Interview: LOST IN GREY
Title: Breaking out of the silence

Already the album's predecessor, the 2017 debut „The Grey Realms“, surprised not only with sophisticated compositions but also with an appearance that was rich in content and interesting because it was symbolically pregnant.

That the new and second longplayer of the Finns would be so extraordinary was not to be expected in such independence, hermeticism and richness of facets. Lost In Grey present their theatrically opulent, visionary focused Symphonic Metal this time with a true concept story. Literarily classically charged, drama and epic break an adventurously eventful path on „The Waste Land“.

I talk to singer and keyboarder Harri Koskela, who appears on the album as ‚Patrick‘ in the concept story, and to singer Anne Lill, who appears as the fictional ‚Lillian‘.

What is behind the band’s name, when you think deeper about it in terms of 2018’s worldwide miseries and human failure?

Anne: „If ‘grey’ is defined as dismal, gloominess, or such - then from reading the news reports at least I personally get the impression that also in 2018 the world is indeed in a very ‘grey state’. Sometimes it feels that so many things are so awfully wrong, depressing and horrible, and that I am so powerless to do anything about it towards better, that it would be better just to hide and close one’s eyes from it all. However, ‘grey’ can also be all the shades between black and white on a colour scale. Grey is not just ‘lack of colours’, but rather multiple colour options between two ultimates, something between two binaries. So if we are thinking about worldwide misery and human failure as you mentioned, someone stepping towards the grey would perhaps notice that sometimes certain miseries appear more current than others (simultaneously drawing attention from one aspect to another), or that statistically e.g. absolute poverty has reduced and more and more people have access to clean water, and that there are possibilities to work towards a better tomorrow. If we then look at e.g. people’s opinions, attitudes, and such, very often we divide things into “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, “happiness” or “misery” etc. Yet many issues are more complex than this - they cannot be reduced to only two options. Then again having more than two options may feel confusing, and one may get lost in the grey area so to say. But in each era there are certain rules or patterns to just how these opinions are created. Something specific to our time is perhaps digitalization, internet, algorithms etc. In this age it is so very easy to connect with people we agree with, to find information that we ‘feel’ is somehow correct. And at the same time we forget about the complexity of these things, the natural diversity of opinions, and unfortunately also the decent human interaction when there are disagreements. Simultaneously we may forget that we ourselves also build our opinions and beliefs on something - and we do not always acknowledge what precisely that is. With this in mind - since the beginning of Lost In Grey in 2013 and still in 2018, the band name to me resembles a step into seeing more than two options - the shades of grey - an attempt to reflect on the how and why certain thoughts or ideas are created in the mind of the beholder and others. It is not definitely not an easy task, and it is also a continuous process which is never complete. But once one becomes more aware of the shades of grey, it is possible to grow and to find ways to cope with or to fight also the ‘gloomy grey’. Thus I think everyone should get a little bit lost in grey.“

New label, new luck … why did you guys leave NoiseArt?

Harri: „We came to a cross-road where NoiseArt decided not to continue our contract after the debut album. However, we are very grateful for the time with NoiseArt as we learned a lot as a band with the first album release. And what comes to signing with Reaper Entertainment; I feel that we happened to “be in the right place at the right time” so to say, and they approached us with a good proposal. I’m very proud that we happened to be the very first signing of this young and ambitious label. I am certain that our collaboration will be very fruitful, and this far I can say that everything has gone very smoothly and overall the co-operation works perfectly. They share the same kind of ambition and belief in our music that we do, and I think that’s the key element for a good collaboration.“

„The Waste Land“ - how do you feel now, after having finished these new collection of songs finally?

Harri: „First of all, I have to say that I’m really proud of the new album and us as a band. I had an amazing time composing the songs, and everything from composing to the finished record went really smoothly and we had lots of fun doing it. I’m looking forward to unleashing this album to the world. Secondly - to me this kind of theatrical metal should be performed live on stage as well - so we are again very eager to get to play these new songs live.“

Please describe the main musical character of the new release with your very own words!

Harri: „The debut album “The Grey Realms” and the band grew out from being originally a 3-song side-project, and things eventually starting to take its shape and growing into a band and an album. It was a process in many ways. When I started composing this new album, I already had that core or essence in mind - meaning that I was already familiar with the whole theatrical metal aspect with three vocalists and their characters in the story. Therefore this album is to me more coherent and perhaps for the listener a bit easier to digest. Then again ‘a leopard cannot change its spots’, and therefor to those who like complexity and multiple layers in arrangements etc., this album should be equally as interesting and exciting. I feel that “The Waste Land” has something for everyone who loves Metal music.“

What is most important for you guys on the new album?

Harri: „Well, of course the most important thing for me is the journey and adventure that we’ve experienced during the making of this album. It’s always such a pleasure working with such talented musicians and lovely people. We had the utmost pleasure of working with so many great people with the recordings that I’m utterly humbled - not to mention that we finished the album with somewhat record-breaking time - at least in my opinion. Musically speaking, I think the thing that is always important to me with a new record is that I feel that I’ve grown as a composer and a musician. You learn a lot from every song and every album. But to say that most important thing of the album in one word would be; Atmosphere - both on the album and in the making of it.“

Anne: „As much as attention is often put on the end result, e.g the final album, to me the importance is in the journey (be it a cliché). I try to focus on how much the process has given me and what I have learned from it. I feel incredibly lucky for being a member of a band in which I am able to express myself in multiple different ways - I can sing and shout my lungs out, write stories, illustrate the music and lyrical themes with images, the photographs and videos... And on this album I had the chance to be a bit more aggressive too, haha!“

What can Lost In Grey with the new work do for the curious listeners what other genre-bands can’t?

Harri: „Well, for me it’s been the theatrical aspect from the very beginning. I felt the need to bring something new to the whole symphonic metal genre, and we came up with this theatrical metal thing with three (or sometimes more) vocalists and their characters. Of course, we are not alone in this kind of category, but I think we can bring something new to the genre - especially with live shows - which also has been one of the key elements from the beginning of Lost In Grey.“

Anne: „I would describe our past, present and future albums almost like a detective story. Figuratively speaking - first a dead body appears somewhere and then, piece by piece, you start to collect evidence, interview eyewitnesses or other who may have some information, etc. in order to understand what happened - and once you have that you still have to catch the murderer somehow. It’s like putting together a puzzle - on one album you may hear something that does not make much sense, but then suddenly when listening to another song you realize the connection. And in the process, the listeners can perhaps learn something about themselves in their own lives. So I hope that this is perhaps something not so many other bands do.“

Is it allowed to ask about any special musical influences which led to the new songs?

Harri: „As every composer, I too do have a lot of bands and composers that influences my compositions and my music. However, it’s very difficult to name just few. I think the most influences come from film soundtracks like Inception, Interstellar, ‚The Rock‘ and alike. For this album I think there was no specific influences that led to me composing the songs that I did. However, the song “Far Beyond And Further” is musically linked strongly with the movie Interstellar - at least that is how I see it.“

What’s your very own personal view about the ‚spirit' of the new album - and what kind of emotions dominates the new songs?

Anne: „Hmm perhaps every listener may find their own ‘spirit’ to the album. But basically on this album we dive deeper into the themes that lead to the events on our debut album “The Grey Realms”. We also get to know the characters Lillian, Odessa and Patrick better. Emotion-wise there is definitely a lot of anger, despair and frustration on this album, but perhaps also seeds of hope. These emotions mentioned also connect to the title. For example, imagine a situation where you could not say what you wanted to, or perhaps for another reason chose not to speak. Or perhaps no matter how hard you tried, no-one would listen to you. The Waste Land represents a place - be it symbolic or a metaphor, or perhaps a physical space somewhere on the edge of The Grey Realms - where all these silenced emotions are contained. There are all the thoughts and things you wanted to say, but for some reason couldn’t. From the “grey perspective” one could remind that e.g. anger is not only a negative emotion as it can also be channelled into making a change. As an example, anger caused by injustice may become so overwhelming that it suffocates or destroys the person, but alternatively one may find some strength from it in order to fighting that injustice. Therefor from this space of emptiness, something (positive) can develop and grow too.“

Be so kind and bring the main lyrical content of the new tracks a bit closer!

Anne: „I would describe each song as an echo or a whisper of something from the past. Among them are things that Lillian perceived as injustice and wrong, therefore lyrics deal with e.g. greed and oppression. On an intertextual level, e.g. in the first song of “The Grey Realms” the narrator asks Lillian “What did you see, what did you know, what made you retreat, abandon it all”, and on this new album one may find some answers to these questions. Intertextuality is also sometimes present connected to other literature, e.g. on this album I borrow a few lines or ideas from T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land”. Additionally in the “Lost In Grey style” there is usually a dialogue going on between the characters, and things are viewed upon from different perspectives.
However if trying to summarize in just a few sentences the main themes for each song it would maybe look something like this:
“The Waste Land” - It’s about not being able to express thoughts and emotions and/or being ignored by others. The Waste Land represents the place where the silenced thoughts are contained.
“Expectations” - “Expectations” deals with othering, categories and expectations other people force on us, and asks why we cannot just be ourselves (without being labelled or judged).
“Unohdukseen Katoaa” - Hope, or rather false hopes. Lillian and Odessa think for a moment that things could get better, but Patrick reminds that darkness is always lurking around the corner.
“1992” - This song is dedicated to people who have passed away or got lost too young. It’s about how short and fragile life is. On this song we also sing as ourselves, not as the characters.
“Far Beyond and Further” - It’s about exploration and exploitation, greed, how we treat our planet and fellow human beings. It’s also about hope and change - that we could do things differently.
“Wolves Among Men” - This is mainly Patrick’s song, or something from his perspective. For him exploiting and taking advantage of other people is okay or just as natural as eating food.
“Prelude for Emptiness” - Instrumental, improvisation, well - a prelude to the next song.
“Drifting in the Universe” - This song is about the meaninglessness and insignificance of our lives, yet at the same time the beauty of it.“

The songwriting process of Lost In Grey itself, what is to tell about in general - any ups or downs to report?

Harri: „I have a tradition of spending the summers gathering inspiration in nature, e.g. by hiking in Lapland, and I do the composing during winter time. That was the case with this album too. I find the darker time of year a lot more inspirational to work on new music in my “composing-den”, and when I dive into the composing-mode, the songs usually just write themselves, so to say. Some songs take more time to get finished, some may have their final form in a day or two. I’d like to think that there is no “downs” on composing, as every song is a journey of its own and you learn something new every time. I usually just have a lot of fun playing around with ideas and trying to challenge myself in the best ways I can.“

Who wrote the lion’s share of the new songs?

Harri & Anne: „Well it depends on how one looks at it. The musical composing is indeed mostly Harri’s field of work, albeit on each album there is at least one song that we have composed together. Then again Anne Lill is “the boss” of the story and lyrics, and as mentioned, some musical compositions are written based on a pre-existing text that Anne Lill wrote. Further on - Lost In Grey would not be Lost In Grey if not these two key elements - music and words - were present in such a way, and we both were working so hard on building the big picture. We must not forget that all the other band members are doing their thing, musically, supporting and challenging (us), and e.g. Miika Haavisto is creating the cover art, logos etc... Maybe it’s about Lost In Grey being more than the sum of its parts?“

How long was the work in total for all the material?

Harri: „I started composing right after the European tour in December 2017, drums were recorded in the end of March, and the mixing and mastering were done in the beginning of July, so approximately 6 months. However, Anne’s first version for the song “The Waste Land” is from 2014, for “Expectations” from 2015 or 2016, and “1992” is a few years old as well. Additionally the first parts for “Drifting in the Universe” originate in the first demos of Lost In Grey which I played to Anne when we first started this band. So if these are taken into account then the process behind the album is up to five years or so, but of course the actual active working period on the album is not that long.“

What have been the hardest or most difficult passages of the done songwriting-process?

Harri: „I’m not sure if it’s the hardest or most difficult part, but perhaps the most challenging part for me was to compose a couple of songs based on an existing text, which is something I have never tried before. So that was to me a completely new experience, but it was very exciting too - and the songs turned out really great I think! Emotionally the hardest part of the album is the song “1992” as it is based on real-life events close to me. That was one of the songs that Anne wrote lyrics before I started composing - and then when I started composing it, it was a really emotional process for me.“

Anne: „To me the hardest part was to keep up with Harri’s pace as he composed so quickly new material, haha! I’m happy that I had some texts “in storage” so to say, and some songs were composed or arranged based on these pre-existing lyrics - otherwise I would have been in trouble. I do remember the panic when Harri and Emily were already recording e.g. a chorus in our studio, and I am sitting outside, desperately trying to write something for the next verse, and then suddenly I have that “aha!” moment and find the right words, and run to the studio all excited yelling “I got it I got it!” and then we just recorded it. On the previous album we did more demo versions and I had more time for research, discussion and reflection, so this “fast way” was new to me. And obviously at that time I was also in the process of developing the whole Lost In Grey -world, the characters etc. But once that was done I am now also trying to teach myself that songs can also be viewed as a product of a specific moment, and in that sense a text is never ready or complete. It is like a polaroid picture of a moment, a snapshot, and the people and places in the pictures may change and still the image remains the same, or perhaps one can look at the picture in a different way some years later. Additionally the ideas for the song lyrics are seldom products of a particular moment in the sense that I might have been thinking about an issue for years, and then when I listen to Harri’s instrumental compositions, I suddenly realize that specific song should deal with that specific topic, and then the start working from there.“

Please tell a bit about the line-up situation and the chemistry in the band!

Harri: „Good chemistry has been always the number one priority in the band, as I feel that good spirit and chemistry is crucial to be able to stay creative and do what we do. Currently the line-up situation is pretty much the same as before, with the exception that we are now working with session drummers, both in the studio and live. Before we started the recordings of this sophomore album we had to face the fact that Joonas wasn’t able to play drums in the band anymore. However, we are forever thankful for him for the music and journeys we got to share with him. On a very short notice we had the huge privilege of having Waltteri Väyrynen (Paradise Lost, Vallenfyre, Abhorrence) performing on the drums in the studio for this new album, and time will tell how our schedules match and if he’ll be playing some live shows as well. However, future is still unknown regarding the drummer situation, but the one thing certain is that we will keep the train rolling no matter what.“

What drives you guys mainly as an artists to do what you do in Lost In Grey?

Anne: „I guess to me Lost In Grey is an attempt to produce texts (in a wide sense as also e.g. images can be viewed as ‘text’) which are hopefully both entertaining and thought-provoking.“

Harri: „For me it’s the pure need of creating something that will live on after my time is over, that need to leave a mark (beyond my carbon footprint).“

© Markus Eck, 17.12.2018

[ to overview ]

All Copyrights for band-photos & -logos reserved by its Respective Owners.