Everybody lies, don't trust anyone!
The Finnish band COLD COLD GROUND, founded in 2004, don't only make a visual impact but deliver a stirring, electronically enriched bastard of rock and industrial with their debut album "This Side Of Depravity".
Hauptmann D (vocals, programming) brings to mind the early days and reels up the band history."It was early in the 2000s when I wanted to combine my long time favorites; electronic music with hard rock and punk rock. I played some of my early demo songs to my work mate NooZ who liked them and joined the project to play the guitar at first. In the beginning we tried a few more guys to play the other instruments, but most of them didn't like the stuff or they had some other reasons why they couldn't continue. Then we met Mr. Bunny and John Paul Jr. through a mutual friend. They had just split with their former band and were looking for a new project to join in. After they joined the project was named COLD COLD GROUND. Mr. Bunny took the guitar and NooZ switched over from guitar to bass. John Paul Jr. was using the sampler and the drum pad but he left after a year. We decided to ditch the drum machine and start looking for a real drummer. We needed a drummer with high skills and very intense presence and attitude on stage, but it really can be a hard combination. No one really was up to the level until we found our present drummer H.Dine. He's insane." Those for whom the band name may ring a distant bell might be helped with the hint that there is a homonymous song by Tom Waits, centring on a bleak final resting place, the cold cold ground where things come together in the end. But the band name is only secondarily based on this song as Hauptmann D explicates. "Back in the year 2004, when we formed the band, we were looking for a proper name that would fit our vision of the band. COLD COLD GROUND just popped up because of its meaning, and we liked the 'double adjective' flavor. Of course, we are also big Tom Waits fans, which gave us one more reason to use it. Our music doesn't sound like Tom Waits, though." And Mr. Bunny (guitar, programming) adds that it was really hard to find a good name for the band. "You can't believe what crappy name ideas we had before someone thought of COLD COLD GROUND. One of the better ones was Bad Lieutenant. Actually, that would have been a pretty cool name, too. Most of the other ones were not so cool."
Having a look at the four band members one notices instantly that Hauptmann D, NooZ and H.Dine more openly look dark and sorta threatening, fulfilling in a way some stereotypes of such musical genres, while Mr. Bunny on first impression seems to be the counterpart with his bunny mask. So one wonders just in how far he is the mischievous entity whose image is disguised or blurred by the cuteness of a bunny. The way Hauptmann D sees it is that "your worst enemies always seem to come up as friends and nice persons, like bunnies. Then they betray you. They want to do bad things to you. That's basically the main theme of our band. Everybody lies, don't trust anyone." Mr. Bunny on the whole confirms this but amplifies the answer and is obviously amused that someone can see something cute in that bunny mask. "It is funny that you think of the bunny mask as cute. Most people find it really scary. Some Finnish music journalists have said that my mask gives them nightmares. I think that the scariest things are the ones which mix sinister stuff with things which are ordinarily associated with positive or nice thoughts. As an example, take all the Japanese horror movies which feature evil little girls. Which one is scarier, a nice-looking cute little girl who just happens to be evil, or some tired old run-of-the-mill serial killer guy?"
While we'll still have to wait how "This Side Of Depravity" will be received in the rest of Europe, it calls forth very diverse reactions in the Finnish media but COLD COLD GROUND manage to build up an enthusiastic fan base. To Hauptmann D the reasons for the partly antithetic resonance are obvious. "Industrial based music can be a bit complicated to accept here, when heavy metal music dominates the scene so strongly at the moment. Some people seem to get irritated by synthetic sounds mixed with heavy guitars. But on the other hand, those who have understood what we are about have really liked our stuff. And our live shows have gotten very good feedback, the audience has even started to get a little fanatic. I must say that we are a lot more aggressive and entertaining band live than you would expect by just listening to the album. And we are so happy that the album will be relased in the rest of Europe. For example, Germany has always been a place where I want to spread our stench because I've been influenced a lot by German music myself, too." Mr. Bunny also sees Finland more as metal territory. "Our audience in Finland is nice and we have lots of really enthusiastic fans here but Finland is still basically a metal country. We are not as 'heavy' as some journalists and listeners would like us to be. Our lyrics are not about war or spirits of the forest or some imaginary heroic age in Finnish history. And we have those synths and sequencers which the ordinary macho metalheads loathe ('those fags can't play real instruments, so they use computers'). So we don't fit in the Finnish metal scene. But that's good. It's better to be hated than to be ignored. And yes, I think that it is really, really good to get our album published in the rest of Europe. I can't wait to tour there. I like the liberal spirit of Central Europe."
As mentioned at the outset the music of COLD COLD GROUND sounds like a perfectly balanced bastard of industrial and rock which had been enriched with some electronic sounds. Regarding an own description Hauptmann D hums and haws a bit. "It can be hard to describe your music to others, but I can try to put it like this: Hard industrial rock with dark melodies and a taste of the twisted mind of a human being. In the band we have quite different influences. My personal influences, which led me to wanting to form a band, are Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein, Sex Pistols, the Ramones and The Prodigy to name a few. Of course, I listen to every kind of music from classical to Johnny Cash to Sepultura. But mostly I'm obsessed with 'industrial'-based music, of which a lot comes from your country, as I said before." Having no reason for objecting the description, Mr. Bunny's influences are to be found in a multiplicity of genres. "My main influences in rock music are The Jesus Lizard, Ministry, Depeche Mode, Big Black, Radiopuhelimet, and lots of old punk rock. I also listen to loads of hip hop, especially 'underground' stuff where the lyrics can be so open it's almost painful. And jazz, and classical, and techno, and basically anything. I don't think you can be a good musician if you only listen to one genre of music." There's not much to add but the fact of this being a pretty healthy attitude.
Returning to COLD COLD GROUND's debut album and its title, the term 'depravity' - a central theme on "This Side Of Depravity" - easily gets a religious smack. Disregarding the obvious 'sinful' aspects it's interesting to learn what COLD COLD GROUND conjoin with this term and which side 'this' side of depravity is to them. "We are all 'depraved' somehow," Hauptmann D states. "We are filled up with mental dirt, but some of us can hide it better than others. The cover of the album fits these concepts well. The bunny boy peeks from behind a crack in a wall, but on which side of the wall is he, on which side of depravity is he? Maybe this side? Well, this is getting a bit confusing now... For example, what do you really know about your nice neighbour, what is he REALLY like, what does he do when it gets dark? These are interesting questions." And Mr. Bunny takes up the thread with an affirming "Exactly. Nobody really knows anyone. The most horrible things in human history have been done by ordinary people. I don't see anything religious in the title of our album, or in our music at all. We certainly are NOT into any Satanic stuff, or Christian stuff, or any religious stuff whatsoever. My opinion is that religion does not belong in today's world, at least organized religion. If someone wants to believe that there is a god, that's ok, but religion should not influence politics or any other 'real world' things."
Having a closer look at the lyrics one can't pass by the Opener 'You Will Break', the more so as there's a video raising one or another thought watching it and listening to the lyrics. In the video a - nowadays regrettably pretty common - scene is featured, showing someone wasting his life in front of the TV. And when it comes to the lyrics saying 'a few more years, a few more mistakes, and then you will break' one ponders what these mistakes may actually be, apart from the fact of doing nothing. Is there a connection to self-abandonment or shedding of responsibilities which is all to ubiquitous these days? But for Hauptmann D a song and a video don't necessarily walk hand in hand. "Let's say, if a song says 'I want to kill myself', then the video doesn't have to show a person standing on an overpass about to jump to death. The video is more like the vision of the video director who happens to be our bass player NooZ in this case. But anyway, you could be right about this song otherwise. I don't like to talk so much about the lyrics but maybe Mr. Bunny can enlighten you a little on this because those are his lyrics." So Mr. Bunny, please undertake the tasks of enlightenment: "The theory about self-abandonment and shedding of responsibilities is quite interesting. It is not what I had in mind when I wrote the song, but any interpretation is equally valid. I was thinking more about someone who has fought all his life for something which in the end means nothing ('useless hatred, useless pain'). Like some fanatic who suddenly realizes that he has been wrong since the beginning, and now it's too late to change."
In another track called 'Pigs' COLD COLD GROUND speak out about incrimination and discrimination as well as charity. Apart from the thought if this is rather a personal point of view, or if one can also see some form of reckoning with hypocritical social services and organisations, parallels to the song 'Salesman In Me' are forced on one's mind in this context. "'Pigs' is like an anti-'We Are The World'-song," confirms Hauptmann D. "It's about the frustration with the people who can think of nothing but their own benefits, so it's about most people. There's always people trying to exploit, abuse or discriminate weaker ones. I can't stand it and it makes me feel sick. There really is no charity in my point of view. I think 'Salesman In Me' plays the same game but in a different pit from a different point of view. I think it's more about being 'there' where you start doing this shit to the weaker ones." Regarding 'Salesman In Me' Mr. Bunny furthermore interposes, it's "the opportunistic side of all the people who abandon their dreams, ideals, and everything they believed in when they were young, idealistic and naive. It's the 'adult', always being 'realistic' and 'pragmatic', and ending up wondering why life feels like shit even though everything is fine on the surface."
The track 'Pseudo Life' once again seems to be about lies, disguise and not seeing the real opponent so it so it's suggestive of humans in their interdependent living too much of a facade and being anxious to let others see behind the curtain. "Maybe the song is about something like losing touch with reality without knowing it and lying to oneself", reflects Hauptmann D. "So you are right in a way. And yes they are, that's what humans are all about, behind the curtain there is so much dirt that they don't want anyone to see. Or maybe it's just about porn..." The term porn might also cross one's mind regarding the title 'D.I.Y.M.'. As it can be clearly understood in the lyrics what this abbreviation stands for, it seems likely that censorship reasons could be the cause of not writing the full title on the cd cover. Especially in Germany the appropriate authorities are occasionally pretty quick with censoring releases... But in fact Hauptmann D doesn't remember why COLD COLD GROUND started to use the abbreviation 'D.I.Y.M.' and assumes that it was simply the case of being faster to write it down on set lists. "It's not because of our 'inner censorship'. And I believe in 'artistic freedom'. Why should there be censorship about these kinds of things? If people get offended easily maybe they shouldn't listen to this kind of music. And, of course, this song is not against any ethnic group or any crap like that. But anyway, at our shows 'D.I.Y.M.' has become a total sing-along hit. Somehow at least here people have found it entertaining." Apart from the fact that Mr. Bunny agrees with Hauptmann D he also reveals the content of the song. "Also, if we had a song like 'Dick In Your Mouth' on the record sleeve, some people would immediately think that the song is some kind of misogynistic statement which objectifies women and so on. The story in the lyrcis does not actually feature any women at all, it is about prison rape between men." That there are not only sing-along hits on "This Side Of Depravity" shows - among others - the final track 'Disintegrating'. This song simulates a softer side of COLD COLD GROUND, and it breathes a bit of surrender to hopelessness. Could it be seen as some melancholic resume of the album before they return with a new and fresh attack in form of a second album? "Yes, something like that," approves Hauptmann D. "The album is something like sloshing in your inner dirt and trying to manage your demons. No matter how hard you try, in the end there's nothing left but total depression and disintegration." Mr. Bunny however objects the view that 'Disintegrating' would be softer than the other songs. "It is slower and does not have big metal guitar riffs in it, but the emotion we have tried to capture in that song is not melancholy. It is despair. It is the feeling you get after all your anger has run out and you realize that you have accomplished nothing, that you have been fighting all your life for something that was not worth it in the end."
Looking on the complete album "This Side Of Depravity" one question remains unanswered and that is how much twisted fiction can be found in the lyrics, and how much room COLD COLD GROUND reserve for direct and open criticism of society. Both Hauptmann D and Mr. Bunny provide detailed answers, and where they see the most inspiring and considerable points of attack in society today. Hauptmann D asserts that there is both in a way, fiction as well as reality. "I'm interested and influenced by people's perverted and twisted minds that give me such nice vibes. We are not so much an ideological group and maybe more than in society I'm interested in individuals and their self-importance, personality disorders and breakdowns in the end. I don't need to say such things like 'the society is rotten' because you can see it everywhere without me telling it to you. If I had to speak on a general level, personally, I would say that considerable points of attack in society today are for example corporate giants which exploit their employees and everything around them just to make big profits for their operators, no matter what are the costs in human lives. In some cases those companies are run by people who have serious problems with their personalities and are unable to feel empathy which can lead to terrible things." Mr. Bunny adopts the question with the statement that the lyrics on "This Side Of Depravity" mostly tend to have an individual's point of view. "On the next album there are going to be more direct opinions about the state of the world but they are still being told from the perspective of someone who is a bit 'different'. Personally, I think that some of the most inspiring and considerable points of attack in society today are at least the following things. First, the treatment of people with mental disorders. If someone has cancer, nobody tells him to 'just get over it', but if he has depression that's exactly what he will hear all the time. Mental illnesses are still often not considered 'real' illnesses. People who desperately need help don't get it. What they get is loads of bullshit pop psychology advice which does not help anyone. Second, the rise neo-conservatism in Europe. Some people want to go a hundred years back in time to some imaginary golden age which has never existed. They want a society where everybody is like everybody else and people act out traditional roles as a 'good husband' or a 'good wife', a 'good employee' and a 'good citizen' who believes in traditional values and respects authority. I believe in freedom and the right for everyone to do what they want, as long as they don't hurt anybody else. The 'good old times' were actually really bad old times for most people, and I cannot understand why somebody wants to go back now."
As "This Side Of Depravity" had - at least in Finland - been released eight months ago COLD COLD GROUND are already working on the successor, as Hauptmann D confirms. "Yes, and if everything goes as planned it will be released early next year. I think the future is going to turn even darker so that's going to be the direction of our album, too. On "This Side Of Depravity" we recreated a couple of former demo songs along with a bunch of new songs, so because of the long time between writing the old and the new songs the album didn't become as unified as we would have wanted to. As I mentioned earlier, I and Mr. Bunny are now writing the songs together, so they will fit better with each other. And I must say that what we created so far is going to blow your mind. And, of course, as a band we have grown together more, and not least because of our new enormous drummer, H.Dine." And as he feels inspired by also a bunch of German bands like Rammstein, it's a concern to play some live shows here. So in the end Hauptmann D and Mr. Bunny are predicting in unison: "You should really see us live, we will give you something you will never forget. It's like the first time you had a dick in your mouth. We can't wait to play in Germany!"
For further information check out COLD COLD GROUND's website, myspace or facebook.