2021 IN MUSIC: James Lascelles (Wheel)

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Now that 2021 is coming to a close, it’s good to look back at what this year has looked like. We invited a few artists to talk about how 2021 has been for them. One of 2021’s highlights in Finnish progressive metal definitely was WHEEL‘s sophomore release, Resident Human.” Naturally, we had to have a chat about the year with singer/guitarist James Lascelles. Read more about how he experienced 2021…

What musical goals did you set for 2021? Did you achieve them?

Our major goal this year was to release our latest album, “Resident Human,” and this happened at the end of March. This was the only thing we did that went as planned, however. Promoting the album was extremely tough due to ongoing COVID restrictions – we had some big tours in the pipeline and all of them were eventually canceled; this was frustrating but unsurprising considering the times we are living through.

With the exception of a show with APOCALYPTICA and CYAN KICKS as a warm-up for Saarihelvetti and a showcase event we played, again in Tampere, at the Music and Media event in October, we have not been able to play any shows this year.

Touring has been off the table for such a long time that it has started to feel normal, so going out with LEPROUS for two weeks around Europe in December is going to feel like waking up after a long sleep – we cannot wait to get back to the stage and feel incredibly lucky to be able to do so in such good company.

Other than this, we have spent more time in the rehearsal room this year than ever before and it is really showing through new ideas we have had for our live set and future material – the band is in amazing shape and our live show is on another level to where it was before the pandemic.

Were you able to dedicate as much of 2021 to your project/band as you had hoped?

I think, like many artists, we have been trying to use the time at home as well as possible, particularly focusing on rehearsals and new material, but we have of course needed to work too. 

A band is like a hungry baby and there is always more we could do but considering the limitations that have affected our operation throughout the pandemic, I think we have used the time we’ve had pretty damn well – we also have a brilliant manager who has been working behind the scenes tirelessly on the next steps we are going to take as things start to open up again.

To be really honest, it has been difficult to find inspiration to create when even releasing our album felt like a non-event; despite the great reviews and feedback we received, we still haven’t had a chance to take the music on the road and to see how people react to it at shows. It has taken some time to make our peace with that and to move on but I think we are there now – I hope it is the last album we will have to release in such circumstances. 

What were some of the highlights you realized in 2021?

The reviews we received and our fans reacting to “Resident Human” was definitely the career highlight this year – it was a particularly challenging album to make for us and to see it received so well was an amazing experience.

The two Finnish shows we played were fantastic also – we are so grateful that we have even been able to perform that much, as it’s more than many bands have been able to.

Is there anything you learned during 2021? 

I think that for me personally, I have learned to try and let go a bit more and to be more present – so much of our chosen career path is contingent on the decisions of other people and we really have no idea what the future holds for touring and the industry in general. I found this knowledge highly stressful and frustrating for a long time, but it’s a waste of energy feeling that way about it – what will be will be and ultimately, we are the only ones who get to decide if we are going to enjoy any of this or not. 

I’ve learned some cool new musical skills – I’ve been playing bass with my fingers for the first time this year when I’ve been writing new stuff, I’ve gotten better at sound design with synthesizers, dug deeper into what can be done with effects pedals both on and off the stage, played more piano than I have in years, and have experimented with production possibilities in Pro Tools that I haven’t explored before.

Being in a band over the past 2 years has been a deeply humbling experience – we have absolutely no idea how long we will be able to do what we do, as it is a fragile thing when you think about it – anything could happen to any one of us at any time that could prevent us from continuing and that is ignoring the global variables which, as we’ve seen, can have equally dramatic effects upon our ability to function. Moving forward, I am going to make a greater effort to be thankful for everything we have and are able to do – none of this is a given.

Have you (re-)discovered any new music during 2021?

I think this has been one of the best years for new music I can remember – making all the artists and bands stay at home seems to have had this upside at least!

I have listened to a lot of new albums this year and to name a few that have really hit me hard, I was really impressed with JINJER’s “Wallflowers,” MASTODON’s “Hushed and Grim,” GOJIRA’s “Fortitude,” and RADIOHEAD’s unreleased material on “Kid A Mnesia.” 

I also finally dug into ’80s KING CRIMSON and I’m hooked – I found a video of a live show they played in the early/mid-’80s that particularly spoke to me – some of the stuff they do with live presentation and instrumentation is particularly inspiring.

What can we expect from you in 2022? 

Assuming everything continues the way it seems to be heading, we will be getting back out on the road. We have some ambitious plans to do so and alongside this, we are already working on new material, although we have no firm dates in mind for when this might be ready. We are planning to try something we have not done before and I am curious to see how our fans are going to respond to it – all I can say at this point is that the new stuff is going to sound amazing and we are already keen to get back in a studio and start putting it together.

Written by Laureline Tilkin