The all-star band Flat Earth featuring ex-members of Amorphis and HIM – Niclas Etelävuori (Bass), Anttoni “Anthony” Pikkarainen (Vocals), Mikko “Linde” Lindström (Guitar), Mika “Gas Lipstick” Karppinen (Drums) – has naturally raised some attention already. And we caught Niclas and Anthony in a very good mood, a short time before the big day, the release of their debut album „None for One“. And both turned out to be quite talkative – which is not that usual for Finns – and also very creative when it comes to spontaneous catch phrases …
My first question is quite obvious: Your debut album will be out soon, on 9th November – so what can people expect from the album ?
Niclas: Everything –
Anthony: – and based on the singles, not much.
Niclas: Yeah. Everything and nothing at the same time … but there’s a lot of Rock’n’Roll on the album and we take it from side to side, from East to West – from South to North …
Anthony: … yeah we take the side steps, the front step and the back step, and that’s what it is
Niclas: … and then we run out through the back door.
Anthony: Yeah. Eleven tracks, and then out the back door…. (reporter giggles)
Truthfully what to expect from the album is – within the eleven songs, the stylistic characteristics vary quite a lot. We have very slow, slow-ish ballad-like type of songs – a couple of those, then we have straight forward Rock’n’Roll riff oriented tracks and some Progressive stuff in the middle. It is really tough to say what is gonna suit and who and how …
N: There’s a lot of different colors and emotions
A: Yeah hopefully everybody can find something they would like from that pack of tracks
N: It’s a bag of tracks
A: It’s (laughs) a BAG OF TRACKS!
Another question everybody is probably going to ask – how did you guys come together? Have you met before, been jamming before – and (to Niclas) it was your idea to form the band?
N: Yeah, Linde and Gas I have known for over 20 years, and I used to play with Gas for 8 years (in the Band Kyyria, the ed.), and I used to be Linde’s guitar tech when he started also …
A: (laughing) yeah, actually you haven’t mentioned that very often!
N: … and Linde does not even remember it (laughter). Anyway, I have known them for a long time so it was kind of a logical solution, and they were both not doing that much. Then Anthony came through our good friend Silke – and since then we’ve been a pack of Jacks!
A: … of Jacks! (almost literally ROTFL) OK I can take that a little bit further. We’ve been talking about this and I asked him (turns to N.) the same thing, how did you come up with the idea of asking Linde. And there was the very obvious answer, if you are thinking about a band with just one guitarist, you want this guitarist to be recognized immediately when you hear the sound. Who do you have in Finland? How many names can you drop? Yeah – so why not ask him? And what a jackpot to actually have the guy.
N: It was a blessing
A: We are blessed.
And… next obvious one, where does the band name come from, is there a particular story behind it?
A: It was a bad name process – I tried to come up with cool sounding words combined with cool, even better sounding words, and if you have been in this state of thinking, it’s useless. As you got quite many options, right?
A: And so you are just trying to stream out to another consciousness and try to get something. And Earth was a word that I just was thinking about, and then I tried to combine it with something. I started with „flan“ and I am not even sure that this is a word… but I was going for that sound for some reason, and when „Flat Earth“ came, I realized this is actually a theory, isn’t it? And then I remembered a headline saying something about the NBA player Shaquille O’Neal and that he said about the Earth being flat theory… and I went back to that as I am a big fan of Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and he used to play with him, so I watched Shaq games a lot. And I am not even sure if he was joking, but him just having the possibility of thinking so freely about something – I really liked this idea, I think it was really Punk Rock. If you can think the Earth is flat then you can think it is square, and if you can go with that…
N: … it can be a pyramid one day.
A: Yeah Pyramid Earth …
Theres also a „hollow Earth“ theory: Earth is a hollow sphere and we actually live on the inside of it …
A: … and now we just need to figure out a theory that combines all those theories…
A: Then I thought the name is awful but I kept it for a couple of days, because I knew I’m gonna start giving them the band names at some point, first making them slightly tipsy… I had another one which I thought would be the band name. But the next morning when we woke up we had 2 options and we called Silke (the band promoter, the ed.) „hey, we have 2 band names“ and she was like „Flat Earth!“ Alright, that’s it, case closed!
So how long did it take to get the first song together – was it a quick process, or painful?
N: It’s always like somebody sticks a knife in you and turns it around, takes it out and stabs you again – you never know how it’s gonna turn out. But – it depends, sometimes it’s just a manner of minutes, sometimes it can be days, weeks. Even years. You never know. Sometimes a song comes instantly but that happens very rarely. Usually you have to process for months and months and go and walk in the woods and all that.
A: And I would say the essence of a song is another idea than the complete song or when it’s finished. Because if you have time and you are not finishing the song, it will evolve with that time. You cannot help but touch bits and pieces here and there… But (to N.) you had seven demos when we met for the first time and I think after a couple of weeks we finished five or six of them. (N. agrees). If that would have been the initial song molding process, it was really fast and quite un-painful.
N: It was fast as a shark
That means most of the songs come from your input …
N: At first when the band started, but then there was the other guys’ input, they brought songs too. I did 70 % or 50 %. Anthony did all the vocals … yeah, we had to start from somewhere … It’s been good. Now we have already been exchanging ideas for new stuff.
A: If you can work this collectively on songs, then you have four members, and they all have a say how they would prefer to have a certain structure of a song, or anything. I think it does not happen too often to have such a working chemistry between those guys, that they are actually subconsciously aiming for the same end result. And still, it’s the first record, and if we can work like this, I’m just waiting what the next record will be like as we get to work from scratch.
N: Yeah, we tried some different approaches to stuff and we were working until everybody was happy.
A: Yeah exactly, and with the material you had already for us, it became kind of oblivious whose material it was …
N: … and we got Hiili (Hiilesmaa) to produce …
A: … yeah exactly, and he had his say…
N: … it went through the grinder, every song goes through the process, like a bunch of meat, you put it in a grinder, then you grind it, then it comes out…
A: … and then you need to package it.
N: And sometimes you can spice it up with salt and pepper.
So how do you actually work – nowadays it’s not the usual „coming together in a rehearsal room“ but rather through the internet (as only two band members live in Helsinki)?
N: Pretty much sending our stuff via e-mail. Linde has his house and Gas has his things so they can work on the songs at home…
A: … and now I have your studio!
N: … yeah, my things… (laughter) We have a bit of a distance to where we live, and everybody can take their time, whenever they have time, then send it back and then the next one continues.
So there’s no more „jamming in the rehearsal room“ … In comparison, is there another huge difference how you used to work with your first bands „back then“ as teenagers to how you are working in the band now?
N: Well, the first bands were a trial-and-error kind of thing…
A: … there is a much more efficient way…
N: … everything you have to try, and nowadays we know what not to try and what to try. And also, when going to a rehearsal room when you have something to rehearse it is much nicer. If you go there just to make noise, OK sometimes something beautiful might come but usually it is easier when you have a plan what to rehearse (laughter).
As you mentioned a studio – in your video “Blame” the whole band can be seen in the studio playing; did you actually record something when playing live in the studio?
A: No, that was all staged (laughs)
N: But we did record everything live in this studio…
A: … we needed to be very efficient, to have some footage of the actual band in the studio…
N: … but we had a separate photo shooting day. You cannot really film while we are recording drums – if the guy trips over something everything goes to shit.
A: Yeah, so that would NOT be very efficient, so that solution made a lot of sense, and now we have two more songs worth of material from this video taping session.
By the way, Anthony, I assume you write all the lyrics (A. confirms) – so what is the inspiration for your lyrics?
A: I usually just wait to get stimulated by something, wait for a vantage point to look at some ideas. But for me it is a very cathartic process, I write about what I struggle with of comprehending: Among other things with relationship-wise, economically, culturally, politically, philosophically, religion, obviously, all those topics – things I cannot have a normal conversation about with someone. That all I pour into lyrics, that is my way of processing bad thoughts, fundamentally bad thoughts, things that I need to get out of my system. It is almost like an interview, I am talking with another entity an expressing my concerns. And just through that talking I start seeing the scope in a wider spectrum and that helps me, prevents me from going nuts socially and to be able to somewhat keep myself balanced. So that’s the inspiration.
Is it always the melody first or is sometimes the text coming first?
A: Very seldom the text is coming first because I just approach singing through the steps of melody and sound
I am not too word-fanatic, I would rather go to hard to understand lyrics and a great melody than a very opened way of telling a story starting with the lyricism and then a less impressive melody. I usually first get the idea of a melody and then I start making sounds on it, and then words (snaps his fingers) just start popping up here and there, and once they fit with the idea how I want the rhythm to be flowing, then I start seeing structures, then I start pushing in more words and the actual story line is born. What am I saying subconsciously, what are the words that I am using melody-wise, rhythm-wise? That’s a process… (starts laughing) and that’s a bad answer…
No, not at all I think I understand what you mean… You all have such huge amount of experience, trial-and-error, success and less success – is it now more difficult with this all-star-band, or is it easier?
N: I don’t know – it is not easier but because the whole music scene is not as big as it was, financials, record sales – there are not so many record stores any more which makes it all harder. On the other hand the playing side, we of course have done it for a long time and feel that we know how to do that, no matter what. Then those other challenges, modern challenges…
That leads to another question – your record will be released worldwide via Drakkar, except Finland, here it is Suur Etiket, your own record company. Why did you choose to found your own record company, and who is running it?
N: There is a chairman board running it, as I said there are not so many record shops left and we can get into them with a phone call, so why the middle man?
A: Yeah it is hard to justify that.
Of course, I did not think of that aspect!
N: A lot of it happens online anyway
A: And Finland is our main market place, but that has even more emphasis why we should not do it ourselves, because we can then have total control.
Does everybody have certain tasks in the record company?
(Silke in the background: “Nico has them all!” – everybody laughs)
A: … and we have less…
N: The chairman delegates the tasks to everyone
A: Yes exactly (laughs)
N: Man with the chairs, with all chairs … (laughter)
There are some gigs in Finland coming and the album will be out soon – are there any other plans for the near future, festivals and the like?
N: Yeah, we hope to take Flat Earth around the world!
(the room explodes with laughter)
A: The interview is over!
Yes indeed, that was so brilliant – nothing can top that now … thank you for the interview, and CU guys live on stage soon!
Textphotos: K. Weber
Bandphoto: AJ Savolainen