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Cathartic Exorcisms: Oranssi Pazuzu Interviewed
Tristan Bath , August 16th, 2017 12:01

With Berlin's Pop-Kultur fast approaching, Tristan Bath checks in with Oranssi Pazuzu's vocalist and guitarist Jun-His to discuss mortality, the band's crossover appeal and space rock narratives

What could be scarier than the deep cold of space? If the ‘black’ in black metal is emblematic of the anguish of emptiness, fear, and unavoidable death, then the nothingness that makes up the vast majority of the universe seems as apt a theme as any.

It’s with this in mind that I took up my conversation with Jun-His, vocalist/guitarist and representative for Finland’s Oranssi Pazuzu. “It feels almost as if the big cosmos can’t care about us, no matter how much we want it to,” says Jun-His. “We are kind of selfish in that way, in that we think about what would happen if we didn’t exist any more. Everything will of course go on, but what happens to time when we’re not there to experience it. It’s mind boggling and kind of depressing, but again, it makes this moment in time unique, that we can exist and that the stars haven’t gone off yet - which will of course happen. We’re going to disappear long before that though.”

It’s a subject close to the heart of the group’s music, offering up deep black chambers for listeners to explores cosmoses both inner and outer. “It has elements that will hopefully put you into a trance, and you’ll start to explore your subconscious more than just think about what you’re listening to. It’s a trip into the darkest corners of your mind… hopefully.”

The project’s roots lie in surrealist rock band Kuolleet Intiaanit, which both Jun-His and drummer Korjak played in until its demise some 10 years ago now. Oranssi Pazuzu came together quickly thereafter. “We already had an idea to do something like it,” says Jun-His. “We just needed to fix the lineup a bit, with Ontto the bass player. He kind of had the most precise idea of the concept, which was to combine that hypnotic music with ominous black metal harmonies, to make it more our thing with tribal rhythms and krautrocky type things.”

From the get go though, space travel has been a key theme in the band’s take on black metal, from the astronaut donning the cover of 2009 debut Muukalainen Puhuu to the loose narrative of 2011’s Kosmonument. “That [Kosmonument] was kind of a concept album,” says Jun-His. “It has a direct story about getting lost in space, but it’s about losing your identity at the same time.” Ironically, Kosmonument is actually the least musically ‘space rock’ of the band’s four full lengths to date, comprising shorter, noisier songs with comparatively little empty space.

The group thoroughly hit their stride in that respect with last year’s magnificent Värähtelija, repetition and dynamics playing a more vital role than ever, the songs getting longer in the process. Second track ‘Lahja’ even includes vibes, guitar squeaks, and tom-tom pounding far closer to Pink Floyd’s ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ than any Darkthrone tune, and keyboardist Evil littered the album with full on organ sounds and washes of Acid Mothers Temple synthesiser. When it comes to the ‘black metal’ tag, Jun-His agrees, “it’s a good tool for giving the people an idea of what we sound like, but in the end it doesn’t tell us so much about what it’s really about.”

A core sense of hopelessness in the face of the universe goes hand in hand with Oranssi Pazuzu’s stargazing. Just check out the beautifully bleak Värimyrsky from the group’s fantastic EP out earlier this year, a song explicitly about said sense of disappointment with humanity’s powerlessness. Yet Jun-His insists Oranssi Pazuzu’s music is just as much about a sense of catharsis, and the joy of the unknown. “This music allows you to let some steam out, and then afterwards to feel better about many things.”

“Our worldview is very atheistic, and if you think about atheism it’s of course nice with the [element of] choice over your life and moments of wonder at the whole of existence - because it’s a complete mystery. But at the same time there’s this feeling the sadness about your own mortality, or that your family and friends are going to die and then you’ll follow really soon, and that’s it. That’s your existence and that’s all you can do. So there’s kind of mixed emotions about that.”

Since before they “even had enough money for a sound guy”, the group have had a dedicated lighting engineer for live shows, amplifying the live experience, which the group aim to make thoroughly transportative. “I go on stage as a theatrical version of myself, and try to exorcise that kind of vibe and hopefully expand it to the audience. We try to do everything we can to spread that vibe around the room; so the audience have to dive into their own minds and obey and surrender to it.”

The group’s cosmic take on the black metal aesthetic has had them playing a broader audience than your average Finnish black metal outfit. Besides the usual array of Roadburns and Deserfests, they’ve played a smattering of far poppier stages. Later this month they’re due to hit the stage at Berlin’s Pop-Kultur festival, alongside the likes of GAIKA and Arab Strap. When I bring up their broader audience, Jun-His exclaims, “I love it!”

“That was one of the ideologies of the band from the beginning, to combine audiences. For us, genres mean nothing, it’s about emotions. It’s something we love doing, and I’m so happy we’re actually in a position now where we actually play something like Pop-Kultur. Sometimes I’ve seen in more pop festivals where there aren’t such heavy bands, people might get more crazy at our shows than at some metal shows - metal audiences are hypnotised by it, and they’re used to heavy bands. People go really crazy during our show at some of the poppier festivals.”

The firm artistic success of Värähtelijä cleared the proverbial table for the group, as demonstrated by the slower and doomier depths hinted at on their latest Kevät / Värimyrsky EP. What could happen next remains entirely unknown. When it comes to the group’s spin on the black metal aesthetic, nothing explains it as well as their name. ‘Pazuzu’ refers to the Babylonian demon responsible for the crucifix abuse in The Exorcist, while ‘Oranssi’ is simply the Finnish word for the colour orange. “It’s more interesting than black,” says Jun-His, “and if it had been black it wouldn’t tell the whole story; it would give the wrong idea. It’s more psychedelic and vivid and alive.

"I just think we’re not trying to seem like this cold hearted metal band that doesn’t care about anything. I think it’s the other way around. We’re hippies. Though, on the other hand, I do get a lot of testosterone when playing live - especially from the vocals.”

Pop-Kultur takes place in Berlin from August 23-25. Oranssi Pazuzu play at Frannz on August 23. For tickets and more information, click here

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