INTERVIEWS

Interview with Shiraz Lane — “The main difference between intimate shows and big stages is that when we are playing at a big stage, I catch myself looking at the back of the hall to see how many people are there and often wonder where the hell all those people came from.”

Shiraz Lane has been busy ever since their latest album “Carnival Days” was released. The guys have been playing shows around Finland and overall, the new album has been a great success. The band is playing a lot of festival shows and we caught up with them during Tuska Festival.

After my talk in February with Hannes Kett and Ana Willman, it’s time to catch up with how the guys have been doing since. We had the chance to talk with Jani Laine and Joel Alex. 

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Hi guys! Thanks a lot for making the time for this interview. We’re at Tuska Festival and you had your show here yesterday at the Inferno Stage. How was it? 

Joel: Last night’s show was really good! The audience was having a lot of fun and the hall was packed. It was completely full, which was really unexpected!

Jani: It was a really great show. They seemed to like the show as well.

Joel: Well to be honest, from on stage, you can’t really tell if it’s any good or it’s bad. But it sure was sweaty and it felt good, so probably it was good. We at least had a great vibe.

This is not your first time playing at Tuska. How many times have you been here before?

Jani: Only once.

Joel: Yes, three years ago. However, two years ago we played at the Tuska Heatseeker [a preparty] at Tavastia, with Santa Cruz and Lost Society.

Three years ago you basically just started out. In comparison with that show, how much has the band really changed? 

Jani: Well, we actually just watched some videos from YouTube from three years back and it was… (laughs)

Joel: Ehhhh. (laughs)

Jani: We were a bunch of kids. (laughs)

Joel: We really were still a bunch of kids, that were still developing, I mean… We still are. But comparing yesterday to the show we did here three years ago, makes me want to say that nowadays we’re much more professional, we play better, we sound better, we have better songs…

Jani: … We look better. (laughs)

Joel: (laughs) Well… Maybe we do. Although, it kind of depends whether you like a childish babyface or you prefer a face that expresses that we were on the road for two years and had enough or too many beers. So the looking better part is up to debate. (laughs) I’d say that we’re a better band than three years ago. If it would be the other way around I’d be disappointed (laughs).

Well yeah, isn’t life all about progressing anyway? Or at least it’s supposed to, so I’ve heard. (laugh)

Joel: Exactly! (laughs) Actually, I think we are at a point right now where everything is going downhill. From this moment on we’re going down. And if we’re rewatching videos from yesterday’s shows in three years, it’s going to be like fuck we were good. (laughs) Okay. If you readers didn’t get that, it’s a joke. (laughs) But you know… It might be true, but hopefully not.

I’m so going to confront you with this statement in three years. I’ll check up on you to see how you guys are doing! (laughs)

Joel: (laughs) Yeah! Please do so! Shit, 2018 was da bomb man! (laughs)

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Anyhow, before things are going to go down, it seems like you guys are doing really great. You released your album “Carnival Days” late February. I had a talk with Hannes and Ana about the album, so I’m not going to dive into that deeper, but let’s discuss how things have been for you guys since you released the album? 

Jani: We’ve been playing shows around Finland.

Joel: In different cities and now some festivals.

Jani: We also played one show in Stockholm in Sweden.

Joel: Actually, we’re happy to tell you that there’s a UK mini-tour coming up late August, beginning of September. Then, we’re heading out on a full-blown European tour with HEAT from Sweden and One Desire from Helsinki. That’s gonna be good. But wait. What was the original question again? (laughs)

No idea really, but keep on going! (laughs)

Jani: We also have some Finnish sows in between that. It’s going to be great. I’ve been really happy to see how everything has been since the album got released. One of the greatest moments for me so far has been our first sold-out show in Helsinki.

Joel: That really was a milestone for us. Of course, it wasn’t like there were ten thousand people there. But when you have the first sold-out tag on the ticket counter, it feels really good, because it shows that people really like the new record. We’re selling more tickets than we did one year ago, we’re having more streams and we’re in general selling more albums than we did. Even though, all of you, reading, should stream and buy more… (laughs). That’s the only way to get us touring more (laughs). Just kidding, that’s not your fault! (laughs) But to go back, yes, it’s going uphill. Not drastically, you know, it’s not like we’re blowing up, but we’ve taken some good baby steps forward.

Talking about your first sold-out show at On The Rocks. I was there as well and can tell that the atmosphere in the audience was really outstanding. I guess aside from your playing, the intimacy also played a part in that.  Do you prefer those kinds of shows over big stages? 

Joel: The thing that matters to me is how close to front row is. It’s a lot of fun playing these intimate club shows and of course the same with festivals. But imagine playing a club show where the audience is too far… I don’t really mind whether it’s a festival or a club show, but I like the audience to be near me. So that I can really see their faces, without glasses (laughs).

Jani: The good thing though about the big festival shows, is that the stages are really big so you can do a lot more things than on the small ones. You can run around, without the fear of hurting someone. Of course, if it’s an intimate club show, you get to be closer to the audience. But I don’t know, yesterday felt really good. The venue wasn’t really big, but we had an amazing vibe going on, the same goes for our show at Rockfest. If the crowd likes you, it doesn’t matter where you play, actually.

Joel: The main difference between intimate shows and big stages is that when we are playing at a big stage, I catch myself looking at the back of the hall to see how many people are there and often wonder where the hell all those people came from?” (laughs) But at an intimate show, I can look at the people at the front row, the people who are near me and also once in a while some people who are sticking out, the bigger ones you know (laughs). I like them both though.

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So, we’re actually at a festival. Apart from playing the show, you’ve stuck around. What bands are you planning to see today?

Joel: I’m waiting to see Carpenter Brut and Gojira.

Jani: Tomorrow we’re planning to see Europe and probably our friends from Blind Channel. If we wake up early enough. (laughs) Today we watched Beast in Black, which was really good!

What bands did you see yesterday?

Both: Body Count!

Joel: That show was really spectacular! We watched a bit of Arion as well because they’re also friends of ours. But we needed to leave for the signing session, which was in a way kind of a bummer. We didn’t have much time, we came in for the show. We missed all the afternoon bands and then we didn’t have much time to check out the bands playing after our set because we had a busy schedule and things we needed to take care of.

Jani: We were able to see a couple of bands though.

In some weeks you guys are planning to release your next music video “The Crown”. Can you tell us a bit more about what to expect?

Jani: We’re starting shooting it next week.

Joel: It’s going to be very different from what we did in our other music videos. We’ve done enough of those play-through music videos.

Jani: So, this time there will be no instruments whatsoever. (laughs)

Joel: People will see us for who we really are in this video. Because they may not entirely realize we’re the kind of tongue-in-cheek persons we are. There hasn’t been any humor in our music videos, but we are actually really funny people. So, people haven’t seen that side of us, but they are going to!

Jani: That’s been really something that we wanted all to break free from!

Are you filming it this time as well, Joel?

Joel: Yes!

How is it specifically for you, to have to do maybe a lot more than the other band members with all the artistic elements aside from the music?

Joel: It’s interesting, but of course fun. There’s a lot of things you need to think about: the idea and if it’s doable. And especially if it’s going to work with me on both ends.

Jani: It doesn’t really matter who gets the main idea of what to do in the video, Joel is the guy who actually makes everything work.

Joel: And I tell them to do ridiculous stuff often. Like for example during “Harder To Breathe” I thought it’d look cool to make the guys white in one part. No one even questioned me about it. Only after they had to wash it away, it didn’t go off at first. It took at least one hour (laughs). Hands and hair. They tried with soap, but it didn’t quite work. And the worst was that it was the first take (laughs). The first thing we actually shot.

Jani: (laughs) It would have indeed been better if it would have been the last one.

Joel: That’s the great thing about it when I tell them I want to try out something, they don’t ask me why. They just go with my idea and they seem to trust my vision.

That sounds like a good opportunity for some pranks because they do whatever you tell them to. You didn’t joke around with that yet?

Joel: (laughs) Well, I definitely could. I haven’t done that yet because it’s too much work, even without doing anything extra (laughs). It’s fun though, I really like doing it.

Do you feel like he’s different when he’s behind the camera? 

Jani: I guess he’s kind of the same, but he’s just doing something else than playing bass.

Joel: Personally, I think I’m more of a dick when I have the camera in my hand. Because when that’s my job, I don’t want people to fool around. I want to concentrate. Otherwise, I’m the same person, but I’m more easily annoyed (laughs). But only if there is something unwanted going on.

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I feel that there was something else happening on your part but can’t put my finger on it. Do you have any other things happening?

Jani: Well, there’s the tour with HEAT, the new music video. I think that’s the biggest news from our side. Although there are also two of our songs that are included in a video game.

Joel: It’s called Wreckfest, a Finnish car rally destruction game! How cool is that?

Jani: The PC version is out now and the console version is going to be out later this year!

Joel: I have to say that I’m still waiting for EA sports games to contact us, to have one of our songs on NHL. That would be a killer. (laughs)

Jani: Other than that, we have some new ideas for songs. We just started out though. But we’re working on it continuously and we’re actually also playing a headline show at Tavastia in August.

Oh right! Your show at Tavastia. This year you have been doing your very first headlining shows. Is it really different from being a support band?

Joel: It’s better. We can play a full set and the crowd is ours, no one else’s. It’s kind of different. We don’t have to win over the headliner’s crowd over anymore. Of course, we have to win over own audience as well, so that they will return to our next show (laughs).

Jani: It’s also more fun. You can plan more for the shows. If the club is big enough you get to have smoke machines and all those extra things. You have more time to do the soundcheck, it also just feels a lot safer and more relaxed.

Joel: The best part is that we get to play every song that we want to.

Jani: When you’re an opening band, you only get like a 30-45 minute time slot, so it’s like you have to cut your set…

Joel: … And wonder what songs to leave out from it.

Jani: So, some fans might be disappointed that we didn’t play their favorite songs (laughs).

That’s, unfortunately, the story of every fan. (laughs)

Joel: Yeah, you can’t please everyone! (laughs)

So, concerning “Carnival Days”. How has it been to play the new songs live?

Jani: Really good. They sound better! When you play them live a couple of times it gets more comfortable to play them. People also really seem to like the new songs.

Joel: We’re also getting to the stage where we don’t have to concentrate so much on the new songs anymore. When we had our album release show, we had all the extras and really cool things happening, but we had to focus so hard on what to do because we didn’t have any experience playing those songs live. A couple of shows later we thought like: “Shit, these songs sound a lot better than at our release party”. Even though that one was bigger, but it’s normal to learn things while doing them and it’s been great to play them.

Personally, I really liked the release show. Especially the curtain drop in the beginning!

Joel: That was his idea!

Jani: It’s a really classic thing for a rock band to do, for example, Michael Jackson also did it. So we felt like we had to do it at some point. We were finally able to do it and it felt great!

You made it yourselves, right?

Jani: Yeah! We made it the night before the show. It basically took us four hours to do those letters in our rehearsal space.

Joel: It was a struggle because the fabric was so huge, but the place we did it in was tiny. I had no idea what I was doing. I had to do it freehand and see what comes out of it. It wasn’t the greatest, but it served its purpose. (laughs)

I think the message it sent was really nice. Because you know, you did it by hand, which means you’re not a part of a corporate machine who has many people doing things for them. That’s a nice thing to radiate!

Jani: Exactly! I was most worried about what problems we might be facing. If it fell down on someone or something. Luckily, that didn’t happen. It went really smooth. So, when it fell down, I felt like the king of the world. (laughs) And it’s a thing that I’ve wanted to do for so long!

Joel: We’re now waiting for our next show where it would be possible to use pyrotechnics because we haven’t done that yet. I’d like to shoot some bombs as soon as possible (laughs).

There were some acts this year that were using pyros. As a photographer, it’s always a bit scary because you’re concentrating on shooting and you don’t know when they’re triggered. When they don’t warn you, it’s always a surprise because it’s so hot in front of the stage. And then, for example at the Inferno Stage, there’s hardly any photo pit, some acts, like for example Arion had smoke machines and it was really hard to breathe. You said that you were worried something would go wrong and you’d get injured or something, but all these things just make me wonder if you actually have hurt each other on shows? As a part of the audience, you don’t really notice those things.

Jani: When Joel and Miki are playing next to each other, Joel usually hits Miki with his bass when the stage is small.

Joel: Actually, we have this one video, it’s not online, but it’s in our archives, where there is this one moment where I jump from my monitor with my bass. I have my bass up in the air, but as I jump I’m dropping it forcefully. It would have been close to a really clean execution if it had been an ax. The neck of my bass went so close to Miki’s head. I really would have knocked him out, if it had hit him. Luckily, it didn’t. Usually, there’s a lot of close calls. I’ve bumped Miki down once at the shows and he fell on his ass. Yeah, I’ve given him some hard times. But Hannes is also kicking my bass and me as well. The only one that is safe is Ana (laughs). I’m waiting for the moment… Wait, no I’m actually not waiting, but more like thinking that there might be a time when he stands on his drum stool and falls down from his riser. That hasn’t happened yet, but he does it at every show. All it really needs is a really windy festival show outdoors and the wind would knock him down, so he’d fall two meters from his riser.

Last time when I interviewed Hannes and Ana we were discussing what spirit animals you were. I feel like I would like to get some more perspectives into that. Your time has come to take revenge if necessary. What’s your side of the coin?

Joel: Oh damn! (laughs) That’s really a hard question. Well… It’s not technically an animal, or maybe it is, at least it’s called “Animal”, it’s the drummer from Muppet Show. That’s Ana.

Jani: To me, Ana is actually a dog.

Joel: I was the dog.

Jani: Well, but not in this round! (laughs)

Joel: You’re a manatee. Because you’re a smooth sailing person, but kind of aggressive as well. (laughs) Miki was considered an owl and that is a fact. If I remember correctly. I wouldn’t change that. (laughs)

Jani: Me neither (laughs) What about Hannes?

Hannes identified with a hummingbird.

Joel: We need an animal that is really over-enthusiastic about everything and at the same time, not the sharpest of them all. One that’s really lovable and nice. So, what would that be?

A puppy?

Joel: Probably yes (laughs) A puppy dog!

Jani: Or a chimpanzee baby! (laughs)

Joel: Yes! A chimpanzee baby! (laughs) Who else? Oh… Me? I have no idea.

Jani: Well, you can decide for us.

Me? But you already agreed that you are a dog? 

Joel: I could be a dog.

Jani: Isn’t everyone a dog inside? (laughs)

Joel: Let’s keep it that way. They probably know better than I do. And you’re a manatee now, not a lion. (laughs)

Thank you so much for your time, guys! Before we wrap this up, do you have any last words for our readers?

Joel: Thank you for all the support that you have given us! If you are new to our and, check out more stuff, get into us, I hope you like what you see and hear!

Jani: See you on the tour!

 

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