Hi guys, welcome to our Webzine! We are very pleased and honoured to have the chance to talk about music with you, since it's been almost 15 years Von Hertzen Brothers have been enriching the Finnish rock scene with their unique and precious sound.
Les Fleurs du Mal: Let's start talking about your forth-coming album called "New Day Rising" that's going to be released in March: what's for you this new day rising? Why did you chose this title?
M: When we started planning this album, the band was at a crossroads. There were two possibilities; whether to do things the same as before or even tone it down a little bit or go big. We took a step and thus we feel that this is somewhat of a new start for us. As a band.
LFdM: Could you explain us also the meaning of the artwork on the album cover? It is pretty evocative: the eagles, the chains and that bright light...
M: Samuli Heimonen who painted the cover of our last album as well has become a good friend of ours and he is an artist we respect tremendously. We visited his workshop and brainstormed about the theme of the painting and the album. By that time we had some lyrics already thought for the album and seeing one of his new paintings, something clicked. The cover can be said to be the fruit of teamwork, since Samuli and Kie from our end, were trying out different things together. What you see is the end product of a long process.
LFdM: I saw you've just released the title track video. Tell us something about the location, it's such a beautiful landscape, where did you shoot it?
M: Kie spent three weeks going through locations around Helsinki. Our partners and labels abroad thought we needed a simple video for the first single and thus the importance of the location became even more evident. It is a Unesco World Heritage spot called Suomenlinna (The Finnish Fort) and one of the most visited sights in Helsinki by tourists. This time of the year, hardly anyone was there so it was perfect to shoot. Even though we froze our asses off. As usual.
LFdM: Is there a track of this new album you love the most for some particular reason and why? And are there songs which work better played live?
M: Every single song that makes its way to one of our albums is dear to us. They are all different and have their own right to be there on the album. It’s hard to say which ones work better live since by now, we have played them only once live. The tour starts in a couple of weeks, so then we’ll know.
LFdM: Now it's time for some anticipations for our readers: what song is gonna be the next single and why? I would love a video of "Trouble" or "Hold Me Up", but if it is such a hard choice for me, I can imagine for you...
M: Haha. We’ll your guess ain’t too far from the truth there…
LFdM: If you could summarize in few words your career until now, album after album, what would you say about your artistic and personal growth since Experience's release? Would you define this album as your best one? If so, can you explain us the reasons why?
M: Well, it would take pages to summarize it properly and most probably we’ll share our thoughts about the whole trip in a book form in the future, but I guess you could compare it with running a marathon. The first part is easy and fun and then it gets tougher and tougher. But more rewarding at the same time.
LFdM: Don't get me wrong, I am one of those who agree with Warhol when he said that labels are good just for cans of beans, but if there was a way to define your music, how would you describe it? What section of the rock encyclopedia do you think we shall go to find you? Wikipedia refers to your music as "classic rock combined with progressive elements, folk, punk and contemporary rock" and I would add some hints of psychedelic taste too; what do you think about that?
M: We’ve been asked this many times and it’s just utterly impossible to pigeon-hole this band. The reason is that there are three brothers with a little bit different tastes in music that share a very broad minded approach to how to express songs. We tend to just say that we are a rock band. Maybe an “epic” rock band. And to answer your other question: sure, there are some psychedelia there as well.
LFdM: Now a bit of throwback: I confess I totally love "Flowers And Rust" from "Nine Lives". The title immediately made me think to Joan Baez "Diamonds and Rust", but I don't know if you have been somewhat influenced by this song or if there is just some similarities in the titlles.
M: Thanks. I didn’t recall thinking about Joan Baez when writing it. The idea of the song was just to write a song about somebody who has all the possibilities to thrive but fails to do so.
LFdM: In general where do you find inspiration from? Personal experiences, dream world or just from everyday life, from reality itself, but seen through the special lens of the artist?
M: Most of it stems from the spiritual process I am or we are experiencing in our lives. Sometimes things pop up in my dreams or in my meditation or even just seeing a great movie or an exhibition can gun-start the process. It’s hardly ever the same thing twice. Also if I hear a great chorus or a line somewhere I tend to make an imprint in my mind of it and maybe later I try it out with a piano or a guitar. But this rarely happens. I don’t listen to music much these days.
LFdM: How does the songwriting process work in this band? Is it something you share alltogether? Why do you prefer singing in English?
M: The three of us first plunge into writing process separately. When the first demo is ready it’s shared to the other brothers. Then slowly we start going through the song and what are the good things about it. Together we comment on each song and try to think how to make it better. When all the three of us are happy, we take the song to Kaakkuri and Juha, who will learn the songs with us. Then we still play around a bit before finalising the arrangement. We sing in English because that’s the language that we feel most comfortable with.
LFdM: And now some questions for the brothers Kie, Mikko and Jonne: on a more personal level, how is it having the chance to work in a sort of family company? Rock music has given us the idea brothers don't get along that great when it comes to music business, a clear example are the Gallagher brothers. But since I have not the same impression about you, I dare to ask: how is it playing in the same band for the three of you, is it more like sharing a common dream you always wanted to realize?
M: True, usually siblings fight more with each other because there is a certain lack of ‘modesty’ in famliy-relations. We have tried to turn our brotherhood into a positive thing, a source of strength and togetherness. Occasionally, we might be blunt with each other, but more often we try to be considerate and easy-going.
LFdM: Would you like to tell us the main differences between playing in Von Hertzen Brothers and playing in other bands you all have been previously members of?
M: well, that’s an easy one. I played drums with my previous bands. In this one I sing and play the guitar. Also I feel that the amount of ambition is way more in this band than in the previous ones.
LFdM: I found out you were born and have been raised surrounded by music. Is that right? I also read your father and your uncle are or were both musicians. So, it's like you couldn't really choose to become something else, you were "doomed" to become the wonderful and talented singers, musicians and songwriters you are. Do you agree?
M: Yes, We were doomed. It’s not our fault. Especially if you don’t like us.
LFdM: Do Mikko Kaakkuriniemi and Juha Kuoppala feel like sort of your brothers by a different mother? How is for them sharing this experience with the three of you?
M: This is a tight group and it’s definitely a five-piece when it comes to music. In all the other matters, which are plenty, we are a four-piece. Us three brothers and our Manager, Virpi Immonen.
LFdM: I have to say I really apppeciate all the refrains of your songs, since I tend to fall in love with the chorus and you have these amazing voices mixing together so perfectly. Unfortunately I had the chance to see some of your live performances just thanks to some amateurs videos on youtube, but despite this the chorus never disappointed me. How do you manage to be so good even when you are not in the studio? I mean it seems there are dozens of people singing, instead that amazing sound comes from just 3 or 5 elements...
M: Well, what can I say. Thanks and you’re right: We are geniouses. Haha.
LFdM: I read you've been on tour in the UK with The Wildhearts. I find Ginger is one of the most incredible music genius of the last 2 decades. How was it touring with his band?
M: Right again, Ginger is an amazing talent and a very unique person. Just the other day he wrote me how he loves my songwriting. This, coming from the maestro himself, feels pretty good!
LFdM: Always referring to Ginger, I think your styles have something in common. The songs by both of you are not that easily predictable, as it happens usually with other bands. You both tend to use unconventional changes of tune, even in the same song and to play uncommon kinds of instruments. Aren't you afraid this could become a sort of double-edged sword when it comes to reach a wider appreciation of your music?
M: Sure, we’ve heard a long time that our music is “too difficult”, but that’s just bollocks if you ask me. To me the biggest experiences in music are always unpredictable and surprising. We found our music very simple and easily approachable but clearly we are somewhat deluded and not objective about it. There are simple songs on our records as well. But sometimes the songs just require some building up and twists and turns, if you know what I mean?
LFdM: Well guys, thank you so much once again for this interview and for your time, so just one last question, since our readers are very eager to know it: do you think it could be possible to see you performing all over Europe (Italy included) one day? I keep my fingers crossed and hope to see you soon live onstage
M: You were asking about our dreams… well, honestly, if there was one dream that we share as a band, it’s that we would be able to tour more and play to all of our fans around the world. I really hope an opportunity will arise to play in Italy and the rest of main land Europe this year.