​"I have lived most of my life surrounded by traditions about which I write songs": Interview with Second To Sun’s leader

"I have lived most of my life surrounded by traditions about which I write songs": Interview with Second To Sun’s leader

The ambitious Russian project Second To Sun was founded by the guitarist Vladimir Lehtinen in 2011. During five years of its existence, the band has released several cover singles, the EP, two own full-length albums and one re-release of Second To Sun’s members ex-project Epoch Crysis. The band’s music is referred to different genres, but its founder denies most of them, calling his project "the instrumental music at the intersection of the groove and the Scandinavian type black metal". Noizr Zine spoke to Second To Sun’s leader Vladimir Lehtinen, who gave very detailed answers to our questions, sometimes pulling no punches.

Many of your songs have a pretty deep meaning. For example, "The Trapper" raises the issue of murders in the name of others questionable ideas. Usually, a semantic message and emotions are transmitted into lyrics. How do you get them to your listeners in the instrumental tracks?

Vladimir Lehtinen (hereinafter — Vladimir): Thank you for this question. "The Trapper" compares hunters for furs with the maniac Anatoly Onoprienko, but in general, yes, it has a context which you described.

We replace the lyrics with the meaningful and visual message, which often is taken from the real events. Each song is written as the embodiment of a certain story which itself is described in the CD booklet or in digital format and necessarily has its own art. And the songs themselves are different, as their tones and themes. I mean, they are really different, not as usual, when a band composes a whole album by a template, but really, there is a hard and meticulous work on writing the songs. After all, we are not a subcultural band performing heavy music, so the common form of information delivery through the vocals would be a repulsive element, that’s why the unusual strategy that resembles a mixture of early black metal trails (not many photos, a lot of information and music) and the soundtracks from the horror films allowed us to achieve decent success. I do not think that we are interesting for subcultures, probably, we irritate them and, in a certain sense, they hate us. They hate us because they do not understand what we are. Like, "Feh! Why should I read or watch something? These guys are pissing in the wind. It’s better to headbang to Vital Remains."

In the band's discography, there are songs related with completely different themes from fairy tales and myths to the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the movie "The Fool". What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Vladimir: Our band uses a lot from the cultures of the Finno-Ugric peoples and they are usually the sources of inspiration. Among them, there are often the real stories, once in a while, as previously noted, the myths. But sometimes the songs are diluted with phantasmagoria, which is also can be found in our works. I like to compose music about something that I understand and which is close to me.

Let’s talk about the Dyatlov Pass. This famous incident is interesting for many artists in Russia and abroad. What is it about this story that attracts you and how did you come up with a fantastic version of a Red Army soldier?

Vladimir: As in many other cases, there is a direct relationship with the indigenous Finno-Ugric peoples of the North, Khanty and Mansi. We just made our own fantastic version based on this story, described in the text and art. We made it even more terrible, adding to it an element from the world of John Carpenter’s movie "The Thing". We showed all of it in three possible in this case colors — black, red and white. The result was this song.

"We use ethnic elements, and do not deal with gerontophilia or wearing skins as folk metalheads do."

In one interview you said that using of folk instruments in Second To Sun’s music is in stark contrast to folk metal which you "absolutely can't stand". Could you explain your point and compare this genre and your band’s style?

Vladimir: We use ethnic elements and do not deal with gerontophilia or wearing skins as folk metalheads do. It’s difficult to explain, but I'll try.

Look at Sepultura of "Roots Bloody Roots" years. They went to record the Brazilian tribes and inserted this unique material into their release, passing it through their perception, which was close to these tribes. Now compare it with all of these bands, who think that they "perform folk metal". What the shit? How can a citizen, born in Berlin, identify himself as a Celt? He hasn’t seen the Celts even once, excluding the Celtic grandmothers or the Old Prussians and their outfits, shown on TV. And such person becomes "Celt" or "Old Prussian" once in a lifetime, during his band’s performance. He carefully takes the pleats out of a fur before the concert, playing the bagpipes or the balalaika, and that's kind of authenticity. He performs in front of the dim-witted people (like he is), who then called such kind of creativity "folk brutal death brutal power true meat". It’s ridiculing of the ancient culture, awkward urban perception, maximalism. It’s kitsch and bravado, typical for subcultures and understandable only within these subcultures.

Sepultura and their producer have understood this. Therefore, they wove into groove metal, with which they were dealing, the ethnic culture of their country, where they lived and were born. And it has become the achievement of the world. The same with Pantera. Look, how they wove country music in their works. And thanks to it hundred thousand people who knew nothing about the Xavante tribe, are really getting into unique musical creativity. Or trying to listen to the music, on which Darrell grew up. Or trying to understand what the forests of the Carpathians are.

Folk metal has nothing in common with it. This is an authenticity for two people, once again for subculture and "for one day". It’s a parody of grandmothers who do not even know what's going on. I feel closer to Pantera and Sepultura. I have lived most of my life surrounded by traditions about which I write songs. The same thing with the related peoples. When I write a song about Erzyas I know Erzyas. I attend their holidays, I’m present while they’re slaughtering a bull to cook it. I have taken a walk in the gloomy like hell thick forests in Penza. My great-grandmother was Moksha. A few years of my life I gave to the Finno-Ugric activism. It’s close to me, it’s native. Here you’ve got a comparison.

And summing up, will a folk metalhead walk in his furs, which he loves so much, and with an accordion in the center of Berlin? Of course, he won’t. Does he promote the culture of the peoples in a wide sense, which he considers as close to him when he is listened by two men at the folk metal fest? No, he doesn’t.

"From my point of view, it’s critical to break the head of everyone, who will call us deathcore, with a sledgehammer, if it will be done with impunity."

Second To Sun’s compositions feature the kantele, krez, nares-jux, jouhikko... Probably, it’s difficult for you to find some of these musical instruments, isn’t it?

Vladimir: I try to use what I recorded by myself from the original source. And to make a sample, the benefit of our time that we have samplers. I’m not Väinämöinen, but there are people who also play on a kantele as him. And nowadays, their work and creativity can be stored for centuries thanks to samples. My friends and colleagues have some of these instruments. And they certainly have the accordion.

Which of these instruments you can play on? Do you work on these parts by yourself or you turn to session musicians?

Vladimir: As I’ve already mentioned above, the sampling is our everything. But if there are no samples, there are always archived records, voice recorder, a ticket to the Tver Karelia and so on and so forth.

Not so long ago, you have re-released the album "Gal Agnostiske Drommer" of the band Epoch Crysis which consisted of Second To Sun’s future members. The album is noticeably different from your current works by vocals, tempo, genre, sound — it’s absolutely different performance. Tell us something more about the album and today’s re-release.

Vladimir: I would not say that it’s too different, it rather fits perfectly to the post-Soviet’s view of black metal, as a heap of noise.

In 2013, we made the fatal mistake by releasing the album, perhaps, in the worst heavy metal genre of all possible, the so-called "djent". It caused a lot of negative effects, we even were removed from all metal archives and encyclopedias. The reason was simple, we had it coming to us. I strongly overestimated the djent community. I thought that if I played Immortal’s riff on the baritone guitar, they would call it "djent/black metal". As a result, the djent musicians, critics, and fans of this genre put some sort of definitions on our band, which even none of us would like to convey by music. Just because they do not know a damn thing except their Periphery and Animals As Leaders. For example, one of our newborn fans woke up one day in the morning and stated that we play "progressive deathcore". What kind of comments should be there? Do we play deathcore? From my point of view, it’s critical to break the head of everyone, who will call us deathcore, with a sledgehammer, if it will be done with impunity.

After such an epic fail, we have done a lot to be not labeled as djent, progressive metal or whatever the fans of this shit call this shit. And the final nail in the coffin was "Gal Agnostiske Drommer", the real face of the band. With this one, the group finally began to be perceived as it is, the instrumental music at the intersection of the groove and the Scandinavian type black metal. To learn more about the album’s conception, it’s better to check out our Bandcamp, otherwise, I'll have to write another ten paragraphs.

Tell us about your collaboration with the well-known record label Century Media. You mentioned once that because of it, you have a lot of enviers in Russia.

Vladimir: It was in 2014. Apparently, Century Media had some sort of the searching young bands' program at that time. Their erstwhile AandR contacted us and offered to talk. We had a conversation, but we resiled from a contract in the end. As I understand, that year they signed a lot of young bands. As for Russia, this is the mentality of our people, so everything is fine. You got up in the morning, looked out the window — oh, the neighbors got a new fence, I should go for a walk with my dog, feeding it a laxative in advance.

You’re often reminded of the fact that you do not perform live. Have you ever thought about giving a gig?

Vladimir: No, because concerts are the industry’s modern dairy cow. We want to play music, and not to be poked with the smartphones by 400 people.

In late August, you posted that you want to postpone the new album release. You mentioned that "The First Chapter" was listened to by very few people. Are you going to continue work on its promotion and, if so, what are you doing for it?

Vladimir: The Ukrainian agency has worked on the album promotion and they have done a very good job. After that we decided to begin distributing music worldwide, this is exactly what was meant. Now we have a lot of people on Facebook, ten thousand, the same number is on Instagram. The fans constantly contact us, being interested in different things. For me, this is the promotion, some kind of virality due to my communication, interviews, and new reviews, with which I often please my fans.

You've also noted that the new material is almost ready. Tell us about it in more detail. How would you compare the new tracks with "The First Chapter"?

Vladimir: We make artworks for the songs and we make the physical edition. The album is the real face of the band, there are a lot of blast beats, the eternal mist of Volga region’s forests and traditional obscurantism. Finally, we were able to turn the "black metal" handle on full, as it should have been from the beginning. The material was fully recorded live, it has pretty raw sound and it seems to me that it’s very different from the First Chapter.

Vladimir, what else do you do besides Second To Sun? You’ve also mentioned that today you have a lot of work with the releases of other bands and "pretty well-known performers".

Vladimir: I am a sound engineer, producer and PR-mercenary. Unfortunately, my work in PR is an inside information, but some of its elements you can see on my VKontakte page. In particular, the publication about Infected Swarm on Metalsucks is my "third hand", in a certain sense. Everything else you can see on the pages of my studio Blastbear Sound in the social networks.

Being a big fan of black metal, have you thought of making a side project like Epoch Crysis for instance?

Vladimir: It already exists. It’s named Voivotus, which means "yell" in my native language. Listen to it and maybe you will feel uncomfortable. If it’s so, it turns out that we have succeeded with this music.

Interviewed by Yuri Somov and Anastezia
Translated from Russian by Anastezia
The photo is supplied by the band
Second To Sun: Facebook, VKontakte, Bandcamp