Do you ever hear a song and within the first few seconds, you’re drawn in and cannot stop listening? Well of course you have, or you wouldn’t be so far down the music rabbit hole that you’re reading this interview right now. Well, I’m glad you stopped by because you are about to meet two incredible musicians who create music with that ability!
Jocke Norgren and Matti Juntunen of the one and only Tungsint were kind enough to speak with me about the creating process of their debut EP The Drought. The instrumental album transports you off this doomed planet and takes you for a wild journey. The incredible part is this epic musical journey through space was created without leaving their homes.
Thank you Matti and Jocke for taking the time to discuss the process in which you made the outstanding EP The Drought. I personally love how seamless the album flows so let’s start with songwriting, could you tell me a little about how you wrote the tracks?
Matti: It’s been different with each song. Kepler-62f was basically done and Jocke didn’t input all that much except for giving it life, but As An Empire Falls, we wrote that together and there was a lot of give-and-take.
Jocke: We record in our own homes, Matti will send me a riff and I respond to that. We will see where it takes him, and it may take him somewhere completely different than I imagined and that will give me inspiration for the next step. We go back and forth like a slow, slow rehearsal.
Do you live far from each other?
Jocke: We live about 100 kilometers away. We live in the same city and have known each other since we were kids. It’s just easier to record songs this way for now with our busy schedules.
We go back and forth like a slow, slow rehearsal…
That makes sense. I mentioned earlier the seamless transitions. How do you go about creating riffs that transition so smoothly?
Matti: I would say that comes from sending the music back and forth. Anytime I get stuck Jocke can pick it up and vice versa.
Jocke: A lot of times in our discussions, we focus on the transitions and, at least for me, getting that flow and piecing riffs together, that’s where I put a lot of my thinking.
When I create two riffs and try a piece them together it’s too jarring and I get discouraged. What do you guys do when having off days?
Jocke: I have so little time playing, what with family and work. When I get the time to play, I just do it. You can do nothing more than just focus and think about the song.
Matti: For me, if I’m having an off day, I build pedals and guitars, so if I don’t get the inspiration to write or play, I can do something else that still keeps me in music.
I was intrigued the first time heard Aranea: Interlude. I was drawn to the unique sounds. What am I hearing?
Jocke: The guitar part is actually a snippet of an early demo recording of As An Empire Falls, I took that guitar part and looped it. Then I had this crazy drum that we were also going to use on an early version of As An Empire Falls and I just put this crazy crazy sound to those drums and that’s it! You’ll hear that and some synth noise on top, but nothing special. Just recycling some old stuff. I tried to make a song that’s a part of the theme and a transitional piece between Kepler-62f and As An Empire Falls almost as a little breather. It’s a monotone type of song and I love those kinds of sounds. They put you into a mental state.
Yes! I agree. The first time I really experienced that was at a Baroness show a few years back. In between songs they would go into these calming transitions. It was amazing!
Jocke: Yeah it’s badass, it’s like a pallet cleanser. Takes you to another level sometimes before it takes you into another song.
I use a Laney Klipp that has been somewhat modified with a master volume, proper channel switching, FX-loop, and slightly lower plate voltage…
Getting into gear a bit. What amps did you use to record The Drought?
Matti: I use a Laney Klipp that has been somewhat modified with a master volume, proper channel switching, FX-loop, and slightly lower plate voltage. I also use an old 60s Hagstrom which is an old Swedish Amp and I use that for some of the bass tracks. Also, as for the recording side, I run a Load Box with a line out to my DAW (digital audio workstation), and then run a cab sim, so I play mostly soundless.
That’s interesting. Do you run the amps clean or use the distortion from them?
Matti: The Laney Klipp has a special distortion circuit, and it really loves to be pushed. I use the base distortion from the amp but I push it into oblivion.
What about guitar and bass? What are you using?
Matti: The guitars are mostly my own builds.
Oh wow that’s amazing. Do you build them from scratch by cutting and routing the wood?
Matti: Yeah, for both guitars I’m currently using, the wood for the necks are all local woods. The body on one is mahogany so that’s obviously not a Swedish wood [laughs]. The Telecaster I built has tempered frets, similar to a True Temperament, but my own take on it. It was actually Kepler-62f that drove me to build it, I just couldn’t get the chords to sound right with equal intonation. There is a lot of theory going into this, so I won’t get too deep into it. But it took me months to just figure out how I was going to build it.
The Telecaster I built has tempered frets, similar to a True Temperament, but my own take on it…
I ‘rebuilt’ a guitar once and had a hard enough time spray painting it [laughs]. I definitely admire what you’re doing. What pickups do you put in?
Matti: I change pickups often, it’s a constant evolution trying stuff out. Right now, I’m using a Lundgren M6 in one and the other I have Lace Sensors Drop & Gain, but it keeps changing.
I get that (laughs]. As soon as you get new pickups or anything really, there’s something else you want to try. After every one of these interviews, I want to buy something different [laughs]. You also mentioned earlier about building pedals, can you tell me a little about that? Do you work for a company or for fun on your own?
Matti: I do it for fun. I have tried building some modulation, but I mostly built from kits and the few that I’ve built from scratch are boosts or overdrives.
Building a pedal has been something I’ve always wanted to do and even added a few to my online shopping cart but never pulled the trigger. I get nervous I’ll screw it up.
Matti: [Laughs] That’s part of the process, fucking up and starting again.
Very true! What pedals would you suggest starting with?
Matti: Boosts are usually very simple, or fuzzes tend to be really basic. Those are generally good places to start.
Alright, thank you! Another interview down and more gear I want to buy [laughs], especially with the prices of pedals sometimes, I think it would be cool and cheaper to build one if I can.
Matti: Yes, that’s what got me into building pedals, I have so many pedals I want to try but if I want to buy the originals, I’d never be able to afford it. It adds up really fast.
I’m using a Modded Tube Screamer, it’s a basic tube screamer circuit with a few extra mods to it, the most important being the Germanium Diodes so it lowers the gain and gives it a softer sound.
That is definitely true! What is currently on your pedalboard?
Matti: I’m using a Modded Tube Screamer, it’s a basic tube screamer circuit with a few extra mods to it, the most important being the Germanium Diodes so it lowers the gain and gives it a softer sound. It works really well with the Laney. Before the Tube Screamer, I have a Compressor that’s a clone of the Love Squeeze. It’s a really simple compressor circuit and I use that when I have distorted sounds to lift the bottom end a little, I feel like without the compressor first I lose some of the chunkiness. Before that, I actually have a Whammy and the compressor helps even out the big sound difference I get when I turn it on and off. That’s what I have in front of the amp. In the effects loop, I have a DOD Rubberneck Analog Delay, it’s a really funny pedal and I like the Rubberneck effect. I use it a lot on clean parts to give it a wobble. I use a Boss DD-7 and a Spring Reverb Pedal made by a Swedish builder. It’s called Rymdklang by tinyPedals and it’s great. I do have a Boss Reverb also, but I tend to switch my delay and reverb quite often.
Yes, I think they are my favorite effects.
Matti: Delay pedals are fun because it’s like playing with someone.
I’ve asked Matti about all his gear but rarely discuss drums in these interviews. What type of drum kits are you using Jocke?
Jocke: I use digital Roland TD 20 with the Addictive 2 drum plug-in which lets me get any sound I want pretty much. It has a set of 12 and 14-inch toms and a snare. It’s a different way of recording. I don’t know if bands use digital drums to record, but with today’s plug-ins you can make the drums sound any way you want.
I use digital Roland TD 20 with the Addictive 2 drum plug-in which lets me get any sound I want pretty much…
Matti: The digital drums took quite some time recording to get that dynamic right.
Jocke: Not only does it have to sound right but it had to be comfortable for me to play. Digital drums, you can tap the drum and it makes this tiny, tiny hit sound huge if you want it to, but I have to keep it at a comfortable level at all times to get the dynamics to work. I’m used to playing a certain way. That took a lot of time to get it set up, but once you get it right, it’s a super-easy way to record. For example, this new song we’re working on has a much rawer sound and I cannot hear that it’s a digital drum at all. Plus, it’s a $5,500 kit. It’s not like some toy [laughs].
Wow that’s crazy! It sounds amazing on The Drought so I’m looking forward to more! Do you plug that directly into the audio interface?
Jocke: Yes, and it’s super convenient and it records midi files. The midi records where I hit and how hard I hit the drum. Then there are all these small 100 to 300 kB files that I uploaded into the Addictive drum plug-in and it’s just awesome.
Matti: I’ve always wanted to record drums this way, I’ve done kicks and snares in the past, but I’ve never done a full set with symbols and everything digitally, so it was really fun doing it this way.
Is there a song or part of a song you are particularly proud of?
Matti: I like As An Empire Falls. It was a different process when writing it.
Jocke: I said earlier Kepler-62f was pretty much done by the time I joined. When I got the track, I immediately thought the clean guitar that comes in with the drums and the whole ending, I thought it was awesome. But, if it’s something we have written together, it must be the whole midsection of As An Empire Falls.
the psychedelic guitar coming in with the tom drums over it, that’s pretty cool because we were stuck there…
Matti: Yes, the clean part.
Jocke: Yes, the psychedelic guitar coming in with the tom drums over it, that’s pretty cool because we were stuck there. We were working on one riff and one drum part, and I was not feeling my drums, so I just started playing around to a click track and nothing else. I was trying to develop some kind of inspiration and that is what came out of it. I sent it over to Matti and he said, ‘yeah I think I got something’. When he sent back the final version it just blew my mind.
Matti: We worked on that part for so long and it was so frustrating, but then it just clicked. I think the guitar parts are the original ones I recorded because they worked so well there.
It’s cool to hear how the song all came together. I see you have a lot of records behind you Jocke. What do you listen to for enjoyment?
Jocke: Oh wow, anything! Anything from obscure black metal to drum and bass but mostly rock and metal. That’s the core of my music listening, but, as I grow older, I’ve taken a lot of different roads listening to music.
Matti: Same with me, I listen to everything, but my base is rock and metal.
Any bands that really stick out that you have listened to recently?
Jocke: I’ve been listening to Funeral Mist which is a great extreme metal band. If you’re not into extreme metal, then Yuri Gagarin is a great instrumental band from Sweden. Plog is another great band. They released a new EP and I really enjoy listening to all of their stuff and have for the last six months. They are highly recommended.
they’re a great band [10,000 Years] and their singer is something else, what a cool approach to singing….
Matti: Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Meshuggah. I’m excited about the new album they will be releasing soon, so I’ve fallen back listening to their older stuff. I’ve also been listening to all that Jocke said and add 10,000 Years to that.
Oh yes, I really like 10,000 Years who I’ve also interviewed for this series.
Jocke: Yes, they’re a great band and their singer is something else, what a cool approach to singing.
As always there is a long tangent, Jocke and Matti were awesome to talk to and even though about 4,300 miles (7,000 kilometers) separate us and this is the first time we met, we had plenty in common and lots to talk about. Thank you both for the fun chat and looking forward to doing it again. I learned quite a bit.
Interviewed by: Josh Schneider