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"Taak...have returned with brand new album 'Supersargasso', and that's the reason why we got in contact with Mart to do this interview."

Interview with Taak.
"It started in Estonia, in around 1993, with the band Dawn of Gehenna, which preceded the origin of Taak (which translates as 'Heavy Burden'): this had the same line-up and there was literally one difference – their vocalist Mart Kalvet started to sing in Estonian, as there were only English lyrics in Dawn of Gehenna's songs. Officially, Taak was formed in 2005 with Mart Kalvet on vocals, Otipowitch on bass, Christ as keyboard player (it's a recipe for certain success to have Christ in the band), with Aiku (drums) and Tsunami (guitars). Aiku and Tsunami soon left the band and were replaced with Andres Rohula and Urmas Jõgi respectively. Taak recorded three albums - 'Koerapööriöö' in 2006, 'Läbi halli kivi' in 2008, and 'Rist viletsuse teel' in 2012 - consistently elaborating step by step their own style, originally branded as "traditional old school doom rock" or "Ugric doom". Now they have returned with brand new album 'Supersargasso', and that's the reason why we got in contact with Mart to do this interview."

Today's interviewee: Taak vocalist Mart Kalvet.

Hi Mart! How are you? What's the weather in Tallinn?

Hi, Alex! I'm busy, but fine, thank you. The weathers nippy, but sunny. The spring might not be in the air quite yet, but it's getting there.

Four years have passed since the release of Taak's previous record 'Rist viletsuse teel', what did the band do during this period?

We've mostly been writing new material and occasionally gigging. We got to play at the Unta. Kauan stoner and psych festival in Turku, Finland last autumn, which was fun.

Taak's new album is almost done, how long did you spend composing new songs?

There's stuff there that we started writing right after "Läbi halli kivi" (Through Stone of Gray) that didnt make it onto "Rist viletsuse teel" (The Cross on Miserys Way), but there are also songs that we finished a few days before going to the studio, so it has really been a seamless continuum. We're always writing new songs, we just go very slowly about it — usually.

Did you record this album with the same lineup?

No, we have Ville Veering on drums these days, as Andres "Anz" Rohula left the band when he moved to Finland about a year ago. Ville is a great percussionist and a veteran in the scene; he's worked with various bands, the very doomy Hukkunud Hinged among others.

Taak current line-up: Kristjan Virma (Keyboard), Ott Oras (Bass), Mart Kalvet (Vocals), Urmas Jõgi (Guitar) and Ville Veering (Drums).

How often do you gather outside the band?

It happens, but not very often. Rehearsals and gigs are our main chance to hang out and shoot the breeze. Otherwise we're all pretty busy with other stuff — mostly work and family, but also other bands. We're middle-aged men, you know. We have Responsibilities ;)

Taak – 'Eesti sült ja Eesti muda':

One of Taak's new songs, named 'Eesti sült ja Eesti muda' was uploaded on YouTube: I would say that musically it is a continuation of 'Rist viletsuse teel', but can we judge the whole album by just one song? How much doom have you left in Taak?

"Eesti sült ja Eesti muda" (Estonian Head Cheese and Estonian Mud) is an exception in that we don't really have any similar songs at all. The doom is still there in most of the rest of the material, although I think there are more post rock elements throughout it all than there used to be.

Also, the title is a pun on "Eesti muld ja Eesti süda" (Estonian Soil and Estonian Heart), a very solemn patriotic poem written in 1867 by Lydia Koidula, and put to music by the historically important hard rock band Ruja in 1982, while the lyrics themselves are quite reminiscent of the poem "Eile nägin ma Eestimaad" (Yesterday I Saw Estonia) by another 18th early 19th century Estonian poet Juhan Liiv, whose lyrics were re-written for Ruja, again, in 1982. So there are layers and subtle connections to it, I'd say.

Video links:Ruja – 'Eesti muld ja Eesti süda' and 'Eile nägin ma Eestimaad':

Oh! I see that you carefully approached the lyrics for the album! Lyrics on Taak's first albums were partly influenced by Estonian folklore, and on 'Rist viletsuse teel' you approached more mystical topics, including a ritual of Crowley and some stories of Lovecraft. 'Eesti sült ja Eesti muda' is something different, are other songs connected with same concept?

"Eesti sült ja Eesti muda" is possibly the "ugriest" of songs on "Supersargasso", as it very overtly deals with modern ills of our small and sometimes troubled nation. But the lyrics are by an outside author, so it's really a detour for us on many levels — I prefer to appear ambivalent when hinting at both the mundane as well as the transcendent.

I was quite surprised to discover when we finally got all songs ready for recording, that there's a Biblical, one could even say an Old Testament undercurrent running through the album, which in a way comes to a peak in another song with lyrics by an outside author, "Vaene juut" ("The Poor Jew", originally written in 1937). I'm not saying we're veering towards white metal, though; maybe we're just more comfortable with borrowing from Judeo-Christian mythology now.

Taak discography: 'Koerapööriöö' (2006), 'Läbi halli kivi' (2008), 'Rist viletsuse teel' (2012) and 'Supersargasso' (2016).

By the way, did you really have a particular song based on Lovecraft's story, or was that connection only established through the "Northern Frog"/Tsathoggua artwork for 'Rist viletsuse teel'?

Yes, there were allusions to ideas and entities inspired by or directly borrowed from the Mythos — which has, of course, grown so much bigger than just Lovecraft. The short story that came with the book version of the CD is a reflection of this growth and spread.

Did you record all songs in one single take, or was this process stretched over all those four years? By the way, did you record it in Tallinn? I guess that the only local studio I've heard about belongs to Andre of Talbot.

Recording, mixing and mastering took a week. We recorded all instruments separately (i.e, not in a single take), but in a continuous session. We've been doing rehearsal demos for our own use during the whole time, of course.

Tallinn is full of recording studios. Roundsound, where we recorded with Keijo Koppel, the guitarist of Whispering Forest and sound engineer of Metsatöll, is in the same building with another one, and also several bands have their own recording equipment and only go to studios to record drums and for mixing and mastering, so, yeah, the difficult part is not the lack of options, but choosing from among a bunch of good options the one that's best for you. We knew we wanted to record with Keijo since the studios sessions for the previous album — he's a true professional who really cares about his work.

I'm sure Magnus's studio is a good one, he's a dedicated musician and sound engineer, but I have yet to record there.

Your previous album consists of eleven songs, that's a good result. How many songs do you have for 'Supersargasso', and are there any left over after this recording session?

"Supersargasso" has nine songs. And we didn't record anything that didn't make it onto the album.

I quite forgot to ask you about what kind of meaning you have for the album's title – what is "Supersargasso"?!

The title comes from our song "Mu aadress on Supersargasso" (My Postal Address is the Super-Sargasso Sea), which references the notion of "the Super-Sargasso Sea" coined by the writer and researcher Charles Fort — a fictional "realm" or "dimension" where lost things go and whence occasionally other, inexplicable things (such as rains of frogs or UFO-s) appear. Fort was a very interesting looney. You may have heard the term "Fortean" used in the sense of paranormal or anomalous phenomena — that's derived from his name. So, in essence, it means "the sea of lost things". We're using it strictly as a metaphor, of course (as did Fort, for all his woo-mindedness; it was a "thought experiment").

Taak – 'Surnud mees ja tema sarv':

Mart, you continue to sing in your native language, and I always think that such bands simply must exist - national identity is a special thing, it should be kept even with just a few bands... I doubt that the scene needs tons of English-speaking Black Sabbath or MDB copycats. But did you ever regret the choice of writing only Estonian texts?

First of all, it's not so much a national pride issue for us as it is a reflection of our musical roots in the old school Estonian hard rock genre, our personal connection to a certain time and place. You might as well say we're pining for the Soviet Union (which, let me stress, we're definitely not about). Everything is a remix, and if the so-called copycats take the heritage and build something worthwhile on it, I don't see a problem with "copying".

I've never regretted the choice to sing in Estonian for a very simple reason — I have other outlets when I feel like singing in English. And there's always Dawn Of Gehenna to fall back on, should demand arise for an "English-language Taak".

Hah, no... I didn't try to find a connection with the USSR's history or national pride. It sounds great and - considering the genre's borders - original, I like it, that's it. What opportunities do you have in Estonia for spreading your music? I'm sure that you said once about some folk festival... What about TV or radio?

We get some airplay on radio and would probably be played on TV a couple of times if we had a presentable video. Most of the spread is online, though. There's a very good international metal festival in Estonia — Hard Rock Laager — in the middle of the summer, as well as a bunch of clubs (not regularly active metal clubs in each and every city, alas, but there are quite many underground venues also outside of the two biggest cities, Tallinn and Tartu).

Probably I should ask you about Taak's popularity in Estonia: the doom scene is mostly something underground, and it hasn't as many followers as the black or death metal ones. Is it easy to organize gigs or sell CDs? Or, damn, what's another measure of popularity we have there?

It's not easy, but the few die-hard fans we have are really steadfast and reliable (thank you, guys!). I believe that if we'd have stuck to the more extreme doom metal and English lyrics, we'd been disbanded a long time ago. Estonians love their dark rock in Estonian language, which means we have some overlap with the so-called depressive rock scene — bands like Kosmikud, Metro Luminal and Sõpruse Puiestee. That seems enough to keep us (and the audiences) trying.

Taak live, circa 2009.

Taak has existed for about 23 years (if we also count its years spent under the Gardens of Gehenna name): didn't you think that you could gain more results if you put more efforts into band promotion?

Dawn Of Gehenna, not Gardens!

Oh, sorry man! It seems that I still can't forget those Bavarian guys!

Yeah, we'd probably have achieved more over the years if we'd sweated more about promoting ourselves. But I'm not sure that we'd still be a band. Not doing our stuff very professionally has helped maintain the illusion of relevance. If we did it for fame and money, we'd be doing something very, very different by now.

The new album will see the light of the day soon, so who is your publisher now? And how will you spread the album?

We're publishing it ourselves this time. There's going to be a CD that can be ordered from Nailboard or straight from us, and well be selling it digitally on the web, too — at SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes, etc.

Do you plan to support the album with gigs? And are you finally ready to carry Taak abroad?

Sure, but we don't have a tour planned, if that's what you mean. And, yeah, we're always open to suggestions when it comes to gigs abroad, but, again, we haven't planned an actual tour around the album yet.

Do you have some bands abroad who you can call your friends? With whom you could do a tour there? Sorry, it seems that I'm asking too much about your ambitions.

Yeah, we have friends in Finland — band like Hisko Detria and Sammal, who we've gigged together, also friends in Lithuania — we did a small tour together with the Lithuanian doom pioneers Frailty and the Belarus depressive doomsters Woe Unto Me in 2014, which was fun.

Mart, I remember that you're also a writer, at least you've said about stories you wrote — something about Chtulhu in the Baltic Sea, and another one. What's new on this front?

Sorry to disappoint you, but "Ultima Cthule" and "Sügelisnõia kingitus" (The Gift of the Scabies-Sorcerer), the two stories I wrote as Laur Kraft, are still without a sequel. I'm too busy with other stuff, like advocating for medical cannabis reform in Estonia. Maybe someday.

What's driving you to push legalization of cannabis in Estonia? What is Estonia's current cannabis policy?

I've been advocating drug policy reform, especially legalization of medical cannabis, for more than a decade; I guess it's my other great hobby. The situation regarding medical cannabis in Estonia is very duplicitous: it's legal on paper, but in more than ten years that it's been nominally available to patients, only one patient has actually been prescribed medical cannabis. But I'm sure it will change. It will have to — other countries are doing it and we can't feasibly maintain a vacuum in this climate. Facts will win in the end!

Recreational cannabis is sort of decriminalized in Estonia, as are other drugs, but the penalties are still absurdly high and you can get a pretty heavy sentence for growing your own, so that's another front where change must occur. I don't think actual legalization is a short term target here, but at the rate things are changing in some of the more progressive parts of the world I wouldn't rule out a state-regulated cannabis market in ten years' time.

Do you have few more words for our readers?

Stay heavily doomed and listen to Taak!

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Visit the Taak bandpage.

Interviewed on 2016-04-09 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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