KEIJO NIINIMAA (Rotten Sound) – Learn to do it without any pain
During the Inferno almost 4 years ago I met Keijo backstage for an interview. Unfortunately, the recording was lousy and it was impossible to get a decent interview out of it. Now, Rotten Sound again are ready for the Inferno Festival and it’s suitable to take a new Deepthroat interview with Keijo. The man has growled for 23 years and still going strong. In addition to fronting one of Finland’s most extreme metal band Rotten Sound, he is also the lead singer of the alternative death metal band Medeia. Here’s Keijo Niinimaa from Rotten Sound and his contributions to The Deep Throat Series.
When did you start doing extreme vocals (What year and at what age)?
Year 1987 and I was 17 at that time.
What made you start to do extreme vocals?
I liked grunting a lot at that time and I started by joining my 1st band, Desecrator, which was death-metal. I guess there just wasn’t any other way for me at the time.
Can you describe the technique or the techniques you are using?
My main thing has usually been to push as much air through my throat as possible to get the needed amount of distortion for the vocals. Only thing I’m really careful with is my throat, because if I get it totally destroyed, it’ll be really hard for me to maintain all different styles (lows, mids and highs) through a longer tour.
Has your technique changed during your career?
I guess it’s more controlled now and I’ve been pretty satisfied with all the different sounds I’m able to generate. I’ve also learnt to make the highs and lows more even in volume, which is pretty important for live shows and it has also made it much easier to mix my vocals on the recordings.
Have you ever hurt yourself by using a "wrong technique"?
Yes, multiple times. Sometimes I’ve had some hard liquor before the show and I don’t feel my throat as well as I should. As a result I’m talking wrong the next day, but usually I’ve recovered in 1-2 shows. Studio-sessions have also been really painful at times for my throat and also to my head: if I’m doing vocals for more than 3-4 hours on one run, I’m getting this terrible head-ache, which is probably just lack of oxygen.
Is there something you do on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape? Any routines?
Only thing I want to do is to open my voice before I need to do something with it and it’s not very conventional. Usually my 1st rehearsals sound terrible and probably it’s because my vocal-cords are not used to the distortion anymore after a break. But the 2nd rehearsals (or the show less than a week after one) is usually going fine and I’ve noticed, that it’s getting easier and easier for the 1st few days.
Do you think it can be dangerous to do extreme vocals?
Sometime in the studio, but never when playing live. I guess it’s those head-aches, that scare me a bit.
What is most important for you – to make cool sounds and interesting rhythms, or to have a clear diction/pronunciation?
I’ve tried to get better in vocal patterns, sounds I create and also pronunciation and when I think that I’ve managed to evolve in all areas, but at the same time I feel, that there’s always more to do. I’ve also started to scream some melodies occasionally with Medeia, but I want to be sure, that they won’t sound "lame" or weak.
Do you think that extreme vocals can be made into a science, like "this is how it works for everyone, to make this sound you have to do this etc"? Or is it more intuitive and individual how to do it?
I would say intuitive and individual after someone has learnt the basics.
Do you have any advice to people who wants to start doing extreme vocals?
Learn to do it without any pain. Probably there’s a few misses in the beginning, but one good way to measure your progress is to check how rough your voice becomes
Mention three extreme vocalists whose style you admire, and explain your choice. What specifically do you like about the styles of those three? Also mention three vocalists (not necessarily extreme vocalists) which you have been influence by, and explain in which way you have been influenced by each of them.
LG Petrov, Tom Araya and Martin von Drunen. All of them are screaming, but they all have very own sound. LG is mastering Entombed’s death’n’roll, but is also having very cool old-school death-metal voice. Tom Araya is just about pure aggression and hatred and he has also proven to be a great singer with awesome ability to pass a desperate feeling through his vocals. MVD was one of the reasons I liked Pestilence (and I still do like them!) a lot more than many other DM-bands, that my friends were raving about. The desperation and insanity in his screams are just overwhelming and it has been cool to see his come-back with Hail of Bullets and Asphyx.
Bruce Dickinson, Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Halford. These three guys thought me how heavy-metal is supposed to be sung without sounding or looking like little girls.
Who do you want to challenge in this series? (Who should be the next extreme vocalist to answer these questions?) Give a brief explanation for your choice.
I’d like to challenge Barney Greenway because of his similar background with me: I also started with a low-pitched death-metal and I’ve moved towards more varying expression with Rotten Sound and Medeia.