Books Features Interviews

Interview with Welsh Bestselling Author Ken Follett

When I was a kid, I was a very good disciplined student. After school I used to go to a private academy to take English and typewriting lessons. There were not many things that would make me skip those lessons, but I perfectly remember one week where I hardly assisted; the reason? I preferred to stay at home totally hooked on reading Pillars of the Earth.

Years later, I have had the pleasure to chat on the phone with my childhood hero writer: Welsh author Ken Follett. If his name does not ring a bell to you, probably you are the kind of person who never steps inside a bookshop. Having reached 4 times in his career the top 1 in the New York Times best selling time, Follett is back in the spotlight with the recent release of his second book (Winter of the World) of his probably most ambitious work so far: The Century Trilogy, that spins around the history of the 20th century mixing generations of fictional and real historical characters. A work that can turn into the cherry on top of the peak to a career full of epic stories.

FREE! Magazine brings you an exclusive interview with… Mr. Ken Follett!!!

Ken Follett

Thank you for your time and for kindly attending us Mr. Follett. For a writer who has sold more than 120 million copies of his books, who even has his own statue in Vitoria… what keeps you motivated to wake up every day and write?

Well, I do not find it difficult at all to wake up in the morning and work. In fact, when I wake up the first thing I am thinking about is the story I am writing. So I do not really need anything to keep me going. This is what all my life is about.


In one past interview I heard you said that you need to read a lot to become a good writer. Do you still have free time to read and learn new things meanwhile working in such a vast work as The Century Trilogy is?

Yes indeed. I read all the time. During all my life, reading has been one of my greatest pleasures, so I would say that the main reason why I read is because I enjoy it, but also by reading I like to see what other writers are doing, writers that maybe do things in a different way than I do things. I find all that very interesting.


I know you use Tweeter often and you keep close contact with your readers. Do you write for pleasing the masses of readers or for pleasing yourself?

I have always thought first about what the audience likes, not what I like. I ask myself questions all the time. Would they like to read this, would they love this character, would they hate this character…? I do not really think about what I like, because what excites me is to commit the readers to the story. Of course I write also about things that fascinate me too so I enjoy them, but my first question is always about the reader, not about myself.

“I have always thought first about what the audience likes, not what I like”


For many other writers, they could have thought that with the great success you already gathered with previous books that they had nothing to prove, and be comfortable working in a smaller project. But with your new The Century Trilogy, is this your most ambitious project so far? Did you have the feeling you still have something to show to the world, a bigger “magna opus” than Pillars of the Earth?

Yes, after writing World Without End, I was very pleased with the way readers responded, it was a huge success all over the world and I wanted to do that all over again. But you are quite right to say that The Trilogy is more ambitious than anything I have done previously, and when I thought about it, I thought it was quite a torturing project… and I thought “Am I good enough? Am I capable of doing this?”  But then I thought “You have to try it”.


Here like in some other of your books, there are love stories that spin through years or decades of separation, overcoming all difficulties until reuniting, etc. Do you believe in love forever, now that we seem to live in the western love in an era when everybody wants fast relations, fast money, fast cars…?

Well, I do not think there is ever one answer to the question about love, if that is what you are talking about. The truth is that sometimes fades away and sometimes lasts for a long time. And both of those things happen in my stories.


Ken Follett

Family is also important in the trilogy, with the new generation of characters from Fall of Giants continuing the story in Winter of the World. Do you think the readers get more bonded to an epic story when following generation after generation?

Yes, I think it does, that is right, because most of my readers have children, and when people have children they tend to think about how they will be like when they will be adults. That is something that intrigues all of us “Will our children and grandchildren be good people? Will they be happy?” and we fear if things could go wrong for them, so when we read stories about families, it is easy for us to share the hopes and fears of the parents for their children and grandchildren.


“I would have chosen San Francisco in 1968 as favorite time/place of the 20th century”

In Fall of Giants one of the families is Welsh as you, portraying the life in the mines and featuring a strict father as head of that family. It is known you had also a strict childhood. Did you pour a lot of autobiographical content when creating the Welsh family Williams?

Yes, one of the attractions of writing The Century Trilogy for me was the opportunity to write some of it from my own experiences, to write from where I come in south Wales, the religion that they follow in south Wales with which I grew up with… I grew very attracted to the story because allowed me to write about it and I feel very familiar with that part, even though I also had had some problems with it, like with religion itself to the point that I reveled against it. But in general I found it very pleasurable to write about it.


If you could travel in time to a place and time in the history of 20th century, which one could you choose as the most appealing?

Well now… that is an interesting question… (Follett needs a few seconds to think about it). …I guess I would have chosen San Francisco in 1968, hehehe.


Ken Follett

With the real characters, you try to use their own words and speeches etc from real life. How much research is needed before writing every book?

Yes, there is a lot to read, there is a great deal to do, details to research… that is how it works. But I am not complaining, I enjoy it and it fulfills me. I would say I spend around six months in the year planning and researching the book

Once you finish the first draft, who is the first person to read it, is it your wife (Barbara Follett)?

The first person to read it is my all time agent Al Zuckerman, he has been for 30 years now the most important person of all the people who advise me on my books. He is very precise and he is very critical, he is much more critical than my wife; my wife is not so cruel enough, hehehe. My agent does not need to sleep with me so he can be cruel, hehehe.

At the same time that you are promoting the second book, are you already working on the third one of The Century trilogy?

Yes, I am working on the third book and I am on the planning and researching stage. In the last days I have been reading about people who escaped from West Berlin through the wall, I have studied how they escaped, the obstacles they faced, the dangers if they would be shot by the guards and all the different methods and ways they used: there were tunnels… people went over the wall, people used force… many different ways…

You play the bass guitar at the band Damn Right I got the Blues. Would you like in the future to write a book combining your passions for literature and for music?

No, I do not think so. Music gives me great pleasure but I am not good enough to make a living out of it, it is a thing I do for fun but not professionally. And it is quite difficult to write about music, you know, there are not so many good books about music, because the reader cannot hear the music. I think that causes a problem for a book about music.


If somebody would contact you with an interesting story like Ross Perot with On Wings of Eagles, would you accept still to write a book under petition, or now you only write the stories that come from your own mind?

I probably would not accept to write a book under petition now, I have too many exciting projects of my own to think about, so I probably would not do another like that, a non fiction story, now.

-Anything you want to add for the readers?

I have nothing to add, I think we covered many topics. I enjoyed talking to you and thank you!

Books Features Interviews

Interview with Swedish writer Håkan Nesser

Håkan Nesser is a capital name in contemporary Swedish literature. Having won three times the Swedish Award for best Crime Novel, he is one of the Nordic writers better known around the world with his books having been translated to many different other languages. FREE! Magazine could not let escape the opportunity to get to know better the man behind those fictional crime scenes.

He turns out to be a very friendly person on our conversation on the phone while he spends his holidays in his native country, Sweden, away from London, the city where he resides for the last 4 years.
A man who feels relaxed and contempt about what he does but has not lost curiosity about the world around him, we spent quite a lot of time chatting on the phone with him about life in Finland, the autumn he spent in Spain around Torremolinos area in the late 90s, soccer… and of course about literature and his books. The Swedish author was in fact enjoying his summer holidays back in Sweden, spending some time in his native country before going back to London.

“Yes, I have been living in United Kingdom for around 4 years, so I spend the summer in Sweden and go back to Sweden around October-November. But I will move back to Sweden in January. Before we lived in New York for 3 years and we wanted to stay in the United States. My wife is a doctor but she could not find a job there, it is complicated for a doctor to find a job there, so we decided to move to London. So we have been abroad for 6 years and we thought that it was about time to get back home.” Nesser tells us.

Hakan Nesser

I recently read your latest book translated into English, “Hour of the Wolf”, but in fact it originally was written by you in Swedish 13 years ago. Does it annoy you to have to answer to questions about books that you wrote more than a decade ago?

Well, that is the way it works. The problem is that sometimes when they ask me things like “why this character did this in chapter 26” I do not remember anymore, I had a reason when I wrote it but I do not remember the reason years later. I read the book in English when it was out so I can remember the main things, but well, I have written 15 books after that.

In this book the character Van Veeteren is retired and steps a bit outside the investigation. For readers like me who have not had the chance to read the next ones in English because they have not been published the translations yet, in what direction will the character develop?

There are 10 books about Van Veeteren. This is number 7. The idea was to write 10 books, so he starts out as police officer in the first 5 books and then he changes and he buys this antiquaries shop, so in the last 5 books he is working as an antiquarian. In this case he gets much involved in the book because his son was killed, but well, the idea was to give more room to the other police officers in the team.

So you did not want to focus on the main character like many other sagas do, so this would be more of a collective focus on the other characters?

The focus was not meant to be on the police officers but on the story, on the plot. The story is always more important than the police officers. That is where the focus should be.

“I think I still have 2 or 3 books in me to publish, and then I am done as a writer”

A feature I noticed in general in other books that I read written by you is that there is not this hard line separating the good and the bad guys. The criminals are treated in quite a condescending way. Do you think that depending on the circumstances in life, every person could be a potential criminal?

Given the right circumstances, almost everybody could become a murderer. We need to realize that we have the same psychology as the murderer, we are all human beings. We might be lacking the circumstance that you need to make a choice, but it could happen that life could put you in a circumstance where you would need to kill somebody. I want for the reader as for myself to have an understanding of the criminal, the same you can mirror with the psychology of a police officer, you can mirror with the psychology of a murderer. It gives a humanistic touch to it.

Before becoming a full time writer you worked as a teacher, right? When and why did you decide to quit that career to dedicate your efforts just fully to your books?

Well, it took a lot of time. I started with the books quite late actually, I was 40 when my first book came out and then they started selling and they were translated into other languages, which meant that I had to travel abroad, meet other writers, etc. It took quite a long time for the writing. For a number of years in the 90s I did both activities, I worked half time as a teacher, but then I realized that it was time to get out of school. But I enjoyed being a teacher. But I think unfortunately you are a better teacher when you are younger, because you have more energy. If you teach for 40 years, probably you are better in the first 20 years. At least you have to change techniques to teach. I was a teacher until I was 48 and enjoyed it, but if you have a chance in your life to do different things, you should take them, no need to do the same for all your life.

And since you mentioned about your books when started to be popular and appeared in different countries around the globe, do you think you would have had the motivation to keep on writing if success would not have knocked at your door?

I am not sure, I was quite old when my books became popular. It could be complicated if you are young and then you had immediate success, but I realized that this is very random, I was lucky to be on the right spot and then people seem to like my books. Shit happens… and goo shit happens too! I was lucky but you have to realize that I am just a writer, there are better writers and definitely also worse writers. I am used to it and it is not really so big thing for me to realize that my books are sold everywhere.

Hakan Nesser

If I am not mistaken, actually crime novels were not the kind of genre you wanted to focus on when you started right? So how did this happen?

To me it is not important if it is a crime story or another kind of story… what it is important is that it is a good story, a story that I would like to read myself. I must have written around 25 books and maybe 15 of them are crime fiction, the rest are something different, sometimes they even cross genre so they can be crime fiction and general fiction at the same time so as far as you tell a good story, that you call it a crime story is not important for me. But I think this year will be written my last crime story, because I have this other series with Barbarotti so after the last book of this series, I will not write more crime fiction. There are more crime writers in Sweden as you may have noticed…

Yes, people always talk about the “Nordic Crime Writers”, but I think you do not like much this stereotype of putting all of them in the same basket…

Absolutely true. I write my books and I do not care what other people do. In England for example, out of 10 questions, you get 5 questions about Stieg Larsson and then you get 3 questions about Henning Mankell and then you get 2 questions about yourself. So because sometimes I write crime fiction and I am Nordic, they put you into that category as “Nordic Crime Writer”.

But do you think that subconsciously the place where you live can affect the writing style? Like for example here in Finland it seems to affect the music styles with a lot of heavy metal bands popping out of every bush.

Well, I think that is what people outside thing, that we live in gloomy places, in cold climate, etc. When I lived in New York, the only Swedish person they knew there was Ingmar Bergman, the film director. If you see a character from a Berman´s film, where they do not talk much, everybody seems to be suicidal and depressed, etc this is almost the ideal character for a crime story. Somebody does something wrong at you and then you wait for 20 years to take revenge… When people buy the books in different countries, they like the stereotypes, so I mean, when I comes to selling books, it is good, but Scandinavian crime is so different… If you take Leena Lehtolainen in Finland, if you take Stieg Larsson… we are totally different. In Swedish if you take me and for example Henning Mankell the only common thing is that we write in Swedish.

“The character of Van Veeteren is a bit of a mystery to everyone, even to me”

I suppose it is not easy to get rid of the stereotypes…

Well, there is no need to get rid of them but the point is that at least in United Kingdom, journalists try always to find what is the “secret” of Nordic crime novel. I always say there is no secret, there are different good writers but we write differently. Writing is a very complicated process and you have to weight and choose every word, there is not simple solution for writing a novel.

You mentioned before you are not planning on writing more crime novels, so do you have any idea in mind of what would you like to write next?

I am not sure; I think I have 2 or 3 more stories in me. The thing is that you should try to write a book that you feel that it is so good that you wanted to read it yourself, so you do not repeat yourself and every time you need to find a new story, so this becomes more and more complicated, but I know that I have 2 or 3 books more in me, and then I am done!

And then time for holidays and relax in Spain again!

Exactly, maybe time to visit Ronda then!

How would you compare the character of inspector Van Veeteren with Inspector Barbarotti, the two key figures of your two sagas? What differences and similarities do they have?

First of all, Barbarotti has an Italian name but he is Swedish, so he had an Italian father. The action happens in Sweden and he is younger, at least 15-20 years younger than Van Veeteren. He has more of these latino features, if he is angry, he acts different and it is easier for the readers to identify with Barbarotti. Van Veeteren is a bit of a mystery to everyone, even to me. But Barbarotti is more “normal”.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

I travel a lot; also the books take me everywhere because I am published in 30 countries, so I am always travelling. My kids are grownups so I and my wife travel a lot, but we have dogs and it is complicated to travel with dogs, reading of course, and also I like listening to music and sports. I love soccer. Sadly Finland was not in the European Cup.

And with a little more of great chat off the record about football scene in Spain, Finland, Sweden and England, we said goodbye to Nesser, a truly gentleman and a great down to earth person to talk about literature and many other contemporary topics. Big thanks to him for finding some time during his holidays to attend our questions!

Features Interviews Music

Interview with singer Lucie Niemelä

FREE! Magazine has a great interview with Lucie Niemelä, a Czech musician located in Finland who is about to release on the 16th of March her debul album Doses. Do not miss this interesting reading for all of you who want to discover new artists as well as for young artists aspiring to make their dreams come true!

Thanks for attending us Lucie! Could you explain us a bit when started to passion for music and how was the process to put together this debut album Doses?

I started composing when I was eleven and I played and sang every day but just for myself. I put over 150 of my songs into a drawer. Then I came to Finland and met amazing musicians. I even studied at a conservatory for one year but then I quit and didn’t write any songs for two years because I thought I was not good enough. I chose the easier way of getting an academic job.

Fortunately step by step I found the courage and started performing here and there again. Then in late 2010 it suddenly hit me: my music was good enough, I had a lot to say and I was meant to do this. I recorded a demo and sent it out to Finland and Germany and six months later I was in the studio! The result is now in my hands, on the internet, on the radio… So basically the journey to Doses happened once I arranged in my head who I really was.


You are Czech with Finnish surname, and living in Finland now. Can you tell more about your history and how you ended up in Helsinki?

I was born in the Czech Republic and lived a calm life until I decided to learn Finnish when I was fifteen. That happened after I heard Janne Ahonen on tv say “hyvää huomenta”. I won a grant to go to a Finnish language course in Jyväskylä in 2001, that was my lucky year that changed everything. Since then I kept coming back to Finland, then I met a Finnish guy and fell in love… I moved to Jyväskylä in 2004, three years later to Helsinki.

What are the most difficult and easy things in your opinion for making it happen to release a first album? I suppose to see your ideas and hard work materialized in a CD is already fulfilling but were also things that could happen to be much harder than you thought beforehand?

For me the most difficult thing was to choose the right mic to record my voice  Of course there were lots of time and money management issues but I don’t think about them anymore. Everything worked out perfectly.

I have seen that in some other interview you said that the album is overall about emotions. Have you poured a lot of personal own experiences or real experiences based on people you knew in your album?

The 12 songs on Doses are all about people that I’ve known or about my own experiences. These songs were written over the period of 12 years and they contemplate fates of teenagers and young grown-ups as well as middle-aged and elderly people. I really wanted the album to be for everyone, regardless of age, and I feel I’ve achieved that.

How would you briefly resume the album to a person who has never heard any of your songs about what they can expect when pushing the play button on their CD player?

It’s a romantic and slightly melancholic album full of contrasts: heart-wrenching ballads (Miners) meet joyful rock songs (Doses) and then there are a few uplifting songs to balance it all (Seconds Fly Like Feathers). The main thread of the album is receiving and giving doses of different emotions. Some of the songs carry a harsh message but we managed to preserve the empathy and hope. The album sounds warm and soothing but at the same time awakes thoughts.

In Finland on the other hand, people try often to avoid showing too many emotions in public. How do you find this environment, for a person who considers emotions so important?

In first five years of living here in Finland it really tore me apart. The pressure of the environment to restrict myself, follow the rules, blend in with the crowd, the hypocritical shyness and avoiding praising myself in fear I would seem arrogant. Then I realized the pressure is all in my head. I don’t have to adapt to everything this culture has to offer. People will always be scared to lose their public face, that’s the same in the Czech Republic, in Germany…

I feel the Finnish society is changing, though. People are loosening up, opening up for doses of emotions. Nowadays it’s much more ok to start crying or laughing out loud in the public without having people around you feeling extremely uncomfortable. During my concerts I can see that people are hungry for emotions. Some people seem to be thankful that I dare put my heart on my palm, some seem to be scared and some look like they don’t know what to think of me because I take an emotion and sing it into their faces. That’s why I love singing live!

Your album will be released by a German label and will get distribution in different countries in Europe. Was it more difficult to reach the Finnish record companies for being a foreign artist here in Finland?

I don’t know if it’s because I’m foreign or because my songs are in English and the genre is not metal Songs in Finnish are more likely to succeed. Finland is full of talented musicians and it’s a small market so the competition is fierce. I don’t mind my album is released in Germany first but I’m hoping to get a good distributor in Finland as well.


Apart from this being your first released album, you also collaborate with other projects and bands, right?

At the moment, I collaborate with Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha. I sang on their first record. Their second album is about to be released. I co-wrote a few songs and I’m featuring in one. The release party will be on 17th March in Gloria as the part of Balkan Fever. I will be singing a few songs with them in the Culture tram as well. I can’t wait, they’re great guys.

Are there other musicians or artists you feel inspiration from?

I don’t consciously draw inspiration from other artists but I’ve certainly been influenced at least by these: the Beatles, Queen, Sting, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Beady Belle, Torun Eriksen … just to name a few.

What do you do apart from your musical career? Are you also studying or working? Other hobbies and passions?

I graduated from University of Helsinki in late 2009, majoring in Finnish language and culture. I worked in CIMO for a year and now I’m pursuing my music career only. Music used to be my hobby and now that it’s become my job I don’t even have time for hobbies… I go swimming and jogging, I do yoga, I love reading and writing. My most important hobby, though, is philosophizing about life with my friends. Listening to each other and helping each other out, that’s the best way how to spend our free time.

What are your future plans for the rest of 2012? Anything you want to add for the readers?

My goal is to get as many concerts as I can. A tour in the Czech Republic is definitely coming up and a tour to Germany is planned for autumn. And for the readers: a big melodious dose of love!

Photos: Michaela Kei

Lucie Niemelä – Miners

Books Features Interviews

Interview with Swedish writer Jens Lapidus

Swedish writer and lawyer Jens Lapidus has become one of the most recognized contemporary authors in depicting the crime underworld in both his native country as well as in the international literary world. After the release of the translation in english of his debut novel Snabba Cash (Easy Money), FREE! Magazine contacted him and he kindly answered our questions about his books, the cinematographic adaptions of his novels and his future projects.

Thanks a lot for attending us Jans! Being a lawyer, has your career been affected in any way after your books started to become popular? Have more clients been dragged to you, or on the other hand some could be reluctant to collaborate with you, being now a public figure, or everything has remained more or less the same?

As my book has been read by a large number of people, including people in jail, I think that some of my clients especially asked to be defended by me as I was a lawyer that they had heard about. But ultimately, I think that it is your performance as a lawyer that will generate clients, not writing books.

Jens Lapidus

I suppose that due to secrecy agreements with the clients, the stories that you tell in the books are not exactly based in reality, but is there a great source of inspiration from what you hear and see in real life in your work as lawyer poured into your novels?

Of course. And that is also how I started writing, to deal with the experiences and stories that I heard in court. But the interesting thing s that reality is always worse and more violent than in my books.

For the foreign eye, the Scandinavian capital cities seem like a paradise of peace and security when compared to other cities in the world. Based on your experience, is this a wrong impression, is there really an underground world of crime that only a few eyes of lawyers and policemen perceive, or the feeling is basically just amplified in your novels?

I would say that the world of underground crime is large and growing in Stockholm. However, most people have nothing to fear as long as they stay out of the way. Actually, I often get this question, and when I was in Russia for the release of my book, they thought I was describing some sort of kindergarten!

What is your opinion of the film adaptation for “Easy Money”? Were you satisfied with the result?

Very satisfied. I think they managed very well to make an independent interpretation of my book and the really kept the authenticity of my book. However, as a writer it was sometimes difficult to hand away my baby that I cherished so.

I have read also that there will be soon an American adaptation done by Warner Bros. Could you please explain us a bit more about it?

Yes that is correct, but unfortunately I can’t say much more due to secrecy clauses.

Are the other 2 books of the trilogy also to be adapted into the big screen?

Yes. Number 2 has been shot already and number 3 is under script adaptation.

If I am not mistaken, the second book of the trilogy “Never Fuck Up” is not much connected with the first, however the third “Life Deluxe” links with the happenings and characters of the other two books. Was this structure planned by you from the beginning, or did it happen more spontaneously during the writing process that you decided to link everything in the final book?

I would say that they are all connected even though you are right about some characters make a come back in the third. My ambition is to build a universe where it all fits in and has its own place.

Easy Money

In your books, although obviously some of the characters and criminals portrayed are Swedish, there are also many foreign characters. At least here in Finland during the last year the political and public opinion has diverted to be more “nationalistic”, where a sector of population sees immigration as a thread for the privileges of a warfare state. How is your opinion in the matter and how do you see this situation in your native country? Do you find it difficult when choosing nationalities for the characters to keep “politically correct” for both the national and the foreigners living in Sweden, or frankly you do not think at all about these issues when writing your books?

I am very much in favor of an open society. I have never been criticized for the choice of my characters.

Out of curiosity, when you use a lot of expression and sentences with the foreign characters portrayed in your books, do you have any native speakers of those languages (for example Spanish from Chile) that help you with the language during the writing process that you can consult at the same time, or do you make the research yourself and then the editors check that everything is in order after you complete the book?

I do a lot of research myself, and I have some Serbian friends who help me with Serbian culture issues. I know some Spanish people, “unfortunately” Chileans.

What are your favorite all time authors, and what books have gladly surprised you that you may have read lately?

I have been really inspired by James Ellroy and David Peace. Right now I am entranced by the short stories by Ferdinand von Schirach.

Do you find difficult to find free time and energy to write while working as a lawyer, or how do you manage well for balancing your time to achieve both careers?

I love them both, and writing is a relaxing hobby for me. I do not watch TV or movies, I write instead.

What are your future projects and plans for 2012?

I am writing on a collection of short stories that I might want to publish.

Articles Interviews Misc

Drama Reloaded: Yerma. Interview with director Katariina Numminen

The Baltic Circle Theatre Festival brought to the Finnish capital a wide array of perfomances, Finnish and international, for all tastes.

One highlight was the introduction of Drama Reloaded: Yerma, a work that revisits the classic play by Spanish writer Federico García Lorca confronting the themes of drama and reality while in the perfomances were added comments from interviews with 12 people childless for different reasons.

The director of the play, the Finnish Katariina Numminen, kindly answered the questions of FREE! Magazine to explain more about this and some other of her current and future projects.

Drama Reloaded: Yerma

Hello Katariina and thanks for answering our questions. From where came the idea to adapt and revisit the classic “Yerma”? Were you very familiar with the original Lorca´s work?

I was impressed how very modern Yerma was, what it comes to characters emotions, and to their relationships with each others. I read the play years ago, and I went back to it now, when I wanted to this project about infertility etc. I have of course read Lorca’s work before, but this was the first time I directed his work to the stage.

“Yerma” dates back to 1934, a period in Spain when it was quite common that the roles of wife and husband were defined, with the man working and the woman as housekeeper. Do you think that it continues being a modern topic, even when young couples nowadays usually both work and often they do not even have time for raising or having children, though being fertile?

As I said at some point during the reherseals: I find that Lorca’s spanish village with all the strict rules and demands and honour and such, is not that different from the demands and set of expectations and rules each one of us carries in our heads. So, Lorca’s wiew is not valid what it comes to society, but somehow, strangely, it is very true psychologically. We tend to have terrible demands for ourselves.

In Drama Reloaded: Yerma, the drama basically faces reality and gets analyzed and dissected while taking place. But does the art do not lose in a way the “magic” touch to play with the mind and imagination of the audience when you confront it with reality?

Only if one is looking for an illusion sort of art, a coherent fiction to which to dive and escape from reality. I think fiction and reality do tend to “contaminate” each other on stage. Both change when contrasted. But this is exactly what I find interesting.

Disco Coconut

During an act of the play, I noticed that the actors basically represented the original text of Lorca in Spanish language. Was very challenging for them to learn the lines? Did they have previous knowledge of Spanish language? Why you decided to mix Finnish and Spanish languages in the play?

No, they are not Spanish speakers, so it was hard work for them to learn the lines. But we had a wonderful Spanish coach, who read the lines with us. I wanted to have a scene in Spanish, in a language strange to most of audience and to the actors, because I found that a crisis or a emotional shock can bring us to as state in which we don’t anymore know the language, the words we are speaking ourselves.

If I am not mistaken, you also had a project in Kiasma that is closing just this week, called “Coconut Disco”. What can you tell us about it?

Coconut Disco – Afrikan ääniä was shown last spring as a part of Ars 11 exhibition. It was a live radio play and live performance at the same time. Collaborating with me were musician Rodrigues Jose and sound desingner Kimmo Modig. It was about sounds. A try-out to make space African sounds and voices. The question was: do two people ever hear or see the world the same way.

You collaborate with the Vyborg Artistic Theatre in Russia. Do you spend long periods abroad, or do you live all the time in between Helsinki and Vyborg?

I live in Helsinki.Viipurin taiteellinen teatteri is a project which started in 2002, as a project where we, 6 Finnish Artists, disguised as Russian Viborg Artistic Theatre and made a performance called The Dybbuk. So we acted Russian actors acting that performance. We have made 5 performances since that.
We have a premiere coming, “Viipurin taiteellisen teatterin viimeinen esitys” (Vyborg Artistic Theatre: Last Performance) in Teatteri Takomo in Helsinki this New year’s Eve, and performances during January 2012.

What future plans do you have for the next months? Will Drama Reloaded: Yerma be played around in other theatres in Finland?

Drama Reloaded: Yerma is perhaps having more performances next March.

Features Interviews Music

Interview with Tarja Turunen

Tarja Turunen is undoubtedly one of the most popular Finnish singers worldwide. This current year 2011 has been very special for her, with the release of her second official solo album What Lies Beneath and a chain of great collaborations and perfomances in a heterogeneous array of festivals around the world, having the cherry on top of the cream with the appearance together with the Brazilian metal band Angra at Rock in Rio festival. We reached Tarja who kindly explained to us more about her brilliant past, her brilliant present and her exciting future as an artist!

-Hello Tarja and first of all, thanks for being so kind to answer the questions!

Hi! No problem at all. Pleasure.

-You have had a pretty hectic summer. What of your concerts and appearances is the one you will remember as the highlight of the season?

I just wrote few days ago in my official blog that this summer was the best summer in my career so far. I had the opportunity to perform in several different kinds of concerts and jump into many new challenges, which I always love to do. To choose the best out of these it’s hard, but I feel that the concert with Mr. Jose Cura in Savonlinna´s Opera Festival, Finland was the exceptional one. It required a lot of work and preparation, but it was such an honor to sing with Cura.

Tarja Turunen

-You are the first Finnish artist reaching gold record in Germany both with a band and with a solo album. What do you consider that are the biggest advantages of a solo career? And on the other hand, is there anything you miss from your period with Nightwish?

I would say that everything is different when it comes to having a solo career than in being a member in a steady, already known band. I had to find my own wings in the world of music in the beginning and it wasn’t easy, but I am so happy I went through all that. I definitely feel more comfortable right now than anytime before. The freedom I have got to choose the people to work with, to write and produce my own songs is unbelievable. There are neither boundaries nor frontiers that I need to fight with…. nor egos, because basically I am making decisions for myself! And no, I don’t miss anything particular from my band years.

-They usually say that for an artist, the second album is the most difficult one to put together if the first one was a success. Was that the case with What Lies Beneath? How would you compare it to My Winter Storm?

Not that is common, but my first record My Winter Storm was the hardest one for me for sure. After being in a band for 9 years and not having composed one single track before on my own, I went through a rollercoaster of feelings and challenges with the first record. I managed pretty well even though during the production happened things that made me constantly nervous. For example the fact how I needed to make all the new people around me, including the record label, producer and musicians, understand how I wanted my music to sound and who should play what and why. My Winter Storm was a huge learning process for me as an artist and also as a woman, since I faced several new challenges with it, but I loved all of it. In the end I can only say that I took a great step into unknown, meaning by this, to myself. I don’t have any regrets.

My second album What Lies Beneath sounds more secure and mature, so I cannot say I was having a hard time with it. Actually the whole process was such a fun time for me, since I even ended up producing it myself. I guess this tells a lot about my will to develop myself as a musician constantly.

“I don´t miss anything particular from my band years”

-You are really a versatile singer; you can both perform in an Opera festival like recently in Savonlinna or please a hardcore heavy metal crowd. Being the audiences so different, where do you feel more comfortable on stage? Do you prepare yourself mentally in any different way before going to the stage depending on the venue you perform?

As these styles are extremely different, also my preparation for them differs. I am definitely still more nervous in performing classical music, since I had not done it professionally before my career in rock started to bloom. Before a classical concert I do some breathing exercises and vocalize much more than before a rock show. I need to be sure that I can give my best from the start.

Also mentally my concentration is 100 % focused in thinking the technical parts of the program I am up to perform.It took me several years to learn how to use my classically trained voice for rock. I kept on taking lyrical singing lessons in the University and tried out different things before everything just clicked and I felt that I’ve found my way. Anyway, still today I keep on taking singing lessons privately because I feel it is vital for me. I feel very comfortable where I am today as an artist because I love singing rock and classical music. In rock I can have fun, do whatever I feel in the moment and just go with it. I love seeing the crowd excited about the performance and the people truly gives me a lot of energy.

-Being one of the most international famous Finnish artists, you spend a lot of time outside Finland. Because this publication is read by many foreigners, what is what you miss the most from your country when you are out, and what are your favorite places or activities to do when you are back in Suomi?

Finland is the country of incredible silence and the space of living. It is so easy to fall asleep in Finland! No sounds of traffic, or people, maybe you hear only mosquitoes in the summer time! When I return to Finland, I usually go to meet my family in Northern Karelia, because I miss them the most when I am away. That means a lot of laughing, cooking, sauna going and enjoining every minute giving to us. I also love to go out for a run in countryside of Finland, if the weather is suitable for it.

-If I am not mistaken, you are planning to release a CD/DVD at the end of this year from a live performance in a Christmas concert recorded in 2009. What can you tell us about this project? Is there any specific date of release set?

The CD/DVD is a live recording from one beautiful Christmas concert HARUS made in Sibelius hall Lahti, Finland in 2009. We haven’t done any overdubbing nor recorded anything again, so it is a real live performance. I wanted to give people the chance to listen and see what HARUS is all about. HARUS is the name of the line up of Finnish musicians including organist Kalevi Kiviniemi, guitarist Marzi Nyman, percussionist Markku Krohn and me. We have done concerts together since 2006, but having this first CD/DVD release opportunity now in hand, we wanted to give a name for the line up. HARUS is not based on only Christmas music performances, so you will hear us doing something else in the future too. Unfortunately, I have not been informed with the exact date of the release of the CD/DVD yet.

“I dream of sharing stage with Peter Gabriel”

-To put the cherry on top of the cream to the summer gigs, you are going to join Angra on stage in the huge Rock in Rio festival in Brazil. How this collaboration happened? Did Angra offer you to join them.. (Did you know them beforehand?)?

It is rather incredible to be able to stage Rock in Rio this year! I have known the members of Angra for quite many years already and even worked closely with their guitarist Kiko Loureiro on my first record. I was very happy to receive the invitation to take part in their show in Rio, so I immediately said yes! It’s going to be so much fun to perform together and to meet my beautiful Brazilian fans.


Tarja Turunen

-Can you tell us a bit more about how many songs you will sing with them together during Rock in Rio, and if you have previous experiences with Brazilian audience?

I am invited as a guest vocalist in Angra´s show, so I will be performing only few songs. I have been lucky to have several shows in Brazil before on my own. Not only rock shows, but also classical concerts. Brazil is a huge country and I have been able to see quite a lot of it through my visits. I also have important fan clubs in Brazil who are very actively supporting me.

-Is there any other artist of band you would really dream of joining on stage to perform together?

Peter Gabriel is my hero! I just adore him, that’s all. He has the voice, the charisma, the amazing career…all of us need to have dreams, right?

-After these busy months, will you take a break, or what are your future plans for the rest of the year?

Actually in the meantime I am practicing already for my first classical album recordings that are going to happen in the end of November in Finland. It is going to be an Ave Maria album. I will be singing along with organist Kalevi Kiviniemi whose idea this album originally was. It is a huge challenge for me, but I feel comfortable with the theme of the album. I have always loved to sing Ave Marias and now I feel that it is time for me to give my voice to few of them.

Right after the recordings I will have a long Christmas concert tour in Finland in December. When this tour is over, it’s time for the Christmas itself and that I will be spending with my family in Finland, hopefully with lots of snow!

-Anything you want to add for the readers?

I just want to say thank you for the amazing support you’ve been giving me through many years already. I really appreciate that. I hope that I can give a little bit of love back to you with my music.

With love, Tarja

Tarja Turunen & Angra. Rock in Rio 2011

Books Features Interviews

Interview with Matt Potter featuring his new book Outlaws Inc.

Outlaws Inc. is the new book by Matt Potter, a British journalist, editor and broadcaster. An exciting fun to read chronicle of his real adventures following the crews of ex-Soviet army men (especially “Mickey” and his gang) that fly monster planes like the Ilyushin-76 delivering all kind of legal and illegal goods around the world. If you are curious to discover more about the dark side of aviation, this book is a must to have!

FREE! Magazine contacted Matt and he kindly answered our questions where he explains with a great sense of humor more about his crazy adventures in some of the most dangerous areas of the planet and the tough lives of those mercenaries of the air.

Outlaws Inc.

Thanks for your answers Matt!!! How long did it take in total the research for Outlaws Inc.? Was it difficult to combine it while working in other articles-projects?

Was it difficult? It nearly killed me, haha! Actually, the sort of passive research had been going on for many years – not that I knew it. I’d happened to be in a lot of the right places at the right times (or wrong places, wrong times, depending on how you look at it) over the years – Russia in the anarchy of the collapsing USSR; Serbia under Milosevic, just before the NATO bombing; Central America in the months the cocaine drops by air intensified)… and I’d always been curious about the airmen who seemed to flit in and out of those trouble spots so easily, despite all the UN embargoes and no-fly zones you could throw at them. I hopped onboard as soon as I could (Afghanistan, 2003), but it wasn’t I decided to write the book – and chase those same airmen across the world – that the size of the task I’d set hit me. That phase – the detective work, forensic tracking etc, side by side with the international monitors chasing these crews – took about a year. And yes, everything else sort of fell by the wayside for that year. I sort of entered the Twilight Zone. I remember I even spent New Year’s Eve monitoring radio chatter in the skies over Africa! All my friends figured I was dead, I think. And boy, were they surprised when they got the launch party invite.

In approximately how many trips did you join Mickey and his crew all over the world?

Well, the book was made up of maybe eight major trips. But not all of them were with Mickey. And plenty of those where I met Mickey, he wasn’t exactly pleased to see me.

Was it easy to convince Mickey and his crew about joining them in their wanderings around the world? Were they not suspicious for having a journalist onboard asking questions? Did you try also to join some other crews before or after getting acquainted with them?

No, it wasn’t easy, though the fact that the first time we met I was on another assignment entirely – flying into Afghanistan with a mate, just to see how far we could get – sort of took the tension off. I pretended I didn’t speak or understand Russian too, at first, so they spoke more freely than perhaps they would otherwise. To be honest, I don’t think they cared what I wrote. They aren’t bookstore kinds of guys. And aside from being threatened with all manner of retribution if I ever revealed their identities or exact business, they were OK, really. That’s not to say they liked it. They just let me get on with it. The odd bribe helped.


Were there situations during your adventures narrated in the book when you felt your life was in a very real danger?

Yes, a few – but where life is different from movies is that in life you usually only realize it in retrospect – at the time you’re just thinking hmm, what to do now. The dive-bombing landing in Kabul was probably the moment where I thought my number had really been called with the most certainty. I mean, getting to the point where impact with the ground is so close you kick your legs out involuntarily is too close for comfort. But then again, there were incidents in Africa that were creepier – where you get followed and threatened by people you can only assume are government stooges or secret police. They could do what they wanted. I was lucky – and foreign, probably, which helped – so they didn’t. But there are African journalists and dissidents and ‘snoopers’ who disappear every month. The spooks don’t show as much caution around them. Oh yeah, and there was a point when I accidentally took a piss on an old landmine in Afghanistan. That could have been messy.

I notice when reading the book you cannot hide a lot of sympathy for these aviators. Do you think they are more “victims of a harsh” destiny than real part of a smuggling problem? How would you define them after your experiences with them for a person who would have never been in contact with such kind of aviators?

Yes, they are victims of a harsh destiny: anyone who condemns them should probably ask what they were supposed to do when they came home from fighting a war they never wanted, for a USSR that no longer existed, and got betrayed by an armed force that had promised them eternal security in exchange for their lives. I don’t think they’re good men, or bad men, but men. I’m a journalist. Some people work in advertising, or drive trucks, or make shoes, and plenty of them get up to no good too. Do they know there’s some bad stuff going in the hold occasionally? Sure. Then again, you and I know some pretty bad stuff goes into the sports trainers, hamburgers or whatever we buy, and we switch off to the big picture, just like they do.

“The truth about who pays the ransoms for the Somalian pirates was my personal WTF moment in the book”

All over the book, there are a lot of references to hidden powers from above that are pulling the ropes of the smuggling goods business all over the world, but did you get to know any specific information about what “those powers” would be?

Yes. Let me put it this way, without naming names: the trail never stops going upwards, and most of the time there’s state complicity – I’m not just talking about African mafia states, but the former Soviet countries these guys operate from. Just after the book was published in the UK, word reached me that three Ukrainian former gunrunners who’d been either lured or extradited back to Kiev to stand trial or testify, had been killed. Word is they could have tied the so-called illicit trade firmly to the very top of the government there. One was strangled with a towel, one knocked down in a hit-and-run in a pedestrian mall (!) and the other fell out of a building. You have to be careful not to talk too much, but you’d have to be blind not to see just enough.

Did you receive (apart from that phone call in Africa narrated in the book) any threat or pressure not to publish the book or parts of information in the book?

Well, yes, some – but really, not as much as I’d feared. I’m sure if I’d betrayed assurances of anonymity, or been an asshole and just laid into the guys in some holier-than-thou way, people would have been pissed off. But I’ve been so careful not to betray anyone’s trust – and I think, oddly, the book benefited as a result. It made me really think (and I think more journalists should) about consequences, not just to me, but to the sources who spoke to me. And that led me to a much more empathetic view of everyone, from Viktor Bout to Mickey.

You mentioned that your Russian language skills are not perfect, but can you manage to understand and hold a conversation in Russian?

Haha, yeah, it’s deteriorated like MAD since the 1990s though – I was pretty good then, at least good enough to write job applications in Russian etc. Now I’m good enough for the pub, I reckon, but not a great deal more than that. Oh well, it’ll come back when I’m next over there I hope. So yeah, the conversations with the crews were increasingly of the hybrid-English-Russian-German-drunken-bollocks variety.

In some stories narrated in the book, it seems like the crews would make a lot of money with some services they provide, but at the same time, many of them seem desperate for new jobs and patching old planes again and again. Is it really a profitable business for them? Are there cases where they could retire with a good sum of money earned, but they prefer to fly and take risks because is just the only style of life they know?

It depends what you mean by profit. Like all of us, they get the occasional fat one, and a lot of being jerked around and not paid by clients and minimum-paycheck stuff in the meantime. The answer, I think, lies in the fact that they really all wish they’d never had to leave the military. Let’s face it, if 1992 hadn’t happened, they’d still be airmen, or retired airmen, in the soviet air force. They didn’t plan to be freelance fliers, and most of them probably don’t thrive under those conditions. As one Russian guy I speak to in the book says: they grew up as military; they still think that way. An order comes, they do what needs to be done.

A tank being loaded in an Il-76.

After you saw the dark side about how easy is to pass borders and smuggle all kind of things all over the world, what is your opinion about the security restrictions most of the passengers have to face in their normal flights? Do you think that it is just for the governments to give a false sense of security, while at the same time the “dark” side of the aviation system also operates?

It’s a brilliant question. The answer is, I guess, that the governments know a lot more than you and I think about this ‘dark’ side. They don’t stop it because most of the time it’s the governments themselves who want to use them. (I mean, how do we think all those ‘extraordinary rendition’ suspects got spirited out of Afghanistan? How do we think arms get to rebels our governments would like to arm but can’t afford to politically? So yes, the very idea of a hermetically sealed border is a comforting fiction that some people like to buy into. Others accept there’ll never be a way to regulate he dark side of the global aviation trade, so use it to their advantage.

What are your current and future projects after this book?

Well, it’s out in the States in September, then I’m doing speaking trips there and in Europe through autumn. I guess by New Year’s Eve I’ll have become obsessed with the next topic and have to stay in writing up a new outline! Seriously though, a couple of things are in the pipeline – some stuff I stumbled upon while researching this book, though in a completely different world. You’ll be the first to know!

Is there anything else you want to add for the readers?

Just that the truth about the Somali pirate trade – and who really pays their ransoms – was my personal WTF moment in the book. Well, that and going fishing with a rod and line for 12kg sacks of cocaine. And if that doesn’t whet their appetite, nothing will! Thanks a lot!!!!

Ilyushin-76 using until the last inch of the runway to take off

Features Interviews Music

Interview with Michael Gira – Swans

Musical resurrections are possible, and if you do not believe it, just ask Michael Gira. After 14 years having parked the cult rock band Swans, he announced months ago in Internet that the band was alive again and ready to tour, releasing a new album My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky on September 2010.

For ecstasy of old and new Scandinavian and Baltic fans, Swans will be visiting Finland playing at Klubi the 10th of May and Tavastia one day later, the 11th of May, jumping later to the other side of the Baltic Sea to play in Tallinn, the Estonian capital, the 12th of May, and FREE! Magazine had the chance to hold an exclusive interview via Skype with Michael.

I was a bit scared, having listened and watched previous interviews, of the sharp mood of Gira, but actually I must say that during most of the interview, he was in an excellent mood, only partially worsened when mentioning the damage that illegal music downloading is doing to his record label. All in all, Gira is a fascinating character that, as a true genius, just builds his own path, do things the way he wants and says things just as he feels them. Enjoy the interview!:

Thanks for attending us Michael! The first question is the same that I suppose many people around are wondering themselves. After 14 years of hiatus, why to resurrect Swans?

Well, it was a very selfish artistic decision. I had been working with this other group, Angels of Light, for all that time releasing records, and then I did not know how to proceed with that, I got all the blood out of that. Along the way, I had wanted to experience with more total sonic music again, you know, like loud volume and overtones. So I decided to start again Swans, and as soon as this happened, the flow of ideas started to come over again. I am an artist, so I have to be doing something new and challenging to myself or else I feel like I am dying, so it turned out that this band I had had for so many years was the way to move forward again. And that is what I did!


The writing process was quite long wasn´t it? You were working on these songs for 2-3 years.

Yes, I presumed that many would be Angels of Light´s songs. But when I started thinking how to orchestrate them and record them, it was not exciting to me. As soon as I thought of them for Swans, it was a different mindset, everything opened up and I wrote a couple of songs specifically for The Swans then after that. The record you could say that it is kind of a transition between Angels of Light and going back to The Swans. It has my entire story in it, but it also has new players I started to work with again, so it added a tremendous amount to the whole process.

And actually for gathering the money to record this new record, you had the idea to sell a 1.000 copies limited edition of the album I am Insane. Did you gather enough funding to work as you wanted, or did you face constrictions?

Once I got the money after the great fans bought this special project, I started recording and of course I was over budged and I had to collect money again, hehehe! As usual the money run out and the time run out and then the record is finished because of that! Hehehe I found it difficult to stop once I got involved with the recording process and the mixing and the overdubs. All the possibilities are always endless. If I have an appetite for sound, is hard for me to say that something is finished. I would work on it forever if I would have limitless money, probably!

So you never see that the “new child” is totally ready to be born…

Of course. The way I see records now is that they are just one more stage in the whole process. It starts when I pick up my acoustic guitar and I start to play thinking about chores and songs and imaging all the people playing and how it would sound, how to make it electric, and finally becomes a song or a template for a song and I send that to my friends, and they have ideas, and we get in the studio. We start working and it changes totally again, and becomes something on its own.

And even during going on tour, there is an evolution with the songs, right?

Yeah, everything is changing. It is constantly changing, and it should. Otherwise we would just be another stupid pop band, and that is not what we are. We have a lot of new material now. I think we are going to record this summer, in July, in Berlin, a new album. As the tour is going on, we are developing new materials.

I have to be doing something new and challenging, or else I would feel like I am dying!

And what would be the direction of these future albums for Swans?

The band has been around for a long time, and it has evolved quite a lot. It is going more in the sonic direction. Less word oriented. There are some songs with words, right now I just got a song that I think it is going to be orchestrated in this “country psychedelic” way. Gentle and quiet, but other songs we have been doing are very propulsive rhythmically and very long, they go over 20 minutes and more sonic oriented. I think the new record will have a lot of variation on it, sometimes pretty and quiet, and some other times more sonic.

How has your attitude evolve through the years? Are you still the same wild young boy? For example, you still have “punch on your face” lyrics and titles for songs like “You Fucking People Make me Sick”?

Well, I have never complained about the world around. For example, that is a complicated song. It was written when I was making a big sonic piece out of loops, a kind of collage, and I went on with my acoustic guitar, playing while distractedly looking at internet, at a music website, and I started writing imaging myself as a murderer or a rapist, just stalking and killing fashionable young people wearing corporate clothing. I am not saying it is me, I was only writing from that point of view. Then, when I was singing it, I realized that I sounded like my good friend Devendra Banhart. So I called him and he accepted to sing it, so all the thing made sense.


So you had a good relation with Banhart beforehand?

I produced Devendra´s first 2 albums, and released 3 or 4 of his records on my label Young God Records.

And how was the experience of having your daughter collaborating there too?

Oh well, you know, she is 4.5 years old, so she did not really know what she was saying! hehehe.

You are visiting Finland soon. Have you visited here before? What are your expectations when visiting here?

Yeah, I played solo actually years ago, in Helsinki and in Tampere. I enjoyed it. The Finnish people are problematic, as you know! hehehe. They are much removed, reticent, they do not like to talk, so being American, and it was funny. Actually in the last Swans tour, this band Panasonic was opening for us. I liked them a lot, but there would be these moments when as an American you talk, and they were just dead silence. A funny story is that when we first met, they were waiting for us in Amsterdam, in the tour bus. They had been there for a couple of days, and when I arrived I just asked “Hey guys, how are you doing? Are you having fun?” and they just said “What do you mean “fun”?” Hehehe. That is my impression of Finland! It can be 50 men sitting in a bar, and they do not talk, just looking down.

Michael, this tour actually is planned to last pretty long, right, around one year and a half?

We started the tour in September last year, and looks like it is going to go till October this year, and maybe some short things after that. So we will record some material in Berlin in July and then some more material in September again. And then I will have to be working on the new album, mixing it, adding overdubs and all that. And then later, in 2012, the new album will come up and it will be a kind of a 30 year anniversary album. We are working on new material as we tour, so we almost have the whole record. In the set we are playing now, there are 2 new songs, one about 15 minutes long and one about 30 minutes long, and there is a couple of instrumental things which I think they are really good and they will be in the record. Now I am working on a couple more of acoustic songs. It will be a long album with a lot of sonic variation. Very intense, much different than the one we just did, more focused on the sonic side.

Being The Swans also a band well known for giving the best at live performances, have you thought of releasing a live album?

Yeah, we are recording every show, so for sure we will do a live album.


Many fans must be wonder also about your relation with the ex member Jarboed. Do you keep in touch with each other? Would there be any chance of a re-encounter with the band?

No. We keep in touch somehow, but you know, Jarboed was very important for the group, but the reason she was in the group is that she was my mate. It was not that I was looking for a keyboardist or someone to sing female vocals. It was that she was there and I started to think on ways of adding more dynamics and variations. Jarboed could sing, so we had this primitive keyboard, and she was playing these chunks of sounds, and then she started to sing. She added a lot, no question about that, but once the relation ended, there was no point for that anymore. These songs do not call for any female background vocals. This is a new thing and I am moving forward. Some people are not happy she is not in it, but fuck them! I do not care. This is my work!

How was in the past, being a couple and working together?

It was always an argument! hehehe She would not be in the mixing, she would be in the studio and she would do her parts, and then she will be gone and the record would go on after that. But we fought all the time! Ask anybody who was on tour with us, it was hell! I remember once we got upstate, I think somewhere in Sweden, and in the dressing room there were all these people from the press, from big publications because Swans was flying high at that time, and I was just telling about changing a part of a song when she walked into the dressing room, and she was went “You fucking bastard!” and picked up a big bottle of wine and threw it as hard as she could to me! It smashed all over the dressing room!

Romantic, eh!

Hehehe. All the journalists left, of course! That is how touring with us was. I do not want to go back to that. I mean, she is great, but it is like two pieces of sand paper rubbing against each other.

Some people are not happy that Jarboed is not in the band anymore, but fuck them!

For you, owning your own record company Young God Records, what is your view about piracy and illegal downloading nowadays?

Well, streaming is fine for me; I have no problem with that. It is like reviewing before buying. But downloading is a total different thing. Of course I have a problem with people stealing my music. I am a bit sick with the discussion. Many young people write in my Facebook page that it helps me, but it is the opposite, it damages me incredibly, in fact I don´t know if I can carry on with my record label because of it. I have brought great musicians to wider audiences; it takes great effort, time and money. And people the just fucking take it! So I am closing down the record label!

In the eighties people recorded cassettes and sent to each other, that is a total different story than now, when it is massive. When they say, “Oh I will buy it later”, yeah right… Maybe only one out of ten persons buys it later. Then people propose that I could tour more, but then, with all the artists touring more, the market is over flooded. There are only a couple of big artists who really make good money out of it. So I don´t know what is going to happen…

Well Michael. We can see you are going to be very busy for the rest of the year touring and working on the new album. Is there anything else that you want to add for the readers?

No, just looking forward to coming to Finland and seeing you all there!

Swans Myspace:

Review of Helsinki gig at Tavastia coming soon!!!

Features Interviews Music

Interview with Steafán Hanvey

Irish musician Steafán Hanvey feels in Finland like being at his second home. Nevertheless, during his bohemian life, he has spent a few years in the Scandinavian country making friends, playing gigs, and finding always new challenges. So when we sit with him minutes before his gig at Semifinal, he is just a relaxed easy going man transmitting the feeling that he enjoys what he is doing. As good Irish, he is holding a glass of whisky, and when more pints of beer join our table, it is about time to have a chat about his interesting life and musical career:

Thanks for your time Steafán! Basically, you were born being a musician. Your parents were also musicians, right?

Yes, my father was a banjo and guitar player and my mother is a singer and a plays also the bodhrán, the traditional Irish drum and stick, she taught me how to play that. My father interviewed a lot of famous musicians and took a lot of photographs of people visiting around; so it was normal to be around people who were involved in music.

And you happen to have been quite a nomad in your life, don´t you? You have lived in Seattle, then in 1995 moved to Helsinki… Why the decision to come here first time?

Yes, I have been some kind of a gypsy. I was in USA as exchange student, I chose Seattle because I was interested in the place, it was an opportunity to study American society; a good opportunity for me to be there so I studied at University.

Steafan Hanvey

And how did it happen to come to Finland?

I met a Finnish girl in 1993, actually she came to me like “hey, you are that Irish guy!”. I finished my degree and then came here. So I came to Finland to study and started to play in the bars and get to know people around in the Finnish-Irish community.

Sometimes, being Finland a small country, can be difficult to break through the right circles. Did you feel that at any point as a musician here?

I got you. The first year I was mainly singing in traditional bands, playing at the Irish pubs, parties, some art galleries and then I started writing my own stuff. I felt that if I stayed, I would have become a big fish in a small pond. I would have been known like that Irish guy singing in the bars in Finland. I am not saying that I would not have become a success, but I wanted to try in other places.

Many of our readers are interested in Finland as a possible destination to move in. What was your response when you arrived here?

I like Finland. When you make friends, you make true friends. I still keep some of the friends that I had when I first came here. I also hosted a radio show in Lahi radio. It was a kind of progression for me, it came naturally to do. I had a lot of things to do, but then I felt a bit stuck, and I needed to go and decide what music to play. But it has been a good journey, I had very interesting periods with very interesting people I had the chance to play with. I feel now that I am more ready to take my music in front of an audience than I have ever been, more mature.

And both nations, Ireland and Finland, have fame for their hardcore drinking habits…

Yeah, hehehe. Hard drinking here and in Ireland! I cannot keep up with it anymore, I used to do it for years, but now at my age, it is different. The same about smoking, I quit.

I feel now more ready to take my music in front of an audience than I have ever been

What can you tell us about your new incoming album, “Nuclear Family”? Are there differences with the previous one, “Free”?

It is an album that introduces more of a band, there is more upbeat. Overall, it is a more compact album. Maybe with the previous one, I felt like “let`s see what I can do and what I can´t”, because of course in the first album you want to show all the people what you can do. But with the second album, I just create the record I like. Much more relaxed. I learnt a lot from the first record, I worked with great people, but in this album I have got to work with Tore Johansson mixing the album (who worked with the Cardigans) or with Mandy Parnell mastering it (who has worked with Sigur Ros). It is great to have those people working on your music.

And you also have friends like Liam O’Maonlai collaborating on the piano and vocals, right?

Yes, Liam came to Paris! And also Bertrand Belin, who played lead guitar on one song.

You also have played in USA quite a lot…

Yes, I have played there a few times. And I have some gigs scheduled for March-April in Boston and maybe in Chicago too. Let´s see how long I can be there.

The presentation of your first album was also here at the same club, in Semifinal, some years ago. How do you feel coming back?

That day there was a terrible snow storm. Thanks god today we are luckier. That day some people got stuck in the buses, and had to walk to reach Semifinal! Let´s see how it goes today, I have no idea really! If I play during weekdays, people complain that I have to put it together at weekend. But if I play on Friday night at 11:30, they complain that it is too late! Hehehe

Anything you want to add for the readers?

I want to add that thanks to everybody and also special thanks to the musicians playing with me, great guys, Neff Irizarry on the guitar, Nicce Lindholm on the drums and Jukka Jylli on the bass.

Steafán Hanvey & The Honeymoon Junkies

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Swallow The Sun – Interview with Juha Raivio and Matti Honkonen

Swallow The Sun is a Finnish melodic death/doom metal band formed in 2000 by guitarist Juha Raivio. So far they have released 4 albums, 2 singles, 3 music videos and 1 EP that contains a song with the lenght of 30min. Their last album New Moon came out in 2009 and they have spent the last year touring.

Swallow The Sun also played at Tuska Open Air 2010 – so I got a great oppurtunity to interview them. The interview is a bit short due to the fact that it was conducted before their show and they didn’t have very much time. The interview is with the band’s guitarist and music-writer Juha Raivio and the bassist Matti Honkonen.

Swallow the Sun

How have you been? How has been the summer for you?

JR: It’s been great. We’ve been doing few festivals so far and we’ve been playing Israel for the first time and we also played this big festival in France – Hellfest. That was fantastic. And Nummirock more up north in Finland. It’s been good and I have to say that after this Tuska gig we have a month long free time, no more gigs, and in fact I’m really happy about it.

MH: Yeah, a little break for us. Next month is going to be full of festivals and then a tour to US with Katatonia. So, it’s going to be a little break.

It’s great to have a month long break before the other long tour in the US.

JR: Yeah. When I was younger I was like – Oh yeah, it’s going to be a gig and now I’m more like – yeah, it’s not going to be a gig in one month. We love playing gigs and all the festivals but “New Moon” came about six months ago and we’ve been touring for almost 4 months now. So, it has been a lot of gigs. A little break is good and I’m happy that it’s the summer time.

How was the acceptance of the album New Moon? Are you happy with it?

JR: Yes.

MH: And it seems that the audience seems to like it. It’s all that matters.

JR: It’s definitely a bit different album, some new kind of things there. We always have little bit of new things with every album but still try to keep it sounding like Swallow The Sun. I’m really happy about the album and I’m happy how it sounds like. There are many good live songs.

Regarding the live songs – I’ve always thought about your last album Plague of Butterflies ; it’s basically a 30min. song. It must be pretty hard to play it live?

MH: Yeah, but we have done it here in Finland. But we don’t have that much time in festivals or if we are a support band in the US – we only have limited time. So we can’t play that live often. It’s a little bit of shame because we have done it in Finland and it works very well – one song that is 30min and then the show starts.

JR: But we usually play one part of this song. And I think we will play one part of this song even today but not the full song.

But at first when you started writing it, was it like a concept or a thought to write such a song or did it came naturally in writing process?

JR: It supposed to be a metal ballet. We got an offer to make music for a ballet and I was like yes, of course. They had used our music in their shows before also. I was like – this is a great idea. I can make this long story in this one song. It was ordered from us. But the ballet never happened, there were money issues at the end – surprise, surprise. But we got the music anyways.

I’ve always thought that your music would suit this kind of horror movie or something like it. What do you think about it? Would you want it to be a soundtrack to some movie?

JR: You know, somebody has been using our music in a horror movie or something like this. Many of our songs are set musically in a way that they’d suit on a movie. And actually the lyrics are also quite suitable. Many of our songs have this movie kind of vibe/feeling. At least for me.

New Moon

What about performing in Estonia?

MH: Of course we want to play in Estonia. We want to go everywhere we can. Well, almost everywhere. It’s not always up to us – it’s up to the organizers and everything connected with that.

Talking about Estonia. Do you know any Estonian metal bands?

MH: Not particualry…

Maybe for example Metsatöll – also under Spinefarm records?

MH: Yeah, I’ve seen them live. We played with them in one festival in Vana-Vigala (Hard Rock Lager – annual metal festival in Estonia). I think it was Metsatöll. But I know we played with them. But I didn’t know they were from Estonia.

Yeah, they were recently signed with Spinefarm.

MH: Yeah, I’ve heard the news.

I’m really happy that Estonian metal is finally breaking out to Europe also.

MH: Yeah, of course, that’s a very good thing.

A lot of bands and artists have released their autobiographies. Will there some day be a Swallow The Sun biography?

JR: Yeah, it’s gonna be and it’s going to be two pages long (laughs).

What kind of bands are you going to see in Tuska yourself?

JR: Satyricon is playing right after us so I’m gonna miss it. But Devin Townsend Ziltoid Project – I’m really waiting for that. What else – of course Megadeth.

Regarding Megadeth. Did you see maybe the Big Four concert? It was brodcasted over satellite to cinemas everywhere?

JR: Yeah, I heard about it. But we didn’t see it. But it would have been great to see it.

So, thank you for the interview. It was great talking to you.

JR and MH: No problem, thank you

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Interview with Satyricon

Satyricon is a Norwegian black metal band that was formed in 1990. Mainly the band consists of two members – Satyr and Frost. Satyricon are in a way an exception in black metal- they never cared for trends, for the latest fashion in how one is supposed to present oneself and they always abhorred the tried and tested genre stereotypes. The result is a notable career, spanning eight albums that always put the music first, often as a surprise and challenge to the listener. Satyricon’s last album The Age Of Nero came out in 2008.

They also played at Tuska Open Air 2010 and I had a great opportunity to talk with Satyr. Here is what we talked about.

So to start off, how are you?

I’m in a good mood today. I had a really nice time yesterday. This is an off year for the band. It was our second show this year and we don’t have any more shows scheduled. We made a decision in August (2009) to take a touring brake for 2010. We did only two Helsinki shows – one in February in MetalExpo and the second here in Tuska. They were booked before we made a decision to take a break in 2010. So, it’s nice for us that even if we are on a tour-brake we can still do a couple of shows. And when you do a couple of shows it becomes all the more important that the shows you give are very good shows. Yesterday it was a very vigorous crowd, real fighting spirit. I will leave Helsinki feeling inspired.

Your last album was out in 2008 – The Age Of Nero. How do you feel about this album now? Are you happy with it – commercially and music-wise?

For me it’s most important that I’m happy with it musically. Everything else comes as a result of this hopefully. If you make a good record and you do good tours most of the time it will result in good record sales. That’s nice. This record for example was our best selling record in some countries and overall the sales have been very good. Especially taking into account the Internet downloading and everything. I’m very happy with it but then again the most important thing is that we are musically satisfied with The Age Of Nero. Its commercial success is a bonus for us.

You have only one video from this album – Black Crow On A Tombstone. Will there be other videos maybe?

We did some live footage of “The Wolfpack” because we wanted to do a video for that. But I wasn’t really satisfied with the footage. For me it was a logical song to do a video for and I wanted it to be a live video as I felt that Satyricon is a good live band and the exchange of energy between our listeners and the band has become a very important part of the spirit of Satyricon. So, I wanted to do a video where you can see that and feel that. But I wasn’t happy with the camera angles and the footage and it was just the band on the stage. And for me videos like that are boring. I wanted it to be like you where there. For me it’s – if you can’t make it right then don’t make it. But I was very happy with the Black Crow On A Tombstone video.


And regarding Black Crow On A Tombstone – I read in an interview where you said that you got the inspiration for the song when you were writing and saw a crow sitting on a tombstone watching you. Have you had any other such obvious inspirations?

Yeah, many. My Skin Is Cold is based on a dream. What’s interesting about that is that basically in the dream I was hearing the song and I had not yet written the song. It was interesting because I was hearing a Satyricon song that did not exist. And I could hear the melodies and I could hear my own voice singing words that I had not written. I remember waking up that night 4 or 5 in the morning, it was a crazy feeling. Thankfully I was awake enough to understand that it was very important to write down all the words that I could remember and then I fell asleep again and the same dream continued. So as soon as I woke up I called – this was in Tokyo in an hotel room – one of our crew and told them to bring the guitar to my hotel room. And I started to try to play the melodies that I had been dreaming. And this was basically the essence of the song My Skin Is Cold.

Interesting experience.

Yeah, I like to think that these experiences make good stories but the most important thing is if you can use them artistically. For example with the Black Crow On A Tombstone – that was the same thing. It was a very bizarre happening because it was this crow sitting on a tombstone and if I would move somewhere it would sit there and it would move his head, turn away and as soon as I looked at it, it would turn back at me. So wherever I looked or moved it was always sitting still and its look followed me everywhere. It was very much like – I’m watching you. It was a simple thing but still very powerful because it didn’t feel like a coincidence because it didn’t went on like few seconds, it was more like 10min. Then I wanted to tell my colleagues what had happened but then I thought I could use this story artistically instead of just telling it.

I wanted to ask about the music writing process. Is it like you said – you get inspiration from somewhere and start writing or do you go to a studio and think – I’m now going to write something.?

We don’t really write music in a studio situation. It’s different. Sometimes it’s a bizarre thing like “My Skin Is Cold” but with other songs sometimes I could experience something – for example when I wrote “To The Mountains” for “Now, Diabolical” I was up in the mountains and I had spent some hours getting to the mountain top and when you get up there you can see many other famous Norway’s mountains – you look in one direction it’s that mountain or the other directions it’s this mountain. It was very impressive. And after I went back I wanted to write about something that gave me that grand feeling I had on top of that mountain. That’s very hard. But seeing all this made me make other stuff also gigantic.

So I thought let’s try to make a song that has the gigantic feeling that I was seeing and how the mountains made me feel inside. But other times it’s very simple – you just sit and play guitar and you just mess around and all of a sudden you have a melody. Then you think that’s cool and you start working on that. And there’s nothing special about it. It’s just a very good melody. So, it can be very complex or it could be very simple.

I’d say that Satyricon is not a typical black metal band, it’s a bit different.

I think we feel ourselves that we are a band that has chosen a certain lonely path. It’s kind of like – instead of walking in already stomped path we make our own path and leave a trail. That’s been the philosophy of the band. I feel like as we have done that. It’s my impression that the majority of bands and the music community around the world can like us or not but I know we are a unique band. And I also hope that we are an important band.

Whenever I hear Satyricon I can right away say that it’s you playing. Sometimes with other black metal bands you get a bit confused but you have a such a unique sound that I can say definitely that it’s Satyricon.

Thank you. Well, I mean that should be every artist’s goal to create a distinctive and recognizable sound that has your fingerprint on it.


I read somewhere that your album Volcano got the Norwegian Grammy for best “Best Metal Album”. How important are such awards to you?

Not important at all. I mean, the show yesterday with the way crowd responded – that’s the real world. Awards are more like a thing where business partners; colleagues and friends are like “congratulations” and other blablabla. And maybe for the record company sometimes it could be like a good sales argument. Maybe in some records stores – if they don’t want to sell your records, they can say that its records have gotten many awards. And maybe it could make them change their mind. It can help a little bit but for me artistically I know what it is – it’s like 4-5 people in a committee that will decide. And I think that there have been several times where we should’ve won or there have been times when we even weren’t nominated. And other times where we have won award for like something I think is just ok. I think that for any band the real reality check of where you are at is really on stage. If you don’t have people coming to shows that’s bad – but it could happen to any band if the show is badly promoted. But if you have only few people at the show or aren’t getting a response from the crowd then you are doing something wrong. Overall we have good attendance and people respond to our music in a favorable way.

When we do signing sessions like today a lot of the time it’s just people shaking hands saying it was a good show but for every five people there is always someone that will tell me that you’re music means a lot to me personally and you can tell if there are people who are not that shy people, more open people they can talk about how (in what way) it means something more to them. And so it is for me also – some music is enjoyable music but at other times music can almost be like a medicine for the soul and the mind. And for other people who want to be creative music is like art, same as painting or writing. Music can be an inspiration to bring out the best inside of them. I’m very conscious of the fact that our music can have strong impact on people and it’s an honor and I also look about it as responsibility.

Regarding the audience do you prefer smaller more intimate places or bigger venues like this festival?

Like most bands I’d say it’s both. It’s very simple – if you have your own gig everything is prepared the way you want it and you have enough time to prepare for the show. You’re inside, you get the full lights show and everything and you get to be more accurate and pay more attention to detail because you don’t have to do things so fast. All the equipment is yours. But if you play festivals it’s more rentals, like here. In your own show you get very close to the crowd, you know that everyone is there because of you. Then again at festivals, I think Satyricon is a band that is good at playing in the big stages. Sometimes it can be seen when a band comes on to a big stage that they are uncomfortable there. But we are a band who loves playing big stages. It’s not something we are afraid of, it’s more like – bring it on.

It was seen yesterday at your show also. I saw that all the people were going along with the music and were very happy at the gig. And were very satisfied with the gig.

I like a powerful crowd reaction. If you have a good festival like yesterday it’s more massive then a club show. It’s more massive, everything is louder, more people and more hands in the air.

Regarding the live shows I wanted to ask about Estonia. I’m actually from Estonia, not from Finland. And I know that Satyricon played in Estonia in 2006. Do you remember anything about it?

Yeah, I remember it quite clearly. It was far out in the forest and there was a river running right past. My main memory of it was when we were on stage and it got dark I could see the fog coming up from the river. And it was very atmospheric. I remember seeing that on stage. Sometimes in festivals you have a much better view than the crowd because you are on stage, you are higher up and if it’s in nice scenery you can see some special things. I had similar experience one year later in 2007 in Norway when we were playing at a festival near a big lake with huge mountains in the background. The crowd was watching the stage, I was on the stage and it was a full moon and you couldn’t see the mountain but you could see the shadow of the mountain and the moon sending the light down to the lake up to where people were standing. So it was like a good place to play black metal.

So, will you be performing in Estonia again?

These things always come down to the demand. Even if a band wants to come and play in Argentina but if no agent in Argentina wants to book the band then there will not be a show. That’s basically the way it is. Whenever we have offers coming in we are serious with all of them and as far as Estonia goes – we’ve only been offered to play there once and we did it. And since that we never have had an offer. If there is another offer, we’ll do as we always do – we’ll consider it and if it makes sense then we will come. So it really depends on the people who organize the concert in Estonia.

What do you think about the fact that black metal bands have gotten more popular in recent years? For example Satyricon, Dimmu Borgir etc. Have the people changed or has the genre of black metal changed?

I think that black metal has evolved. Good bands are able to evolve musically and to progress, not change but progress and be subject to evolution. I think the most important thing is – I can speak on behalf of our band only – we say that if we keep doing what we do and we do it well and again and again then people at one point will learn to like what we do. It’s like if you do something well and people see it once they can like it but forget about it but if there are enough good bands, good records and shows then more and more people will start to recognize it. The underground genres – like death metal was for death meal people, black for black metal people etc. have evolved because everything has become more exposed. Maybe some people who would only listen to bands like AC/DC and Motörhead start getting into Slayer or Slipknot or whatever. And then maybe they start listening to Morbid Angel or Satyricon or something like that. They make the next step.

Thank you so much for the interview!

You’re welcome!

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Interview with Megadeth’s drummer Shawn Drover

Megadeth is an American heavy metal band formed in 1983 by guitarist/vocalist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson following Mustaine’s departure from Metallica. The band has released 12 studio albums, 3 live albums, 2 EPs, 26 singles, 32 music videos, 4 compilations and 1 box set. Megadeth along with Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer form The Big Four – four bands that were trash metal pioneers. Megadeth’s last album Endgame was released in 2009.

Megadeth will be playing in Haapsalu Castle in Estonia the 16 of July, and surely it is going to be a hell of a show! So for all the metal fans in Estonia, do not miss that one! Our collaborator Kadri had the chance to interview their drummer Shawn Drover some days earlier, while they performed at Tuska festival in Helsinki, Finland, and here is how it went:

How are you?

I’m good, thank you. And you?

I’m good also.

To start off – I know you’re playing in Estonia on 16th of July. Since I’m from Estonia I wanted to ask – do you know anything about Estonia?

No, absolutely not. If you want me to be totally honest then no. I’m really excited about going there. I’ve never been to Russia; I’ve never been to Estonia. Actually several countries in Europe I’ve never been to. That’s why touring is also really great – you can experience new places, get to see different countries. I’m really excited about it.


That’s great because you are playing in a very beautiful place.


Yeah, it should be an awesome gig for you.

Plus it’s the last show. So, it’s going to be fun and I’m really excited about it.

I saw your concert that was broadcasted through satellite. The Big Four concert. How was that experience for you?

Did you see it in the movie theatre?

Yeah, it was an interesting experience.

I’m sure it was, I’ve would have wanted to see it too if I weren’t playing. But it was fun. We all had a lot of fun. Of course during our gig it started to rain as crazy but still it was fun and we had a good time. And of course the big thing we did at the end (performing Diamond Head “Am I Evil?”). That was a lot of fun. And I think the whole thing was a really good experience for me and for the band. We had a really great time.

That’s great. It was seen that even through the cinema you were all enjoying yourselves.

Yeah, you can’t fake that. You can see all these metal bands with smiles on their faces so it was truly great.

What about your last album “Endgame”? How happy are you with it – musically and commercial wise?

We’re very happy with it. In terms of success – the way things are with the Internet downloading and stealing music it can’t be compared to earlier time when records sold platinum – times have changed. That’s the way life is and how the music industry is right now. Bands don’t sell as much as they used do which sucks but its (the “Endgame” album”) very critically acclaimed record, many people really love it, our fans love it. As long as we have fans there actually isn’t anything to worry about. And we get new fans every time. We just keep doing our best and hoping for the best. And the sales have been down for everybody. But I still consider this album a success.

I read that you are working on a new album and it should be out in 2011. Is that right?

We’re talking about it. We have been in a tour mode at the moment but we have started to work on a couple of ideas. But just very few ideas only. During a sound check we recorded a few ideas but we’re going to finish this world tour and then come together and start working out these ideas. We hope it will be out next year but we’ll see how things will go.

You have received many awards. How important are these awards to you?

Well, I’ve never gotten a Grammy award (laughs). I’ve been in the band for six years (since 2004) and we were nominated with the song “Headcrusher” but we lost that to Judas Priest. It’s cool to be recognized by the industry, it’s nice to have been offered awards, to have been nominated. We appreciate it a lot. It’s like 25 years later and Megadeth still gets nominated. So, I think it’s a really good thing. We just try to make good music with every record. People still like us after 25 years so we have to do something right.

You have been to Megadeth since 2004 so you have played mostly to bigger audiences. But maybe you have also played to smaller audiences. Which is a better place to play – to more intimate and smaller places or big audiences like this festival?

I think they are both good for various reasons. When you play at a smaller place it’s fun because you can pretty much almost see everybody and it’s closer. But playing like this festival is fun too because you can see all your friends and other bands. You know the Cannibal Corpse guys are here and we’re very good friends with them. They are all fun for different reasons. The Big Four stuff with Metallica and Anthrax was a lot of fun too.

You said that you are in the band since 2004. How did you become a part of this band?

My brother was in the band first – Glen Drover. They called me up and asked if I wanted to be a part of the band. And of course I said yes. It happened pretty fast, Nick Menza was brought back to the band and for some reason it didn’t work out and so they turned to me. But Glen is not in the band anymore; he got tired of the touring and left the band. So then we got Chris, which is great.

I read also that you play the guitar. Maybe you wanted to be a guitarist in Megadeth?

No, no. Not this band (laughs). This band is way too hard for me. But I did write the song “Headcrusher” with Dave on the guitar. I’ve been playing guitar for years. But I’m not that good to be a Megadeth guitarist. So, I’ll stick to the drums.

Regarding the guitar – many Megadeth songs are featured on Guitar Hero. Have you played Guitar Hero yourself?

No. I suck at that stuff. I’m not good at those games. My son actually is really good at it. But I think it’s cool for kids to get into the music and also a new way of people getting in touch with our music. That’s a good thing if they go and buy the Guitar Hero and actually they are buying our music also. But I’m not good at that and I’ve never played any Megadeth stuff.

I once saw a clip where Arch Enemy’s Michael Amott tried playing his own song in Japan on Guitar Hero and failed.

Yeah, it’s different. It seems that the kids know how to do it but we fail so we let them do it (laughs)

Kadri and Shawn

Megadeth is famous for it’s political lyrics (some songs). But how do you feel about politics? Are you interested in politics?

No. Dave’s very intelligent in very different ways and he’s very educated with politics. He writes about many things he knows and politics is just one thing. He’s very educated, very smart and he writes good lyrics. Every time we have a song, the lyrics are very good. Politics is a cool heavy metal thing to write about. It’s good to write about many things not just one subject all the time.

Many artists and bands have released their official biographies. Megadeth doesn’t have an official biography. Could it happen one day?

There is the “Behind The Music” that is on VH1 in America but it went only until 2001. So much has happened after that so I think that at some point the whole story should also be told. We haven’t done that yet – this year has been very busy, we’ve been touring, then the Big Four thing and we also have a DVD coming out and also new record coming out so we haven’t had the time to think about it. At some point it would be nice to do an official video-biography from the beginning until this day. I hope we do that some day but right now we are quite busy. There are a lot of interesting things to talk about.

Did you have time to see some band here at Tuska?

No, we just flew in and pretty much just got here. We saw W.A.S.P for like 10 min. But overall we’ve been here like an hour. But after we are going to see Cannibal Corpse play a bit and afterwards we get on stage. Festivals are weird in a way – sometimes you have a lot of time but other times you have less time, like today we have 2 hours until the gig and we have to practice, do interviews and stuff. It sucks sometimes.

Isn’t it tiring sometimes? Like now we are also doing an interview.

Nah, it’s not. It’s part of what we do. It’s part of spreading the word, it’s part of our job. And I love doing it anyway. It’s better than being a construction worker. And it’s good for the band – fans see that we talk about our stuff openly. I think that interviews are always good because it helps to get the word out and contributes to people coming to our shows. It’s communication and it doesn’t bother me at all, I enjoy it.

I think that nowadays the live shows are important because your music gets more attention than only with the records (with all the Internet downloading and stuff).

Yeah. But the Internet is good for many things also. It’s good to get the word out. You can put this interview to Blabbermouth and the whole world can read it.

Thank you so much for the interview!

No problem. Thank you.

Pictures by Kadri Pärna taken at Tuska Festival.

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Interview with Zachary Hietala from Tarot

Tarot was originally formed by the Hietala brothers in the early 1980’s. Their first single Wings of Darkness saw light in 1986 and during that same year they released first full length album titled Spell Of Iron. Tarot has been active for over 20 years and now they released their eighth studio album called Gravity Of Light. The band describes their new album on their web page as the following: “The album feels like meeting an old friend. Some things are the same but your friend has gained weight. He shows new scars and tattoos. The beard is longer and he projects a meaner and faster temper. At the same time there’s still a big heart at the center. When you heard Gravity Of Light you will believe.”

And I was so lucky to get an interview from Zachary Hietala – founder, guitarist and music writer from Tarot.

Your eighth studio album titled “Gravity of Light” is due out on April 23 in Europe. How is the new album different from your other albums?

In my opinion, it’s combination of FGON (For The Glory Of Nothing), SOP (Suffer Our Pleasures) and CFB (Crows Fly Black) albums. It has progressive edge, put down heaviness and super melody. The best this far.


In Finland it was already released on 10th of March. How has the acceptance been? What have been the reactions so far?

We took second place on the official Finnish top 40 charts… So there’s something to go for the next album… he he! Reactions from the fans have been quite fine, so hardly can wait to play the new songs live on stage.

Was it a hard album to make or did it come quite easily?

This album was the easiest album ever made. We got demos and everything together so easily, compared to few latest albums somehow. We just put up my, Janne’s and Marco’s ideas together, and everything was there. We let the Pecu and Tommi train with the demo tracks and then went to studio to record the album. It went without problems, just few times our Macs crashed, but that’s normal shit with computers.

On March 31st starts the “Gravity Of Light” tour. What are your expectations regarding this tour? Will you be touring outside of Finland also?

Sold out gigs of course… he he! First we do three weeks touring here in Finland and then we are doing some gigs in Russia, Japan, USA and Mexico. More South American gigs as well as European gigs are on their way, but cannot tell more this far, sorry.

I understand that you, Marco and Janne are doing bits and pieces of your own and then you introduce the parts to each other and put things together musically. But who of you writes the lyrics? Is it also a “group-effort” or is it clear from the starting point that for example you or Janne writes the lyrics?

Marco does all the lyrics, surely I read them all, but he knows the stories what to tell and what makes a good story for the songs, so I don’t need to change his ideas at all lyrics wise.

Who did the artwork for this album?

Toxic Angel is his artist name, Janne Pitkänen has done all the cover work for us since Suffer album. Surely he is a great artist indeed.

Where did the main inspiration for the songs come from? From your own lives, society in general, history, literature or something else?

We just let it flow… For me, I don’t need specific mood or don’t try to find something, I just play and when something useful is coming out from the fingers, I put it on the hard disk. Later me, Janne and Marco will put the ideas together, the old story…

Can we expect a video to a song from the new album? Maybe for I Walk Forever?

Surely… Tommi and Marco did the video of I Walk Forever in Cairo Egypt, they shot some camel riding, singing by the pyramids, wandering in the desert and so… I’ve seen some splits of the video and it was terrific and great, hopefully it will come out soon.

I know that Tarot is performing at Tuska Open Air (annual open air festival in Finland, Helsinki) which is very awesome but what are other plans for the summer? Where else could one see Tarot live?

You will find us from almost every worth mentioning festival here in Finland. We are playing on more than 10 big festivals, to mention just a few like Sauna Open Air, Tuska Open Air, Ruisrock, Nummirock, Ilosaarirock and so on.

Will you do another live DVD like “Undead Indeed”?

This soon, why should we? It just came out last summer; I think we should do some studio records more before the third live album.

Tarot has already done eighth studio albums. What is your favorite out of these? Which one was the easiest/the hardest to make?

Always the newest one is the best, before you get some time between the release date and then you can listen to it objectively. If we don’t count the GOL (Gravity of Light) album here, in my opinion “To Live Forever” is the best because Janne was there in the first time and it changed our style to the way we are still on.

GOL album was the easiest to do for me of all Tarot albums somehow. I got the riffs, bridges, solos and so together easily. Hardest was surely Stigmata,we got so many problems and shit, this interview has not enough space to put all out… he he!

If I mention a few shitty situations – When I needed to start my guitar parts, I was so drunk at the party that I went through a glass door. So my right hand was cut badly and I couldn’t play in several months. Right after my hand was ok, the mixing desk broke out and the repairing of the mixing desk took a couple of weeks. When it was repaired, Marco got some serious lunge problems, like tuberculosis and almost half of liter water in his lungs, so he couldn’t sing in the next year and a half. And this was just a start… It took almost year and a half to do the album and when you listen that album, you can hear the pain behind the songs in the atmosphere.

What is your favorite Tarot song to play live?

Definitely Warhead. Pure metal with the progressive edge and beautiful melody.

I was so drunk at the party that I went through a glass door

What is your best live performance? (Name one that you’re in the performer role and one you’re in the listener/fan role)

2009 Undead Indeed winter tour had so many brilliant events, so cannot say which one was the best, but there it was. As a fan, there are so many, but Michael Jackson’s 1995 Dangerous tour at the Gröna Lund stadium and Rammstein in Provinssirock 2005 are on the highest places in my book.

Your brother Marco is playing in Nightwish and sometimes it takes up most of his time. Does it bother you that sometimes you can’t play shows or rehearse new songs because of Nightwish?

Not exactly. I can perform the songs, as much as I need, without Marco and me, Tommi and Janne have our hands full of different projects as well. Me and Janne are doing Marenne and I do producer work fo rnewcomers, Janne is playing with Turmion Kätilöt and Eternal Tears Of Sorrow,Tommi does vocals for the different groups and I do have a day job, so enough work indeed.

On Tarot official web page you have listed a band called Marenne as a side-project. How are things with Marenne? Are you still active?

Hopefully yes…Now I’m so busy with Tarot and of course Marenne is doing new songs, so when I get my summer vacation, I do Tarot gigs only at the weekends and then have free time during the week to put down the new ideas for her and for the future. If everything goes as planned, we can demo the album this year and release it next year, but that’s just the plan yet.

On a personal level I read that you’re a youth instructor and music teacher. How did you become involved with youth work and teaching?

I did my 12 month civil service, instead of the army, back in the early eighties in the rehab sanitarium. That made me to get educated on this kind of profession and I’ve been in this field of work more than 20 years now. Mostly I work with teenagers between the ages 12 to 18, who have problems with controlling their lives by different reasons. Music wise, I learned musical theory by myself and I’ve been a teacher for the 8th and 9th grade students of comprehensive school, as well as given personal guitar lessons to advanced young players for years.

Zachary Hietala

A lot of bands that have been active for many years are releasing their biographical books. What do you think about it? Can we maybe expect a Tarot biography in future years?

Big noo… hehe! Surely I like to read them, but never ever would want to read my life between the sleeves. My mother and father still live and I don’t want to humiliate them. Wild wild eighties….

I must also say that I totally liked you song Antz on the Guitar Heroes album. Will there be a Guitar Heroes 2? Would you be willing to participate in such a project again?

That was very interesting project and if there’s the place and need for the second album, I will be ready for it, if the producer people ask me. “Antz” was made in the way of the eighties guitar solo albums and ‘cause I knew all the guitarists of project, I wanted to something different, to get noticed. I didn’t do as many notes as they did, but I surely had melody parts and enough fast playing to get my speech done memorable and stand out from the other players.

Which band do you think is the “father or mother” of heavy metal musicin general?

Black Sabbath.

There is a new documentary The Promised Land Of Heavy Metal. It’s exploring why Finland has become the country of heavy metal. What do you think is the reason that heavy metal is so big in Finland?

Long cold winter, you must be aggressive by that, heh!

Are you glad that heavy metal has reached a wider audience or would you prefer it still to be more “underground”?

I prefer wider audience, you can make the living by it. If I’m correct, what is the point to do music, if there’s no audience or buying crowd? None.

Since I’m from Estonia I can’t help but to ask – do you know any Estonian metal bands? Maybe Metsatöll?

Yep, I know their music, but don’t know the guys personally; maybe we meet at the festivals and have a good party?

How would you describe Tarot to someone that maybe doesn’t know anything about you or has just discovered your band?

Foundation stone of Finnish heavy metal.

Any last words to the fans all over the world?

Hell knows, Satan is dead, rise all the Tarot fans!
Yours Zachary/Tarot

“Gravity of Light” came out in Finland on March 10th 2010 and will be released in Europe on April 23rd 2010.

Tarot is:

Zachary Hietala – guitars (other bands: Marenne)
Marco Hietala – bass and vocals (other bands: Nightwish, Sapattivuosi)
Pecu Cinnari – drums
Janne Tolsa– keyboards (other bands: Turmion Kätilöt, Eternal Tears Of Sorrow, Marenne)
Tommi Salmela – vocals and samples

Find out more about Tarot:

1) Official page:

2) MySpace –

3) Facebook-

Features Interviews Music

Interview with Daniel of Hadouken

Hadouken is a band that probably will appear in many magazine covers in the future. They combine talent, energy and a fresh style that makes you jump on your feet even without noticing it. Compared by many with well established bands like Chemical Brothers or Prodigy, which is undoubtedly a good sign, their guitar player Daniel “Pilau” Rice attended kindly our questions just after the release of their follow up album For the Masses.

First of all, thanks for your time answering our questions! If you are so kind, please explain a bit more in detail how were the beginnings of the band in Leeds, and how did you all end up playing together in Hadouken.

James, Alice and I all went to Leeds Uni, though James and Alice had already met at Art College. James is background is in UK garage and other British dance music genres, once he came up to Leeds though he also got into a lot more guitar based indie and rock bands and started writing tunes that drew influence from both styles. The band came together pretty easily as James got his girlfriend Alice on board to play synths and I invited my younger brother to take up drumming duties who in turn asked his friend Chris to place Bass.


Hadouken is a word well known for gamers around the world, being a movement in Street Fighter. Were you the kind of teenagers that spend all their money and hours at the arcade saloons trying to defeat Mr. Bison? What are your favorite videogames that you are playing lately?

Yeah we were all big into gaming as children. Since being the band we haven’t had as much chance to play as we would like but we do have a Playstation 3 on our tour bus so we play a lot of Fifa on there and we have Xbox’s at home which are used mostly for Call of Duty and Assassins Creed at the moment.

You have just recently released your follow up album “For the Masses”. What can the listener expect from it, if you have to resume the spirit of the album? In what ways is similar or different to your debut one?

We like to think this album is a big step forward from our debut release. It has a darker and aggressive tone and it is hopefully a lot more sophisticated musically. We’ve learnt a lot from the last three years of touring and we’ve grown up and changed as people so it’s naturally that the album is different to the one we made three years ago.

Why did you decide to record it in Holland?

We recorded in Holland because that’s where Noisia, who produced the album, have their studio. Noisia remixed a couple of our tracks on the first album and we really liked what they did so they seemed like the obvious choice to get involved in the new album. They are phenomenally talented guys and so we were really pleased when they agreed to work on the whole album.

During the last months, you can read and hear always comparisons of Hadouken with bands like Prodigy or Chemical Brothers. Do you consider this good (being compared to these huge successful bands) or do comparisons annoy you?

We’re obviously big fans of those bands and they influence our music in a big way, we’ve got a long way to go before we’ve achieved anything like what they have.

How did it come the idea of creating your own record company, Suface Noise Records, even before Hadouken would have any album released? Did you have clear you did not want to depend on any other company?

The Leeds music scene that surrounded us at that time was very DIY based with lots of small record labels and bands looking after stuff for themselves so it seemed like the natural thing to do really; we saw plenty of other people doing and thought there was no reason why we couldn’t do the same. We really like having the freedom to do whatever we want and be fully in control of the music we release and how we come across to our fans.

“The new album has a darker and aggressive tone and it is hopefully a lot more sophisticated musically”

What is your opinion about the music business nowadays, and the large amount of illegal downloads of music?

The music industry is obviously in a rough way and old fashioned record deals with big record labels no longer work for the vast majority of bands. If you are a massive pop act and sell millions of records you can get by but most bands need to find a new way of doing things. The illegal downloading is a shame but at the end of the day there is nothing that can be done to stop it so as a band you just have to be pleased that people are listening to your music and hope that they financially support the band in some other way, by coming to a gig or by buying a t-shirt for example, as without some sort of income no band could afford to record or go on tour.

Your music finds a great way of finding audience using new technologies and websites like for example YouTube, where your videos get a lot of visitors. Is it easier nowadays for new bands to find their own place, even without a big company backing them up? Are you assiduous users of social networks like Facebook, etc?

Yeah we use social networks a lot; it’s something that comes naturally to us because of our age. I think the vast majority of people who know our music discovered us through word of mouth online, by people sending links to our Myspace or to our videos. It is definitely great for bands that this is an option and they don’t have to rely on a record label to put expensive adverts on TV or big billboards up for people to discover their music.

Being James and Alice a couple out of stage, and you and Nick brothers, does this change anything in your work and everyday life? Do you have a special bond with more things to share being part of the same band, or does it turn hard sometimes to separate the band and private life offstage?

I think having a couple and also two brothers in the band is actually advantage as because we all know each other so well anything that needs to be said in a rehearsal room or in a meeting can be said and there isn’t any awkwardness.

What are your hobbies or other activities when you do not dedicate time to the band?

James is really into art & design, Alice is a big film fan and I’m really into video editing, but I think outside this band we still probably spend most of our time on music, we all have various other projects under way which we spend time on when off duty with Hadouken


Is there any particular band you would specially like to tour with?

I think we’d really like to tour supporting Pendulum, we’ve done some festivals with them and they’re an amazing live act and we can learn a lot from watching them. I think we have a lot of shared fans so it could work out really well

Being videogame fans, and with those catchy tunes, it seems that some of your songs could fit very well in a videogame soundtrack. Any project of working with the videogame industry in the near future?

Yes we’re in talks with various companies about using our tracks on their games and also potentially performing at gaming events. We always see people putting up videos on Youtube of them playing games like Call of Duty with our tracks playing in the background so people obviously think they make good soundtracks to big killing sprees.

What are the plans for Hadouken for the rest of 2010?

We’ve got our first few summer festivals coming up in the next few weeks which we’re really looking forward to. After festival season is over we might go back out touring on our own or we may just get on with the third album as the first few songs are already being demoed at the moment.

Anything you want to add for the readers?

Thanks for reading & if you don’t know us check out our new album For The Masses!

For more info, visit:


Interviews Music

Interview with ELMAYONESA

Usually, in a small country like Estonia is, the music you listen to around is the one created by native artists, or the big international and well known super stars. However, there is a new artist that has gained the sympathy of the Estonian audience with charisma and good doses of humor. His name is ELMAYONESA, and his song Liigutage Peput could perfectly be the official “Estonian summer song”, if we would be lucky enough to enjoy a proper summer… FREE! Magazine contacted this interesting Argentinean musician and artist, located in Barcelona, to get to know more about him and the story behind one of the most refreshing “Estonian” songs of the year!

Thanks for answering our questions! Please, tell us a bit more about your connection with Estonia. Have you ever lived there? What is your opinion about the country?

I have never lived in Estonia, but I went there to play after creating Liigutage Peput in December 2009. I loved the country! Being Argentinean in Estonia is a total success!; getting tones of attention by so many beautiful women, you can imagine! Maybe the only negative thing I do not like is the weather, I am not used to cold weather.


Can you explain us more in detail who is ELMAYONESA, and your reasons to start creating music? What other hobbies do you have?

ELMAYONESA is an artist! I play music since I was 13. I started playing drums in heavy metal bands, and now I also produce electronic music. Music is not only my hobby but my passion and my job; I founded my own record label a couple of years ago and I work on it every day. Obviously, being Argentinean, another of my passions is football, I also play it.

How the idea for creating Liigutage Peput come up? Did you know anything about Estonian language beforehand?

The project behind ELMAYONESA was always not only mixing different music styles, but also different languages; LIIGUTAGE PEPUT was born like any other song made by ELMAYONESA; I had been learning Estonian for a while, and I thought it was the right time to create a song using that language.

Mixing reggae, Spanish and Estonian language is something totally different to what you can usually listen to in Estonian musical scene. Do you know of anybody who has made anything similar? Have the Estonian media shown you a lot of attention?

What ELMAYONESA proposes is something totally innovative in the way of mixing Latino rhythms, electronic music and different languages, always keeping it fun. I personally thing that you can feel more and more in modern music that there are no frontiers, no limits of style or language, this is how the world is nowadays; ELMAYONESA is a perfect example, an Argentinean boy whose family is Italian-German, who lives now in Spain and who creates music in Estonian.

One cannot notice in the song your love for the Estonian women. Have you had personal experiences with them, like girlfriends of any love affair?

Yes, of course I have had experiences with Estonian girls. I love the women from Estonia! I think they are some of the most beautiful in the whole world.


The videos are shot in Barcelona. So do you live there permanently?

Yes, I have lived in Barcelona for 3 years. Most of the videos where shot there, except of the official one for Liigutage Peput, that was shot in Canary Islands. Everybody can watch it at

Are the girls appearing in the video Spanish or Estonian?

The girls appearing there are my best Estonian friends.

Will ELMAYONESA create in the future more songs in Estonian?

Yes, I am nowadays preparing a new hit that will be released on summer, and some more songs.

If you would have to choose one, what Estonian woman would you like to see moving her “pepu” while dancing your songs?

I would love to see Kerli doing it. She is very beautiful, and her music is great.

Is there anything you want to add for our readers?

I send warm greetings to all the Estonian people, I hope they listen to my music and get ready, because in July and August I will be in Estonia on tour introducing my new hits!

Suur aitäh!