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Thy Row's Juho Jokimies: "Unchained”, for us, tells a story of letting go of all the expectations and pressure that society demands from us…"

Interview with Mikael Salo & Juho Jokimies from Thy Row
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 26 September 2021, 9:47 PM

To be someone that you are not, an example of a fake, a personality that is not really there but just a shadow of a person. Nowadays' society has a lot of people like that, folks that fear that if their actual face is revealed it would be hell on earth for them, a total catastrophe. It is also possible to connect honesty to the entire shindig. The Finnish Thy Row apparently are sick of the masking, and would like to unveil what is behind the fake, and they did through their new album “Unchained”, where the gloves are off. Steinmetal had a good talk with two busy bees, Mikael Salo & Juho Jokimies, about the new album, their wish to perform and of course the concept.

Hello guys, I am happy to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

J: Hi and thanks for having us, it's always a pleasure! We are doing great, even though it's been a really busy summer with all the new single releases and getting ready with the album release. But yeah, at least it's not boring!

What has been going on in Finland, pandemic wise? How have you been holding up with the current fourth wave of the virus, along with a possible additional dosage of the vaccine?

J: It's all a rollercoaster with different waves and everything. It has been really challenging to try to get anything organized during these times. With the album release we are faced with strict restrictions and unfortunately, we had to yet again cancel a show and we won't be able to have an album release show. But just a week ago we were able to arrange a proper album release party for the release day in a bar in Helsinki, Finland. The bar is called “Beaver Bar”!

From your perspective, and you don’t need to be specialists for it really, do you see this pandemic’s ending? Do you believe that it is going to be more living beside it rather than fight against it?

J: I'm afraid that the virus is not going anywhere for a while. So at least for now with the current restrictions, we should just try to live as normal a life as possible. Get the vaccines people and stay safe.

With all the commotion going on, there is your rather newcomer band, Thy Row. Let’s back it up a little please, what can you tell about the key points of the band’s formation? What is your vision and your expected image of the group?

J: Actually me and Mikael, we are the newest members of Thy Row. The other guys had already started some years ago jamming at our rehearsal place and writing guitar riffs and so on. Our guitar player Jussi got the idea of Thy Row quite early on, somewhere around 2015, but we really think that 2017 is the year this band was formed, when Mikael joined our group and we started to record those first singles.

Your debut EP, as I have been told, raised a rather challenging bar for you to overcome. That earlier creation led you to opportunities that brought fortunes, including support tours and good shows. Nonetheless, it also prepared you for the next step, a full-length. How has been the journey so far? How do you summarize the last 3-4 years?

J: It’s been a tough path to travel but it has also brought us plenty of fortunes, as you mentioned. Now as we look back in time, we can really be proud of ourselves and the work we have done. As an independent artist, it takes a whole lot of effort to get all the pieces in right order. We have always demanded the best quality for our music, video, promo pictures, merch - everything. Everyone knows that quality requires money, so we really hope that people will buy our album and come to see our shows!

Mikael, I have to hand it to you, fronting 4-5 bands isn’t a walk in the park schedule wise, where is Thy Row positioned in your priorities as a busy bee?

M: My priority promotion-wise is always the band (from my 4 bands) that is having a new release at the time. I think the key for me has been able to do it is the amazing work my bandmates have done! Doing all tasks in each band would be a nightmare haha

Signing with Rockshots Records appeared to be a smart move in order to keep things into gear. With this signing came on your set release of “Unchained”. What have been your expectations from the label? In which areas is it going to help the band where independently you barely had an option to do so?

J: Rockshots Records have been an amazing companion for us. We are really grateful to be on their roster. We both knew that promotion is the biggest matter where they can help us out and that is something we can both benefit from.

The first thing that caught my eye about “Unchained” is the artwork. There is a wicked kind of relationship between the Japanese oriented mask and the cold colours. What is your view about that? How do you connect yourself with an ancient heritage?

J: The artwork is something that we really thought about for a good time. “Unchained”, for us, tells a story of letting go of all the expectations and pressure that society demands from us - you have to be pretty, you have to behave, you have to get a good job and so on. It reflects the idea to lose that pretty mask and just be yourself. The Japanese mask is just something that we really like aesthetically. And I think that we kind of look like that.

It got me thinking a bit but from my side of the table, I couldn’t really find a connection between the tunes on the record. However, what makes the tracklist for the general idea unite under the banner of “Unchained”?

J: I would say that the songs on this album connect to each other through the stories in the lyrics (and behind them). They tell stories from real life, from the lives of our bandmates and also from the lives of our close ones. We let the other bands sing about spaceships and dragons.

Through the eventful “Unchained”, you were able to celebrate several directions of Metal music. Delivering a mixture of Hard N’ Heavy, 80s driven, along with modern fumes of Hard Rock while taking on heavier edged riffery that are semi-Thrash Metal oriented. Now I know that it is a natural process, always is, but really, in your opinion, how do these straying directions co-exist together?

J: Since "Unchained" is a collection of early years of Thy Row, there are several influences to hear. Some of the songs were written before the band was whole and some just before we got to the studio. But nevertheless, we love these songs and we've grown with them as a band. I'm sure that with the next album we're going to hear more of the "finished" Thy Row sound and style.

Ever since the band’s inception, and also since you guys have been musicians in several acts along the way, in particular you Mikael, how do you feel that the band went forward musically?

M: I think the musical foundation has always come from our guitarists Ville and Jusa, since they provide the raw instrumental ideas that we build the songs from together. Jusa has always been inspired by a bit more rock ’n roll direction (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Guns ’N Roses to name a few) and Ville has a more of a metal background (Metallica, Pantera etc.) I provide the lyrics and the melodies on top, we arrange everything at the rehearsal place and that’s the basic recipe for the Thy Row sound!

Furthermore, and rather connected to the previous question, working on an album, also as a perception, is different than tracking an EP. Moreover, the approach towards writing a song might take a different shape and form. How do you believe that this new record changed, or perhaps had you learned, in regards to songwriting?

M: I think the songs that were finished after the EP had more influence from the other band members, and they maybe sound more ”complete”. The third single ”The Downfall, Part 3: Fragments Of Memory” for example was completely constructed at the rehearsal place and was one of the last tracks we worked on. I think it might give some indication of where we might head on the next album!

I found the album’s sound to be an impressive vision of how to employ the 80s sound to fit nowadays’ standards. There aren’t too many that were able to reach that wall of sound. How did you envision Thy Row’s sound?

J: We have used so much time and effort to achieve this sound. It has been our decision that no matter what, we need to have as perfect sound as possible - a sound that begs for no forgiveness and can compete with the best bands in the world. We tested so many different approaches and mixing engineers until we found our guy, Jussi Kraft. We've known him for a long time and done some mixes before with him but we didn't have good enough references at that time. And maybe we didn't know at that time what we wanted. But now with Jussi doing all the mixing and Svante Forsbäck handling the mastering, we have reached the quality we've always wanted.

Drilling down to the tracklist, starting with the softie balladry, yet no doubt one of the album’s strongest numbers, “Down On My Knees”. A rather heavier ballad, but its AORish aura is deeply felt. How do you find this track in contrast to the rather tougher nature of some of the other tunes? Would you say it is a result of a rich flavor?

J: This is yet another song from real life. It's a story of a relationship. And much like relationships, it bounces back and forth, it has ups and downs. Of course, we had an idea that we want to have at least one slower song on the album but since it's not a love story, it reaches quite hard and dark places from time to time. So yeah, someone might even say that is a result of a rich flavor!

Turning it up a notch, the self-titled, “Unchained”, had me remembering the great Hair Metal days, yet with not less of combatant punching riffs that made the experience slightly different. What can you share of the experience of writing this particular tune?

J: Our main writer is our guitar player Jussi Laulainen. He had this idea of a great classic metal song and he even gave it a working title "Children Of Bodom". He wanted to have fast guitar riffs, with bass and drums punching between the beats. When Mikael joined the band we finally got the great melodic chorus and I added the varied bass lines to support the vocals. As a band, we really like this song and style a lot. Even though we come from different backgrounds I think this song unites us the most. Maybe we will hear more of this style in the future…

The album displays a trilogy, which I assumed to be the downfall of mankind, what can you tell in regards to the theme? How were you able to find the fine line between the stories and the written music?

J: As Mikael often talks about this trilogy, he has always heard these three songs as part of this dark emotion. When he started to write the lyrics for these songs he got the idea of this character who is experiencing this Downfall.

This is what he writes about it: "The Downfall is an epic and heavy as hell musical trilogy, which tells us the story of a protagonist who experiences a fall from grace. Through bad decisions and bad influences, he is led on a road to ruin which will finally be his end. Addiction leads to depression, depression leads to disease, and finally he arrives back to that infant state of mind where he questions reality itself, back to the womb so to say, having experienced the mystery that is life."

Covering X Japan, now that is something that I never really suspected, and one of their punchier tracks. It sounds to me that all of you guys really went wild over there. Can it be referred to as a natural selection for Thy Row? How did it feel recording such an energetic tune and also singing in Japanese?!

J: As of now it really feels like a natural selection for us! At first, we wanted to have something special for the Japanese audience on our tour but right after we decided to try out this song, we knew that we needed to record this piece as a bonus track. I think that our guitar players got some powerful influences from this song since some of our new demos are sounding quite a bit of X Japan style.

Mikael has lived, studied and worked in Japan many times, so it really was a no-brainer for him to sing in Japanese. We all are really proud of this cover and we're so happy that we can offer this special treat to our amazing fans in Japan.

What is to be expected for Thy Row for the remainder of the year? Have you started planning 2022?

J: First of all, we really want - no, sorry - need to get to play gigs. We have some hopes to maybe even get to tour at some point. Otherwise, we have already started to write new music and we can promise that there are some epic songs coming for the next album. Someone might even say that our style will develop in a way…

Guys, many thanks for your input and great conversation. You delivered a versatile record that might conjure several streams of Metalheads under your wing. All the best

J: Thank you!


 



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