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Interview with Zachary Hietala from Tarot

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

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

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

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

Tarot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who did the artwork for this album?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite Tarot song to play live?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zachary Hietala

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

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

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

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

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

Black Sabbath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foundation stone of Finnish heavy metal.

Any last words to the fans all over the world?

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

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

Tarot is:

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

Find out more about Tarot:

1) Official page: http://www.wingsofdarkness.net/php/index.php

2) MySpace – http://www.myspace.com/tarot

3) Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tarot/103349573037536

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Interview with Daniel of Hadouken

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

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

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

Hadouken

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

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

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

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

Why did you decide to record it in Holland?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hadouken

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything you want to add for the readers?

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

For more info, visit:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/EA-Trax/6280105731?ref=ts

http://www.hadouken.co.uk/

HADOUKEN TURN THE LIGHTS OUT VIDEO

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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.

MONO

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.

MONO

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

MONO

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

MONO

Photos of the Tartu gig by Evert Palmets

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Features Music

Depeche Mode Afterparty

Fans of Depeche Mode have a chance of continue the party listening to his favorite band at Bar Loose in Helsinki on 02.02.2010. DEPECHE MODE AFTERPARTY will start at 23:00, and the Ocean plays special cover set + Dj’s play DM.
For more information and buying tickets for the show, visit: www.tiketti.fi

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Estonia can also rock!

For most of the people in Finland, talking about Estonia has to do with cheap booze, fun in the ferries, a short week end to escape from the routine in a spa-hotel or the similarities and differences between both languages. But since the country regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, a lot of things have changed. Many young promoters, producers and artists are working hard to emulate the success of Finland and bring Estonian music to a new level. Will they succeed?

Tanel Padar is probably the most famous musician in Estonia, after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2001. He is also a usual visitor in Finland, with his band The Sun, having played last year in some big venues like in Q-Stock festival in Oulu.  He is even represented in Finland by some of the biggest promotion companies like LiveNation and ProPromotion. But even being the biggest artist in Estonia, the same than for many other Estonian artists and bands, he has not had yet a big international breakthrough.  Why is that? It seems to be the million dollar question in the Estonian music scene.

Young audience at Rabarock

For Juko-Mart Kõlar, project manager at Music Export Estonia (the equivalent of Music Export Finland in the Baltic state), the reason is that “there has not been a public support for music export activities. The roots of the idea of selling Estonian music abroad date back to the late 1990´s or the first years of the 21st century, while in Finland the free market economy and capitalist system has had its influence on the general way of thinking. Our whole system changed radically in the 1990´s and for our bands/musicians the transfer has been difficult.

Those difficulties show also in the figures, the total revenue in music business in Estonia in 2007 was about 120 million Euro, but in 2008, only 115 000 Euro of author´s revenues came from abroad. The best sellers outside Estonia are contemporary composers such as Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür and Veljo Tormis. Even the only Estonian magazine specialized in music, „Muusika“dedicates most of their pages to classical and folk Estonian music, with ocassional articles on other genres.

But there have been a few young Estonian artists in pop, rock and metal genres that did not have the patient to wait and see the change from inside, and emigrated to gain success in other countries. One of those is Kerli, who went to USA just being 18, and has built a brilliant career so far with the great success of her latest album “Love is Dead”, although almost nobody believed in her in her native country when she took such a drastic decision: “In a strange way I always knew what I had to do and almost never felt homesick or anything. I was on a mission“ tells Kerli.

Other young Estonian pop band that gained a great success in countries like Germany or Switzerland (they even represented the later in Eurovision song contest in 2005) is Vanilla Ninja. As Piret and Lenna, two of the components of the band, explain us “you need to have good connections and we were 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.

According to “Uncle Bella”, a legendary punk rocker and Estonian DJ, the problem is not only about the resources “I think that it is not much about the money or the promotion, although of course they count. It is more a problem of the attitude of the bands that feel comfortable inside Estonia and do not want to risk going abroad.

But in general most of the people involved with Estonian music business think that the key has to do with infrastructure and a better training: “There is still lack of co-ordination and co-operation between management, promoters and concert organizations. I think one of the first steps would be training music managers, because there are only 10-20 professional bands in Estonia that have managers to negotiate with. Also professional producers and promoters are needed.” explains Juko-Mart Kõlar.

That view is agreed by Ivo Kiviorg, who has been linked with Estonian music for more than a decade as journalist and promoter “Infrastructure for music business, we're still missing that part. We've got great bands, but still no good agents, managers etc. This takes time.

Ivo is also the press coordinator of Rabarock, the biggest rock festival in Estonia that is celebrated every summer in the small central town of Järvakandi. I assisted myself this summer, curious to compare it to Finnish festivals like Provinssirock, Tuska or Ruisrock; the musical offer was pretty good, with some big international names like The Wildhearts, Gary Numan or Anthrax getting perfectly complemented by the excellent list of native Estonian bands. The environment was relaxed, the food and drinks good and cheap… and of course the best is that you do not have to suffer the annoying “restricted drinking areas” like in the Finnish festivals.

Rabarock 2009

Another recommended festival for people who prefer more alternative and indie music is Plink Plonk in Tartu.  Also recently the same organizers acquired a space in the centre of Tartu that has been converted into a club offering something fresh for the masses. As Mart Simisker, one of the persons behind the organization explains “this is something very unique in Tartu, there are other venues but before there was nothing like this, where you can listen to new bands as well as some quality indie artists. We wanted to give the chance to the audience to discover new talent, keeping it fresh and with low prices for the tickets and the drinks.

Rock Cafe is another interesting new venue opened during the last years in the Estonian capital that offers one of the most interesting offers for live rock and metal music in a club. Located in the second floor of the old Cellulose factory, very near the Tallinn bus station, has been able to manage a good reputation from the start. As an example, this summer bands like Morcheeba, Sepultura, Obituary or Mr.Big were playing on its stage.

And certainly, things have changed a lot from the musically repressive Soviet times in Estonia. During the last years, top artists like Depeche Mode, Aerosmith, The Scorpions, Enrique Iglesias or Metallica have visited Estonian soil during their worldwide tours. The cherry on top of the cake will come with Madonna´s concert in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, the 4th of August. If Madonna plays here, certainly Estonia must exist in the map!

Artists and promoters agree that with the new social networks like MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, etc there is a new dimension to promote in an easier and wider way the Estonian music and artists. For example, Ivo Kiviorg is also involved in Rada 7.ee „a rapidly developing interactive e-zine. Its online community consists of event organisers, artists, reporters, and of course, the fans. It is one of the leading sources for Estonian youth in regards to music, particularly alternative music.

Ivo puts into words the feeling that most of the people involved in music in Estonia has: “We have got many great bands to discover – find them!

The Finnish-Estonian connection

It's easier to stand out in the crowd because the crowd here is smaller“ says Indrek Talpsep, bass player of Stereo Chemistry, an Estonian band that has just released their debut album „Märka!“. StereoChemistry, same than Bedwetters, Maarja, Forgotten Sunrise or Chungin & The Strap-On Faggots belong to a new generation of bands and artists young but well prepared to pursue their musical dream. And among the incomers, there is a band receiving very well critics inside and outside Estonia: Popidiot.  

Popidiot are the Estonians Hendrik Luuk and Rein Fuks (who also has Sekssound records) and the Finnish Matti Juhani Peura. They represent very well the interconnection between Finnish and Estonian artists working together. Hendrik and Matti met while studying together in Tartu, and created an innovative band trying to bring some fresh air to the boring Estonian pop scene. Nowadays, they continue together even when Hendrik lives in Tartu, Rein in Tallinn and Matti in Helsinki.

Smilers

They are not the first Estonian-Finnish mixed band. The Smilers, one of the most popular Estonian bands led by the charismatic Hendrik Sal-Saller, with songs so catchy and irreverent like “Jalgpall on Parem Kui Seks” (released in Finland in Finnish and English years ago) forged their career in the pubs of Finland during mid 90s before returning to their homeland ““Actually there wasn’t place in Finland where we did not play. Somehow I think that there was a problem because we did too many gigs at that time and people were a little bit bored at the end. One day maybe the audience was composed of only 6-7 people. It was quite hard work. And there were guys who did not want to do it in that way anymore. At the same time a friend from Estonia made an offer to make a record in Estonia so I just put the question on the table: “who wants to come with me to Estonia”. Some guys wanted and some guys not, at that time it was quite Finnish-Estonian band, now it is more Estonian-Finnish band.” says Sal-Saller. From that experience remains still in the band Finnish keyboard player Mikko Saira.

Kosmikud is another big name in Estonian rock, and some years ago they had a very friendly and productive collaboration with Kauko Röyhkä. Kömmari, their bass player (and one of the organizers of Rabarock festival) has Finnish-Russian roots and promotes the gigs of the band in Finland”, comments Hainz, their singer.

The interaction between both countries goes on and on. Bullfrog Brown, a young and skilful Estonian blues band, is a secure value every year in Blues festivals around Finland reciprocated by Finnish musician Alaska Kalanen, an usual visitor on Estonian stages, while Tavastia, the most legendary rock and metal club of Helsinki, suffered an invasion of Estonian bands a few months ago with names like Sinine, J.M.K.E., Röövel Ööbik or Forgotten Sunrise performing there.  In the end, there is just a small portion of sea separating both countries, but a lot of musical talent joining them.

Photos: Tarvet Kullmann

Kerli – Walking on Air Trailer

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Iron Maiden: Flight 666

As a die-hard Maiden fan since the age of thirteen, it certainly is a thrill to see one of your favourite bands on the big screen in thunderous 5.1 surround sound. Yes, I’m talking about the new film Iron Maiden: Flight 666, which captures the band onstage, backstage, and everywhere in between, during the first leg of their 2008 Somewhere Back in Time Tour.

Flight 666

Released worldwide on the 21st of April, the documentary film chronicles probably the most logistically challenging undertaking in Rock history: outfitting a 757 aircraft (complete with Maiden logo) to fit the entire band, crew, and all their equipment; fly them to play 23 concerts, in 13 countries, on 5 continents (that’s 70,000 km or 50,000 frequent flier miles if you’re counting), and do this all within the span of 45 days. Oh … and I forgot to mention, the plane was flown by none other than Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson (who is a licensed airline pilot in his own right).

Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen, are the same team who made the fantastic 2005 documentary film: Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey. Considering the fact that Iron Maiden are well known for protecting their privacy and eschewing the typical trappings of celebrity, the filmmakers were given unprecedented access to the band on tour. We get to see affable drummer Nicko McBrain chatting (always with a slice of pizza!) with band mates on the bus moments after a show; the suffocating atmosphere brought on by mobs of fans in South America;  Bruce in the pilot’s seat flying “Ed Force One”; the famously brusque band manager Rod Smallwood asleep on the plane; a moment of crisis brought on by an innocuous golf ball.

In all, over 500 hours worth of film was taken by Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen and then edited down to the movie’s final running time of 112 minutes. Of course, in addition to all the behind-the-scenes moments, we get to see the reason why Iron Maiden is renowned the world over: the band is a monster live act. The performance footage is mixed throughout the film and the band has never sounded better thanks to producer Kevin Shirley who mixed the sound for the film. Since the set list remained essentially the same, the filmmakers chose to show clips of the band playing one song from each city on the tour. Two songs are played in their entirety: “Aces High” and the perennial classic “Hallowed Be Thy Name” which is performed at the final show in Toronto, Canada, and closes the film. 

As much as Iron Maiden: Flight 666 is about the band, it is (even more so) a film about the fans. Across continents and cultures: India, Japan, Australia, Central & South America, the U.S., and Canada, we see the impassioned reactions of fans the world over. Watching the Colombian fans as they camp out for NINE days in a make-shift tent city before a show, leaves the viewer in awe of the devotion and loyalty shown by the band’s fans.  

Flight 666

I was actually at the Iron Maiden show in New Jersey in the U.S., so one personal highlight was to see some of the live performance from that particular show in the movie. I strained to see myself in the audience but trying to pick yourself out in a crowd of 20,000 can be a bit futile. I guess I could get myself a magnifying glass and wait for the DVD release! 

For a band that has made such an indelible impact on its fans around the world (and rock music in general), Iron Maiden is, astonishingly, not in the institution known as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Iron Maiden has never courted mainstream acceptance and that suits the band and its fans just fine. The band has made it on its own terms and without compromise. One particular moment in the film, I think, says it all: the camera zooms in on a Colombian fan who is overtaken by emotion and literally breaks into tears after capturing Nicko’s drum stick. This is what Iron Maiden means to its fans and no admission into an exclusionary club such as the R&R Hall of Fame can match that. 

The film is on extended release in digital theatres around the world including Bio Rex cinemas in Finland. 

Flight 666Trailer

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DAR – Dynamic Arts Records helping spread Finnish Metal to the world

 

{mosimage}Finnish Metal is undoubtedly worldwide respected and it´s surely not a fad. It didn´t happen out of the blue for no reason though, it is what it is for the extreme competence of the rock & metal bands that come from that tiny, isolated and cold country.

 

 

 

Doing the best you can on whatever you do, studying hard, researching and being extremely professional are cultural characteristics you see a lot in the entire Scandinavia and when the subject is Heavy Metal, let´s say that Finland and Sweden are at the top.

Dynamic Arts Records ( DAR ) – recording company from the city of Tampere – is a very respected company lead by people who really understand of rock & metal and help the scene be spread to the world. They´ve been doing a great job promoting their bands sending material and in this section Hard Blast will talk about 3 of these big metal promises.  

 

{mosimage}MASTERSTROKE – Melodic Power & Heavy Metal 

The band was formed in 2002 and has two albums released, Apocalypse (2006) and the great Sleep, released by DAR in 2007.You don´t need more than 30 seconds listening to realize what´s going on here – very good music, strong, powerful, with great melodies and guitar solos.The line-up is formed by Niko Rauhala ( v & g ), Janne Juutinen ( d ), Markus Kekoni ( g ), Jussi Kulomaa ( k ) and Marko Kolehmainen ( b ) and you can check them out on www.myspace.com/masterstrokefinland or on DAR homepage.

The album is composed by 10 tracks. Niko´s singing is different from what we are used to listening when the subject is melodic power metal, there aren´t very high notes. Vocals are melodic but heavy and it´s possible to feel a “Blaze Bailey´s atmosphere” in his tone but with a lot more power. Guitarist Markus also makes very different solos more focused on the melody than on the speed, which I consider a great advantage since in melodic power metal it´s usually more common to listen to very fast and exaggerated virtuous solos, .

The same happens to the keyboards, present 100% of the time showing great melodies and arrangements and not a 'keyboard X guitar duel'.Musicians who are able to play well saving notes, emphasizing melody to speed and paying attention to the musical environment of the work they want to show are very rare nowadays and I believe this is a great differential.

I recommend Masterstroke as one of the best bands I´ve heard recently. 

 

{mosimage}SILENTIUM – Goth/Dark Metal 

The band exists since 1995 and has a discography of 5 full-length albums and 3 singles. The most recent release, Amortean, came out in January of 2009 and have been getting great feedback from fans and press since then.The band´s career was full of ups and downs and line-up changes until 2003 but after this time the line-up was settled. Silentium is: Toni Lahtinen ( g ), Matti Aikio (b & groaning), Riina Rinkinen ( v ), Jari Ojala ( d ), Juha Lehtioksa ( g ), Sami Boman ( k ).

After signing with DAR in 2005 Silentium recorded Seducia, album of great success that could really make people pay attention to them. The most recent work, Amortean, shows very high quality female singing Goth Metal. Riina sings beautifully with a strong voice which does not follow the actual pattern of the ‘opera’ singing. She explores her natural tone and singing personality. Her voice is strong, deep and makes Silentium even more interesting.Songs are rich, full of keyboards and orchestral arrangements, there is a strong concern with climate and particularities that would make fans recognize their music right from the intro.

Drumming also deserves to be highlighted in Silentium´s work. Jari Ojala plays strong and fast being also a very creative drummer on his kickin´ arrangements. The album is very well produced it´s very musical having some 'taste' of pop that makes Riina´s voice fit even better on it. You could easily listen to them on the radio. Amortean shows melancholic and deep songs just as the style demands though. For those who enjoy heavy music with female singing, Silentium´s album is for sure a very good buy. Check them out at www.myspace.com/silentiumband or go to DAR homepage to get more info. 

 

 

 

ANGEL BLAKE – Metal 

Angel Blake is the solo project of guitarist Marko Tervonen ( The Crown ) and besides himself it counts on the musicians Tobias Jansson ( v ), Anders Edlund ( g ), Örjan Wressel ( acoustic bass) and Janne Saarenpää ( d ).

 

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Although Marko and Janne are Finns, the band is based in Sweden, where the other members are from. The album The Descended, released in 2008, shows what could be called 'real nordic metal' with all specific characteristics that make those who research about the style recognize the bands. I don´t mean it´s cliché cause it´s not. It´s particular, there is a specific personality when you listen to the base guitar with its fast palm mutting, the creative drumming and vocals that can vary from clean and high to groaning, always very strong and present.

It´s perfect music for head banging, air punching and stage diving. The kind of atmosphere that puts you really into a metal mood.It´s curious that bassist Örjan plays the acoustic bass giving a special sound to the lows of the songs making them even heavier and fuller of punch. Angel Blake is a band that surely deserves to be heard.

Check them out at www.angelblake.com and find the true Scandinavian metal into their heavy riffs.   

 

Photos: www.dynamicartsrecords.com

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Eesti goes blues

{mosimage}I met the young but experienced components of the Estonian blues band Bullfrog Brown for the first time a couple of summers ago.  We embarked together in a real road trip that summarizes the essence of Blues: a shabby car, a group of young musicians that hardly got money from the gig to pay the gasoline or buy new strings for the guitars, a dangerous and devious road that links Tartu with Tallinn and the final ecstasy of sharing stage with a truly American blues legend from the Mississipi delta: David “Honeyboy” Edwards. Impressed by their skills and guts, Bullfrog Brown is for me the best example to assert that it does not matter your origins or how big is the musical scene in your native country when there is the will to play the real music that comes from the heart. 

 

 

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ertainly, it is difficult to talk about a native Estonian Blues scene. As Andres Roots, guitarist and founder of Bullfrog Brown, tells me “The blues scene in Estonian is such that the nearest 7 days a week blues club is the Bites Blues Club in Riga, Latvia and we have no blues magazine or even a webzine in Estonia either But there is a Baltic blues scene as far as the musicians are concerned”. Still, although they are not totally focused on blues, you can enjoy the pleasure of listening good blues music from time to time in venues like “Clazz” in the heart of Old Town in Tallinn or “Illegaard” in Tartu. Being the list of top Estonian blues bands far from impressive, there are a few that remain strong: Compromise Blue, Ultima Thule or Kolumbus Kris are still a major attraction with a good bunch of followers. 

 

 

Against the lack of resources, nothing better like imagination, stubbornness and a lot of effort to promote themselves and open their music to new audiences: “Our Estonian audience is not the audience that normally considers itself a blues audience – we have people of all ages, all hairstyles, and all tastes of music, we have played in churches and even headlined the punk-oriented Soodoma Rock festival in Elva, so I'd say we enjoy a rather unique. We prefer honesty to perfection, emotion to glamour, inspiration to entertainment, and as a result, we still see the people at our shows that were coming to see us nine years ago.” explains the leader of Bullfrog Brown.

 

 

 

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Another person who knows well the Baltic blues scene is journalist Edgars Galzons, who also plays the bass in the Latvian blues band D11 Blues Band. His answer for those who think that blues scene is not in healthy shape or young people do not want to listen to blues anymore is this: “It’s always easy to say that nobody is listening to the Blues nowadays and there are not enough clubs for the Blues music in the Baltic States. Partly I can agree with this statement. But from the other hand what we (the Blues musicians) have done to popularize the Blues music? And how ready we are to accept the laws of the era of marketing and competition, including in the music? We have to find out the way,  maybe sometimes using the same means as the pop music uses, to break the stereotypes and keep the Blues alive as equal style of music in nowadays and not only the antique reptile from ages ago”. 

 

All in all, the blues scene in Estonia is far from dead. A good example is “Augustibluus”, an annual blues festival started and run by Rommy Sultangirejev in Haapsalu since 1993. As Raul Ukareda, member of Compromise Blue and considered by many as the best blues guitarist in the country plainly affirms “Augustibluus is the thing that keeps Estonian blues alive. Even though it is a very low budget festival, it always has some good foreign performers and of course is a great opportunity for local bands; on top of that it is held in a spectacular ancient castle ruins”. Although the blues scene suffered a lot at the end of the 90s with the change of many clubs into discotheques, it seems that things are a bit positive in the last 3-4 years “For about ten years, let's say from 1995 to 2005, the profession of musician was considered as a waste of time and no particularly talented young blues musicians or bands came from that period. Somehow it is getting better though. There are for example two very promising young blues guitar players from Tartu: Laur Joamets and Vilho Meier” explains Ukareda. 

 

Finland has been for decades the logic destination of many of the Estonian bands that want to expand their horizons. I would say we are by now better integrated into the Finnish blues scene than into the Estonian one” jokes Andres Roots, an usual visitor of the Nordic neighboring country where Bullfrog Brown has an extensive list of friends The geographical distance is short and it is pretty accessible, the blues circuit is bigger, there are more blues fans and the wages are usually pretty much higher.  

 

Aivar Oja, another veteran Estonian musician from the band Kolumbus Kris, remembers how was to tour there during the 90s, but has a more critical vision of the Estonian audience feeling identified with the blues: “In the 90s we toured a lot in Scandinavia, mostly in Finland and Sweden and a couple of times in Denmark. The biggest inspiration to play blues we got in Austin, Texas, the hometown of S.R.Vaughan and Fabulous Thundebirds, where we had a chance to live and play in 1991.I think blues is very popular in Finland, less in Sweden and Denmark. People in Estonia don`t know much about the blues-music, probably because of the Soviet times. That`s why we don`t play much blues nowadays”. 

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For most of these bands, playing is their passion, but not always the main activity that puts bread on the table: “Yeah, we have other jobs, some might even consider them “real jobs”, but looking at our 2009 concert schedule, I’ve been wondering how long we’ll be able to hang on to them…” reflects Andres from “Bullfrog Brown”, and certainly the band will be wandering around Europe extensively during the next few months: They will be releasing a new album together with English musician Steve Lury on February 13th, then they will tour in Finland, Estonia and Latvia, and on March they will visit France to play at the Festival Le Blues Autour du Zinc, apart from having scheduled concerts in Scotland with Dave Arcari and also being paying their first visit to Poland to play at the Suwalki Blues Festival.

 

No pain no gain. Even when more than once, blues musicians end up playing just on exchange of some free food and beers at the venues after extenuating trips, there is a feeling that goes far beyond the money or the recognition. Andres could not have resumed it better:  “I cannot imagine myself not playing music, even if I live to be 102 years old. Performing in public may be another matter, but making music is not just a joy, it’s an addiction, and I’m too far gone…” 

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Alpha Female

Norwegian Animal Alpha is another good example of the high quality of the bands coming from the northern neighboring Nordic country. Their last album:  You Pay for The Whole Seat but You´ll Only Need the Edge has been widely praised by Finnish music press and ranked at the top of the charts. The guys paid a visit to Finland for a couple of gigs in Tampere and Helsinki, and we had the chance to chat with 3 of its members a few hours before their first show at Yo-Yalo.

If you can have doubts about the role of every member in a rock band, that is not the case for Animal Alpha. While sitting in the backstage of Yo-Talo (one of the mythical venues for small and mid-size gigs in Tampere together with Klubi) sipping a cold beer, it is easy to catalogue Christian, the guitar player, as the brain and leader of Animal Alpha, while Agnete, the singer, remains as the shy, sensual and mysterious muse that lends her amazing voice and Lars, the bass player, acting as the most social, outspoken and friendly of the three. Apart from admiring the collection of graffiti that overwhelms the walls of the messy small backstage, we also have time for a nice dialogue while the band is waiting for some technical problems to be solved to perform the sound check.

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Opposite to what happen to most of the ands that try to find their place in the difficult business of rock music, Animal Alpha did not have problem in signing their first contract for producing Pheromones (2005), their first album. They had a dozen of record companies offering them deals, until they chose one of the smallest ones: Racing Junior “We were playing a lot around Oslo, and we also were the winners of a context for new bands. That made things easier. It was more about spreading the word from people who knew us” explains Lars, their bass player. Certainly success came quick, having the single Bundy chosen to appear in some videogames of mainstream company Electronic Arts. “I have never played to any of those videogames, so I have no idea how sounds there” recognizes Agnete, but Christian promptly pinpoints “Well, when I play and I listen to our songs, I think that makes me even score more and faster!”

Their new album (with that long and weird title extracted from a TV series) counted with the help of Dave Collins mixing in Los Angeles, and certainly, with only 8 tracks (and not for lack of more songs, as the band reckons) is doing pretty well so far. Animal Alpha are not afraid of the direct contact with their fans and audience, and that risky attitude can be seen when watching the performance of Agnete on stage, or in other details as the meeting they have with the public a few months ago, when everyone could choose what to pay for their album. Radiohead´s attitude taking to a new level: “It was more like a meeting with the fans, since most of the people came to greet us or get their albums signed. In general the response was very good” recalls Lars. “There was even somebody who paid like 50 euro! But well, there was another who did not want to pay anything”.

"Finland really feels like our second home" – Animal Alpha-

Guitar player Christian has a lot to say about the style and direction of the band, for example, he was the one who met Agnete and got impressed with her talent, and who decided that lyrics should be in English instead of Norwegian. But there is no doubt that is the special voice and skills of Agnete that are making Animal Alpha a name in the international rock scene “Well, as one of my influences I could name Faith no More. I always liked Mike Patton a lot” the singer tells us.

Coming from Norway, the band does not certainly feel alienated at all in Finland, quite the opposite “Finland is like our second home. That is totally true. We feel very comfortable here. The reaction of the audience is very similar to what happens in Norway” say the members of Animal Alpha, who will be soon playing again in Finnish land in Jurassic Rock festival in Mikkeli.

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The concert starts some hours later delayed due to some problems with the backline. Sinamore opens for an audience that takes it easy sitting on the tables enjoying their dreams. That turns the atmosphere a bit cold, although the guys deliver a good show of heavy metal. A good general impression, especially from their guitar player Tommi and their drummer Miika, but the singer Mikko Heikkilä shows some ups and downs in his vocal skills.

While being afraid that the cold atmosphere can get repeated with Animal Alpha, the venue gets totally transformed once that Agnete is on stage. Nobody would be able to recognize the shy girl we chatted with a few hours ago from the woman who stands on stage on a metal box, disguised like the younger sister of Bitelchus and screaming full of rage, smiling maliciously at the audience and even throwing herself to the floor in front of the first rows. The audience immediately responds and fills the empty space in front of the stage, and there is a great chemistry all over the show with the band.  You pay for the whole concert ticket, but you only need to be in the first row to appreciate the good manners of these Norwegian that have yet a lot to offer.

 

Photos: Eduardo Alonso

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When the music is over


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Hellacopters performing two new songs on Swedish television:

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

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

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Folk you!

{mosimage}For the 13th time, over 3,000 people got together in January with 77 folk bands and 36 folk dance groups for a 24hours folk-cruise. Folklandia could be your sweetest dream…or your worst nightmare!

900 performers coming from six different countries – Finland and Sweden of course, but also Denmark, Great Britain, Hungary and Russia – singing playing and dancing from 7,30 in the afternoon, the time the ferry leaves from Turku, to 4 pm the following day. Thankfully, for the organizer Pispalan Sottisi, the term folk comprises quite a lot, from old fashioned Finnish violin music to popular melodies from Eastern Africa to Scandinavian Tex-Mex.

Folklandia-cruise takes place the second weekend in January and is usually full-booked almost a year beforehand.. This year it was on the 11th and 12th of January. The amount of people getting down form buses and gathering at the port was quite astonishing, considering also that most of them were definitely young, a lot of them teenagers.

The organizers provide everybody with a detailed program of the festival, giving additional info about the performers. Nevertheless their amazing variety makes you feel a bit in trouble when it’s time to choose what to go and see, just as if you were in front of a buffet table, hungry enough to feel like eating everything, but with just a normal-sized dish in your hand.

From Carelian dimension to Swedish delight
So, in order to taste a bit of everything, the evening started with Bill Hota and the Pulvers, who have been defined as the Sex Pistols of Finnish folk music, mainly because of their lyrics. Interesting but not really exciting, the more so since the roughness of the lyrics is not entirely perceived by the ear of a foreigner!

Much more interesting were the Folkswagen, who sing theirs personal folk rock in three languages, Finnish, Russian and Carelian. The group was founded some 8 years ago, their music a sort of Eastern country music clearly influenced by their ‘social’ interest in Russia and Carelia. The lyrics deal with lost Russian girlfriends and today’s hang over, or bitterly describe Finnish vodka-tourism. The singer, Timo Munne, looks your ordinary next door guy but when singing turns into a sort of charismatic figure, supported by a band who’s certainly professional and passionate. Not to be missed are the soviet pins on the singer’s vest!

A short run to another deck allowed you to get familiar with Ranarim from Sweden, or as they pointed out Skåne. Beautiful female voices – the two singers perform as if they’ve been on stage for ever – and actually the band has toured extensively in Europe and oversea – energetic and enthusiastic musicians turn the short set into a lively, powerful and very enjoyable spectacle.

The Yön tanssit again showed how the word folk can assume the most different meaning: from the local folk groups of amateurs to the hilarious Absolut Finland, two dancers clad in suites right from Starsky and Hutch describing Finland and its custom and tradition in a satyrical and entertaining way

Early morning hours were devoted to more rockish bands: not so memorable Celtic influenced Dagàn, and Pohjannaula, whose rock is flavored with ‘sciamanist influences’.

When the last band finishes, at 5.30 am, nobody would bet that in a couple of hours musicians would start performing again, in every corner available, while the audience rushes to the buffet restaurant, the cafes and the duty free, eager to get their cans of beer before getting back to Turku.

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From the remote island

{mosimage}Iceland: a country of no more than three hundred thousand inhabitants that live in an island with amazingly beautiful landscapes. A nation that was able to achieve independence from Denmark without any bloodshed, and that counts with and excellent sports tradition; as an example their handball national team has played and achieved awards and medals at the highest international level.

In the music scene, Iceland is not only about Björk. Other artists like Valgeir Sigurðsson or Mum are showing that this island is not isolated at all, and it can give birth to a very modern sound. Not mentioning the band featured in the present article: Sigur Rós (that means literally “Rose of Victory” in Icelandic. One of the most beautiful names that you can hear from a rock band nowadays, don’t you think…?).

The taste for poetry, minimalism and an aesthetically balance goes far beyond the name of the band. Sigur Rós pays great attention to every one of their melodies, but at the same time are able to use a carefully studied sloppy approach. For example, in the year 2002 they released a work whose title says everything (and almost nothing); the album in question was called “( )”, with all the tracks untitled and sung in an invented language that takes as reference their native Icelandic. The intention was that every person listening to the music could give their own interpretation to the feelings provoked. So if you do not master Icelandic language, do not worry, because what Sigur Rós wanted to achieve is to aim directly at your heart and feelings.

The band has gone through different changes in their formation. It was founded in 1994, and nowadays is formed by Jón "Jónsi" Birgisson in the vocals and guitar, Kjartan "Kjarri" Sveinsson in the keyboards, Orri Páll Dýrason as the drummer and bass player Georg "Goggi" Holm.

For those of you who are already fans, there is not much left to discover about their talent. For the others believing that they don’t know anything about Sigur Rós, it can maybe ring a bell if you listen to their famous and delightful melody Starálful, or if you are followers of the German band Rammstein, that used their homonymous composition Sigur Rós for opening the gigs during their Reise Reise tour. You can check out that in the DVD released by the Germans Völkerball.

The band also collaborated in the soundtrack of Vanilla Sky, the Hollywood adaptation of the Spanish film Abre los Ojos. It seems that they members of the band were not satisfied at all with the experience of scoring music for a mainstream film, and got pretty annoyed with the experience of working with super star Tom Cruise and director Cameron Crowe.The style of Sigur Rós can be found closer to others like Radiohead. It is not by chance that both bands made collaboration together in 2003 for composing music for a dance called Split Sides. The Icelandic collaborated with three songs called Ba Ba, Ti Ki and Di Do. Those titles look like extracted directly from Marinetti´s head!

But most important thing is that Sigur Rós are totally alive and ready to rock in this end of 2007! Their fans can be happy, since they have released a double album called Hvarf-Heim with plenty of unreleased material and new acoustic versions of old songs. Added to this, they offer the nice surprise of releasing a documentary called Heima: a beautiful portrait of their native country with an amazing photography that shows accurately the breath taking beauty of the landscapes. All that naturally spiced up with the music of Sigur Rós. If you like experimental rock in combination with landscapes that look extracted from a marvelous dream, you cannot miss it! Sigur Rós have found the most effective therapy against the darkness of the winter: outstanding releases that can help to understand not only their music, but also the culture and nature of Iceland.


Heima
will be screened in Tallinn, Estonia as part of the Tallinn Black Nights film festival on the 2nd and 8th of December.
Festival's site: www.poff.ee

www.sigur-ros.co.uk

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The finest abnormality

{mosimage}With more
than 1,5 million albums sold, Eppu Normaali is one of Finland’s rock
institutions. It is already 30 years since the band, formed by the brothers Syrjä,
took the name of one of the characters in Mel BrooksYoung Frankenstein: Abby
Normal, translated into Finnish as Eppu Normaali (epänormaali, abnormal). Last
Friday, Eppu Normaali played at the Hartwall Areena in Helsinki and they
presented their new album.

Like it
happens with many other Finnish brothers, Eppu Normaali is a band of brothers.
Two brothers and cousin. Martti Syrjä (vocals), Pantse Syrjä (guitar) and their
cousin Aku Syrjä (drums), along with guitarist Juha Torvinen and bassist Mikko
Saarela
formed the group in 1976 in Ylöjärvi, very near Tampere. They started
playing a basic punk rock, following the trend of that time marked by Ramones.
But they did it in Finnish!

The first
performance of the band was in 1977 as part of a national rock competition held
in Tampere. Progressive rock was still very popular and Finland was not ready
for Martti’s sarcastic lyrics. Martti’s writing has always been outstanding and
has become one of the most reputed Finnish lyricists, a skill inherited from
his parents, writers Kirsi Kunnas and Jarkko Syrjä.

Of course,
Eppu Normaali didn’t win that competition, but they gained the attention of one
of the judges. Rock legend Juice Leskinen recognized the band’s talent. Soon
after that, the legendary Poko Records signed Eppu Normaali. Their first album,
Aknepop, was released in 1978. It wasn’t a great success and at the time only
2,000 copies were sold.

Since then,
the group has released 14 studio albums and 2 live ones and the records sales
have obviously increased much. As a matter of fact, Eppu Normaali must be one
of best selling Finnish bands. A greatest hits collection sold over 200,000
copies in 1996. A great number indeed for a small country.

{mosimage}In spite of
releasing a new album every year, the band’s breakthrough didn’t happened until
1984 with the release of Rupisia riimejä,
karmeita tarinoita
, that includes hits like
Nyt
reppuni jupiset, riimisi rupiset
, Taivaassa
perseet tervataan
ja Pimeyden tango. Mikko Nevalainen had replaced Mikko Saarela on bass in 1979 and the
band was getting close to more eighties sounds and AOR, almost like Finland’s
Dire Straits.

Rock fans
will soon recognize the inspiration of some of the Eppu Normaali’s album cover.
Their second album is a tribute to The Who and their Maximum R&B, in this
case translated to Maximum Jee & Jee. Even funnier are the adaptations of
the Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Cosmo’s Factory and Willie and The Poor Boys.
For the Finns, they were Akun tehdas (Aku’s Factory, 1980) and Aku ja köyhät
pöjat
(Aku and the Poor Boys, 1983).

{mosimage}A second line
up change happened in 1989. Mikko Nevalainen left the band and Sami Ruusukallio
took the bass and still holds it. However, it wasn’t the happiest times. The
band toured less and less each year and lack of inspiration was present in the
recordings while Martti Syrjä suffered problems with alcohol. It seemed the end
of Eppu Normaali when the band decided to take a break in 1994. That break
lasted 11 years.

In 2004, the
group reunited and recorded Sadan vuoden päästäkin. It was a great success,
achieving platinum on its release. It didn’t take that long to have new album
out. Last September Syvään päähän was released and again, the album has sold
great. It is a good album, a collection of rock tunes with intelligent lyrics.
This time the artwork was done by the duck artist Kaj Stenwall and the trivia
says that Juha Torvinen played a couple of songs with a one of Ron Wood’s picks
and Aku Syrjä played with one of Charlie Watts’ drumsticks.

{mosimage}Thirty
years have gone already, but it is not too late to discover, live or on record,
one of Finland’s finest bands. Don’t let the Finnish lyrics scare you!

Categories
Features Music

Listen Up!

Categories
Features Music

Not a Finnish – Estonian band anymore

{mosimage}During
mid 90s, there was no pub or venue in Finland where Smilers did
not play. They gained lots of experience in the music circuit, but
the success was waiting at the other side of the Baltic Sea.
Nowadays, there is no other band in Estonia with so many well known
radio hits and catchy melodies. Good times to smile!

We sit
down to have a chat (and a beer) with the composer and singer of the band
Hendrik-Sal Saller and the bass player Urmas Jaarman,
while the rest of the guys eat their lunch after the sound check,
getting ready for the concert that will take place in a quaint old
gunpowder cellar turned into pub in Tartu. Being cataloged for many
years as a Finnish-Estonian pop-rock band, Hendrik recognizes that
maybe it is about time to change that perception of Smilers for the
public, since only one original Finnish member, the keyboards player
Mikko Saira, remains from the old Finnish times.

“Actually
there wasn’t place in Finland where we did not play. Somehow I
think that there was a problem because we did too many gigs at that
time and people were a little bit bored at the end. One day maybe the
audience was composed of only 6-7 people. It was quite hard work. And
there were guys who did not want to do it in that way anymore. At the
same time a friend from Estonia made an offer to make a record in
Estonia so I just put the question on the table: “who wants to
come with me to Estonia”. Some guys wanted and some guys not, at
that time it was quite Finnish-Estonian band, now it is more
Estonian-Finnish band.” 

Good football is better than bad sex

And
the change did well for Smilers
 (the
name of the band is inspired by a Rod Stewart’s song).
They started to collect awards and to be well known wherever they
played. This has led to a chain of radio hits like no other band in
the country. Songs like
Ainult
unustamiseks
or Käime
katuseid mööda
are almost
like second national anthems in the small Baltic country. Not
mentioning the unforgettable chorus:
Jalgpall
on parem
 kui
seks
(literally: Football is Better
than Sex). The compulsory question comes: Is it really better?

"Well,
it depends. If you look at the
finals… maybe yes. Good football is better than bad sex, of course…
jokes Hendrik. I
can’t remember how the idea came out. The line just came out, and
yeah…I knew that in the history of my life, everybody would ask me
that question until the end of my days…"

The
catchy lyrics not only make Smilers popular for the audience, but
also for the companies in Estonia. 3 or 4 of the biggest brands in
the country have used Smiler´s tunes when advertising their
products. "
Everybody knows the songs.
They work out well in the radio. They have good spirit, so that is an
additional value for advertising. I don’t think there are other
reasons behind", adds Urmas, the bass
player.
"And I must honestly say that we
are very lucky to have such a good composer as Hendrik is". Indeed
Hendrik is well known also in this aspect, having composed for other
Estonian artists like
Ines, Supernova
or the recent song representing Estonia in the last Eurovision Song
Contest in Helsinki for
Gerli Padar
(the sister of
Tanel Padar, the
national hero who won the contest in 2001)

{mosimage}
"It
was a big surprise for me. I am well known guy here against
Eurovision contest. And then our song has won the national contest.
At that time we were skiing in France and I got a call
“Your song is at Eurovision”…I was
feeling like…oh yeah…whatever. But well, it is a good song, I
think. It deserved better luck. I was in Finland for 2 weeks and it
was a nice experience to see all the big show around

Later
that night, another good show for a band that does not need to prove
anything new to an audience that knows by heart all the lyrics.
Urmas swings his bass player wildly not stopping sweating copiously
while Hendrik jokes with the audience. Young girls dance cheerfully
in the first rows and the band attends the petition of its public
finishing the concert’s encore with the much appropriated song
Korrata (literally
“one more time”).

The
band does not seem to care about the hard life on the road and the
heavy tour schedule that they have year after year. Urmas comments:
"No. If you choose this occupation you
must be up for it. If any band member would say “no, I can’t do
it” then I would say ok, you are not a musician if you don’t like
to do this. It is our life, so it is never enough." 

"Usually
we are doing a break in autumn and
other in spring. So
we are privileged since choose when to have holidays, so you can’t
really get tired", reaffirms Hendrik.

Urmas
dedicates to the Finnish au
dience the only
sentence he remembers in Finnish: “Kaikki Uimahousut mukaan!”
That would resume very well the cheerful spirit of a band that takes
life easy and transmits a happy feeling wherever they play.