As a listener, there’s no greater feeling than when an album unexpectedly clicks on all levels. This happened to me about a month ago, when Hanging Garden’s third LP, titled At Every Door, suddenly felt like the greatest thing ever in the early, desolate morning hours. Granted, the album was a success with both me and the public when it came out in the January of last year, but it was only about a month ago that I grew to fully appreciate it and its transcendental qualities. In order to celebrate this personal revelation, I contacted the Finnish melodic doom metallers to learn a little more about all things Hanging Garden. They happily responded to my inquiries and thus this e-mail interview was born. The questions were answered by the band’s vocalist, Toni Toivonen, to whom At Every Door was the first record with Hanging Garden.
Hi! How have things been rolling in the Hanging Garden camp lately?
Hi! Quite well. We are actively composing new material for future releases, and have been doing a handful of gigs to promote our latest 7“ EP. Furthermore we just recently released a new music video for the track “Will You Share this Ending With me?”.
It’s been almost exactly a year since you released your third studio album, titled At Every Door. How has the past year been for Hanging Garden and how happy have you been with the reception of said album?
The reception has been great, and the album has received a lot of positive feedback. All in all, the year has passed pretty quickly, as we have shot two music videos, released an EP and composed aforementioned new stuff.
At Every Door is a very interesting metal record, one featuring a potent melancholic undercurrent, as the album, to me at least, seems to tell the story of a post-apocalyptic landscape, and of those lonely souls who inhabit it. Tell us more detailedly about it and its concept.
Well, actually you put it down quite accurately. It is along those themes that the album was written. I have always been fond of post-apocalyptic vibes, from music to cinema, and having also traveled to a lot of places with a grim history. When I heard the tracks that the guys had composed, the landscapes came quite vivid, and I just put the emotion and atmosphere in to the lyrics.
How does the cover art of a bird-lady tie in with the album’s concept?
It goes quite well with the title track, “Ten Thousand Cranes”. If you read the lyrics, the subject is quite clear. Other than that, you would have to ask Kalle Pyyhtinen, who is behind the design. We gave him the lyrics and the music, and gave him freedom of expression for the cover art.
Do you ideally wish for listeners to feel certain feelings or ponder certain thoughts when listening to your music, or is Hanging Garden purely about self-expression? Do you create music just for yourselves, or with a bigger/broader goal in mind?
I suppose everyone is free to feel what they will when listening to our tunes! It’s a bit of a cliché, but I’d say we first and foremost make the music to express ourselves, and for ourselves. Being able to share it to others is a great plus!
Is At Every Door somehow tied to your earlier albums (Inherit the Eden and TEOTWAWKI) as well, or not?
The lyrical themes have always been about the end-times, but other than that, we’ve made no effort to tie the new music to the earlier releases.
How did the record come together? Do you have an established way of writing material for every new Hanging Garden album, or is the process different each time?
Yeah, it mostly goes along these lines: first, band members come up with some home recordings of various ideas. Next, we pick out songs that go well together, do some jamming and maybe further demo-recording. If we are happy with the result, it goes on the next release. Most of the members compose actively, so we have no shortage of ideas!
What does At Every Door mean or represent to you on a personal/band level?
Having just recently made some huge changes in the line-up, it was a kind of a new beginning for the whole band. For me personally, it was the first release where I was doing the vocals, so obviously it was a big deal.
You released an album in Q1 of last year and then soon, about half-a-year removed, went on to record a new EP. What was the motivation behind going back to the studio in such short time?
We simply wanted to keep momentum, and had already done a lot of new tracks. Vinyl is also an awesome media, and we had for a long time wanted to release a 7“, so we did. We will probably keep on doing releases quite frequently, as we have a lot of material. Something special might be coming up!
Your new EP is called I Was A Soldier, which sounds rather different from the rest of your titles. What’s the story behind it?
I like to keep the stories as they are written, and let the listener interpret them as they please. I’m not too keen on opening the lyrics or concepts up too much, so I’ll leave that up to you!
In what kind of a relation is it with your latest LP? Similarly, does it point to the future in any way, or was it more of an impromptu creation?
We had a pile of songs, and just took three tracks that fit together nicely. There was no grand design or relation to the previous. Future will show what kind of releases we are going to make. The cool part is, we ourselves have but a vague idea of what’s to come and how’s it going to sound!
You also have a new video out for the EP’s closing track “Will You Share This Ending With Me”, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the video is rather unorthodox, since you have meshed together two totally different worlds: conceptually it is presented as a video accompanying a karaoke song, but there’s some really dark, found footage style imagery in it. How did you come up with such an idea?
This is a question you would have to ask Risto-Matti Rinne, the director/writer of the video. It was mostly his brainchild, and we gave him a free hand to try whatever he liked. It is his interpretation of the song. I have not questioned him about the symbolism or meaning behind the visuals on this one.
From a musical perspective, Finland’s greatest export is without a doubt metal. Why do so many Finns turn to metal in your opinion?
I think there is some heavy melancholy and minor tones in most of the traditional Finnish music styles. Put that together with the stereotypical pessimistic and suicidal Finnish character, long dark winters and heavy drinking, and you might find some answers there. Or not.
Are you content with the metal scene you have in Finland (both fan- and band-wise)? Do you think it should evolve in any direction?
I think it is a bit homogenous and overcrowded. I’m not that big a fan of Finnish metal bands, even though there are undoubtedly some great stuff that’s come up recently, like Mother Susurrus (psychedelic metal) and Beastmilk (post-punk).
Are there any specific bands from Finland that you either draw inspiration from or really look forward to playing with?
It would be nice to play with Swallow the Sun. One of my favourite bands of all time is the Finnish folk band Tenhi, and they have inspired me greatly. Of course, legends like Amorphis have naturally had a great impact on me.
Being a smaller band, how many opportunities to play gigs outside of Finland do you get? Also, where do you love to play the most: back home or abroad? Or does the location not matter too much?
We haven’t played abroad yet, but there has been some chances to do that. I am sure that we will get to play some abroad venues before long. Touring Europe would be awesome.
Which kinds of shows do you personally prefer to play: small, intimate club gigs, or big open air concerts? Why?
Both have their upsides, the said intimacy of the smaller clubs, and the better sound quality and possible bigger crowd of the big concerts. I’m not picky, and personally I would gladly perform for an audience of even a single person.
As a spectator, what has been the greatest show you’ve ever been to and why?
Primordial on Nosturi (Finland) a few years back, or Nick Cave in last summer’s Flow Festival. Both because of the insane emotional load conveyed by the artist. They both were extremely intense and inspiring experiences.
What can we expect from Hanging Garden in 2014?
New music, live shows and the like. Maybe even something quite different. We shall see.
Thank you very much for the interview! Any parting words you’d like to share?
Thanks! Enjoy music and life while it lasts.