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Interview with Joonas Koto of Malpractice

Malpractice is a progressive metal outfit from Finland. Their career spans almost 20 years and they are about to release their fourth album through Sensory Records. I managed to squeeze some time from the man behind the operation, Joonas Koto, and he gracefully answered few questions about the band.

Malpractice
Malpractice

Miikka Skaffari: Tell me about Malpractice. When was the band founded by who and what was your goal when starting?

Joonas Koto: Malpractice was founded in 1994 by me. We started out as a thrash-metal band but quite soon some progressive elements were added to the formula. As years went by the thrash-metal stuff got more and more cast aside by more melodic and progressive ingredients. I guess we always wanted to deviate from other bands by making more complex and melodic music but still keeping the actual song in the lead role instead of mandatory finger exercises.

MS: You are not the most productive band when measured by the album release schedule. What keeps you going and writing?

JK: Malpractice has always been my favorite child, so to say. I've been very busy with other bands (To/Die/For, Omnium Gatherum) who tour a lot for the past 15 years so there hasn't been enough time to concentrate on Malpractice. Which is a bloody shame. I've never been a fast composer and I tend to work on songs maybe even too long but I just can't let anything unfinished off my hands. What keeps me going on making this kind of music is the fact that if I heard Malpractice as an outsider I'd be the biggest fan of the band. I just write music I'd like to hear myself.

MS: You are the only remaining founding member in the band. I suppose we can call this your band. How has the band changed over the time? Does your sound and ambitions change with personnel changes?

JK: As a matter of fact we haven't had that many personnel changes in the last 20 years as one could imagine. Two drummers, two bass players, two vocalists and three other guitarists. A double line up so to say... The main formula doesn't change much due to new members but every new guy adds his own spice to the soup and slightly alters the outcome. I guess the biggest cause of any changes in our music is my personal preferences and current mood.

MS: You found a new record label in Sensory Records. How do they differ from your previous labels, Spinefarm and Mastervox? What’s your expectation for the collaboration?

JK: Mastervox was a very small Finnish company who released our debut album back in 1998. They hardly did any promotion for the album. We had already released the album on our own and sold some 500 copies in Finland alone so in their perspective the album flopped. It was a very short collaboration back in the day. Spinefarm merged with Universal just when they signed us so they had a huge machinery to do some serious promo but as you may know when you're a small fish in a big puddle you can easily get lost in the sheer volume of releases. They did quite good job with our two albums "Deviation From The Flow (2005)" and "Triangular (2008)". Then suddenly everyone we had worked with were laid off and the new employees didn't quite know how to work with our kind of music so we got the boot. Then we had a break for almost two years because I was so bummed about our situation being dropped from the label. I wrote the material for "Turning Tides" in that period of time. Sensory Records have been very professional and nice to us so far. We've had good press coverage and promo has been more than adequate. I'm really looking forward to work with them. So far very good job!

MS: Tell me about the writing process. Do you write lyrics or music first? Who does what?

JK: Basically I write everything in this band, music and lyrics. Music comes first and lyrics later. Everyone collaborates in songwriting by arranging their own parts and sometimes even writing some riffs. I usually have 80-95% of the song written before I present it to the other guys. On "Turning Tides" the songwriting methods varied a bit more than before. We even wrote some stuff by just jamming at our rehearsal room which has never happened before. Usually it's just me and my guitar on the couch.

MS: Your music is very complex and multilayered. How do you “hear” it in your head when writing? Do you have final sound that you try to de-construct to record or do you build the sound until you have something you like?

JK: I usually do some demos at home where I already build extensive guitar and vocal parts. I kinda hear all the harmonies in my head when writing the part. When recording I use the same gear I use live so it doesn't take too long to get the sound I'm looking for. Sometimes the best harmony ideas come on the fly while recording. I may hear a harmony in my head as I'm recording the basic part and then I just figure it out and "lay it on tape" immediately.

MS: The album has been in the works for quite a while. Tell me about the recording process?

JK: We begun the recording process way back in 2010 when we booked Astia-Studio B to record a demo for the album. I worked there as a sound engineer at that time. As soon as we had all the material written we booked the same studio to lay down the drum tracks. Then I built a studio in my own garage where I recorded all the rhythm, lead and acoustic guitars and all the basses. Markus' leads were recorded at our rehearsal room. I hauled the recording equipment there and built another recording facility. Most of the vocals were recorded in Espoo at our vocalist's mothers house. I did some backing vocals on my own at my place. The whole package was mixed and mastered at Astia-Studio A by the legendary Anssi Kippo (Children of Bodom, Norther, etc.) Anssi was our only choice to mix the album since he's done our two previous albums as well. He really knows how this band functions and sounds like.

MS: Concept is about smart, educated guy who “failed to launch”. Where did this idea come from?

JK: The whole story can be somewhat related to Malpractice if you dig deep enough. The most talented individual who never got discovered and got lost in the nameless and faceless crowd. The Best Kept Secret. Of course the story is not about our band but of the person I'm talking about in the lyrics. The whole idea came from personal frustration during the period when we got dropped from Spinefarm. The story reflects a lot of my personal struggles in life.

MS: How much do you tour given that all of you have so many other bands to play in?

JK: We don't actually tour much with Malpractice. We hope this will change after this album is released. Our vocalist lives in Germany nowadays so it isn't that easy to do one-off gigs with this band. It's just too expensive to fly him over for just one or two gigs. Markus is also very busy with Insomnium and both of us with Omnium Gatherum. Scheduling gigs with Malpractice is a real nightmare. We'll do a tour if it is logistically reasonable. I would personally like to do as many gigs as possible.

MS: What’s in store next for Malpractice? Tour? World domination?

JK: Our main goal was to get "Turning Tides" released and now we have achieved that. Next logical step would be a tour to promote the album. We have a few negotiations going on at the moment but nothing's been confirmed yet. I hope it doesn't take us as long as it took this time until we release our next album. Something's already brewing in my head so I guess it won't take six years next time.