Last September, we got to meet Hannes Kett and Miki Kalske of SHIRAZ LANE before they opened the stage for SANTA CRUZ. Back then, they were excited and maybe a little shy/nervous, but it was clear they had a story to tell (pun intended). Some 9 months later at South Park -festivaali, we got the chance to talk to them again, and what a difference! These guys have grown in both confidence and, believe it or not, enthusiasm! The music world seemed to have treated them well, and we were glad to get another chance to speak with them during one of the first summer festivals of the season!
Nice to see you again! What do you guys think of South Park?
Hannes: Awesome! Actually, we came here yesterday with Joel to check out the feeling and the vibe here and it’s been great so far. We checked out SANTA CRUZ and LOST SOCIETY and they rock every time we see them.
Miki: LOST SOCIETY are fucking awesome.
Have you been watching the other bands here, other than those two?
Hannes: I’m sad I missed LOST SOCIETY, because they’re great guys and a fucking awesome band.
Miki: We watched BLIND CHANNEL.
Hannes: We watched BLIND CHANNEL doing some interviews and actually we’re going to go see our friends’ gig, RECKLESS LOVE. I love “Child of the Sun.” It’s a new song. I love it.
Who has been your favorite performance so far?
Hannes: LOST SOCIETY.
Miki: SHIRAZ LANE. [laughter]
Hannes: Those guys were okay. I think the singer sucks though. [laughter] Like Mickey Mouse on helium.
How does South Park compare to the other festivals you guys have played at, since you guys have been all over the place?
Hannes: This is the first festival of the summer for us, but…
Miki: All-in-all, I think I love it because the stages are near each other, so one gig stops, the other one starts, so the crowd just goes from one stage to the other. It’s awesome.
Hannes: It’s quite well-organized here. There’s always something happening somewhere.
It’s been 9 months since we last spoke to you and now you have an album behind you – a really phenomenal debut no less – how does it feel?
Hannes: We love it! I’m glad to hear our fans love it as well. I haven’t heard any negativity at all.
What have you been doing now that the album has been out for a few months?
Hannes: Playing, rehearsing, writing new songs, playing gigs.
Miki: Actually, we did a Finnish tour with RECKLESS LOVE in May, the whole month. Before that we were in Italy and we did our album release gig in Tavastia, which was our own headlining gig there, so that was kind of cool and really special for us. Touring, rehearsing, making new songs, basic stuff.
Hannes: Hanging around with the guys playing NHL.
Can you tell us a bit about the recording process? What was it like being in the studio?
Hannes: A lot of fun. We were in Hämeenlinna. We recorded the drums there. The guys were playing along with Ana…
Miki: To get that “live” vibe.
Hannes: Then I sang on “Bleeding” and “Same Old Blues” just to get the bluesy vibe.
Miki: After that, we recorded separately the guitars and bass and string instruments and everything like that. And the vocals.
Hannes: I really enjoyed recording the vocals, because Ben Varon (AMORAL), our producer and good friend… I love Michael Jackson, he loves Michael Jackson, so when I had some harmonies, he was like, “Oh yeah, MJ would love that!” So we had a lot of fun. It felt really natural to just fool around and find the right things for every song.
Well, you just answered my question about what it’s like working with Ben Varon!
Hannes: I think I speak for the whole band that he was awesome.
Miki: He was more of a friend.
Hannes: More of a friend than a producer. He was professional and did the producing part, but he was like one of the guys. He helped me with the lyrics.
Miki: Of course, if we disagreed on something we had a debate about it, but if we made up our mind about something then we just pushed our vision through, because that’s what we want to do. It’s our album!
Hannes: We had a song called “The Cure” and we rewrote it and it became “For Crying Out Loud” and at first he told us that the song sucks-
Miki: It’s a huge mistake!
Hannes: “A huge mistake guys! All the kick is gone.” We just told him, “Fuck off, this is an awesome song! We’re gonna do this and you better record it!” [laughter]
Miki: But after a while, [it grew on him] and he understood what it was all about.
Was this your first time working with a release deadline?
Miki: Kind of a “real” release deadline. Before, with the EP we had our own deadline on it, but not that we have to have all the material done for a certain date. This was the first time that somebody else, like a record company, was saying that we need to have all the material at this time. Actually, the last studio day, we had 12 hours-
Hannes: It as 17 hours, actually. Of those 17 hours we recorded the rest of the backing vocals, so we recorded all the backing vocals in one day. It was actually one of the best days of my life, because everything worked. After 8 hours and ten cups of coffee, the guys went home and me and Ben still had a lot to record, so Joel went upstairs to sleep and I just screamed some stuff and sang everything I wanted to sing. Then when he woke up, we were ready 5 minutes before that. So he woke up for his workplace at the time. [laughs]
Miki: In my opinion, it’s never too good to do things in a rush, but sometimes you have to have a deadline to make things happen.
“House of Cards” is probably my favorite song off the new album. What are your personal favorite songs?
Miki: “Mama’s Boy.”
Hannes: I love them all. I think “Same Old Blues” or “Bleeding” because those songs are very personal. It’s a hard question; it depends on the day, because all the songs have a different mood, different color to them. Right now, I’d say “Begging for Mercy” or “Make Love Not War” because I’m happy. Tomorrow I’m going to be hungover so I’m gonna say “Bleeding.” But I love them all. I’m actually really glad to hear that you loved “House of Cards” because we had some fans that were like, “This is too rough, this isn’t SHIRAZ LANE,” and we were like, “… Yes it is. Get used to it.”
I like that about your style. I was noticing during the gig that you have a little bit of everything in there – a little bit of reggae, a little bit of ’80s new wave.
Miki: I think that’s the soul of the music and the gig, if you can combine different genres and make it your own.
Hannes: South Park is a metal festival. It was really nice to hear, when the reggae started, they were like, “What the fuck?” and 50 seconds later they were dancing.
You guys released several popular songs, then you played some festivals, toured all over, you landed a label, you released an album – what has been the coolest or most mind-boggling moment of it all so far?
Hannes: I think meeting the guys. Really, none of us would be here without each other. I feel blessed to have met all these guys.
Miki: Maybe the most meaningful moment for me has been our debut album’s release gig at Tavastia, because everything kind of came together.
Hannes: The set was, what, 90 minutes?
Hannes: 90 minutes and we got to have special effects and I got to change clothes many times.
Miki: It was the first time you realize that you actually have the album out, we have all the merch, we have the backdrop for the first time, it’s our gig, we’re the only band playing at Tavastia, which is a legendary place for every band to play. That was it for me and for us.
Hannes: Yeah. My answer was a bit too girlie, but I love these guys. They’re my family.
There’s been a noticeable trend lately that started around the time of Reckless Love and followed with Santa Cruz, and now there’s you guys and it’s a bit of a glam rock/hair metal revival in Finland. What’s more is that you all seem to have your own unique styles in spite of being under the same general genre umbrella. Why do you think this style is so popular in Finland right now?
Hannes: I think it started in Scandinavia with CRASHDIET back in like 2004-2005. They were the first glam or hair metal band…
Miki: To revive the act…
Hannes: And to actually be on a big label.
Miki: And somewhat popular. I don’t think it’s so much about the genre but…
Hannes: Is it the attitude?
Miki: The attitude and the authenticity of the music. You can hear it’s real and if you mean what you play and what you say.
Hannes: The difference between us is that we’re all about peace, love, and harmony, and SANTA CRUZ has their party rock going on, and RECKLESS LOVE has…
Miki: SANTA CRUZ has attitude rock, and RECKLESS LOVE is kind of like “merry metal” as they call it. That works great for them!
Hannes: I think it’s cool. Finland is such a… how can I put this? It’s a smaller country and maybe because of that, the Finns don’t really think it’s possible to have many rock bands. That’s why we’re aiming to go abroad.
Miki: And the more rock bands in Finland, the better for everybody. I don’t know if we answered the question.
Do you have any thoughts on why these nostalgic genres are so big these days? Your style is one example and BLUES PILLS from Sweden with their ’70s psychedelic rock is another.
Hannes: I love that band! I think it’s kind of easy to answer, because nowadays the mainstream is all about autotune and all about… many rock bands use autotune as well, but I think the nostalgic style like BLUES PILLS and us, I think we differ from the mainstream because we’re really authentic and I think we sound more raw live. It doesn’t suck the way many bands suck nowadays because they’re just doing the studio magic thing.
Miki: In a lot of playing it really separates bands, if you are only a studio band or being produced by some kind of label, you can sound good on a record, but when you play live, you probably sound like shit if you really can’t play.
Hannes: Then again, nowadays it’s all about backing tracks and all that shit. Hopefully people understand what is live and what is not. I know that in my life performance, I use more distortion than I use in the studio because I’m so excited. But back to the question! I think it’s a counter-reaction to what the mainstream is all about.
Miki: Indeed! Well said!
Last time we spoke, I asked you guys some random questions, and I thought I’d throw them out there again to see how things have changed. What’s the last band you’ve listened to (not including the ones at the festival)?
Hannes: The last band I listened to was… I think I was listening to HALOO HELSINKI today. No, John Farnham! I’ve got one song from my childhood I just found. I knew the melodies, but at the time – I think I was like 5 years old – I had no idea what English is all about. I just remembered the melody, and then I found the song last week, “You’re the Voice.” It’s all about “you’re the voice / try and understand it.” I found that song and I had a super-mega-flashback and I was like, “Holy shiiiaaaat!” I’ve been listening to that song.
Miki: The last band or artist I listened to was Johnny Cash.
Hannes: Nice, good choice! Was that John Farnham [who sang “You’re the Voice”]? “You’re the voice / try to understand it!” I think it’s one of the only songs… well, nowadays in the mainstream, its all about “woo-oh” this and “woo-oh” that, without actually having any good lyrics, but back in the day, they had great lyrics, like “You’re the Voice,” but they had the “woo-oh” thing going on. Like TOTO‘s “Can’t Stop Loving You.”
Miki: The “woo-oh” thing isn’t necessarily bad if you use it right.
Hannes: It isn’t bad, but nowadays I think most of the time it fucking sucks because they just do it because it’s easy.
Miki: And it doesn’t really have a good melody, it just sounds like filler. It’s not the melody.
Hannes: John Farnham, in that song, there’s “woo-oh” and I love it! [laughter]
What’s the last album you bought – last time you [Hannes] said it was your EP, so was it your album this time?
Hannes: Actually, I don’t own our album yet!
Miki: The last album I bought was URIAH HEEP‘s collection album from a flea market.
Hannes: The last album I bought was… on cassette tape, TOTO‘s “The Seventh One.” I bought it from my baby brother! I’m a good big brother because I teach him about good music.
That’s how I got into hard rock/heavy metal, was through my big brothers.
Miki: That’s actually how I got into hard rock.
Hannes: And I got into power metal. I love EDGUY! That’s like the first band… TERÄSBETONI from Finland – I love Jarkko Ahola; fucking great vocalist – and EDGUY, Tobias Sammet. The lyrics and all the melodies – I love that. My big brother showed me that.
Miki: So cheers to every big brother in the world! [laughter]
Are you going to watch AVANTASIA at Tuska?
Hannes: Yeah, I’m gonna see it!
Miki: I like EDUGY as well but I haven’t heard much AVANTASIA.
Hannes: We’re going to play some live covers. I think we’re going to go with “Lavatory Love Machine.”
Miki: Yeah, that’s a great fucking song.
Hannes: Then again, there’s so many songs I’d like to do! I had this one comment that some people hated me because I’m so positive all the time. I’m just smiling and goofing around all the time. Then I heard one of my friends, he hates Tobias Sammet because he’s over-the-top positive. I’m like [snaps fingers] “Do you hate me?” and he’s like, “No?” He fucking hates me. [laughter] But back to the questions!
What’s the goofiest song that you’re into right now that you just want to play on repeat?
Miki: A goofy song that we’re into, at least me and Hannes, is MIGHTY 44. “Push It!” It’s kind of techno-y with a little bit of a rock vibe.
Hannes: Peter Andre! “Mysterious Girl”! That’s one of my all-time favorites.
Miki: He sounds just like Michael Jackson.
Hannes: He does! He used to do Michael Jackson covers. Then there’s one song that I played to the guys – you [Miki] weren’t there for it yesterday, but we were at the rehearsal space and we had some beer and it’s a band called LAPINLAHDEN LINNUT – it’s a Finnish band, kind of a comedy band – a song called “Perse” [ass]. They’ve got a great groove, and I’m like [singing] “Peeerseeee.” [laughs]
Miki: And of course… it’s not always kind of goofy, but EPPU NORMAALI.
Hannes: There’s so many goofy songs!
They having an anniversary show in August – are you guys going?
Hannes: We’re gonna go!
Miki: I’ve never actually seen EPPU NORMAALI play live.
Hannes: Me neither.
Last time you hadn’t had any particularly strange encounters with fans – has that changed yet or are they still pretty chill?
Hannes: There was this one kid. I was walking down the street looking like shit, as I do, and she kept staring at me. I was like, “What’s wrong? I’ve got long hair… [valley girl voice] deal with it!” Then after 2 hours she followed me home to where my girlfriend lives and she was outside waiting for me, and I went out with the dog, and she was like, “Hey, are you Hannes Kett?” I’m seriously looking like shit and I’m like, “Yeaah?” like please don’t take any pictures, please don’t. She was like, “Can I take a picture with you?” I was like, “…Yeah, all right.” I’ve got the dog screaming, “I’ve gotta take a shit!” I think that was the weirdest, but at the same time it was a real compliment. Actually, she said to me, “Thank you, this was the best day ever!” I’m like, “Wow,” and I thanked her because of course it was awesome.
Miki: Those moments seem weird to you, like what’s happening, but if they can really make an impact or a good feeling to another person, a good vibe, why not?
Hannes: It was awesome. I think she told me she is 12 years old and she’s the only one who loves rock in her class and she got a boom box to play our music. She loves the album. And she told me that she plays the drums and Ana is awesome. I’m like, “Fuck yeah he’s awesome!”
I’m down to my last question then!
Both: Noooo! [laughter]
It’s really great to see how amazingly well things are going for you guys – what’s in store for the future now that your album’s out?
Miki: Festival gigs in the summer. The next one is going to be the Tuska Heatseeker on the 30th.
Hannes: With LOST SOCIETY and SANTA CRUZ. Be sure to be there!
Miki: We’re going to do Ilosaarirock and Kuopio Rock Cock.
Hannes: And Sotkamon Syke.
Miki: Rock of Idea.
Hannes: I’m actually waiting for Kupio Rock Cock because WHITESNAKE‘s going to be there, and I want to shake hands with one of my idols, David Coverdale. I want to have a glass of red wine with him. That would be fucking awesome! Like meeting Michael Jackson.
Miki: He’s a fucking legend.
Hannes: I wanna be like that one day. We’ve got fans in South America. I’ve got some guys loving my vocals and started singing because of me. I’m like, “Holy shit,” and some girls love my lyrics and they’re like, “Story to Tell” helped me,” and I’m like, “Holy shit!” So I think I’m getting there. One day I’m going to be the old guy.
Miki: When I get old, I want to be like David Coverdale-ish, because he’s a gentleman. He’s fucking cool even though he’s 70 years old.
Hannes: He’s a real gentleman. I want to be like that. There’s nothing wrong with being kind. This is a fun fact: I’ve heard that many of my friends and many of our fans think I’m flirting with them all the time because I’m kind. My kindness is overwhelming? But yeah, I want to be like David Coverdale.
You’ll have all the 20-some-year-old young bands a few decades from now really excited to have a glass of wine with you!
Hannes: I’ll be like, “Let’s drink the whole fucking bottle!”
Well thanks again so much guys! Do you have any last words for the readers?
Hannes: Send us messages, stalk us!
Miki: Listen to our album and try to find a different inspiration!
Hannes: Spread the message of peace, love, and harmony. You can do it!
Great! Thanks again and best of luck!
Interview by Bear Wiseman