Interview with Mikko Myllykangas (Antipope vocals, guitar, bass (live), songwriting).
- Hi Antipope! What’s the meaning of your band’s title? What’s the origin of that name? Have you changed the band’s name before?
Mikko Myllykangas: Hello Metal Militia and everyone reading! In 2004, when we were starting the band project that turned out the become Antipope, we were just playing around with some name ideas when out of nowhere the name ‘Antipope’ came up. Initially, we thought it was good name as it is easy to understand (or, misunderstand, as we soon found out), it has multiple interpretations, and it’s also somewhat humorous.
Like I said, our band name is often misunderstood as something “satanic” or purely black metal thing. I think it’s best explained by comparing ‘Antipope’ to such concepts as ‘antimatter’ or ‘antigravity’, you know, an absence of something rather than some opposing entity. And in the case of Antipope, it’s the absence of ideological or religious authority. But it’s not about ‘anything goes’, either. When you have no one to tell you what to do, there’s a huge responsibility that you must carry, or everything goes to shit.
- Please list the name, age, school, and respective instrument of each band member.
Well, we’re all past our 30th birthday. The band consists of me [Mikko], and I play bass and do lead vocals on our gigs, and play guitar stuff in studio. Another guitarist is Antti, and our drummer goes by the name Tuska E. I’m not sure what you mean by “school”, but I guess you’re not interested in our educational background.
- What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?
Recently, someone came up with a definition of Antipope as ‘extreme progressive metal’. I kind of like that as it leaves room for interpretation but it still gives you general idea of what our music is like. However, one of the things that we had in mind when we started was that we didn’t want to confine ourselves within the boundaries of any particular genre. Broadly speaking, Antipope was going to be metal and somewhat extreme.
Our main influences come from heavy metal, from the likes of Iron Maiden and Manowar. But those are the bands we used to listen to when we were kids, so whatever their influence has been is buried pretty deep under more recent stuff. Interesting extreme metal bands such as Cradle of Filth, Akercocke, Rotting Christ, as well as more electronic acts like Nine Inch Nails and Puscifer all inspire what we do. But there’s also a couple of more pop kind of acts that have given an idea or two to develop our music.
- How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
Me and Antti have known each other since 1990s, as we’re from the same small town. Our drummer Tuska E. joined the band in 2008, after our original drummer and my friend Jyri had died due to a heart condition.
- When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?
Antipope is pretty much my creation even though the original line-up was playing together even before Antipope was started. As I have always been the principal songwriter in bands in which I have played, it was quite natural that after I got interested in starting to write more extreme stuff we formed a new project around it. Before, we used to play more technical progressive stuff, but as back in the 1990s we had a black metal band called “Tuska” in our home town, I wanted to re-explore that style of music and see if it had anything to offer me. For a while, our music was pretty exclusive ‘progressive black metal’, but after a couple of years, few gigs and EPs, I felt that I wanted to explore other styles of music and black metal became just one of many different styles of metal and other kinds of rock music that were incorporated in what I wrote. I think our latest album, Denial/Survival, presents our unique style of combining different influences in a quite well interwoven form.
- Are you a member of any music organizations?
- What can you tell me about your instruments? (i.e., Are you subject to brand loyalty or will you play with whatever’s available? What made you choose the instruments you have now? Was it cost or was it a style/model/brand/color preference?
While I work in studio, my main guitar is a Dean Zero, a Dave Mustaine signature. I really love working with that guitar, it stays in tune really well, and as it’s all mahogany guitar, it’s natural tone handles well my rather aggressive picking style. Zero is my second Dean guitar, as I already had white V79, with Seymour Duncan ‘Invader’ pickups that I put in. I like that guitar too, but as it’s on shorter scale, and as I prefer 25.5’’ scale for our drop-C tuning, I started to look for a Dean guitar with longer scale. That’s how I came across with Zero, and as it sounded (and looked) like something I was looking for, I bought it.
My third and oldest guitar is a black Japan-made Ibanez RG505. It actually has the 20th anniversary this year. I changed the factory pickups to DiMarzio Evolutions back in 2000 as I was looking for the Steve Vai tone back then. Even though it’s an old guitar already, it has really nice tone and ease of playing. I actually used it on our latest album to give some flavor to some of the leads, as I wanted the album to have more nuances in guitar tone.
My bass guitar is a bubinga Warwick Corvette. It’s the most beautiful instrument that I have. It has a natural finish, so you can see the texture of body wood. It’s a really nice bass guitar, and even though I’m not a bass player primarily, I really like playing it on our gigs, as I have been the live bass player of Antipope since 2012.
While selecting instruments, obviously the price sets some limitations. But other than that, I have a pretty good idea of what kind of sound I’m looking for, and that’s the main thing that governs my decisions.
- Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
We have played mostly in our home town Oulu and Helsinki, the capital of Finland. We have also played few shows here and there as well as some festival appearances. As we have almost exclusively played small club/bar gigs so far, I really don’t have a favorite venue so far, more like places that I hate least to play in.
Currently, we don’t have any upcoming shows, as we first need to update our line up so that we can actually play live. Right now, we have only three members as our longtime guitarist Juho left the band a year ago while we were finalizing our latest album.
- Which songs do you perform most frequently? Do you ever play any covers? Do you have a set play list?
We mostly play tracks from our past two albums, “House of Harlot” and “3 Eyes of Time”. My personal favorites from those albums are the title tracks ‘House of Harlot’, a doom-sludge piece ‘Waratah’, and from 3 Eyes of Time album ‘River Standing Still’, and ‘Exposure’. Those two have a great energy to get the gig going. We usually play one or two covers as part of our set list. We have played quite many different covers through the years. I think we have played ‘The Evil That Men Do” and “Powerslave” by Iron Maiden, “Army of Immortals” and “Metal Warriors” by Manowar, “Kärleken Väntar” by Kent, “Sin City” by AC/DC, and “Irresponsible Hateanthem” by Marilyn Manson.
- Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Do you think these topics will change over time?
I do almost all of the writing, but there has also been few collaborations in the past, so it’s not exclusive.
The topics of our songs do change over time and they have done so. Back in our demo days, songs were more in line with kind of fantasy/occult black metal style of music. But more recently the song lyrics have revolved around things that I find interesting and meaningful in life in general. Discovering who you really area is big process I think, and that’s something that has been the focus of past two records.
- Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
Sure. I always start with the music. Sometimes, not often, I have a general idea of what kind of song I’d like to write next. Usually I just play around with guitar, try different things and then suddenly something emerges that becomes a part of a song. Then I just work around that. After the music is finished I start work on the lyrics. It begins with a stream of consciousness thing, by which I usually come up with the first line of the lyrics. If it makes any sense to me, then I continue writing from there onwards. Very very rarely do I have an idea for songlyrics beforehand. I like to write lyrics last, so I can have a fresh take on the music once more and express something in words that the music presents on emotional level.
- What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
We have a set day, more or less. We practice as a band once a week, and every practices their stuff by themselves as much as they need to.
- How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Immensely! When you listen to our demo stuff and compare it to what we have done on our past few albums, I think you barely recognize the band. I think stylistically we are in very different place and also technically we have evolved quite a lot.
- What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
When our original drummer Jyri died unexpectedly in 2008 we really had to ask ourselves how are we going to deal with this as a band. We chose to keep on going, obviously, but it also was the first time that we actually had to start looking for a new member to keep things moving forward and not falling apart. Eventually, we found our current drummer, who after a while, moved to another part of the country. That has been a challenge too to overcome.
I think, in the long term, our biggest challenge is to get more exposure for our music. The reception of our 3 latest albums has been very positive, but only few people know about us or listen to our music. Maybe because we don’t fit very easily to any specific metal sub-category, labels have not shown much interest in our music. Luckily, we do this for the love of writing and producing our own music as well as enjoying playing together, so we’re not put down by having very little exposure. In fact, it gives us freedom to do whatever we like and not worry about how will our next album be received.
- What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
Like I just said, we’re motivated by being able to write music and play together. It would be nice to get our music and band to such level that it would be self-sustaining, so that record sales would cover album-pressing costs, for example. But that’s pretty much everything I could hope for.
I’m not doing this for to fame nor fortune. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many people listen to our music as long as we like to write music and play as a band. Having too high expectations is a sure way to kill motivation and end up selling your equipment in frustration.
- What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?
First of all, be honest with yourself about what do you want as a musician and as a band. Do you want to make music just for the joy of it, or do you want the fame and fortune? If you want the latter, then you need to realize that there are all kinds of rules in the game that you have to follow, and you have to be very lucky.
- How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?
We have pretty good digital distribution going on. Those who have access to Spotify can listen to our albums there. Also all major digital music stores have our albums. Also, at antipope.bandcamp.com you can listen to our music and also support us by buying albums if you feel like it.
- Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for offering financial or emotional support?
We have received massive support from our friends and families, who have helped us in organizing gigs, designing cover artwork, and all that kind of stuff.
- Any last words?
If you haven’t listened to our latest album “Denial/Survival”, make sure to do so now and go check it out on Spotify or head to our Bandcamp site antipope.bandcamp.com. It’s really worth checking out, and it has already been included on “best progressive black metal albums of 2017” lists. So check it out!