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Interview with Finnish snowboarder Enni Rukajärvi

Enni Rukajärvi has already become a living legend in the history of Finnish sports after achieving her second Olympic medal at PyengChang during last winter. Bringing the focus and attention to female participation in winter sports in Finland, she is an example of endurance, perseverance and skills owning an adventurous spirit hungry to overcome the next challenge. FREE! Magazine had the chance to send her a few questions about her past, present and future. If you want to see her amazing snowboarding skills live, you can have soon the chance to see her competing in the incoming X Games to be celebrated in Norway between 18-20 of May.

First of all, thanks a lot for attending FREE! Magazine’s questions, Enni! You competed recently last February on the Olympic Games at PyeongChang, where you got a bronze medal in slopestyle and also competed in Big Air discipline. How was the general experience there in South Korea and your memories of the competitions?

-I liked South Korea, people were nice and food was good. Everything worked pretty well, slope style course was well built and Big air jump was nice too. Just the windy conditions were a down side and it was one of my scariest moments to compete in those crazy windy conditions during the slopestyle.

In what ways was similar or different to your previous first (silver) medal in Sochi in 2014?

-In many ways it was different, first of all Sochi was my first Olympics so I didn’t know what to expect at all and also during the Sochi games I was injured and not sure if I was even able to compete so it was a big battle to even make it happen. I felt way more pressure there and I got quite a lot media attention in Finland. After I landed my last run in Sochi I was just so happy to land a run after all the struggle I have had there and I was also happy that it was finally over.

Going to South Korea everything felt way more easier and less exciting because I already knew what to expect. I also felt less pressure. It was such a shame we had to compete in that crazy weather but again after my second run I was just happy to land a run and survive. Also all the media attention after getting the medal felt easier this time.

Was it demanding to participate in both slopestyle and air competitions during same Olympics? If I am not mistaken, this was the first time that Air was introduced in the Olympics. Do they require any particular separated training/mind set for each discipline?

-Yes and no, for sure slopestyle took a lot of energy already but Big Air is kinda easier especially after slopestyle when you only need to concentrate on one jump instead of a whole run. For me it doesn’t require different mind set or training, I think they go hand in hand.

Could you tell us how and why you started practicing snowboarding?

-My home is really close to a ski resort in North of Finland where the winters are long so it was kinda natural thing to do. I started skiing first and then I wanted to try snowboarding because it looked so cool. Also I was always interested to learn new things and tricks so snowboarding was perfect thing to do.

What is what you love the most about snowboarding?

-You can always learn new things and challenge yourself and do it with your friends without rules.

I have heard that you pretty much love practising many other kind of sports too. What do you do when you are not snowboarding?

-Skateboarding, gym, yoga, biking, jogging, different kind of games like basketball, beach volleyball etc..pretty much everything

Snowboard practice looks a lot of fun but certainly there is always a big risk of injuries. How do you face the situations when you have hurt yourself and then you are back on the snow? Do snowboarders have a bit of special mind set to disregard the risks?

-Always after injury it takes some time to get 100 % back, but best way for me is just start riding and doing really easy tricks to built the confidence back and when you do that at some point you just feel as good as before and you are ready to try new tricks again. For sure snowboarders have a bit of a special mind set for everything and you don’t think about the risks that much when you are snowboarding.

Following up the previous question, when the years pass by practicing the sport, do you always keep the attitude the same or is there some moment when you can think of a jump or a trick that you would have tried with no hesitation when being 17 but then you feel more cautious to try when you have competed for several years?

-For me I think that goes other way around actually, I have always been pretty hesitated and thought through really well before I try anything new. I’m way better rider now so I know I can try crazier things now than when I was 17 so with my experience I have got to be less hesitant about trying new stuff.

When you are competing, do you have any particular routine to concentrate in the minutes/seconds before being ready to start on the ramp?

-I kinda do. I like to listen music, think about my run and be on my own a little bit and just before I drop in I try to think about something else.

What are your favourite places for snowboarding that you have visited around the world? And favourite competitions?

-Japan for sure, I love snow and Japan has a lot of snow! And my favorite competition has always been European Open called Laax Open nowadays. Laax is also a really fun place to ride because they have everything from jumps to rails, pipe and pow!

When seen from outside, the atmosphere around snowboarding always looks happy and easy going. Is it easy to make new friends around the tour circuit?

-I think it is, especially on the girls side we all hang out together. I think the atmosphere is pretty welcoming for the new younger riders.

Are there any other snowboarders that you particularly admire?

Markku Koski and Arthur Longo and many more

Have you thought in the future what would you like doing when you will stop competing at high level? Would you like to continue linked to the sport, or try some other areas?

-I hope next I could start filming video parts and riding more pow. After that I’m not sure, I think I will always stay in snowboarding somehow maybe do some other stuff too, will see.

You are confirmed as one participant in the incoming X Games in Norway that will take place in May. What are your expectations about the event?

I’m really excited about it, I think it’s gonna be a really different experience again. I also like Norway so it should be fun!

Anything else you would like to add for your readers?

-Let’s go snowboarding!

For more information about X Games in Norway, visit:


Features Interviews Music

Interview with Anneke van Giersbergen at Helsinki Tuska Metal Festival

Dutch metal singer Anneke van Giersbergen has been undoubtedly a reference as one of the most talented female metal voices for more than two decades, since her early beginnings with the band The Gathering.

Having a special relation with Helsinki where she visits and performs often, and with a wide list of collaborations with amazing bands and projects such as Moonspell, Within Temptation, Anathema, Devin Townsend Project or Ayreon, Anneke loves Tuska festival in Helsinki, and Tuska festival loves her back.

Anneke was the queen of the opening Friday day at Tuska performing live 3 times during a busy evening, with her new band Vuur, in a short acoustic solo for some lucky winners of a competition and closing the night as special guest together with Devin Townsend Project. An excellent opportunity for the Finnish fans to enjoy once more her amazing vocal skills, special energy on stage and perennial charming smile.

Before that, FREE! Magazine had the chance to sit with her for a few minutes in the backstage so she could share with us her impressions about Vuur, her visits to Finland and the future plans ahead:

Thanks for your time Anneke! You come to Helsinki quite often, and this time is with your new band Vuur. Can you tell us a bit more what the fans here in Finland can expect from the incoming gig?

Thanks to you too! Yeah, it has been a long time since I made a true metal album, cause I have been all over the place and I love all kind of different styles of music, I just love singing. But I felt when we were working on The Gentle Storm like I wanted to continue making a solo album with these same guys, the live band of The Gentle Storm, cause they are so good! I was very inspired by them, so I thought that if I wanted to make a metal album on my own, I had to do it now and with these guys, so I did! And it turned out even better than I expected, there is a good vibe around it and people are excited anticipating it!.

If I am not mistaken there is already released the first official track. How are the plans for the release of the album?

We are doing one or two more tracks before the album gets released in October and we will do some summer festivals anyway where we play new songs, so there will be new songs online, in Youtube etc.

Do you feel easier now with the new technologies and social media to reach your audience?

Yeah, I think is great to have Youtube, Spotify and the whole thing. It is easier to get our music out and to get people to the shows. Of course maybe you sell a bit less Cds than 20 years ago but it does not matter, we need to be creative!

You are going to have a busy day today right? After Vuur concert you will make a small solo acoustic show and Devin Townsend is playing later, are you gonna join them?

Yes, I am going to join them. 3 shows today, but I am looking forward to all 3!

I remember that you were here in Tuska last time 2 years ago when you came with The Sirens, I saw that show. What memories do you have?

I just love Tuska festival, it is a fantastic festival and I love it every time since I came here. I wanted to come back with Vuur very much and I was on the trousers of Jouni (Jouni Markkanen, Tuska Festival promoter) to bring us here. He booked us even without listening to the album! So he believes in me and in the band and that is so cool! It is great to have a few festivals before the release of the album.

Do you find the Finnish audience having special features compared to other countries? Sometimes other artists have told me that they are more silent but you can feel how they are enjoying the music deep inside…

Yeah, that’s the thing about the Finnish, like you said, they are collected and quiet but there is so much fire and passion, and you can see it, you know. But when the song finishes, they are loud. It is a crazy thing about Finland.

I remember in 2010 for example when you came with Anathema, not sure if you have memories of that day, but the people were really crazy at Tavastia Club!

Totally! As the Finnish say of themselves “we are quiet people” and I know that there is a bit of a reservation there, but still you have a lot of passion for arts, music, artists…

I also wanted to ask you about the special concert you gave 3 years ago for the 25th Anniversary of The Gathering with all the previous artists. How did it feel?

It was great, it was very peculiar cause when we talked about it, and with some people I have not seen them for 8 years, and then we talked about the reunion and then we started rehearsing and it felt like yesterday that we played these songs together, it is crazy, and it was 8 or 9 years ago when we did, but it felt like at home. I was at The Gathering for most of my young adult life and the influence that you get at this age period is very big.

I think you wanted to make clear that it was just a one time special occasion, so only 1 special show…

Yeah, of course promoter said “you could go on tour” and I am sure we could have made a lot of money, etc but we said “let’s keep it special”. We never say never for a next time, but you have to keep it exclusive and is more special that way. Plus I am busy with everything else I do.

After such a fruitful career in music and having participated in so many nice collaborations with talented artists and bands, do you feel lucky to have made good friends in the music industry?

Yeah, totally! The only friends I have!! Hehehe, no more social life, most of my real friends are in music and then apart I have one or two girl friends that I know from the time before music, but at that period I was just 14! So my life and my family and everything, all has to do with music. But musicians in general they get each other, they understand the lifestyle, the weird hours, the passion, the way you are always busy with music and with creating something.

You seem to have a busy rest of the year 2017, touring with Vuur, doing some more solo acoustic concerts, sharing tour with Epica, the new album getting released. How do you face the incoming busy months?

I like busy, the album is done and is almost on the shelf waiting for release, we are doing the promotion for the album with festivals and gigs, and in October we are going on tour. We have some really nice things coming up. I like it as I have not played so much for a long time since we were at the studio and I wanted not to do 10 projects at the same time, I was really focusing but that means that you are not playing a lot and I start to miss it. I love being at home and doing laundry, etc it gives me peace, but when I am not playing I get restless. I kind of need it, but is a good balance on and off. I know a lot of people who tour all year around every year and they get a little bit off balance.

And after that, do you have plans in the longer run for the incoming 2018 or so far just focused on 2017?

Well, I think for the moment playing with Vuur and at some point writing for an incoming new album. I will do also some solo stuff next months in Holland, theater shows and a classical show with orchestra. And I like that, active but not too much, like before with The Sirens and a new album incoming and you know… usually 5 projects at once and that is insane, so I try solo, acoustic and Vuur as my focus now.

As the time for your show with Vuur is coming close, I do not want to take more of your time so you can prepare. Anything else you want to add for the readers and the Finnish (and foreign) audience here?

Well, I am here in Finland around two times per year, they invite me so many times that I feel a bit like being my home away from home, I have great friends here and I love this festival. I am looking forward to playing here again!

Concerts Features Interviews Music

Blind Guardian in Helsinki 2015. Interview with guitarist Marcus Siepen

In a chilly spring Finnish evening the first fans queue at the doors of Nosturi while around the corner, at the terrace of Nosturi ‘s restaurant, some members of the epic German metal band Blind Guardian chill out before the show and attend their media compromises.

It is there where, sitting relaxed at a table, FREE! Magazine meets their guitarist Marcus Siepen for an exclusive interview:

Thanks for your time Marcus! As I guess you know Finland well as you have visited here in the past, what are your feelings when coming back here?

-Oh it has been great. We have played here a couple of times, we played at Tuska Festival and has always been great, the people are great and we have friends here in Finland. Me and my wife spent the whole day yesterday walking around the downtown with friends and we are looking forward to the gig!

Do you know good bars around the city?

Actually I have been to a metal bar, Prkl, and we have also been to Steam bar, that looks amazing. So yeah, we have been walking around.

What do you think of the Finnish audience, some people think they are a bit different when compared to other countries where they scream a lot.

They are a good audience, they are calmer here, yes. It changes it anyway from country to country. Spanish fans are different from German fans and German fans are different from Swedish fans and Swedish you cannot not compare them to Brazilians. And that is fine, as far as you know how to handle them. I don’t need to have people screaming all the show in order to see the fans are enjoying.

Blind Guardian

The band is cancelling 2 dates in Russia after this gig in Finland. What are the reasons if I may ask?

There were problems with organization and stuff and sadly we had to cancel, which is a pity.

So you will play in Russia, Belorussia and then Australia and Japan and after that you will have a summer break. Will there be time to relax or busy preparing your incoming live album?

We are already booked for the studio so we have to go through recordings and stuff and we also want to do a couple of rehearsals and there are still some songs that are on the list to be played that we have not played so far and we want to be ready for the next block of the tour. We leave for South America in September and we will be on the road almost until Christmas. And next year will continue, all the festivals, more individual shows, we will be on the road until Autumn next year.

I have heard that you were planning for long to do this orchestra album. Will there be time with this hectic schedule to work on that one?

There will be. The original idea was maybe to finish it on the summer break, which now will be occupied by the live album stuff, but we definitely would like to finish it next year. So that is a fixed plan.

Coming back to the current tour, even when talking to some of my Spanish friends who saw you in Madrid, we commented if you guys ever get tired when audience request “Majesty” all the time…

Yes we do! You know, Majesty is not a bad song, not at all. The thing is that it was written in 1986, so it is almost 30 years old and you know, at some point I really do not get the obsession with that song, when there are so many songs to choose from! But you know, we play it. It is just that we cannot always give in to the crowd to dictate the set. The funny thing is, in one of the shows we played recently, we actually put Majesty on the setlist, and we did not put Valhalla on the setlist. What happens? Right from the beginning nobody screams for Majesty, everybody starts to scream for Valhalla! Hehehe. And we are like fuck! What is this?! What is wrong?! Hehehe. So we ended up playing Valhalla as well…

I remember to have seen you myself live on the Forgotten Tales Tour when I was 16, more than half a life ago. How do you notice the change with the past of time with the audience. Is it still people who grew with the band or do you see new generations coming too?

It is a mix, and that is the great thing. Normally when we go on tour, we always see people who seem to be growing with the band, who were there on previous tours and they keep coming, but we also see younger kids, and that is great for us, as it means we are keeping old fans but we are gaining new ones as those kids are too young to have been in all those previous tours. It is great to see new generations digging our music.

And for you, how do you keep motivated after so many years playing?

We love what we are doing. I do not need to motivate myself as this is what we love to do. Anybody in the band. We still love the music that we are playing and we still love touring. Obviously sometimes you get tired of touring because it is demanding, all the travelling and stuff. So sometimes we look forward to taking a break at home, but then when we take the break we are looking forward to the next tour block because playing live is just awesome.

What about your new album Beyond the Red Mirror. Has it been particularly demanding as you have collaborated with different orchestras, 3 different choirs, etc.

It has not been different than previous stuff. People have been telling in the past “it will not be possible to play that song live” and it was possible. We have a keyboard player with us and it is perfectly possible to play all that stuff.

Blind Guardian

How do you perceive the reaction of the people to the new album?

The reaction has been pretty awesome. What normally happens in the past is whenever we went on tour with a new album and we play new songs, reaction to the new songs have been a bit calmer compared to the old classics and only on the next tour they were on even level. This time is different, we play 4 new songs and there is a 5th one coming that we are still rehearsing a bit and they seem to be instant classics. The reactions are almost the same as with Valhalla, Majesty, etc. The reviews of the album have been excellent, not only on magazines but also when you talk to people.

I know you are also a fan of fantasy books and they represent a big source of inspiration for the lyrics of the band. Do you follow Game of Thrones?

I love the books, I read all of them in a row and I am waiting for book 6 to be released. But I have a kind of love/hate relationship with the TV show. As if you consider it as only a show, it is very well done, great actors and settings… but they fucked up the story. They changed it so many things… and that is why I fucking hate it. I even did not watch The Hobbit movies for that reason. When Jackson announced he would do the Hobbit, I was curious, but when I read he was planning to do 3 movies of a book of 200 something pages… I did not want to see them. If somebody makes a movie out of the book The Hobbit, then it should be based on The Hobbit. Not 10% on the book and 90% on things that could have happened.

With Game of Thrones I watched the first 4 seasons and most likely I still will watch the 5th one, because as I said it is a love/hate relationship. When I watch it I try to forget the books but in the end I keep bashing and cursing, but then I keep watching it. If you could disconnect the show from the books, it would be awesome, but I keep thinking “That is wrong, they do not go there, they do not do that”.

Is it true that when Jackson was preparing the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies, there were contacts with the band to take care of the soundtrack?

The whole story got blown up a bit out of proportion. Yes, at some point we were asked to send some samples. There were some sites where fans could vote who they wanted to participate and our name kept popping and we were asked to send some stuff. Actually the orchestra project would have been fitting. But if we would have got that job, we had not released any album, our priorities was not releasing soundtracks. It would have been a cool experience but we preferred to focus on our albums.

Anything else you want to add for the readers?

Actually yes, for readers in Helsinki and everywhere worldwide. A message from the band to the fans: If you come to a gig, please leave the fucking phones on your pockets and try to see the gig with your own eyes, you will see the colors with better resolution, it is even 3D and better than 4k. That would be my message to readers! Hehe. It started a couple of years ago and it is getting worse and worse. Taking pictures are fine, but I have seen people standing on the front row not moving recording the whole concert for two and a half hours. If you want to see the DVD, go to the fucking shop and buy it, the quality is better. And as a band, it is not fun to play in front of phones! We want to play in front of an audience that enjoys! There are people who even record the show with an iPad!

So with that request full of sense, and with my 1996 concert ticket signed by Marcus, we let them rest for the show during the night.

And what came later? A venue really fully packed at Nosturi, fans delighted, a great setlist, new songs matching perfectly with the old classics, some surprises as hearing Guardian of the Blind and some other songs that almost brought a tear to the eyes of many old fans like Bright Eyes or The Bard’s Song… and a few requests from the audience to play Majesty that were dismissed :)))

Blind Guardian Setlist at Nosturi in Helsinki. 2nd of June 2015

1. The Ninth Wave 

2. Banish from Sanctuary 

3. Nightfall 

4. Fly 

5. Tanelorn (Into the Void) 

6. Prophecies 

7. The Last Candle 

8. Miracle Machine 
9. Lord of the Rings 
10. Guardian of the Blind 

11. Bright Eyes 

12. And the Story Ends 

13. War of Wrath 

14. Into the Storm 

15. Twilight of the Gods 

16. Valhalla 

Encore 2:
17. Wheel of Time 

18. The Bard’s Song – In the Forest 
19. Mirror Mirror

Features Interviews Music

Interview with Peter Shallmin of ESCAPETHECULT

Peter Shallmin, bassist and orchestrator of this project, tells to FREE! Magazine Finland more about one of the most interesting rock bands that have seen the light during this ending year of 2014: ESCAPETHECULT, counting with a luxurious line up with members scattered all over the world from such prestigious bands as Primus or King Diamond as well as his personal views towards music and the future projects that could await the band for 2015:

Thanks a lot for taking your time to answer FREE! Magazine ́s questions! Can you tell us a bit from where came the idea to form the band, being all the members geographically so far away? I have read that Internet played an important part of putting the project together.

Thank you, Antonio! Yes you are right. Internet does the whole deal to make happen this extremely hard to realize project. Just imagine, we are from different lands USA, Sweden, France and Siberia and we can not simply now just communicate but also compose music and record together. Yes it takes a lot of time but, damn, it’s so exciting!

To say where the idea came I should make a flashback to my youth when I was a 14-years old boy when I’ve heard PRIMUS in the first time with their “Frizzle Fry”. My jaw was dropped when I’ve heard it. This was exactly what I wanted to play some day but through my own angle. A truly unique band I sincere love. I was dreamed to play with Tim Alexander someday, this idea has been not forgotten and finally it was happened through many years with ESCAPETHECULT.

Mike Wead is another pro I admire through the years and value so high from MEMENTO MORI era and then KING DIAMOND. I’m a lucky one to say he is my long-time partner in another band KAMLATH, I rely him on everything. After years of research for the vocalist I was rewarded with Matthieu Romarin of UNEVEN STRUCTURE – he is exceptional talent. It’s a great experience indeed and the result was mind-blowing.

In most of the media ESCAPETHECULT is announced as a new “superband”. What is your feeling when you read that, does it help that most of the members belong or have belonged to renamed rock bands?

It doesn’t have a sense for us. The main and the most important is the music we can create together and play to this world. Being “supergroup” or being called “superband” is mainly for mass media, we are too far from that. Without doubts the ESCAPETHECULT’s line-up is very attractive but, believe me, the main intention, my driving force was not to “collect” the names but to play with the musicians I sincere admire. I’m quite lucky to have a chance to work with such legends as Tim Alexander and Mike Wead. As for Matthieu he is a rising star, you’ll hear more about his talent.


What is what this project adds to the members of the band different from their other current or past bands as a musical and personal experience?

I think, it’s my personal point of view, that it gives an opportunity to create something completely another, open the door into another universe and philosophy. Every person involved brings something different from what you are doing now or did in the past. The creative process is the most exciting thing that always brings unexpected results. You can’t plan, can’t specify and can’t control the idea when it becomes a part of the collective of creative minds. It’s magic. It expands beyond… Tim, Mike and Matthieu are top-notch professionals and their personal approach and contribution is priceless and unique.

How would you describe to a new listener what they would expect from “All You Want To” first album?

Actually “All You Want To Escape The Cult” is the full (hidden) title of the debut. Weird, bizarre, eccentric, eclectic, distinctive, hypnotic, beautiful, mature, multi-layered with many musical styles, full of hidden meanings and signs and finally not heavy/aggressive as someone expected/wanted reading the names of the line-up.

Your album was released last 21 of September. How do you feel that has been the media and audience response so far these first months?

We are keeping get different reviews and feedbacks. From the highest shouts to disappointment. Associations to other bands sometimes are very bizarre. We are fine with it. The reaction always different because our music is very complex and we’ve expected this…it’s normal. Everything goes natural and we are open for criticism. You never beat the fact that we did it and we are all loved making “All You Want To” the way we like, it’s up to you to accept or decline. Everything goes as it should go.

Do you have any favourite track in the album?

Every single song is the short but deep and sincere fragment that resonates with our souls. I’m quite sure that if we do not like the song it would never have appeared on the album. The whole thing went smooth, each song has own charisma. All of them are our favorites.

Will there be in the near future any possibility to see you all members sharing stage and playing your songs live?

We’d love to and some steps were already planned for the coming 2015 year. We’ve got some interesting offers for tours and we’d happy to play it for our kind audience. It’s very demanding project that requires a detailed attention, a serious management and many technical aspects to achieve. We still have to do many things together in the real time to confirm that we are ready: a new album, new videos. At least for now our concentration is mostly on the composing process and then to record the second album.

And a short fast questionnaire:

-Biggest influences as musicians?

From the old good days bossa nova to grind core, forward-thinking classics as Mussorgsky, Stravinsky, Schnittke, contemporary and experimental jazz, psychedelic, funk and SALSOUL disco.

-What are the current bands you enjoy the most listening to?

Depends on many factors. Last time I enjoy being in silence. This year I discovered CROBOT, ISAAC DELUSION, new NIGHTINGALE, BLOODBATH, SEBASTIEN TELLIER were amazing…

-What musicians you would love to share stage with?


Anything you want to add guys?

Few words to our new listener: We will be glad to hear that our debut has touched you, transformed something within, given strength, returned from somewhere, unlocked a “window” or even just brought a fresh breath. Every single word will inspire us to create new music. And thank you, dear Antonio, for this interview. We wish FREE! MAGAZINE the best of luck!

Books Features Interviews

Interview with British writer Peter James

Bestselling British writer Peter James visited Helsinki a few weeks ago to promote the Finnish translation of one of his books, Dead Man´s Time, and FREE! Magazine had the chance to sit down with him to have a pleasant talk about many aspects of his long career, not only as a recognized crime author but also about his roles as producer in Hollywood movies, his hobbies, and many other interesting anecdotes that this truly gentleman wanted to share with us:

Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you Mr. James! Have you been ever before in Finland?

A pleasure. Yes, I was here on April 2011. Helsinki is a beautiful city and people are very friendly.

Unfortunately I could not assist yesterday due to work to the public event to promote your book translated into Finnish, but how does it feel for you when you have to talk about a book you have written years before and then after that you have already published several others?

It is difficult! This year I have been like in around 15 different countries: Russia, France, Germany, Spain, etc and in every place I go can be 6 months or 1 year behind. Here in Finland is one book behind.

Peter James

If I am not mistaken since you were very young, your two big passions were writing and cinema. If you allow me to jump back in time years ago when you worked in North America, was it always a shared passion to work in both industries?

Well, I was doing what I could to make a living. At the beginning I was not selling enough books, I made my living writing scripts and producing film and television. Then in 1988 I wrote Possession that became a big success and then I wrote full time for 5 years. Then I was living in the countryside and I was missing the ¨world of people¨. I would speak to somebody in an office and I would think ¨you lucky bastard, you are sitting in an office surrounded by people, by beautiful girls, and I am sitting here with the dog and the rain!¨hehehe. I remember one day I walked through the field with my vacuum cleaner to repairing service just to talk to somebody! Hehehe So I thought ¨I need a life! ¨

In the cinema industry, every film is a battle. The last film I made was ¨The Merchant of Venice¨ in 2003, and you have, as with every film, you always have arguments. You have two or three producers who say ¨this is my film buddy¨, and then the director says ¨actually, it is my film!¨ and then the director of photography would say ¨he is an idiot, I saved the film!¨and then you have the actors that would say ¨darling, it is our film really¨ and then the editor would say ¨the film is a mess, I saved it!¨and the composer would say ¨the film was dead until I put the music on!¨

And what was your role?

Well, you are a ¨nurse¨. And with writing it is just me. Then in 2004 with the first Roy Grace book, I just thought ¨why am I bothering with films?¨

So is it really so brutal the film industry as people could imagine from outside, as you experienced it from inside?

it is really tough, lots of tremendous egos. Money disappears, even in the big studios. I think because of there is so much money involved… In books industry there is so much nicer people. In publishing, people who work there love books and reading. In movies, people love money.

Were you writing since you were young, or was there any breaking point when you decided that apart from the pleasure of reading, you also wanted to take a pencil and write?

I kind of wrote since the time I was 7. Then when I was 15 at school, I won a poetry price. I had a teacher who believed in me and thought that I had some talent, but I had no confidence as a child, I never thought I would amount to anything. I wrote a novel when I was 18 and to my amazement, it got me an agent in NY, that was a big boost, but it took me 10 years until I got my first book published. Then I went to film school and in the 70s in England it was terrible, there was no movie business. It was really hard to get into unions and everything. So I got a job for a daily show in Canada, Polka Dot Door, 6 puppets doing stuff and I was the runner. After 3 months the producer said that the writer was sick and they did not have a show and he had read my CV and asked me to write the show, so I started writing it 3 days a week. I was 22 and for me it was a huge confidence boost. And that was the start. Then I started making horror movie, they were cheap made in Canada. I wrote my first book when I was 28.

You keep a good discipline writing every day and you have been busy multitasking. Do you have enough hours during the day for writing plus all other activities?

Still my best writing time is from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. I have a vodka martini, music, cigarette… I love that. I look forward to that time of the day. Then I read in the mornings and in the afternoons I play tennis or walk the dogs or read emails.

¨I love writing. I think I would write even if I was not paid because I really love learning things about human nature¨

When you have to promote your books and you are on tour, do you still find time to write?

Yes, yesterday for example I had a couple of hours free and I was writing in the afternoon on a plane. I finished my last book on an airplane to Singapore! I feel I can work anywhere.

Your books can be found all over the world. Now, as a bestselling recognized author, what keeps you going? Is there a point where you feel ¨ok, I do not want to write today¨. I know for example that as a hobby you like racing cars, so is writing something that trough the years you enjoy the same?

I love writing. I think I would write even if I was not paid because I really love learning things. One thing I love when I write is that I try to learn about human nature, people fascinate me and criminals in particular fascinate me. So writing a new book is a challenge to learn something about human nature. I think if I would stop writing, then I would then start writing again cause I would miss it so much. What fascinate me the most is trying to make sense of the world where we live.

Do you think that most of the crime writers that become successful can feel a sense of empathy for the ¨bad guys¨ of the books?

I think that the most most successful bad guys in literature are the ones whom you feel something for. For example, Hannibal Lecter, he is quite a monster but we kind of like it. For example Dracula is a monster, but he has got style. Frankenstein is a monster but we feel sympathy as he turns to his creator and says ¨you made me, I did not want to be like this¨. So I think that the best fictional criminals are the ones we feel something about. In real life, all of us… part of the fascination in crime novels is to think ¨what is the difference between a guy who does that and me?¨ All of us, you me and everyone in this office is able of committing murder. We have our bare hands, we have knives in the kitchen, we could get rid of the body and buy in a shop a shovel and some garbage bags… What we have not got as those people is the ability to live with it. We could do that, but after the remorse… we would have to tell somebody. Those ones who do not have remorse are the really dangerous people, and really fascinating ones.

Interesting! You hang around with the police often and do a lot of research for your books. Are you able when you hang around with the police to sleep peacefully and separate what you see from your personal life?

I get a lot of bad dreams a lot of nights. I see stuff constantly that most people are lucky enough not to see, but I always believe that you must do your research. I always remember the second book I wrote in 1982 called ¨bone angel¨I keep it unprinted for 35 years because I felt ashamed. I located a scene in Namibia but I was not there as I could not afford the trip, and then in the first interview I was asked ¨How was it like in Namibia?¨ And I was ¨Well you know, it was hot, there was a lot of sand… hehehe¨. I thought that I had cheated to my readers and promised not to do it ever again. So if I am describing something I want to go there.

How did you come up with the idea of Roy Grace character and his name?

What happened is that I was writing these spy stories that were not selling, I was very upset as with 3 books in a row I was not selling anything. And a friend of mine told me ¨Why are you writing about spies? What could I know about spies? You cannot research about it, you are not John Le Carre who worked in intelligence. You need to write about what fascinates you and that you can access¨. So we got a burglar and a detective came to my house and invited me to hang around with the police, they invited us to a police social night, a barbecue at their house, all the friends were policemen. I thought it was fascinating. Then time later somebody told me about this young homicide detective, his name is Dave Gaylor and when I arrived to his office, it was a mess, every inch was full of files, plastic boxes… I said ¨Are you moving?¨and he said ¨No, these are my dead friends¨. He explained he had been given the job to reopen all the unsolved murderers in the county of Sussex applying the latest advances in recognizing DNA, fingerprints, etc. He said that each of those boxes contained the principle file of an unsolved murder and was the last chance that the victim had for justice and the family for peace of mind.

So we became friends and he helped me in my research of my early books. Then was when my publishers asked me if I had thought about creating a detective as a central character. So I went to Dave and I said to him if he wanted to be a fiction detective, and he loved it! I changed his name, he does not look the same and his wife is not missing, but we work very close, he helps me when I am plotting the book, he tells me how Grace would think and whom I should talk to in my research.

Why the word ¨Dead¨ appears in every one of Roy Grace`s saga titles?

At first when I chose titles like ¨Twilight¨or ¨Alchemist¨, they had no copyright and then somebody else was coming with the same title. So I decided to find interesting titles with the word Dead, original that nobody would have used before. I thought that I should keep it… even people call it now the ¨Dead Series¨.

Peter James

You have hobbies like racing fast cars and writing about restaurants and food. What do you prefer, a good race or a good meal?

I love racing historical cards. Now I am racing a 1965 BMW. I race mostly in UK but sometimes in other countries too, next year I am going to do Monza and Spa.

Ever had a bad car accident while racing?

Yes, in May last year in 2013 I broke 3 ribs and I had 3 discs in my back. I still have my right leg a bit numb… but I am racing again! I love the atmosphere! It is the only time I relax. When I am at home or playing tennis or at the beach, I am still thinking about my book, but when I am racing is all consuming. I always loved cars!

You were at first line of the battlefront when your novel Host was advertised as the first digital novel. What do you think of this ¨war¨ between digital books Vs printed books?

I think that my first point is always that storytelling is storytelling and does not matter what the media is. Look at Shakespeare, he wrote plays because people did not read novels. Nowadays Shakespeare would be writing novels I think, as it is the biggest way to communicate. The popular printed books have been with us less than 100 years, relatively new. So when Host came out and they called it the first digital novel, although I think there were one or two before it, I became a world authority. I was invited to a speech in 1995 in Los Angeles about the future of the literature, and I was on a platform with Steve Jobs, the President of Time Warner, Nicholas Negroponte who was the director of MIT Media Lab and then me having jet lag thinking ¨what the fuck am I doing here?¨. So I think the digital book will become popular when is more convenient. Ask a child in 50 years time when is used to accessing everything on a screen. We as children were accessing everything on print. There are people who enjoy the feeling of the print and people who enjoy the convenience of a Kindle. Even old people read Kindle as they can do the print bigger, etc.

I have curiosity about your experience working in Hollywood as you have been with some of the most legendary actors and actresses in the world. How is to work with big stars as Al Pacino, etc. Do they have big egos or are more down to Earth that what we could imagine?

Some yes have big egos but some not. With Al Pacino we had a dinner with my partner in NY in November 2004 and with Jeremy Irons, and it was like being with a band of mates. The worst I have worked with was Peter Sellers, and Michael J. Pollard who was in the film Bonny and Clyde… he was… puff! There are a few who were pretty tricky. But for example Charlize Theron was really nice, Robert de Niro was pretty ok but demanding… I think my favorite is Al Pacino and also Sharon Stone, she is fun! We became good friends. I also worked with a Spanish actress, Nadiuska and with others as Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, James Gardner

What are your plans after your current visit here in Finland?

I am going to Germany on tour there. Then back in England trying to finish my new book and then to America and then Canada and Iceland! I have not been before there in Iceland so I am looking forward to it. I will try to finnish my new book this week before I go to Germany.

Art Features Interviews Misc

Grace Vane Percy: The Art of Nudity

FREE! Magazine met recently in the lobby of a hotel in Helsinki centre with British photographer Grace Vane Percy, one of the most well known names in UK when talking about nude photography, while she was visiting the Finnish capital.

Grace is planning to move to Finland in the near future this year due to the studies and work of her husband, who collaborates with the Finnish opera designing stages, so our talk is a double opportunity, firstly for us to get to know more about nude photography and secondly for her to get to know more about Finland and Helsinki.

“I cannot believe that it is already 10 years that I have been doing this job!” exclaims Grace, who comes from a very strong classical art foundation, having studied at Central Saint Martin’s in London and in Florence; a classic influence which really can be spotted at first sight in the amazing and beautifully balanced compositions of her photographs. “My father asked me at some point what I wanted to be, if I’d pursue being an artist or wanted to focus on photography, so if I wanted to be a photographer I had to come back to the UK “and get on with it!” and so I did!”.

Grace Vane Percy photography

Grace has been primarily based in London in the infamous neighbourhood of Notting Hill but also travelling around the world to meet her clients. Grace has built a strong reputation as one of the most refined photographers specialized mainly in female nudity. Working exclusively on black and white medium format film, she finds that it makes the colour less distracting and adds a layer between the reality of the flesh and the image.

Not just as a journalist but also as a man, I find curious where is the limit drawn between a photo being considered just artistic or erotic. Grace explains her views: “For me an erotic photo is more about the meaning behind the picture, is not about the woman being objectified but more about showing provocation. You can see in many of my photos as the model looks disconnected from the viewer, but if I want to achieve something more erotic, then I play with the attitude. So the model engages more looking at the camera and in a way being more ‘inviting’ to the viewer”.

Recently she has taken a departure from her standard female subject matter and tried her hand at photographing male models and in some cases with couples. Grace mostly prefers working with women. “I think women definitely feel more at ease with me being also a woman. They do not feel the pressure to be judged and they are often surprised by how easy and natural it becomes to be naked around me. Being physically naked also makes them feel more emotionally naked and they face this kind of photo session as a release and a way to confront an anxiety, because in the end everybody wants to feel appreciated. Usually when couples come to have their photos taken, men are more much shy and hide behind their women.”

I feel curious to know what kind of clients get in contact with Grace. Being the cost of a session with her 575 (GBP), I wonder if usually the people portrayed belong to high class. But Grace thinks is not like that: “There are photographers who do similar job, but charge much more. Also many work digitally so their costs are far lower, you have to discount from my rate the cost of the materials, the film & processing etc… Clients usually always love the results because they end up with something more like you can see in a gallery, they understand the quality and recognise it is art, something which they could even display in their living room. So the person becomes a subject, an inspiration enclosed in a work of art. I like having a variety of clients, and I find with this price range it is attainable for a wider variety of people, which is also more interesting for me. But then when coming to Finland, I have to see if I need to rethink the prices”.

Grace Vane Percy photography
And Grace has already being doing some research about how the market could be in Finland: “I have heard that now here is an interest in Boudoir Photography, which has a different feeling to what I do, so that shows a certain curiosity about nude/semi nude imagery. I have seen a lot of pretty girls walking around Helsinki. Sometimes I feel like a teenage boy, cause I would love to walk to them and ask them if I could photograph them naked, but then I do nothing!” says Grace laughing.

Although soon moving to the coldness of north Europe, this seem to be a hot year for Grace, preparing the release of her book “Venus” after 4 years of work behind it and looking forward to future challenges.

Finland prides itself on producing some of the most strong, independent and beautiful women in the world. Now is an excellent chance to enjoy having one of the best nude photographers in the world here in this country and maybe be part of a photo session that will leave you a memorable set of photos to remember forever the exaltation of the female body as the sublime elevation of beauty to be displayed and worshipped.

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At the cinema Cinema Features Interviews

Interview with actor Faran Tahir

Although a veteran actor who has played many roles in theater, TV series and movies such as Star Trek and Iron Man, this year seems to be so far the year of Faran Tahir. Not only appearing currently in the blockbuster “Elysium”, but soon in October we will see him sharing the screen with Schwarzenegger and Stallone while trying to escape from jail in “Escape Plan”. FREE! Magazine brings you an exclusive interview with Faran all the way from Hollywood where he tells us very juicy facts about his career, projects and movie partners.

Currently the spectators can see you in the cinema theaters around the world in the film Elysium. What can they expect about the movie and about your particular role as the president of Elysium?

I think the movie has all the thrills and imagination that a great science fiction movie should deliver but it also has some very current and serious themes under all of that. Themes like elitism, classism, immigration, medical care, integration. I am hoping that the audiences will enjoy the action but hopefully it will also start a dialogue in their head and with others about all these issues. My character is trying to walk a very nuanced line, as politicians do, to resolve a complex and sensitive crisis.

Faran Tahir

How was working with director Neill Blomkamp? It must have been also challenging for him to coordinate a production way much bigger than his previous hit District 9…

Neill is a brilliant director. Although, it was a much bigger production but he was more than capable of handling it.

In Elysium, some of the topics treated are quite hot in our current real world: Immigration, separation of social classes… Do people in Hollywood get aware of these issues?

Yes, I think people in all walks of life are aware of these issues. This movie is proof that these issues are in the forefront of every ones minds.

If I am not mistaken, your family was already into the movie industry in India and Pakistan. So were you pretty much ‘drinking’ from their influence to become an actor since childhood? In what way your family shaped your wishes for the future to act?

My family has been in the arts and entertainment actively for three generations. When you have been this immersed in a field your approach is realistic. You have seen the creativity, heartaches, success and failures. You need to prepare yourself for all of that. The dialogues with my family were about all of that. How best to prepare for all eventualities and not lose you core and center in the process..

You have a broad experience in theater, TV series and in cinema movies. So what are the main differences from your point of view when you have worked in these 3 areas as actor?

Although the emotional connection to character and script remain the same, the technique needs to be adjusted. There are some stories that are best told in front of a live audience while others need the enormity of the silver screen and some might need the luxury of unfolding over weeks, months, years that television provides. One has to respect the medium that one is working in and the kind of story one is telling.

Although you have done many different roles, certainly it seems that you are often casted as the “villain” kind of guy in the movies. Is it something that you enjoy, or is there a point where you say to your agent “Oh nooo, not another role as the “bad guy”!!!?

Actually, in the past four years I have made about 20 appearances on film and TV and only 5 were ‘villain’ characters. Bad guys do stick in peoples minds more. They are fun to play if you play them honestly. If you can make them human. I do make sure that if I playing too much of the same that I find variety. For instance, this year I have three movies releasing. I play the president in ELYSIUM, a prisoner in ESCAPE PLAN and a father who lost a son in a shopping mall explosion in TORN.

Faran Tahir

Having already had a long experience in Hollywood, do you remember what was your favorite actor to work with? Any interesting anecdotes to share?

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone. I have been blessed to have had the good fortune of working with so many talented people. Jeff Bridges and I in IRON MAN had a very funny night shooting. We had a particularly long day. We had been working for 16 hrs straight. We were shooting a scene at 2 am and we just could not walk and talk at the same time. At one point, we just got the giggles like little kids.

Soon in October you will appear again in another hot title, Escape Plan, partnering with no less than Stallone and Schwarzenegger! Were you a fan of their action movies? I suppose you cannot ask for better company when is about throwing punches on the big screen…

What boy is not a fan of action movies? Stallone and Schwarzenegger are icons of that genre. It was great working with them and I think the movie has turned out to be amazing.

What are your hobbies and passions in your free time when you are not acting?

Running, cycling, good food, traveling, and day dreaming.

For the rest of the mortals on earth whose only connection to Hollywood is to go to the closest cinema theater… please tell us, what is in your opinion the best and the worst of being an actor in these super productions that will be seen by million of people around the globe?

The best and the worst is the same. You put a part of you in a character and share it with world. it is the best when people appreciate it and the worst when they don’t.

Anything you want to add for our readers?

Don’t let go of your dreams.

Articles Concerts Interviews Misc Music

Breaking the Surface Tour: Bringing talent together!

Bringing the Surface tour is an interesting project that was surfing by bus for 10 days around the Nordic countries until arriving in Helsinki, the Finnish capital.

On head of this is Danish composer and musician Jonas Andreasen together with Finnish singer Sini Koskelainen and a bunch of talented musicians that belong to their “Near Life Experience” project that headed on this adventure from Aarhus in Denmark through Norway, Sweden and Finland, interacting with other local bands, gathering musical ideas, and offering an exciting show full of music, visual effects and dance, brought by the Finnish dancer Nadja Alve.

Near Life Experience

We met the crew just before their final performance at Gloria Cultural Centre in the heart of Helsinki. After 10 days on the road, they were tired and dreaming of a hot shower, plus it was not the easy end when part of the band got sick with food poisoning. However, they were full of illusion to perform in a city that Andreas recognized loves, having lived and studied in Helsinki. Before the local band Elifentree would warm up the atmosphere with some amazing skills by his drummer, it was time to sit with Andreas and drummer Frej Lesner so they could tell us more about how the tour went:

Thanks for your time! Can you tell us a bit more, Andreas, how the project to go on the road for these 10 days came up and how you met Sini (Koskelainen)?

Jonas: I was studying in Aarhus and Sini came there, we heard each other play, and I had a chance to play with her quarter. We just liked each other’s stuff and energy. I wanted to write music with a bigger group but I had difficulties to find a singer, so when I met Sini, it was a super good connection. That is how it goes started, and then we wrote music together and I arranged everything. We put the band together and we did a project together that was a big success in Aarhus. That is how the band got started. Now she is living in Helsinki and I am living in Berlin and all the musicians are in Aarhus. We received the support of a cultural organization there and we are glad to get any help, because it is difficult to tour with a relatively unknown band.

Did you know the other musicians beforehand?

Jonas: They come from all over Denmark, except of the trombone player who is Swedish. Very talented musicians that I was lucky to be able to handpick. Here is Frej, the drummer, one of the first I asked to join the band. So far we had been playing only in Denmark, so this is a big step for us.

You were in other countries sharing the stage with other bands. How was the experience to meet other musicians?

Frej: It was great, I heard some bands with some great musicians. Also this band in its own, it is great to play with this band, they are all great musicians. There is no hiding when you have to play, you have to take control of the music. And we also get to know new places to play. It is very difficult when you are sitting in Aarhus to know for example where to play in Helsinki. So it is great to expand the network.

Near Life Experience

So how is to be on the road traveling by bus for 10 days? What other activities did you do… did you get much sleep time?

Jonas: We would mostly sleep when the bus was driving, but actually not so much sleep. Everyone has been sick also. But well, this is also part of it, it is something you have to do. But it has been so great musically, we have got so much, a good response from all the audience. When we arrive in a new town, we hang around the city, and then a lot of hours in the venue doing the soundcheck, getting something to eat, doing the show… and then on the road again.

They always say that Finland is different than the other Scandinavian countries. Now that you got the experience to tour around all of them, what is your feeling?

Frej: Well, just the language itself is different. It is kind of a mixture of Russian and Nordic culture, somehow.
Jonas: I have been living in Aarhus and Stockholm and Helsinki. I really love Finland so much, feel close to the Finns and to Helsinki. It has less of the Scandinavian “stiffness” that we have in Denmark and Sweden.

What people can expect from the show tonight? What are the backbone ideas behind the show?

Jonas: I would tell them to open their hearts and ears and eyes. It is a mixture, we try to have a big visual side of what we do musically. That is the idea behind the dancing of Nadja. We have some music that some people say that is hard to listen to, a mix of jazz and modern language with a lot of improvisation. Giving some visual expression really help people to get the music and get into it. A lot of people say that it was great and they had never heard anything like that.

Near Life Experience

So do musicians get a lot of freedom to improvise?

Frej: Well, for me as a drummer, I feel that everything I play is something I have invented myself, but of course always on the frame of what Jonas want.

Jonas: I write a lot, but I write for certain people I know very well. So I know or at least I try to write what people need to play. There are places where people do a lot of free style, but of course I need to bring some overview. To know the direction and why something is happening right now.

What are your future plans after you finish this tour?

Jonas: We have the EP with 3 songs and we are releasing a full album, already recorded, this fall. So many things going on!

For coming back, will you go back by bus or flying?

Both: Flying! Enough bus for a while!

Features Interviews Music

Interview with Gary Hector from Jointpop. Rock from Trinidad and Tobago!!!

An editor who writes about music receives dozens and dozens of albums every month to review. There is often no time to listen to all of them, nevertheless to say that many end up not being impressive. However, from the start I got totally hooked when I first listened to The Pot Hounds, a great rounded album full of good rock, and my curiosity grew even bigger discovering that the band behind was from exotic Trinidad & Tobago. So FREE! Magazine contacted Gary Hector so he could tell us more about his band, concerts, projects, hobbies and how rock is experienced in his home country.

Hello Gary and thanks a lot to attend our questions! So Jointpop has been around already for many years since 1996. Can you explain a bit how the project started and also how you personally gave your first steps into the music industry?

I had just parted ways with my previous band called Oddfellows Local, and was just sitting around at home for some months. Then I started writing songs again, so I called up a few guys from the local scene and put together jointpop in 1996. We actually recorded 5 songs even before we played a gig in Trinidad and Tobago.


Like I suppose that many of our readers, I must admit my knowledge of the music scene in Trinidad & Tobago is almost non existent. How is the music scene and specifically the rock scene there? Is it easy to find venues to play around?

Well the live music scene here is based on the Calypso and Soca music, which works along side the annual Carnival festival.The rock scene is really deep into the underground. There is a decent following for the various rock bands but the people here seem to love Tribute bands or bands like Air Supply, Peter Cetera and The Outfield. Plus there is also a vibrant Metal scene. We just need to “Roll” more than we “Rock”, but so its goes. jointpop just pay no attention to it all and just do what we do.

Are you currently living in Trinidad or somewhere else? I see that you have been touring quite a lot in UK and USA during the last years.

Yes… We all live in Trinidad and Tobago. Born and bred. We tour when we can, to promote a new album when we release them. We played gigs in USA and did 3 tours to the UK. The next tour will be to Canada in Sept 2013.

I notice in your music some influence from classic British rock bands like Rolling Stones, The Beatles… Were those bands the ones you like listening the most as music fan? What bands do you like listening to nowadays?

Classic British Invasion rock n roll bands are my main thing yea…Stones,Beatles, Kinks and also UK Punk rock like Pistols,The Clash and all that. I am very much a Dylan disciple.
Some of the stuff of recent times would be anything from Jack White .

What other hobbies do you like practising when you are not playing or working on your music?

I’m a very big sports fan and player,so football, cricket, golf. I’m also a qualified football coach. A family and friends man.


Any favorite track in your latest album? And why that particular interest in dogs/hounds? At least 2 songs have dog in their titles plus the title of the album itself

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, A “Pot Hound” is a stray, street dog, and there are lots of them. No owners,no love, and they just roam the streets, and eat from garbage cans and live off the scraps. People would throw stones at them, and sometimes just run them over and leave them to rot. So this album is jointpop being “ Pot Hounds”, which we are, in relation to the local music scene. So its like semi fictional band a band called “The Pot Hounds” with an album called ‘jointpop”. Mini confusion situation really.

Plus I own 5 dogs..and yes, they are all Pot Hounds. I really like all the songs on the album, but will mention Sweet Nothings,Man Dog Millionaire,Dead Frog Perfume,Sexy Garbage Can and Treat me like The Dog I am.

It looks like you are a band that loves being on the road travelling. Do you have any particular special anecdote to share of these years touring around the world?

I just really wish we can do it more, as we are really good close friends also. So we have lots of fun and just love being on stage together and playing our songs for people from various parts of this world.

What are your future plans for the rest of 2013?

A 2 week tour in September to some cities in Canada, with gigs at The Pop Montreal Festival and also in Toronto,Ottawa and Quebec City, and would try to get back to the UK in November.

Anything you want to add for the readers?

Thanks for interview and to the people reading it and checking out jointpop and our country Trinidad and Tobago. Visit us someday, and follow us on the various social networks… cheers..takk!

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Concerts Features Interviews Music

Interview with Johannes, singer of Swedish metal band Avatar

Text and Photos: Antonio Diaz

What does a Spaniard do at the backstage of Nosturi in Helsinki surrounded by Swedish metal heads while Finland plays against Sweden in the ice hockey world championship? Talking relaxed to Johannes, singer of the Swedish band Avatar. There will be time later to see how Finland loses (damn, not again!!!) against its nemesis Sweden, but meanwhile we are sitting on the sofa with a friendly easy going Johannes offering a cold beer to fight the humid warm that wraps the Finnish capital and chatting with FREE! Magazine about their trips, music, lyrics and expectations for the concert that will take place a few hours later in the same venue. Johannes is pretty familiar with Helsinki, since actually he dates an Italian lady who lives there and visits often.

Yes, I have been in Helsinki now countless times. I visit at least once a month, so I am starting to find my way around. I know the bars, well the bars because I always end up in the same one, in Base Bar. It has the feeling of a beer hall that I really love.

So are you familiar of the traditional “ferry culture”, those famous boat trips between Finland and Sweden where all kind of crazy things happen?

Oh, I fly usually, but yeah I know them. We have been on tour on those ferries. Beautiful experience! Hehehe. It is something special, like for example sharing a stage singing karaoke with Finnish truckers!


Before coming here, you were touring in USA. How was the American experience?

It was really really cool! The thing is that although we are close to start recording the next album, we are still touring with Black Waltz album and it was the first one that got released in USA, so we did not really expect much but we did really well over there, having the opportunity to do our first real tour there. We were blown away and we had the opportunity to blow people away too.

In Europe, especially in North Europe where the drinks at the bars and venues are so expensive, people go directly to see the headliners, but maybe in USA people are more open to arrive earlier and see the opening bands too, right? It must feel much better to play for packed venues…

Exactly! We play for full venues and that was really special. After that, I try to make a point to arrive earlier to the shows I want to see as spectator! Hehehe. Even the coverage with the radio stations is so different what they have there going on radio wise. I guess here the biggest coverage for metal music is printed media and webzines and there is radio and then webzines. We get played… not at all at the radio stations in Europe. But in USA, being a big country with a common language, they can reach all the few metal heads here and here and there and there, so in the end adds a lot of people. I think that is the reason… and maybe that they do not like reading so much… hehehe.

“Sharing my energy onstage with the audience is something bigger than punching someone!”

Actually I met some months ago for another interview in this same venue with the guitarist another band you toured in USA, Cristiano of Lacuna Coil, and he commented me how the economical crisis around the world makes more and more difficult for them to promote their music and keep afloat. Have you got a similar feeling of the crisis affecting your band?

The thing is that we have been around for 10 years, releasing albums for 7, but still when this crisis started in 2008, 2 years after our first album came out, and at that time Napster was “old”, you know. So we are a bit part of a different generation when we do not know any other way than the current situation here now. I guess is different for older people when they were playing already in the 90s and then they saw this transition, like “what happened to the world?”, but for us this world we are operating right now is pretty much the same one that has always been.

Have the social networks been a good tool to reach your audiences?

Definitely! And we have been learning about that. Actually I am more personally an “anti social networks” person. I was not so dragged into it, to begin with, but then you realize that the people are there and there is where they are looking for us, they are looking for us in Facebook and places like that. So it is pretty cool we can do our little competitions about answering questions and have this direct contact. So that is very cool, as far as you avoid all the shit around it.


Your latest released album, Black Waltz, took a bit longer to be released than the previous ones. Any special reason for it?

Uhm, I guess so… Let´s count… The first album must be January 2006 and then one and a half year… and then 2 years. So yeah. We took a bit of time to focus on other things we wanted to take care of before releasing the album, the videos, the photos… Due to preparations, it needed a bit of delay. We tried to figure out how to get deals to release it everywhere and that takes time. And you cannot do that before the album is finished, because you want to send the record company the pictures, the videos, the songs, all the cool material. That made it take a little bit longer, but I have no regrets about it. That for example led to the US release that we talked about before, so it was good for us.

So you mentioned before that you are already working in the next album?

Yes, we have been working on it for a while and again, it is a bit too early for me to be too specific about it, but I think we got really cool stuff and now is about making all fit in the same box. I have hopes to have it released it this year, but expectations are always hard. Whatever we do, we want to do it 200%, so we still need some decisions to be made along the way. As I said, too early to be more specific, but for sure I can say that as soon as we are back at home, we will be working our asses off on it!

I have noticed that Avatar also loves paying special attention to the visual aspect and quality of the videos. For example I think it was actually very challenging to sing the lyrics backwards in “Torn Apart”, right?

Oh, yeah yeah! I would have needed two more months of practice, I guess! I was also looking for messages from Satan there, but sorry, nothing came out. Only I think I say something in a weird kind of German that is like “the trolls will stop right here”, but yeah, apart from that, no hidden messages. I have to disappoint you. But yeah, it was very tricky and funny to do! The theme was a bit of “Fight Club”, angry young men beating each other up out of pure frustration, and then came this fact that we are a bit of “circus” band in many ways and pro wrestling is totally like a circus thing to me, the extravagant showmanship fits perfectly. It was a fun way to portray this theme about frustration.


How is it for you guys when you are on tour? Do you also get those moments of frustration when you need some aggressive activity to relieve the feelings, or just booze kills the pain?

Well, beer keeps me happy, and well, maybe sounds like old cliché, but makes sense when you get onstage and you get the chance to scream and do something positive with that energy you have on you, especially when you get to share it with the audience, so you make a common experience out of it. That is something bigger than punching someone! It takes you and the audience to a better level.

Other theme that gets repeated in your music is the decadence. It seems that people find appealing the change between 2 eras, lights and shadows…

Yeah, it is a rich background to paint. It brings you automatically to some parts of your life where your actions have been maybe more decadent than other parts of your life, and that is all part of it. The transition between eras… that is when something is happening. I guess is a bit of a journey, every human being has some kind of experience of going up and down, this journey up and down, and I think those times are the most interesting to describe. And in that sense is because we like the circus theme. It has some mystery to it, the mystery of the circus.


I heard you feel very welcome in the previous American tour we just talked about by the other bands. In general in your musical career, what is your favorite band to tour with?

I have never had any real bad experience with other bands, the only dramatic one was our first tour because we were kids and we did not know how to behave, what to do or what not to do. So we gave Impaled Nazarene a hard time, I think, because we were kids that someone should have slapped us! And that was our fault, not theirs. Other than that, when you get to know how to work and be together, a circus company travelling, it is always good. We got the chance for example with a band we admire a lot, Halloween, so we could see them live 8 nights in a row and I got the chance to sit with Michael Weikath and ask him everything. That was super cool and they were super friendly. With other bands like In Flames is easy because we share a common background coming from the same city, we were swimming in the same swimming hall and walking the same streets. Now it is very cool to be with Engel because we know each other for a bunch of years, they were our rehearsing neighbors, and although before we played sometimes in the same shows, this is the first time we can do something together “for real”, putting our names in the same poster.

So what will be the next projects for the summer, I suppose pretty much dedicated to the incoming new album…?

Yes, we have 1 more show in August, but this summer will be pretty much devoted to writing and recording and creating a new great chapter for Avatar!

Cover story Interviews Misc

Interview with Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, Creative Director of Marimekko

Text by Eva Blanco

Marimekko is all about colour. That is the first thing you realize when you step into the headquarters of the brand located in Herttoniemi (East Helsinki). Suddenly your eyes start travelling from one canvas to another – their patterns being all around the building as part of the interior decoration-, and you get the growing conviction that you have just entered into some kind of wonderland, where people are stylish, smile at you for no reason, and, most probably, are also able to levitate and make themselves transparent to avoid being disturbed. Anything is possible when you are surrounded by all those fabrics printed with their daring designs. But, be careful before continuing to read! It has been proved recently that colour, when consumed in large quantities, may have dangerous consequences on your brain – it can enhance your creativity or put you in a summery mood! We have already warned you, from now on, it ́s your own responsibility!

Translated into English, Marimekko means “Mari’s dress”. Mari, Mery, María… For Armi Ratia, who founded the brand in 1951, this ubiquitous name contained two of the most fascinating characteristics, simplicity and functionality. All of us – you too, unless your mother was told you were to be a boy- could have been Mari. That is why it seems so easy to identify ourselves with the name, maybe as easy as Armi wanted it to be for all of her fellow citizens to be able to also identify with her textile designs. A personal wish that, more than sixty years later in the history of the brand, has not only been widely accomplished but indeed seems modest compared to the growing international dimension of the house.


In 2011, the year of its half-century anniversary, Marimekko opened its own flagship store on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway in New York, together with six more commercial spaces in the United States – especially located on the West Coast. Plus, due to the strong sales growth, the Asia-Pacific region became the brand’s second-biggest market, following the lead of Finland, which represented up to 64% net sales in the same period. Last year the company entered the Chinese market via Hong-Kong, thus securing a concrete business strategy that has been defined by its President and CEO, Mika Ihamuotila, in these words: “Dynamic expansion requires patience from the company and its shareholders, but I am convinced that this will be fruitful for Marimekko in the long term”.

With the arrival of Spring , Minna Kemell-Kutvonen, Marimekko’s Creative Director, has allowed us into their offices and beloved textile printing factory so that we can visit them and discuss the future challenges a brand with a well defined local identity needs to confront when its products are being sold in approximately 40 countries. Minna gives me a firm handshake, smiles generously and, as if to break the ice, confesses that it feels so good to finally have a face to face interview, rather than speak only by phone as she had been doing lately. Then, when she begins to talk with passion about the brand’s creative philosophy, I can’t help wondering…Would it ever have crossed her parent ́s mind to have called her Mari? After all, both names did start with a capital “M”.

If you had to describe the brand to somebody who has never heard about it, what would you say?

All in all, Marimekko is an aesthetic understanding and interpretation of our everyday life. We translate it into shape, colours and patterns. We could say that it is more like a way to live. More than sixty years of history has proved that our aim is to be present in every detail of our customer’s world – not only through fashion and clothing but also through fabrics where print creates a special atmosphere in the home, or even through the cups you use for your daily coffee break!. When you are an aesthetically orientated person, and you love to arrange space in a particular way, you have to take into account that you look at the same objects constantly and, thus, a very special bond needs to be established with them. So, I believe they are also an active part of your life.

Then, of course, there are some days when you wake up longing to introduce some new, and often contradictory, products into your personal space, and though it may seem to be a little disturbing for the usual harmony, by doing that you can find something truly fresh. In this house we are always open to these kind of contradictions. For instance, if you think about our history, in Finland it is commonly known that the creation of the brand after the war, in 1951, coincided with a time when the most part of the population living in the countryside decided to move to the cities. And their life there was different from the one they used to have back in their villages, their regular activities now were much closer to the academic spheres and to the office work. So, from Marimekko they were able to find some of those things they were missing the most from their homeland…maybe even some emotions like the one inspired by the sunrise, interesting winds, rocks, sea landscapes….In short, they brought a reinforced romantic feeling back into their lives. And that ́s how the brand became a part of them.


So, we could conclude that some concepts such as the reinterpretation of the rural world, or the search for comfort inside the Finnish nature are key issues for the company…

Of course those are key concepts for us, but, if you think about the present context, now that people have been living in the cities for several generations, there is a growing opposition between constructions and natural spaces. And I consider this to be a very interesting collision concerning both nature and architecture: they must coexist together, understand each other, and somewhere in that dialogue there is an intersection which Marimekko also tries to be part of.

So, how would you say the creative philosophy has evolved over more than sixty years of history?

The main idea for our creations is related to the aesthetic thinking. In every decade we have trusted our designers intuition, how they perceive the world and reflect the time they are living in through their compositions. But I have to say that now the world has become bigger for us as a brand than it used to be. We didn ́t operate at the same international level in the past as we currently do – though we had some interesting global contacts, we worked mostly in Finland and Scandinavia. Our beginnings go back to the first printed fabrics, which later on were transferred to women’s fashion collections. Back then we were a smaller company, but now that we are immersed in a global market with customers in varied locations, we need to have a deeper understanding of different cultures and religions, as those are two of the factors shaping people’s everyday lives.

Thus, we try to conceive our designers ideas and creations also as an ingredient of the global discussion. In Finland, due to our geographical situation, there is a very interesting conversation taking place between East and West, and we got a lot of influences from the Russian esthetic but, at the same time, also from the whole of Scandinavia that surrounds us. Also, Finnish people we are quite practical – we tend to solve things without complicating matters. I believe that approach has helped us in Marimekko to give effective answers in this new era of global demand.

What do you consider to be the main challenges for the future in this global market context?

In my view, one of the biggest challenges we will have to face in the near future is maintaining our ability to discuss and look at things from an open perspective – normally the creative team have that broad vision, but sometimes they are also challenging. So, as a designer, you should follow your intuition and expertise, but at the same time you are required to be receptive to that demands coming from people located in different market areas, like, for instance, the west coast in US.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your main markets nowadays?

Well, basically we would be talking about Finland, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. Then, in the last two years we have opened stores in the U.S, Hon-Kong and Australia. So it is very exciting to compare all these different markets, and realize that, despite the cultural gap, people act in a coincidental way everywhere. There is not such a dramatic difference if you look at the broad landscape. All of us have to sleep, eat and to go to work, and, at the emotional level, we are all looking for similar things. Plus, the Asian market seems to be really close to the Scandinavian one, overall in the kind of attitude they manifest…they are more profound, sophisticated, quieter!.

Minna Kemell-Kutvonen

Due to its undeniable success, the Unikko pattern (1964) was one of the main achievements in the Marimekko’s history, which other do you have?

First off, let me give you a little context on the Unikko pattern. Armi Ratia, the founder of Marimekko, had strictly told the designers she didn ́t want to see any flowers in their patterns because natural flowers are already so beautiful and there was no point in trying to copy them for our fabrics – she thought it was not possible to capture that beauty. However, moved by a very strong inspiration, our designer Maija Issola decided to draw a floral pattern so powerful that Armi herself couldn ́t deny its authenticity and spirit. So, through that independent way of thinking she created this graphical flower from her own perception and interpretation of this natural gift. In my view, it contains a very strong attitude that gets reinforced through the graphical elements. You can immediately see there is an intense flow coming out of it, and, either you love it or you hate it, but it certainly won ́t allow you to remain impassive.

Then, I think there are some other momentous in our history as a brand that have to be mentioned, like when at the beginning we started to adapt our printed patterns to female fashion collections – mostly dresses made of cotton. Also, in the early the seventies, we printed our canvas back packs and launch them to the market, it consisted on a very basic pattern suitable both for children, students and also for women going to work. Last but not least, we have our “Tasaraita” pattern (“even stripes” in English) designed by Annika Rimala in 1968. This fabric became an icon of the equality thinking, cause both men and women could wear it on their clothing. The message it sent was that everybody was at the same level. So, it had a big impact on society… and we are really proud of it.

What can you tell us about the work atmosphere in Marimekko?

At Marimekko we usually have open and fruitful discussions related to the projects we are developing, I guess it is because we are a very flat company. So, we are working quite closely to each other, and, though of course we have at the same time built up a well-structured organization, in any case there is a lot of interaction and dialogue among employees.

How do you normally face a new collection?

We start with a “kick off meeting” in which we settle the main theme the collection is going to be based on. Then, we launch this theme to our designers and establish some kind of deadlines to see how the three lines of the collection ( fashion, interior, and bags and accessorizes) work together. Once we have decided which designers are going to be in charge of the different parts of the collection, they start to sketch inspired by the theme we have settled on at the first meetings. We try to meet with them every week – most are freelancer designers, so they don ́t have their studio at the headquarters- and agree on some guidelines for the next steps of the creative process.

Which kind of themes do you usually work with? Can you give us an example?

Our themes are usually very abstract – and quite open in any case! That way it’s easier to come up with fresh and innovative ideas. Once the designers show us their first sketches we can start the discussion to add new concepts to their proposals. For instance, the upcoming fall collection (2013) is based on how beautiful different kinds of weather are, like rainy days with their gray skies, and the emotions they make you feel…we try to reflect that on our lines. Our designers have to find out which different elements the changing weather can bring to you, how you are exposed to it or interact with it. Actually, there are many angles to look at it, sometimes the final images on the patterns are more concrete, some others the whole process gets really subjective and artistic!.

What was the main inspiration you had for the Spring Collection we can now see in your shops?

The idea behind this Spring Collection was related to colour block and colour thinking. How colours influence your everyday life. Following this idea Tuula Pöyhönen has designed her beautiful “Suprema Collection”, inspired by supremacist Russian painter Kazimir Malévich. The thing is that we have a very good taste for colors in our house. In that sense, our designers get to work so freely cause we have our own printing meal and color kitchen. Sometimes they even bring references, like a special piece of wood or a stone, and try to find the exact pigment measurements to recreate it in their patterns. Something interesting happens also within an overlapping area (when printing two colors on the same canvas’ spot) as you can appreciate, for instance, in the Unikko pattern. That way you come across colours you had never seen before.


As regards to your work as a Creative Director, which are your main responsibilities, how do you go through the collections and put things together?

I am always working very closely with the people responsible for the improvement of the collections. That means, the head of fashion design, the interior line manager, and the bags and accessorizes line manager. They are all in my team. Once a week we go through every detail of the collections and discuss about the new sketches and colors proposals. Then, I am also responsible for the space design at our stores.

Could you tell us about your favorite patterns?

Well, it is so difficult to say! I love almost all, plus, different compositions bring different emotions to me. But, all in all, I am more of a graphical person, and I love those really clear and geometrical shapes…tough romantic or sophisticated patterns have the ability to somehow warm my heart. If I had to choose just one, I have to say that my favorite is “Isot Kivet” – big black “stones” on a white background, created by Maija Isola in 1956. There is also a more recent reinterpretation of this pattern, the Astro (2012), made by designer Jenni Tuomisen, and I love to mix them both!. In my view, they combine perfectly together even though they are totally different, not only in the design but also in the decades they were created.

Finally, which place does Marimekko represent on the Finnish design scene?

There is no doubt that Marimekko is a strong component on the national design scene. There are two other big brands in this field, which are Artic and Iitala, and I would say that the three of us together have helped compose what we could call the Finnish aesthetic. Probably all of us have also inherited many aspects from the predominant functionalism of Finnish architecture, and this kind of strong attitude derived from Alvar Aalto’s work. We need to reflect on how people experience the interior spaces and, at the same time, how well communicated those spaces are with their natural surroundings – that defines a core part of our philosophy.

Finally, we have a very close connection with design schools in Finland and we enjoy organizing design competitions so that we can find new talents, even recent graduates! We take them on as interns and, if we consider they are ready, we give them the possibility to print their ideas and to keep on growing under our maestros guidance. That is our way of taking care of our corporate responsibility as the big brand we are in Finland.

Features Interviews Music

Interview with Adam Ciminello from The Carnival Kids

FREE! Magazine brings you an exclusive interview with multitalented American musician Adam Ciminello, who tells us about the imminent release of his band’s debut album, The Carnival Kids, and many other interesting opinions about the music business and the complexities of building up a new musical project. Enjoy it!

When I was reading about your musical talents, I was impressed by the wide array of instruments that you can play. Can you tell us a bit how you started in the music business and how was studying music in Boston?

Thanks so much for the kind words Antonio! It really means a lot to have people support my music and artistic vision. I first started to really take music seriously towards the end of my high schooling. I played in a couple of bands that toured around the area regionally and by the time I started college, I was hooked! Boston is a really great place to get your start in music. There are many places to play and lots of college students who love live music. I’m grateful for the experiences I had there and the many talented musicians I had the privilege of playing with and getting to know.

Adam Ciminello

Do you have your residence nowadays in Boston? How is the music scene there (my knowledge is pretty limited to knowing that is the home town of my beloved band Aerosmith).

Currently, I live in Poughkeepsie NY, about an hour north of NYC. I still play frequently in Boston as a solo artist and with other groups in the area. It’s a great city that’s constantly churning out fantastic new artists due to the many colleges and music schools located there.

I have seen you stated that the music in your debut album is very positive. Actually the name of the band and the art cover are already exhaling a positive feeling. So what can a new listener expect there, in the album that will be recently released on April 27th?

The music and overall message on this LP is very much intended to be positive. Some of the individual songs relate to darker themes but on the whole my aim was to make people feel good and describe relationships and events that everybody could relate to. I think listeners can expect from this LP to hear music that sounds familiar yet different enough to resonate.

Actually the country where I live nowadays, Finland, is also famous for the melancholic feeling in most of the music produced here. Why is it that seems trendy nowadays in music to be a depressive emo? Do you miss the kind of more happy-naïve compositions that people could listen in the clubs, for example in the 80s?

As both an artist and avid listener of music, existing on both sides of the equation, it’s difficult for me to really answer this question with any sort of objectivity. I don’t know why other artists make the art they choose to make because, frankly, I really don’t know why I make the art I choose to make! Composing is such an intimate process with yourself and it all happens so fluidly that it’s very difficult for me to specifically describe why I choose to write my music. Similarly, as a listener, I really don’t know definitively why we choose to listen to the music we enjoy. Duke Ellington once said “If it sounds good, it is good,” and I try my hardest to not allow any other thoughts dilute this concept when I am composing. If I enjoy it and feels genuine, then it probably is worth sharing. As a listener, if I enjoy it and feels genuine, its probably also worth sharing!

If I am not mistaken, you are the only current member-founder of the band (which is interesting cause maybe because of the name of the band in plural, everybody would be expecting a formation with more members). How is the feeling of putting an album together by yourself, do you like the freedom of creativity, or is it actually a more painful process in some ways to put everything together?

I am currently the only permanent member of The Carnival Kids. I do have a live a band that I perform with, and two of those members make up the rhythm section who recorded most of the LP with me, respectively. I can’t tell you how liberating it was to make this album largely by myself. I’ve been in collaborative bands since I was 14 and while that feeling – that of camaraderie, teamwork and equal partnership – is wonderful, being able to create/record in a scenario where I was in complete control was something I had always dreamed about. It’s been a pretty rewarding process watching this LP come to life and I feel I’ve learned a lot about myself along the way.

The Carnival Kids

I have seen also in some Youtube videos that you have company of quite some other musicians. Can you tell us a bit more about their collaboration, and it is expected that they would play with you live, or could the formation and the musicians playing with you change? Are there plans to go touring during 2013?

Yes, those members make up my live band and I couldn’t ask for a more talented group of musicians. I’ve been blessed throughout my life to share the stage with some amazing artists and when it came time to put together the live act, I immediately knew this group was perfectly outfitted to bring my songs to life. I’m very lucky to be working with them.

I have a good friend who is a great fan of Government Mule, so seeing that you have played with them, I could not less than ask about the experience of collaborating with such a legendary band.

I’ve only played one show with them, which admittedly was almost six years ago, and unfortunately I can’t say that I collaborated with them creatively (I wish!). But I can say that they are incredibly nice people, grateful for the opportunities they’ve been given, and extraordinarily talented musicians.

Although it seems that music is really the centre of your life, what other hobbies and passions do you have?

Outside of music, I am an avid chess player and a lifelong fan of the New York Knicks! Looking forward to hopefully watching them bring home their first championship in forty years later this spring!

Anything you want to add for our readers?

Thank you so much for your time and support of independent music! Hope to tour Finland soon! Also, here are our various social media sites for everybody to check out! Thanks again!

Cover story Interviews Misc

Interview with Finnish designer Jenni Ahtiainen

Jenni Ahtiainen belongs to the new wave of young fresh Finnish designers that keep up with the high standards and international reputation of Finnish design around the world. With the music always as inspiration, her designs have been worn by rock stars such as Ville Valo or Michael Monroe and appeared also during the last Golden Globe Gala Awards. FREE! Magazine met Jenni recently and was able to ask her a few questions about her designs, hobbies, passions and future plans:

Hello Jenni and thanks a lot for your answers beforehand! When did you discover that you had passion for design, and particularly for designing neckwear? Had you also experimented with other arts or fields in design?

My label gTIE started out accidentally. I was a boyish girl in the beginning of year 2000. I was wearing black shirt, black jeans and black 50s’ style shoes. Every day, in every occasion, every day, every night. Then in 2006 I turned 30 years and wanted to celebrate it somehow. So I got an wild idea: no trousers, but a skirt with a tie. The skirt was my statement, not the tie. The tie designed for myself was just a something boyish enough to be able to wear a skirt. Without the tie i would have looked too ouch of a girl. Those days I didn’t wear necklaces or earrings at all. After sewing this one tie, i started to think about the fact that men don’t have that much of variations in neckwear possibilities.

One night I was jogging in my home street where also lives one of the most famous stars of Finnish rock scene; Ville Valo, the vocalist on HIM. While i was running i started to think about what he would wear for a tie, if he went to a party where he is supposed to dress more formal way. My imagination brought this weird looking lace scarf in front of my eyes, and when I got back home, I made it. I sent it to him, put a not beside the scarf “I designed this for you cristmas celebration party” and the guy put it in independence day party at the presidential hall. Media saw it, wrote about it, made stories in papers about it and that’s how gTIE was born.

Before I was working as a graphic designer. I was designing book covers, web pages, logos, details for visual marketing, and now, I’m basically hanging around the same context, just that the details are around people’s necks, not in corners of posters or company web pages.

Jenni Ahtiainen

In your latest collection My name is Kenneth. What’s your problem? there is a clear influence of your favourite rock bands and artists in the designs, naming them after those ones. Is music a very important part of your life and an inspiration when designing?

My latest collection My name is kenneth, What’s you problem? collection models are named by the artist and bands I have listened and which I appreciate, but also because they have their own kind of historical style genre I find interesting. I get my inspiration from music. I do everything with music, I mean everything. I was born with music. Thanks for my dad who had loudspeakers in every god damn room at our house. It depend on the feeling I have at the moment what kind of music i need to act. If i need to focus, I usually play music without any lyrics. If I go jogging, it has to be power – even aggressive – music. I was asked to go to Iceland to keep a course for children, and the idea was to play different kind of music, different kind of genres of music to them and to see what happens in the imagination and thirdhand works. We didn’t get funding, so maybe we’ll make it happen next year.

Are there artists-bands that you would like to dedicate new designs in the future?

The models I design and make in the future are of course surrounded and surely inspired by music too, but I have no idea yet am I going to name even one more model after any musician. I follow my guts… so nothing is complete, until I get the idea in my head what the model looks like. But one thing is a fact, I feel my stuff belongs next to music. Not just because I get inspired by music and its artists, but because it feels right and natural. Performers have a right and also a kind of a obligation to dress up more visual way than ordinary people, so that’s when I step in the picture. I’m quite good in visualizing what they like, and would look good wearing without losing their credibility.

During last year, Helsinki was the World Capital of Design. What makes this small and cold country such a good place for successful designers to pop up so often?

I think finnish people are survivors. We have a lot of strength – when we really want something. We can deal the cold weather as well as bad financial circumstances.

“I do everything with music. I was born with music!”

What other young Finnish designers would you recommend to follow?

There is 2 designers I recommend on following: Outi Pyy and Mert Otsamo.

You collaborated recently with your designs in the gala of the Golden Globes Awards in USA. Could you tell us more about it? How that collaboration happened and who was wearing your models?

I went to show my designs in pre Golden Globes in January, because I was asked to. They found my label from a fashion fair 2011 and were following me through internet over one year and then contacted me. First I thought it was just junk mail, but after doing some research, I found out from two of my friends, that it wasn’t actually a joke. So I went there, got t know real people, but mainly few really important contacts. I’m going back to LA in the end of April. I’m gonna meet few actors, one producer, one director and some contacts from commercial field: I’m gonna get gTIEs women’s collection in one store and men’s collection to another store there.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? Do you assist to a lot of live music gigs around?

When I’m not working, I’m writing, and drinking some beer like some finnish people do. I go and see gigs, summertime I ride a motorcycle, sports keep my mind straight and makes me like myself more. I love singing. If I get blind, for some reason, I will be a singer.


What can you tell us about your own label gTIE and other collaborations you have around, like for example with Matex Oy?

gTIE turns next week officially 6 years. What I do now for my living is just great. Besides designing for men and women with my own label, I design a men’s line for Matex Oy, the biggest and oldest finnish tie company. I don’t design ties there, but substitutes for ties. Basicly the same thing I do for gTIE but more mainstream way. Matex has the marketing contacts to all biggest stores in Finland, such as Stockmann and Sokos, so as a designer i don’t have to worry about selling strategies and all that “shit”, i can just design. Matex has a lot more powerful engine in their vecihle comparing to what I can do inside of my own label. They offer me a possibility for example to desing my own fabrics. In my own label I don’t have that kind of possibility, mainly ’cause of financial facts.

In the end of March, we publish a new collection for men with Matex named as White Wedding. It’s a wedding collection. And as a designer, I’m gonna make a statement with it aswell. In Finland gay people can’t get officially married, they can just register their relationship, and I think it’s stoopid: First of all it’s against the basic human rights and second, it is jurydic idiotism not to have the same law rights that hetero sexuals do automatically when they get married. So I’m gonna shoot part of the collections catalogue pictures with gay men.

Besides working as a neckwear designer, I have lot’s of product collaborations going on for example with Radio Rock (national radio station in Finland), City of Pori (my home town, they’re actually my sponsor and I’m writing a blog for them) and Porispere (rock festival in August).

I design also clothing for theatre projects, for dancers. For example Aftertaste (2012) and Kaksin käsin (free engines translation With Both Hands, 2010) were my designs. Now I’m making a short movie with modern dancers called Surface Tension. I’s coming out in Autumn. I design and style musicians, artists and bands for their videos and album cover shootings. Top finnish rock bands like HIM, Amorphis, Jari Sillanpää, Lapko and Michael Monroe have worn my designs. I also teach children and teenagers in art schools in Helsinki and Järvenpää. Mainly I do courses in arts and crafts. And all this makes me a really happy woman.

What are your next projects for this year 2013?

My projects for this year are of course making my brand break. I’ve done almost everything I can to make people know it in Finland. Now it’s time to move forward. And for some reasons many signs show me the way to LA. One of my biggest projects besides my ow label this year is doing the whole clothing design for one movie which had a funding from Hollywood. The shooting time is not clear yet, and anything can still happen with that project but if it happens, I will be even happier woman.

Anything to add for the readers?

I would like to say: Believe it, you will get it. The most important sense is intuition. You just have to learn how to hear it. And believe in it. It’s in the guts!

Features Interviews Music

Interview with Tom Brumpton, vocalist of Akarusa Yami

Today FREE! Magazine has the pleasure to offer you an exclusive interview with Tom Brumpton, vocalist of the British industrial metal band Akarusa Yami. Tom is a person who totally “breathes” metal music, combining his band with his career as publicist (among his clients are infamous names such us Iggy Pop or Maroon 5) and freelance journalist. He kindly answered our questions to enlight us with interesting info about the metal scene in his hometown, some curious anecdotes from the backstage and overall, what we can expect from his exciting project with his own band!

Hello Tom and thanks a lot beforehand for your answers. You were one of the founders of Akarusa Yami a couple of years ago in Nottinghamshire. How did the idea evolve to create this band?

Hey Antonio, not a problem. Thanks for having me. I was indeed, basically it came from a mutual frustration that myself and Tom Clarke (Guitars, co-founder) shared. We’d been in a lot of bands before that, for one reason or another, hadn’t done much. So we discussed working together and over time its morphed into Akarusa Yami.

Had you played in other bands before? Do you currently play in other projects?

I did, and the other guys all have and do but I don’t really have time for any other bands at the moment. I used to sing for a Pantera-esque band called Kallous a few years ago. Tom and our bassist Jake Bennett play together in a death metal band called Cacodaemonic, our drummer Adam Jones plays in a rock band called Scarlet’s Wake, our second guitarist Damian Lee produces bands and does some DJ work under the moniker Mean iDeal, and our Keyboard player Lee Dowling plays in a band called Krossfire. So all of us are usually pretty busy.

Akarusa Yami

You are also connected to the metal industry working in PR with many different bands. Does it help this to promote your band, or actually is it difficult to find free time to combine both activities?

It’s fairly straight-forward really, because I deal with a lot of metal bands so I’m already talking to the kind of people that Akarusa Yami would appeal to. So it’s not a big deal, and its never caused any trouble.

Probably not the first time somebody asks, but certainly the name of the band is peculiar. Where does it come from?

(Laughs) No. Tom came up with it and it translates to “Opposite of Darkness, Opposite of Light” which we read as Balance. We felt it described our overall sound very well.

How is the industrial metal music scene in Nottingham area and in UK in general?

It is pretty good, but I’d say the big scenes in the UK at the moment are probably indie music (Stuff like The Foals, etc) and Djent (Bands like TesseracT). And Dubstep, of course.

In your band´s FB site, it is mentioned the Finnish band Swallow the Sun as influence. Do you follow the metal music from Finland closely? Have you ever visited or played here before in Finland?

I’ve never visited it, no and I don’t believe any of the other guys have. We’re always open to new bands from across the world, and Finland has some amazing artists. Swallow The Sun are an awesome, very distinct band and I love their melancholic sound. I think its brilliant. If you held a gun to my head though, I’d say my favourite Finnish artist is probably HIM. I own every record and I think Ville is a great writer and singer.

For a person who would be a first time listener of your band, how would you describe in one sentence what they are about to hear?

We’ve described our sound so far as industrial music with elements of progressive and extreme metal. It’s served us well, as I think we appeal to a wide spectrum of metal fans.

So far the band is still unsigned, isn´t it? Have there been any conversations with major record labels for the future?

We’ve not approached any labels. We’re not against the idea, we’ve just not done it as of yet but we will be doing so very soon.

Akarusa Yami

Now you have almost ready your second EP “Trace Element Rebirth” that will be released on April. How do you compare it to the debut one “Ouroboros”?

I think it’s a massive leap forward for us; performance wise, compositionally, lyrically, production wise. It’s a bit of a re-invention. Ouroboros as a record was very much a band learning and finding its feet, and dealing with a large chunk of chaos at the same time. This record is more focused and substantially more refined.

The band has already been on stage in some big festival like Bloodstock. What are the plans for 2013? Anything big coming up?

We’re talking to a few management companies and whatnot, and we’re discussing festival options. Once we’ve got something confirmed we’ll make an announcement.

What is the craziest thing you have seeing in a gig´s backstage?

One time when I was 18 I went to a show at Rock City in Nottingham. The band playing was US Industrial outfit Society 1. The show was small but awesome, and afterwards me and a few friends got chatting with the band and we helped them with their gear. I went to check to see where our ride home was and when I came back all my friends were grinning ear to ear. Turns out while we were helping, the singer was back stage filming a porno. Three days later the girl he was making it with added me on myspace and we became friends. That was pretty crazy.

If you could choose a band or an artist to join Akarusa on stage, who would be?

That’s tough. Maybe Trent Reznor or Mike Patton. They’re so unique in their approach to music and such outstanding work horses that I think it’d be amazing to do something with them both! Outside that, for me I’d say Rammstein.

You breathe music as passion and work, but what other things you like doing in your free time?

(Laughs) Thanks. Honestly, I’m a work horse myself. Outside the band and running a PR company I’m a partner in a radio company in the US, I write for Zero Tolerance magazine in the UK and I act and write. I’m not good with time off.

Anything you want to add for the readers?

Thank you for the support and we look forward to coming to Finland in the future.

Check out Akarusa Yami´s Youtube channel:

Books Features Interviews

Interview with Amanda Hocking

American writer Amanda Hocking could resume very well the Cinderella dream of thousands of writers that try to publish their work around the world in this new era of digital technologies. After getting rejected repeatedly by publishing houses, she decided to start self publishing her books in Internet in 2010. The result: an unexpected success translated in millions of copies sold and a few more zeros in her bank account. Lullaby, the second book of her Watersong series, will be out in the shops soon on November 27, and meanwhile Hollywood is already finishing a cinema adaptation of the first book of the series Wake.

Amanda kindly answered the questions that FREE! Magazine sent to her with the attitude of somebody who has accomplished a childhood dream, but still keeps her feet firmly on the earth knowing what is the value of a success achieved by endless hours of hard work and a rocking attitude of never giving up against adversities.


Hello Amanda and thanks a lot for your time! Lullaby, the second book of the Watersong saga, will be out pretty soon on November 27. Do you feel excited to check the public response?

I’m very excited! I know a lot of people enjoyed Wake, so that made me happy….I was kind of nervous with this being my first new book with a Publisher, but the response was great. I feel that each book in this series gets more exciting as they go on, so hopefully people will enjoy it at least as much as Wake.

For a person who would not have yet read any of your books, how would you define your style and the themes that you feel passionated to write about?

I think the best way to describe my books is “fun.” When I’m writing a book, my goal is obviously to be entertaining, but for the book to also be an escape. I like to include romance and action in my books, but also I try to throw in some humor…that doesn’t always work, because a lot of things that I find funny aren’t that funny, but I try, and that’s what counts.

Jumping back to your beginnings as author, you started to write books when you when very young, right? Did you always feel that writing stories was an important part in your life?

I guess I never really thought about why I was doing it… It was just something that I was always doing. I grew up in the country, so there weren’t that many kids nearby for me to play with or anything, so I spent a lot of time in my room writing stories, or else making my parents sit down and listen to me tell them some story I just came up with. I even wrote a lot in high school, too…I actually had friends then, and there were a lot of times I was busy working on a new book, and wouldn’t do anything but go to school and write for weeks, just because I wanted to.

“I think the best way to describe my books is “fun”

Is it true that you started to publish your books online in 2010 for trying to gather some cash to assist to an event with Jim Henson because you are a Muppets fan?

That’s true. I heard there was a Jim Henson exhibit coming to Chicago, which is about a 6 hour drive…and I didn’t have any extra money that I could spend on something like that, so I thought I would try putting some of the books I had written online, to see if I could earn a few dollars to help with that.

When did you realize that your books online were starting to become really popular and global? Did it shock you? Were there only good sides to it, or also some harder parts when you see that people start to pay lots of attention to what you do?

At first I was shocked… but then I started to think that everyone who puts books online must get these results, then I found out that they weren’t, and I was even more confused. I think the part that shocked me the most was when I got an e-mail from Terri Tatchell, who was interested in writing a screenplay for the Trylle Series.

Do you have any special person who checks first when you have finished writing a book to give a first opinion?

When I finish a book I have my assistant print off a copy for himself, read it, and mark anything he finds that he thinks I should change. I don’t necessarily listen to him, but I like getting the feedback.

You were a very consistent writer, having written dozens of stories and getting also quite a few rejections from publishing houses. Do you think you would have continued with the same passion for writing even if your books would have not turned out into the bestselling phenomena that are now?

I think so. I really started writing a lot more, and doing a lot more research a few years ago, because I told myself that if I wasn’t published by the time I was 26 I would stop trying, but I don’t think that was actually true…I may have stopped for a while, but I always get new ideas for stories, and have to do something with them, so I’m sure I would have kept on going whether or not anyone was reading what I wrote.

What would be your advice for those young writers out there who want to publish their stories?

I think the best thing anyone can do is to write a lot, read a lot, and do research. There’s a lot of different ways to go about doing things now, and you should know as much as you can so you can figure out what the best options are for you.

Amanda Hocking

How does it feel now that you have signed with big publishing companies?

I’m really enjoying working with my publisher. Doing everything on my own got to be very draining, so having a team of people working with me is a big relief, and it’s a lot more fun to have a bunch of people working on things with me than just going at it by myself.

Also, they are preparing the adaptation of the first movie of the saga into cinema. Do you follow closely the project? How is the feeling for a writer to see the characters in “real” flesh in the big screen?

The last I’ve heard about the film is that they are working on the final draft of the screenplay. I don’t check in that often on the progress, because I don’t want to annoy anyone, but if the film is made I will be super excited.

Does it suppose an extra pressure for a writer when the work of a saga that is not yet fully published start to be in the big screen? (I am thinking for example about George R.R. Martin and Game of Thrones, with the TV series ongoing while the last 2 books are not yet published)

I’m sure that would be difficult. It would be hard not to pay attention to the direction they take it, especially if you had something else in mind.

You recognize yourself as a big fan of Batman. So do you prefer The Dark Knight over Tim Burton’s Batman? What is your opinion about the last movie of the saga?

I think the Christopher Nolan Batman films are amazing. My favorite is The Dark Knight, but I also really enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises. I also love Tim Burton’s Batman movies, but they’re very different .

You seem to keep in close contact with your readers over Internet, even in your home site there is an email contact address. Do you find the time and energy to answer personally to all your fans?

I try to… I think I do the best job of replying to people on twitter…it’s a lot easier than going back and commenting on different things on a blog or Facebook… I think twitter is a great way to connect with people, for me at least.

What do you like doing when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing I like to catch up on TV and movies, spend time with my friends, and we are working on turning a spare bedroom into a craft room at the moment, so I’ll probably start making more collages and scrapbooking.

I think you also have the third book of the saga ready. Are you currently working on writing, or are there other professional things (not ideas) that keep you busy?

Right now I’m about half way finished with the last book in the Watersong series…I’m also working on the graphic novel adaptation of the Hollows books. After that’s finished, I have quite a few new ideas I’d love to start working on, so we’ll see what’s next.

Anything you want to add for our readers?

Thank you very much!!

Read Amanda´s blog at