Marko Saaresto of Poets of the Fall on the completion of a trilogy, the one in the offing, and crowds in India
Point out to Marko Saaresto, lead vocalist of Finnish rockers Poets of the Fall, that your phone (cum recorder) is a Nokia and he grins and says, “Mine is a Samsung. A friend of mine had one and I thought it was so cool that I went and got one for myself’. He must get that a lot, along with whether their music personifies, or doesn’t, the famous “Finnish melancholy” (the latter query witnessed a few minutes before this interview). In New Delhi to play at Hard Rock Café as part of the Vh1 Handpicked tour, Poets of the Fall released their new album, Temple of Thought, in March this year. Since the release of their debut album, Signs of Life, in 2005, Poets of the Fall — with Marko on lead vocals, Olli Tukiainen (led guitar) and Markus ‘Captain’ Karlonen (production, keyboards) — have travelled beyond Finnish music charts, with albums like Carnival of Rust, Revolution Roulette and Twilight Theater. The video of the single ‘Cradled in Love” is already out.
Excerpts from an interview with Marko Saaresto:
How does Temple of Thought stand in relation with your previous records?
The whole idea of Temple of Thought was to take off from Signs of Life and Carnival of Rust and become a trilogy from there, and it does drive some of the influences from the two previous albums. But it’s also a work of the moment, how we were heading the past two years. That’s also what makes it very strong for us — strong enough for us to go and write music about it.
So, Temple of Thought is definitely something that we view as our best work, not because it’s the latest album that we’ve done or the one that we’re marketing now, but because when we listen to it we actually go, ‘Yeah, that works!’ In some of the older albums, there are times we go, ‘I could have done that this way,’ and we’re the only ones who hear that. But on Temple of Thought you just put the album on and relax and every now and then you can feel the gnarly, punky vibes in it. Also, with Temple of Thought we’ve taken the whole variety of what it is to be Poets of the Fall; we’ve taken the jazz, the ballads, the stadium rock, the melodiousness, all the guitar solos, and punk rock and the craziness, and we’ve brought all these different sounds onto the album. I think that’s the album with the most variations that we’ve done so far.
From Signs of Life to now, has there been a conscious attempt to steer instrumentation and lyrics in a certain direction?
Signs of Life was very pop. In Carnival of Rust we already did some really heavy sounds that we left out of the album because they would have been changing Poets of the Fall too much into a heavy metal band. But with Revolution Roulette we decided that we wanted to have a bit more grain to the sound, a little more distortion and rougher, heavier sounds, and we did that. With Twilight Theater we were kind of mellowing down because we also understood by that time that Revolution Roulette and Twilight Theater are two parts of a second trilogy. And we wanted to have a different idea with that album. Alchemy Vol. 1
And now that we’ve matured in a way with Temple of Thought, we decided we were not going to give a damn about how or what we’re supposed to do and what’s hit right now. We’ve seen after all these years that the music is really the most important thing; if it’s going to last it’s going to live for a long time. It can’t be something that is cool now, or it can’t be something that’s in style, where it might last for five years or a decade or something.
Your started you independent record label, Insomniac, on which you’ve released all your albums. How has that paid off?
The small indie label as we are, we move a bit slower in relation to how a major label would — in terms of marketing and networking. And there’s not that much money to back up the touring, so we have to do a lot more work. And that sometimes takes us a long time to go from one territory to the next. But we are also pretty agile, being a small company.
Any favourite performing venues?
The first time you go somewhere you get the strongest experience out of it, and the next time you want to see it again. In India, the audience has been beautiful; it’s really, really great to go out and play in front of crowds that pack themselves into a venue. Germany is a good place because — though you might not think so — the crowds are also very easygoing when they come to a concert; they let their hair down and have a good time. Russia is a good place to go, too. They’re all very similar that way; Indians love their music with their heart and soul and you see this in places in different parts of the world. Other countries live more on the inside; they enjoy their shows and everything but you might not see so much physical action there.