It is rare that a gig takes place without major disturbances – this day, a snow storm had made the trip from Jyväskylä extremely adventurous … No wonder the five guys seemed a bit stressed because of the delay, but still glad to make it to their Helsinki premiere in PRKL Club in one piece ( see report ). Somehow Wille Naukkarinen (git) and Tommi Kiviniemi (b) still managed to deliver an astonishing amount of information in a very short time, between soundcheck and supper, about starting-from-scratch, childlike enthusiasm and ”sisu”, the endurance of Finnish Metal bands…
Actually, you have been in business for quite a while, but this band is quite new – how come, how did the band get together?
Wille: It started a few years ago, I was living here in Helsinki, and our other guitar player Tapio (Vartiainen) is one of my best friends. We were just hanging around a lot while I was living here, and we started talking about maybe forming a band. We had Ghost Brigade back then, but it is based in another city, and we didn´t rehearse that much at all, like once or twice a month or something …
Tommi: … yeah, something like that..
Wille: I thought maybe there would be room and time for another band, and then – I don´t know, I started like – playing with the idea of maybe playing Death Metal for the first time in my life, because it´s been a … that´s basically my teenage years right there, all these 90s bands and I was very active in the scene, but I never had a decent Death Metal band that I played in, I always had different kind of bands. So I thought that maybe better late than never. So in the end we decided to form the band and started thinking “who is gonna play with us” and “where are we going to rehearse, in Helsinki oder in Jyväskylä”, where we are originally from. So we chose Jyväskylä, which meant that we gonna have some members from Jyväskylä as well. Then these guys came into the picture, as we had been talking with them as well, with Pasi (Pasanen, dr) and him (points to Tommi)
Wille: … maybe playing Death Metal at some point. We even had a little project years ago, but that died sooner that it started…
Tommi: I had totally forgotten about that
Wille: Anyway, we just founded the band and Pasi had this friend, who he mentioned, that he would be a good singer for us and he is into this kind of music – I don´t know, that´s the story, pretty much.
Have you found this record company quickly, or …
Wille: Yeah, we recorded a demo tape, and then quite quickly … we sent the demo only to a very few selected labels. I don´t know even why… maybe we were rather lazy…
Tommi: Yeah maybe
Wille: than actually calculating stuff or something. I don´t know. There are members of Ghost Brigade, Swallow the Sun and Endstand in this band, and the guy at Lifeforce Records is a massive fan of all three bands, and he also liked this new band. He was like “this is bringing the best elements of all three bands together, plus some Death Metal, so why not sign you guys?”
Tommi: Didn´t he release one Endstand record back in the days? (Wille confirms) And Tapio knew him from those days, I think
Wille: It was a pretty easy choice, like “let´s go, let´s do it”.
Tommi: Cool, though.
Wille: Yes, it was very easy. (laughs)
Well, I guess as you have all this experience in the background…
Wille: Yeah, yeah, that helps, but I am also proud of the fact that he actually liked our band. He didn´t sign us because … in today´s world, if you play in other bands, it doesn´t mean shit any more.
Wille: It is not like you could go and say “we are a star line up” or whatever, it doesn´t mean shit any more
Tommi: Like on stickers… those on covers of records, those are totally worthless now, I think. That´s bullshit.
Wille: Yeah, he signed us for all the right reasons.
Tommi: This is a good thing.
What was the response to your debut album so far?
Wille: I think it was surprisingly good
Tommi: Flattering even – I didn´t expect it. I thought we made a really good record, I liked doing it, I liked playing it
Wille: Well, I can understand if it´s a difficult thing to swallow for some people. The whole album – it goes from a different style to the next, just like all the 90s groups did, before everything became like “you have to market it to a targeted audience, everything you do” – and that I think is bullshit, it´s killing the mood, killing everything basically. So we made an album that SHAMELESSLY does different things. And I knew that some people won´t be liking this at all, they won´t be getting it, they won´t be liking it. And I am cool with that. We actually got really really little hate for that album. Everybody is basically being supportive, even if somebody doesn´t actually like the music, they are still on our side, as we are doing things in a fresh way, hopefully, mixing all the different things – so it´s good.
Thinking about stuff I heard recently – some bands from Australia, for example – it seems there´s this new trend of being outside any genre, mixing all kinds of styles on one record; and I have to admit that I like that, because… well…
Wille: … because it gets boring so quickly…
Wille: … if you target your music… I´m that kind of guy, if I played in a band that would be saying like “we´replaying brutal Death Metal”, I would be interested for 2 weeks to be playing in that band, then I´d lose my interest, because I do one thing, and then it´s done, what´s next? That´s why we play this kind of music – with Sons of Aeon as well as with Ghost Brigade, as well as my old bands before that…
Tommi: … as well as everything we do
Wille: … they were all mixed styles, basically, that´s what I am interested in.
Is this now you main project, or…
Tommi: We have the other bands, too, like Ghost Brigade
Wille: Yeah, everybody has their other bands. Pasi doesn not play in Swallow the Sun any more… but everybody else has different bands. Me and Tommi, we have Ghost Brigade and this band, for me it´s enough, 2 bands is the maximum.
Well, with Hanging Garden I just talked about the fact that it is difficult in Finland to be a full-time musician (see the interview) – have you reached that stage yet?
So you all doing day jobs…
Wille: I admit that nowadays I get some money for doing this, but not NEARLY enough to make a living… that´s not even the point. I am a graphic designer, I work at home, I have my own company, it is just perfect for band life. I don´t NEED anything else. I don´t need this band to grow, or Ghost Brigade to grow any bigger, just so that I would get more money. It´s a good situation I am in right now, personally.
What are the other guys doing, day jobs I mean?
Tommi: I´m unemployed right now, I used to be a mail man, the shittiest job in the world, I would not recommend it to anyone!
Wille: Pasi is working in some factory, some computer-based thing I understand nothing about, drawing some technical stuff – I´m not really sure. Tapio is a teacher, Tony (Kaikkonen, voc) is a tattoo artist, he has his own shop in Jyväskylä.
So is it sometimes difficult to coordinate gigs or rehearsals?
Tommi: Not so far, at least.
Wille: It´s – well, it´s a yes and no. It depends … sometimes it´s difficult and gets on my nerves, sometimes it´s difficult to get schedules meet. At some other time it´s no problem, everything just happens on their own. I can live with that.
So is it still the big dream to be a full-time musician?
Wille: No. I don´t know about the other guys, but not for me
Tommi: No, not for me either.
Wille: I realized that like 10 years ago that it´s not going to happen
Tommi: … you cannot make a living out of that, at this level
Wille: Or you can, if you make some other choices…
Tommi: yeah but you have to…
Wille: … when you were younger, but already years ago I made my choice. I enjoy being in a band more when it´s a hobby, than when it would be a job.
Tommi: Yeah Yeah
Yeah, you have more freedom…
Wille: … the whole artistic side, nobody tells me what to do…
Tommi: You have always a choice, whatever you do, nobody is pressuring you into a certain type of music or something.
Is the songwriting done by one, or two people?
Wille: Three people
Tommi: … so far (laughs)
Wille: And also three people are writing the lyrics.
Sorry about this question, but that´s the disadvantage about promos and downloads, you don´t get much of the lyrics – so what are the lyrics about?
Wille: Well, Tony writes lyrics about more globally related issues, whereas mine and Tapio´s are far more about personal stuff. It is almost as if my style of writing lyrics for this band is exactly the same as writing for Ghost Brigade, it is very personal … but the lyrics are printed in the booklet, so it is available to those who have the album.
But it´s definitely not… well.. JOYFUL…
Wille: I´m not gonna speak for the others, but in my case – it´s – no. My lyrics are always hopeful, but – there´s always hope, that´s the core idea. But then… what you see on the surface is not so happy. You have to read between the lines.
Well – as you have been with other bands for so many years before, how did it feel to start again with a completely new project, was it a bit like “being a little boy on the playground”?
Tommi: Yeah yeah, totally like childlike enthusiasm
Wille: Exactly that – that´s a very nice feeling to have, after I don´t know how many 10-plus years since I had that feeling (laughs)
Tommi: Really refreshing
Wille: Childlike – being excited all over again. But it also means, when you start a band you have to start from scratch. EVERYTHING…
Wille: You have to have the same conversations you had with your other bands 10 years ago, you´re having the same issues, the same problems, the same EVERYTHING from scratch, starting with the fact that you have NO MONEY. If you´re asked to go on tour, you have no money, no savings, nothing – it´s everything from scratch…
And there´s this “coming up with a band name”… how did you come up with it, by the way?
Wille: I don´t even remember the story…
Tommi: … me neither…
Wille: I think Tapio made it up…
(everybody is looking at Tapio, who had entered the room a short time ago to enjoy his food)
Tapio (to Wille): YOU made it up! (laughter)
Wille: Yeah… I know, I came up with it, I just don´t remember where from, where it started.
Tommi: I don´t remember at all – but it´s a cool name.
Wille: We had long, long discussions about it, which kind of names we like, which kind we don´t, what it should mean, what should it not mean – and then this band name was something that everybody accepted, finally. It was quite a struggle, yes – the older you get, you get more critical towards this kind of thing. You can´t just name your band like WHATEVER – “Shitheads” or something (laughter) – that would have worked when we were 15, but not as a 35 year old…
Tommi: This is a good band name, it pretty much represents what we are about – maybe also the attitudes…
Well, it doesn´t restrict you to any style…
Wille: Yes, this is one of the things we talked about. We didn´t want a brutal Metal name, we actually almost wanted the opposite – like, if we wanted to play pop music, we can do it with this band name
Tommi: (laughing) Yeah, yeah…
Wille: Then again, it´s a good METAL band name…
Tommi: YEAH! I think so, totally!
Wille: It does not suffer from the fact that it doesn´t have corpses in it or something…
Tommi: It´s kind of epic, raises some questions – maybe? It is hard to put a label on it.
Did you struggle to represent it visually?
Wille: Yeah, this was also a struggle – I did the cover artwork, for example. I just found it boring if we had done a regular Metal cover, then I chose the light house, which is our cover, it is more like related to the lyrics, and also the band name, a hopeful symbol, and more used in the Hardcore and Rock scene, actually, as an object, than in the Metal scene. And this is also what you get more critical about the older you get – “there´s a cover, I don´t know what it means, but it looks cool” – that doesn´t do it any more. It has to be deeper than that.
Being older, maybe you could tell us what has changed in the Finnish Metal scene, in a positive, a negative way? Is it now easier with the internet or…
Wille: I don´t know. All I know is that I enjoyed it a lot when I was growing up in the 90s – and as I said I was very active in the scene, all the tape trading stuff and all that, but then I got interested into other areas of music, and then I kind of lost touch for at least 10 years. I really didn´t like – I knew all the main bands, what was going on and so on – then I have a big black hole, a 10-year-gap
Tommi: You mean, the Metal scene in Finland?
Wille: Yeah yeah – and then, the main thing I noticed – it became very big, became chart music, was played on the radio – it didn´t feel the same as it did when we were teenagers…
Tommi: Well, it was not dangerous any more – if it is everybody´s music, there is no danger about it any more which you got back then…
IN FINLAND – it´s not quite the case in other countries…
Tommi: Yeah of course!
Wille: But then I think Finnish people are – I like the Finnish mentality in music business. Because when bands form, they set their minds to something – they are gonna do it, no matter what.
Tommi: YEAH this is true
Wille: They are not quitters, and this is what I am proud of. Many Finnish bands are willing to sacrifice a lot for the band.
Maybe it´s this Finnish SISU …
Tommi: Yeah exactly
Wille: That´s a good thing in the Metal scene… but outside the new band – I don´t really know much.
Tommi: Me neither
Wille: I guess the generations have changed…
(More band mates have arrived in the meantime, to enjoy their food – the space is getting tight)
Guess I don´t want to keep you from eating any longer – your final statement?
Tommi: (after a moment of thinking) THANK YOU! (laughter)
Wille: Some really good booking agent in Germany who is reading this, make contact with us – let´s make something happen in Germany! Kiitos! (=thank you, the ed.)
PS: One festival gig is confirmed by now: Nummirock June 20-22, 2013, Kauhajoki, Finland
photos: Marko Kauko, band, K.Weber