Speculum is a five-piece death/thrash metal group from Southern Ostrobothnia, Finland. The lineup consists of Ilmari Kamila (vocals), Santtu Muhonen (drums), Juuso Kiiala (bass), Veli-Jussi Korpela (guitar, backing vocals), and Marko Rokala (guitar, vocals). Although still a demo band, it has two band competition victories and shows with more-or-less famous Finnish acts under its belt. Ville chatted with the boys before their gig as the opener for Carnalation at Bar 15 in Seinäjoki.
For starters, could you tell us about the history of the band? How did it all begin?
Santtu: The band was started at Sedu (Kurikka). We put the band together during music classes, and then the gang gathered there, little by little.
Marko: Yeah, the gang has changed in between. We’ve had people coming in, some have left the band and so on. The lineup has changed, but it was at Sedu during the music classes that this thing got started.
Ilmari: Wasn’t Santtu the first…
Santtu: Yeah, I’m the only remaining founding member at the moment.
Who came up with the band name and where does it come from?
Santtu: [laughter] This is a great story!
Marko: It was me who came up with the band name. I was flipping through dictionaries looking for words in different languages: English, Norwegian, Latin, and whatnot… I found the Latin word “speculum,” which refers to a mirror. Afterwards we heard that it also means something else: it’s a gynecologist’s tool! [laughs]
Juuso: A so-called vaginal probe.
Ilmari: You shove it up a woman’s vagina and spread it with it, so that you can explore better.
Marko: Speculum spreads goodness! [laughs] Indeed it was good that we found out after the band name had become established.
Ilmari: There was discussion that the band’s name – should be changed, but I objected to it, because…
Veli-Jussi: Shock value!
Ilmari: Yes – shock value, and because Speculum spreads goodness. We are messengers of goodness. [laughter]
Let’s talk about your style then. You play death/thrash metal. Who are your influences?
Marko: Personally, I’ve listed Stam1na, Mokoma, Arch Enemy, and Death as my influences. Those probably the most influential bands. Anyone else have something?
Santtu: Hard to say, since you write all the songs.
Marko: Yeah, but on your own playing…
Santtu: Well, with regard to my own playing, I can say that of course Stam1na is one. I try to be a jazzy drummer and bring in a certain kind of groove. Djent, Meshuggah… usually this kind of stuff influences my playing, but it doesn’t really get to the foreground in Speculum.
Ilmari: My vocal style has mainly been influenced by Slipknot and Dimmu Borgir. Then of course I’ve taken influence from myself. [laughter]
Santtu: Selfish bastard!
We partially heard the answer to the next question there: What is your songwriting process like and who participates in it?
Santtu: The songwriting process goes like this: Marko pretty much makes the core – guitars and all – and it’s brought to the rehearsals and everyone breaks it down. You take your own part and make it sound like yourself. That’s the way it starts, really.
Marko: I always make the framework at home by myself on Guitar Pro. Then I play it to the band. I’ve always said that everyone can change their own parts as they like, but there’s not always need for that. We listen what sounds the best and we’ve decided on changes pretty democratically. If some change is coming, we’ll discuss whether it’s better or worse than the original.
So you have one composer “genius” in charge of the songs?
Marko: Up until now, I’ve always been in charge of all of them, but if someone else writes songs, I’ll receive them with open arms.
What do your lyrics deal with and what are they inspired by?
Marko: The lyrics are actually written by my sister, for the most part. I’ve written two songs myself, “Land of the Graves” and “My Last Breath.” But all the others have been penned by my sis. She writes lyrics for her own amusement and she doesn’t have any use for them, so we can always snatch them for utilization. The themes vary based on what fits each song’s feel.
Shameless exploitation! [laughter] If you had to pick one song that embodies the essence of Speculum, what would it be?
Santtu: This is hard, but I’d name two songs, the latest ones, ”Words You Say” and ”Dead End.” Probably those…
Marko: In a way “Land of the Graves” still ranks high for me. After all, it’s the first song we wrote. I think it somehow summarizes what we do. But this is a tough one, I can’t really say anything!
Ilmari: I’d say it’s precisely “Land of the Graves” and “Dead End.” Both have their own style, but also some basic elements.
Let’s go back in time: What memories do you have of your first gig?
Santtu: First gig…
Veli-Jussi: No, it’s not! School…
Santtu: Well yeah, but it wasn’t really a gig.
Veli-Jussi: There was an audience…
Santtu: Yeah there was, but it was this kind of Christmas celebration where we played.
Marko: It was like a rehearsal show.
Santtu: It was, but SAKUstars was the first proper show.
Marko: It went well – we won the whole fucking thing! [laughs]
Santtu: Yes, we got gold in the band portion.
Veli-Jussi: And Ilmari got gold for reciting poetry. [laughter]
Ilmari: I accidentally participated in a poetry recital contest. I won it without rehearsing at all.
Ilmari: Accidentally, to put it modestly.
Then back to the present: How did you end up opening for Carnalation?
I got a phone call from Jonne (Soidinaho). He asked what kind of situation we had in September. He’d probably got my phone number through Louhimo. That’s how I’ve understood it; I’m not sure at all. But it was directly by phone.
You’ve also opened for Lost Society in the past. What was that experience like?
Marko: That was a great show. At least I enjoyed it.
Santtu: Yes, it was a very memorable gig!
Marko: And it was the first time that we got to play on the big stage at Rytmikorjaamo (Seinäjoki). And also the first time that we got to support a bigger band. We got to be in the same backstage as them and so on, to chat a little. It was a great experience!
Santtu: There were people only in the front row, but it was a still an absolutely great show.
Marko: There was a front row’s worth of audience, and two people were on board with us. [laughs] The rest looked bored waiting for Lost Society, but we had a good time!
Have you had any unforgettable experiences along the way?
Marko: In a way at least that Lost Society show is one that has stayed in my mind.
Santtu: Yeah, I’d mention the Lost Society show and rehearsals in general. They’ve always been so relaxed that I’ve never had to leave with a grim look on my face, as if I would’ve had a score to settle or something. On a general level, nothing special comes to mind.
Juuso: Neither here. It’s always fun to come to the rehearsals, and as Santtu said, you never have to leave grimly. Usually we’ve been cracking up throughout the evening.
Marko: At the stupidest things! [laughs]
Ilmari: I’ve got something: We were supporting PKN.
Santtu: Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, yes!
Marko: Tammirock, that was neat!
Santtu: It certainly was… The lower cymbal on my hi-hat turned upside down, the pedals detached from the bass drum and whatnot… but otherwise it was pretty cool!
Marko: Yeah, the mood was great all night long. It was probably the best audience we’ve ever had, and Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät was an awesome bunch. I spent the whole night sitting backstage talking to them. That was a great group!
Ilmari: If there’s one band that you can perceive this kind of true punk spirit from, it’s them. It’s such pure punk!
Is there a certain band that you dream of opening for?
Marko: Well, for me it’d probably be Stam1na, because it’s my personal favorite band from way back. I found that band in the seventh grade and since then it’s been my absolute #1. Stam1na or Mokoma could be pretty awesome!
Santtu: I think it could be some big Finnish group. Stam1na, Mokoma, Rytmihäiriö… something like that.
Marko: It would also be cool to support some truly big foreign name. If we got to open for Slayer… [laughs]
Santtu: Yeah, supporting Slayer!
Marko: That’s the next aim – at the next show, then!
As touched upon earlier, you’ve won two band competitions (SAKUstars 2013, Marrasrock 2013). Is this flattering or do you care about others’ opinions?
Santtu: Well, of course it’s neat, having participated and won two band contests. We have a 100% win margin! But seriously, it’s awesome as hell to notice that your music appeals to others. It does feel flattering.
Marko: Yeah, especially from the songwriter’s perspective. It’s a great feeling to notice that I’ve written songs that people like enough so that we’ve won these contests. It is flattering!
Have any record labels been in contact with you yet?
Marko: No, nothing like that… there haven’t been any phone calls.
Santtu: Maybe tomorrow… nah, I guess it’ll start with us contacting them at some point.
I heard you have something special in store for tonight. What is it?
Marko: Yeah, we had this little vocalist episode… Just a few days ago we learned that our permanent vocalist, Ilmari, would get to be here. We’d been rehearsing for at least a month or so with a fill-in vocalist. It wasn’t confirmed until today that Ilmari truly is present. We decided to play with two vocalists: Ilmari will do a few songs and Eerik (Latvala) will do a few songs. Eerik hasn’t been rehearsing in vain!
Are there any plans for the rest of the year – gigs or a new demo?
Marko: Well, at least we have Club Louhimo Fest. We’ve taken part in that; we’re going there to play. It’s on the 28th of October.
Santtu: Yeah, and we were planning on re-recording our demos by next summer, if possible.
Marko: Yeah, that’s only been in the talks. We should start planning it.
Santtu: We’ve been planning a little bit, with a jännäkakka [emergency dump] mentality.
Marko: Good choice of words! [laughs]
Santtu: Yes, thank you!
Anything to add or any last words for readers?
Marko: Speculum spreads goodness!
Santtu: That’s a good way to end, yes!
Marko: It doesn’t really mean anything at all, but that’s exactly why it’s so good. A little cryptic. Make of that what you will! (laughs)
Thanks for the interview and good luck with the show!