Scream So They Can Find You: A Chat with Lasse Pyykkö of Hooded Menace
There’s something distinctly charming about Hooded Menace. The Finnish quartet’s art and imagery originate from the Blind Dead movies, a trilogy of schlocky 1970s Spanish horror movies about sightless, blood-hungry reanimated Knights Templar who track their prey via sound and smell and are perpetually dressed in ratty hoods and cloaks. But a band cannot be judged by their artwork alone, and thankfully Hooded Menace’s brand of infectious doom metal lives up to its inspiration. Creeping, crawling, and brimming with tasty riffs, the band’s music exists in a place where Black Sabbath meets Autopsy, and perfectly represents the inevitable terror of the Blind Dead, and indeed of the long tradition of 1970s shock horror in general.
The coming months will see the band release Gloom Immemorial, a collection of material from their many EPs and splits. When I reach out to frontman and founding member Lasse Pyykkö, he’s courteous and meticulous in his responses on horror, metal, and even my idiotic question about weed.
When did you first see the Blind Dead films? What about them inspired you to theme your band after them?
Not very early on at all actually. These are some of the many essential cult horror movies I didn't come across back in the Phlegethon days when worn out VHS copies of horror films were traded along with demo tapes and whatnot in the metal underground network. Nor did I discover the films via very few local freaks into metal and horror. It wasn't until in the mid 2000's or so that I came across the movies. I used to borrow a lot of horror flicks from my friend (cheers Saku!) when he was still living here in Joensuu, and at one time The Ghost Galleon happened to be in the pile of the DVD's and VHS's I brought home. Soon I heard it's a film series and got the whole set of the four movies. I simply love the atmosphere of those films. The Blind Dead templars appear very convincing and striking figures. It's easy to figure out that sort of creepy and slow stuff to go well with the kind of music we play.
Many metal bands use horror as their subject matter, but Hooded Menace seem to go specifically for the gothic and exploitation horror of the 1970s. What about those films and that culture interest you?
There's just something unique in the atmosphere and aesthetics of the 70's Euro-Horror movies. It hits all the right spots. Having grown up in the 80's, I have a soft spot for the gory 80's films, but there was plenty of bloodshed already in the 70's movies too, plus you get creepy castles, decrepit graveyards, rural charm, damp dungeons, old world mystique etc.—all in it's gritty glory. The imagery is actually very heavy metal and being a "metalhead" myself, it's hard not to like that.
Your horror love feels very “retro,” but the band sounds very modern, driven by the death, black and doom metal of today. Is that a hard balance to strike? Do you guys ever feel pressure to be a retro or classic metal band?
Well, we don't try to imitate a sound of any particular era, but of course we have our influences just as any band. We certainly do not sound like a 70's retro band nor very modern either, but rather like an early 90's death/doom band with their own twist. It's a pretty natural sound to us because that's where we come from. Having grown up with 80's Candlemass, Autopsy, early Paradise Lost and Cathedral, and stuff like that, it's all etched in the brain, and Hooded Menace is our take on that style. So no, we don't feel such pressure. I think it would be very lame if we did.
It was only 2012 when Hooded Menace became a full four-person band. How has that been? Do you intend to record the next album with the full band?
It's been quite fine so far. We have a good chemistry, so it's always fun to go out and play, which we don't do that much really. It's not easy to schedule a lot of gigs for this band, but I’m ok with it because I'm more interested in the creative side of things anyway. The biggest downside is that we don't get to rehearse nearly as much as we wanted and needed to due to half of the band [members] living quite far away from Joensuu. I find it a bit stressful, to be honest with you, and being a little bit of a control freak does not help really [laughs]. But we're doing the best we can, and we definitely intend to record the new album with the full band. You know, we already did the Loss split with this lineup, as well as the Labyrinth of Carrion Breeze EP, and those were pretty encouraging experiences. For the new album, we'll be heading to UK in April 2015 to record with Chris Fielding (Electric Wizard, The Wounded Kings, Moss etc.) at Skyhammer Studio. We´re pretty excited, to say at the least.
What’s the creative process for you guys? Do you collect material until you have enough for an album, or do you set out to write a Hooded Menace album when the time is right?
It depends. For the new album—hopefully out sometime 2015 through Relapse—I really did set out to write the music when the time was right because I wanted to be free from other projects etc., and also because by the early fall of 2014 I had accumulated a huge lust for writing new Hooded Menace stuff. That is of course a great mindset to be in when beginning on such process. Actually, I wrote one song in the spring, but it wasn't until the fall 2014 that I could totally dig into the work. Currently we're penning the lyrics for the last couple of songs and wish to head for a studio sometime in the spring.
What drove you to put all of Hooded Menace’s EP and 7-inch material together for Gloom Immemorial?
I've had the idea of this compilation for a long time. We were just waiting for the right time. Along the years we've got loads of requests from fans about such compilation, so there's a demand for it too. The stuff has been available on limited vinyl only, and most of them have been out of print for a long time, so it really makes sense to wrap it all onto one CD. The tracking list is put in chronological order, which to me makes it quite interesting listen to sit through. I rarely listen to my own records, but this CD is pretty exciting jam because it consists the whole timeline of the band so far, and there are so many memories and different people involved. Also, I think the material is very strong.
As a band, you’ve only released three full-length records, but have done many splits and EPs in between. Why release new material in that way?
I guess we've been quite productive and too impatient to keep the songs under lock and key for too long. Splits are exciting. It's just great to share a wax with a fellow band you dig and have respect for. Maybe it's going to change a little bit though. I think we are approaching the point where we should focus more and more on full albums because writing is not getting any easier—especially when you are cursed with a severe self-criticism like we are—and we wish to stick around for a long time. It'd be easier to renew the sound drastically than refine it sorta like step by step, as it seems we've been doing so far, which has been very natural progress. It's just that we don't want to drift too far from our basics.
In that respect, Hooded Menace also feel like a very vinyl-centric band (the Labyrinth of Carrion Breeze EP being vinyl-only, for instance). Is that intentional? If so, what do you like about vinyl as a format?
Well, we're all fans of vinyl for sure, but we like the idea of having the records available on other formats too, at least at some point, and that's exactly what we're doing now with Gloom Immemorial. "Vinyl-centric band" has a bit of an elitist clang to it, and I don't like to be labelled like that, but I'm definitely a vinyl guy. It's simply the best format what comes to sound and aesthetics. It looks good, it feels good, it sounds good . . . it's got character. The size does justice to the cover art, and there's just something to vinyl as an artifact. Having grown up in pre-CD days, I feel nostalgia for the format too. I remember how amazing it was to hold your own band's stinking demo tape, not to mention how unreal it was to spin a black wax with your own music carved onto it!
Catching you at MDF this year was awesome. Do you consider Hooded Menace more of a live or recorded band?
Definitely a recorded band, because it's easier to control things in the studio, and I like that. But I must say we've gotten better and better what comes to live shows. What I find a little bit problematic is our inability to rehearse more often as a full band. Like I mentioned earlier, half of the band lives quite far from me and Pekka, so it's hard to get together on a regular bases and often enough. We could be so much better, and being aware of that bums me a bit. But considering the circumstances, we're doing quite well I suppose.
This might sound odd, but given Hooded Menace’s style (and how I often listen to it), I have to ask—do you smoke weed? I don’t really think of Finland as a place where there’s a lot of weed to be smoked, but maybe I’m wrong. Feel free not to answer this if you don’t want to talk about it publicly.
Weed has become more and more common in Finland over the years. I think in the 80's I didn't know anyone that smoked weed nor was there much about it in the media. Now it's in the newspapers all the time how someone got caught for growing weed and stuff like that. Compared to, say, USA, it's still relatively new thing over here I guess, but it's widespread for sure. As for my relationship with the drug—I do not smoke weed.
What’s next for Hooded Menace?
Hopefully the album will be out sometime in the latter half of 2015. It's pretty epic stuff. There will be only four songs on the record, all of them clocking around 10 minute mark. Once again we've tried to refine the sound a bit. It's probably the most melodic and the slowest stuff we've ever written. It's very dark and mournful. I'd say it's a pretty logical continuation of stuff like “Chasm of the Wraith" from Labyrinth of Carrion Breeze EP. There's a fresh element to it, but it's still indisputably Hooded Menace. We have also some other exciting things planned for 2015, but it's way too early to talk about them yet.