Interview: Jussi Ylikoski and Ville Malja of Moon Shot

Finnish quartet Moon Shot are gearing up for the release of their superb sophomore album ‘The Power’ and Jussi Ylikoski (guitars) and Ville Malja (vocals) were on hand to talk about everything going on in the Moon Shot camp.

The new album ‘The Power’ comes out April 26th, Jussi, I believe that you started planning the songs for this one in 2020.

Jussi: Yes, we had finished the first album [2021’s ‘Confession’] and the pandemic was growing so we had to postpone the release date of the album. Even though we had some success with writing the album I felt that I still had some juice left in me to continue writing. I just tried to use the time that we lost due to the pandemic by starting to make new songs and I managed a few by the Summer of 2020, so the first songs of ‘The Power’ date back to that time. We didn’t write all the time, we wrote in bursts and then went back and picked it up later. So yes, some of it goes quite a long way back.

Ville: If you start to write new material even before you have toured the former album, then you still have the energy from that album helping you. But, I also think that there is a risk in both projects having similarities so it is important to build a wall between them both. But for us, because we finished the songwriting process for the debut album such a long time ago, it felt natural to continue the process and start planning the second.

Also, when Jussi sent me the demos for the new album, it felt like we had turned the page and had a fresh start. With the restrictions in place because of Corona, it felt good to go to the writing room without having anything else on our calendar, because that is quite rare. We couldn’t tour, or even go to the movies; so this was our hole into the outside world.

In what ways do you feel that the band has grown since the debut album was written and recorded?

Jussi: I think that we have gotten to know each other quite well. We toured quite a lot with the first album so we have grown as a band. We liked the songwriting and production process of the first album, so we decided to use that same process with the new album. In that sense, we didn’t have to waste any time or energy to learn the ways of another producer or another way of making music and this turned out to be a good thing because we had the chance to just concentrate on the songs. Ville and I write the music and the chemistry is there which meant that we didn’t have to waste any time. The energy was there and we didn’t have to worry about any outside bullshit ruining it, because that can happen quite easily.

When you see Children of Bodom’s Henkka Seppälä amongst the line-up it is easy to imagine that Moon Shot would sound similar and quite dark and heavy, when in fact it comes as a pleasant surprise that the sound is quite uplifting, and very light in places; do you hear that a lot?

Ville: [laughs] There have been a few situations of “What kind of music is this?!” But usually, the reactions are on the positive side. From day one we have always thought that this band is something unique and we accept that we have this history of our previous bands, but this is a different thing. Everything that has happened involving this band has happened organically and we don’t want to push things too much. Maybe one day if Jussi starts to get these melodic death metal riffs in his head then he’ll start bringing them to the band!

Jussi: Henkka was a fan of Ville’s previous band [Lapko] back in the day, and not many people know that. That’s one strong connection point of why Henkka got into this Moon Shot thing. He heard the demos and also because Ville was the singer I think that Henkka felt a connection…it is quite far from Children of Bodom…but hey, that’s the way it goes!

If my timeline is correct, ‘Yes!’ was the lead single from ‘Power’; is there any significance to the exclamation mark in the title?

Ville: There is, and there isn’t [laughs]. We were thinking should there be this exclamation mark or not, and to be honest…I don’t remember how it was communicated between the band members…Jussi, do you remember why we decided to have it there?

Jussi: I’m not sure! I remember looking at the different options, one of which was to have the word in all caps. I can relate to the anthem-feel of the song and how it works with the song over and over again, so the exclamation mark fits. I just thought that it looked good!

Ville: I remember someone saying that the exclamation mark doesn’t work well on Google searches and we were like…”Fuck Google…we are making art!”

One of the highlights of the album is ‘Blackened Spiral’, there is a great contrast throughout the song: it’s uplifting with a bouncy tempo and strong melodies. But, anything with the word “blackened” in the title is usually dark lyrically, I believe this one was difficult for you to write Ville.

Ville: Yes, the song itself has a strong essence when it comes to melodies. When I got the demo of the music from Jussi one of my friends had just died – he got sick and died quite fast – and I was thinking about this. So when I heard the demo I thought “Okay, this is the one” and I could say what I had to say about this topic. I got this message that went through me and had to deliver it. I had a conversation with Jussi about delivering this message so people would understand without boring them with this negativity…people would have to get something out of it. There was a lot of back and forth with Jussi over this and I’m happy with how it turned out.

As lyricists, musicians, and artists, how much effect does the fact that Finland borders Russia have on you? Especially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Jussi: I wouldn’t say that it has affected me in a songwriting sense, but it has in many other ways. Especially in the early stages of the war, people here were worried because no one knew what was going on and what was going to happen. It was almost instantly that people’s thoughts changed about joining NATO [Finland joined NATO in April 2023], we had always talked about it in Finland but nothing happened, and then as soon as the war started, things changed quickly. I can say that I think that it is a great thing that Finland is now a part of NATO. Even though Putin is still an enigma we know more about what he is capable of now.

Ville: The Russian border has always been there so, in a way we have gotten used to it. When we released ‘Yes!’ as a single we had an email from Ukraine, from the frontline where they had some kind of radio station, and they asked if they could have ‘Yes!’ to play, and that felt good.

There is a bit of a British alt-rock, indie-rock vibe to Moon Shot at times, Feeder springs to mind, but the main one would be Placebo, any Brian Molko influences there?

Jussi: I would agree, yes. Ville’s vocal sound is quite similar to Brian Molko’s, with the same texture. In that sense alone, yes.

Ville: Placebo has been for me one of the biggest bands. Especially those earlier records when I was younger. Also, Lapko had an album produced by David Bottrill who also produced Placebo, as well as Tool, Smashing Pumpkins, etc, so we are all learning things from David.

Ville, looking at your photography website there is a cool picture of a distinguished-looking gentleman, and he appears to be ever-so-slyly giving the finger as he is wiping his mouth with a napkin: accidental, or on purpose?

Ville: Both! [laughs] He is the owner of this legendary club in Helsinki called Tavastia, and he retired like six months ago so they asked me to take this portrait of him for his retirement. We were doing this Godfather lookalike theme and I was asking him to rest his napkin on himself and then I realised that he was doing this [raises a middle finger to his face]…was it on purpose? I don’t know…but let’s say of course it was! It happened a few times, so I thought “Okay, he’s offering that finger” so I started shooting.

 

‘The Power’ is available April 26th via Reaper Entertainment. More information HERE.

Connect with Moon Shot HERE.

Interview – Dave

Photo: Marek Sabogal

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