What happens when you combine the best male singers that Finland has to offer? Well, what happens is Northern Kings! And I was so lucky to chat with a king of vocals and a king of guitars at Tuska this year. We talked about music, ice cream and a lot more!
Hello JP and Erkka, how are you doing today?
Doing fine, a little bit hot.
But you know, we shouldn’t be complaining since, you know, everybody’s always waiting for the summer in Finland. And then when it finally arrives, people start complaining that it’s too hot, and then we get to the winter. It’s too dark, too humid, too cold. And too this and that, you know, we just should be happy and, you know, cherish now that we can finally play shows and we can be on festivals, and the audience can be together for live music. And I guess that that’s actually the vibe over here.
Yeah, you can see that and feel that.
Every band is happier. They understand that for a couple of years, we had canceled shows because of COVID, and you can see it in the band’s eyes and their faces that they’re so happy to play again. Yeah. So that really…
A little bit lost because every people doesn’t remember how this went. Yeah. How was this again? Yeah.
What was the music you listened to in your childhood?
Kiss. Oh, wow. When I was 10, I found Kiss and got the privilege to see them live for the first time in my life a week ago. Yeah. Here in Helsinki. And it was awesome. Of course, the band wasn’t like the 70s or 80s or 90s, but still the same guys, James Simon and Paul Stanley. And they were everything to me when I was a child. And all I could say is almost why I started to dream about being a musician.
Erkka: Tell the story of the cassette.
Oh yeah. Yeah. I saw the TV commercial for the “Animalize” album. And the guys were playing with the leopards on their legs and stuff like that. And I was like, what the fuck is this? And I was like, oh my God, I wanna be like this. I want to buy the music. I want to have that cassette because they say, you gotta buy this cassette you. I went to the closet. Yeah, because my mom said no way, no way. I’m not going to buy you that cassette.
So you went to the wardrobe closet?
Yeah. I went to a wardrobe closet and stayed there till she agreed to buy me the cassette. I remember how the cassette said like familiar from TV. And then, when I got the first cassette, I had to have it all. Every black and white picture, how small, it didn’t matter. Every picture was glued to my wall. And that was the starting point. And then came Dio and Black Sabbath, stuff like that. And of course, I’ve always listened to all kinds of music, like Kim Wilde. I’m not that metal at my heart.
For me, it was very similar, you know, we had a couple of older cousins in another city that had Kiss albums, and me and my older brother used to look at those albums, and we were actually a bit afraid. When you look at the back cover of “Hotter Than Hell,” it’s like naked women. And we were like very young. I’m looking at that, you know? Oh. And then suddenly something happened when I started playing classical music when I was very, very young and I got into the music appreciation class in a school. In the third grade, I went to the music class and saw a Kiss poster. And at that time, it clicked, and I saw Paul Stanley; he was not even holding a guitar, but I somehow connected that to a guitar. And I was like, okay, this is the course. So the walls were covered with everything that we could buy. Our first album was also “Animalize,” and then the second one was “Creatures Of The Night.” Very similar story. We would also buy the Swedish pop magazine because Kiss was bigger in Sweden, so they had more stories on them. We would put those magazines on the wall. And if it were a two-sided page, we would buy two magazines to see both photos. So Kiss was really big for both of us. And then, of course, Rainbow is really big for me. Richie Blackmore made me want to play the guitar on a professional level. And then, of course, all Dio and the 80s stuff. And then, in high school, I got interested in all the jazzier stuff, fusion. That kind of started shaping how I see the guitar as an instrument.
Awesome! Do you think your style has evolved since you started to play and sing?
Of course, when it comes to the technique and stuff like that, you start finding your own style and not copying anyone anymore. There was Paradise Lost, Type O Negative, and stuff like that I listened a lot when I started singing in a metal band. But I quickly found out that I have a unique voice that I have to develop.
In my case, you know, I think that Yngwie Malmsteen was the first one that hit me over the head with, “This is what I want to want to do”. And I was lucky enough to get Timo Tolkki, who later became famous with Stratovarius as a guitar teacher for two years. So he would show me all of these licks and everything, and he cracked the code for me on how to play this stuff. So I got on that way; everything had to be precise. Everything had to be technical. But then, through the Christmas thing that we do, I ended up playing a lot of melodies. That’s when it opened to me that I need to put everything I can into this. You know, the technique will always be there if I practice, but I want to concentrate on making this guitar as vocal as possible. So I need to start thinking like a vocalist. How do I approach the note? How do I get out of it? What kind of vibrato, etc. So I started thinking about that and that sort of through the influences that I had later, like Steve Morris and Vinnie Moore. I listened to how those guys played slow and started thinking about how to manipulate the notes that I got actually ringing. And that became a very important factor; on the Christmas things, I have a lot of long, slow melodies on that one. How to make them sound as big as possible? You try to reach with music, you try to reach a person’s soul. If you sound like a typewriter, you feel like going fast all the time in the end, it doesn’t really interest anybody. But when you go into the soul and grab it, you can do that with one note if you want and if you’re good enough.
Yeah. I also thought that when I first found out that, okay, I can sing somehow, now, how to put the feeling into the songs. And it’s always been natural to me. So I think that kind of things if you start learning them, you can hear it.
The thing is that nobody can teach you about your own emotions. They are your emotions, and it’s up to you yourself to find out the way to deliver these emotions to other people.
I’m glad it comes naturally because it would be hard to learn.
Do you think the internet has impacted the music industry, especially nowadays, like with social media, TikTok and stories?
How long do we have, 10 hours?
Yeah, it does everything, you know.
It’s just a lot in good and bad.
Do you think it’s harder for women to be in the metal and rock music world?
I guess it is still a bit like that. We were both members of a band with a female lead vocalist, Dark Sarah. For personal reasons, I needed to quit the band last autumn, and JP had to quit earlier. But it seems that there are still some prejudices against having a female lead character in a band. In some countries, it comes from the cultural background. But then again, it looks like it’s getting easier in Europe. But it’s still nothing there. There’s still some sort of a more difficult path.
I notice that I haven’t been thinking about it that much. Because for me, a talented person is a talented person, and I don’t actually think about it, man or woman. It doesn’t matter to me. But of course, I don’t know. I just noticed that I haven’t been thinking about it.
Here in Finland, it’s very difficult to market a band. Since we have the three major cities like, Turku, Tampere and Helsinki, it’s okay, but when you try to market something like that outside of those cities, there are still attitudes. If you’re a woman and don’t sing like a man, you know, Noora Louhimo from Battle Beast is very popular. She sounds almost like a man. She has this rough, really attitude driven. If you sing gracefully, sort of like a woman, so to speak, it’s more difficult. Then there are bands who come from outside, like Amaranthe, really, really popular in Finland. Elize’s a good friend for us since she is singing on the Christmas tour. And since Amaranthe comes from another country, the attitude towards the band is different in this country. The domestic bands that have female lead vocalists, I don’t think that they get the exposure that they deserve. In Dark Sarah, Heidi wrote all the music and the lyrics, and then she had a producer arrange the music.
And what is most important is that Heidi made the whole world.
All the stories where the stories go, all those worlds…
You know, I’m getting chills. When we talk about Heidi when she makes the world around the album because she goes somewhere when she starts to write the album, it’s pretty much like piano and vocals, and then she gives it to the producer and the producer makes it ready. But the world that Heidi lives in while the process goes on is something like you got to see it.
If you’re at all into the Marvel movies, she’s like the Scarlet Witch. I remember already, you know, we were with another band in Romania about 20-something years ago. And we’re in the press conference, and a Bulgarian guy asks me (it was a competition for songs): “How do you feel like participating in this contest in the same category as women?” I ended up my speech for him. My reply was: I don’t know about you, but I’d rather hang out with women than with guys. Oh, and I got applauded. But I’ve heard later that he was a well-known asshole this guy. I was like, what kind of a question is that? But I would like to believe that the attitudes from 20 years would’ve come a bit forward. We still have a lot of work to do.
Unfortunately, I think at least in Finland, and especially in Sweden, these things are taken more seriously than in other countries.
I wanted to play a game with you if that’s alright. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Oh, for me? Um, pear.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! Do you have anything to add to the readers?
Well, actually, I do. It’s great to be back again with this group of guys.
It’s been like, how many years? 10 years.
Well, 12 years since the last live shows, and yes, it feels amazing. We have a great camaraderie going on, and we can’t wait to see where this little journey will take us since this summer will not be the end.
Yeah. And it’s so different now when we all have grown like 12 years, matured like good wine. We don’t have the same competition anymore. If you imagine, even though we didn’t have that much, we no longer have to prove anything. It’s really easy to be on a stage with the guys and just enjoy it and enjoy the music.
It looks like it’s gonna be really cool. You know, next spring, next summer, things will happen.
Hi! My name is Benedetta, I’m 29 and I live in Northern Italy. My passion has always been music: I started taking guitar lessons when I was 6. Now I work as a sales representative, but in my free time I interview talented people, I spread the word about my favorite band (MoonSun), and I go to concerts or travel around Europe.
I am a huge collector of anything Tolkien-related, autographs, merchandise, and CDs. I am quite an original person and don’t mind being the voice outside of the choir (even though I play in the church’s choir!).