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!

Antonio's blog Blogs

Estonia is not only about cheap booze, easy women and gambling.

I am reading nowadays The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second book of Millenium trilogy, the worldwide phenomena written by the Swedish (and unfortunately deceased) journalist Stieg Larsson. In this book, there are continuous references to Tallinn, the Estonian capital, as a source for prostitutes and drugs that are transported into Sweden.

A couple of days ago, I took again the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn. Those ferries are daily crowded by mostly Finnish passengers that make a break of 1 or 2 days to visit Estonia and buy massive amounts of alcoholic drinks, being the prices much cheaper than in Finland. This trend has become so popular that has literally boosted Estonia as one of the European countries at the top ranking of selling alcoholic beverages. But the visit of the Finnish “cousins” is received with mixed feelings by the Estonians. On one hand, obviously it is good for the economy. On the other hand, it reminds me of what happens in Spain year after year with the British tourists: they misbehave badly, cursing, breaking things and puking around the corner; a behavior that they would hardly do in their native country. No wonder that for many Estonians, Finnish tourists have become “persona non grata” here.

Estonian Beer

I also remember 4 years ago the orientation speeches that foreign students received at Tartu University. I was there as exchange student from Tampere University for one semester. A female Finnish student emphasized to a crowded room that men should be careful and use protection in sexual relations, because Estonian girls were well known to be not “very faithful” (yes, she literally said that).
I am not the best example for researching sexual behaviors of females in both countries, but well, after a few years living both in Finland and Estonia, and talking to many male foreigners, I can tell you that most of them could have something to say about the Finnish women as not exactly either an example of chastity or faithful behavior with their partners. Actually, in a recent study, Finnish women were heading the ranking of one night stands around Europe:

I know that these kinds of studies are usually twisted, but yet, you can always try yourself in the Finnish nightlife and see the results… So it seems that it is easier to accuse the neighbor instead of taking a look at what happens in your own borders. It is dangerous if Finnish people start to catalogue these behaviors like a “manifestation of the women´s power to decide how to enjoy their sexuality” or like “morally incorrect” depending on what side of the Baltic Sea they happen. Actually, I can say that, yes, it is true that Estonian girls like dressing more feminine than for example Finnish girls, but at the same time, most of Estonian women I have talked to turned to be witty, friendly and down to Earth. Not really the stereotype of woman that could go trolling for a foreigner with a wallet full of euro (although unfortunately, my wallet is usually pretty empty so I could not even test that in the field).

The point that annoys me is the distorted view that still prevails in Scandinavian countries towards Estonia. For many of their citizens, Estonia is just a country where you can get cheap booze, easy girls and go gambling. I do not deny that you can find those things in Estonia, but there is much more than that.

It would be worth a combined effort by Estonian government and Scandinavian governments to change that stereotypical view of Estonia and promote all the many nice activities that this country has to offer. Meanwhile, Tallinn will continue being named in best-selling books as a cradle for prostitution or a place where to buy cheap vodka, and not a destination to see amazing cultural events like a Metallica concert or the Ice Skating European Championships. And I do not think that is the best kind of marketing that Estonia can have to attract more visitors…

Albums Music

Sister Flo – Au

Sister Flo is one of the most popular Indie bands in Finland. After some years of hiatus, they are back with a new studio album!

Sister Flo Live!

3 years after the release of their latest album, The Healer, Sister Flo is back. Meanwhile, their singer, Samae Koskinen, also had time for a solo album that received excellent critics in the Finnish media.

Actually, I liked Koskinen’s solo project, but I cannot say exactly the same about this new adventure of Sister Flo. Maybe I am not “indie” enough for these sounds, or maybe I enjoy more faster guitar riffs, but I found the record a bit boring. Slow paced, with tracks that are almost fully orchestrated by the instruments with a few voices here and there… It is not a bad album for background music if you are in a cafeteria, or reading a book, but when I listen to an album, I expect the music to be so powerful that absorbs me from the other activities I am doing at that moment and make me remember the choruses, and this is not the case with Au.

Sister Flo - Au album cover

It can find their good legion of followers, probably people dressed in colorful jackets and carrying handbags with designs full of flowers… but not my taste.

Rating 2/5

Albums Music

Swallow the Sun – New Moon

Don’t know if the title has something to do with the Twilight saga, but certainly here you are going to find darker feelings than just those of teenage vampires falling in love…

Finnish doom metal band Swallow the Sun has a privileged position in their national metal scene. Backed up by Spinefarm Records, they introduce us their new album New Moon. But actually, nothing is much new here. The gloomy and vicious atmosphere is present all over the album, and the cutting guitar riffs are leading you to feel depressed in a room just lighted with candlelight. Even slow tempo songs like the “ballad” Sleepless Swans is not something that you would really play to cheer up you future partner in a romantic date.

However, for old fans of the band, and in general for fans of doom and metal genres, this album is well produced, mastered and executed. Mikko Kotamäki’s singing skills are at a high level here, he knows where to push his limits, and the orchestration is pretty awesome during some tracks. But it always happens the same to me when I listen to doom metal, I prefer to listen to just the music without the screams. Consider me an old metal school fan, but I cannot avoid it.

Swallow the Sun - New Moon album cover

Not a bad effort for the Finnish band, if you are into this kind of sounds. But for the lovers of multicolor rock that transmit good vibes, you better skip this one.

Rating 3/5

At the cinema Cinema

Top 10 movies in Finland 2009

Here you can find the top 10 of movies in the Finnish theaters during the last year with the total number of spectators that watched them. Ice Age 3 leads!

Ice Age 3

1. Ice Age 3 (trailer) 01.07.2009 387 000

2. Harry Potter ja puoliverinen prinssi (trailer) 17.7.2009 345 000

3. Rööperi (trailer) 09.01.2009 256 000

4. Up – kohti korkeuksia 09.10.2009 219 000

5. Enkelit ja demonit (trailer) 13.05.2009 197 000

6. Slummien miljonääri (trailer) 13.03.2009 183 000

7. Kunniattomat paskiaiset (trailer) 04.09.2009 181 000

8. Twilight: Uusi kuu (trailer) 20.11.2009 181 000

9. Bolt (trailer) 13.02.2009 161 000

10. Twilight (trailer) 02.01.2009 152 000

Harry Potter

Cinema DVD

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Here comes the second part of Transformers, with more robots and Megan Fox looking sexier (if possible) than ever!

Megan Fox

I must admit that I enjoyed the first Transformers. As a child, I followed the TV series, and it was nice to see the robots in the big screen, although the plot would obviously not be the best possible. But this time, the “Americanization” of Transformers has gone too far. More than watching Transformers, movie seems just a mere product of propaganda for the American army, to show how sophisticated its weaponry is.

True, there is more action here, but the edition and links between scenes is really poor. Even Megatron and Optimus Prime do not enjoy of many minutes on screen, and the added new robots are more detestable than other thing. Not to mention the flaws in geography or history. Honestly, when you spend zillions of dollars in such a movie, is it so difficult to have somebody in the team that can locate Egyptian historical places properly? Michael Bay can be a master portraying war aircrafts, but has really miss this shot by far about creating a minimally movie with some common sense in what the characters go through.

DVD cover

Added to this, I still do not dig Shia LaBeouf. I did not like him in the last Indiana Jones, neither here. Thinking that a whiny guy like this is not only the key of salvation to the human race, but also the object of desire between Megan Fox and Isabel Lucas goes beyong the fantasy of a 15 year old teenager…

And do not worry, because soon we will have a third one with more American ammunition to spread around the world.

Rating 2/5

The best: Optimus Prime taking on several Deserticons in the woods. And Megan Fox riding a motorbike…
The worst: feeling that our intelligence is being insulted with such an horrific second part of the sage.
The detail: Some of the action was actually shot in the real pyramids in Egypt.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Trailer

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:

Concerts Music

Swedish Backyard Barbies at Tavastia

The popular Swedish rock band will play at Tavastia Club in Helsinki the 23rd of January.
For more information and buying tickets for the show, visit:

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

Antonio's blog

Under construction!

Due to an upgrade of our design during the first weeks of 2010, FREE! Magazine website could experience some technical problems when trying to load the pages. We are working to fix it as soon as possible hoping you can fully enjoy our contents and new features! Thanks for your patience.

Albums Music

Hanoi Rocks – Buried Alive

Shot at Tavastia Club on April 12th 2009, this live concert is the last one by the mythical Finnish rock band Hanoi Rocks. If you are a fan of Finnish rock, and basically of rock history in general, you cannot miss this DVD with the last show of Hanoi Rocks not only in Finland, but as a whole band before parting ways. Monroe, McCoy and their Swedish younger fellas give a great lesson of rock & roll with an astonishing set list where songs from the newer albums get mixed with classics like Tragedy, the opening track.

Although Tavastia Club is maybe a bit too small for filming this kind of big farewell concerts, and the same time, it is emotive to see the packed audience totally adoring their idols in the most famous rock club of Finland; people there cannot refrain tears in their eyes in songs like Don´t You Ever Leave Me. Same that with the members of the bands, also Hanoi Rocks has been able to find a great balance between old and young followers.

As a climax, everybody including old members Nasty Suicide and Lacu share stage to play a kick ass version of Up Around the Bend and say goodbye (or maybe see you later) to a great career for one band that has already entered the history of rock.

The DVD also features a short documentary of 12 minutes, but basically, it does not add much to the package, except for taking a look at the painted walls of Tavastia Club´s backstage. The members of the band record some footage with handy cams, but you can see that everything is a bit “forced” and they are not really happy recording or putting much effort into it.

All in all, a good product to add to your collection if you are a Hanoi Rocks fan, as well as if you want to see one good piece of rock history very alive before getting buried!

Rating 3/5


Related articles:


Interview with Hanoi Rocks:


Review of Street Poetry:


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:

Outside Finland Travel

Seattle, Washington USA … an insider’s guide.

Text by Eric Remec

Seattle. The name conjures up some very specific images: Starbucks. Rain. Grunge. All these clichés certainly ring true but I want to try something a bit different and delve a little deeper into what makes Seattle such a cool city to visit. I find the best way to get a feel for a place is through its food. Whenever I’m traveling I steer clear of any tourist type places and try, as much as possible, to become a local.

In Rome, that means a breakfast of an espresso and pastry (while standing) in an Italian bar. In Spain, it’s ir de tapas (a form of bar-hopping) at night, sampling tapas and wine; In Kansas, USA, barbeque ribs in the town of Melvern (population 429). In this increasingly homogenized world, I think it is essential to celebrate what makes a place unique. A good rule to follow (in non-English speaking locales) is to listen to the languages being spoken by the patrons and avoid any place where the main language you hear is English. Well this rule obviously doesn’t work in Seattle so let me offer you, dear reader, an extremely biased list of some of my favorite places in the city.


In a city that has on average only 71 truly sunny days a year, it’s no surprise that coffee is such a big deal here. Well forget Starbucks. Go to Le Panier. Whenever I’m in Seattle, this is the place where I like to start my day. A French style café and bakery located in the heart of Pike Place Market, Le Panier has the feel of a Parisian bakery. Grab a newspaper, a cup of café maison, and a chocolate croissant and ease into your day. Spend an hour or so in a seat by the window and watch the world go by outside. Speaking of which, a great place to start and get a feel for the city is Pike Place Market, Seattle’s famous outdoor market. Reminiscent of Helsinki’s Kauppatori with its stalls of vendors, Pike Place Market is located on Seattle’s waterfront in Puget Sound. You can find everything from farm fresh produce, to seafood, to local crafts from the Pacific Northwest. As you can probably guess, seafood is big here: salmon (smoked and fresh), Dungeness crab, clams, and mussels. You can actually buy the seafood to take home and the merchants will pack your purchase in special ice packs which will keep it fresh for 24 to 48 hours.

Almost next door to the bakery Le Panier is Piroshky Piroshky, a Russian bakery specializing in (you guessed it) piroshki. Somewhat similar to the Finnish karjalanpiirakat, these handheld pies are stuffed with a variety of different fillings.You can find almost 30 different varieties in all at Piroshky Piroshky, including beefand onion, Bavarian sausage, and sweet dessert rolls. Be sure to visit Beecher’s Handmade Cheese shop, Seattle’s Artisan Cheesemaker also located in Pike Place Market. They actually make their own cheese on the premises and the large viewing window inside the shop offers a glimpse into the cheese making process. Grab a cup of their “World’s Best Mac and Cheese” made from penne pasta and their Flagship cheese for a soul warming lunch on a damp and cold Seattle day. If you find yourself with limited funds (and in this current economic climate, who doesn’t?), I suggest you take full advantage of the concept of Happy Hour in Seattle. Typically between the hours of 16:00 – 19:00, many bars and restaurants offer half-price specials on drinks and food. It offers an excellent chance to sample some of the fine things that Seattle has to offer on a limited budget. The Belltown section of the city has a host of bars and restaurants which offer Happy Hour Specials and is a good place to start the evening.

Bar Txori Pintxo

Spanish-style tapas bars are becoming fairly common in large cities across the U.S. but for a real authentic experience later in the evening, head over to Txori.  OK, technically this a pintxos bar modeled on the pintxos bars of San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain, but it’s the real deal. Chorizo sausage with shaved chocolate, anchovies with olives and Spanish peppers, jamón serrano on top of toasted bread with fresh tomato and garlic, … each of these bite sized appetizers (which average $3.00 to $4.00 a piece) will have you dreaming of summer nights on the Spanish coast. Along with pintxos, Txori also offers some excellent Basque-inspired cocktails. Try the azafrán; a blend of citron vodka, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a touch of saffron. Outstanding.

For a complete change of pace, check out the The Whisky Bar. Now, I do love a good dive bar and The Whisky Bar is a great dive bar. Located directly across the street from the historic Moore Theatre, The Whisky Bar has all the essential requisites of a good dive bar: cheap drinks, loud music, intimidating looking bartenders and an eccentric clientele. The noir-inspired paintings featuring scantily clad women with guns only add to the charm of the place. Where else can you sing along to Slayer, Elvis, Iron Maiden, and Johnny Cash blaring at top volume on the jukebox while slamming back $2.00 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon? Jacket and tie definitely not required and leave your credit card at home. Happy Hour runs from 12:00 (!!!) to 21:00 daily.

The Whisky Bar

Seattle is a city that tends to close up a bit early so if it’s late and you’re hungry you can always stop by the The Palace Kitchen which serves its full menu until 1:00 (am). One of  Seattle restaurateur Tom Douglas’ many establishments, The Palace Kitchen is as much a bar as a restaurant and offers excellent food along with some interesting brews and cider on tap. For a late night bite, the Palace Burger Royale and the Dahlia Triple Coconut Cream Pie for dessert are a good bet.  Bars close at 2:00 here but if there is time, you might want to head back to the Belltown section of Seattle for a last bit of bar-hopping before calling it quits for the night and staggering back to your hotel room.

As we come to the end of this article, a special note to any Seattle residents and tourists that might have some issues with my imperfect listing of the “best” places in Seattle. I agree with you. It’s certainly not the last word on Seattle and in fact, it’s only a start. So to all the many deserving places I didn’t mention and to all the places I didn’t get a chance to visit: Salumi Artisan Cured Meats run by Armandino Batali (Italian American chef Mario Batali’s father), the Experience Music Project Museum, the entire Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square areas of Seattle, … my apologies.

They’re just more reasons to go back.