It´s not always easy for bands who sing in their native tongue to be successful outside of their home country. With Finnish band Viikate lyrics do play a major role, too but the songs themselves, inspired by 50s movies, have enough potential to simply stick to your brain like toffee to your teeth. STALKER met up with band chef Kaarle Viikate during the MyötätuuliRock festival to chat about this topic and got, at the same time, a few tips on how to survive in Finland and what´s the best way to combine rocking and cooking.
For songs with non-English lyrics it´s usually very hard to be successful internationally, why do you think that is?
I don´t know, I think that it is possible to be successful in a foreign country as well if you sing in your own language. Rammstein is one example. I think when it´s not that big kind of show and production or anything like that…when you release an album; you should put your song lyrics to the booklet and put an English translation. I think that is the possibility to go elsewhere than your home country.
Why do you think it´s so difficult? Do people need to know what the song is about?
Yeah, I don´t know, if it is about the songs and the vocal melodies – they need to be together very tight. Maybe the songs themselves need a red thread so that people can listen to the songs but they still get it even if they don´t understand the words. Actually, I just bought a collection CD by an Estonian band and I don´t understand a word. Some bands have that talent that their music speaks to people even though the people don´t know the words or what they are singing about. I don´t know what it is, it´s a mystery!
In your case, how much, do you think, gets lost on the listener when he or she doesn´t understand the lyrics?
I feel that way that even though you don´t understand the lyrics there´s a feeling in that song that reflects the lyrics so you don´t get all together lost…you get an idea what the song is all about.
Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus, another band singing mostly in Finnish, even recorded two albums completely in German, would you consider that too?
I´m so poor in my other languages, as you notice here (laughs)…if the day will ever come that we release an album outside of Finland, then there will be an English translation of the lyrics in the booklet. I don´t believe that… for me writing in Finish…all the things I want to say…the best way I can say it is in Finnish.
The Finnish language as such sounds to me very monotonous or not very melodious, do you think that because of that it´s somehow harder to write a catchy tune?
It depends; sometimes I have to wrestle more with the lyrics than with the music. And it´s more serious for me to write it right. I think that´s the main point in our music.
When do you get your ideas for songs?
I get them all the time but there are times when your antennas are up. And you actually remember them afterwards, then you might write them down or something like that and when it´s time to write a new album you just get those notes and sum it up what is there and it feeds itself when you have some notes written down and then you´re like yeah, that kind of thing and you remember other things – it´s a snowball-effect. It happens all the time but if you´re not in a creative state of mind you forget it suddenly afterwards.
I´d like to ask you to pick one song from your latest studio album and explain to me what it´s about and what its meaning is.
“The moon over South East Finland” (Kuu Kaakon Yllä) I think that´s a way of life. I want to write about the way of life we live in Finland, in the South East of Finland. There´s irony and humor, you have to laugh and smile to yourself because if you don´t smile…or the things in life aren´t so great all the time so you have to smile and laugh harder if you get through. I think that´s the main point so you can survive here in Finland.
Is life so hard over here?
We don´t have light…
Well, right now you do, quite a lot actually 😉
Yeah, but it´s a really short period of time you have this kind of light. All the others times of the year it´s dark. That´s the main thing (laughs).
You have some really cool music videos, too. Where do you get those ideas from?
(smiles) Hmm, I think the same way we get ideas for the songs…from movies, tv-series, Finnish tv drama or comedy or whatever. That kind of thing that I personally watch all the time. If there´s a great tv series or movie or something like that that really inspires you then you have to pick up the main idea and put it into your own video as a tribute to the original.
Which one was the most fun to shoot?
I think the latest Viina, Terva ja Hauta . There we had the possibility to drive motor cycles and a Pappa Tunturi moped [Finnish brand moped from the 50s]. And there were explosions and women wearing only bikinis – just stupid rock´n´roll clichés. Actually, our drummer, Simo, likes them most – explosions and ladies but there are also other ideas in that video – it´s a good package.
When you were a teenager, say 14 years old, what were you dreaming about? Did you want to be a rock star?
At 14? I was thinking that I would never learn to play guitar. It´s so hard. At that age I was excited about music, I listened to it all the time and I wanted to be a chef, a cook. Actually, I am a cook, I got the education for that but I didn´t think that I would be playing music at all. It for me just came and now 15 years later, what do you know! It´s really crazy but I go along with it.
Viikate is already around since 1996, looking back is there something you would have done differently?
No, actually, I´ve done work in restaurants and doing that cook kind of thing besides. That was my occupation, I got money for rent by doing that job and playing was just a hobby. Actually, it´s just a hobby now, but playing music is where I make my living. There are small kind of things I have to do besides the gigs or records – so many pieces that come together so you can make your living but it´s really crazy that things have happened that way.
Speaking about being a chef, I found you´re hosting some kind of cooking show?
In the internet, yeah. Rokit Kokit! Yeah, we have done three episodes and actually, we don´t know yet whether it´s going to continue or not. It´s the production company´s problem at the moment but if it continues I´m happy to be in it.
What is it about?
With my friend, another cook, we just make food, have some guests, actually friends in music like Kotiteollisuus and Stam1na bla bla bla – there´s a small circle in Finland. But the main point is to do easy food to show that cooking isn´t so hard. You can try different kind of things you don´t have to be stuck with one item, just explore.
Do you have a recipe you want to share with our readers?
Well, actually, no, not a food recipe but I have a seriously good summer drink! Vanilla Vodka and 5-fruit juice. I don´t remember what all the fruits are but they are five exotic fruits and vanilla vodka, ice, umbrella! It´s summer!
Alright then, enjoy your summer! Thank you!
Photos: AJ Savolainen, RokitKokit