"I Have Always Been Interested In Playing All Styles of Music. Pop, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Latin Music, etc." Metality.net Interviews Kai Hahto

Finnish drumming icon Kai Hahto has been ripping it up lately with doom metal heavy weights Swallow The Sun on their last European tour of 2010, in support of the band's latest album "New Moon" out now via Spinefarm Records.

Kai Hahto is known for being one of the most highly skilled and diverse drummers in the metal world. His earlier work with his former grindcore band Rotten Sound, saw Kai produce some of the most brutally pummeling drum fills. His work with progressive death metal band Wintersun shows off his strong structures and addictively memorable blast beats. While his work with Swallow The Sun will leave you in awe at being the perfect base to the band's powerful yet deeply emotional music; creating unforgettably amazing grooves.

Kareem C got a chance to chat it up with Kai about Swallow the Sun's most recent tour, his main influences, his warm ups before getting on stage, among many other topics. And yes! Kai updates us about the highly anticipated second full length album from Wintersun!

Here's how it went:

Kareem C: Hey there, Kai! First of all, happy new year! I hope you're doing alright!

You just came back from a big tour in Europe with Swallow the Sun. How was that?

Kai: The Tour was good, even though we had a lot of problems during the tour. Bus broke down, the weather had a lot of effects also because most countries had some problems dealing with the snow issue and fans couldn't get to the shows because local transportation didn't run, etc.

Also, there was a lot of other tours going on at the same time, so we could see that in the turn out with the amount of people, but in the end we were happy anyway. It could have been a lot worse. Also it was our 3rd European tour over the course of one year and it was a bit risky to see if people are interested to come and see us. Good ending for the promotion of the latest album nonetheless. 146 gigs in one year is a lot for any band anyway.

Kareem C: Looking at the bands you've been involved with: Wintersun, Rotten Sound, and now Swallow the Sun. All three bands are very different in terms of their influences. Are you a musician who feels that playing a little bit of everything keeps things interesting and exciting in your career?

Kai: I have always been interested playing all styles of music. Pop, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Latin music etc..So I find a lot of challenge doing all kinds of things. Mostly I am known for playing metal but I have been involved with so many things and I think it's a good way of keeping things humble and in a perspective. You can also take a lot of influences from other styles of music and use it in heavy metal.

I think I would be bored just doing metal only. Jazz is my big passion because it has taught me to improvise, listen and also to follow more challenging song structures. I think learning to play fast is one thing, but also to keep things simple and grooving is another really important skill for a drummer. We're suppose to keep time anyway and the better your time is and ability to give a good groove, is what really makes you realize the real nature of good drumming.

Kareem C: Being a drummer that worked with a number of bands; how have you enjoyed being on the road with Swallow the Sun?

Kai: I knew the guys before I worked with them so it was kind of easy to start touring with them. I actually did one tour in 2007 in North America replacing their actual drummer when he couldn't get some freetime from his day job.

We saw already then that it's easy to play together and get along. The guys are fun to be around and I've had a great time with them on the road. I think that's really important because you spend 23 hours outside of the stage with the guys and that counts sometimes more. Being on stage is just a little part of the touring life and daily routines. You need a good team and spirit to be able to do longer tours and spend the time in the bus together.

Kareem C: Do you have any interesting traditions or rituals before you get on stage with any of the bands you are in?

Kai: Usually, I start preparing for the show a few hours before, by drinking at least 1.5-2 liters of water. This is really important and I have found that "filling the tanks" before the show makes your playing more easy and you don't get cramps so easily.

Also I don't need to drink so much during the show. I drink after the show at least 0.5-1 liter to fill the tanks again and this makes my body not dry out. Also usually 30 minutes before the show I'll start warming up my hands and feet by playing on the pad and streching my body and get the blood flow going on in my body. Also it's a mental thing that prepares me on the stage. For me at least it is a very big part of the show. I want to go to the stage like a boxer..loose, relaxed and not tense and unprepared. I want my drumming to be there from the first note and not after 2 songs..I don´t want to warm up on the stage.

Kareem C: Rotten Sound and Wintersun have songs that are much faster and perhaps much more technical than Swallow the Sun. Do you feel that playing in a doom metal band is a new experience that will benefit you as a musician, or do you find it all too elementary?

Kai: I always tell people that playing fast is one thing and that requires certain elements, technique and stamina. But playing slow is sometimes much more difficult because you have to be in time with your body. When tempos are slower you have more space to make the hits. So your body needs to move in time to be able to play in tempo. In faster music the body movement is not so big because there's no time for that. So playing different music always teach you different things and it was a challenge to start to play in Swallow the Sun and that was something I didn't do before.

I recommend everybody to stay open to music. Just by playing simple and slow doesn't mean it is easy. We don't use a click with Swallow (The Sun) either so that adds another level of concentration during my playing. I need to focus and concentrate on the tempo and my body movements more because I am the click behind the band and I'm not following any "machine." So definitely being in Swallow the Sun has been beneficial for my drumming.

Kareem C: Let's cut the to the chase: We've all been waiting for Wintersun's new album, Time, to come out. However, Wintersun announced a few performances in Europe. Can the fans expect any new songs or previews of new songs there?

Kai: Yes, we will do at least 4 shows to start playing again together and more will follow when we get the album mixed. It's ready otherwise, but needs some mixing still. We have planned to play 1 new song on those 4 shows and to give some preview for the fans about the new material. So it will be exciting to start the shows with some new material. Let´s see how the fans will take it.

Kareem C: How well do you stay in touch with the guys from Wintersun? Do you guys have a routine where you meet or contact each other to discuss the stages of "Time"?

Kai: Other guys in the band live in Helsinki and i live 440 kilometers away so we don´t meet so often. Mostly it's speaking on the phone, sharing e-mails etc..Mostly I stay in touch with Jari to get some updates on how things are moving forward, but I've been so busy last year and away from home so it's been a little difficult to keep in touch. We will start rehearsing together in April-May for the upcoming shows and then we'll see each other more regularly and that's nice.

Kareem C: Metality is a website based in the Middle East. Because there are many young and aspiring musicians here, I'm sure they would like to hear some advice from one of metal's best drummers. Any interesting tips you could give young drummers (or musicians in general) that will help them?

Kai: I think the best advice for a younger player is that investigate other styles of music, because that gives you a perspective for your own drumming .Also you have to love music to be able to take all the extra shit that runs around in the music business. This lifestyle is not easy and is also full of disappointments sometimes. I have seen a lot and the only thing that keeps me doing this is for the love of the music. You can always play as a hobby but if you want to live doing this, then it's a different story. Also don´t expect to become rich by doing this. I am happy as long as I can pay my bills and buy food for the table, but still I try to develop myself as a musician and let's see what the future brings. Like someone said before "It's easier to get up there, than stay there." So stay focused, respect everybody and have fun!

Kareem C: How did you guys celebrate New Year's?

Kai: Just staying at home with my family at home.I have been so much away during 2010 so i just wanted to take the time out and relax.That´s about it.

Kareem C: What bands have you been listening to lately?

Kai: Many different styles..Porcupine tree, Imogen Heap, Joni Mitchell etc..I don´t listen to metal all the time because when I play it myself I want my ears to hear something else than Metal music. Also I listen to a lot of Jazz because that keeps me inspired. I try to be open to all kinds of styles. I also listen to radio from time to time to keep my ears for more Pop music. I listen to metal also but not so much all the time. It also depends on what kind of mood I have on a particular day and what type of music i want to hear.

Kareem C: Who or what inspired you to start playing music? Was it a family member? Or was it something you've always been interested in?

Kai: I don't remember what got me into playing music because I was so young when I started playing drums, maybe 5-6 years old. But I'll always remember that Iron Maiden was a big influence and also what maybe got me to play metal in the first place. My father was a singer and a musician before I was born and I guess that has something to do with my musical background. I listened to some of his favourite vinyls and that got me a wider range of different musical styles as well. My mother and father have always been really supportive, and never told me to give up my passion and get a "real job."

Kareem C: Of course, this is a given question for all great musicians who are involved in great bands: Would you ever be interested in playing in the Middle East?

Kai: Of course! I have toured in Europe and North America so much and it could be great to see more places I have never been to. So I am looking forward to go to more distant places and get new experiences. Japan, Australia, South America, Middle East, have always been on my "want to go" list. Let's hope things work out some day.

Kareem C: Any last words for Metality.net's readers?

Kai: Support the music, Buy the albums and go see live music no matter what the style it is. This is the way we live and we need the fans as much as you need us so it's a 2 way street. All the best to all and keep the music alive by supporting it! Cheers!

We would really like to thank Kai for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure to visit his official website and band pages for the latest updates on all his studio and live projects.


  1. amazing interview!
    you pretty much nailed it ^_^

  2. kai is n amazing drummer swallow the sun are the best \m/\m/

  3. This was one of the best experiences of my life. Interviewing Kai was a pleasure!

  4. Great interview :)