Newcomers SHIRAZ LANE have been making massive waves in the hard rock scene in the last year or two, and with some seriously great singles floating around on YouTube and Spotify, we decided to grab Hannes Kett and Miki Kalske before their gig at Tavastia opening for SANTA CRUZ, to get the scoop!
Congratulations on your solid start in the industry. You guys have already won Hard Rock Rising in 2014, the Wacken Metal Battle this year, and as a result you’ve already played shows in Canada, Germany, and Japan. How does it feel?
Great! We’re living the dream, but we want more. The more you get, the more you want.
You’ve done some tour diaries for RadioRock, but they’ve all been in Finnish. Could you tell the non-Finns a bit about those trips? What was it like traveling to Canada and playing in Toronto?
Hannes: For me, I love NHL, so it was a dream come true. We just want to spread the message and play rock n’ roll wherever in the world possible, so Toronto was, for us, the start of something big. It was our first gig outside of Helsinki and it was in Toronto.
Did you get to see an NHL game while you were there?
No, unfortunately we didn’t. We didn’t have money for that. We’re poor hippies. [laughs]
How about Wacken? Had you been to the festival before?
No, it was the first time. It was cool to be an artist there. It’s a cliché to say that everything’s a dream come true, but this year has been amazing for us. Everything’s just happening around us. Of course you have to work really hard. You can’t just start lying around. You have to concentrate on music as well, but you have to enjoy the moments too.
What was Wacken like for you guys? I’ve never been there either.
It was dirty and muddy. There was like a 1m layer of mud there. People were swimming in it. But it was a great experience! We came there, it was 10:00 in the evening, and it was raining and the storm was… I’ve never seen a storm like that in Finland. It was pretty crazy. We were putting up our tent and laughing. Glamorous rock n’ roll! [laughter] This is what it’s all about!
That’s great! Now, there are a lot of preconceptions/expectations about playing in Japan. What was it like and was it what you expected?
It’s kind of indescribable. You have to go there to understand what it’s all about because it’s so crazy and different compared to anything else we’ve been doing. It was really fun. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to go back there. I’m pretty sure we will.
They love their rock music in Japan.
Yeah, the strange thing was it was weird when you’re walking down the street and they don’t look you in the eye. They concentrate on walking and not showing any emotions, but then when they’re at a concert, all hell breaks loose.
I’m not going to lie, that sounds a little bit like Finland.
Yeah, but without the alcohol.
Everyone always has a horror story from the road. Have you guys had any crazy things happen or any Spinal Tap moments or anything that just completely blew your minds?
Not too badly. Once Miki’s guitar got run over by a car. And we put diesel fuel in a gasoline tank.
Also, Joel managed to lose all his gear. That was really… we had a gig the next day in Q-Stock and he was like, “Where the hell is my stuff?” Nobody ever found it. He had to buy all the things he needed again. [laughter] Tough luck.
When and where was your first gig as SHIRAZ LANE, and what do you remember from it?
It was at a youth center in 2011. Let’s just say that we weren’t the same band as we are now. We were taking the first steps and trying out what works and what doesn’t. I wouldn’t say it was really SHIRAZ LANE. It was a version of SHIRAZ LANE.
Hannes: I couldn’t sing for shit back then, so I’m pretty happy there’s no evidence of that. But everybody has to start from somewhere.
That ties in nicely to my next question: How do you think your live performance has changed since then?
It’s a lot more energetic. Better songs, more energetic, better performance all-in-all. We’re better players. We enjoy being on stage. We’ve been told that we look like that and we can really relate to the audience. Actually, we’re just acting authentically. We don’t have any choreography or alter-egos or anything. We’re just us on stage. I hope that that’s something the audience will pick up on. They can relate to it, that somebody’s doing something genuinely and not just acting.
I certainly noticed it when I popped in to get a look at you guys at Tuska! If you could tour anywhere now that you’ve never been yet, where would like to go?
South America. That’d be cool. Or Australia/New Zealand would be great. Then again, we want to tour everywhere, so it doesn’t really matter. As long as we’re on the road, it’s okay!
If you could open for any band, who would it be?
Hannes: For me it would be Michael Jackson, but that’s not possible.
Let’s say any living band.
Hannes: I think the ROLLING STONES, but they’re not really living. The living dead. I think all of the guys have different bands.
Miki: GUNS ‘N’ ROSES would be cool.
Miki: Yeah, those kinds. WHITESNAKE.
Hannes: That would be really cool.
Let’s talk about music now. How did the band form? How do you all know each other?
Hannes: It started as an idea me and Ana had. The first time we played together we were playing acoustic guitars really badly and I was singing off-tune and it was nice. We just had a feeling that this is what we were supposed to do, so we wanted to do it. Then we started looking for players. We found Miki from the internet.
Miki: I had actually heard Ana play the drums before at our rehearsal place and I thought to myself that, “Man that guy can play the drums!”
Then it just came around. Jani, our lead guitar player, he was in the same school with Ana and our bass player, Joel, joined the band around a year ago and that’s when shit got real. Everything started happening because we got the final member to our family. It was really nice.
All the pieces fell into place! How long ago and how did you come up with the name SHIRAZ LANE?
It’s been from the start. We wanted a name that sounds like us, and if it’s a bit weird then you remember it. We were drinking shiraz wine and we were thinking about like, SHIRAZ LANE, sounds cool. It’s kind of a metaphor for life. Enjoy it, enjoy the journey. Drink some wine along the way and find your destination, no matter where it is.
We’re really interested in your musical style. For example, Hannes, you kind of sound a lot like Justin Hawkins from THE DARKNESS, but without the cheesy, “we’re making fun of the genre,” thing that they kind of have going on.
Hannes: Thank you very much!
I like the overall ’80s/’90s rock thing that you have. How did you come into that style?
Hannes: We wanted to play the music we wanted to listen to, so why not write it ourselves? When it comes to singing, I love THE DARKNESS, so Justin Hawkins was a nice comparison. I’ve been told that I sound like a girl and I think it’s good because I can do stuff that most other guys can’t do. I can sing high, I can sing low.
We don’t really think about genres when we’re writing music. We’re just doing what we love. I think you shouldn’t think about genres when you’re making music. It’s just restricting you. Play what feels or sounds good.
There will always be some people saying that you should do this, you should play so it sounds like this, but fuck them because they’re not in our band. They’re not going to tell us what to do. Of course you have to listen if people have good ideas, but in the end you decide for yourself what you want to do.
Especially when people are getting really fixated on genres these days. You can’t really listen to what other people are telling you to do.
For most people we’re like ’80s and glam/hair metal. We have a lot of hair. Like you said, I think the early ’90s were awesome. The music, the whole grunge scene was great. PEARL JAM… and “Slave to the Grind” from SKID ROW was amazing.
How collaborative is your writing process? Does one person do the bulk of the work or do you all contribute pretty equally?
Hannes: We all contribute. Someone might come up with a riff or Ana might come up with a rhythm or I might come up with a rhythm and then I just have some melody or some lyrics and we work it out. That’s why it sounds like us, because it’s five guys.
Is there one song that means a lot to you on a personal level?
Miki: I like the mood of “Story to Tell.” Of course I like all kind of songs but I think there’s such a good message.
Hannes: Good lyrics and good vibe. For me, lyrics is pretty much one of the most important things I can bring to the table, because I can’t sing anything I don’t mean. When I write the lyrics, it takes hours and hours and hours and I have to rewrite all the time, but when it’s perfect, I’m really proud. I’m really proud of the lyrics to “Story to Tell.” Then again, every song. I like them all. And you should too!
There are pretty good! Now maybe we’ve covered this a bit already, but who are your biggest influences musically? Or even not-musically?
Hannes: Like I said earlier, we all have different, but then again the same style. For me, Michael Jackson is a really big part of it. Maybe life, love, and music altogether.
We’re always finding new bands to listen to. Of course there are our favorite bands, but life in general. Just look around you. What do you see? That’s inspiring.
As a young, new band on the scene, do you think there’s an element that is really, specifically “SHIRAZ LANE?” Something that separates you from other bands like SANTA CRUZ and RECKLESS LOVE?
Hopefully you can hear our own sound from our songs. Our own groove. I think the biggest point is that we have a message. We really want to make a change, one song at a time. If we all stand as one, things will start to happen and you will see a change. Then again, if we stay blind to everything happening around us, nothing will change. We have a message.
Are there any really big themes that you’re pushing towards, like the positive stuff, changing the world for the better? Is that what you’re into?
That as well. We’re changing the world but it’s not all positive. You have to see all the shit going on. You have to write about that as well.
Bring things to people’s attention.
Yeah, wake people up and break the rules. We live in a box. If you choose to do something about it then you can stop being a slave. For some reason, people don’t see that they are slaves. They don’t want to change. They think they’re free to use their money, free to do whatever, but that’s the problem. Free to use your money… money’s the whole fucking… it’s the cancer. It’s the problem. It brings all the wars.
Can’t argue with that. Have you had any major challenges as a band so far?
Biggest challenge… what would that be? I don’t really know. There are ups and downs, of course, but we don’t see anything as really negative because everything is meant to be. Whatever happens, happens for a reason and you just have to live with it and this is the best possible thing that can happen to you at the moment.
How goes the search for the label, (if you’re allowed to talk about it)?
We’re not allowed to talk about it, but very well. There shall be some news soon. Very, very soon.
Well, we’re down to the last few questions. What’s the last band you’ve listened to?
Any specific album?
They only have one album. We found the band last week by accident. It’s modern rock. A bit of ROLLING STONES, QUEEN, OASIS as well.
If the answer’s not the same, what’s the last album you’ve bought?
Hannes: I think I bought our EP. I didn’t have any, so I bought one. [laughter]
Miki: Maybe some HIM record. We listened to it in the car. I can’t remember the name.
What would be the ultimate festival line-up for you?
I think we could go to the Summer of Love and Woodstock for some LED ZEPPELIN there. HANOI ROCKS, DIRE STRAITS, Michael Jackson, and SHIRAZ LANE headlining, of course. A lot of great bands. I think the festival would last forever. An endless festival. That would be cool. We would never play. Though if it’s never going to end, we’re never going to play if we’re headlining. Maybe we could headline every evening.
Are there any guilty pleasure bands that you’re not too willing to admit that you listen to?
We listen to a lot of different styles. What would be the most embarrassing? GIRLS’ GENERATION. It’s South Korean pop. Oh yes! Then Peter Andre has the one great song, “Mysterious Girl.”
Have you ever been asked something really unusual by a fan yet?
Maybe. Nothing comes to mind, but everything’s normal for us.
Your fans are pretty normal so far?
Well, not normal, but we’re not normal, so they can’t be too normal either!
Best of luck to you all!
Interview by Bear Wiseman