Features Interviews Music

Interview with Taka from the Japanese band MONO

MONO has been around for more than one decade, not afraid of wandering around the world outside the Japanese borders to spread their unique musical style. They will be soon visiting Estonia, stopping in the city of Tartu. Taka, their lead guitar, kindly talked to FREE! Magazine about his view on music and the last experiences touring around the world.

Thanks a lot for your attention guys! For a person who would have not had the chance to listen to your band before, how would you describe the musical style of MONO?

The underlying energy in our songs is meant to be positive. The layers of heaviness and melancholy sounds on top are just the same things we endure in life to reach a higher place. We want our songs to mimic this balance of dark and light. As we grow older as a band, I think we want our songs to be more meditative.


How did you get to know and started to play together in 1999?

Takada and I became friends and we played a show together one time before forming Mono. I knew Yoda from the music store so he joined us shortly after. Then, a mutual friend introduced us to Tamaki because we needed a bassist. I’m lucky to have met each of them. It’s like fate because we all work well together and share the same vision.

After more than 10 years as a band, is there anything different from the beginnings, or the basic spirit remains the same?

We’ve grown tighter as a quartet and we are now more confident in taking risks in our music. Our basic spirit remains the same though.

I have read in previous interviews that you always give a great importance to remain independent, and you are not so happy about how capitalism affects the music business. How do you see the situation with the current economical crisis?

I’m not too familiar with the music business but it seems to me that most areas of mainstream entertainment are still doing well in most countries, especially Japan. The main thing that I enjoy about remaining independent is the freedom to create what we want to. The mainstream music business has a tendency to mold bands into what they view as marketable.

Is now even a better option to remain independent instead of depending on the fluctuations of the music market and the companies? Now for example Internet has opened the door to many bands to spread their music with a very cheap cost, just having a MySpace or Facebook page…

It really depends on what kind of musician you are and what kind of musical career you are going after. There have been several indie bands who have reached a wide audience with networking and touring.

Many European and American bands affirm that their craziest audience is in Japan. For you, as a Japanese band with a broad experience touring abroad, how is the European audience?

“I am a huge fan of Arvo Pärt”

The European audiences have already been wonderful to us. They are always enthusiastic and kind to us whenever we visit. Some of our greatest memories are in Europe.

It seems also that Japanese bands are getting more attention lately in North Europe than years ago, with other rock/metal bans like MUCC or D`Spairs Ray having a great legion of fans, for example in Finland. Have you noticed an increasing interest from Europe to Japanese music in the last years?

Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep up with the music scene lately.

You will be playing at the end of March in Estonia. I think you were here playing 2 years ago. What do you think of Estonia and Tartu? Did you have time to visit the city before?

Yes, we have played before at the Plink Plonk festival. Tartu is a very special for me, especially because I am a huge fan of Arvo Pärt. I am excited to visit to there again.

Plink Plonk club in Tartu is pretty small. Do you feel more comfortable playing in small clubs, or in bigger venues?

Both of them have good things about them. Playing in a small setting is more intimate which is nice. But playing in a large venue or festival is also great because we can reach a wider number of people.

The orchestration of your music could suit pretty well as soundtrack for movies. Have you received offers recently to participate in any movie soundtrack?

Yes, we’ve receive a few offers. We love film and it is a field that we are looking into.


You have always given a great importance to travelling around the world to promote your music. What is the best country or venue so far where you have stayed? Any place you would really love to visit, but never had a chance yet?

Such a difficult question because each country is so different. We’ve found something positive about every place we’ve visited.

What other hobbies and activities do you enjoy when you are not on stage or touring around the world?

Taking naps, reading, watching films, spending time with friends,

What will be the plans for MONO for the rest of 2010?

We still have a long tour ahead of us and when that is over, we will start to create new material for the next album.

Anything you want to add for the readers and fans?

Thanks for reading and hope to see you in a city near you soon.

MONO Setlist Tartu March 2010


1. Ashes in the Snow
2. Burial at the Sea
3. Kidnapper Bell
4. Pure as Snow
5. Sabbath
6. Yearning
7. Follow the Map
8. Halcyon (Beautiful Days)
9. Everlasting Light


Photos of the Tartu gig by Evert Palmets

Cinema Interviews

Interview with Jorge Blanco, director of the movie Planet 51

A lot has been written about the new pearl of Spanish cinema industry: Planet 51. The Spanish movie that counts with the biggest budget so far arrives to the big screen developed by Ilion Studios, a company owned and directed by the same talented people who created years ago the videogame saga Commandos, one of most successful ones around the world.

FREE! Magazine had the chance to shoot questions in an exclusive interview with director Jorge Blanco, who tells us about his beginnings in the videogame industry, the challenge and satisfaction of putting together a project like Planet 51 and the interesting future plans for a Studio that is trying to compete from Europe and give more than one headache to the huge American ones such as Pixar or Dreamworks.

Thanks a lot for your time Jorge! One of the first sentences that you can read in the media about Planet 51 is “The Spanish movie with biggest budget in the history”. For you, as main responsible of a film that will be released in 170 different countries, is this an extra motivation, or a reason to feel more nervous about the results that will be obtained?

It is always a great motivation to work on something that will be watched by so many people. The good thing about such a big budget is that you can really work with the necessary tools and resources to achieve the average quality of a great animation production.


I know that you worked previously with Pyro developing the videogame saga Commandos, but for the people who have not Heard about you, can you explain a bit more about your background, how did you start in the videogame industry and how happened the jump to making movies?

I was 20 when my brother, Alberto Blanco, introduced me to the videogames world. He had worked already as a programmer for games for Spectrum, so at home I have always been surrounded by that kind of digital creative environment. I worked together with him in a small company making graphics for small videogame projects. It was the time when CD technology was getting born and all related to multimedia. 3d animation was also starting to take off and I learnt a lot working on those little projects.

Later on, I was involved in the creation of Pyro Studios, the company behind Commandos. There in Pyro I met Javier Abad and Marcos Martínez, the other co-directors of Planet 51. At that time we were making Commandos 2. After finishing Commandos 2, Ignacio Pérez, president of Pyro, told us about his plans to build up an animation studio and we could not resist to the idea. Videogames were not challenging enough anymore from an artistic point of view. So the 4 of us spent 8 months looking for a good story so we could settle the foundations of the animation studio.

You have worked so far creating the most successful Spanish videogame around the world, and now with the most ambitious Spanish movie ever made. So we could say that for you it is natural thinking big, isn´t it?

Well, my professional life has been linked from the beginning to Ignacio Pérez Dolset. These huge projects were foreseen by Ignacio, so my merit is just about to take them and try to finish them successfully. For example, with Planet 51, the idea at the beginning was just creating a short movie, but Ignacio pushed us directly to turn it into an international film.

Which is from your point of view the best thing about working on the creation of a movie, compared to the creation of a videogame, and which one is the most difficult thing?

A movie reaches all kind of audiences, opposite to a videogame that counts with a more specific audience. I like that my worked could be enjoyed both by my mother or my 11 years old nephew. As well, the freedom of creativity in Planet is much bigger than in Commandos, where the graphics had to depend also on the game being easy to play.

I have read that you commented in past interviews that making this movie was much more exhausting tan creating any videogame. Have you spent many days working until late at night in the studio?

Well, we had a great load of work in Commandos, but it is not comparable to the work with Ilion-Planet 51. The scope of the project, the time and ambition dedicated to it has been very superior to anything made in Commandos and Commandos 2. All the members of the team has worked really a lot!

“Working with Joe Stillman has been really wonderful!”

How is the experience of working with Javier Abad and Marcos Martínez as co-directors, and being backed up by Pérez Dolset brothers? Did you have the final word in the decisions, or everything had to be agreed with the other responsible people of the Project?

Working with Javier, Marcos and Ignacio was really a big thing in this Project. As I said, I met them in the past while working in Pyro and working all together is really great. We work very well as a team, everyone in our own responsibilities and fields, and this was a key point for Planet 51 shining artistically.
Work was always made as a team, and then I had the final word for trying to move on in artistic decisions that would not be shared by everyone. Ignacio created a real “paradisiacal” atmosphere for what we are used to dealing with in the Spanish industry, where we had all the resources and support needed to complete Planet 51.

Apart from the famous actors from Hollywood that lent their voices to the characters, another strong point is the script by Joe Stillman, creator of Shrek. Were you the ones who contacted him at first, or how did you start this collaboration? Did you not have in mind any Spanish scriptwriter?

We produced at first 3 sequences of the movie. One was that one of the astronaut arriving to the planet and landing the flat with the barbecue in the background. Our American producer showed it to Joe, and he fell in love with the idea of the film. This encouraged him to join our team. I must say that working with Joe has been really wonderful. He has been involved in the project 100% and offered us a continuous help.

Planet 51

There are some directors who like to include in their films some “national winks” (for example, Finnish Renny Harlin always places some Finnish flag or a Finnish beer or something like that in some sequences of his movies). Did you think about doing something similar?

There are some little winks, although they do not make direct reference to Spain. In a sequence you can read the number 112 in a post box, which is the number of my own house. The astronaut´s MP3 has a tea kettle as a logo, and that is the favorite icon of our technical director Gonzalo Rueda, and for example in the fish bowl you can see two plastic corals in Brown and pink colors; that is the logo of a website about aquariums that I founded years ago. Ah well…and we also have in the soundtrack the famous “Macarena” song… hehehe.

And talking about winks to cinema history, there are also many of those to classics like Aliens, Back to the Future, E.T, Star Wars, Wall-E, etc. Is it difficult to make a movie that pays homage to the genre and at the same time has something new to offer? Was there a time that you had to stop and say “ok, no more references to other classic sci-fi movies?

Well, I think that the main concept of Planet 51 is already very fresh in the genre. We are talking about an astronaut turned into an alien! That was something new. About the other references, well, some like for Aliens or Star Wars were almost compulsory to appear!

Is the team in Ilion Studios formed basically by Spanish staff, or is a melting pot of different nationalities? What was the official work language used?

Yes, we are Spanish in around a 70% of the team. The official language used was Spanish as well.

What does a young talented guy need to be part of Ilion team? Do you hunt for people outside, or do you just choose among applications received?

I think the most important thing is that they enjoy and feel passionate about their work, if not, it is impossible to work in this field. We recruit in the both ways you mentioned, but usually most people are selected based on the reels they send to us.

You have also spent the last couple of years working at the same time in another movie. I don´t know if you can tell us something about it. If finally the economical results of Planet 51 would not be the expected ones (although we are sure they will be), would this suppose a problem when facing new projects?

Ilion is a solid Project from an economical point of view, and actually Planet 51 is already achieving satisfactory results. So there is no problem for the development of our second movie.

Where do you see yourself in the next years? Are you still “hungry” for new big projects, no matters how huge they turn to be?

For the moment I still have 3 years of work in this new project, and then time will tell what happens next.

Is there anything you want to add for our readers?

Thanks a lot and greetings!

Interviews Misc

Interview with Jani Penttinen – CEO and co-founder of XIHA Life

Jani Penttinen: the Finnish who knows how to make friends!

Jani Penttinen is clearly not the kind of man who likes sitting all the evening at home watching TV and killing time. His mind seems to be always looking for new challenges and possibilities to explore, both in his private and working life. This has led him to live in 3 different foreign countries through the past years, work for some of the most acclaimed videogame developers in the world and create from scratch his own social network online, XIHA Life, together with his Chinese wife Wen. A project that continues growing day after day with new members that share common features: their passion in making new friends from all over the world, traveling and getting to know new cultures and languages. Let’s discover a bit more about this young Finnish entrepreneur who seems to disregard the word “impossible” from his vocabulary…

Jani Penttinen

Thanks a lot for attending our questions Jani! Please tell us more in detail what exactly XIHA Life is and how the idea came up for its creation.

Short and sweet, XIHA Life ( is a multilingual lifestyle community for anyone interested in other cultures or languages. It’s a relaxed community where people make friends and learn about life in other places of the world, or just have fun and play some games.

How many members does XIHA have nowadays and which are the countries with biggest representation?

As of this moment we have 525 796 members and over 1000 new members sign up every day. It’s not easy to say which country is number one, because the distribution is very flat and the top countries change almost daily, however Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, Poland, China and France are the countries usually at the top.

One of the strongest points of XIHA is being so multicultural. In how many languages is translated? Are you planning to add more?

The user interface has been translated to 42 languages and we currently support 56 languages for the content. Unfortunately many of the translations are a little out of date now as the whole year we’ve been busy adding new features and changing things around. We’re planning to soon get all the languages updated and then add some more. I think in the end we’ll have more than 100 languages, as we really want to offer the service in native language to almost everyone in the world. In fact, nothing really stops us from having much more than that, if we just find some people to do the translations for us!

Before that, you were working in USA as programmer, among other companies with the famous Electronic Arts. How was the experience there, and what did you learn to apply it in your future projects?

It was a fantastic experience! I very much recommend everyone spend some time living and working in another country at some point of their life. For many it may sound scary to go abroad but it’s not that difficult. Life in the US is not that different from life in Finland; you eat, you sleep and you work! However, the big difference is in the attitude and the way of life. I think it was in the US when my entrepreneurial spirit fully took off. While technically I was working for a large corporation, EA, I was actually working at a small company called Westwood Studios in Las Vegas, which EA had acquired couple years earlier. The founders running the company had the kind of enthusiasm I’d never seen before. It was a great inspiration to work with them.

Jani Penttinen

What was the motivation to move from there to China?

I left EA after they closed the studio in Las Vegas and asked me to move to Los Angeles. Vegas was a nice small city where everything was shiny new and I could afford living in a big house. Moving to LA would have meant paying more to live in a small apartment, in a crowded city, doing the same job I’d been doing for the past several years already. I’d already worked with some of the most legendary game developers on huge game titles, so I felt it was time for change. It was a crazy plan actually – I had never been to anywhere in Asia and I didn’t speak any Chinese. In fact, I knew absolutely nothing about China. I probably thought I knew something, but in the end it turned out how little we in the west know about the Asian countries… Anyway, off I went. In about three months I had a company up and running in Shenzhen with the first few employees hired!

Did you have in mind to create something like XIHA in the past years, or the inspiration came after meeting your wife Wen in China?

Yeah, definitely it was because of her, actually XIHA was her idea. In fact I never intended to stay in China. I had thought of starting up a satellite company in China or India and controlling the operations from Las Vegas. But meeting her changed everything – within just a few weeks I had already put my house for sale in the US and was preparing to move to China for good.
She’s from an entrepreneur family so she knew everything there is to know about running a business in China. It was because of her that starting the mobile business went so smoothly. Unfortunately though, running a software sweatshop in China was not what I had imagined and pretty soon I was looking for a change – again. It was at that point when we decided we would implement her idea of the XIHA Life community. It was meant to be just something fun we do together, but here we are, 3 years later, both running it as the full time job!

“I see XIHA becoming a well-known brand around the world”

How is to work together with your wife? Is the relation cool, or sometimes it is difficult to mix family and business?

Sometimes it’s pretty cool, but in the end it’s actually quite difficult. It’s hard to escape work when you have your own company, and it gets practically impossible when you’re running the company together with your wife. This is sometimes quite a strain on the relationship. Having a family business obviously has a lot of advantages too and I really like the fact I can build my schedule so that I work from home as much as possible. When your business partner is a family member, you have way less conflicts of interest when making decisions.

Do you have any fixed office for XIHA, or basically your work using the computers and Internet?

XIHA is has a virtual office – everyone works from their home or anywhere else they see fit. All our team members are professionals who love their job, so this works very well. Rather than checking the clock on how many hours everyone puts in, we care about what gets done. Quite naturally it fits my lifestyle – during the life span of XIHA I have already lived in three different countries. This arrangement also gives me more freedom to not just move around the globe but also work while traveling. In the summer we sometimes like to cruise on a boat across Lake Zurich. There are small towns around the lake, so the 3G coverage is excellent. I can basically stay online and work all time.


What are the main features that make XIHA different from other social networks such as Facebook or MySpace?

The biggest difference is that we’re an open community where you make new friendships, often from the other side of the world. So while you probably have all your existing friends in Facebook, that won’t help you much if you want to talk to locals at your next travel destination, or if you want to learn a new language. If you just want to check out what your old buddies are up to, probably XIHA won’t be very interesting to you. But on the other hand, you probably would not contribute much useful stuff to XIHA either, so it’d be a mutual mismatch. What we’re trying to build is not the biggest community in the world, but instead the best hangout for like-minded people.

What are the main sources of profit for XIHA? Are the games the most important part to sustain the network economically? Do you develop your own games, or are made by third party companies?

Games are an important part of our revenue model. Part of the reason is my background in games industry, but in general the types of casual games we offer are a very good fit to our audience. Most of the XIHA users are girls or women, from 25 to 50 years old, and this group just happens to love playing games on the internet. We don’t develop games, we’re basically a reseller. What makes our offering special compared to many others is that our users can pay for the games in their local currency and local payment systems. For example in Finland you can buy a game from us and pay for it through your own online bank, and get the game instantly. With this idea we’re taking the localization one step further – it’s not enough to translate the text, we also want to localize the entire user experience.

Is XIHA profitable? Are you thinking to implement new ideas profit-oriented?

Nope, it’s not profitable yet. In fact, we haven’t really focused on monetizing yet. We could run the service itself at profit but we are investing into development of the service. Our number one goal has been to build an excellent network where people have fun and want to keep coming back. Without that there’s not much point in thinking of how to make money, really. We’re in a good shape though, things are progressing as planned.

Are you dedicated professionally full time to XIHA, or do you participate in other side jobs?

Both Wen and I are 100% focused on XIHA. In addition to us, we also have 3 full time developers working on the project and around 10 part-timers. Early on, when XIHA was just a hobby, I was still doing some gigs for EA, participating in development of some really cool games. Unfortunately I don’t have time for that anymore.

Jani Penttinen

How do you see the future of XIHA Life, and what are the main challenges to face?

I see XIHA Life becoming a well-known brand around the world for cross-cultural communication. It will be something people use in addition to other social networks, so no matter who is the leader and what the trends are, XIHA will have the staying power and will keep on thriving.

Anything you want to add for our readers?

I’d like to invite everyone to try out XIHA Life. It’s completely free to use and we have plenty of fun and friendly people around. Given that XIHA is targeted at expats and travelers, I think it would be a great fit for many of the readers!

For joining the XIHA experience and make friends from all over the world, you can visit:

Photos by Marianne Taylor

Interviews Music

Interview with Jukka of Deep Insight

Deep Insight is on a rampage! After releasing their kick ass album Sucker for Love and receiving the MTV award to the best Finnish band, they are going through probably the sweetest moments of their careers. Jukka, their vocalist, attended kindly our questions and explains how after a huge effort and tones of sweat, the bright side of rock is smiling at them.

Hello and thanks a lot for your time. If you would have to describe to a new listener how your latest album, Sucker for Love, sound, how would you picture it and your style?

The record cover represents the album very well. We ripped our chests open to give everything we have to make this album. It’s all there in those 11 songs.

You have recently be awarded with the best Finnish band MTV prize. Are you satisfied with it, or you do not give much importance to the prizes and awards?

We’re extremely happy about the award! Thanks to all of our fans for voting!!!

By the way, I noticed that the album is dedicated to Lucas. Has any member of the band be father recently?

Lucas was the work title for our producers’ child. He was born the same week our record was released.

I fancy a lot the artwork of the cover. Was it specifically designed for your album?

Thanks, that’s so nice to hear. The Lego man is a sculpture made by an American artist Anthony Sawaya. He was happy to give the picture for us to use our record cover.

“Many times outgoing people are keeping a mask in front of the real personality.”

Tell us a bit please how you got to know each other and started to play music together as a band?

Me and Johannes have been BFF’s as long as I remember. One day in sauna we started talking about having a band. First it was supposed to be an acoustic project, but already at the first rehearsals we had a drummer and a bass player join us.

Can you nowadays live on just playing music, or do you have other jobs/activities apart from the band?

It’s still difficult to make ends meet with just playing music, but it’s getting better all the time. When we tour there’s nothing else in our lives then the band.

Sucker For Love

The band, starting from the name, puts special attention in showing that appearances are sometimes deceptive and what matters is the inside of people. But how do you feel with that idea in Finland, when people seem a bit introverted? Is it not difficult sometimes to get to know the inside of people when they are shy or keep distances?

I feel that it’s easier to get to know people if they are slightly introverted. It takes a little effort to break the ice, and once you get through, you see the real person. Many times outgoing people are keeping a mask in front of the real personality.

It seems that nowadays every 1 of 3 guys in Finland plays in a band, the new number of bands releasing rock albums is amazing. Is this healthy for the industry, or does it make the market very tough to breakthrough?

I think it’s always been the same. New bands pop out like mushrooms in the rain. I consider a band to be a band after it’s released at least 2 albums or have been together for 3 years. These are the minimum requirements!

What are your future plans for the end of the year and beginning of 2010?

We just finished our tour on the 18 of December and now we have two months holiday for writing new material.

Anything you want to add for the readers?

Keep it real!


Q&A with Jukka

Favorite place you have played so far?

The Roxy / L.A.

Best memory on stage or backstage?

Too many to good memories on and off stage.

Best band as a partner to tour with?

The 69 Eyes, The Rasmus, Man Alive… all of them.

If they would offer you to play in a country or festival you have not been yet, which one would you choose?

Headlining the Warped tour.

Finnish vodka or Finnish coffee as recommended drink?

Whatever is your taste. Both of them are superb!

If for chances of destiny you would not play in Deep Insight, is there any other band you would like to be part of?


Related articles – Review of Sucker for Love:

Photos by Mika Lakanen, Erne Hakala and Jari Kääriäinen.

For more information about the band, visit:

Interviews Music

Interview with The Jade

The Jade is probably one of the most exciting new rock Finnish bands that you can listen to nowadays! Building up their reputation in the past years with amazing songs and hard work, they finally have been able to please the big community of fans they gather all over the world with their first studio album: Seconds Away from Salvation. All the members of the band kindly participated in this interview where they show that, apart from great musicians, they are friendly easy going guys!

Thanks a lot for your attention guys! You have finally an album in the streets, Seconds Away from Salvation. For a listener who would approach your band for first time, how would you define your style?

Wille: If you want great melodies and lyrics with a sincere depth of consciousness of the mind, and your taste of music is somewhat rock-oriented; this album is the way to go. We are not like the other bands you have been listening before. The Jade is absolutely a unique band, but people can also hear familiar aspects in our music. Therefore, your style could also be mainstream. Spend an evening with us in the pubs and you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say we have four individuals in The Jade.

Pekko: Thank you! I’d say it is a heart full of melodic rock’n’roll, a fistful of punk, another fistful of metal with dashes of pop. Words about life, death, hope, desperation, faith, anger, solitude, love and mental health.

Jann: Yes, well the guys pretty much nailed it down so there’s not much to add. I think it’s timeless rock’n’roll with real life lyrics. Great tunes and we flirt with the darker side.

Do you have any favorite track in the album?

Wille: I love them all.

Pekko: Same here.

Sirpa: Me too. If I have to pick one, it’s Solitary Soul.

Jann: That seem to change about everyday but right now I’m loving Wake Up, Roses Are Burning, Yesterday’s Rain and Solitary Soul. Listen to the Solitary Soul when we’re going to the solo part, it’s just pure art. And yes, Beautiful Things is my favorite. At the moment as well. There’s a little hidden message in that song and it’s not in the lyrics. I’d like to meet a person who picks it up. I love things like that.

Let’s jump back in the past. Can you explain a bit how did you meet all of you to form the band?

Wille: Jann and Pekko had an ad on the internet where they were looking for a lead singer and then I replied to it. That usually never happens, but I noticed the first time we met that the guys were good song writers. We didn’t have a drummer in the first few months, but since we all knew Sirpa and she was eager to join; she was a clear choice to us.

Pekko: At the first time we played some cover songs with Wille and we noticed right away that he has got a very good clear, boyish and sharp voice and there were good vibes around. Usually when some one new comes around for jamming for the first time the situation might be slightly uncomfortable but that time it wasn’t.

Jann: Yes, I remember when Wille came and he sang Alice Coopers’ I’m 18 and it was just unbelievable. He also played acoustic guitar which was extra. I thought this guy has the voice, the range and he’s musical, so gotta check out what’s gonna happen with him. I have no regrets. There was some kinda Mick Jagger meets Steven Tyler thing going on with his vocals.

If I am not mistaken, some of you were living previously abroad in England. What made you come back to Finland? It seems that Finns sometimes have a love-hate relation with their country, they complain about it a lot, but when they go abroad, they end up coming back to their roots. Did that apply for you?

Pekko: Yes, it was same thing for me. I was fed up living in such a small town as Joensuu is, as I was quite young. During those years spent in London I grew up and realized where I belong. Moving to Helsinki was not an easy choice but that time it was the only option. I’m very glad for it now. For me living in London was very tough and I don’t miss that part of my life at all. I have some good and weird memories of that period, though.

Sirpa: I totally agree with that. I remember complaining a lot about everything of Finland before I moved from here. It did not take long time to realize that life was not actually that different somewhere else. You still do same routines. Anyways I’m glad I left couse it opened my eyes and I learnt a lot over there. Decision to move back to Finland was easy. I guess the reason to move back was that there simply was not anything interesting for me anymore.

Jann: I was born in Helsinki but parents dragged me to Joensuu when I was kid. The town really sucked. I was getting beaten up every weekend because of my looks, so I thought yeah, I’m gonna get the fuck outta here. It wasn’t to escape, if I wanted that I would changed the way I dressed. But a boring place filled with rednecks didn’t sound as good as London. I have no regrets. Anyhow, moving back from London was a clear decision. After one of my best local friends passed away something was clearly missing. It was kinda end of an era, maybe you have those in life. I dunno, I just try to follow what my heart, which was the feeling at the time. Still, I do have some good memories as well. I met great people and got to play in some interesting venues and got to know and meet some musicians that I dig.

The Jade Live

I see that some of the songs that appeared in your EP were included in the CD. Did the EP help you a lot to get a record deal?

Wille: The first one did not, but the second one called Slow Motions On The Fast Lanes helped us to get a record deal. That EP was the cd that inspired the label North & South to sign us. The record chief Kari Kallonen came to see our show in Tampere and was enough impressed to sign us. Before that gig he had heard Slow Motions, which we had sent to him.

Pekko: Yes, Kallonen liked the songs on the Slow Motions On The Fast Lanes and signed us after the gig. He had not even seen our sites before. So when we together chose the songs for the Seconds Away From Salvation we all thought it would be very natural to make updated versions of the certain songs in the very good studio with great producers.

Jann: Yes, the songs are your babies and you want the best for them. So we were lucky to have a chance to go to the Seawolf Studios. It’s a great place and the guys over there are great as well, very professional. Well, they’re also members of Havana Black so it was a pleasure to work with them really. Major Leiden Team rocks!

As well, for a band that some years ago did not have a CD yet in the streets, you managed to build up a big community of followers through Internet. Do you think that it would have been more difficult to spread the voice without the new technologies?

Wille: Of course. In these days, internet is a very big part of the band promotion strategy. It’s the only media that can reach such a huge amount of people globally compared to other ways such as TV or radio. Almost every other advertising choice cost more.

Jann: And it’s a different kind of channel. Let’s say that the people aren’t that manipulated via internet so if you catch someone’s attention over there, I think it’s a good sign. You know, like people have 8 zillion bands there while on the radio or tv you’ll see or hear something between 20 and 100. Personally I have found some great acts via net, and I’m not only talking about porn, it’s fascinating.

Wille: Patience and consistent work for your dreams is the key!

Are you active users of Internet and do you have time to be in contact with the followers of the band personally?

Wille: We try as much as possible to answer emails that we get, but sometimes we just have to prioritize, because we always have so much to do.

Pekko: I like to be in touch with our friends who like the music we play. We definitely do our best to talk to the people. It’s really precious that there are still active friends who have been around since the first ep, Heatwave, was released.

Jann: We do our best, quite a lot on official sites. Then again on my own site I’m sometimes a bit lazy, well not lazy, but I’m a cancer in a horoscope and sometimes cancers just wonder, I wonder. Well, the time is limited.

What do you do when not playing music? Do you have other daily jobs, or hobbies?

Wille: I think everybody does also something else to survive or to get an inspiration from, whether it’s movies or walking in the park or drinking beer in pubs. Still, music is the soundtrack of my life. All my dear memories hold the thought of great songs that I have listened with passion.

Pekko: Music and everything around music takes most of the time but that is just a good thing. The day job helps to pay the bills. Not always, though…

Sirpa: Well I don’t have any hobbies what I do regularly. Watching movies is best way to relax. And yes, day job is something you do to pay the expenses.

Jann: I don’t have a job, I’m on a dole. I’m interested about different things. I have some hobbies like decathlon. Sometimes I read books, poetry, watch documentaries and go to see the gigs at times. I also keep checking out different bands via net. Write poems at times, watch Capri, I wonder what’s gonna happen to Totó, you know the usual…

The Jade Drums

For you, your dream of climbing higher in the musical scene is getting closer. What advice could you give to all those new bands that try to breakthrough?

Wille: There are no quick routes to the top. Patience and consistent work for your dreams is the key.

Pekko: Spend long hours rehearsing. Especially during the first years. Don’t get too wasted while rehearsing. Or on the stage.

Sirpa: Enjoy what you are doing and don’t give up.

Jann: Well, I don’t feel that I’m a right kind of person to give advice as everyone have their own routes to wherever they’re goin’ but something like: don’t play it safe, play it from the heart, play like you mean it and get along. Get deals checked and join your local musicians union –they’re on your side. Main thing, enjoy the music itself.

Is it especially difficult for a new band to catch attention in Finland (being a country where seems that every 1 of 3 guys plays in a band), or otherwise it is easier due to an industry well settled?

Wille: It ain’t easy to get the attention if you don’t have the right connections with the right people. Not all of my friends play in a band. Not even 1 out of 3. There are many bands out here. However, I believe we have room for everybody.

Pekko: Not easy at all. Finland still is “The Bandland”. Yet we do work hard to spread the word around so that’s why I believe it is possible. But if you sit around and wait something to happen it’s very likely that nothing will happen.

Jann: I think it changes. Some get attention fairly soon and some later. Also some bands just vanish and some keep on rocking. So it kind of depends, you know. But yes, if you sit at home no-one’s goin’ to find you. Who knows? We’ve been lucky enough to gain interest from abroad and that’s great.

What are your future plans for the end of the year and for 2010?

Wille: We will probably make another video and single. Also doing gigs and we will let you know as soon as we know more about the future. There is one cool thing coming for us in the near future. Can’t talk about it yet, though.

Pekko: We are certainly hoping to find a good booking agent. That is the priority.

Jann: And finding a capable manager is what we’re looking for as well. The one who really does his or hers job. Not one of these who just go: This and that will happen and then they’ll do fuck all. I’ve seen those all my life and it really makes me puke. To get a great team behind us would be cool. But hey the New Year starts like it should. On the 1st of January we’ll play at Gloria here in Helsinki. There’s a great event with quite a many interesting bands so it’s a nice start. Let’s see what the life brings. Keep on doin’ not planning that’s the thing. In the end, heaven knows where it leads.

Anything you want to add for the readers?

Wille: The album Seconds Away From Salvation is out now in almost ten European countries. I’m sure you will love it as much as we do. It’s from the heart and you can order it also to your country, if you don’t happen to live in Europe.

Pekko: From the heart and soul. Seconds Away From Salvation.

Jann: R’nrolls!!

The Jade Song

Q&A with The Jade

Favorite concert you have watched recently as spectators?

Wille: Dingo at Pressa was the latest.

Pekko: Matthau Mikojan in June at Liberte. I like what they are doing. I don’t go to see the gigs very often.

Sirpa: Hmm… That’s quite a long time I have been in concert. Aerosmith few years back in Helsinki was absolutely amazing.

Jann: Hanoi Rocks at Tavastia, their farewell shows in Helsinki. They played there maybe 9 days in a row. I saw the Friday show, it was just awesome. My all time favorite band.

Best band to share stage or tour with?

Wille: U2.

Pekko: Foo Fighters, My Chemical Romance, 69 Eyes and Matthau Mikojan.

Sirpa: My Chemical Romance, Linkin Park and Nightwish.

Jann: Hard to say as there are at least 100 that would be interesting. I have a m-day: Michael Monroe, Manic Street Preachers, Motley Crue and Matthau. Ok, I think Uniklubi and Apocalyptica would be cool too. And Negative. Then again I’m always happy to share a stage with most bands.

Best venue to play in Finland? And abroad?

Wille: Blue Shell in Cologne Germany was cool. In Finland, I liked Gloria in Helsinki.

Pekko: Fourooms in Leipzig. The stage is not big but the atmosphere is something very special. In Finland, I’d say On The Rocks.

Sirpa: In Finland Semifinal and abroad Wild and Heart in Berlin.

Jann: Well I usually feel comfortable to play anywhere as I love playing live. If I have to name some let’s say that Logo in Germany is great. The Garage downstairs and Dingwalls in London were good. And over here I really dig Klubi, Tampere.

Place or country you would love to visit and play there, but still did not have the chance?

Wille: Every damn country on the face of the planet is fine with me as long as there are eager fans to see us. My dream is to tour in Asia and South and North America in the future.

Pekko: Same here. Especially in Mexico and Japan.

Sirpa: Anywhere would do!

Jann: Many places actually. I’m interested to see and experience new places. Tokyo, and Japan in general for example. Far East and the States for sure. Also we haven’t been to Russia and Eastern Europe and I’d love to tour there. But of course it would be just great to tour all around the world.

What community of fans is the most active around the world?

Wille: I believe South America has the most passionate fans even though I have never visited the continent before. It’s in their culture to express emotions in a very open manner.

Pekko: Friends from Germany, Japan and Mexico, I think.

Jann: I dunno. Hmm… Not sure, I’ve been getting quite a lot of mails from the States, Japan and Germany lately. Maybe those…

Best moment on stage?

Wille: On stage, it’s when people are singing along the words to our songs and when you see the happy faces in the audience. It´s also fun to take pictures with fans and sign autographs.

Pekko: Every moment on stage is special. The best feeling is when after the gig there are no clear memories. It means that there has been state of trance again. And to get into that state you only need the music.

Sirpa: Beginning of the gig when there is that certain excitement going on.

Jann: It’s a great feeling when the adrenaline rush hits you like a rocket. For some reason on stage I feel that I’m finally home.

What would be the first sentence in Finnish you would teach to a foreigner?

Wille: Suomi on surullisten laulujen maa. (Finland is the country of sad songs)

Pekko: For this one I have to quote one of my favoutrite Finnish songwriters, Ismo Alanko. The sentence goes "Syksyisen metsän luurangot ovat nöyrinä hiljaa" (Skeletons of autumn forest are humbly silent). I’m not sure if it’s any useful but beautiful line of Finnish language it is for sure.

Sirpa: Askel kerrallaan portaita kiivetään. (Step by step climbing the stairs)

Jann: Elämä on laiffii. (Life is life by Matti Nykänen)

For more information on The Jade, visit:

Interviews Music

Interview with Matt & Kim

Music is basically all about having fun and getting transported to a new world of feelings and emotions. Americans Matt & Kim know a couple of things about that. Their live shows turn into a big party, and with their second studio album, Grand, they have just made their international breakthrough. They will be playing on December a mini tour of 5 gigs around Finland, country that they visit first time, and FREE! Magazine had the chance to talk on the phone with Matt. I have heard that these guys are pretty easy going and friendly, and I can assure that it is totally true. Matt is a real nice guy, and making the interview with him felt more like a chat between two good friends.

Matt and Kim

Their music has been used in EA videogames. They recently won the MTV award to best breakthrough video. They have been able to sell out most of their Finnish concerts months ahead… Matt & Kim are definitely on the hot spot nowadays. So do not miss all the interesting things that Matt had to say to us about his beginnings in music, his professional and personal relation with Kim or his philosophy of life.

Thanks a lot for answering our questions Matt. If you are so kind, please, explain a bit to the readers how you and Kim met. If I am not mistaken, it happened at Pratt Institute. How was the idea of making music together?

Actually we started to make music together “by accident”. We met at college, we both went to an art school called Pratt Institute here in Brooklyn, and we ended up in a relationship together and we went to all kind of things together. We did installation projects together and things like that, and Kim really wanted to learn how to play the drums, so a friend gave her a couple of pieces of a drum set, and I was trying to learn how to play keyboard, I played before guitar and bass, but Kim had never played any instrument, so we were trying to learn, and we thought that learning together would be more bonding.
A friend of us found out what we were doing and he told us that we were playing in a show; we did not have a choice! We were not even a real band, we do not have a name, and any songs… our friend said “I do not care, you will play the show”. So we wrote three songs. We did not have a band´s name, so we went by our names. So we started playing in New York, in warehouses and places like that.

So you said you were couple at that time? Was it difficult or easy to share this feeling of making music together?

Well, we have spent so much time together in these last 4-5 years we have been playing music and, you know, in other relationships I have been in we would have killed each other a long time ago. But miraculously we get along really well, I mean, going in a tour spending every second together and then coming back home to live together… I don´t know why it works like that but… we should have killed each other already! It has been 7 years being together in total.

As you mentioned, you started playing in small places and then obviously lately you play in bigger venues, although I can see that you still like playing free concerts here and there when you have the chance. Do you miss that familiar feeling of playing in a small venue for just some friends?

Well, it depends. We always want to feel like we are moving forward, as we have been playing in bigger and bigger places, but there is also a thing as I said when we started up in this more kind of intimate places where, you know, everybody was just jumping to the stage or being on the floor together… that is where we started to feel that our shows are like a party. That is a feeling that we have tried to keep very hard, no matters where we play. Everybody is there to have fun. In some other concerts, there is a weird feeling, so there is the band and here is the crowd, and in the crowd is very dark and when we are in a venue, we are like “hey, can you put lights on into the crowd” because we want to see everybody because we think we are all here doing this together.I want to feel it like an atmosphere you want to have fun and where people can interact with each other. So we hold to these ethics, even though it was starting to be a bit dangerous, like playing in Brooklyn in a warehouse, there might have been around 500 people in there and I noticed there was only 1 exit and the whole place was lighted by candles, so I was thinking “this is sooo dangerous, I cannot even believe we are doing it!” You have to be safe with things to an extent…

Matt, I have here in front of me your latest studio album, Grand, so I wanted you to resume for a person who would happen to be the first time listening to your band with this album, what could they find here?

Well, we struggle a long time with this idea of “genre”, we have played with all kind of bands, from punk bands to hip hop bands to dance bands. So what we decided is to call it “dance punk”, a kind of energetic music that you can dive into it, but you can also put it on a club situation or wherever.

“In our relationship, I am the dreamer and Kim is the doer!”

And what were the differences for you between recording this and the first studio album? I know that you recorded the new one at your parents’ place in Vermont…

Yeah, first album we recorded it in a studio out of Los Angeles and being honest, it was very tight time-scheduled and everything seemed to be very rushed so we wanted the kind of the opposite experience. So when it came to make Grand, we decided about to go to the most peaceful possible place, so we went to Vermont that it is a very rural part of USA.

Yeah, I have read that many people told you in a surprise tone “Wow, you went to your parents place to record!” But I think it is kind of cool. Where are you going to be more comfortable than at home if you want to concentrate?

Yeah, we decided we were going to hang up there and have this freedom, at that time even figuring out really what this band was about. What we actually sounded like. We just started playing our instruments two years prior to that, so we were still discovering a lot.

So were you then experimenting with new instruments there?

Yeah, I found a very important instrument that hear in Grand a lot, it is like a little piano that you blow into, but it has such a big full sound when you record it! So we just tried different things, and saw how they worked, and sometimes we would be like “That is total crap!” and some other times we would be like “Wow, that works well!” and you know, I appreciate everything what we did and what we learnt through that process.

How is it when you record when nobody is pushing you that you can be like “ah, I am tired, I am just going to grab a beer from the fridge”. Did you find also bad points not finding anybody around who could push you a bit to work?

The one thing I was lucky with is that I have Kim! I would have been probably working in the album until today if she would not be like “Matt, finish it already!” I can figure out our relationship as I am the dreamer and she is the doer!

I also noticed that Kim made the artwork of this Grand album. Do the houses that appear belong to a real neighborhood, or from where do the ideas come?

Yes, all those buildings came from our area. Now in the area we are in Brooklyn all those old buildings and old warehouses are getting replaced by new condos and the scene does not look the same at all. It is cool! I think it captures the essence!

Matt and Kim

Also in the booklet, it appears a nice collection of pictures of you both. Do you consciously try to escape of this stereotype of “musicians as unreachable people”?

Oh yeah, we have a kind of very big policy for describing ourselves honestly. I think so many bands are concerned with what is cool or what is not cool to be like, or things like that. That is very boring. So we just decided we are going to be ourselves. I know of bands that strap their guitars on and stand in front of the mirror and put the “show look”, like “this is how I am going to look at the show tonight”, and you know, I have never been like that! We are never worried about embarrassing ourselves or anything like that, we just put all on the line and people respond very positively. Playing a show, we are having a good time and we look like we are having a good time! And people say, “I had so much time because you guys looked like you were having so much fun!”. If people look bored on stage, I feel bored watching them.

Certainly this Grand album have put you on the hot spot in many countries, where you have turned to be well known. Do you feel you are now in the right spot you wanted to be when you started to play music?

Well, it is just another situation we put ourselves into. We never make any expectations. We just did this because we like doing it, and we continue doing it because we like doing it. It has been a total surprise to me that it has also been the most financially rewarding thing I have ever done or also that people have appreciated it so much. I just feel that if you say “we will be successful when we hit this point”, then you are setting yourself up for future disappointments. Better to enjoy every little thing and just go along and be constantly satisfied. I would never have expected to make a living of music. I started playing music when I was a teenager, playing punk rock and stuff , and it was just nothing but a expensive habit, something you think you can break but you spend all this money to buy gear and travel the shows and then just lost money.

But does it cross your mind this kind of thoughts like “in 30 years I would love to continue playing music”, or is it more just until the fun ends?

I feel like… well, we kind of swore that whenever became not fun, we would just stop. I know that for some bands, this has just become their jobs and they continue to do it because that is how they do their living and we just never wanted to do something because of that. The day we stop having fun is the day we stop playing. You have to be smart, you cannot overdo yourself and when you have a lot of good opportunities coming your way, you want to take all of them and then you just get yourself burnt out. So we try to be smart about things.

And talking about opportunities… congratulations for the MTV award for best breakthrough video. How do you feel about these kind of awards? You know that some people love MTV, some people hate it…

Well, we have a good relationship with them. They have been cool with us and very supportive of Mat & Kim, in the sense of having us host a show even early on, years ago at the beginning of our career. And well, we have grown up with them, Kim remembers as a little girl watching Madonna videos and things like that on MTV. But I think the great thing about this digital era is that people in Internet can decide by themselves. Things are not available just in one place anymore. People can find things for themselves.

And how was the feeling of shooting the video of Lessons Learnt (where they appear totally naked running around in the middle of the crowd). Were you feeling shy or embarrassed, or were you totally cool with the idea?

In the end it was very liberating. It was very cold when we were shooting it. But after that when we are going to somewhere warm like Miami, I end up buying very small swimming suit, thinking “if I managed to do that video, then I can wear anything!”

Were the people who appear around in the video aware of what was going to happen, or was it totally unexpected for them?

Well, we had a permit that said that we were going to shoot there, but we did not let anyone know, the permit just said “two tourist walk through Times Square inappropriately for the weather…” . It did not say anything of what we were really going to do! It just put us out of trouble, they did not read the full description, they just put a stamp on it, so it is legit… But I was surprise to see the reactions of who was a tourist and who was not, if there was a tourist, they would just take their phone and start taking pictures and the locals were like “ahh, I have seen things like this 10 times already!”

Have you ever talked to Kim about the possibility of having more permanent members in the band, or are you totally comfortable just the two of you?

Well, I think we definitely have a dynamic that it is just Kim and I on stage. It would make some things easier if we would have more instrumentalists there for some complicated parts, we never wanted to play with anything pre-recorded, we do everything live. We did once one show in New York where we had onstage a marching band of 20 people with us. I am in for adding a lot of people, but I think that just adding 1 or 2 would make a strange dynamic. But I am interested in collaborating with different musicians in the future that could add new angles and see what happens.

You will be visiting Finland soon, with a mini-tour of 5 gigs there, and you already sold out 3 of them! Is it your first time playing in Finland?

Yeah, we have never been to Finland. so I was excited being the first time, and then I saw all the dates and I was like “Wow!”. I am a fan of Scandinavia anyway, in Norway and Sweden, we have been up there. We have many places to discover, we have never been to Spain, never been to Italy…

After the current tour, which are your plans for 2010? More work, relaxing a bit…?

It never stops. We have been scheduled out basically until September 2010. After this European tour of 3 months we wanted to take some time off and work on new music, but it won’t come out until the end of summer 2010. Grand came out this year and we were writing these songs in 2007, so this explains how long it take things to happen with this band. I am excited to work on new songs and things like that but well, it is a nonstop work.

Well, but that’s good…!

It is good. Well, sometimes I would like that I could punch the clock and have one evening off, or one week end off…

Matt and Kim

Q&A with Matt

Favorite drink?

Orange juice.

I thought you would say Bacardi Mojito… (their song Daylight is the official one used in Bacardi Mojito TV ad)

Hehehe, actually no, but apart from orange juice, I have to say Budweiser. Kim is more a Budweiser addict than me. In that we are total Americans. We have been in places with fantastic local beer like Belgium but it is like “do you guys happen to have Budweiser?”

Any special memory from a show you had played?

One very memorable one: we played in an art camp for 8 to 13 year old kids. They all came with such energy! It was very fun.

What city would you choose to live in, if it would be any other than New York?

I think that the quality of the places has to do with the people and friends you meet there. So I would see Chicago, because we have many good friends there.

Best concert you have seen recently?

We were some time ago at a Beyoncé concert, and it was a quite impressive show, so that is the one I remember right now.

For more information, visit:

Interviews Music

Interview with Marko Atso of Metsatöll

If there is an Estonian metal band that has been able to break through internationally (and singing in Estonian), that is Metsatöll – an ancient Estonian word used as an euphemism for “wolf”-. And if there is an Estonian metal band linked to Finland nowadays, that is Metsatöll too, after having signed with Finnish record label Spinefarm (the most important metal label in Finland, a name behind the success of Finnish bands like Nightwish, Sonata Arctica or Chldren of Bodom) and scheduling to record their next album at the legendary Finnbox studios.

Metsatöll is probably living their most exciting time after their formation, bringing their folk metal to the masses all over Europe in a tour together with Finnish Ensiferum and Tracedawn. Their drummer, Marko Atso, had time to answer a few questions of what is going on for the most international Estonian band nowadays.

Please Marko, tell us a bit about your beginnings in the music. How and when did you start to play drums?

I started taking music lessons in 1979, at that time I was singing in choir. At the age of nine, piano and block flute lessons accessed. I started being “metalhead” at the age of 11, when I saw the Kiss´ song “Tears are falling” from the Finnish TV-show Hittimittari. I started to play drums in 1989, when I was 16 years old. The band was called Aggressor.

Jani Penttinen

When you were a child, it was still in the Soviet Union times. Did you have access to hard rock and heavy metal, or what music do you remember to listen firstly? How and with what bands did you start to listen to metal?

In the Soviet Union there were no people, who had access to hard rock and heavy metal until the year 1983 because all the recordings which had that kind of music on them were broken on the border by its workers. Photos of Twisted Sister, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne were photographed from the magazine Suosikki and were sold with very high prices. Cassettes with bad quality, brought in illegally by Finnish friends, were handed to each other. A thick book could be written about those times. And I believe that people, who have lived only outside of the Soviet Union, would not believe the stories in it. Firstly I listened to Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, DIO and Iron Maiden, basically in 1984.

You joined Metsatöll in 2004. Did you know the other guys beforehand? How was the process and your first impressions of playing together just after joining?

I knew Kuriraivo before, because I had played with him in another project for a  year. I got in Metsatöll by accident. They were going to give a concert in two weeks at Tavastia and had no drummer, so they asked me and I had to learn all songs in two weeks and had no time to get any impression about the band. But I have to confess, that those songs seemed to be absolutely absurd at first, because I had never played or heard songs with such a structure before.

I have read that you build yourselves in the band many of the instruments you use. Do you copy old designs, or do you create new modified ones? I see that in Estonia most of the guys enjoy as hobby doing reparation and “remont” work. Are you also the kind of guy who is on Sunday morning fixing things at home?

I haven’t done any drums, but I have built myself an apartment and a house. Lauri does most of his instruments by himself. At the very moment we have electrician, builder, IT-specialist and also a teacher in the band.  I do not like fixing things, I construct them, and usually those things remain for many years.

Do you have difficulties to combine your job and other activities with playing in Metsatöll?

We have no difficulties with combining our jobs and other activities, because Metsatöll is our activity no. 1 and other things come after that. First things first!

“We have many good bands and musicians in Estonia. They just need more stimulus”

The economical crisis is hitting hard everywhere, but as far as I see, especially in Estonia, where many construction workers do not find anything, etc. Do you notice it in your everyday life?

Yes, I do. But what does not kill us, makes us stronger. People who have lived in Soviet Union are used to more awful things.

You have recently signed with Finnish record label Spinefarm. How is the cooperation so far? Do you think that this will improve the international promotion of the band?

Cooperation is very “chill” and pleasant, we feel like being children who have just reached home. It stands to reason that this contract has its influence on the international promotion.  We have done it by ourselves so far, now we can just do good music.

You are quite a well known band also in Finland. Do you notice any difference in the audience when playing there compared to Estonia?

Yes, you could see more tattoos and body piercing among Finnish audience.


What other Estonian bands (metal or other style) would you recommend to a foreign listener who wants to discover more about Estonian music?

I would recommend from the metal style Horricane and Loits, industrial No-Big-Silence and Pedigree and for those who like progressive music, Contus Firmus.

How do you see the Estonian metal scene nowadays in general? Do you think that has a good health in the number of bands and venues to play?

We have many good bands and musicians in Estonia, who need more stimulus and feeling that they are necessary to somebody. Of course, some of them are too lazy to achieve something.

I see that you have a busy summer ahead, touring around Europe (including 4 gigs at my native country Spain). Is there any particular country/city you are looking forward to visit?

No, there isn’t. I am just looking forward to the European tour. Driving around Europe in tourbus has been our dream for 10 years already.

Anything you want to add for the readers?

We will start recording our 4th album in the end of July at Finnbox. This is going to be a very interesting one. You should also check our website


“Q&A with Marko Atso

Favourite band ever?

Celtic Frost

Best memory of a concert you have played?

Warming up Metallica with band No-Big-Silence in 1999 and Motörhead in 1995, also a concert with Metsatöll in Tuska Festival in 2006

And best concert you have seen as spectator?

Celtic Frost, Tavastia club 2007

What is the craziest thing that you have seen happening backstage?

We played on Rock Summer festival in 1994 and after that, bands Korrozia Metalla and Napalm Death, who were going to play on the same stage, clashed. 15 people took part in the fight and it was quite a serious one.

Who drinks more, Estonian or Finnish bands?

In my opinion both drinks a lot, but Finnish are better musicians. I can say this, because I have been sober for seven years after being professional alcoholic. Usually all alcoholics are good persons.

What would be the first word or sentence in Estonian that you would teach to a foreigner?

It depends on how old and what kind of outlook he/she has ;)

Interviews Music

Interview with Ari Koivunen and Ben Varon of Amoral

{mosimage}If there has been a piece of news that shocked the foundations of Finnish metal scene during the last months, it was the union of Ari Koivunen, ex former winner at the Finnish TV show Idols, with Amoral. Many old fans saw this as a deception, but for many others, this is a clever step that can open many more international borders to the Finnish metal heads. FREE! Magazine had the chance to make an interview in English with Ari himself and Ben Varon, guitar player of the band. Do not miss it, because these guys do not hold their tongues with any kind of question!

Thanks for your time guys. You have a new album released this summer, Show Your Colors. What can you tell about it for a person who a virtual fan who would still not have listened to any track from it?

Ben: Hard rockin´ & fast lovin' melodic, groovy metal with a huge dose of rock n' roll, big choruses and catchy tunes. If you're a metal head, this album could get you into rock music, and vice versa.

Ari: Ben said just about all. I think it's a good mixture of technical metal riffs and hard rock vibes with a huge melodic edge.

Jani Penttinen

Niko leaving the band has been an important turning point. Was it a shared decision between him and the band, or what were the reasons behind it?

B: It was 100% Niko's decision, and the news was as much of a surprise to us as it was for our fans. Apparently he just wasn't feeling the burn anymore, wasn't willing to commit to the band as much as necessary and didn't like the hectic pace we were used to. So we think he did the right thing by stepping out and letting us continue with full force.

Everybody in Finland knew Ari from Idols, but how the idea of joining forces took place? Did the members of Amoral and Ari know each other beforehand?

B: we knew each other a little bit, Ari had been to some of our shows, and we'd end up at some after parties together. So we knew he was a cool guy. Ari had heard about Niko's leaving, and offered to try out for the job. We didn't think he was serious first, but he kept reminding me to give him the audition. So we did. And it went good!

A: Yeah, I've been a fan of Amoral for several years so even to go and auditioning with the guys was cool. I've been a fan of death/thrash metal since I was about 7 years old so that is always close to my heart even I enjoy older hard rock and melodic metal as well.

It has been a challenging and risky decision. I suppose from one hand, for many old fans of Amoral, this change could have been too drastic. And Ari had already 2 albums in his solo career. What were the main positive points you saw for starting this new period together in Amoral?

B: Well, the minute we understood that our time with Niko was over, we decided we'll switch the vocal style to clean, at least for the most part. We found just growling to be restricting, especially as the whole band is big fan of melodic rock and metal. So after the shock and sadness of Niko leaving had passed, we were more than excited to start a whole new chapter in our book. We knew for sure that the new style – and especially getting Ari in the band – will piss off a lot of old fans, but then again, we've never planned our moves according to other people before, and weren't about to start now. We're just glad to see a lot of the old fans appreciating this new direction too, and respecting us for doing things our way.

A: I guess the talent of song writing in this band is just getting better and better when Ben and Silver doesn't have to do all the melodic parts with guitars, but focus on the brilliant riffs they do. With growling vocals only good riffs just aren't enough and you need to fill the whole song with guitar melodies to make it interesting and get it to carry till the end. With melodic singing there are three melodic instruments in the band and I guess it also gives a new kick to compose new stuff.

Pekka Johansson on the bass is also a new face in the band. How has the work together and the adaption for him gone so far?

B: It's been smooth sailing with Pexi, all the way. We knew we had our guy when he showed up for the audition. He had just the right rock n roll attitude we were looking for, as well as being a good player and having an awesome stage presence. It feels like he was with us from the beginning.

With so many new and veteran metal bands in Finland, what does a band need to head up, outside of the general bunch of bands? Is having talent the only key? Good contacts? Good record company and managers?

B: It's a combination of talent, song writing, good contacts and a lot of luck. If you have killer songs, play stellar gigs around town and are active with your webpage etc, you just might to get noticed by the right people. No-one's going to come asking for you from your basement…

A: One big thing is to be original and have a sound of your own. In my opinion the biggest thing in common with big metal bands is knowable singing sound or guitar sound. I mean, think about Metallica without James Hetfield's sound or Megadeth without Mustaine's and this list is at least as long as Meshuggah's


Finns have (a well deserved) fame of being shy. For Ari, getting to be known publicly so quickly in the last years, how has affected your life? Do you enjoy being recognized in the streets, or you prefer to disguise yourself in the crowds?

A: Well, I like to be just a human being like I am so disguise in crowd for sure. I've actually never been a fan of being a "celebrity" and I really don't want to be one. I just love doing and performing music but in my personal life I enjoy peace and all kinds of hobbies…

“The songwriting in this band is getting better” (Ari)

And now, for the other members of Amoral, does it suppose any kind of problem that maybe the media and fan attention is more diverted to the vocalist, or is something you do not give importance?

B: well, we do get the occasional mention in some yellow press that we could happily live without, but other than that it's no biggie. The frontman is supposed to get the lion’s share of the attention anyway, as the voice and the face of the group. As long as there's no Lead Singer Disease noticeable, we're all good, hahaha.

You seem to have a busy schedule for the rest of 2009 with the European Tour. Is there any country or venue that you are especially looking forward to playing in?

B: Z7 in Pratteln, Switzerland is always a treat, with its huge stage, amazing food and, most importantly, a washing machine! Country wise, I'm really looking forward to Greece and Bulgaria, as we've never been to those countries before.

A: This is my first European tour so I'm looking forward to see every venue and every country! There's over 10 countries I've never been to.

Anything else you want to add for the readers?

B: Check out the CD, it'll blow you away! Also, if we happen to come through a town near you, make sure to be there to witness the rock n' roll madness that is Amoral's live show!

A: Be there or be a complete pussy!


Q&A for Ben & Ari

Musician you admire the most?

B: Probably Slash, as he's the one who got me into playing in the first place. His sense of melody is incredible.

A: God this is hard… I would have to say Jaska Vitikainen, because he got me singing and helped me with my life big time when he was still alive. Miss U Jack!

Favorite drink?

B: In all honesty, there's nothing better than a cold bottle of Coke when thirsty!

A: Gin Long Drink

Craziest thing that has happened on or off the stage in a gig?

B: Onstage, probably when Niko was spinning his mike around and hit my guitar really damn hard, breaking a huge piece of it off. The hit was so hard that I actually though he had run into me, instead of it being just the mike… Offstage, cutting my finger really bad with a shaving razor just a few minutes before show time. It wouldn’t stop bleeding, so our drum tech put some superglue on it so I could do the show. It still hurt like hell!

A: I will never forget the gig with my solo band when I got food poisoning just before the gig started… That was nasty and the worst feeling ever!

Is there any band you always dreamt to see live but never had the chance?

B: This is easy, Guns N' Roses with the original line-up, or around 91-92, on the "Use Your Illusion" tour.

A: Pantera.

What has been the best band/artist to share tour or stage with so far?

B: I'd have to say Finntroll, who took us out in 2005 for our first European tour. They were so cool to us, and treated us like true equals. Love you guys!

A: Joe Lynn Turner took me up to the stage to sing Burn with him 2008 at Myötätuulirock festival

What is the Finnish sentence that every foreigner should learn first when coming to Finland?

B: "miksi täällä on näin hemmetin kylmä?" , meaning "why is it so damn cold here?"

A: "Kierros koko baarille!" meaning "A round for the whole bar on me

Do you have any secret “musical pleasures”, artists you love listening but feel embarrassed to recognize that you like them?

B: I'm not embarrassed in the least by anything I listen to, be it Seal, Prince or Salt N' Pepa!

A: No way! I'm not embarrassed about anything.

Photos by Valtteri Hirvonen extracted from band´s official MySpace

Related articles:

Review of the album Show Your Colors

Interviews Music

A new dimension of sound – Interview with Dope Stars

Fabrice la Nuit, Victor Love and Darin Yevonde are the components of Dope Stars, an Italian band that brings an amazing and powerful sound into this decadent world. We had the chance to interview the 3 of them and get to know more about their new album, their projects, their opinion about Finland and the (almost nonexistent) scene in their native Italy and their views of how technology around has is affecting us and has affected their lives for good or bad. Do not miss it, because these guys have a voice on and offstage!

Thanks a lot for your time guys! Just in July your new album 21st Century Slave was released. What can you tell to the new listeners about it, and what are the similarities or differences with your previous albums Neuromance and Gigahearts?

Victor: I think the new album is a good starter for all the new fans of Dope Stars Inc. because it keeps at the same time the sound concept of our previous release but improved with a more experienced attitude and a 360 degrees production which involve not only music, but lyrics and the visual side too. Also the album does not lack of new experiments in other fields so this makes it a more complete and representative release compared to the other ones. What is good is that most of the new fans we are getting now also get into our previous production and this album is also succeeding to interest people from different scenes apart from the industrial/gothic one. This is cool thing for us because we basically never felt only an industrial band but our main research has always been about merging together the industrial and electronics world to the rock and metal one. This is also something that connects to the cyberpunk concept behind our music. So making a summary while Neuromance and Gigahearts where more directed toward a precise sound research the new album “21st Century Slave” is the result of both the experiences we had thanks to our past albums.

La Nuit: 21st Century Slave will represent the latest improvement of the band in song writing and visual expressions. It’ll drive you deeply into the “visionary” cyberpunk world that lives so close to our contemporary reality. Added to this you will notice the perfect mix of sounds coming from both the previous releases: Gigahearts (guitars and rockside) and Neuromance (synths & electronic atmosphere) in order to create something new using the most popular properties of our already know production.  One big news will be the real drums recorded by our friend Fabrizio D’Amore (brother of Victor) and a stronger concept that will allow people to enter deeper into the world of DSI.

Darin: Moi & Ole hyvaa! Our new album Is a new dimension of our sound, mixing experience and experimentation we had with Neuromance and Gigahearts. The new album can put the listeners in a decadent representation of the world right now, with a cinematographic mood. It’s a new Chapter of our life, our past, our present, our future.

Dope Stars

In your album, you touch very intensively the new technologies and its impact in the world. What do you think of it, do you see it as a healthy way of development, or is not healthy that the youngsters spend so much time today in front of the computers?

Victor: Technology had an impact on society since many years but today the situation is much more evident and has immediate effects. We are now living in a world that does not look so much different from the visions of cyberpunk novels. It looks like art inspired or predicted the future in some way.  If they’ve been right on that side also the consequences, especially the negative ones, deriving from these premises are well known. There are things moving in the background these very years we are living to make the instruments of new technologies a way to control the people, thoughts and information. Our personal data is being stored everyday and this most of the times happen because it’s the people that do it by voluntarily just to follow a trend. The whole social revolution has got indeed his negative sides but also have enough positive ones such as giving the way to people from all over the world to exchange opinions, culture, information and whatever is a matter of thought. This is making possible for a lot of people also to start getting interested on topics that would have never been known otherwise. Also it expands a lot the range of connections with other people from any country which makes all of us citizens of the world above any nation imposed differences. This also gives to the information the power to be an unstoppable thing. For most of the young people it is absolutely normal they take it more like a tool for having fun with their friends but it’s always good if they protect themselves and get informed about the risks of a too easy use of such websites, applications and network tools in general. That’s cause basically the connection and impact between the cyberspace and reality is becoming everyday stronger. This makes the internet a place which is not about fun only. It is instead the place for everything. The message we want to send with our album is to master technology and start getting every information about all the instruments of technology you are using. Especially the ones you’ll be seeing coming out in the future. Thanks to the internet also this is possible.

La Nuit: As I see it depends on the right use we make of technology. We love informatics and part of our growing career is coming from the endless power of internet about connecting people. 21st Century Slave will investigate on the exploitation of technologies done by few mega-powered lords who really want to rule the entire world hiding themselves behind the shadows of well known corporations. So the keyword for every one of us will be “MASTER TECHNOLOGY” and not be slave of it. Open your eyes and take part to the digital war.

Darin: The influence of technology in our society is becoming day after day bigger and bigger and the power it has on young people is huge! Most of the teenagers right now are living their life in virtual world loosing what real life means. The control these tools have on young brain is really powerful.

And you, as users, are your lyrics based on personal experiences feeling a bit like “slaves of the technology” and running for freedom?

Dope Stars

Victor: Technology is about advancement. I’ve been into technologies since I was very young. I started working with computers since vic-20 and c-64, amiga, x-86 and so on till the current days and have been always working with technologies. I was into that since even before internet existed and then first modems come out. I’ve actually been living all the evolution of informatics, the internet and home computing in general till today and yeah I’ve seen and experienced many things changing fast. However this has always been like a passion for me together with the music and of course also has influenced by my personal life. But this also helped us a lot in the band because without that technology Dope Stars Inc. probably would have never existed or anyway would have never sounded this way. Besides we started from the internet and we’ve been growing thanks to our fans and communities that helped us spreading the word on the network. We’ve been always trying to make a good use of technologies and it is great that actually everyone can do the same with a computer. Slaves are those who believe a computer is just a nice handy machine. 

La Nuit: Well for sure I’m a big fan of technology since I was just a little kid, but I never felt like a slave. It helped me to learn a lot of things (first of all foreign languages), helped us as a band to record new brilliant material and gave us the possibility to be known all around the globe with few mouse clicks. Certainly you must be warned, there are not only positive sides of technology. As said before, someone is exploiting technologies to control your life, ordering you what to do, what to buy, what to eat simply through your laptop. So be smart guys and discover the dirty games hidden behind those dazzling banners, it’s up to you now!

By the way, I noticed in your promotional paper that you name “Snow Crash” as one of your influences. I don´t know if you have realized that in the TV series Heroes there is a character, Hiro, very similar to a character in the book…

Victor:What a strange coincidence! I am just getting into the 3rd series of heroes as I missed that.  I like heroes and yes the character thing is weird but Heroes is more like science fiction with the feel of a DC comics.  In Snow Crash it’s the cyberspace or metaverse that plays an important key role. However our biggest influence comes from Neuromancer of William Gibson which is the actual cyberpunk bible.

For those who do not know your band yet, can you briefly explain your beginnings and how did you get to know each other?

Victor: We were just a group of friends and friends of friends that hooked up together to make something new. By the times I was doing the first steps in producing music myself but in a short time I had ready 5 songs and a cover version of Billy Idol (Shock to the system).  When the first EP was released we’ve got a great feedback that helped us to get signed. We did 2 albums, Neuromance and Gigahearts and in the meantime we had some experiences that lead us to reduce the line up to the essential which is me, Darin and La Nuit. So we started to perform several shows and a couple of years ago we also met Ash Rexy who started to perform the electronic parts live with us.  In July we have released the new album “21st Century Slave”. What about me and La Nuit we are long time friends and we played together already years before DSI as in another band called “My Sixth Shadow”. Darin was introduced to me by one of our former members in 2003 and since then we become great friends. What makes everything perfect is that we like to do, watch, listen or experience basically the same exact things regarding music and art in general and together we are doing what we love to do above everything.

How is the actual industrial metal scene in Italy? Do bands like yours get recognition, or is it easier to break through in other countries like USA or Japan?

Victor: There is no scene in Italy of any kind actually, apart from pop music. A scene is something about a good amount of clubs arranging live shows and people attending to it, a good amount of magazines and radios promoting a certain kind of local music and people listening to it. This creates a scene and also helps bands to get known from the underground. Today instead the only  way is the world wide web and most of the times the feedback comes from outside of Italy like USA or UK/Germany/Finland and even more from countries such as Russia and the whole South America, Asia and Africa.

La Nuit: Recognition in Italy??? MMM….. not at all. It’s easier to find a double-headed living cat than obtain something from Italy… and believe me it’s a shame, cause we’ve got a lot of very interesting bands over here. First of all, it’s about Italian people, they don’t support the national scene at all and that’s too bad. The clubs???? Oh yes, they can organize a poor show for your band, but clearly you can immediately forget to either cover the expenses. Welcome to Italy!

Darin: For us is easier to be popular outside of our country, Italy is definitely the wrong country for any kind of alternative music proposal. Suomi knows Dope Stars Inc. much better than Italians ;) We don’t have any kind of support in our country but just Jealous shitheads are always ready to throw shit on us.

How is the European tour going so far this summer? Any venue you especially liked, or any place you are looking forward to playing in?

Victor: I look forward to almost all the shows in the future because they are all cool for different reasons. In October we’ll be together with Deathstars, Diary of dreams and The Birthday Massacre which are all great bands and we are sure it will be a great experience. Also in USA we are going to make our first show and I’ve personally never been in the US before. Also on 23 October in Helsinki we’ll take part at this Cyberpunk festival, Alternative Party, which will be interesting to me not only because we are going to play there. We are also going to play in the UK soon for the 2nd time and considering the past experience and the big feedback we received always from that country I really can’t wait to hit the stages there too. At the moment we are not touring because we focused on the album that has been released just now and we’ll have our summer touring the next year.

La Nuit: During the spring/summer time we had few gigs because we were really busy in the recordings of the new album and EP and didn’t have enough time to fix live shows. So people, everything will start from next October touring Europe and finally reaching USA! Talking about latest gigs, they were really cool (Jesus, I really love to do concerts J ) and we’re talking about the Mama Trash Festival in Helsinki (great bands/people and exciting party atmosphere) and our annual gig in Moscow (hey you Russian people, you shock me all year long!!!! You’re the best!). Finally in June we had the possibility to show our ugly asses in Germany thank to the Blackfield Festival and it made so happy, because it was a long time that we didn’t play in Germany, where everything began for us.  … Going back to our upcoming tour, can’t wait to play one more time at La Loco Paris (mais oui La Nuit arrive tout de suite!!!) and feeling very excited about the London gig, the Festival (Alternative Party 2009) in Helsinki and about our Halloween Night in Philadelphia!!!

Darin: We love to play a lot but not always is possible have long tours. We are waiting for Tour in October with Deathstars, The Birthday Massacre and Diary of Dreams, will a huge fun touring with them! We already played together in a festivals with Deathstars and The Birthday Massacre, will be cool rockin again ;) Will be cool play to some Finnish rock festival like Ankkarock, Provinssirock, Ruisrock! I love play in festivals when bands in the bill are playing totally different kind of music.

“Suomi knows Dope Stars Inc. much better than the Italians!”

You have previous experience playing in Finland, if I am not mistaken. How do you like the audience and the country? Are there any differences there than when you play somewhere else?

Victor: Finnish audience has always been one of the best ever; probably it was also because we have been playing at some very cool events too. We’ll be also going to play more in spring but at the moment I really look forward for the Alternative Party. It will be a great day. Too bad we’ve to flight back to continue touring just straight after because I really wanted to check both the days of the festival.

La Nuit: We mainly took part at this incredible festival called Mama Trash Fest, so well organized by our Mama. Believe me, it’s something so different because there’s a special friendship atmosphere there that is so unusual. Bands and people, they are all together, just like old friends getting drunk during a special party. All the Finnish fans and bands were really cool with us and we had this unbelievable feedback and support from them, we really didn’t expect. We’ll be there once again to do it again for sure my friends.

Darin: We played in Finland 3 times: A couple of time on Mama Trash Fest in Helsinki and once in Tampere with Jann Wilde and the Neon Comets. Finnish people are totally crazy and passionate! I never expected something like that before we did it the first time! Suomalainen hullu rockers! One of the best audiences we ever had ;)

When I saw the concert of Deathstars years ago before interviewing Whiplash, I noticed that they were very popular among female fans. Is it the same for Dope Stars? Do you consider that your style can be a bit more “sexy” for the female fans that the pure and more classic metal?

Victor: What I can tell you about it from the experiences is that we started to have a lot of female fans but then gradually also the interest of male fans has been growing and today we actually have a quite balanced fan base. We have songs that are very different and catch the interest and taste of different kind of people. Sometimes some male defenders tend to have some prejudices at the start cause of our image, which is instead not an issue for females and this causes to bands like DSI to have a female wing which is in first place supporting. And that’s great because girls are smart! J. What is good is that after some years we are also getting a good feedback from people coming from the harder scene. We’ve been always fans and been part of very different scenes and this reflects also in the music and visual concept we follow.

Darin: We have lots of female fans, I think it is quite the same between Deathstars and Dope Stars. In our music we have songs that make happy female’s tastes, I think, especially in slow/mid tempo songs. But we also have a harder, rough and violent sound in many other songs. They belong each other in some way and those components living together create a unique mix of feelings and emotion.

La Nuit:  Our music is so wide open-minded that can embrace all kind of fans, starting from dsi-addicted little fans (also attracted by the musicians), to music lovers who really adore our mixture of synth-rock electrocyberpunk. For sure, during our concerts, you’ll see mainly the first rows completely full of girls ;) but i think it’s something normal, in the end they’re always more emotionally involved during the live shows. But if you take a glimpse more deeply, you’ll see also real pure rockers with our star on their t-shirts banging their heads to our heavy guitars!!! I love you all, my friends!

Actually, talking about bands you share tour with, what is the one you have enjoyed more touring together? And what is the one you would love to tour with in the future?

Dope Stars

Victor: I personally enjoyed any tour with any band so far. While touring you experience a lot of things together and it has been always a beautiful thing. The longest and more remarkable one has been with Asp, London After Midnight and Kirlian camera but also in single dates we got in touch with many other artists and we had a great time together.

La Nuit:  May i say 2 bands instead just one: London After Midnight and Kirlian Camera. People, you’re great and i will always remember out tour together as the happiest tour with friends.  On the other hand i have to admit, that everyone who shared a tour or simply a single gig with us was really cool and I’m talking about you : Gemini Five, Violent Divine, Entwine, SKD, Jesus on Extasy, Richard Christ, etc…. and clearly my other band Latexxx Teens (coolest guys on earth).

Darin: We had a lots of fun touring  with band like London After Midnight, Entwine, ASP, personally will be really cool have someday tour with  Turbonegro! Finnish bands like American bands love to party hard , party animals creatures!

What are your future plans when the current tour is over?

Victor: When the tour this autumn will be over we are going to arrange more touring for the next spring. We’ll be visiting most of central Europe + UK and Finland this autumn and we’ll also do our first show in the US, in Philadelphia. So after these dates we are already planning more shows in Europe, the US and we are evaluating possible shows in Asia and Australia. We’ll be also attending to summer festivals in Europe and we will probably announce some of them already in the next weeks.

Darin: Find and find again new place where play! I wanna play as much as possible, my life is on tour. My favourite hobbies: restaurants, shopping, films, call of duty series and my motorbike. Recently I discovered my insane passion for every kind of extreme sports…. one day you’ll see some pictures online ;)

La Nuit:More and more gigs, I hope…. as said before, my first reason to be in a band is getting on my knees with my guitar on in front of all of you during a fuckin ultra-loud DSI concert. Ok?

Interviews Music

Interview with Ginger of The Wildhearts

The Wildhearts are usual visitors in Finland. The band from Newcastle has gone through good and tough times during their career, but after two decades, they are still on the road, more alive than ever. They recently visited Estonia for first time to play at Rabarock, the biggest summer festival of the Baltic state, and we had a long and very interesting talk with Ginger, their leader and founder, after they performed an amazing gig. Without doubt, this must be one of the most interesting interviews ever published at FREE! Magazine, so do not miss it!

The Wildhearts

The Estonian audience was not very big during the concert, but The Wildhearts did not seem to mind. You could notice how they were having fun on stage and feeling at ease (maybe helped by the view of some Estonian beauties around). But honestly, I did not know what to expect when accessing the backstage of the festival to meet Ginger. Organization’s rules were so strict that my photographer could not even step with me inside. But same than Ginger defined during the interview Lemmy from Motörhead as a real gentleman, I could say the same about him. He was funny, friendly, polite and intelligent in his comments; A man who has seen the dark side of rock & roll, and was able to go through it and be reborn stronger than ever.  I think this must be one of the best interviews I have ever had so far while doing FREE! Magazine. It was easy and natural to talk to Ginger while smoking cigarettes and having a beer, sitting at the sofa of the backstage, and if it would have not been for the hurry of the organizers, we could have continued talking long after the recorder was turned off. Apart from a great interview, I came back home with a set list signed by the entire band, a guitar pick, and a great hug goodbye from Ginger. You cannot ask for more from one guy who is a true legend of the dirtiest and more mischievous side of hard rock!


Thanks a lot for attending us Ginger! What do you think of Rabarock festival, here in Estonia, after your performance?

This festival? I loved it! It is so cool; there are so many pretty girls! My mind is blowing! They are so beautiful. For me, and for the rest of the band, coming from England, it is a bit of a shock!

When did you arrive?

Just last night

Is your first time in Estonia?

Yes. And I want to come back! I liked the atmosphere; they know how to have a good time. So I am very happy with the experience.

You are also usual visitors in Finland. How the atmosphere is when you play there, compared to Estonia?

Kind of the same, it is very open. A lot of countries are very dedicated to what they listen to, and some other countries are very open. If it sounds good, it is good. And I like that about Finland, I like that about Estonia. Some countries you go to, and it is hard to get through them.

Some other foreign bands I have interviewed said that audience can be a bit cold in these countries, but they know how to appreciate the music. Do you have that same feeling?

Yes, as long as the music provokes something in the people, then there is a relationship. The music is not just what is going onstage and selling something. It has never been like that. We go onstage and people want to have some fun and you know, as many other bands, we have had hard times, we have had drug problems, we have had things going really wrong, but the heart of the band is still to have fun; to enjoy life, to be positive.

How do you feel about those tough and hard times, if you look back into the past now? Do you see life with a different perspective?

Well, I think that when you get older, your perspective improves. And you always have hard times; everyone has hard times, now there is a recession going on around the whole world, so your perspective changes and you find also some good and positive sides in everything. Back in the days, back in the 90s, we didn´t find anything positive, we would always have a very negative vibe.


Because we were all… drug addicts… hehehe So everything was bad, and then you got the drugs and everything was good, and then everything went bad again.

Actually I just read the book by Nikki Sixxx

Ah the Heroin Diaries!

Yeah, it was amazing how he describes so well that you could have everything, fame, money, women, but still feeling so bad and empty.

That is why I tried to remember all the time, just because you have no money, just because you have problems in your relationships, etc do not feel that you are alone, because that is happening all over, you know, you can have good times and bad times, but it is all about how you make it. There is a great Chinese proverb that says that it is not about how a man falls, it is about how a man gets over it, and I always believe that. Things can go wrong, but it is about how you find something positive in that. That is what my attitude is all about these days.


Yeah, people from outside can think “oh people in rock bands have everything we dream of”! But in the end everybody has the same kind of problems, isn’t it?

Look, relationships problems are always the same, either if you are broke or if you have money. Problems with your confidence… etc. It is all about finding something good, remembering something that you love, little tricks like that. This morning I woke up and I was in a terrible mood, and my girlfriend told me “remember the things that you love”. Tell somebody that you love them!, and that will make you feel better.

So do you believe in karma?

Well, I understand karma as meaning “action”. Karma is not something that comes back to you; karma is about something that you do. And that why people get it wrong, so I think that karma is how you behave. If you are being negative, and things keep going wrong, it is awful, but when you are positive, things start to improve, it really is the truth.

I am going to make a long jump in time to the 80s, when The Quireboys, your former band, got started. You were sacked from the band. What do you remember of it?

Well, I was a fucking crazy bastard! I was drinking, I was taking so many drugs, I mean, I would have sacked myself from the band!

Were you pissed off with the decision at that time?

Ohh, yeah, I was pissed off at that time, but because I thought the entire whole world was against me. Then I just realized that I was being unprofessional while they were trying to go to the next level. And they did go to the next level! The band became very successful; it could have not made that step with me at that time. And The Wildhearts screwed it so bad many times because of me in the past.

Ginger: I would have sacked myself from The Quireboys!

Have you been in the situation of taking the phone and telling the guys “sorry guys, I was behaving like an asshole”?

Oh yeah, I have seen the guys of The Quireboys since, I have seen Spike and he understands that we were too young and crazy. Let’s face it, if in your life you are going to have a period acting crazy, you better do it when you are young! Because then you can possibly get over it. I had all my crazy acts at the time when I should have been crazy. In my 20s and my early 30s. Now I am in my 40s and I cannot be crazy no more. I have got babies, I have go responsibilities! But you know, I have no regrets, I have had a fantastic time and one day I will write a book and the “crazy times” will be the “good chapters” in the book, where people go like “oh my god, oh my god”!

Now you have a new album, Chutzpah! What can we expect form it?

Oh, it sounds so great! We worked with a producer called Jacob Hansen, who has produced Volbeat, and we are all very big fans of Volbeat, and he is just an incredible producer, so talented! It sounds like a very expensive record.

You recorded 19 songs for it, didn’t you?

Yes, we recorded 19 songs but the album has just 10 songs. But what we are going to do is, and we talked about this just yesterday, is that we hope that we are going to have a limited edition where everyone in the band makes their own cover and everyone in the band has their personal bonus track. So for the first thousand copies of the album we would have that bonus track and a band cover.

Years ago, when I was basically a child, albums used to have 15-16 songs. Now all the new albums have 10-11. Is that trend ok for u or would you like the albums released to be longer?

Well, like I said, I like to keep up with the times. And now there is so much music out there that people do not have time to pay attention. Doing a longer album now is expecting too much. You have to make them short but make the people really listen to the band. Then maybe they will listen to the whole album. I still love albums, I still buy albums. I do not download songs. I still need real albums. But I also understand that people do not need albums anymore. They need a kind of “soundtrack to their busy lives”. But they still need the live experience, they still need to go to the concerts; they still need to meet people, they still need to meet partners. And the music and the concerts make possible more people meet and have sex and socialize. That is actually the main thing! It always was and it always will be, and not marketing things or selling albums or whatever.

The Wildhearts band

I know that you are a very active blogger in the official site of The Wildhearts. How do you see the impact of the new technologies and the possibilities of keeping closer contact with the fans?

Oh yeah! I use Twitter all the time as well, keeping it as part of the fun. I think now it is the most important time in music ever because I came into this as a punk, and punk was all about sharing, talking to the people and then the 80s turned out and it was all about glam rock and not talking to the people, it was about being mysterious. I am not very good at being mysterious, I like talking to the people. I love to talk and find that we are all the same, that we all love music, that we have the same spirit.

You shared tour with The Darkness and you have always spoken very well of them. They were advertised as “the next big band”, but then we all know the problems they had gone through. Why is so difficult for new bands to break through, is it really so difficult to be original nowadays?

Well, to go from being a small band to headlining in festivals should take around 10 years. There is a theory about 10000 hours so well, you go to work 10000 hours to be good, to consider yourself good at what you do. Some people can get confident and success really quickly, but it is not natural. With The Darkness, it just happened too quickly. If the people just allow them to be a small band, or at least a big band playing small venues, but when we toured with them in America, the first half was in small venues and they were sold out completely. They got to play for a complete week at a venue and it was always sold out. So the second half of the tour were big venues and was not sold out. That hit the band’s confidence. The band was not the same band after that. And that is what I meant, people pushed them too quick. People do not remember that Led Zeppelin or The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, they did not make it in a year or in two years. 10 years is a nice period to make it.

Ginger: I am not very good at being mysterious. I like talking to the people

It just seems that people are a bit too desperate to find the “next big thing”. Since Guns & Roses, people do not see big new hard rock bands.

Well, everyone gets a change now. It is all about how good you are. It is not about how good your record company is, or how good your marketing team is or your management. It is about how good you are on stage in front of people. I am talking about something that has been since music first began. It is about communication. When a band understands communication, which is where the bands are making the money now. Bands just go onstage and it is like watching a movie, people do not feel anything for that. And people do not have so much money now, so they are going to be selective about what they spend money on. When recession is over, people will be confident again to spend money, but when that takes place, you better know how to speak to the audience instead of trying to sell something. A good show is not selling anything apart from a good time.

Well, it is interesting now that you talk about the audience that you released not so long time ago the DVD Live in the Studio, where The Wildhearts are just there playing alone with no audience. Where the ideas come from? Was just a kind of “fuck you and we do what we want” to everybody?

Well, that was actually from our good friend Tim Smith, he directed that, and he wanted to have a very close and personal DVD, about us playing in the studio, just showing the band being able to play. And I must admit that I did not like the idea at first. But I think it has a charm, it has a beauty in it. It is a bit strange, and I like things that are strange, because they make you think. Any art should make people think. Maybe people in 100 or 200 years will look back at it and will say “That was such a crazy and brave thing to do!”

And the sense of humor around the DVD was great, with a lot of edgy comments

Yeah, it was strange but I liked it. The same, we had an album called Endless Nameless, which is my favorite Wildhearts’ album, and it is such a strange one, because it is so noisy, but I love it! The fans hate it! But I think it still works well as an artistic statement. It makes people think.

You will play in Finland, England… what is next for 2009?

Japan. Then I have a solo album to record on Christmas and a solo tour. I am very busy and I am happy that I am busy.


Q&A with Ginger

Favorite drink?

Irish Whisky. Jameson or Black Bush or Bushmills. Anything from that family.

Favorite city in the world?

New York.

Craziest thing that has happened on or offstage through the years?

The last time we played at Bulldog Bash I was attacked by one of the Hells Angels, who was doing security, because he misheard something I said. He put his hand on my neck and that was pretty crazy, I thought I was going to die! Luckily the rest of the Hells Angels came and were like “hey, he did not say that!”

Is it true that you saw ghosts at Tutbury Castle during your stay there?

We saw some strange things. We were filming in the room one day and we saw little white lights glowing around. It was really strange. But I must say it was not so paranormal. I have had a lot of paranormal experiences, me and Scott were in a ranch in Malibu in 2005 and that was very paranormal! There was a lot of weird shit going on! A lot of crazy noises coming from anywhere. There are things we don´t know, and it is nothing sinister, it is just… something.

You said about the song “Yoni” and you have had a very promiscuous life. You have traveled and being around, so where do you think that are the hottest girls in the world?

Well, I must say that some of the girls here in Estonia are fucking hot, but I must say that the hottest girls in the world are in New York City, because they are from all over the world

Do you remember the last album you bought?

Yes, the last CD I bought was… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Death by the homonymous band. Wonderful, wonderful album!

Best band to tour with?

AC/DC and Motörhead, especially with Lemmy. He represents all the good sides of a rock musician: he is intelligent, funny and a gentleman.

Photos of Rabarock gig by Tarvet Kullman

Related articles:

The Wildhearts – 3 gigs in Finland
The Wildhearts – Live in the Studio

Interviews Music

Interview with Vanilla Ninja

Having access to the backstage of a festival has its good and bad sides. The bad ones is that you pay for a coffee or a beer more than outside, the good one is that you never know whom you can find sitting close to you. During last Rabarock festival in Estonia, I unexpectedly crossed my way with Lenna and Piret of Vanilla Ninja, one of the most international Estonian bands and did not waste the chance to shoot a few questions at them!
It is not common to catalogue girls who hardly reach 25 years of age as “veteran musicians”, but the young and beautiful girls of Vanilla Ninja can certainly say that they have been around, starting their career at a very tender age. Now, with more clear ideas about the business, but still having fun, they seem to be sure about what they want for their present and their future. I met them just minutes before they went onstage to participate in the project B.D.Ö., the biggest metal band in the world, that condensed many famous Estonian singers gathered together. Full of sympathy and energy, they were eager to answer a few questions about their band and their views on Estonian music scene.

I suppose the weather is not the best one to play today. Have you played before at Rabarock?

Piret and Lenna: No, actually I think that it is a good experience because the rock fans get a bit scared if they invite us, so now we got invited.

Vanilla Ninja

Do you still go by the name Vanilla Ninja?

Piret: We had some legal issues with the name.
Lenna: we were 1 year in court but now everything is back to normal.

You are one of the few Estonian bands that broke through internationally. Why does not happen more often?

Both: I don´t know, there is no answer.

Piret: You need to have good connections and we were very very lucky as we had one guy who was working with one Estonian band and we started talking and then we had the chance to go to Germany, but it does not happen really often, like never…

Lenna: I think it happens everywhere, like for example in Germany also, you have many good bands but they are on their own, so the question mark “why” not to go to other country and take competition from there, there is a tough competition.

Piret: Now there are a few bands that have played abroad like Bedwetters, they made an album in Sweden, and Kerli. She has bigger plans.

Vanilla Ninja

But at the beginning she was much criticized for going to USA, people telling that she would never achieve anything important…

Both: Well, it is always like this. At the beginning everybody is like “ohh buhh”, and then after when they get a number 1 the same people are like “oh my god, you were so big in the beginning”

I know you do other projects apart from your musical careers, for example Piret was working for MTV…

Piret: Yes, I was working with them. Yeah, we are doing other projects, we have been doing Vanilla Ninja for 7 years, when we started we were very young, and now we all have the feeling that we would like to have a little rest from music and try different things and then come back to it after a few years or something.

How old were you when you started?

Piret: I was 17.

Lenna: Yeah I was 16

“We want to take a little break from the band to keep it fresh”

How was when you were teenagers and people recognized you in the streets?

Piret: It was crazy of course!

Lenna: But it was also fun!

Piret: It was fun most of the time, but the longer we do the more we see how hard it is.

Lenna: But actually that is also one reason why we are so grateful because we were so young that we were willing to take all the risks and then when somebody offers to do those things, we say “no way”. At the beginning we were “yeah yeah, let´s do it!”

Piret: I think it was good that we started so young and so naïve.

Now you are young but with a lot of experience!

Both: Yeah, for sure!

What Estonian bands that you would recommend to foreign listeners?

Piret: I really like Kosmikud.

Lenna: I am fond of PopIdiot and Stella.

Piret: Popidiot is really good and I really liked their last album.

Vanilla Ninja

What are the future projects for you?

Lenna: As Piret said, we want to take a little break. We do not want to break up with the band, we are making concerts but we are not making any new album at the moment, we are not planning it. We are gonna take it easy and have some fun and try new projects.

Piret: Just to keep ourselves fresh and experience different stuff. For the last seven years we have done the same kind of music and we cannot change it in Vanilla Ninja, the style has to stay the same, because the fans expect that and otherwise do not like it.

But it is always the change, isn´t it? If you change, people criticize and if you keep the same they also criticize.

Piret: But you know, for ourselves we decided that we do not want to do the same thing right now. We need some change, but I think that after 3 or 5 years or so it would be nice to come back to the roots of the band.

Photo 3: Tarvet Kullman

Interviews Music

Interview with Hendrik of Popidiot

Popidiot is a Estonian-Finnish band that maybe turned to be the biggest surprise in Estonian music scene in the last months. Using a light electro-pop with catchy lyrics, the band has gained the heart of thousands of fans in Estonia and is receiving excellent critics from Finland. We had a nice talk with Hendrik Luuk, one of the core members of the band, sitting in a bar terrace in Tartu, city where he lives and works, and trying not to be devoured by the hordes of mosquitoes around us!

Hello Hendrik and thanks for meeting us! How did you start with the band?

I think we started 6 or 7 years ago. I am doing the band with a Finnish guy. We met at the medical building where Matti (Juhani Peura) was studying medicine, and I was doing my Master´s Degree. I met him there and I found out that he is fond of doing electro music and then I told him that let´s try to do something together and that is where it started.

Is he still studying medicine?

He finished, he is not working in Finland for 2 years.

So how do you manage to work on the band at distance?

Well, we write the songs and then we send demos to each other, so one write and the other make music or the opposite way and then for live performances we have a few rehearsals before the concerts, and then we also have for live performances a guitar player who is now also a member of the band.


Is Rein Fucks, the guitar player, living also in Tartu?

The guitar player is in Tallinn, Matti is in Helsinki and I am here in Tartu. So we all 3 are in separated cities!

Who came up with the name of the band?

Matti came up with this, and it was that we were trying to think what kind of music we should make and then the idea was that it should be like pop music but with some kind of an edge, so to stand out from the “boring” pop, so there came “PopIdiot”.

So you and Matti are writing the lyrics and making the music and then you joined forces with Rein Fucks that has Sekssound records.

Yes, he is actually the songwriter for Villafrogs that it is the band he started, and then when we released our first albums, Rein took care of distribution.

For you, being quite a young band, how do you see the general scene in Estonia. Is it difficult for new bands to play?

It is actually very easy for new bands to play, at least for finding gigs. We are not competing with those very big top bands which play the summer tours, but yeah, it is very easy, there are not many people, there are not many bands and the kind of music we make, you could say that there is no other band like this in Estonia.

So apart from playing you have other side jobs.

Well, I am mostly working in the lab at Univesity, doing Biology research, and then I work sometimes in the studio and now my friend Mart and other people have started Pling Plonk Club.

Our second album is more mature- Hendrik of Popidiot –

What other bands in Tartu or in Estonia would you recommend to the foreign listener?

Junging and the Stratforw Faggots, Micromac.. and Tartu Poppia Institute and some others in Tallinn.

Your debut album was 111 and now you have recently released your follow-up album, Antenna of Love. How would you define them, are both albums similar or different?

I think the second album is more mature, the first was more about exploring different sounds, different styles, and the second one is more “one piece”.

It was released the Independence Day 24th. Did that have any special meaning?

Well, it was planned to be released, because in Estonia is a big day, and we thought “why not”, because of course the release of our second album was a big thing for us too.


You played some months ago in Tallinn Music Festival and I read good reviews from Finnish journalists. Have you had in mind to go there to play more often, in Finland?

We are trying to get some contacts, but at the moment we do not have any specific deal, hopefully something in the autumn, because this company, Stupido Records, released our album there, and something could come with them.

Do you think that in the future you could live on only with your music?

I think it would be very tough, at least at the moment, our band is not at the level to enable us to live from it. And we have invested a lot of time and effort in our other careers, Matti is a doctor and I am a scientist, so I think it would be better if we could keep these both things growing.

Do you see any differences between the music business in Finland and here?

I guess there is more competition in Finland. The bands are better produced there, the songwriting is also better but in Estonia the whole thing is pop music, it started in the 90s with the new generation, in the Soviet times there was not much going on.

You compose in English and 1 song in Estonian. Have you though to compose in Finnish?

English is the easiest language, we both managed for singing and writing, Matti does not feel very comfortable in Estonian although he can speak it very well, so English and Estonian is our common ground. We made this Estonian song to make collaboration for Eurovision Song Contest and it turned out that singing in Estonian works pretty well, people like it and connects more directly.

For more information visit:

Books Interviews

Interview with fiction writer George R.R. Martin

American fiction writer George R.R. Martin (Bayonne, 1948) can be considered a contemporary classic of the literature in science fiction and fantasy genres. Awarded with high distinctions like Nebula or Hugo awards, and consolidated as a bestseller’s author due to the widespread fame of his saga “The Song of Ice & Fire”, Martin also provokes high doses of anxiety and gossiping in fantasy literature communities and forums around the world due to the expectation for the last 3 books not published yet that will complete the total of 7; the fifth one “A Dance with Dragons” will probably hit the bookshops before the end of the year.

George R.R. Martin

In an overcrowded room of a famous bookshop in Tallinn, filled with hundreds of fans, a talkative and friendly George R.R. Martin, accompanied by his wife Parris, answers all kind of questions that the Estonian readers shoot at him, from the sex scenes in his books and the morality of the American readers to his taste in literature. After more than 1 hour signing books to his loyal fans, we finally have the chance to talk about his visit to Finland and Estonia, his past as scriptwriter in Hollywood and of course about The Song of Ice & Fire!

Thank you for your time George. You were in Helsinki last week end and actually I know that when you were younger you wrote some stories about Suomenlinna…

Yeah, I wrote two stories about it, the fortress was called Sveaborg in past times and I wrote about the surrender to the Russians which was kind of a historical mystery, so I wrote a story in college, actually I was taking a course on Scandinavian history and I convinced the professor that I could write a piece of historical fiction.

And if I am not mistaken, you explain in your book Dreamsongs that actually the American-Scandinavian journal was the first one to reject you with those stories.

Yeah, but well, they rejected me “nicely”, so it was very encouraging, and I went on and 20 years later I dig it out and rewrote it and made it a science fiction story.

So why were you so interested about Scandinavian culture? What attracted you?

Well, it is not that I was particularly attracted. I was in college and taking history as a minor, and I took all about Western civilization and English history and American history, so I thought that I could take some history course I did not know anything from inside, and the whole thing was that Sveaborg caught my imagination, you know “the great fortress, support of the north… mysteriously surrenders to inferior forces…” Why? That caught my attention.


So you visited it?

Yes, we took a boat and spent a day there.

So it was like the idea you had in mind?

Actually, it was not like in my imagination. It was very pleasant; there was a park, trees and children playing, while in my stories all is very grim and military. In the story is middle winter and the bay is completely frozen, so it was very different from the story, but still, nice.

And here in Estonia, is this your first time?

First time in Estonia, yeah.

Did you plan to come here beforehand, or just took advantage of the visit to Finland?

The Finns approached me 3 years ago. I schedule my calendar 3 years in advance and the Finns asked if I would be their guest at Finncon, so I agreed and put it at my website and a few months ago my Estonian publishers noticed that and asked if I could come to Estonia and do some signing. I must say I have had a great time here; I have got to meet all my Estonian readers, so that was a thrill!

During last year you were presenting the book “Songs of the Dying Earth”, an anthology tribute to Jack Vance, a book you have edited together with Gardner Dozois. What can you tell us about it?

Yeah, actually it is coming out right now, I have not seen a copy yet myself, but just before I left the publisher wrote me that he was picking copies from the printer and he would mail them to me, so they would be hitting the bookstores right now.

Your fans seem to be very focused on your advances with the Saga The Song of Ice & Fire. Do you receive many emails when you do this other projects about why you do not focus on the saga?

Yes, we do unfortunately. There are fans who are just interested in The Song of Ice & Fire and they do not want me doing anything else, but they are the small minority. The majority of my fans are very supportive, they write me wonderful letters so well, I like doing different things, you know, I love Ice & Fire and I am working on it and that is great, but you cannot do just one thing 24 hours a day, and I have a lot of interests: I like editing books, I like reading books, I like working with Gardner and of course I like Jack Vance and that book honors his magnificent career.

There has been confirmation that The Song of Ice & Fire will be turned into a TV series by HBO. Is true that you keep the right to write the script for one chapter a year?

Yes, it is true; I will write one script per year for the TV series.

You worked previously in Hollywood writing scripts for series. Are you excited having the chance to write scripts again?

No… I mean, I am looking forward to it, but I am not “that” excited about it… It will be more exciting when it gets produced. That will be fun!

I read that you were actually not that satisfied with your experience working in Hollywood. What didn’t you like there?

I was there for 10 years. The first 5 years I was in two shows, The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast, and you know, I had my frustrations on those shows, but mostly it was quite satisfying, we did some good work, it was film, it was produced, it was broadcasted, people saw it… that was all good. But the second 5 years I reached a stage where I was doing “development”. I was developing ideas for shows on my own, and also doing featured films, doing movies, writing scripts and in that case, these things… you get paid a lot of money, more than working on a show, but they do not necessarily make anything. You write a movie, you re-write a movie, you spend 1 or 2 years working on it, and then they decide that they are not going to make the movie. Then you develop a pilot again, you spend 1 year on it, they film a pilot, they drop it, that happened to me once… maybe they do not make the pilot and read the script and say “well, this is good but we have this other show that we like better”. So after these years I had much more money, but emotionally it was very unfulfilling, it was very frustrating. I do not want to write a script, develop characters for 1 year and then nobody see them except a few executives in a room. So I wanted to be back to books where I know I had a real audience.

Is not weird that they will start the filming of the TV series, but still nobody knows the final for the Song of Ice & Fire (apart from you)? When they start to shoot the beginning, they do not even know how it ends…

Yeah, sure they don’t. I am going to be wasting them! Well, they are going to do 7 seasons and I am doing 7 books. They are going to do a season a year, but it is taking me 2-3 years or sometimes more to wreck these books, so I don’t know, hopefully I can finish the 7 books before they get to the seventh season! Hehehe…

HBO did also the series “Rome“, that you mentioned earlier that you love it.

Yes, Rome was wonderful!

There is a lot of political intrigue there, the same that in your saga of The Song of Ice & Fire. Do you feel especially interested by power games?

Yeah, I find that entertaining and kind of stuff I love to write about and love to watch on TV. Rome was a wonderful series at every level. It was gorgeous to look at, the acting was superb, and the writing was superb, so hopefully Ice & Fire can be as good.


When you read The Song of Ice & Fire and you read The Lord of The Rings, I find some similarities in the way they display worlds in decay: the last dragons, the elves leaving Middle Earth, the magic getting lost… the reminiscences of a more splendid past. Are more intriguing these periods when things are getting lost to write about?

I have a certain attraction towards twilights. You can see that in my work, if you read my first novel “Dying of the Light“. There is something about it that it is very evocative to me, the twilight world, and the world between the edges. Maybe there is something about me psychologically, I don&’t know! Hehehe…

It was recently published in your website that there will be soon a videogame about the Ice & Fire saga.

Yes, a French company called Cyanide got the rights to make 2 videogames, a real time strategy videogame and a role videogame, so I am going to be meeting with them in Montreal in a couple of weeks, the project is still at very early stages.

Do you play videogames?

I play occasionally, I would not say I am a big videogamer by any means, but I play some, especially real time strategy games, I like strategy games.

The one dollar million question that most of the fans are wondering around the world: How is Dance of Dragons going (the awaited fifth book of The Song of Ice & Fire saga)?

It is going pretty well actually, I am hoping to finish it by September or October that is my goal.

Me and Martin

You started writing the first book of the Saga, A Game of Thrones, in 1991 and published it in 1996. Now, when you look back at it, is there anything you would change?

Hum, I may have structured it so that the kids could grow up a little more, so that months pass between the chapters instead of only days between the chapters, but you know, if I would have done that it would be a much more different book than what I have, so I don’t know if I would really have done that, but looking back at it, if I would have done that it would have solved now problems that I am encountering. On the other hand if I would have done that I could have created other problems, so you know, what I have here is working pretty well, but that is the only thing sometimes I wonder about.

For me, and I suppose that for most of the readers, it was really shocking when Eddard Stark got killed in the first book of the Ice & Fire saga. For example nobody would ever expect Frodo getting killed at the beginning of Lord of the Rings. Did you want to break concepts and mark a new line with that conception, did you know from the beginning that it would happen?

Oh yeah. Well, you kill an important character right on and you kind of establish that you are not playing for kids, you know, that it is not going to be that kind of fantasy where the hero goes through all kind of dangers and never gets scratches.

From the characters of The Song of Ice & Fire, is there any that you would feel especially identified with?

Tyrion Lannister. He has always been one of my favorite characters. They all have parts of me but Tyrion has changed together with me more than any other of the characters.

Interviews Music

Interview with Liv Kristine

FREE! Magazine is honored in publishing this interview (that appeared originally in our partner´s website  with this great artist, Liv Kristine, lead singer of the German band LEAVES EYES.  With her former band, THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, Liv created a new style, a new concept in heavy metal that used to be called 'Beauty and the Beast', mixing her sweet voice with a man´s guttural and aggressive singing. What makes her so different? She was the first lead singer and not a background one. Until the band´s debut in 1994, there is no record of female leading singers on this specific style of doom metal.

LEAVES EYES is getting ready to release a new album, NJORD, produced by Liv´s husband and band partner Alexander Krull and here you will read everything about it besides knowing a little more about this great and admirable person, owner of huge culture, great ideas, intelligence and talent.I hope you enjoy it! Stay rock!  

You showed up to the world singing in the band Theatre of Tragedy in 1994 and created a new style that in those years was called "the Beauty and the Beast". You  were sharing your sweet vocals with the guttural and aggressive man´s voice of your band partner and was the first woman to do leading vocals and not only a background in this kind of band. It was a mix of heavy metal, death metal and classical elements with a lot of atmosphere and has influenced many other bands. What has inspired you to create this style?

I actually grew up with Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden, and later I discovered Paradise Lost, Anathema, Cathedral and Type O Negative, so I've kind of always been into metal. On the other hand, I learned to love Edvard Grieg, Bach, Tchaikovsky and Mozart from a very young age. I mainly formed Theatre of Tragedy with my ex-boyfriend back in 1994 to be able to combine classical music and metal. we were pretty amazed by the songs that came out ourselves, and suddenly European labels and fans opened up their eyes. I believe we were probably the first ones to do this kind of musical constellation, especially the beauty and the beast image and the set-up of contrasting elements in metal. Some yearsago I had a nice chat with Tuomas from Nightwish. He told me that Theatre of Tragedy was his inspiration for founding Nightwish – and that really touched my heart!

Liv Kristine

When did you realize that even though you´ve got a very sweet voice you could be a Metal singer?

Well, I sang along to Black Sabbath when I was a little girl, and I spent hours in front of the mirror with my hairbrush practicing, when the other kids were playing at the play ground. i was pretty sure at the age of seven that I would some day be singing in a metal band on big stages. That was the wish of my heart, and my wish was obviously heard!

What has attracted you to music?

Singing and composing is something I've done since I was five or six years old. I learned to sing before I talked properly. I am sure I got attracted to music inside my mothers belly, because siblings are able to hear inside their mother's womb. My son, Leon, was born only 3 hours after I had finished my vocal recordings for "Lovelorn", the Leaves' Eyes debut.Believe me, he knew these songs by heart even before he was born. This music has a very calming, dream-like and positive effect on him.

Unfortunately we cannot see a large number of women really working as musicians in the rock scene. What do you think about it? Did you suffer or still suffering prejudice?

Lita Ford and Joan Jet were probably the first women in metal who stood up against all those predicting, conservative complaints. They certainly opened up for us who came a few years later. However, after the release of the first Theatre of Tragedy album, some journalists were upset about my strong presence in the band's music ("Liv kristine should better
do backing vocals"). Anyway, the fans voted for the band to be the "band of the year" in a number of magazines, and that really made me happy. Rock attitude in music should be non-sexual! Today, I am very lucky; the men I am surrounded by (e.g. musicians, journalists, fans, crew) are wonderful guys. On one hand I am the "boss", we even compete each other doing push-ups on the tour bus or I beat them in running or swimming. On the other hand, at home in the studio I love to bake and cook for the guys, and I'm always there if someone needs to talk. They are like my family (they use to say "thanks, Mum").

If you could make a short brief talking about you career along these years, what would you say to us?

I would say that I've worked extremely hard, however, I've been very lucky. I've got a fantastic support from my fans and friends from the very first moment I entered a stage in public. This is the essential power that has kept me going on and loving music when times were extremely tough. One label even tried to make me stop singing and went to court to crush my personality and singing voice. After this, I've really learned to see how cruel the music business is. it's all about money. Some people obviously saw me as a nice and friendly, naive, young Norwegian blond with a huge dollar sign on my forehead. Nowadays I sing, write lyrics and compose only what comes from the heart, for my fans, friends, and for myself. Entering the charts is an enormous bonus, however, first of all I need to be in
balance with myself and feel good with what I'm doing.

“Tuomas from Nithwish told me that Theatre of Tragedy was his inspiration for forming his band. That really touched my heart!" – Liv Kristine –

Tell us some of the best and memorable moments of your career, some of your big hits!

The release of the first Theatre of Tragedy album, secondly, years later the recordings during my pregnancy and the release of "Lovelorn" (the Leaves' Eyes debut). Being nominated for the American Grammy with Cradle of Filth's duet "Nymphetamine" was one of the highlights, too.

Liv Kristine

What´s the daily routine of Liv Kristine the mother, the wife, the rockstar?

Well, my day starts with a cup of tea, and then I go for a run through the forest and pick up some fresh bread at the bakery shop on my way back. Then I wake up Alexander and Leon and we'll have breakfast together. I'll be busy in the studio until I pick up my son from school. Then I cook dinner for everybody and we spend the rest of the day together playing,
visiting friends, going for a swim or playing drums. Yes, the laundry and cleaning the house and the studio is part of my daily dues, of course. There is little time for shopping, actually. I sometimes do that on tour if I need to get away from tour life.

What advices would you give to those who intend to follow the same path you did?

Listen to your own heart and wishes! Listen to what you inner voice is telling you about whom to trust and whom to better keep a distance towards. But you should open up for advices, and consider them, if they come from honest and friendly people.

Which bands or solo artists do you admire most? (not necessary to be rock)

Ozzy, Madonna, Liza Gerrard, Enya, Dio, Devon Graves (Dead Soul Tribe) and Tarja.

I don´t know if you´ve got a play list but could you tell us your moment top 5?

Soundtrack to Madagascar 1 and 2, soundtrack to "Chocolat", the latest albums of Midnattsol and Lamb of God.

Jani Penttinen

Leaves Eyes is on studio now recording a new album. When will it be released? What can you tell us about it?

This album "Njord" (producer: my husband Alexander Krull) has a power to it that even is more intense than any previous production I've been part of. Technically, we constantly have new ideas and aims. We have our own studio and therefore we have the opportunity to specialize in technical tasks concerning album and DVD productions. "Njord" has even a more bombastic but delicate sound that "Vinland Saga", because techniques allows it. We recorded the classical parts in Minsk (Lingua Mortis, supervised by Victor Smolkski), we had a complete local choir (Al Dente) singing the choir parts, a special artist playing solos on special instruments like the uillean pipe and the whistle. The lyrics are written in eh…8 languages (English, middle-high German, old-English, Gaelic, Norwegian, Icelandic, French and one "self-made" fictional language)…I even sat down to study a bit French to be able to write one French lyric. Yes, "Njord" was an even more complicated recording process than the album before, but that is part of our work as artists and composers – always getting better!
Concerning the concept, I've used two main sources for my lyrics; northern mythology and the Viking's history. The lyrics mainly deal with characters from northern mythology (e.g. Njord, Fröya'sTheme, Nine Wave Maidens, Ragnarok,), or with places and historical happenings (e.g. Scarborough Fair, The Battle of Maldon, Emerald Island, Irish Rain, Les Champs de Lavande). This is why I found it necessary to deal with all these different languages. "Vinland Saga" is based on Leif Ericsson's discovery of America, even the EP, Legend Land, which followed soon thereafter. "Njord" has a much broader concept.

Summer is coming in Europe and the concerts season too! Will you go on a tour?

We'll have to consider if we tour Europe or America first. Anyway, a tour will come up in autumn, spring this year. Now I have already started the recordings of my solo album. which I want to finish first.

Please, leave a message to your fans!

Thank you ever so much for being with me through all these years!

The author wants to thank Liv Kristine for being so lovely and Ben Aichelburg of Napalm Records for intermediating this interview. We´re honored by your support.

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Interviews Music

On the way to Popgasm – Interview with Samu Haber of Sunrise Avenue

In less than half a decade, Sunrise Avenue has achieved what most of the new Finnish pop-rock bands just dream about: an astonishing international success with a second studio album just recently released into the market: Popgasm. Samu Haber, their charismatic lead singer, had time while travelling around Germany to kindly answer our questions and give opinions about the superfast growth of the band, the expectations for the future or the internal painful changes that they experienced when Janne did not continue with them.

Sunrise Avenue

Hello Samu and thanks a lot for answering our questions. What can you tell us about the new second album of the band Popgasm? Any favorite tracks?

Well… sure you have your favorite tracks but since we made all the songs on PopGasm with the guys, all the songs are like our babies and therefore it’s impossible to rank them that clear. Maybe Welcome to My Life is the track if I have to pick one. It’s such an honest description of my life.

Was it easier now to work again together with producer Jukka Backlund?

Working with Jukka is never easy, but that is the catch ;) He is a personality that flies around the room and you just gotta wait for the results to come out from him. Sure we knew us better now but getting too close to the producer is not always only a good thing. It’s a great thing that he left the band and is now focusing on production.

You got an amazing success with your debut album. Do you feel now like being “on the way to wonderland” in real life? Were you expecting so many good sales and audience’s response when you started with the band?

No, honestly I didn’t. I was hoping that music could become as my career and it did. But it got far bigger than I ever let myself dream. Sure I believed that if all the winds blow our way, we could go very far, just like now with the second album. But it’s always up to 50% luck anyway, so the best you can do is do your best and see what comes.

Samu Haber

Every month dozens of new Finnish rock bands release their debut albums. The market is overcrowded. What is the formula and advices you can give to connect so quickly and successfully with the public as Sunrise Avenue did from the beginning?

There is no recipe. You just gotta try hard and try to make your own thing. The copy-cats who copy bands that are already famous, are pathetic.

Getting such doses of fame and recognition in such a relatively short period of time… Do you notice that has affected you in any way as human being? I mean, do you have the case that friends or relatives could tell you things like “now you are an asshole and you have changed a lot”, or do you think you keep your feet on the earth as a good Finn?

No. Not really. Some of the people you used to know want to have a little piece of your success and the story by hanging next to you at the clubs but I personally hate those wannabe’s. They wanna introduce you to all their friends and they think it’s cool. Sad. The REAL friends haven’t changed their behavior at all and that is something that makes me really happy. And if I’d ever start behaving like a “super star” I know my real friends would kick my ass BIG time! That is their job in all this and I know they’d do it for my own best.

You released a live DVD Live in Wonderland shot in Germany during your first tour. Was not risky to launch such a product with only one studio album released? Why you did not want to wait longer to do it?

Risk… This business is only full of risky moves. I think the experience was extremely great for all of us and actually I guess the DVD made it pretty ok in the stores too.

In the DVD “Live in Wonderland” I remember there was a comment that alcohol was not allowed during the tour for the members. Is that true? Do you have “dry” law when touring, or was more a joke? Who drinks the most at the band?

That was just a joke. We don’t actually party on tour because that would make the next day’s show pretty painful. But at the end of the tour there’s usually the “GRANDE FINALE” party. And that is something we need to have. Between show days I usually have a glass of wine and go to bed.

I just read in your tour blog that you smashed your head in the Provinssirock gig. How is your forehead looking now?

It looks amazingly good. I just removed the stitches last night and you can barely notice the scratch because I have my hair on it. I will have a memory from Provinssi Rock 2009 forever on my face. That’s cool.

You seem to enjoy writing and sharing thoughts through Internet with the audience. Do you find all the free time you need to write? What other hobbies do you have when you are not on the road?

I usually write the blogs on the plane. You have nothing but time there and I write stuff in the air and then go through it quickly at home. It had become this kind of as therapy thing for me. I sleep better if I let out everything that has happened the last few days. I love sports. I try to go to gym 5 times a week. Also team sports. Ice Hockey is the best. Unfortunately there’s not that much time for that now.

I know the band is pretty big in Germany, and I suppose you are thankful to the fans there, but what other venues do you especially like to visit when playing? And in what places would you like to tour but still have not had the chance?

Yes, the Germans have been very nice to as at least so far. We love to play anywhere where they want to hear us. We have had super great experiences all over and we have learned that the good and loud audience can be waiting for you anywhere.

We had an interview with the ex-member of Sunrise Avenue Janne Kärkkäinen. Maybe it is a topic you do not want to talk much about, but with the perspective of time, is there anything you want to comment about his leave from the band? Have you had the chance to listen to his new project Phoenix Effect?

It was the hardest decision I have ever made and it hurt me like hell before and especially after. I was really broken for more than a year and I am very thankful for the people who stood by me and us. Everything is much better as a team and also musically in the band now. I just wish the guy could grow up and accept what happened. It’s been 2 years. I have only heard “Broken Promises” but sure it’s pretty hard for me to evaluate his stuff without feelings being mixed. I honestly wish Janne and Phoenix Effect all the best from the bottom of my heart.

Janne out of the band was the hardest decision I have ever made…

Sunrise Avenue

I heard that the tattoo you have that says “Forever Yours” was due to a relation with a girl that did not work out. Is that true? How was the story? Do you think that you would do something like that again for another girl?

Yep. The tattoo was a replacement for an engagement ring. I don’t like rings and it doesn’t feel natural to wear one when I play the guitar. Yep, we were supposed to get married and all, but it went bad. We are luckily good friends now with her. I am just happy I didn’t tattoo her name on me. I hope I find someone someday who is worth another tattoo ;)

What are your future plans?

Now we are just promoting the new stuff and playing all the shows through the summer. Then in October we will start our European tour again and I guess that will go on until early next year with a break around the New Year, I hope.

Anything you want to add for the readers or that you would like me to have asked you?

Just the fact that I am writing the answers on a German highway and the speed is 230Km/hour.

Samu Haber

Q&A with Samu Haber

Favorite gig played ever that you remember?

There has been so many so special. Maybe the first 5 shows with the new album now in Helsinki, Berlin, Zurich, Athens and Helsinki again. It made me believe that maybe not everybody has forgotten Sunrise avenue.

If you would not play with Sunrise Avenue, is there any other band you would like to have been a member of?

I can’t imagine anything else. This is the group I started when I was 16, so I will stick with it.

Craziest thing that has happened to you on and off stage?

I must say the craziest thing on stage is a few weeks ago when I smashed my own face with my own guitar. I seem to have a few more steps to become a pro ;) Off stage this 40+ drunken “lady” squeezed my balls very hard and it hurt like hell. I told her to bring her boyfriend to me because I don’t hit women… The boyfriend never came. I was very embarrassed afterwards but there’s a limit with everything. Even with me.

Do you think that is possible to reach an orgasm due to pop music?

I do. I have had it many times ;) Just relax and it’ll come.

Nicest thing that a fan has told you or done for you?

The guy who sold his house in the early days so we could pay for the studios. I will always owe one for Mr. Mikko Virtala.

Favorite place to chill out in Finland?

Our summerhouse. No internet, no phones. Just the nature and the family. You can be 110% yourself and nobody wants anything from you. I also love my home / house very much.

What sentence in Finnish language would you choose first to teach a foreigner?

“Ei se oo niin justiinsa” it means everything doesn’t have to be perfect. I love the phrase.

How many languages can you speak?

I speak Finnish & English pretty well; I can survive in Spanish and Swedish and a little German.

For more information about Sunrise Avenue, visit their official site: