MAPLE CROSS BIOGRAPHY
The Birth Of Maple Cross MAPLE CROSS GENRES
Maple Cross was formed in 1985 under a different moniker. The first line-up was: Marko Siekkinen (guitar), Ville Hyry (drums), Ilkka Heino (guitar), Mika Karppinen (bass) and Petri Puolitaival (vocals). At the time they were called Ace.With that line up they recorded a demo called "Sacred To The Memory Of Ace", about same time they changed their name to Maple Cross and the singer P. Puolitaival was sacked due to quarrels of musical opinions and desires. Soon after that Marco R.J. took his Place. This change gave Maple Cross the opportunity to create and use the ideas which had been crossing their minds for a long time.
At the end of 1988 Maple Cross recorded their second demo titled "Thirteen Witches...But One Of Them", in the Soundmix-studios. This was also the first time they worked with Dr. Nixu Nikula. The demo was a success and it earned good reviews everywhere. Soon after the recordings they gave the bass player M. Karppinen the boot. A few days later they hired Nico Christian who brought his new ideas and skills to the band. This is the line-up that is still considered to be the original line-up of Maple Cross:
Marko Siekkinen: guitar
Nico Christian: bass
Ilkka Heino: guitar
Marco R.J.: vocals
Ville Hyry: drums
After some hard touring and several Months of training Maple Cross was ready to enter the studios again. This time the sound was heading for the new direction. You could already hear the future on the third demo, "Sacrificed Humanity" (engineered by Dr. Nixu Nikula), released in late 1989. The band used the saxophone for the very first time on this demo and that brought a lot of increased attention to the band.
Maple Cross continued touring and started to create new songs using the originality of different styles of music and techniques, and fresh ideas about song structures and lyrics. The results were absolutely magnificent! "The Fourth And Last" demo (Engineered by Dr. Nixu Nikula), released in 1990, included 5 original Thrash metal masterpieces and it got raving response from the public and from magazines all over the world! Besides the usual instruments, they used the mouth-organ, piano and sax on the demo. These instruments made the Maple Cross-sound even more original and even the band itself was in awe after hearing the final result.
Again it was time for some touring in Finland and also a tour in Denmark. During that time Maple Cross realised it was time to record an album. The band looked for the right record company, but never found one and decided to self-finance the album. In 1992 the debut album "The Eighth Day Of Creation", 10 tracks of original Maple Cross metal which they took even further this time around, saw day light. At the time it was considered to be light years ahead of its time and even today it´s more advanced than many metal bands will ever be!
The summer of -92 saw another Maple Cross release - the demo called "5th for us" - and as the name suggests, it was for the bands ears only. The reason for this tape was to experiment with new ideas etc. It was mailed to a few carefully selected magazines to see what kind of reaction it would get. It sunk in like socks on the dog. In other words, reception was great.
After that Maple Cross needed a break and it wasn´t until summer -93 that they recorded the next demo, "Uncontrolled art". This time it was also available for the public. It sold an enormous number of copies and that´s why Maple Cross hit the road again.
In 1994 Maple Cross recorded their last demo called "Cool Maggots". This was to be their swansong. It was the bands most powerful and best release. Finally Maple Cross had found the sound and style they had been looking for almost ten years. After this release Maple Cross still toured for a couple of years until they said their farewells and went their own ways. Some of them went to live in the U.S.A., Hong Kong and England. So, there was no way the band could keep on playing.
Maple Cross made nearly 200 live appearances and played with some great bands. For example Dark Throne, Prestige, Mengele, A.R.G., Invocator, Hybrid Children, Waltari, Backyard Babies etc. Maple Cross were known as one of the greatest live acts of their time!
They are back! But not with the original line-up. In late 2000 Marco was drinking with a few of his mates. They listened to some music and eventually someone asked for some Maple Cross. Great stories about the band were told and finally somebody asked that, wouldn´t it be great to reform the band. After some thinking and a few phone calls later it was settled, Maple Cross should be reformed. The line-up was pretty clear from the start:
The drummer seemed to be a difficult one to find. Either they weren´t available or good enough. Finally the right guy came along. Aki is a very experienced drummer and Maple Cross were lucky to have him on board. Summer 2001 saw them together for the very first time. It was very clear from the start that this could turn out to be something very special. The chemistry was excellent, everybody was in the same wavelength about the way to do music and the ideas just started to flow.
It was obvious that the next move would be to record an album. The first lines of the album Next Chapter were written in the summer of 2001. Little did they know what was ahead of them when they entered the rehearsal place, but the guys were committed to write good music and they had only one rule, everything is possible!!! Maple Cross kept that open-minded way of thinking through the whole writing process and it shows even today when you listen to Next Chapter!!!!
The next few weeks went running by. Maple Cross were practically living in their rehearsal place, but little did they care, it was what they wanted to do. At that point Marco still wasn't ready to tell the world about Maple Cross being alive, but he was asked to participate on a TV program about metal scene in Kiiminki. Well, they only used one sentence from Marco and that made him happy, because he really didn´t want to be there. But at the end of the program they played an old Maple Cross song and announced that Maple Cross were going to record a new album soon, yeah right!!!! They were going to record a demo but an album so soon, no way. After that Marco received lots of e-mails and phone calls about Maple Cross and he just had to admit it's true, Maple Cross are back!
So, Maple Cross recorded the Promo1, and the first thought was to keep it to themselves, but during the session they decided to send it out to various 'zines, radios etc. The response was just what they expected: some people liked it and some hated it but that's just how it should be! Maple Cross don't want to write just ok music, they want to write music that they can honestly say they enjoy listening to and it´s thoroughly understandable that many people don't like what Maple Cross are doing. If you don't like metal with aggressive vocals with minimal melody, Maple Cross is not your cup of tea.
The Promo2 was basically recorded just to get some idea of how the songs work. Maple Cross didn't really distribute it that much, but some of their friends have it and it's been available for everyone to download on the official Maple Cross website. Three great songs showing everyone the other side of Maple Cross, simple straightforward metal!
In the summer 2002 they played a couple of shows, one behind closed doors for friends and the other one was at the Jalometalli 2002 metal festival. Maple Cross really didn't know what it would be like since these were the first public appearances with the new line-up, but everything went great and the band gained a lot of positive feedback from those gigs.
After that they concentrated on writing some new material and right then they decided that the next step is to record an album. Maple Cross didn't want to rush things, so they just kept writing those fuckers and when they had enough material, Maple Cross recorded a rehearsal tape and fine-tuned some of the songs and kept practising them until they were sure they sound just like they should! That's when they set the day for the recordings to start.
January 24th 2003 was the very first day of the Next Chapter recording session. Everything else went according to plan, but Marco lost his voice when he started to shout. Luckily he realised it was because it was -38C outside and the air inside got very dry. So, he just took a couple of days off and after that he had no problems with his voice. During the session they were working hard and drinking a lot of beer, so when they came back home they were physically and mentally drained for a few days.
The name of the album Next Chapter was Ville Hyry´s (ex-drummer) idea. He came to see Maple Cross play live last summer and he was very excited about the new line-up. After the show he told Marco that he's really happy that Maple Cross is still alive and kicking and this is like the next chapter in the history of Maple Cross. What he said haunted Marco for some time until it finally hit him one day, the album should be called Next Chapter!
Life after Next Chapter
A year is a long time in the world of music and Maple Cross had to experience it first hand to realize it. When Marco, Late, Aki, Sami and Ollari started to write music together a couple of years ago they couldn´t imagine what the future would hold for them. They worked really hard all the time, but especially in 2003...
In 2003 Maple Cross recorded "Next Chapter", toured Finland and the UK, shot a video for AU Revoir (taken from Next Chapter) and finally played a couple of festival gigs during the summer. After that they found themselves without a bass player and that was just the beginning. First they took some time off and when they started to talk about going back to their rehearsal studio the band realized it might not be possible. So, they sat down and talked things through and decided there and then it would be better if Marco and Aki continued with Maple Cross and Late and Sami would step aside.
A few days later Marco and Aki already had some idea who they wanted in. Marco called Avather (Thyrane) and J. Henttunen (Sethery) to see if they wanted to join the ranks. They jumped at the chance almost immediately and when Aki´s old pal Sami wanted to "MAKE HELL" as well, they were ready to do some damage!!
2004 wasn´t any different. Maple Cross toured Finland constantly and did another UK tour. They took huge steps forward, but Marco had a feeling something was about to change because they had worked really hard and were making good progress and still there was this atmosphere that something´s about to happen.
In July Aki told Marco he couldn´t give 100anymore and maybe it would be better if he stepped aside. Marco and Aki had a really good conversation and it was obvious that Aki couldn´t continue in the band anymore. At the time when the decision was made Aki already had a job and he knew he would start his studies in autumn and on top of that he was soon to be a father. So, it was agreed it would, indeed, be better if Aki played his last gig with Maple Cross at Jalometalli Festival in August and after that the band would start looking for a replacement right away. Maple Cross were already booked to play a few gigs later in the year so it would be better if we knew who was going to step in on Aki´s place well in advance. Marco thought about it for awhile and it became clear there was only one person they would be happy with and that person was Ilkka Leskelä (Embraze). One phone call and one meeting later Marco and Ilkka agreed that he would play the gigs Maple Cross already had booked and he would make the decision after that. That sounded like a perfect idea to everyone so they shook hands and agreed to let the rest of the guys know he´s in, for now anyways.
A couple of weeks went by and in a few days Maple Cross were supposed to start rehearsing for the upcoming Cannibal Corpse tour that they were booked to play. Thoughts were already on the upcoming tour when Marco received a phone call to his work place. It´s Sami the bass player informing Marco he´s out of the band. His reasons were really personal, so let's just leave it to that. The band were in shock because they couldn´t think anyone who would or even could step in the band in such a short notice. Marco and the guys phoned back and forth not realizing the solution was right under their noses. Suddenly it just hit them, they would ask J. Lehto from Sethery if he could do it. The conversation was short, Marco asked him if he would do the tour and he said, yes of course. Then the guys told him the job is his permanently if he wanted it and he answered he´s in and that´s how Maple Cross got themselves a new bass player.
A few days later the band started rehearsing for the tour and for the upcoming gigs. They practically lived at their rehearsal studio and played and played until they felt they were ready to hit the road. They took a short break, a week or so and got back together for a few days to finish the little details they wanted to add in their live set. The Cannibal Corpse tour went great and Ilkka informed the band during the tour that he´s in the band permanently and the guys couln´t have been happier about his decision. Maple Cross had found themselves a drummer and a great drummer indeed.
After Maple Cross played their last gig in November they took some time off. They really needed the break because of everything that had happened with the line up and they had been playing gigs and rehearsing constantly for a year. The band set a date to get back to rehearsing in the middle of December and went their ways. When it was time to get back together Avather informed them he couldn´t make it. He had promised to help someone out with something. It wasn´t a big deal, these things happen, but when it happened next time around guys were wondering what´s going on. Then J. Henttunen heard that Avather didn´t feel like rehearsing and guys were like no problem, we can write the new stuff and he can pick it up when he feels like coming back. Time went by and Maple Cross started to worry because they had booked the studio to record a song for a new single and they also wanted to rehearse a couple of new cover songs for the upcoming tours in Finland and in the UK. Marco had a little chat with Avather and he still didn´t feel like playing guitar and they talked about getting someone to substitute him for the tours in the UK and Finland. They also talked about the single and the possibility of him participating in that, but they both thought it would be better if J. Henttunen would play both guitars because he knew the song through and through. After that Marco talked about the situation with the rest of the band and it was agreed that Avather is more than welcome to stay in the band, but he would have to come back and start rehearsing right away, otherwise the band would find themselves a new guitarist. Marco phoned him back and explained the situation and Avather informed Marco that in that case he´s out of the band. He was really sorry to leave the band, but he really didn´t have inspiration to play anymore and there wouldn´t be any point for him to be in the band at a time like this when lots of things are happening and he doesn't feel like playing. Marco totally agreed with him and so Maple Cross were without a second guitarist, but not for long...
Do you guys remember Sami Siekkinen from the Next Chapter line up? Well, you should because he´s back!!! After Avather was out, the guys talked about who to bring in and since Sami Siekkinen had been with the band on Cannibal Corpse tour as a guitar technician and as a videographer and he had been doing all sorts of things for Maple Cross, the guys thought he would be the perfect replacement plus he´s already familiar with 90of the material Maple Cross play live. He left Maple Cross a little over a year ago because he felt he couldn´t give enough of his time to Embraze, but things had changed since then and he committed himself to Maple Cross again. Of course it helped his case that he´s a really nice guy and all the members already knew him really well. Anyways, he had two days to learn the new song that Maple Cross were going to record before they entered the studio. He did a smashing job in such a short notice and you can hear that from the final result, Creatures From The North CD single.
So, here´s the new line up:
Marco R.J. - Vocals
J. Henttunen - Guitar
Sami Siekkinen - Guitar
J. Lehto - Bass
Ilkka Leskelä - Drums
With this new line up Maple Cross attacked the road and more importantly started to write new material and it would turn out to be a great new release. So let's leave it to Marco to explain what this new album is all about:
THE STORY BEHIND HEIMO
The very first time I thought about writing Heimo was sometime in the mid-90’s, but soon after that we went on a break and that was that at the time. While we were on a break I still wrote down a few ideas and did some basic researching and, more importantly, made sure I kept my own dream alive.
When we started to rehearse again I didn’t want to introduce the idea for the rest of the band right away because that might have been too selfish on my part to realize my dream immediately, but instead I waited until we had finished recording the Next Chapter album. When I told the guys about my idea they were very excited about it and told me we should start writing it as soon possible, but things don’t always work like that in real life and as most of you know we’ve had some difficulties keeping a steady line up together. That’s why I wanted to wait as long as possible to make sure I have the right guys to work with on this project that is so important to me personally.
It took us about six months to complete the writing process for the album, because we were on the road all the time and we didn’t want to rush this. We wanted to keep it simple, straightforward and aggressive, but yet beautiful because that’s what this story required.
What/Who Is Heimo?
That’s probably the question most of you are asking at the moment. Well, Heimo is my grandfather and my hero. He’s the man I looked up to when I grew up and he is this really tough but fair type of character who’s achieved so much in life, but at the same time his life hasn’t been easy, far from it! I could write ten albums about him, but I decided I should concentrate on one subject only. So, what moved me most about his life? Well, WWII of course. He was just a young man when he went to the army and after he had finished the service, and was just about to settle for civilian life, the war started and he was there fighting the enemy for years. The stories he told me are unbelievable and how the man is alive is truly a miracle!
We spent hours talking about the wartime and how grim it really was. I don’t think that we can really appreciate what these guys did for us back then because we can’t even imagine how it must have felt to live your life knowing you might die right there and then, but I really do have utmost respect for everyone who’s ever fought for this country.
To make this a more enjoyable listening experience for you guys I decided to explain the stories behind each song. Almost every song is a battle that my grandfather fought in WWII, except for a couple of tracks that are connected to war in some way and were such an important part of the story that I just couldn’t leave them out. I actually had to leave a few battles and incidents out because otherwise we would be talking about a double or triple album at the least. In my mind this is the complete story of Heimo during that era of his life.
Train To Cape Stone is a story about the time leading up to WWII. It tells about the mobilization of Finland and how everyone who was able to fight was called up to arms. These small town boys went to war not knowing what they were up against. It was hard for me to understand when my grandfather told me that he wasn’t afraid to answer the call for duty and he just said "you had to go, end of story!" You can’t argue with that.
The Battle of Joyhill pt.1 - Chaos Parade is about the first battle my grandfather took part in during The war. Young men thrown to the wolves so to speak and as Heimo said, it was a really tough spot and he’s lucky to be alive today. On this one I tell about the early parts of the battle and one sad thing about this battle was the fact that Finns were accidentally killed by friendly fire from grenades.
The Battle of Joyhill pt.2 - Last Straw, this is about the same battle but about its latter part. This was kinda creepy because Heimo told me 3 different incidents where it was nothing but luck that he stayed alive. That forest was the last stop for many men and it was bloody, but in the end the Finnish troops did what they had to do and made sure that the last line of defence wouldn’t brake.
24 Hours tells about a 24-hour battle that happened because the battalion Heimo and the rest of the battalion he was serving under were supposed to release from their post to have some time off left too early and the Russians managed to take hold of the post. In the end, Finnish troops reclaimed it, but not without huge sacrifices.
District of Hate is basically about a very calm transition period in this story. Heimo and the rest of the gang were on their way to the front line and just passed by lots of wounded and dying soldiers. They did make a casual contact with enemy troops but nothing major because at this point of war, the Russians were retreating. One thing that caught my attention when Heimo told me about this was the fact that when they captured a Russian band they were drunk and didn’t know what to do, not a single shot was fired.
Journey of a Wolf, this one was a great song to write because it’s about my grandparents getting married. Heimo wasn’t even thinking about getting married because he was fighting his ass off in the war and it wasn’t until his friend told him that he was getting married and had received two weeks leave to get back home to get married that Heimo thought about it and decided to write a letter to my grandma, Alli, that he’s coming home for a couple of weeks if Alli says yes to his proposal. Well, time went by with no answer and Heimo already had received permission to go back home. He was a little bit worried but decided to go anyway and when he got back home he learned that Alli had received the letter the very same day, so there was no way Alli could say no because otherwise Heimo would have been shot as a deserter if he had gone back without a marriage certificate. He did go back a few days too late and was put to isolation for a couple of days until he was let loose again.
Smell of Fear is about Heimo getting back to duty just to find out almost every single man he fought with had died while he was away at the battle that was still going on. It had been the worst battle so far and the enemy had a lot more troops there than the Finns, but somehow the Finns managed to match their power and turn things around in the end. When he got back, the battle was still heavy and the Russians had lots of tanks, planes etc, but in the end , the Finns managed to seize most of the tanks and took lots of prisoners. The thing that gave me creeps was when Heimo told me with straight face that if he had been there from the beginning he would have died for sure.
Death of Killing Machine is about a period when the Russians were retreating and the Finns basically marched behind them towards Russia. Well, you can imagine things are never that easy in reality. While they were marching they had to be really careful especially when they came to abandoned villages. Empty houses weren’t the safest places to visit and they basically just rested on the outskirts while a few men made sure it’s safe to go into the village and they hardly ever went inside any houses because of booby traps etc. One significant thing happened in this story. The Commander of Finnish troops was shot by a Russian sniper and that made the situation somewhat confusing for the Finns for a few moments until they managed to kill the sniper.
Seven Miles of Hell. This one’s about a really tough battle. Heimo still remembers this one like it happened yesterday because it was that brutal. He actually said it was seven kilometers of hell and that’s where I got the title, but I wanted to change kilometers to miles because it was easier for me to fit the word miles to the vocal lines I had composed. Anyways, lots of men died on this one and it took place in a dark forest in Russia. The Finns were under no illusions, but knew this would be the turning point of the war. That’s why they wanted to go just that little bit further to make sure they were in a good position if and when the Russians would make their final massive strike to break the Finnish lines.
Subconscious Delusion of Reality. This story evolves from the time when the war was about to be over to the time when it actually was over, but Heimo still had nightmares about the war and he wasn’t really sure if it really was over or not. Sometimes he woke up during the night and thought he was still on the front. Sometimes his wife Alli woke him up because he had just punched her in his sleep because he thought he was fighting with a Russian. When it finally hit him that the war was over it was like he had been given another chance on this thing we call life.
This has been a very strength-consuming writing process emotionally and physically, but at the same time it’s been very very rewarding. I got to spend a lot of time with my grandfather and as a band we are a lot better team players than ever before. I want to make one thing clear: This is a story of one veteran who fought for our country and there are thousands of other veterans worthy of a story of their own. They all deserve our respect!!!! Another thing, there might be some mistakes in the story because I didn’t want to check every little detail of what my grandfather told me. I wanted to make this his story the way he remembers it and nothing more.
I wanna thank my grandfather, Heimo for everything. You are more metal than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. My grandmother, Alli. Behind every great man there is a great woman!!!! My fellow Maple Cross warriors; Ilkka Leskelä, J. Henttunen, Sami Siekkinen and J. Lehto. Without you guys my dream wouldn’t have been fulfilled and for that I’m forever in debt to you!!!! My whole family, you’ve been supporting me from day one and you are always there for me, especially Micaela and Miro, you two make me appreciate life even more.
It’s been a great ride and hopefully we get to experience more metal moments in the future!!!!
Yours in metal,
MAPLE CROSS ORIGIN
Finland (Jääli), formed in 1985
MAPLE CROSS CURRENT RECORD LABEL
MAPLE CROSS STATUS
MAPLE CROSS CURRENT LINE-UP
Marco R.Järkkä - Vocals
Joni Lehto - Bass (Sethery)
Juha Henttunen - Guitar (Sethery, Lord of Pagathorn)
Sami Siekkinen - Guitar (Embraze)
Ilkka Leskelä - Drums (Embraze, Veriset Äpärät)
MAPLE CROSS PREVIOUS LINE-UP
Late TT (Lauri Tuohimaa) (Charon (Fin), Embraze, For my Pain...)
Avather (Thyrane, Moonsorrow (Guest))
Ollari (Olli-Pekka Karvonen) (Embraze)
Mika Karppinen (Bloodride (Fin), Legenda, Plan E, Sentenced) (1985-88)
Aki Karppinen (Sicknote)