Interview: Tuomas Saukkonen of Wolfheart

A couple of days ago, I got the opportunity to chat with the frontman of Finnish winter metallers Wolfheart. Having been a fan of his music for a long time, this was nothing short of a dream come true for me. We chatted, amongst other things, about the upcoming release and his unique Amfisound guitar. Read on for all the details…

How’s the tour been so far?

It’s been really good so far. There were small issues yesterday but that happens when you have a lot of gigs in a row. There’s been a lot of sold out shows and it’s really nice to have a tour where everyone’s Finnish. Everyone knows each other as well so it’s been good fun.

Shadow World was released back in 2015. How do you feel the response was to it?

It’s been really good. It was the first album released by a real label as the first release was self-released and then licensed to Spinefarm. A lot of good things were happening as the label was promoting it and it was able to release the album to more people. It was the first album where there was a band in the studio, which enabled there to be more diversity to the music. Joonas our drummer can play twice as fast as me so I was able to write faster parts than before.

Whilst the music was leaning in a bit of a different way than Winterborn, people still appreciated it and the feedback was really good. The media feedback was good as well which is always a different thing.

You’re also gearing up to release [fails pronunciation…] Tyhjyys as well.

[Pronounces it correctly…] Tyhjyys. It’s borderline impossible to pronounce if you aren’t Finnish! It had to be a Finnish word. The direct translation is “emptiness”, but that doesn’t really describe the meaning of the word in Finnish. The word has a much more grim and dark meaning than the English translation.

It was a bit tricky to do “Boneyard” as the single. We have a tradition to do the first single as a live video from the Summerbreeze festival. Because of the video plan and the live show and pyros, we needed to have an aggressive song to support the live video. The new album is also even more varied than Shadow World as well. I wouldn’t be able to pick one song to describe the album as they are all so different. The second single is coming on the 3rd of February which is on the opposite side of the range. The only dark thing is in the lyrics with the songs.

How different would you say Wolfheart’s music is compared to your two previous bands?

What I really loved about Black Sun Aeon was the mood of the instruments and the wall of sound that was present with tuning and layers of guitars. There was a very specific formula on how to make that happen and it didn’t really come by accident. I wanted to use that sound and production for much faster music.

With the last Before the Dawn album, Phoenix Rising, that was the style of music I wanted to do with the production of Black Sun Aeon. When I wrote the song “Throne Of Ice”, that was what I was envisaging Wolfheart to sound like. When folk heard I was putting all the bands down they were really surprised but I’d been planning this for nearly a year so it wasn’t as though I wasn’t doing anything. Coming back to that song though, when I wrote that I wanted Black Sun Aeon to write music like that and that, in my mind, is what Wolfheart is.

Continuing with Before the Dawn, you’re doing a ‘reunion’ show for a festival where you’re playing Deadlight in full. Are you looking forward to that?

I wouldn’t really call it a reunion as it’s just for one gig. There’s this one festival in Finland where the promoter is a huge fan and he’d be asking for a number of years. This was the first time I actually asked the other guys and they were up for it so we’ve agreed to do it. I do miss the songs, not really the band but I do miss the music. I’m looking forward to playing the older songs with the clean vocals from Lars.

Let’s talk a bit about gear. I gather that you use Amfisound guitars…

I do indeed. There was an event in Finland a couple of years ago called Finnish Metal Event. It was like the biggest wintertime indoor metal event in Scandinavia I think. There were bands giving shows and a trade bit that featured guitar manufactures, labels, all that kind of stuff. I was doing a songwriting workshop that I did three years in a row and they came to me after the first one and asked me if I wanted to use one of their guitars. They then made me one custom guitar to try and I really liked it. And then I made the order for the guitar I still play to this day. I only have this one guitar now as all my other ones just didn’t compare. It’s a completely custom guitar, everything is designed 100% for me and the pickups are voiced for me as well.

I have a contract with this Hungarian company, Silverblade, that make really good amps. I don’t know what the status of the company is but they are the best amps I’ve played. I know how easy it is with Kempers and Axe fx’s these days, but I want to turn the dials and use the tube amps. I’ll carry it myself every night if I have to but I love having the tube amps. The amp I use is a 200 Watt head that is designed for a full stack with 100 Watts per cabinet. The cabinets have superb headroom as well. It’s designed for super-low tunings which is what I use.

Coming back to the guitar, I love the Amfisound as it produces the sound I want. I use super-thick strings, .78 and .80 gauge strings. When you get the dynamics right from the strings and guitar it sounds perfect. It’s a semi-hollow guitar as well so that it resonates bigger than a regular guitar. Couple that with the baritone scale and it sounds absolutely huge. I can use it with pretty much any amp and I’ll have my sound. My sound comes from the guitar and my hands mostly and the amp is just the little spice on the top.

Lyrically, what does Wolfheart normally sing about?

There are a lot of personal issues always disguised there or directly! I used to be a bit more careful when I was younger and writing lyrics but I have no barriers now. People don’t really listen to music in a way that they hear what the guy is saying and thinking what the guy is thinking anymore. When I listen to music and I hear like Katatonia, their lyrics are really cool to me, if there’s a lyric that struck me it’s because I can relate to it and not because I’m thinking what they were thinking when they write the lyrics.

In every album, there are songs that I am refusing to play live as they are part of that time and don’t really belong in a live set. I say what I mean in the songs and because it’s part of the song it stays with the songs.

Is there any advice you’d give to a new band?

I think the same advice would apply in the late 90s as it does today. Expect a huge amount of work. It seems a little bit easier as there’s social media and the tools are more available. Everything took a lot longer in the 90s as email wasn’t really working and you had to post things out to people at magazines.

A lot of bands these days, in my opinion, are making the mistake of just posting a video on youtube and then sharing it on facebook and they think it will spread. It won’t and you need to put your own money and a lot of work in to get anywhere. No-one is going to come to the rehearsal room and chuck up on stage at arenas. You need to put the work in.

And Finally, sum up yourself and the band in three words…

Hmmmm, how much time do you have?

[Thinks for a minute…]

I’m only missing one word now, but it’s a key word.

[Thinks for another minute…]

Right, I have two versions, one in Finnish and one in English.

“Finnish, Winter, Solitude.”

That describes both myself and the band rather well. The Finnish version of that:

Tyhjyys is scheduled to be released on the 3rd March via Spinefarm Records.

Live photos by Katie Frost.

Wolfheart: official | facebook | twitter | instagram

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Franck Lubicz
Franck Lubicz
January 26, 2017 4:21 PM

Awesome ! the 3rd… :-D So happy ! This is one of the best band on earth and anywhere ! Keep going Tuomas !