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EVIL DRIVE's Viktoria Viren: “It was such an emotional album for me, because “Demons Within” is about the ugly and depressing things happening to people in life. That are our demons with which we live and fight every single day.”

Interview with Viktoria Viren, Juha-Pekka Pusa, Ville Viren, Antti Tani, Matti Sorsa from EVIL DRIVE
by Thomas Kumke at 04 May 2021, 10:53 AM

EVIL DRIVE is a melodic Metal band from Finland and they released their third album “Demon’s Within” in April 2021 via Reaper Entertainment. A good reason to talk to them and Metal Temple writer Thomas Jumke was very fortunate discuss with all them their new album, the style of their music, their inspirations, and their future plans.

Hello Evil Drive, it is a real pleasure to have you here and I am really grateful to perform an interview with you today for the Metal Temple online magazine. First of all I hope you had a great start in 2021, and you and your families are safe.

Antti: Yeah everything is fine.

How is the Covid-19 situation in Finland? How does it affect you as a band and how do you keep connection to the fans?

Antti: All connection with the fans is online, on Facebook, on social media. I think that is all what we can do.

J-P: It is pretty okay. The situation is getting better in Finland, but basically everything is closed and gigs and the festivals in the summer are canceled. During the last couple of days, all the big festivals have announced that they are postponed to next summer.

Matti: I think we will get rid of most restrictions up to the summer. I read and heard a lot of news that the restrictions are going on until the summer, but you cannot ever tell.

Evil Drive was formed in 2013 with Ville and Viktoria as founding members. How did it all start?

Viktoria: It was Ville’s and my idea. I met Ville when I played with my band in Vyborg, Russia. Ville played with his band at the time and we were meeting with him after the show. Later on, when I moved to Finland, we got the idea to create Evil Drive. We wanted to create a kind of band that plays melodic Metal, but with growling vocals. That is how I wanted to perform, and it is what we have now.

You released “The Land Of The Dead” (2016) and “Ragemaker” (2018) and you also did quite a bit of live touring especially in Northern Europe. Both albums were received very positively from critics and fans. Was this something you expected when Evil Drive started?

Viktoria: There is really a lot of competition between metal bands in Finland all the time and there are not a lot of women on vocals. This makes it quite difficult because bands with male vocalists are normal, while there are hardly any women who sing and growl. It is quite challenging, but it is our third album now and we will see how it goes. At the moment, it is difficult since we had to cancel 20 shows in Finland, Estonia and in Russia because of the pandemic. It is really sad, but I hope that things are getting better and we can go on tour later on this year.

Ville: I think it is really difficult to make a career here in Finland and to put your heads up. There are a lot of quality bands. First you have to go to Europe, then come back to Finland and then it is much easier.

J-P. you joined Evil Drive in 2016 and your first album was “Ragemaker”. How did this come?

J.-P.: While I had my own sort of garage band, where I did a little bit of touring with, I knew the former Evil Drive drummer Juha. When they were looking for a guitarist, Juha told Ville about me. I came then to an audition and the rest is what has happened.

Ville: It was funny because Juha sent me a link and I saw a video of J.-P. on YouTube: long hair and really nice guitar. I thought, that is our man! I did not know anything about him, but really nice guitar.

Viktoria: He was like a missing piece in the band.

That is a very good description. Matti and Antti, you were the missing pieces to the line-up later on. You joined in 2019 and 2020 and the new album is your first contribution to Evil Drive…

Antti: When I joined the band in September 2019, it was like two months practice and then we went straight into the studio.

Matti: It went fast, I joined the band at the end of 2019, had to get to know the songs very quickly and then playing the bass lines for the new album.

Did you already have the opportunity to play live shows with the new line-up?

J.-P.: We still had the opportunity to play live with the new line-up. It was in January or beginning of February 2020. There was a motorcycle event at the Helsinki Fair Center we played at a band competition. That was basically the first appearance with the new line-up. Then we got to do one local small festival last summer in Kotka, Finland and three or four small gigs.

Ville: Last summer there were only a few restrictions in place, for example how many people can be at the shows. There was not so much spread of the Coronavirus in Finland during last summer.

“Demons Within” is the new album, it was released in early April. How was the response so far?

Antti: There are a lot of great reviews and a very good reception overall. I think the response in the social media and in all the reviews are better than we expected.

Ville: Almost everybody likes the new album, and the reviews are really good. They give us around 8 points out of 10.

Viktoria: 9 points out of 10…

I think, you delivered a very mature and excellent album in every aspect. How do you rate the album yourself, especially compared to your previous albums?

Antti: Honestly, I think it is the best album so far. These songs are more technical, more melodic. They are better in many ways and we had many good songs composed. I think the songs we selected from the package are 10 very good songs.

Viktoria: I agree with Antti. The biggest change with the new line-up is that it made such a great thing for our band. Now we have a great sound with the drums and the bass lines, which we did not have in our previous albums. It changed a lot for this album. The next album, on which we are already working, will become even better than this one.

J.-P.: It is, as Antti and Viktoria said, a bit better than the previous album, but I think it is still not the best we can do. So the next album will be even better.

Ville: It was the same as for “Ragemaker”. J.-P. and I wrote all the stuff in a very short time and brought it together. Now we have Antti and Matti in the band and they are writing really good music too, so everybody contributes to the song writing process.

How does the song writing process work at Evil Drive?

Antti: Ville, J.-P. and Matti write the riffs and then send them to me. I arrange them, make some drum lines on the riffs, and send them back to them and we review those songs together. This is the pre-production process.

Viktoria: Afterwards I write the lyrics for the songs.

Ville: I really like this new system very much. When J.-P. and I wrote everything, the songs sounded all similar. Now with Antti and Matti putting their ideas in, there is a lot more interesting stuff, not the same as on first albums.

The driving forces in the Evil Drive sound are the guitars and the diversity ranging from classical melodic Death Metal to Thrash Metal and traditional Heavy Metal. I even heard a bit of Iron Maiden in it…

Viktoria \[laughs]: Just a little bit…

J.-P.: I have to go back to the last question about the song writing process. Mostly, the compositions were done by Ville and me and the song structures were basically ready before Matti and Antti joined the band. So they did not really have a big of an influence on the songs apart from some finishing touches. About the guitars, I think that is something that comes really naturally for me. What I start to play is that what comes out.

Antti: I want to add on the comment from J.-P. I think I really had free hands to do whatever I wanted on the drum lines on this album. So I think and I hope that I brought something new and interesting to the band.

Besides the excellent guitar work I realized that the vocals of Viktoria have vastly improved regarding the vocal range, the dynamics and aggression…

Viktoria: Actually, I would like to talk about it. First of all, the recording was different than for the other albums. When I recorded the vocals, I felt that I can open my mouth and just sing it in the way how I feel. It was such an emotional album for me, because “Demons Within” is about the ugly and depressing things happening to people in life. That are our demons with which we live and fight every single day. It was very emotional for me personally, because we recorded the album at the same time when the pandemic started and my dad passed away. I wrote a ballad for him which is called “In The End”. It was very emotional for me.

Viktoria, you predominantly use guttural vocals. How did you start growling?

Viktoria: It was fun. Actually, I loved Arch Enemy when I was 14 years old. At the time, I used to live in Vyborg, Russia which is about 100 kilometers away from Finland. We have a club in Vyborg and there were several gigs with different bands from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other places from Russia. There were some bands with singers who just used growling vocals. I went to their shows and just started growling myself. I do not know, it just came out. When my friend heard this, he said: “Viktoria, you are growling, you are cool” and he started telling this to others. At this time, he was the drummer in a band and they looked for a singer with growling vocals. He told them about me and they asked me to rehearse with them. It went well and since then I was in their band. Actually, at this time, I was growling really deep like Hypocrisy.

Ville: Viktoria can growl really deep. I like more her aggressive style, not such the deep growling. I like more a kick-in-the-face growling, the deep growling is not so aggressive. On the next album we might have more of this deep growling, because on “Demons Wihtin”, we do not have it at all.

Did you teach yourself or did you attend vocal lessons?

Viktoria: No, I did not attend any vocal lessons. I do not know where it is coming from.

Ville: It is really funny. When people try to growl everybody says it is really easy. Everybody could do it. But when you give them a microphone to try, then nobody can do it.

Viktoria: It comes from the inside. I listen to my body all the time. I never try to go over my limit. I know my limits. Well, it depends, sometimes when we play some gigs and I do not hear myself well on stage, I go over the limits. Then after the gig, I feel it a bit. I just keep quiet then, do not talk for a couple of days until it gets better. However, that are exceptions. I listen to myself all the time. It is very emotional. The growling is coming from deep inside, from the belly. People often ask me: how can you talk normally after a gig? I certainly can talk normally because it does not come from the throat, it comes from deep inside.

It seems that the job of a guitarist, bass player, or drummer is easier…

Antti: Yes!

You have also the Evil Drive Studio. Do you record and produce your music there?

J.-P.: We have a rehearsal place, where we also can do recordings since we have a global recording equipment. At the moment, we share this with a couple of bands. “Demons Within” was recorded at a couple of different places, because at the time when we recorded the album, we moved our rehearsal place to this new location where we are now. The keyboard player from Ville’s previous band and I are running this rehearsal/studio complex. We do recording there for other bands as well, but it is mainly for those bands which rehearse here. So we have the possibility to do our own recordings here.

In my interviews I like having a fun part. I will give you some key words and I want you to elaborate on that. Amorphis…

Matti: “Forging the land of 1000 lakes”! I just listened to that album last weekend and it sounds very good.

Viktoria: Actually, I also listened to it. It is one of the best albums ever. It is a great album.

J.-P.: I think they were among the bands that begun the world invasion of Heavy Metal from Finland, some sort of the grandfathers of Heavy Metal.

Viktoria: Yeah, I think especially the first two albums were the best ones.

Matti: When you think about the guitar melodies of Amorphis, they have pretty much like a folk influence. You can hear those melodies sometimes in folk songs.

Children of Bodom…

Ville: Yeah, yeah \[growls]. During the last couple of months, I listened to Children Of Bodom more than during the last 15 years. I do not know why. I really liked this first 4 albums of them. They are a really great live band. I really enjoy watching their live shows on YouTube. This is a pure live band. Crazy!

Viktoria: Alexi was a very talented guitar player. It is really sad but he will always be alive.

Matti: When I heard about Alexi’s Death, I was really sad and I thought about what big loss we had in our Metal music community. After that, I listened to Children Of Bodom’s “Hatebreeder” album maybe for a couple of weeks. I just listen to that album and I think it is the best album of theirs, by far.

Insomnium…

Matti: Actually one of my friends go out with the bass player of the band. What could I say about their music? They have a few Amorphis vibes in their music, in their guitar melodies but I actually have not listened very much to Insomnium, I should listen more often to them.

Ville: I know two songs of them, but I think they are melodic and they growl from that what I remember.

Finland is traditionally a country with a lot of well-known Metal bands given the size of the Finnish population? What are the reasons for this?

Everybody \[laughs]: Bad weather. Long winters, very short summers and Metal!

Matti: I think the Finnish way of thinking is what they call the gloominess of Finnish people. I think, it tends to come into the music and the music tends to be depressive and dark. It comes from the Finnish mentality.

Ville: This is really interesting, because we play this kind of music now. Before people like J.-P. and I played this music, we did not even listen to bands with growling vocals at home, only to Children Of Bodom. We have been listening to Metal from the 80s, Power Metal, and Iron Maiden. This is our music. I do not know, perhaps it is the dark winter in Finland.

Matti: Antti and I listen to more Extreme Metal.

Viktoria: I actually listen to At The Gates and Dark Tranquility. All these bands I love are melodic Death Metal bands.

Evil Drive stands already for the next generation of Metal bands. Do you think that especially young bands have enough support in Finland?

Antti: I think nowadays it takes really much great musicianship and song writing skills to do well in this business. The competition is very hard and technology has made it much easier today. If we compare it to 20 years ago, you had a cassette player and you did not really have the means to record your own music, you did not have good drum machines. Everything was different. Nowadays, if you use a computer and you know how to use those software, everybody can make music. You can have a one man band and make Black Metal with drums, bass and everything by yourself.

J.P.: I think what the bands that you mentioned have in common, as well as all the other famous Finnish bands, is that they all work really long and hard to get to the position where they are in now. So I think it still takes a lot of hard work to stand out from the crowd.

Antti: Yes, of course. What I was saying before that it takes that kind of musicianship. You have to be really good to stand out and you have to work your ass off. Sometimes you just need some luck: you have a very great show before a famous band, people see you for the first time and start talking.

Viktoria: ..and the right people start talking and that is it.

Antti: If you have connections and you know a guy who knows a guy who has a record company, you can go that route too. After all, you still have to be a good musician and the band has to work together.

Ville: You have to be really active these days. You have to be present all the time. If you are not present, everybody will forget you. That is really important. You need to have a great band, great musicians and a great song. We play now for eight years and we have three albums, live music videos, and one EP, I think we are really active.

Favorite Metal bands, do you agree or not? Iron Maiden…

\[everybody laughs]

Matti: Can you see my tattoo? \[shows his Iron Maiden tattoo] This is Eddie from “Fear Of The Dark”.

Ville: I have a “Piece of Mind” tattoo here….

Antti: “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” that is all I have to say about Iron Maiden!

Ville: I have to say: “Somewhere In Time”

Viktoria: Yes, “Somewhere In Time”….

Matti: I really like “X Factor” which is the darkest Iron Maiden album. “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” and “Somewhere In Time”. That are the best Iron Maiden albums.

Actually, my favorite Iron Maiden albums are “Piece Of Mind” and “Powerslave”…

J.-P.: I have to say “Powerslave” is also my favorite album…

Ville:  I love the “Powerslave” cover! I remember when I was seven years old, my father bought me this album. Wow! This is a cover….

Ville: There is one thing I have to say about Iron Maiden: the vinyl version of “Live After Death” with the cover which you can open up. This is my favorite package, a great cover and a perfect album.

Arch Enemy…

Ville: I started listening to Arch Enemy after the reviews. I never listened to them before. Maybe I heard some songs somewhere but then I read the reviews and started listening to Arch Enemy.

Viktoria: I listened to Arch Enemy when I was a little girl. “Doomsday Machine” is one of my favorite albums.

Antti: Daniel Erlandsson is a great drummer.

Matti: I remember listening to Arch Enemy first time when the first album with Angela Gossow came out.

Ville: I like Arch Enemy more with the Angela Gossow vocals because it is more aggressive. More recently, the songs are more mainstream and the choruses are so easy and melodic…. Actually we have this too…

Viktoria: They changed a lot when Alissa joined the band, because she uses a lot of different growling techniques and screams. I do not like it so much, I like more the old school style.

Testament

J.-P.: Alex Skolnick is great.

Ville and Antti: Thrash Metal…

Viktoria: Great live band…

Jinjer

Antti: I love their vocals. I think the songs are pretty hectic, nice playing all around, very good performance, but the vocals stand out for me. I do not know how many years it will take them, but soon they will go mainstream with their style of music. At the moment, there are pieces of everything in their songs.

Ville: I think exactly different from that what Antti said, because I hate it when clean vocals and growling vocals come together. I cannot listen to that at all.

Antti: I think musically it makes a very big difference how you use the vocals in a song. That is how I like perceiving music. They are good and they sound great when the vocals are in the right places. Normally I like either growling or clean vocals but not the mix.

Ville: I think there are great and crazy good players in Jinjer, but I cannot listen to more than a couple of songs. I like easy song structures and good catchy riffing like in Iron Maiden.

Viktoria: Tatiana has good technical vocals. There is not any influence in their music which would touch my heart and my soul. They play basically the same riffs but no good music, they are really technical players. There is only technique, there is no music. This is just my opinion and this is how I feel about this music. They really introduced themselves very well with great management and everything, but if we talk about music, this is not how a big band sounds.

There is often the comparison of Evil Drive to Arch Enemy. Is that something you would agree on?

Antti: I think, you cannot always compare anything to everything. Arch Enemy are a famous band. They have a female growling vocalist, doing Metal with some melodies, so the comparison comes automatic.

Viktoria: I think it is wrong comparison. There are not so many bands that are close to Arch Enemy, but we are compared to them all the time. We have the same influence, but we play a different tuning than Arch Enemy. They are heavier than us, but we have the same melodic influence. We have the same growling vocals like Alissa or Angela, but they go with the notes. This is what I love about them. This is what I love to do. Sometimes I got some reviews about my vocals like: you could use more different techniques, but I use this old school technique. Angela uses this as well and I think this is the right way for our music. I just sing how I feel. If you listen to female bands with growling vocalists, many of them use a great technique and they do very well. But sometimes, it does not sound so well because they do not have so good songs. But it is just my opinion. There are a lot of different Metal styles, new Metal styles which I do not understand because I listen more to old school music.

Ville: let us say it again: Iron Maiden! There is something that works, no matter which kind of Metal you play: if you have these three chords, this is all the time working, this is magic, amazing.

Viktoria: You can sound really heavy, you can sound really professional, you can sound really technical, but you never get to this point of these famous bands and their influence on music. When I listen to the sound of new bands, I have to stop after one or two songs, because they have no melodies. For me, a melodic song is very important. This is what makes me feeling, this is what makes me thinking, it is difficult to explain.

Who are your inspirations apart from Iron Maiden and how does that affect the music of Evil Drive?

Antti: I never, ever had a single drum lesson. I taught myself to play drums. At the time, my influences changed a lot, but I always come back to Mike Portnoy who is a hero of mine. So the rudiments and the linear drum strikes that I play, they all come from this guy. And I love it! I also wanted to add something of my own, being my own self and not sound like Mike Portnoy. You have to do it your own way. I think that is how you become a great drummer.

Viktoria: Do it always your own way. Do not always look around and listen to others what they play. Have your own style and keep this line. This is important.

Ville: When you read through the reviews for this album, everybody has its own opinion, but we cannot please everybody and play what they want. We have to make it our own way. Of course, it is not nice to read what people do not like, but so far there is only one review that does not like the new album, overall we got really good feedback. Well, if I would give points for our album, I would give it 8 out of 10.

You already indicated that the next album is getting better…. Coming back to “Demons Within”, what is your favorite song on the album?

Matti: I think “Demons Within” is my personal favorite or maybe “Breaking The Chains”. It is a hard decision…

Viktoria: My personal favorites is “Breaking The Chains”…

Antti: This is hard when you have to pick just one song, but I think I have to pick the last song “Ghost Dimensions”.

Ville:  It is a really difficult question but I choose “We Are One”. I really like different styles and this song is really melodic but also has heavy parts. I really like the lyrics of the song.

J.-P.: I still have to think about it… “Lords Of Chaos” is probably one of my favorites, because the song writing on this was very quick while all other songs were written within a longer period of time. Ville and I had basically an idea and it became a song at our rehearsal room when we played it together. It was not arranged at home and then going to rehearsals, we made it as a band. I think that you hear this in that song. It sounds natural and it has to be that way.

Antti: I think that the approach here is intuition. At the rehearsal place, you do not have time to think about it. It just comes out and what comes naturally it is the song. If then everybody agrees about the song, then it stays that way. I think it is 90% intuition and 10% something else.

Ville: I love “Lord Of Chaos” too. Many people are laughing if you put something like pop chords on songs. When you play these chords and then there is Metal coming around these chords, I like the chord progression….

Antti: It is very much like pop music….

Y.-P.: Yeah, sometimes you have to take the music a little bit less seriously.

You released three videos from the new album. The latest one is “Demons Within”. How does the video process work from the idea to the shooting?

Ville: There is not a common thinking about what we would do. We also do not have any big teams or anything like that…..

Viktoria: We just go out to find some nice looking place and if we think that it looks like Grand Canyon, we will shoot the video right there….

Ville: We do not have any plans. We said to Valentino, who filmed the video, we need a big coffin, then we need a victim, and we need two really big guys. What do they do? I do not know, let us see.

Antti: Oh, yes. We had one meeting with our cinematographer for this video and we started to sort out very much like that what Ville said. After that, we chose a place for the shoot, chose a day and then it came.

Viktoria: Actually I had a plan already for this video because it should relate to “Demons Within”. It should be a kind of fight of a person with a demon. Then I said to Valentino that we would like to see some big guys beside this, and then we filmed it.

Antti: The idea for the video was very simple, but the things you see in the video are very well made, they are well shot. I think that is what makes a great video when the idea is very simple.

Viktoria: When you do not have a big budget, it is very important to have some creativity. For “Rising From The Revenge” and “Demons Within”, we did not have a big budget, but we used a lot of creative ideas especially for little details.

Antti: And then we had to find a guy we would put into the coffin….

Looking a bit ahead, it is obviously difficult to make plans for the near future. What are your plans for the next months and what can we expect from Evil Drive in the future?

Antti: We cannot reveal any details yet, but we are going to do some gigs as soon as possible. We still have not done the first gig after the “Demons Within” release, so that would be nice if it becomes possible.

Viktoria: It all depends on the pandemic. At the moment, we do not have any big festivals in Finland, so let us see how it goes and when the pandemic is over, then we can have some gigs in Finland, Europe, Estonia, and Russia.

Ville: It is really difficult to get anything. When it will all open up, everyone wants to play gigs and venues will be very busy, it will be difficult to play even in little clubs.

Viktoria: We will not lose any time. We spend our time on new music and will start recording our fourth album as soon as possible. We already have the demo tracks and there is a lot of good material, a lot of great riffs and a lot of good songs.

J.-P.: I think we had a good start on this, a better start than on the third album with the song writing.

Viktoria: When we recorded our third album, we changed our line-up. Now, we have our full line-up and everybody in the band is involved in the song writing process. This is much easier than it was before.

Antti: At this point, I think we have more than 15 songs. It is going pretty well.

Ville: We are really in a much better situation now, since we started the songwriting very early. We have about 15 songs from which we can chose from. We were never in a situation like this before, normally we would have 10 songs as many as are on the albums.

That sounds really exciting and I hope you will be able to start with gigs soon, since many people want to see you live. Is there anything you would like to tell your fans or the readers of Metal Temple magazine?

Ville: We really would love to come to Germany because we got our best album reviews from there. A lot of people asking us to play live there but it is not so easy to go and play in Germany.

Viktoria: At this point, I would like to say a really big Thank You to all our friends around the world who listen to us and for whom we got to sign our CDs. You make us feel really great and good. All the messages that we got from our fans is the best and the greatest feedback, which we could hope for. It is a really sad situation at the moment for us, because we were planning to play three gigs on our release date on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and everything was postponed because of this pandemic. We got a lot of messages and we keep in touch with all the guys who love our music. Thanks you all!

Thank you so much for this great opportunity to have you all here for this interview with Metal Temple magazine. I really appreciate that you all came and for this great time we had.

Everyone: Thank you so much and stay safe.



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