Interview: Tuomas Saukkonen of Dawn of Solace / Wolfheart

Dawn of Solace are gearing up to release their brand new album Waves. Their first album in 13 years, the project has been the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and Wolfheart frontman Tuomas Saukonnen and has garnered high praise. A few days ago, prior to the release of the new single “Ashes”, our senior editor got the opportunity to catch up with Tuomas and discuss the new album, the upcoming touring plans and his thoughts on the music scene.

It’s been 13 years since the last album. What do you think the main differences are between now and when The Darkness was released?

It has been a long time. Everything is different this time around. The production, the music and the overall understanding of the music is different as I’ve got 13 years older. I’ve written more than 10 albums between these Dawn of Solace albums and I’ve learn a lot of things as well. The only thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the reason to write this kind of music. I didn’t want to rewrite the first album though and the music that came out this time is different. I started with a clean slate, but the music still sounded like Dawn of Solace to me so I figured it was worth releasing this music under that name instead of making a new project. Things went really bad with the debut album due to the Spanish label and it was the only project which left a bitter taste. I never chose to end this project, it was taken away from me.

How do you feel the response has been to the first single “Lead Wings”?

It went really well. It doesn’t paint the best picture of the whole album, but it was the obvious choice for the first single. It combines a lot of the themes and vibes from the old projects [Before the Dawn, Black Sun Aeon, Dawn of Solace] into one song. It was also the first song I wrote for the album and the one that made me decide to write this album.

You mentioned in our previous interview that there’s guest musicians on the album. Which people did you end up using?

The guest soloist on “Lead Wings” was Danny Tunker who’s played in a lot different bands including Alkaloid, Aborted and others. I met him on the European tour with Nothgard where he was the session player and he’s an awesome guy. I love his playing and positive energy and he was someone I wanted to feature on the album. He also features on the second single “Ashes” which is cool.

Jukka Salovaara also features on the album and played some solos on the debut album. I really wanted him to feature on this one as well to close the circle. He’s not only a great guitarist but a great person as well. Lars Eikand also does guest vocals on a song which ended up sounding like a Before the Dawn song. That was not intentional, but I do love that band and feel really good about that song. He sounded amazing on the track and he’ll be joining us for the live festival performance in Finland. It’s nice to be working with people from the past, even though the new album is very different and has a different vocalist.

Humour me with this, why did you choose Dawn of Solace instead of Black Sun Aeon?

That is a fair question and I did think about that. That would have kind of made more sense, but I’m an artist and don’t feel the need to make sense [laughs]. When Before the Dawn died, it made no sense for Black Sun Aeon to continue as it was a solo project. The direction that band was going made up part of the blackened melodic death metal sound of Wolfheart instead of being a pure melancholic style that was Dawn of Solace. Like I mentioned, Dawn of Solace was the only band that left a bitter taste as I wanted to continue it but had lots of Spanish legal issues. At that time, I didn’t have enough money or know any Spanish speaking lawyers which felt really shitty to me. It is a fair question and I do understand that it might feel a bit confusing as it’s a different band that sounds like a lot of different bands and has a different singer.

If you look at the direction where Wolfheart has been going though, I started to have this void of this kind of melancholic music. I’ve always been writing both this stuff and melodic death metal and I think I needed to make this album. The combination of what Dawn of Solace is now and the new album, that is the price the listener has to pay if they get confused. For the first time ever, I get to see and feel a future for this band instead of having it all taken away from me. It feels really good and I kind of needed that as Wolfheart is a lot more work than just being an artist. At the moment, I spend more time talking to booking agents, labels and management than playing guitar with Wolfheart. My balance needed to have time where I went into the studio, sometimes with no ideas, and have everything come from the direction of music. That explains why it’s a rich blend of all my projects. There was no real plan for it to sound like that, it was just writing music I wanted to hear myself.

This is also the first interview for the album and I’ve not had that long of a break between doing things. Up until this point, I’ve never had to think of a reason as to why I created this so it’s been cool to think about that. Most of all, I just needed to make that album full of that music. It was music that had to be made.

Have you got a new guitar yet, or are you still using your Routa from Amfisound?

I’m using that currently, but I just got the pictures for my new guitar as they’ve started to work on the wood for it. I should have that before the upcoming US tour. It’s coming from another small Finnish guitar shop which specialises in baritone guitars and will be one in a million. I’m very excited to get that one and it’s not going to be Randy Rhoads style, but explorer style. Baritone explorer with a lundgren pickup and .75″ longer scale length. It’s going to be quite a minimalistic look but be really badass and well customised for my needs.

You’ll also be re-releasing The Darkness as well.

As far as I know it is! It’s already online and I’ve got a few boxes of the first print left since it was a license deal and I did Scandinavia myself. I’m not sure how they’re going to do the reprint of it, but I’m hoping there will be a vinyl release of it. There’ll be a vinyl of the new album though. I guess the label wants to see how it goes as it’s been 13 years since anything happened. The album came out the same year Facebook came out. That was Myspace age which wasn’t that great and leaves a bit of a grey area for the label as there was no internet presence. I’m grateful to the label for taking the chance on this though, and hopefully it will do well. The thing that’s surprised me is that people have still been waiting for the new album. Music is more of a disposable thing and to have people remember the release all this time later was really nice. The indigogo I’m running is for the fans and allows me to do the flexible pre-orders and bonus material. It allows me to balance the financial situation and it’s not paying for the album as that’s all paid for. I’m grateful to Noble Demon for allowing me to do this as it enables me to have a greater connection with the fans. I would love them to come help me when it comes to sending the stuff as that’s going to be a really busy time for me!

Tuomas Saukkonen (c) Katie Frost

What’s the live lineup going to be like for Dawn of Solace?

I’m most likely going to be playing the drums and I’m not doing any vocals. It really sucks to do the vocals as well as drumming. Naturally, Mikko is doing the vocals so I don’t have to do them and Danny [Tunker] is going to be doing the solo guitar. I’m still thinking about the bass player but there is going to be one. I amused myself recently as I had some really good drummers saying that they were willing to play drums and I could arrange it and have it so that I don’t play at all in the band. Mikko’s voice cannot be replaced but everything else can. I don’t know if that would be even more confusing for the audience! It will Black Sun Aeon-ish for the lineup as it was Mikko on vocals and guitar with me on drums.

Briefly touching on the other band, you’ve got the Devastation on the Nation tour coming up. Are you looking forward to that?

I am, yes. We put a lot of work into North America last year with the two tours we did and we want to keep the momentum going there. It’s not that we don’t like touring Europe and the UK, it just takes a lot more work to get stuff done in the US. It wouldn’t make sense for us to leave things hanging so we’re keeping it as a priority to keep coming back and touring there. We’ll be focusing on the areas which we opened the doors with on the previous cycle, so there’ll be a lot of touring around the world. We’re not really in the position to take breaks in touring and we don’t really want to at the moment.

If you had to pick your favourite album you’ve written between The Darkness and Waves, which one would you pick?

I would say the debut album of Black Sun Aeon. If you think about it, that opened up quite a few doors which led to this point. It was when I started to work with Mikko, found a bit more of own sound where I used Baritone guitars. A lot of elements from that album that exist now as well. That was an album where I also just went to the studio and wrote it there with no plan other than to do the music. It also relieved a lot of stress that the Dawn of Solace issues caused.

What do you want to see less of in the music scene?

That is a good question. Whatever I say is probably going to be like picking a fight with a windmill as nothing will change anyway. As much as the music industry is shitty, all the good and bad parts belong in there and they need to be there. Where things are changing at the moment, is with the upcoming bands. I wish they would be more patient and take the time to craft their music. These days, there is so many social media channels which Dawn of Solace didn’t have back in the day. A lot of bands cut too many corners and get their music out which is not good. I would like bands to invest more time, money and effort on their product. Because of the ever-growing gap between bands and labels, you need to reach a certain standard on things such as the production, the music and the visuals.

People are less likely to want to check out new music if it doesn’t sound good, just a lyric video is released or not a lot of information as there’s always Amon Amarth and others out there. What in my opinion are “demo bands” are becoming “releasing bands” and running before they can walk. That’s caused the rise of a part of the industry which sells a prefabricated promotional package for a certain amount of money. There’s some bands paying loads of money to open for big bands, only to be playing 5 mins after the doors open to 20 people and having no merch to sell. The way things are going, there’s a lot of vultures that are coming in to rip off the rest of the money the band has. So, to summarise, a little more patience is needed.

I don’t enjoy being on social media anymore as well. I have to be on there for my bands but the platforms have just become bigger and bigger. Everything is available super easy and it increases the urge to cut corners and just get the music out there. I understand the urge to do that, but you’re just shooting yourself in the face with a shotgun. Also, people are not focusing on new music really anymore. Everything has to be one click away and it has to convince you in 5 seconds or you’ll click away. It’s really hard to keep people interested these days because no-one really stops to listen to anything new these days. Everything is drifting further apart from each other. The music writers from the labels and the listeners from the music. It puts new bands in a really tough situation.

What is a Finnish phrase that would describe you?

The one I mentioned the first time we spoke kind of still rings true. There is a better one which is written by one of my favourite Finnish speaking bands which roughly translates to: “We always get it done, what has been decided. Even if the rope is too low or too thick.” It’s based on this suicide that this one guy did where his roof was too low and he had to bend his legs up so that he could hang himself. That’s indicative of the stubbornness and determination of the Finnish people.

If you had to pick one album released last year that you really enjoyed, which would you pick?

I would always recommend Insomnium to anybody. I was writing this album last year so half the year so I didn’t listen to any new music then but I always recommend them. They make really good music and I hope that we can tour together again.

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