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Teksti Suvi-Tuulia Nykänen 

Fame as a hobby

This fall, Swallow the Sun is touring in Finland and around the world. Photo: Aleah L Stanbridge

Almost 60 000 Facebook-likers, tours around America and fans that devote their lives to following the band. Yet the members of Swallow the Sun ration their meals to finance their hobby.

Swallow the Sun’s story started at the beginning of the millenium in Jyväskylä, when the guitarist Juha Raivio decided to put together a band that played slow, dark and even epic music. He was joined by another guitarist Markus Jämsen, singer Mikko Kotamäki, bassist Matti Honkonen, keyboardist Aleksi Munter and drummer Pasi Pasanen. The last-mentioned was later replaced by Kai Hahto.

“In 2001 my friends asked me to go to Bar 68 and enquired if I would like to play with them. I had nothing going on at the time so of course I went”, Jämsen remembers.

Raivio made songs for the band and they practiced in Lutakko like many others in Jyväskylä at the time. Alongside everything else of importance for young men, of course.

“The first practices were mostly about the singer sleeping off his hangovers in front of the drums. Nevertheless, slowly something started to develop”, Jämsen describes.

 

Something indeed, since Swallow the Sun has now published five successful studio albums and made countless tours both in Finland and abroad. In addition to big tours in America, the band has performed in almost all European nations as well as Japan and for instance Israel.

“We haven’t yet played In South American countries, but in the next tour we get to perform in Mexico”, Honkonen explains.

He names Japan as his favourite place. The band has played for example in Tokyo. There Finnish music is truly appreciated.

“It’s almost enough to say that we come from Finland. Already then the Japanese are thrilled”, Honkonen says.

The country they like least is surprisingly close.

“England is a crappy country. The gigs are at dumps and people drive on the wrong side of the street. I also can’t understand how somebody can ruin french fries. Fish and chips, horrible shit, Jämsen states.

 

The band has had great success both in Finland and abroad. At home all of their albums have reached the top end of the charts. In addition, the newest, in 2012 published Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, was chosen as the music magazine Soundi’s album of the year.

Many of the band’s fans come from abroad. Jämsen and Honkonen mention one Japanese woman as one of their biggest fans. She travels around the world following them.

“And then of course there are those who have tattooed the band’s name or our faces on their skin. I’m a bit terrified about how they’ll feel about those in ten year’s time”, Honkonen laughs.

Despite their success, the members of the band can’t support themselves with their music. Alongside making music they also have to do other work.

“I wouldn’t take the risk of leaving my day job. I feel that the line between work and hobby is that you support yourself with work, and this doesn’t do that yet, explains Honkonen who works in the kitchen in the Central Hospital in Jyväskylä.

 

This year, Swallow the Sun celebrates its 10th birthday with an anniversary tour. They also perform in Lutakko.

“I’m a bit nervous already. Lutakko is still always Lutakko”, Jämsen says.

After the tour, the band’s future is still open. Honkonen and Jämsen believe that guitarist-Raivio, the Sibelius of the band, has already prepared something for the group. Still, there hasn’t yet been talk of a new album. Swallow the Sun sees itself more as a touring band than a group that enjoys sitting in a studio. They don’t need to be constantly creating something new.

“There’s nothing good about music other than gigs and alcohol”, Jämsen laughs.

 

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