Author's note - This interview was originally published on Examiner.com in 2010. Since then, a lot has changed for Demilich, all for the better. But here's a snapshot of what was happening with the band at the time.
It is unusual for a classic-era death metal band to have a more rabid cult following than some of the black metal bands that followed, but that's Demilich all over. The band released their sole album Nespithe in 1993, and their left-field sound coupled with an oversaturated genre saw to it that they were mostly ignored. Good art sometimes takes a while to find an audience (just ask Van Gogh), and a decade later the group had amassed thousands of dedicated fans worldwide. The only problem was that the band had been dead since 1995.
In 2005, Demilich surprised the underground by reforming with the key members of the original lineup. They performed shows in Finland and then embarked on their first and only a tour of America in 2006. Demilich went to ground soon after their US excursion and the announced compilation album, v34ish6ng 0f emptiness, was indefinitely delayed. Fast-forward to 2010 - the band resurfaces once more to play a high-profile final appearance for a very lucky national fanbase at the Jalometalli Festival in Oulu, Finland, despite promises that they would never perform again. Lightning rarely strikes twice, but Demilich vocalist/guitarist/mastermind Antti Boman deemed it should, and fortunately he felt like discussing it.
Let's start with the question that everyone asks - why won't Demilich continue?
AB: Demilich will not continue because I don't want the history to limit what we'll do next, or what I hope we will hopefully do next. My problem is that I don't want to be a band that tours with 1992 material. We could do another album, but with the Demilich monicker it would have to be Nespithe II or otherwise everyone would be disappointed, including me. So I want to start a new band, and fortunately we'll have a lot of “cover songs”.
What about the extra tracks for the planned v34ish6ng 0f emptiness LP? Will they ever surface? What's the status on the release?
AB: Yes, they are just being remixed now. After Jalomettali Festival, I will start handling them. Xtreem Music will release the CD, but I will release the double-LP myself, the 397 copies. I will try to get it ready for the Christmas market (laughs). Every [recipient of the LP] will be randomly picked from those who signed up to buy the album.
You realize that limiting the LP to 397 copies is even more exclusive than most black metal bands.
AB: Well, there are black metal bands who only release 100 copies, so we're doing a big thing compared to them.
True, but Demilich is far more popular than most of those bands...
AB: Well one reason for it is the number, it's connected to the numbers in the titles. But it's just another gimmick, actually. I want to make a limited thing, and I will put it out myself to make it as grand as possible – a double LP with gatefold and a great booklet.
What do you think about death metal now as opposed to when Demilich was first active?
AB: It's more quantity now, but there's still quality in there. I'm definitely not fond of the new style of mastering. All you see now [on the waveform] is a vertical bar. In Finland, metal has become our national music so it has gotten boring, especially when it becomes all about production instead of the songs.
A recent study revealed Finland as the smartest nation on earth in terms of academic performance. Similarly, Demilich is regarded as one of the world's most intelligent death metal acts. There seems to be a correlation here. Do you think your nationality had a direct effect on your music?
AB: My family is not very educated, but they are bright people. I'm a product of my parent and my surroundings, but still even without Finland I would have done something different because it's in me. When I was a child, my sister said that before I could tie my shoelaces, I would watch [my siblings] do it, and then she'd try to teach me and I didn't want to know. So I watched them and learned it myself, but I still do it a bit wrong (laughs). I do it my way and it's a bit clumsy, but I never wanted anyone to teach me. My sister kept trying to show me, but I always said, “No! I don't want to hear it”. So I don't know where it came from, but it's my personality.
Would you say that another factor in Demilich's unusual approach comes from the introverted nature of Finnish culture?
AB: Actually, you haven't seen as much of it compared to [Demilich's 2006 US tourmates] Biolich. When we arrived in New Jersey we saw them at the meeting point. And remember, they formed a band because of our band. I walked up to them and shook hands with each of them - you know, “Hello, I'm Antti”, and then went back to my group. The other guys [in Demilich] did the same thing, and it was very polite. Finns are always polite, but we do things like shake hands and then retreat to our “safe” surroundings. And the Biolich guys first thought, “Oh s—t, those guys are totally stuck up, and we can't stand two weeks with them!” Of course, after seeing the USA I saw that maybe our way may seem... well, irrational.
The reason I bring it up is because when Demilich plays live, it feels like you turn the music in on yourselves. It all seems so esoteric and internalized, and it struck me that this pointed to the Finnish way of being.
AB: It mostly is, but there are also bands here who imitate an extroverted kind of presence. It's fine for most bands who want to “kick the balls as long as they they break” and make people shout and do pits and so on, but could you see us doing that? It would be embarrassing to me.
Demilich is almost a mythical band due to only having one album and so few appearances. This last show here at Jalometalli is basically a zombie performance for the band. Did you plan on this when you released Nespithe?
AB: No I didn't. I wanted to be a rock star and spread the good word, or my word. But I thought it was how I would make my income. It didn't happen and it couldn't have happened because I'm the kind of person who, when I try to make my living off something out of desire, I cannot make it work. I will quit if it goes in a direction I don't want, and if it's about income you usually have to make sacrifices. At least I think so. I don't know, I've never made music professionally.
So no, it was not planned, but nowadays it feels good to me to be able come play this gig, and practice for it for three months, and remember the reasons why, and then call it quits. I'm obviously a bit perverted about it, but those rehearsals are meeting points for me. They are places where I can play and forget about everything else.
You lyrics and concepts are very abstract. Is it hard to remember the words on stage?
AB: No, but last night I read all the lyrics and found a paper with the original version of one of the songs, though I can't remember which one. It was a bit different, and in reading them, I thought, “S—t, what's going on?”, and then I started remembering how it really goes. But suddenly I couldn't remember the words because they are so in my head these days. Some of the words are such that I don't really recall them until I play. When we played last Thursday [in Kuopio] there was one place where I forgot the lyrics, but then I played and it flowed out. It's like the words are rhythms in my head and that's how they come to me.
Regarding Winterwolf, are you guys going to try to make that into something bigger?
AB: It's a fun project, but I can only speak for myself. For Corpse [Winterwolf/Deathchain guitarist], it's something he cannot do with Deathchain. For me, it's something that is lots of fun to play, and it allows things I want to do but cannot bring into my own projects. It's my trademark to be very hard to get (laughs). So it's both. In April, we recorded Deathchain's new album, and then we played one show with Winterwolf and made two songs for a new 7 inch. Now we have this Demilich thing, then after that more Winterwolf again. It's a band that gets ahead in between the bigger projects, but it's not like we're just putting our leftovers there. It is relaxation for us, because it's a lot easier and something fun to do, rather than sitting on the couch. But it's nice because it doesn't require as much concentration.
Would you say that it is important to remain active in your work in order to maintain musical integrity?
AB: No. After 1993, I didn't do anything until almost 2000. I occasionally did something programmed on my Amiga PC. Then we recorded the new Demilich song, which people actually say... well, there's one guy who doesn't really understand Demilich - the bassist of Winterwolf. And even he said that the new song is close to greatness. So it's something that is “baked in”, and it doesn't fade away. Of course, if you want to play guitar well, you have to play it. But you can relearn it again.
The reason I ask is because the newest song is unmistakably Demilich. I was amazed at how much of a continuum there was between the original album tracks and the recent one.
AB: That makes me smile, but it also raises the uncomfortable situation where I start to think that we will do another Demilich album. But no, the new band will get the name it deserves. I want to keep it so I don't have to think of it as a continuation. If it sounds like Nespithe, then it just happened because it was played by me and those two guys [guitarist Aki Hytönen and drummer Mikko Virnes]. Corpse is a great addition on bass, but without them there would be no Demilich. I've played our songs with three different drummers, one of whom is really great, but he doesn't sound like Demilich; he sounds like his other bands. The “bossanova” is missing, which Mikko has in his style. And Aki's playing style- I remember back in 1991 I told him how to play it, and he forgot and put in the “dampi” [palm mute] differently. I don't want to correct those things, because it brings those small variations that adds up to the mystery of our sound.