Professor Black


AKTOR may well be one of the most ambiguous and mysterious Metal/Rock bands in existence. A multinational co-operative between two Finnish serialists,
Jussi Lehtisalo and Tomi Leppänen, and Heavy Metal singer-songwriter Professor Black in the US,
they play a self-proclaimed "Top 40 Heavy Metal", deliberately accessible, and literally let themselves be carried on their own current. V. Srikar shared a chat with Professor Black about the new album and the nature of collaborating with artists half a world away.
By V. Srikar
February 28, 2015
Professor Black (Aktor) interview
Hello there mate, greetings from Metal Temple, congratulations on completion of your debut album "Paranoia". How have you been?

Hi, thank you very much. I haven't slept enough lately, but otherwise great.

Tell us about the inception of the band Aktor.

Jussi and I got in touch around 2007 and talked for years about doing some music together. He's a very inspirational person and musician. His work ethic is like Frank Zappa or something. Same for Tomi, the drummer, who has a great many musical projects and ideas going at all times. Anyway, the collaboration didn't actually happen until the 7" tracks in 2013. That was quite a fun experience, so when some record companies began sniffing around in early 2014, we figured there was no reason to wait, so we started on the full-length.It took around 6 months to complete, bit by bit.

You are part of 5 other bands and was a part of Nachtmystium, why form another foundation here with Aktor? 3 of the bands you are involved in released new material last year, how much time would you be able to dedicate to Aktor?

That's really up to us, and there's no exact plan. But being three musicians who enjoy what we do and who enjoy working together, it's not hard to accommodate. In fact, Aktor is for me almost a vacation from what I normally do, a pleasant change of scenery at least.I don't know that the other guys would agree since their musical vocabulary and experience is quite wide compared to mine.

What sounds like a distortion of the name, what's the story behind the name Aktor?

You're not the first person to ask, but unfortunately I don't have a good answer. We needed a name for the project and this popped into my head. We all agreed that it was a good name: easy to remember, a bit dramatic, like the music, and also a bit mysterious, meaning that it doesn't point instantly to a certain style of music or imagery. It is versatile.

"Paranoia" has a beautiful melodic Heavy Metal sound. What are band's major influences? What do you find in this direction in comparison of other ventures that you were a part of in the past? Is this your relief / comfort zone?

Yeah, as I said, it's a bit of a musical vacation for me. There was automatically less pressure for this album because it was the debut. We didn't have any expectations. I have no idea what our main influences are. My main influences are the riffs from Jussi and Tomi's drum patterns. It's a lot of fun to try to interact with both of those elements when I write the bass lines. I try to lock everything together with the bass guitar. And lyrically, Aktor is a pretty wide canvas, so can be a lot of fun also.

The band members are from different countries, so how do you guys create new music? How does playing live work out?

Jussi and Tomi work on the songs together as guitarist and drummer, and then they record with an engineer in Finland. Then, I add my parts independently and send them back to Finland for mixing. We use email and cloud computing to accomplish everything.

You initially released the single "I Am The Psychic wars". Any particular reason for it to be chosen to lead the promo of the release?

We had no real plan or strategy. Our initial collaboration resulted in three songs, so we released two of them on the 7". Based on the interest in those songs, and our own pleasure in making them, we decided to make the full length album.

How can you describe the writing process and brainstorming over "Paranoia"? Where you doing it over Skype just sitting around the raising thoughts and ideas or was the template already set beforehand and you just put it into motion?

Chris: We haven't had any discussion about the musical direction of Aktor. We are all very productive individually. Making albums is what we all do. The processes were already in place.  It was just a matter of Jussi pouring the riffs into our respective machineries. He wrote the riffs, then he and Tomi played them together as rough rehearsal-quality demos. Then we all gave our input to the song structures and so forth, and then they recorded the real versions with the sound engineer.  After that I added my bass lines and then my vocals. Again, we never really talked about the overall musical direction of the band.  I think we all intuitively know what's possible and what isn't. Even if we each have a slightly different sense of those boundaries, we soon find ourselves together within the boundaries of a particular song.  There was a mutual trust between us in the beginning, and I think that must be even stronger now that we have completed the first album.

How did you guys end up signing with High Roller Records?

Chris: This will actually be my eighth album release with High Roller, with various groups, so there's a mutual trust there as well that is likewise quite productive.

What's in future for Aktor? Promotional Tours, music videos?

Chris: We'll do another album first. It doesn't make sense to do any touring until we have enough material for a proper live set. Jussi tells me today that he already has the basic parts for 8 more songs! So maybe in 2016 we'll have another album and some gigs.

When you look on the current status of the music industry, would you agree that internet downloading, even illegally, is the next best thing for promotion without campaigns?

Chris: I don't know. I live in an imaginary world where the "current status of the music industry" is not relevant or even visible.

I wish to thank you for the interview and all the best with the new release. Do you have any message for the readers of Metal Temple on why they should look out for this album releasing on February 20th or any other message for that matter?

Chris: Thanks for checking out Aktor! Nice that you enjoyed the music, and I enjoyed the interview!

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