the era of Spotify/Youtube and as a small, self producing artist it’s not efficient to use vast amounts of resources in producing 10 songs of which 8 is basically going to waste to put it harshly. So 5 or less tracks is a lot more manageable, flexible and reasonable to get the most amount of exposure available. This method of production is quite frankly the best possible for Peekaboo Primate at least for now. But of course I never say never when it comes to another album especially if an eligible label starts to show an interest.
Any last words (not literally) to people who are reading this, the Family of MHF, Your fans and Your soon-to-be fans ?
After the release of Misanthropical in june 2016 I basically took some time off, actually a year’s worth, of everything related to the band and music in general. The spring of 2016 was pretty heavy around the album release to say the least and it felt like I had nothing to give anymore which at the time felt pretty depressing. You can imagine having this one thing in your life that’s basically all you’re ever cared for and then gradually realize that it has been dragging you down for quite a bit and for many reasons. But as a result the break really did it’s job and now I’m anxious about getting back to the game to say the least. So all in all, I’d really like to thank all the friends, fans and supporters out there who believe in this shit because Peekaboo Primate does 100% and I personally will do everything in my power to keep delivering the vision straight from the heart as a form of seriously wicked ass entertainment.
Lauri ”Zen-Maisteri” Lepokorpi (vocals)
Riku Airisto (drums)
Juhani Rytkönen (bass)
Matti Auerkallio (guitars)
BRAND NEW VIDEO… ”HEROINE”
Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela/MHF Magazine