Keoma, formed in Helsinki in 2008, is a six-piece progressive metal band. The guys have been around the scene for 10 years and secured a spot at Tuska Festival 2018 by winning the Tuska Torstai competition.
Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with their music, but I’m always intrigued with the local band scene, and as someone who loves their prog rock and metal, I decided to get in touch with the guys and see if they would like to an interview during Tuska.
Plans were made and I met up with the guys during my packed schedule on Friday to sit down and talk about the band. We talked about quite a lot, but what stuck by is that this isn’t the last we’re gonna hear from them…
Hi guys! Thank you so much for taking the time. Basically, you guys came to this wonderful festival because you won the Tuska Torstai competition. When you started the competition did you think about what would happen, was it a surprise?
Jaz: It was and it is. It still is. It all seemed so surreal, at the time, if it was really happening.
Eero: During the contest, there were a lot of thrash metal bands. Everyone else was playing super fast music and we play mid-tempo progressive stuff.
Jaska: We were kind of the weird ones. (laughs)
Eero: Yeah, we were really the weird ones in the contest! (laughs)
Sami: That’s my fault (laughs) I’m a mid-tempo guy.
Jaska: It’s our fault!
When I heard you guys had won I was a bit surprised. I was following the competition last year and there was a heavy focus on thrash and hardcore. I don’t think I saw any progressive metal band there. Unless you participated in 2017 as well…
Eero: No, we weren’t there.
Jaska: We found out about the contest too late. So we weren’t able to participate.
Eero: We actually tried to get to Tuska Festival without the contest. And then they told us you should have participated in the contest. This year we learned our lesson and we participated.
And that really paid off! I saw at least part of your show, and I really enjoyed it, you sound a lot heavier than on your recordings. Since it was your first time playing at Tuska, how did you feel about the show?
Eero: Awesome! (laughs)
Jaska: I was a bit afraid because I didn’t know what to expect. Everything worked perfectly and the sounds were awesome. When we hopped on stage and saw the crowd, I thought this is gonna be a good day. It was.
Jaz: It all comes down to this: diarrhoea (laughs). Before and after the show. (laughs)
You’re a local band, so opportunities like this one are quite unique. Have you played bigger shows before or are you still more used to the small ones?
Eero: Couple of bigger ones, but we haven’t played in the biggest venues in Helsinki and in Finland.
Jaz: We’re still waiting for a possibility to play in Tavastia.
Sami: And Nosturi. (laughs)
Jaz: And Nosturi, maybe, some of the biggest. The most respected ones.
Jaska: There have been some Semifinal gigs, though.
Eero: We had some big crowds earlier like in On The Rocks, there was quite a lot of people, I don’t remember when it was. (laughs)
Jaz: The funniest show and place was last time when we played at Hard Rock House at Roihuvuori, really close to our rehearsal room. The bar was full! That was really fun.
Eero: Actually it was this guy’s birthday (hugs Sami).
Jaska: We didn’t think it would be a big show, because it was like Sami’s birthday party. We expected just close friends to enjoy our music with us, but there was a full pack of people and they were queueing outside, waiting to get in.
Wow, that’s really impressive. Because the times I’ve been there the audience consisted of a couple of friends and the local drunk people.
Jaska: Yeah, what the hell was going on there. What have we done to deserve this kind of attention? (laughs)
Eero: Seems like Atomirotta and Keoma can get it full. (laughs)
So yeah, talking about your friends being part of the audience. How was that today? Did you recognize some familiar faces?
Jaz: Yeah there were some. Maybe 1% of the audience consisted out of people we know.
Eero: Yeah, this time it was actually mostly people we don’t know. Before it was our friends and we knew pretty much everyone attending our shows, now more and more people show up who we don’t know.
Jaska: I actually realized today when we hopped on stage that some dudes in the crowd were wearing a Keoma shirt! I didn’t know those people, who are these people? Fuck! (laughs)
Jaz: We started out selling our T-shirts mostly to close ones and all our friends. Now we don’t know everybody who owns them and they sometimes surprise us during shows, we haven’t seen those guys before.
Eero: Where did you get that shirt? (laughs)
Jaz: Hey! It’s awesome (laughs)! Where did you buy it? Give it to me, it’s mine! (laughs)
Jaska: It’s like a good kind of problem when you don’t know someone who wears your shirt, it’s like so who are you? (laughs)
Does it also feel different to play for strangers in the audience?
Jaska: I think it boosts everything.
Jaz: Of course, it’s good to have friends in the audience. But, at least for me, it’s the audience, and there are no friends anymore when I start to play. I’ll forget all my friends and relatives when I’m on stage. I just look at the crowd.
Sami: You look at the big picture of people.
Eero: When you see people you’ve never seen before and you see them enjoying the music, it gives a really big boost though!
Jaska: Exactly, for me the more I see people I don’t know, the more excited I get.
So talking about having new fans there, are you working on any new material that your fans can expect in the future?
Jaz: All the time. We’ve been really busy so far with these gigs for Tuska Torstai and of course, preparing for Tuska. We’re writing new material all the time. We play new songs live whenever we have the possibility and we think they are ready.
Eero: Playing the songs live, is a good way to test out the songs, even if people hadn’t heard them before, for instance when they have not been released to Spotify yet. Even when that happens people can still relate to them. I think there were some people singing to the new songs in the audience, or at least trying to sing along.
Jaska: Yeah! I saw some mouths moving.
Jaz: We played one song from our debut album, all three others were new.
Eero: We almost have enough of material to record a new album, so we are almost ready.
Jaska: It just needs to be recorded. (laughs)
Eero: … And we need to have time. (laughs)
Talking about time, have you guys had any time to enjoy the festival? What bands are you looking forward to seeing live?
Eero: Dead Cross. Mike Paton is one of my favorite musicians. So we are going to see them. I think he starts playing now (laughs).
Jaska: Today I’m waiting for Meshuggah. That’s going to be awesome and tomorrow Gojira. Leprous maybe.
Eero: and Body Count, that’s my favorite!
Sounds like you have a pretty packed schedule! Since I don’t want to keep you from Mike Patton, we can try and wrap this up, but not before you say some last words to our readers.
Jaz: Thanks to all our fans. We got here because of you, because of your support. So thank you!
Eero: Because we don’t have any record deal right now, we’re working internally on everything. It was quite hard to land a gig on Tuska, but our fans got us into the contest and they helped us there. It’s all because of them and for them.
Jaz: For the fans, for family, for friends! Everybody! Drink up!
… And the band cheered one last time before we wrapped up the interview. Watch the video below.