Scorpio: Hello, Yohan! By the way, is Yohan Odinnen your pseudonym, and what is your real name if not a secret? Ivan?
Johan: No, my real name is Alexey. Or Liokha briefly.
Scorpio: Let's dig in history a little. As they say, who, when, what for and why?
Johan: In the beginning of 1997 two friends (who are not in band now, by the way) and I, can't remember what for and why, maybe to drink vodka funnier. Simultaneously we were studying the art of playing instruments but with variable success. People were leaving but the new ones were coming instead of them and with more skill if it can be said so. We played concerts but not further than in Karelia and St. Petersburg. In 2000 we recorded "Unholy Ancient Kings" which we had been composing for all these years. It has been recorded and mastered for approximately ten days. Of course the quality of recording and playing could be much better, but I still presume these songs are great. And then the band parted. I spent some time in army and returned to nothing. I had assimilated some ideas by that moment. So I decided to bring them to life and put my "rock-star" career to the end. That's why the name of second album is so decadent. In fact it was planned to be the last. But because of the latest events we will possibly record one more opus. Everything depends on the success of "Hails".
Scorpio: Your bandname VALHALLA is not so rare. Did you have any problems with bands with the same name?
Johan: I communicated only with the band from Ekaterinburg. But only once, after the "M" magazine misplaced us with them for the first time. I suggested to communicate, exchange the recordings, play some covers to prevent each from bearing a resemblance. But they paid no attention and that's all ended at that stage.
Scorpio: What is the most popular bandname as you think? My variant is REQUIEM.
Johan: I can't say anything. Some foul thoughts are creeping in my mind, that VALHALLA is the most popular bandname. Maybe "Grom" (Thunder) too.
Scorpio: "Black metal…, slow and melodic… progressive and folk elements" - thus exactly was written on CD-Maximum web-site about the music of "Hail To The Fallen Majesty". What black on earth you mean? Has the author of these words ever listened to the solo in "Requiem to the Stars?"
Johan: When people from label asked me to write a news release, I've been thinking a few how to describe our music, however nothing worthwhile I found. "I give up", said "put whatever you consider, after all, the disks selling is up to you". They've put your phrase, which I have nothing against. How far does it correspond to the disk content is at the audience discretion. Concerning the solo you mentioned, possibly this is one of the progressive elements on disk.
Scorpio: Who played the harmonica and flute?
Johan: It is clearly specified in the booklet - our keyboard player Grig. However he played not harmonica, but bayan. The flute sound inserted into the box with horror name synthesizer, it cost efforts to take it out as well as cello, violins and pipes sounds etc.
Scorpio: Has it indeed been impossible to find live instruments?
Johan: Yes, except bayan, and what for? You've taken flute as the real one.
Scorpio: The first album track called Karelia. How do you thing have you succeeded in reproducing the atmosphere of the native lands?
Johan: The intro appears in album as our vision of famous song in the 70-ies "Karelia will long be dreamt". Probably Anna German indeed sang it. Nowadays the song is being popular as it sounds at our station when the trains with conscripts depart. Since I wrote the bigger part of the album song in the army, putting this track in the beginning of the disk turned out to be a good idea.
Scorpio: Yeah, now I will critically oppose against the album appearance. Very simple, and the booklet - too short. I wish it were the more images and pages.
Johan: A-ha, you'd like to see 28-paged booklet designed by Ioakim Lutke? Or my post-hangover mug on the cover? At least, I know for sure, the design is exclusive. Original work of Arsatan hang in my home.
Scorpio: Exclusive is always super! Your logo is not quite readable. Are there any thoughts regarding the banner variation?
Johan: Till now they weren't. Usually, when the band name is unreadable, the people just turn the disk sideward.
Scorpio: Do you like the CD-Maximum activity?
Johan: The disk's been issued on 2nd of February. Two monthes has passed and say something about the label activity is too early. Besides ain't very much informed of it. They've published the circulation (how many copies - I don't know), posted advertisement in Inet, sent me a couple of free disks for friends and pals. Ever since the conversation with me was stopped. I hope they do something else. Excuse me, I'm just out of the deal.
Scorpio: What do you mean? Got nothing for your music? Moreover you likely don't even wish to.
Johan: There's no need to be sarcastic. The fact the almost unknown band from provinces had been proposed publishment in big farm is worth a thing. No businessman would pay interest on sales until got money invested in circulation. Prepayments in our country are not customary. I wouldn't give. Moreover, to the obscure people. So, let's wait half a year.
Scorpio: I guess, CD-Maximum in nowadays is the largest publisher of the domestic metal-music. And upon the whole it issues 10 CD a week. Is it good or what?
Johan: It is always good, when you have a choice. Moreover they do everything in high quality, especially I like their digipacks (friends presented me for birthday Annihilator double concert, can't rejoice until now). On other part, when published in big office - you are the only the one from many, and could be even not noticed by your potential audience.
Scorpio: What music do you prefer listening to? Metal only or there is place for ambient/darkwave, close related for open-minded metalist?
Johan: Yeah, I suppose. At the moment I write the answers listening Ulver's "Perdition city". However the metal music I listen more often. Lately, in general, old school death-metal. Among us the today's metal-youth every second - advanced goths. Have nothing against it, but trends suck.
Scorpio: I've recently watched Grammy on TV. And made a conclusion the pop-music degenerates. There are not especially new ideas, but those, kind of brand new, are an effort to mix everything in. Your opinion?
Johan: I've missed watching Grammy on TV (frankly speaking, had no peculiar desire). The girlfriend watched a reality-show "Hunger" on the other channel. But I've listened up the disk called "The Grammy 2003 Nominees" or something like that. It was tightly filled with R'n'B performers.
Scorpio: So, what about "Hunger"? In Ukraine it is being broadcasted with enormous delay, nevertheless I watched the show via Inet, that is why is well informed.
Johan: Damn, you are a real fan, just like my girlfriend. Every evening she made me watch these freaks instead of good film on TV. I don't like such programs. Concerning the pop-music degenerating, I reckon, you're mistaken. In the west everything is exactly all right with that. The real nightmare is taking place in our country. Sha-la-la! Tra-la-la! Two taps, three claps. In the same tune, but with bass-drum hit on the first part. U-ts, u-ts, u-ts. And about the lyrics I don't wanna say a word.
Scorpio: Well, it seems they had the show overflowed. The same songs, I'm speaking of, were in mass performance. There'd been a lot of mess. By the way, in your opinion, regarding the bigger part of nominees - people with roots of black race. The white people couldn't handle anymore?
Johan: 'cause R'n'B is primarily a black music.
Scorpio: And would you tell us about Ukrainian pop-artists VIA GRA and VERKA SERDIUCHKA? They are extremely famous in Russia. And TATU - in Europe and US.
Johan: About VIA GRA I would answer with words of my acquaintance: "Can rise, may ride". SERDIUCHKA - is somewhat like grabbing money from the non-clever people of all ages. TATU: having even decent sound, but I'll express myself with St. Petersburg famous band verses: "What one shall do to get mad? How many times had you heard this song about getting mad?". This music is definitely not mine.
Scorpio: Is today clear style-metal interesting for the audience?
Johan: Don't know for rest, can say for myself. I listen to metal-music since 13 y.o., i.e. a real half of my life, and until now I feel satisfaction from plates of bands, from which I started - IRON MAIDEN, MANOWAR, HELLOWEEN, RUNNING WILD. Now the bands are enough to eat with your own ass, and most of them play the same. That's the reason guys search for something exquisite and sophisticated. On other hand I never understood people, who don't listen anything else except full discography of e.g. MOTORHEAD or ACCEPT. And they exist - whether you believe or not.
Scorpio: I think you've already heard the latest CRADLE OF FILTH album. I like it very much, besides many spit around. What is the reason the Englishmen are disliked? Feebleness of the metal-fans masses?
Johan: Strange things happen. They all give a shit, but everyone has it recorded on CD matrixed.
Scorpio: Yeah, matrixed, indeed.
Johan: Perhaps, listening on the sly and getting diverted.
Scorpio: One hundred percent.
Johan: Cradle has it's own style. You will never confuse them with any other band (especially on photos). But I really don't know what makes you think the most of metal-society doesn't like them.
Scorpio: Some chats of individuals on metal-forums do make me think. Danny Filth, the frontman, for example, is being accused of homosexuality. E.g. the quote from our forum:"Scorpio: How do you like the latest Cradle? I consider it the masterpiece". And then all started: "Cradle - is bullshit, that is pop, not black". "They'd played black before Cruelty", "they never played black".
Johan: I think approximately 15% dislike them, on condition 30% of the audience refrained (never listened, what it unbelievable, or simply don't give a shit).
Scorpio: Or reply "like the rest".
Johan: So, you, me and one more couple - that is almost a million people constituting the left 55%.
Scorpio: And what grade out of decimal scale do you put for the "Damnation And A Day"? Which songs did you like the most?
Johan: Certainly, this is non of my business to put grades, but if I had to, it would be rather high. Around "8" or maybe higher. Especially I liked "Hurt & Virtue", "Better to Reign in Hell", "Serpent Tongue". I have a couple of pals, true fans of Cradle. They have all disks in firm digipacks. Even when published in different version (bonus or "Dusk..." coffin-shaped). That is why I won't have a heart to call myself a COF-fan. But this didn't prevent me from visiting their St. Petersburg concert in March of the past year. Observed Danny in less than meter before press conference. Everybody just dropped apart, when were told all comers may receive autographs and take photos.
Scorpio: Could your city claim to name change - Petrozavodsk to Petrovodsk?
Johan: We have a few excellent distilleries in the city, products of which we regularly consume. The most favorite ones of vodka are "Karelia", "Epos" and "Sedoy Valaam". How can we avoid playing the epic music after that?
Scorpio: Yeah, the names - the best there is. What about the vodka publicity? We have it everywhere: on TV, big boards at the full extent. All sport broadcastings and new-year shows like "Ogoniok", "Zolushka", "Snezhnaja koroleva" are sponsored by vodka producers. The production of brends like Shustov, Myagkov, Het'man, Pisnia, Soyuz-Victan, Medoff, Bilen'ka, Khlibnyj Dar, Blagov, Stolychnyj Standart, Olimp are not gonna leave the TV screens. Sooner or later we to choose theme "Vodka" for the last capital in the famous word guessing TV-game.
Johan: We've got the same situation. AFAIR, vodka TV advertisement is forbidden in Russia. However they sometimes show the reels with logo "Flagman" and the hollow-dreadful voice saying: "Flagman - you have the right". And in 5 seconds towards the reel's end the small capitals appear and read: "Sweeties". That's it. But I thought the most popular Ukrainian vodka was Nemiroff. Isn't it Ukrainian?
Scorpio: It is Ukrainian, but they're very known and don't need the ad. When are you going to obtain your own web-site? Today even a hick band has it.
Johan: What about web-site quite a funny situation takes place, since the drummer works as a programmer in web-design company. Perhaps it would be a good idea to ask him manage the issue, inasmuch upon the album publication on CD-Maximum we became a part of CIS metal-stage. He-he.
Scorpio: In the neighbourhood of yours there are probably many finnish people wandering around, as we have moldavians here?
Johan: Yeah, throngs. But it doesn't bother anyway, it's even cool. Because, in general, it is finnish young people. We have "Rock Bridge" festival held already for two years running in our city. Something like friendship bridge between russian and finnish youth. And we have it held twice a year, and once - in Jonsu, Finland. The last year the headliners were Children of Bodom. I've almost burst with envy we were not to perform live. Who'd be the headliner this year - I still don't know, but the finnish gig will take place in April. The our part of show has gone off in February and I can't help myself with my health so far.
Scorpio: And now I will have you examined. What secret weapon of musical effect does the Valhalla develop at the moment? Which stage of development? Projection, designing or testing?
Johan: Now we have only 6 songs in progress. We even tried to record, some parts of selected pieces. The most significant matter is to clarify ourselves which way to choose. The new work would be rather different from the one we'd been doing before. The main distinction will be that it would the songs indeed. And I will sing in classical meaning of the word. Screaming vocals will be present, but more sparsely and not in every track. In addition the overextended pieces are not in schedule (longer than 5 min). And the live drums most likely would be recorded. Alex has just managed to record it properly. The line-up is to change a bit as well. So, everything depends on "cabbage" and CD-Maximum. Since for the third time I won't give my cash for the recording.
Scorpio: Wishes and valedictory:
Johan: I wish you site prosperity, it is indeed very informative. By the way, while surfing there I found out the news about LAKE OF TEARS is far from R.I.P. and records the new album. I was glad to read that. Surprise me with anything else. As well as many other metalheads. Good luck.