December 13, 2018 Interview – Jasse Von Hast Talks Tomb of Finland & Charon
There must be something in the Baltic Sea surrounding Finland, because it has become a breeding ground for Heavy Metal and Rock bands through the years. From the flourishing underground scene to the mass international success of artists such as Nightwish and Apocalyptica, Finland has certainly left a mark on Rock-n-Roll. A part of it for most of his life, Jasse Von Hast spent over a decade as the guitarist for the popular Gothic Metal outfit Charon before exiting in 2003.
Remaining active in music for the decade thereafter, Von Hast would conjured a new band around 2009 that he called Tomb of Finland. A melodic Death-Doom/Black Metal project years in the making, they would go on to release their debut album, Below the Green, in 2015 and, most recently, Frozen Beneath this past September. With a lot of Metal left in him, Von Hast took the time to talk his experience with music, his time in Charon, the story behind Tomb of Finland, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in Rock/Metal for over twenty-five years now, from your time with Charon to your time with Tomb of Finland. First, tell us, what has a career in music been like?
Jasse Von Hast – I could say it has been very colorful, there’s been both interesting times and bad moments. All musical and non-musical things have changed a lot from early ’90s when I stepped into this. It’s hard to stay in touch with all the things changing constantly.
Cryptic Rock – A lot has certainly changed in music over the years, as well as the rest of the world. You spent over a decade in Charon, and in that time were a key part of four studio records. Charon had their share of success with the Gothic Metal scene. What was your time in Charon like?
Jasse Von Hast – Yeah, it was a 13 year period of musical grow-up. I would say it was a good school for music business and everything between rehearsal place and stage.
Lot’s of good memories from first 3-4 years (1992-1995) when we had rehearsals 2-3 times in a week. That was the time when we played Death Metal. We usually started rehearsals at 10 AM on weekends, when our friends were just laying home hungover. We liked to play and it did good for developing our musical skills. Those first years were somehow a very interesting time. We played gigs in small events with 5-6 other bands and released demos. When got a record deal, it was a big thing to us. We were very happy about that. Of course I feel also some pride about all musical goals and other things what we scored later when we released 5 albums. Charon did a lot of gigs at good venues, met masses of nice fans, etc. So, of course I liked to be part of that all.
Cryptic Rock – A lot of great music came out of it as well. You have proven to be diverse through the years outside Charon from your work with Wolfheart to Tomb of Finland, which is more a Melodic Death Metal band. Interestingly, the history of Tomb of Finland goes back nearly a decade, but the band did not release a proper LP until 2015. All that in mind, what inspired this project?
Jasse Von Hast – After I left Charon, I had a small demo project, but nothing really serious. I studied and graduated from a studio technician school in 2009. Some Death Metal demo songs were recorded in school studios in 2007, but I didn’t have the passion to finalize them, time was not right. I simply didn’t have the time to write, listen, or even play anything by myself. All my time went with school work in studios. Maybe I had minor writer’s block too. In the fall of 2009, few months after graduating, I stopped and thought. I had too much of some kind of “writer’s pressure” in my mind and so I started to play guitar again. It just felt right to start writing some new music.
The thought about a melodic Death-Doom/Black Metal project was very clear in my mind. I decided to take a step back to my roots and started to write with passion. Seeds of Tomb Of Finland were buried to frozen soil. I didn’t have any big plans, I just wrote and recorded some demo songs in my home studio. Later in 2010-2011, this project grew up to a three member band and that was the final kick to my ass to make this band serious. It still took a few years to get the debut album finalized. It’s true, Below the Green was released six years after the first written Tomb Of Finland note.
Cryptic Rock – It is interesting to hear how it all came together. The band’s aforementioned debut album, 2015’s Below the Green, was received well. Now you returned this past September with Frozen Beneath. What was the writing and recording process like this time around?
Jasse Von Hast – I started to write Frozen Beneath somewhere in 2015. I had recorded some raw song demos even before the debut release. We had to change our lineup for logistical reasons in 2015 and once again in 2016. I started to write more new material with Mikko (guitar) and we recorded first demos with a new drummer in the fall of 2016. Biggest difference between debut and latest album is that we had more composers and arrangers. When we composed the debut, there was just me and Antti. I sent demos to him and he replied with some arranging ideas. Now we had whole band gathered at our rehearsal place as a band camp to arrange songs.
We decided to invest more for production. So we asked Finnish Master Producer Hiili Hiilesmaa (producer of HIM, Apocalyptica, Amorphis, Sentenced, Swallow of the sun etc.) to produce the album. He liked our material and we did a deal about cooperation. First he recorded the drums in his local studio. Then I took my own studio gear with me and recorded all other stuff in our rehearsal place in small parts. There used to be a studio in our rehearsal place before us and therefore acoustics and everything is built for recording. After all recording was done, Hiili mixed and mastered the whole album in his own studio.
Cryptic Rock – It all came out well in the end! This new record has a new cast of members featured a part of Tomb of Finland. What was it like working with this lineup, and how is the chemistry?
Jasse Von Hast – We have very good team spirit with this lineup. I really feel that this will be more stable than earlier lineups. Every member does their best for the band and the overall atmosphere has been great!
Cryptic Rock – That is good to hear. Frozen Beneath is a very strong album with a very heavy, yet always melodic sound. That said, there is also a cold atmosphere to the music. How would you describe a Finnish winter? One would imagine the long, cold winters inspire your sound, yes?
Jasse Von Hast – I love winter, even when global climate change has turned winters here warmer and shitty. Frost, snow and darkness – those are poison to some people, but I like it all. When you have 16 to 20 hours of darkness in a day, it makes you depressed or inspired. I’m one of those who get inspired. I am a nature photographer too, so I like to spend a lot of time in nature with my cameras. Things I have seen there has influenced me in song writing. We have a lot of nature influences in our music and album cover artwork. It’s not only winter, I see death in nature somehow beautiful. That feeling and beauty can be found in my melodies.
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely! Some would say there is beauty to be found in darkness as well. The band has been playing shows around Finland in support of the new record. Can fans expect you to travel outside your homeland for future shows?
Jasse Von Hast – Yes, we have planned to make shows outside Finland too, but nothing confirmed yet. We are still a quite unknown band, so there are various challenges to win before touring outside of Finland is possible. We hope the next year we’ll break that line.
Cryptic Rock – Speaking of expanding outside the Finland region, Charon had their success in various European markets, but the band never made it to North America during their active period. Was it ever considered for the band to break into the North American market, and do you think Tomb of Finland could perhaps find a way into the market?
Jasse Von Hast – Many Finnish bands have been dreaming about touring North America and had success, so have I. There are big markets and almost unlimited area to do. Ideas got declined because costs, logistical challenges, and paperwork are too heavy for most of the bands. Support from label and local management are necessary to arrange a good tour there.
Maybe we discussed at least inside of the band about touring with Charon in North America, but it was not seriously planned because of all the challenges. If possible, of course Tomb Of Finland would like to tour there. First we need to get a deal with some local management.
Cryptic Rock – It would be great to see the band expand abroad. Seeing you have been doing this as long as you have, what are some of your influences as a guitarist?
Jasse Von Hast – There are lots of them, but maybe these have been most important to me: Al Di Meola (coming from Classic music genre), Adrian Smith and Dave Murray (Iron Maiden, UK), Chuck Schuldiner and James Murphy (Death, US).
Cryptic Rock – That is a good mix of influences! Believe it not, 2019 is right around the corner. What do you and Tomb of Finland have planned for the forthcoming year?
Jasse Von Hast – More gigs, overall bustling in the Metal scene, and planning for the next release. We are going to record the first 4-6 new song demos in December-January.
Cryptic Rock – Well, it will be exciting to see where the band goes in 2019. Last question. On Cryptic Rock, we also cover movies, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. If you are a fan of these genres, what are some of your favorites?
Jasse Von Hast – I am a big fan of all classic ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s Horror movies! I have a lot of DVDs in my collection. The most famous are The Evil Dead (1981), George A. Romero’s zombie movies, Italian Lucio Fulci’s movies, etc…