Categories
Concerts Music

El monstruo magn├ętico

This is the review of a concert that happened two a half years late. In the spring of 2006, Monster Magnet was scheduled to play at Tavastia. The concert was sold out, but it got cancelled. Band leader Dave Wyndorf suffered an overdose of sleeping pills and the whole tour was cancelled. Monster Magnet enters into a short hiatus that ends with the release of the album 4-Way Diablo in 2007. This autumn the band is back on the road.

There is a certain feeling that Monster Magnet needs to reconnect with the audience. And the best way to do it is to offer a setlist full of the hardest kick-ass songs in the repertoire. Therefore the show starts with a the terrific triple punch: Dopes to Infinity, Crop Circle and Powertrip. The band sounds strong, delivering all the ingredients of its charismatic drug rock: dense guitars, heavy rhythm section, a touch of psychedelia and excellent melodies. They channel the classic hard rock of Hawkwind, Grand Funk Railroad and Cream into the 21st century.

Wyndorf has put on a few kilos, but still he is an excellent frontman. His voce is in good shape and he looks healthy, although during the solos he often abandons himself to the back of the stage, next to the drum kit.

The show continues in the same terms. The band shows its most hard rocking side. There is not much time for the smooth acid sounds. Perhaps that is the reason why the setlist does not include any songs from 4-Way Diablo. Indeed, it is an odd choice to ignore the latest release. The encore, of course, is for the unsettling craziness of Spine of God.

Despite the band’s efforts, the night is a bit cold. Sunday might not be the best day for the Monster Manget service and the venue is half empty. It was even more empty during the opening acts. It is a shame that the audience did not enjoy the good sets by Nebula and Pligrim Fathers. The first, formed by ex Fu Manchu Eddie Glass, is an excellent power trio, while the second is an interesting young band from UK of heavy and loud psych rock.

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Photos by Eduardo Alonso

Categories
Interviews Music

Patterson Hood: A guitar and a pen

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Patterson Hood enjoys telling stories. He does in his songs. He sings about that “big fat man on a mechanical bull in slow motion” and about Mary Alice who got cancer but could not afford insurance and get chemo. Writing those stories and songs is what Patterson Hood has done since he was a kid. “What else could I do?” he admits. Now, in his mid-forties, Hood looks a bit worn out from constant touring, but enjoying the good moment that his band, Drive By-Truckers, is going through after a few rough times that almost broke up the band.

In the summer of 2006, Drive-By Truckers went on tour with The Black Crowes and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. What a great bill many might think, but truth is that things did not go that well. Financially, that tour saved Drive-By Truckers, but it exhausted the band. A few months later, guitarist and vocalist Jason Isbell left and Drive-By Truckers were back to square one. “The Black Crowes tour was rough”, admits Hood. “It was a hard time for us. We were going through a hard time ourselves and we were playing very short sets. It was very boring a lot of the time. We got to play for 40 minutes a day and the rest of the time we were just at the backstage. It was pretty much like hanging around the parking lot for the summer. It wasn’t a good time. The Black Crowes were great. Good band, good guys, but we were the first in the bill to play, so we play really early to almost nobody, to a big empty space. After that we would go back to the parking lot and drink. We were having some problems in the band anyway, so it wasn’t a very good time.

Patterson Hood remembers such a bittersweet time in a small backstage room at the Nolan club in Stockholm. Today, the band is playing one of the first dates of a short summer European tour. These are the band’s first dates across the pond in several months. Hood looks a little bit exhausted. The night before, they played a festival in Sweden. Immediately after that they packed and travelled by train to Stockholm. “I’ve hardly seen the city. We did not have any time on this trip”, he says. “But it has been a good one. We are playing a bit bigger rooms since the last time we were here in Europe”.

When he enters the room, he carries Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road and his BlackBerry phone. His first replies are short. It is obvious he does not like interviews. But he enjoys a good chat and he soon engages in the conversation, especially when talking about the band’s new album and the stories behind some of the album’s songs.

What is the story behind "The Opening Act"?

Peaking at almost 7-minutes, it is the longest song in the album? Most of the times when I write a song, I do it in one sitting, in 30 minutes or whatever it takes. Or it can happen that I might think about an idea for some time, but when I actually write the song, it happens pretty quickly. However, I wrote the first half of "The Opening Act" several years before the last half of it. When I originally wrote it, it had a different ending and I didn’t like it. But I liked things about it too much to just let it go, so I kept the song in case I revisited later. I wrote the first half of it exactly as the song describes. I was sitting at this bar, there was a mechanical bull, an ambulance came… It felt surreal. It was pretty redneck bar. I was the opening act. I played solo. Nobody was really there to see me and this surreal scene happened. Then I wrote the rest of the song a bit before going to the studio last spring. Then everything came together. It all came right. I had real fun with this song. I really like it. I am very happy how it turned out and how the recording turned out.

Another long song is "The Man I Shot".

That one has an interesting story. On The Black Crowes tour one night someone sent a message backstage that there were three guys that wanted to meet us. These three guys had just come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. They came home for a while and one of the three guys decided that he wanted to go back to Iraq. The other two guys weren’t very happy about the idea. They didn’t think it was the healthy thing for him to do. But he had come back home and gotten a divorce. He had some problems so he decided that he wanted to go to Iraq again. His friends took him to the show like a going away present. They thought it would be cool if they could come backstage and meet us. We hooked up and invited them to the backstage and we ended up hanging out for about two hours backstage while The Black Crowes were playing. We drank a bottle of whiskey. They told us stories and as we got drunker, the discussion got heater. It was a weird night. We had some pretty different political views, but at the same time there was some common ground. After the night was over, we all in the band kept thinking about this meeting a lot. And I wrote the song about that.

Do you try to find special moments to write?

I love writing at any chance I get. But it’s more a matter of getting enough time alone to actually do it. It is hard to do it when everybody is around and Cooley is farting. Whatever else is going on, it’s distracting. After touring I get home and I have a 3 year old kid that hasn’t seen daddy enough. It is a constant battle to get the time to write, but it’s something I must do because this is what I do. It is the first step in the chain so I have to make it happen. But it’s difficult sometimes.

Have you written many times about your own experiences?

Sure, all the time. A lot is about my experiences or the experiences of people I have met. Sometimes it is something I have read about. I don’t have to agree with the point of view of the person the song is about. But I have been to able to relate with it enough to at least be sympathetic with it whether I agree or not. For example, in "The Man I Shot" I didn’t want to put a lot of my political beliefs in that song because the character in that song doesn’t necessarily agree with them.

Do you get inspiration from other songwriter’s characters?

Any songwriter has been an inspiration, all kind of styles… Tom Waits… Bruce Springsteen… it is a big list.

Would you like to write something else other than a song?

I have two screenplays I have been working on, but I don’t like them enough to show them and finish them. I might write a book some day, if I have the time. I would love to. Even if it is just a book about our experiences on the road. That could be a pretty fun book. But I am amazed of the people that can write a book, though. I can’t image how difficult it can get. The book I’m reading right now [Corman McCarthy’s The Road]. I can’t imagine sitting down and writing that. I can’t imagine being in the frame of mind for long enough to write something like that.

After the departure of guitarist and songwriter Jason Isbell, who went to pursue a solo career, Drive-By Truckers needed to reinvent themselves. They put an acoustic tour together and called it The Dirt Underneath. Legendary session man Spooner Oldham (Neil Young, Bob Dylan) joined the tour and John Neff was chosen to replace Isbell.

This was pretty cool tour”, Hood says. “It was a really good time. We were reinventing ourselves and looking at what we were going to do next. It was exciting. We fixed the stuff in the band. The spirits were high. Spooner Oldham spent the whole summer with us. It was a lot of fun.

Are you planning to release a live album from The Dirt Underneath tour?

I don’t know. I would love to. I want to do a live record, but I just don’t know. Recently we changed record companies and there are some legal problems, so I don’t know if we are going to get the chance to do a live record. I’d love to do something with The Dirt Underneath tour because it was such a unique thing, kind of different. We recorded a couple of really good shows that we would be very happy to release but we are not allow too. I don’t know what will happen.

Meanwhile we can listen to the audience recordings of the shows.

They are floating around out there. There are some really good audience tapes. Either of the shows we did in New York, the show in Manhattan or the show in Brooklyn. Those are very good.

Do you listen to those recordings?

Not too much. I listen to our tapes. Those were the two best shows of the tour. Maybe someday they will get to surface somehow.

Even though, DBT have already earned a loyal fanbase, the road to success has not been easy for Patterson Hood. There have been many failed bands and many nights on friends’ couches. But writing songs and playing rock and roll was the only way of living. With your first band, Adam’s House Cat you met failure, but with DBT you toured the world. How do you deal with failure and success?

We spent six years working on our first band and it was six years failing at it. In some ways, I felt like it was a good band but it just didn’t happen. Maybe it was the wrong time, the wrong place. I still don’t understand what it makes the difference. All of the sudden, with DBT, even in the early days, everything worked out. The band was always liked by whoever saw it. It was different from day 1 than the old band. On our show there might have been only a small audience but they really liked it and came back to the second show and brought friends. It has grown that way over the last 12 years. Still we have to keep on working a lot, but it is a whole better than playing for six years and not being able to grow at all.

Did you feel like giving up?

I might have felt that way, but what else I was going to do. I was already working on shitty jobs. I couldn’t think that was all there was. I have been writing since I was eight and this is what I do. So it is just going back on and try again. When this one is over, I will probably try again and again.

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Drive-by Truckers performing Let There Be Rock in Stockholm

Southern Rock Opera was a tremendously ambitious album. But it changed your life.

We talked about for years. We worked on it for six years. We spent two years of early touring in vans talking and writing about it. It was what we were doing for entertain ourselves. We brainstormed about SRO. This other beast was building. When we slept on people’s floors touring those days, we often would talk about it in people’s houses and we would get this funny look, you are doing what? Yeah, it’s going to be mind blowing and we started describing and it was “WTF? You are going to write a record about what?” But it turned out to be the record that it changed our lives. Sometimes are the craziest ideas the ones that click.

In spite of how bold this move could have been, telling the legend about Southern Rock might have been the most reasonable thing to do for Patterson Hood. Not only he is from Alabama, but his father David Hood is a bass player and one of the founders of the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, home of recordings by Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson and many, many others.

How is growing up with a father that is a professional musician?

I didn’t get to be very near the recordings. I wanted to, but they kept me away. No kids here. I met a few like Mavis Staples, Bob Seger and a handful of others. But most of the time I was kept away. I understand now, although I didn’t understand back then. When I was a kid I was pissed off about it. I thought, I’m not going to hurt things. But I understand now. It is not a place for kids.

Did your father teach you or support you in your career?

He pretty much discouraged me until Southern Rock Opera at least. Until then he probably thought I should try something else. The punk rock thing was always a generation gap between us. I grew up really loving that. And of course, he really hated it. He was saying you are never on tune and you are too loud and you can’t sing. What the hell are you doing? But at the time we did SRO and even a bit before he came out, he finally understood what we were trying to do on that. Before it came out, most people thought it was a bad idea and tried to talk us out of it. But even then, my father got it.

The interview looked at the past quiet a bit, but Patterson Hood is already looking. He is already thing about start working on the new Drive-By Truckers album early next year. “I am writing some songs and hopefully Cooley is doing some writing too. I want the next album to be a loud, abrasive, in-your-face record. That is what I’d like. Really ass kicking”, he admits punching his hand.

The conversation continues for a while before Patterson joins the rest of the band while waiting for the gig to start. He likes talking about music, he praises Wilco and My Morning Jacket and he could continue talking about music for hours. One gets the feeling that he could continue talking about music for hours. But he has a show to do.

And that show in Stockholm was a success. The venue was packed and the audience was really passionate. Even a few Finns travelled to see the show. As usual the band shared a bottle of whiskey on stage and at one side of the stage, even the road ended singing the songs.

Categories
Interviews Music

Electro-pop from the Swedish countryside

{mosimage}Just a few hours before the gig, Johan T. Karlsson chats with journalists and fanswhile having a coffee in Klubi in Tampere. Within a few months, his project Familjen has taken his electronic music from his bedroom to live performances on stages around the world from Iceland to Australia. He still seems truly surprised of his success, even a bit shy about it in a very Scandinavian manner, acting like the kid from the little town going to the big city. And of course, he will not say no to a shot of vodka. "I like Finlandia vodka", Johan says. "That’s what Kent used to drink, so when we toured with them there was always a bottle of Finlandia vodka around". 

 

How do you prepare yourself for the show?

We don’t do anything special, really. What bands use to do, I supposed. We arehaving a party. The main thing is to get in the right mood, just listening to music, drinking and hanging around.

What do you listen to before the show?

Nowadays we are listening to quite a lot of early nineties acid house music.

How do you feel about touring and travelling to different parts of the world?

I am really excited about going to those places. When I was young, my parents did not have much money and we could not afford travelling abroad. Now I finally get to see the world. I don’t really like travelling much, though. You get tired all the time and there is a lot waiting. On the other hand, those are luxury problems. Being in Australia… Iceland… wow, it’s cool!

A fan comes to our table and greets Johan. They have a short conversation in Swedish. “I think the Finnish accent sounds lovely”, he tells me after the fan is gone. 

We were talking about touring, what are your favourite places?

We went to Italy. That was nice. We did some shows in Rome, Bologne, Milano…Beautiful cities, but we didn’t have the time to see much. One and a half hours to see Venice… that’s not much. We jumped into a bus and went around. Soon after that, back to the venue. It is weird. We go all the way, but we don’t have time to see much.

When did you start making music?

I got interested in music thinking about how sounds are created. When I was a kid, I did lots of different kinds of music. I played with samples, drum machines, I helped friends… Later someone would invited me to a project or a band and I would join. Since then I played in different bands and tried different sounds, pop rock, scratch-djing… many different things. But with Familjen Ithink I have found the right form and way to communicate my music. The Familjen project is me. With other bands, you have to struggle and fight for your ideas. No, no… you end up being mad. In Familjen I am the king, I get to decide.

How was the release of the album?

It was a bit unexpected. I had all the songs and a friend of mine that runs a record label in Sweden told me: “I really like the songs. Can I publish them on my label?” I agreed, so we first released an EP and then a full-length album. It went that well. I had no plans at all. People usually come to me and ask me to play. That is really cool, I don’t have to struggle and sell my ideas.

Did you have all the songs of the album ready at that time?

Not all of them. I was writing some of them when the record company decided to release a full length album. They told me: “Ok, we are doing it and we need more songs!” By that time I had done some live gigs, so I had started to understand what works well on the live set. Before that I had just played in my bedroom so most of the songs were instrumental songs and down-tempo. Playing live I realized that I needed some up-tempo songs that had an impact. A good beat, a good bass line. If you get that right, you get a good song.

Did you feel pressure when they ask you for songs?

It was a bit of pressure, but I think I made it. I had some time pressure. I finished the last song the night before we were supposed to master the recording and send it. Probably I need deadlines to make things happen.

Something slightly different about your music is that you sing in your own Swedish dialect

I thought about singing in English, but I chose Swedish in my own accent. I liked the challenge of making it sound good in my own accent. When I moved to Stockholm, sometimes when I was a bar, people would answer me in English. They didn’t understand me. My accent sounds a lot like Danish. I will continue in Swedish. Familjen will always be in Swedish.

The video of Det snurrar is min skalle got very popular and won an award in Sweden. How did it happen?

That’s funny. A guy I did not know at all did the video. He sent me a link to a video for the song. He said he had done this video just because he loved the song. Use it if you like it, he said. I saw it and it was awesome. It was mad. I loved it. That was the day before we were supposed to shoot the actual video for the song. Inmediately I rang the record label and everyone involved and I said we were not shooting the video. We already had it. I think the guy got around 2000 SEK as a reward. People love the video because it is so weird.

Do you have plans for a new album already?

I am working on it. We have been playing a lot in the last eight months and it is hard to get in the mood for writing when you are tired and don’t have much time. But now touring is starting to calm down, so I am getting excited to work on the new album. Hopefully, we will release it in spring. I need new songs because we have played the old songs so many times.

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Categories
Concerts Music

A man and a guitar


A few weeks ago, a true American hero visited Finland. Kris Kristofferson played two breathtaking shows in Helsinki and Tampere. His visit went a little bit unnoticed, especially in Tampere, where the venue was half empty. There was not much hype around these shows. With the same modesty, Kristofferson came to the stage. Dressed in black, alone with his acoustic guitar, he sang for two hours a collection of unforgettable songs, chronicling his forty year long career.

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In 2006, the 72 year old singer-songwriter and actor revamped his musical career and published This Old Road, his first album of new original songs in eleven years. The album receive good reviews and since then Kristofferson has regularly toured to support it.

During the concert at Tampere-talo, the partner in crime of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson presented a good bunch of songs from This Old Road. The theme of those songs is retrospective and reflective. They are the songs of aging man looking at the important things of life. Songs about the war (In The News) and songs about those that are long gone (Final Attraction). The acoustic format benefit this song and Kristofferson’s aged voice underlines its meaning.

Once Billy the Kid in Sam Peckinpah’s memorable Western, the singer has not softened his social conscience and several times through the show he threw some lines bashing George Bush between the long list of songs that he played. The show was divided into two sets and it included more than 25 songs. Kristofferson played classics like Me and Bobby McGee and Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down and outlaw country songs such as Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down, Casey’s Last Ride and The Silver Tongued Devil and I.

It was a thrilling night to listen to a masterful songwriter in such an intimate performance. A night of fascinating stories about god, the devil, murder and love that brought a little bit of dust to Tampere.

Photos by Eduardo Alonso


Categories
Concerts Music

Into the gutter

The Gutter Twins, that is Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan, finally arrived in Helsinki last week to present their first release, Saturnalia. They hit the stage in Tavastia almost two years after Dulli’s band, The Twilight Singers, did it, also with Lanegan as a special guest sitting in several songs. At that time, the band had a fantastic time in Finland. They did some studio recording at the Seawolf Studios in Suomenlinna for the EP A Stich in Time and their show in Tavastia was epic, with Greg Dulli having a real good time, drinking a lot of wine and partying as anyone else in a full house.

{mosimage}Two years later, the story is repeated with a different title. The band is similar to the Twilight Singers line-up of 2006. But now they are The Gutter Twins and they have a new record to support. Therefore it was to be expected that the show’s setlist would relay heavily on Saturnalia and so it did. It also included some covers and songs from their former bands.

Both frontmen took their expected role. As usual, not saying a word, Lanegan stood still holding the mic stand, just letting his deep voice sing. Dulli played guitar, piano and talked to the audience. He showed his emotions while Lanegan hid them behind the lights.

The show started like the album, with the guitar notes of The Stations building up the song and the mood for the whole show. A mood that drifts from the film-like atmosphere decorated with electronic loops to sharp and aggressive guitars, underlined by Lanegan's voice.

Apart of songs from Saturnalia, the Twins played a set of interesting covers, including José González’s Down the Line and Flow Like a River, a heartfelt tribute to Eleven’s keyboard player Natasha Shneider, who recently passed away. They also played Primal Scream’s Deep Hit of Morning Sun, a cover that will be included in the band’s next ep Adorata, to be released soon. Dulli and Lanegan bring these covers to their territory and the songs flow seamlessly in the set.

One of the highlights of the show was Screaming Tree’s rare single Change Has Come. The song was very well received by the audience. It came to show how much Lanegan’s old band is missed.

On paper it looks like it was a very good concert. It was, but it was not excellent, especially not compared to the Twilight Singers show in 2006, which Greg Dulli himself also remembered as a great night. This time, Dulli did not seem to be very much into the show. The former Afghan Whigs’ leader did not seem to be having such a good time. Perhaps it was the effect of the jet lag and the beginning of the European leg of the tour (Helsinki was the first stop). Or perhaps it was the smoke-free venue. Or the lack of drinks on stage. To the big surprise of keyboardist / guitar player Jeff Klein, Dulli told the band to leave the stage one song earlier that it was planned in the written setlist, not playing the planned set closer Front Street.

However, a 25-minute encore followed and it was excellent, although it was almost cut short when someone from the audience threw a plastic glass to the stage that almost hit Dulli. As it can be seen in youtube, after a touching rendition of Shadow of the Season, Dulli said that the band would not played any longer until the person who threw the glass would apologize. Either that or the audience should sing Finland’s national anthem. That is what happened in the end. It was surreal.

The encore included two songs from Lanegan’s latest solo album Bubblegum that took the show one step up. Number Nine, the ballad that perfectly blends Lanegan and Dulli’s voices, was a beautiful end for the night. It was a very high point in the show and a real pity that it did not continue. The moment felt interrupted. But what a great moment.

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Categories
Interviews Music

Get on board and run wild

All the way from the land of Rose Tattoo and AC/DC, Airbourne is a very young band that will carry the tradition of Australian hard rock in the years to come. Earlier this year, Airbourne published its first album, Runnin’ Wild, but the band has toured extensively in the past few years, opening for The Rolling Stones, Motörhead and Mötley Crüe, which its music is feature in the soundtrack of many hit videogames. Airbourne was the band that opened this year’s Sauna Open Air festival in Tampere. A few hours before its afternoon set, FREE! met drummer Ryan O'Keeffe at the lobby of the hotel near the festival. Still a bit sleepy and with the need of morning coffee (or beer), Ryan professionally replied to a few questions.

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Things are happening very fast for Airbourne, how do you feel about this success?

This is what we always wanted to do since my brother Joel [vocals and guitar] and I were kids. We wanted to tour the world. At the moment we are touring Europe and the UK.

You are young, but experienced, when did you start playing?

I was 11 or 12 when I started playing. Now I’m 22.

Why dd you choose to play drums?

My brother got the guitar and my parents  to get me entertain they got me the drums.

There is a tradition in rock that tells that the brother that form a band are always fighting. How is your relation with your brother? Do you fight a lot?

Not really. I guess we do resolve issues quicker. Our relation is ok. Also with the rest of the band. We al four get along very well. We’ve spent a lot of time together rehearsing and recording the album. Now we all live together in a house in New Jersey.

In the 1970s and 1980s, it was usual that bands live together for some time. Now it does not seem to happen so much.

Yeah, it’s true, but I’m glad we are one of those bands.

How was the recording of Runnin’ Wild?

We recorded the album with Capitol Records in LA. They merged with Virgin and suddenly there were two catalogues that they needed to support. They were already struggling financially, so they had to dropped some bands. 70% of the catalogue had to go, including big artists. So we got the album back to us and they said good luck. We found this new deal with Roadrunner Records.

Did you feel very disappointed with this change?

No we just kept going. If this is what you feel doing, you don’t give up.

The album came out internationally this year, but you recorded much earlier, in 2006.

It took a while to finish with previous label and it took a while to organize deals with the new record label It was another little downer, but we could continue touring, so it was not that bad.

How was the recording process?

We pretty much had all the songs when we went to the studio. When we were in America for recording, we decide if we could go jumble through the songs that we had (Heartbreaker, etc). We just wanted to make a jumble of different things to make sure that we would make the best album possible.

How do you feel about playing festivals, when sometimes you need to pay as early as 3pm, like today?

We’ve been playing for a long time, so I guess we played already at any time possible and different kind of shows. We played gigs at 7am. We did some morning radio shows. You just do it. Nothing is never perfect.

Do you do anything special before the gig? Do you have any rituals?

We just hang around, have a couple of beers, even if it’s 7am.. to get in the mood.

How is life on the road for you?

Basically, we don’t really have much time. If we have, we usually spend it drinking. But we love working and taking care of the band.

Do you have many groupies?

In the last year and a half, there have been a few women, yes. It is good to meet some girls, from different places. It goes with the profession.

You opened for The Rolling Stones, how was it?

We met some of them, like The Rolling Stones. They are very good boys, really down to earth. We had a drink and that was all. We met Lemmy and the other guys of Motörhead. Also Rose Tattoo. It’s great to meet the royalty of rock and roll.

Your music has been featured on many videogames, how do you like it?

Yes, they have managed to fit our songs in everything from football to car racing.

Do you like playing?

We get the chance to play them, but we don’t have that much time as we woud like to.

Are you already preparing new songs?

Yes, al the time. Charles has a notepad with him al the time. We jam new songs at soundcheck.

Do you have any special music you like travelling with?

We carry the usual stuff: Rose Tattoo, Mötorhead…

Name one of your favourite drummers?

Phil Rudd.

Categories
Interviews Music

That band from Pori

Disco Ensemble is the band that dominates the indie rock scene in Finland. Their latest album is selling really well and soon they will start a tour in the United States after playing at the Ruisrock festival this weekend. Right before the start of their tour Finland, FREE! met Lasse Lindfors (bass) and Miikka Koivisto (vocals and keys) in the backstage at Klubi in Tampere. Their music edgy, with hardcore and punk roots, but Lasse and Mikko speak calmly, almost shy of their success. They are just some normal guys from Pori.

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You just played in Germany

Miikka: Yeah, we came a couple of days ago. We just had the time to make the laundry at home. It was good there.

Who does it feel to play the first gig of the tour in Finland?

Miikka: We are a bit more nervous. In Germany we were the supporting act and here we are the headliners. The audience know us better, so it feels like they expect more from us.

Lasse: It’s a different feeling. We have a history here. It’s easier to make an impression when nobody knows you and doesn’t know what to expect. Here it feels that we have to push it even further.

How do you think the audience will react to the new songs?

Lasse: We have to see. We don’t know.

Miikka: We are happy with the album, of course. But we haven’t played any shows with the album being released. The reaction is different when people don’t know the songs, like it happened in Germany.

Lasse: In a way we don’t want to think about the audience too much. We are happy about the record is out.

You kept a video blog while recording the album, how was the experience?

Lasse: We didn’t plan it much. We just kept the camera there and try to capture something so we could give people a taste of how working in the studio is. But it came pretty weird.

Miikka: We speak Finnish to each other, so it feels weird to change to English in front of the camera. That’s why the videos were weird. We didn’t say much.

Lasse: We just don’t have the genes to be in front of the camera.

Will you repeat with the next recording?

Both: Probably

The artwork of Magic Recoveries is pretty special. It even includes a poster. How did it come up?

Miikka: It’s made by a designer we met some time ago, Inka Järvinen. We had some discussions about the meaning of our music and the lyrics and he designed some ideas.

What is that meaning?

Miikka: Nothing really specific. We wanted to reflect the attitude.

Your schedule for the next months looks pretty busy.

Lasse:That’s what we do. We’re excited. We don’t get shows for granted. We are excited and grateful.

What about playing in the United States?

Lasse: We’ve played in a couple of showcases, but this are going to be the first real tour there.

Do you prefer playing festivals or clubs?

Miikka: Both have good and bad things.

How is playing early in a festival?

Miikka: It’s strange to set your mind to play that early. It’s difficult to get in the mood in the daytime.

Could you tell me a little bit about the early days of the band?

Miikka: I joined the band in 2000 and Lasse in 2002. The other two guys (Mikko Hakila, drums, and Jussi Ylikoski, guitar) have played together longer. It seems like it’s a long time, but it’s not that much. In the early days, the music was hardcore punk, with shouting lyrics. As a hardcore punk band from Pori , we just played, we didn’t expect instant success. It has evolved pretty slowly, very naturally.

What is your favourite venue in Finland?

Miikka: The obvious answer is Tavastia. Lutakko in Jyväskylä is good too. Both Klubis in Tampere and Turku.

Lasse: It’s different if I’m going to see a show. I prefer smaller places like Semifinal or Kuudes Linja

What is the funniest festival you have played?

Miikka: It was up North, in Tornio. The stage was high up on a hill, the sun didn’t set at all. Really surreal.

What is the craziest band you have toured with?

Lasse: Gogol Bordello. No doubt about it. It was fun to see them every night and mess around.

Did you get to meet groupies while being on the road?

Both: We don’t have any groupies! But there are beautiful girls in every country.

If you would have to pick up only one record…

Miikka: On the band’s behalf that would be The Shape of Punk to Come by Refused.

What band would you like to see in concert nowadays?

Both: Radiohead.

Categories
Cover story Misc

Theatre days


Today opens the 5th edition of the international theatre festival Baltic Circle. Until 17 May the programme offers an array of contemporary theatre performances and exhibitions from the Baltic region and central Europe. In addition this year the OFF Circle programme showcases contemporary productions from Finland.

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O
ne of the most surprisingly performance will be the the interpretation of Finnish drinking culture in Delirium by the group Plasma. The strongly anti-capitalist Swedish production Ebberöds bank by Teater Tribunalen will give some food for thought to the audience. And the photo exhibtion Miss Landmine Angola 2008, by Norwegian artist Morten Traavik, will not leave anyone indifference. Traavik will also present his new street theatre performance Remember Me.

The special programme OFF Circle offers twelve domestic performances. The popular Finnish director Kristian Smeds presents Radio Doomsday, in which Houkka Bros. give Luther a hard time in a three-hour live radio broadcast imitating a talk show. These performances will have English subtitles.

Completing the festival there are other activities like the three-day Fuck Off Festival Club, which will become a platform for Finnish and Estonian theatre professionals to perform with their bands. Also the international workshop for critics Mobile Lab for Theatre and Communication is organized as well as the open seminar about Finnish theatre reviewing today (held in Finnish).

For further information: www.q-teatteri.fi/baltic_circle

INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMME

Rimini Protokoll (Switzerland / Germany) CALL CUTTA IN A BOX | 9.5.-25.5. & 3.-15.6. Tue – Sun, starting times:15.00, 16.00, 17.00, 18.00, 19.00 & 20.00 | Kiasma | in English 
This intercontinental phone play which unites for one hour an Indian call centre operator with a spectator in Helsinki was realised as a co-production between eight European theatre organisations and the German-Swiss Rimini Apparat.
 
Plasma (Switzerland) DELIRIUM | 9.5. and 10.5. at 19:00 as well as 11.5. at 15:00 | Viirus | in German, Finnish and English simultaneous interpretation
The source of Delirium’s inspiration was the Finnish bar culture which Plasma encountered during their visit at the Baltic Circle in 2003. Delirium brings the spectators to the other side of consciousness, to the continent which remains between last orders and locking up. The production creates a unique experience by moving between the boundaries of theatre, music and visual arts.
 
büro für zeit + raum  (Germany) WAIT HERE FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS | 14.5. at 19:00 | Koko Theatre | in German and French, Finnish simultaneous interpretation
In their first work which was born out of the research of time and space the German group discusses the philosophy of waiting. Only few words are spoken but communication takes constantly place through danced expression and with the help of physical theatre. Wait here for further instructions raises the question: what are we actually waiting for?
 
büro für zeit + raum (Germany) PAST IS IN FRONT OF EGO | 15.5. at 19:00 | Koko Theatre | in French
Past is in Front of Ego was inspired by the research of Professor Rafael Nuñez from the University of California. Büro für zeit + raum researches in this highly artistic work the native American Aymara tribe’s concept of time where the future lies behind the present.
 
NaBi (Sweden / Norway) REMEMBER ME | 16.5. at 18:00 as well as 17.5. at 13:00 & 15.00 | in English
Remember Me is a crusade based on Swedish artist Joaquin NaBi Olsson’s dairies and travels to his birth country Korea and the USA. It takes a strong stand on the current situation of arts and society. It is a performance that does not embellish but speaks out for genuine human happiness.
 
Teater Tribunalen (Sweden) EBBERÖDS BANK | 17.5. at 19:00 | Q-Theatre | in Swedish | Finnish simultaneous interpretation
Ebberöds Bank is a purely political theatre performance which treats the problems of global market economy. Who’s controlling the markets? What happens to the human values when the word “value” becomes strictly synonymous with monetary value? In its artistic work Teater Tribunalen tries to expose, criticise and condemn political and economic power.
 
OFF CIRCLE PROGRAMME FROM FINLAND
 
AKSELI ENSEMBLE | Disco Pigs | 12.5. at 19:00 | KOM Theatre, Kapteeninkatu 26 | in Finnish
Akseli Ensemble’s Disco Pigs pulls the spectators into the enclosed realm of the two youngsters Possu and Kisu who feel neither empathy nor worry about tomorrow. The performance is a wild stride in the midst of the pains of growing up. Emotionality and insensitivity struggle as opposite extremes, love is eternal and friendship demanding.
 
EUROPEAN THEATRE COLLECTIVE | KinkyZone Finland | 11.5., 12.5., 13.5. at 21:00 | Restaurant Belly | Uudenmaankatu 16 | in Finnish
Etc’s absurdish, cabaret-like comedy is the sequel to the pilot project which was performed in Bucharest in 2005 / 2006 and since has reached cult status. The performance will have its premiere at the Baltic Circle.
 
FISCHES NACHTGESANG | Das Fliegende Spektakel | 15.5. at 19:00 & 16.5. at 12:00 | Klockriken Theatre, Erottajankatu 7 | in gibberish
This performance based on the texts of German nonsense poet Christian Morgenstern searches for theatrical expressions which don’t rely on language as the essential means of communication. Out of the world of silent movies emerges a dissident music spectacle which exploits not only movements, poetry and music but also lights and video art.
 
HOUKKA BROS | Radio Doomsday | 14.-16.5. at 15:00-18:00 | Semifinal, Urho Kekkosen katu 6 | Wed and Thu in Finnish, Fri in English
The third piece by Kristian Smeds’ Houkka Bros. gives Luther a hard time in a three-hour live radio broadcast imitating a talk show.
 
KLOCKRIKE THEATRE | Soup Theater | 9.5. at 19:00, 10.5. at 12:00, 14.5. at 12:00, 16.5. at 19:00, 17.5. at 12:00 | Erottajankatu 7 b | in Swedish / Finnish
Klockrike’s Soup Theatre unites artistic and culinary pleasures. Three groups of artists serve poetry and music with dinner and lunch.
 
KOKO THEATRE | Kana (The Hen) | 11.5. at 19:00 | Kokoteatteri, Unioninkatu 45 | in Finnish
In his play The Hen the indisputable father of Russian contemporary dramatic writing, Nikolai Koljada opens the doors to the wings of a small Siberian theatre where the arrival of a young actress causes the ruffling of many feathers. In this self-ironic play the borders between Siberia and Helsinki slowly start to blur.
 
KOKO THEATRE | Man-Machine | 9. & 10.5. at 19:00 | Kokoteatteri, Unioninkatu 45 | in English
Already in the year 1997, Garri Kasparov lost against the IBM chess computer Deep Blue. For how long can artificial intelligence really challenge humans? Man-Machine unites dance, theatre, electronic music and video in a performance where humans and computers act both with and against each other.
 
MAUS&ORLOVSKI | A Performance With an Ocean View (And a Dog) – II Memo on Time | 11.5. and 13.5. at 17:00 | starting place: Kiasma, Mannerheiminaukio 2 | in Finnish or English (to be chosen)
A Performance With an Ocean View (And a Dog) is the second part of Tuija Kokkonen and Maus&Orlovski’s Memo on time series. The performance’s points of departure are the weather, time and potentiality.
 
OBLIVIA | Entertainment Island 1 – work in progress | 9. and 10.5. at 17:00 | Q-Theatre / Puoli-Q, Tunturikatu 16 | in English
Entertainment Island is a three-year project with which Oblivia researches popular culture and different kinds of entertainment. During the Baltic Circle Oblivia presents a work in progress version of the production which will have its first night in October. Entertainment Island 1 holds the magnifying glass over those structures on which popular culture and entertainment are based.
 
PROJEKTORI-RYHMÄ | Elmo | 10.5. at 14:00, 11.5. at 14:00 & 19:00, 17.5. 14:00 | Valtimonteatteri, Aleksis Kiven katu 22 | in Finnish
Sport unites and divides nations. In Projektori group’s interpretation of the well-known play by Juhani Peltonen, Elmo, dives into the world of sports fanaticism and the ecstasy of winning. The biggest part, however, is played by a sense of community.
 
Q-THEATRE | The Tin Drum | 13. and 14.5. at 19:00 | Q-Theatre, Tunturikatu 16| in Finnish, with English translation
The events of this play, based on the novel of Nobel-prize winner Günter Grass, take plays between 1924 and 1954. Oskar Matzerath is the main character and narrator who at the age of three decides to stop growing in protest against the absurdity of adult life. Q-theatre is the first Finnish theatre who is performing The Tin drum in Finland.
 
TEATTERI NAAMIO JA HÖYHEN | Alice ad infinitum | 13.5, 15. & 16.5. at 19:00 | Naamio ja höyhen, Korkeavuorenkatu 17 | in English
Teatteri Naamio ja Höyhen’s Alice takes the spectators on a trip to the Wonderland, mirrorland, into psychology and the parallel universes of our world.

Categories
Interviews Music

The almighty synthesizer

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What can happen when two guys meet in prison and learn to play synthesizer? Kalifornia-Keke and Stiletti-Ana formed Jesse while doing their time in Sörkka prison in Helsinki. With their first album, KAIKKI!, they are on the cover of the most important music magazines in Finland and they show off their metal-electro-AOR. From Megadeth to Toto to Kraftwerk, everything is possible with these synthesizer heroes.

What is the concept behind your music? There seems to be on it as much heavy metal attitude and electronic sounds too.

We try to put together all the stuff we dig. We don’t think, we just play. That includes AOR, Metal and electro. Our main element in the music is the almighty synthesizer, in which we trust above all.

How did you meet and start making music together?

We met back in the days in Sörkka prison. We hanged together and listened to some fusion jazz & stuff. Then our fellow inmate Jesse showed us how to play synthesizer and make songs. He’s kinda amazing dude. After we got out we formed Jesse in honor of king Jesse. We made few songs and put them to Myspace. People went nuts and now we are pretty big.

How was the recording of the album?

Ummm, ahhh, we were kinda drunk. We have a studio in Helsinki and we spent many months there playing around. We used synthesizers and sequencers to put the songs together. We’d like to buy some drum machines to get more drum sounds, but we don’t have the money yet. Basically we made the songs first and then wrote a story based on our life. And now we have it ALL on KAIKKI! Album. Please buy it.

Your image seems to represent the hillbilly side of Finland? Do you think it’s the true image of Finland?

What do you mean?!! I don’t know. I guess we are all just folks… like dudes. We are what we are, but different people come together at our gigs. Like metalheads, punks, electro guys and babes.

In a way, Jesse represents Finland in the same way Markku from Finland does. Do you know him personally? Have you worked together with him.

No we don’t know him. Though we’ve seen him on telly.

Why did you call the band Jesse?

As I mentioned before its after our hero Jesse. He’s a dude from Sörkka too. And he’s got mad skills on instruments. So our name makes honor to him.

With the release of your album, you started appearing on the cover of several magazines, like Rumba. How do you feel about that?

It’s nice to be in the magazine. We get to say things to a lot of people. We like to tell people to use more synths in their music. And sort of guide them to better behavior. We’d like to do a Jesse poster for chicks, so they could put it on their walls.

What are you all time favorite Finnish artists?

Popeda, Op:l Bastards, Imatran Voima, Stone

Jesse will be touring during this summer around Finland.

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http://www.myspace.com/haistakaa

Categories
Interviews Music

It’s never too loud!

From Toronto, Canada, Danko Jones delivers a high energy hard rock spiced up with the band’s leader unbeatable character, sense of humour and rocking attitude. A few hours before the trio sold out gig at Tavastia in Helsinki FREE! Magazine spoke to bassist John Calabrese about the new album, opening for The Rolling Stones and working with former Kyuss singer John Garcia.

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Although feeling Canadian, John Calabrese, or just JC, was born and grew up in a small village in Calabria in Italy. Always dreaming about playing music, soon he had the opportunity to move to Toronto, where he met Danko Jones and formed the band. Nowaday the band enjoys worldwide success, but JC is easy to approach and he behaves like a music fan rather than being an untouchable rock star. Being both from Southern Europe, before the interview we started talking about football and basketball as he is a fan of the NBA team Toronto Raptors.

How is the new tour?

We started a few days ago in Oslo. It’s always good to get the first show out of the way because it makes to all of us a little bit nervous. Now I feel more relaxed.

How did that first show go?

There were a few little mistakes, but I think one is more worried about making mistakes but then there are not so many mistakes. One thinks about stuff that it’s not really necessary. Everything is great.

What about the new album, Never Too Loud?

It’s pretty different but it’s doing quite well, especially among fans of hard rock. It’s a good record for us, and I think it’s going to have an appeal for a greater audience.

Some hardcore fans might not understand the band’s direction with new type of songs like Take Me Home. How would you explain them this change?

We have always been in a band to play live. Once the fans seen those new songs in the context of the live concert, it’s all going to make sense. For us, as musicians, we always want to make new stuff to challenge ourselves. But it’s not that different. It’s still a rock record with rock songs. We don’t want to repeat ourselves. What’s the point of doing Sleep With the Enemy Number 2? Never Too Late is a record that will grow in time. After some years people will go back to it and everything will make sense in the history of the band.

Only AC/DC are allowed to repeat themselves…

And not even them!!

How was working with Nick Raskulinecz who lately has produced very popular records from Stone Sour, Foo Fighters and Rush?

It was very good. We met him via a mutual friends of ours and kept sending him demos of the songs. With this album we had more time to write the songs and make the demos. That made a good difference. Nick told us to keep sending him demos. When we went to the studio we had 40 or 50 different songs and we all agree to cut it back to 12 or 15. We finally narrowed down to 12. We approach the recording in a solid way. We were ready to record from the beginning to the end.

Did you have any plans to make a specific type of record?

No. It just happened. If you hear the demos, those are the songs. No big changes. Nick did his role. He made us comfortable in the studio and get the best performance we could give.

How long did it take the recording?

It was about a two month process, although our drummer recorded all the drums in four days. He was very fast, but then he was bored for the rest of the recording, going nuts. He didn’t know what to do. When we went to the studio, we knew the songs very well. We did some preproduction and Nick became the fourth member of the band. He would be in the room with us playing guitar or bass or drums, showing little tricks that we didn’t think about but it sounded great. He helped shape the songs.

Tell me a little bit about working with John Garcia?

John is great. We met John for the first time while playing a gig in Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. We invited him and he showed up and it was surreal. He stood on front row and he knew every single song. Then he did the song Invisible with us. Last year we did this tour of Norway and we invited him over. We did a very special tours in all these places in Norway. We did the encore together, playing Invisible, a Unida song, a Kyuss song and some others. It was in small places, about 500 to 1000 people a night. John had a great time, although he is very scared of flying. Later when we were recording in California, we asked him again to come over so he drove his truck from the desert and we hang around. He is a great guy. After being fans of him, to meet him and work with him, it’s rewarding. We are music fans first of all.

Why do you think that the band is so popular in Scandinavia?

I think it’s because our label in Sweden has done a great job showcasing the band all around Scandinavia. Also because we are being able to tour extensively. This might our 20th tour in Europe. I think this is the 10th time we play in Finland and we come back in a couple of months. People know us and like us.

What do you think about Finland and the Finnish audience?

We always had good shows here. One strange thing is taking the ferry over here. I’m not very good with the sea.

You even opened for The Rolling Stones in the the first show of the Forty Licks tour in Toronto. How did you feel when you hear you got the gig?

They were doing some small shows in Toronto to prepare for the world tour. They had a long history in Canada and the production company is from there. I was up north in Ontario and our manager called us and said I need to know if you can come here and do a some. You can tell anyone and you can only bring one guest. I took my dad with me. When we went to the venue, The Rolling Stones had a big mixing board and our sound guy was looking at it. We saw the Stones doing soundcheck in the room with just 20 people. Then they told us that we could go and soundcheck, so they move the big mixing board and brought a small one for us… Back to reality!

Categories
Features Music

When the music is over


{mosimage}In 2005, Swedish punk rockers The Hellacopters claimed that rock was dead with the album Rock & Roll Is Dead. Nothing close to reality and that album was a fine collection of fast-paced old-fashioned rock and roll tunes. However, three years later the band heads (off) to its end with one last album and tour. Guitarist Nicke Andersson and keyboardist Boba Fet visited Helsinki to promote the album and play some records at Bar Loose.


S
ince 1995, when the band released their first single, the emblematic Killing Allan, has delivered good doses of high energy punk rock, with MC5, The Rolling Stones and The Stooges as main influences. Head Off, out on 18 April, will be the band’s seventh and final album. Last week, before Nicke and Boba started spinning some records, Head Off could be heard in its entirety at Bar Loose. It is a strong set of songs that brings back some heavier guitars, while keeping the characteristic Hellacopters sound.

We asked Nicke Andersson (also known as Nicke Royale) how did the band feel while recording and releasing their last album. “We didn’t know it was going to be our last album”, he said. “We decided to break up after the album was recorded. It wasn’t planned. Now that we are releasing the album, it feels ok. It’s normal, like any other album”.

Over the years, The Hellacopters became one of the most popular rock bands to come up from Scandinavia in the mid nineties, along with Turbonegro and Glucifer, to name a few. The Hellacopters have successfully toured all around the world. Once Head Off is released, the band will start its final tour with some gigs at the summer festival and then a full tour in the fall. “Now we know when everything is going to end”, continued Nicke. “Of course, we’ll come to Finland. It is a major market for us”.

The artwork designed for Head Off will be quite striking. It features the members of the band dressed as combat pilots next to a helicopter. Some might say that such design is very similar to Black Sabbath’s album Never Say Die! from 1978. Nicke quickly clarified that they didn’t think about that album. “We just wanted to do something original and spend some time with the artwork. It was our idea to make a tribute to Hipgnosis [the design group responsible of the cover art of many albums by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Yes, among others]. Bands don’t do this any more, with all the mp3 and so”.

Indeed, The Hellacopters always kept the tradition of  70s rock. Head Off will also be released on vinyl, and like with other Hellacopters albums it will include one bonus song. Vinyl is the preferred format for the band. They released a tremendous amount of limited 7-inch singles, ep, split albums, coloured vinyls… A true fan’s and collector’s dream. Some of those editions were limited to a few hundred copies. Nowadays those editions are really valuable in the second hand markets and many singles are sold for 20 and 30 euros, and even a handful of them can reach a price of over 100 euros.

Unfortunately, an outstanding rock and roll band will be gone soon. But still there’s one more party to celebrate. Head Off will be a very good last statement from the band.

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The Hellacopters performing two new songs on Swedish television:

http://www.tv4.se/1.283438?videoId=1.351183

http://www.tv4.se/1.283438?videoId=1.351534

Categories
Concerts Music

Heavy metal lecture

{mosimage}Good Friday meant a night of top quality heavy metal with Phil Anselmo’s Down hitting the stage at Pakkahuone in Tampere.

After Pantera disbanded, Phil Anselmo focus his efforts in his other band Down, a supergroup that includes guitarist Pepper Keenan, of Corrosion of Conformity and Kirk Windstein, of Crowbar, and Pantera’s bass player Rex Brown. Indeed, a strong line-up that with only three released albums since 1991 has become of the most critically acclaimed and popular bands in the metal scene at the moments, especially since last year’s album Down III: Over the Under.

A little bit less than two years after the band’s great performance in June 2006, Down returned to Tampere. Perhaps due to the holiday season, the venue didn’t sell out completely, although it was pretty full and Finnish metalheads wore their best and toughest outfit (although it was strange to spot a Grateful Dead t-shirt). The venue was divided with a small bar that provided the required drinks. Fortunately, the audience was this time more into the show than the drinking.

Instead of an opening act, there was the screening of some music videos. Down chose to displayed some of their heroes and on screen there were clips from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Sabbath among many others. The band indeed does not forget their Southern roots (it was formed in New Orleans).

For two hours, Down delivered a very strong set that really covered its repertoire and the different aspect of its music: heavy riffs, a little bit of moody southern rock, stoner… A very tight performance from the band with Anselmo all over as an excellent frontman.

The band seemed comfortable on stage, telling the audience to enjoy a little weed. Between songs they teased different classics, like Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused or Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It.

Metal cannot get better than this, good songs, good performance, good attitude. Modern, yet classic.

Categories
Albums Music

The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely

{mosimage}Quickly cooked and served! Fast music world. At the beginning of March, The Raconteurs finished the masters of their second album and just a couple of weeks later, the album is released all over the world, in every possible format, from download to vinyl, being the latter the recommended format by the band. So here goes a quick review on the day of its release.

This immediate distribution is another step for the fast changing music industry. It not only avoided the album from being leaked, but it has also brought some attention to a release that needed no presentation. The band’s first album (Broken Boy Soldiers) was one of the biggest surprises in 2006 and it created a lot of hype due to the popularity of the band’s line up, which includes Brendan Benson and White Stripes’ Jack White. The song Steady, As She Goes became a hit and the band was quickly as a supergroup. Now, without little announcements, the band comes up with its second album Consolers of the Lonely.  This time it cannot be said that this is a long-awaited album, but no disappointment here. The band delivers a refreshing dose of garage rock, with some hard rock riffs and lots of ideas and originality (for a genre with little room for this quality).

This album’s single, Salute Your Solution, is a quick three-minute song, with crunchy guitars and crazy melody. It easily tops Steady, As She Goes and along with R.E.M.’s Supernatural Superserious, it can become one of this year’s hit singles.

Like in the first album, there are clear references to Led Zeppelin’s music. The mid-tempo Old Enough captures the folky vibe of Gallows Pole and the opening track, Consoler of the Lonely (like in the first album, the title track is in singular and the album title in plural), brings some Jimmy Page-like riffs.

Perhaps the most surprising songs include some soul oriented moments, which bring some horns to the mix in The Switch and the Spur and, overall, in Many Shades of Black.

Consolers of the Lonely is a rocking album (just listen to the smoking Hold Up), delivered with a tremendous energy and spontaneity. It is fast and direct, not so moody as Broken Boy Soldiers. If the band keeps up with this energy on stage, The Raconteurs shows can be epic.

Rating 4/5 

Categories
Interviews Music

Drunken lullabies

In the early nineties, guitar player Dennis Casey moved from his hometown Rochester, NY to Los Angeles. Inspired by classic punk rock bands like The Clash, Dead Kennedys and Sex Pistols, and impressed with newcomers like Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Casey searched for bands and gigs to make a professional career playing guitar. What he could not guess then is that 15 years later he would get involved with Irish music and tour the world with the most successful Irish punk band of the moment: Flogging Molly. To celebrate the release of the band’s latest album, Float, FREE! Magazine called Dennis Casey while on tour in Florida.

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How is the tour going so far?
Great! Every show has been sold out so far. We have some new songs and the audience is getting to know these songs. The album is also getting some radio airplay already. So far so good!

Dubliner Dave King formed Flogging Molly in Los Angeles in 1997, when he gathered a bunch of musicians and start playing every week at the Molly Malone’s pub. The seven-piece band evolve a characteristic sound that blends sharp punk guitars with accordions, fiddles, mandolins and banjos. It’s The Dubliners meet Johnny Cash. The live shows of Flogging Molly are intense and festive. Every member of the audience cannot help dancing to the band’s “drunken lullabies”. The Finnish audience knows it well. Flogging Molly have played in Finland very often in the last couple of years. In May the band is playing at Tavastia in Helsinki twice. The tickets for the first show were sold in just a few hours and a new date was added. A couple of months later, Flogging Molly will return to play at the Ruisrock festival in Turku.

Some reviews speak of Float, like it is a mature album for the band. Are you getting softer and old?
No, not at all. The album is as hard as the others. It’s been four years since our previous studio album and the band grew, but Float rocks as the others.

How different is Float from the previous albums?
The main difference is that it was completely recorded in Ireland. We stayed there around one year in three different periods of time. We got together, close to each other. We lived in the same house, then went to the studio and the pub to have some pints. Four years since Within a Mile from Home seems like a long time. Why did the new album take so long?
We wanted to have some time to release the live album / dvd Whiskey on a Sunday. Besides that, we kept on touring. We were busy.

In Within a Mile from Home, you recorded a great duet with Lucinda Williams (Factory Girls). How did this collaboration happen?
Dave wrote that song and it is very biographical, about his mother. He thought that it would be great to have a female singer on it. He believed it would relate very well to the theme of the song. We dropped some names and Lucinda Williams came up. We got in contact with her, but we had no hopes that she would accept. But surprisingly she liked the idea and the song. We did it and it was great.

Who was your first guitar hero and how did you decide to start playing guitar?
My parents were always playing Elvis stuff and Sun records artists. Then I got a guitar and that became my only hobby. I just wanted to play guitar and that’s the only thing I wanted to do.

When you arrived in LA, did you get into the sleazy hard rock scene?
Not really. I first liked all the classic punk rock bands, but when I arrived in LA , I listened to the Chili Peppers and Nirvana and I thought “wow, this is the shit”. But I tried to play whenever I could, whatever I could.

I bet you didn’t imagine that you would play in a band like Flogging Molly.
No way! I would never have said that I would play Irish music. That comes from Dave, he’s originally from Dublin. I have never thought I would play something like this or get this popular. This is no other band doing this.

Flogging Molly is really popular in Finland. What memories do you have of the country?

Finns are the craziest people I’ve seen. Very energetic people. I remember the first night we were there, we went out to some pubs and everybody was crazy. People were drunk all around. And there were many pretty girls too. Great memories.

What can we expect of the upcoming shows?
We have a new set of songs and we’ll be just as hard and as energetic as usual. We’ll give it all on stage. We are playing two nights there, so we’ll play some different songs.

Categories
Albums Music

Gary Louris – Vagabonds

{mosimage}It must feel funny to release your first solo album when you are 52, but once The Jayhawks disbanded after 20 years on the road, singer, songwriter and guitar player Gary Louris decided to step up and release his first solo album. (Actually, I’m writing this review on the singer’s 53rd birthday).

The last time The Jayhawks played in Finland was at Tavastia in 2004. There presented their last album, Rainy Day Music, a mostly acoustic album, that combined the best of traditional American roots music, from The Band to Crosby, Still, Nash & Young to Gram Parsons, spiced up with that characteristic pop sensibility of Louris’ compositions.

In Vagabonds, Gary Louris continues the same path: timeless American music. For producing the album, he recruited long time friend and Black Crowes’ singer Chris Robinson. The result is a laid back album with lots of acoustic guitar, pedal steel and typical songwriting and singing from Louris.

With the input of Chris Robinson, the songs some of the songs are decorated with a touch of psychedelic sounds (especially in I Wanna Get High) and an interesting gospel choir, The Laurel Canyon Family Choir, that includes among others Robinson himself, Jenny Lewis and Susanna Hoffs (yes, the same one of The Bangles).

The title track, Vagabonds, is probably the most outstanding tune. It’s a classic Louris composition as perfect as Blue or Waiting for the Sun can be.

This album might not top The Jayhawks legacy. But that’s not an easy task at all since The Jayhawks’ discography is one of the most perfect a band has made in the last twenty years. Still Vagabonds is beautiful, remarkable and relevant.

Rating 4/5