Interview with Vile Caliber – "If you can, just put ear plugs on, crank it to the max and just go for it."


May 2017 – Nosturi is packed up with a lot of supporters. Supporters as in fans, being there for their friends, family, or just music enthusiasts who would like to get to know the local music scene of Finland better. This is standard for Emergenza festival, the biggest band competition in Finland and maybe even worldwide. On the stage are several bands, three of them win an honorary certificate. Third place is for five rockers flaunting with their band’s T-shirts. They’re all part of the same band: Vile Caliber.
Vile Caliber is a five-piece originating from Helsinki, they have released their debut album “Tomorrow’s For Those Who Dare” in 2015 and after a lot of gigs, and some time to grow and drive the band further, they are now ready to release their new single “Willpower”.
End of March, we had a chance to talk with vocalist Arti Waine and drummer Vesa Laamanen to talk about the band, what they have done in between their releases and particularly about their new single “Willpower”.
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Vile Caliber might not (yet) ring a bell to many. Many of our readers have yet to discover your music, but this is the right place for them to get to know you better. Could you – for those people – briefly introduce Vile Caliber?
Vesa: It’s quite a long story. Basically Vile Caliber has been around since 2010 or 2011. Long story short, we had a few different bands which were merged into one band and after a while we tried a few singers and in 2013 this guy (Arti Waine, TM) showed up.
Arti: Hei! (waves)
Vesa: And here we are. We’re based in Helsinki, but we live in different places and our current bass player lives in Lahti.
Arti: We play hard rock/heavy metal and somebody might call it glam metal too.
Vesa: Or glam rock.
“Tomorrow’s For Those Who Dare” your debut album, came out almost exactly three years ago. How was the experience of having your first debut album released?

Arti: It was very nice to have an album out, to have some concrete thing out of the band and I’m looking forward to get more done.
Vesa: The recording process was basically a nightmare (laughs). Every single thing that we could do wrong – we did it all by ourselves, so we learned by doing stuff and we learnt what we should do and especially what we shouldn’t do. (laughs) But, it was nice and it was good to have the album out after so many years.
Arti: Yeah, and we recorded some new material that is being released soon and maybe even out now, as you are listening.
Vesa: We don’t know.
Arti: We don’t know, you’re in the future. We’re in the past.
Vesa: (waves) Hello future people!
Arti: Still learning, but going on strong and I think the new material is quite strong.
You mentioned you made quite a lot of mistakes during the recording of the first album. What did you learn about the process for future releases?
Vesa: Well we knew what we shouldn’t do, but we did the same mistakes anyway, basically. (laughs)
Arti: (laughs)
Vesa: Maybe next time, maybe next time.
Since the first album your lineup has changed. You have a new guitarist, Martti Lamberg, who was also involved in the recording process. Has that somehow influenced the recording process?
Vesa: I think it was pretty much the same. We recorded the drums first and something after, guitars maybe, I don’t really remember. Something. Some stringed instrument after me.
Arti: I think it was better. We did the same thing but better, but still made some mistakes as we did last time.
Vesa: We actually had an outside producer recording drums this time around. So last time, we did the drums ourselves as well, so miking, tuning and recording. Now we had an outside person.
Arti: And I think it turned out pretty fine.
Vesa: Yeah, the sounds are better than on the first album I think.
“Tomorrow’s For Those Who Dare” was released in 2015. You haven’t released anything since, so the material that is now seeing the daylight soon, formed quite a gap in the timeline between the old material and the new. What have you been doing meanwhile?
Vesa: We’ve been focusing on writing new material and basically driving the band forward in different ways. We participated in Emergenza 2016, Emergenza 2017 and Hard Rock Rising 2016, which we won. Well, the Finnish portion of it.
Arti: Yeah, not the whole thing.
Vesa: Unfortunately not the whole thing!
Arti: At Emergenza we were third, which was nice because it’s the biggest band competition in Finland, but this year we’re not attending. We’re writing new material.
What have you learnt from these competitions?
Vesa: We took part in Emergenza twice and I think our show this time around, when we were third, everything was bigger and better. The show was bigger, there was more stage moves, jumping around and whatever.
Arti: Yeah, and I think in the competitions when you get a short slot and you have to make the best of it, it’s a good exercise to make a good set list including the changes in between the songs, so that everything is very precise. There was a lot of thought put into that.
More in general do you think these competitions are fruitful for bands?
Arti: I think the competitions are very useful for new bands. They’re not the thing to get you discovered, it’s not like you get discovered from gigs nowadays. But, it’s a good exercise for playing live and trying to be the best you that you can be.
Vesa: Yeah, if you don’t expect to be signed to a major record label just because you did a 20 minute show on Emergenza, it’s good. If you think that someone will sign you just because you did a 15-20 min slot with your best slots, you might get, and I say might get, disappointed.
Arti: Well, it’s possible.
Vesa: Well, there’s always the possibility. You never know, but you might be disappointed if you participate only because of that. But on top of that, it was a very good exercise of playing live. We learnt a lot.
Arti: For these kinds of physical genres, like hard rock and heavy metal, it’s kind of chill to play only a 20 min set list, because it’s always very demanding. We’re always sweating!
Vesa: One and a half hours of doing that and you might die. It’s doable, but exhausting. Those competitions are easier physically for your body and mind.
Arti: Of course if you have some giant backing track structure and lots of setup to be done, that can be quite hard, because the band switch time is so little and there is basically no sound check or so. If you can, just put ear plugs on, crank it to the max and just go for it.
You mentioned you were third at Nosturi, that means you made it to the finals, so you made it to Nosturi. Before that you have been mostly playing at smaller venues, local bars or clubs. How is the experience to play in such a big venue where all of your heroes have played as well?
Vesa: It was nice to not hit your head on anything for once (laughs). Cause when we play in smaller venues, the ceilings usually are a bit lower, and when I’m doing my stick twirling, I sometimes hit lamps or something that are on the ceiling. I think I might have broken one lamp at one point of my career in a venue – not saying where. It’s easier getting crazy, without killing anyone on stage.
Arti: Yeah, I always tangle up in every guitarist with my mic cable and on a bigger stage I can really get it on. Apart from it being a milestone in my career, playing on the same stage, I saw my first heavy metal concert at Nosturi, so it’s a full circle, but apart from that it feels like business. With this kind of music, performing at a small stage, it doesn’t reach its highest point. But, that kind of middle-sized stage as Nosturi, the magic starts happening.
And about the smaller venues. Is there some kind of charm in there?
Vesa: Smaller venues always have a certain level of intimacy.
Arti: Yeah, I was thinking the same, it’s nice.
Vesa: It’s a different thing to play in Nosturi, basically and to play a for an audience of 70 people in a smaller venue.
Arti: Yeah, and if you play in a smaller venue for 70 people, then the place feels so packed. It’s so nice, like sauna. People might just be standing there with a beer glass in hand, chilling, but they might be super loud after the song so they enjoy.
So enough about the past. Let’s focus on the present, or the very near future. You will release a new single “Willpower” on 13 April. Can you tell us a bit more about the creative process behind “Willpower”?
Arti: (laughs)
Vesa: … Well it’s a long story.
Arti: It’s a really long story, that dates way back.
Vesa: Actually the main riff of the song was already written before we released the album.
Arti: Yeah way before, we were deciding what songs would make it to the album, and Willpower, well… the first version, of it was there.
Vesa: Yeah, it didn’t even have a name back then.
Arti: It was named after the drum beat. There was this beat with the toms and then the main guitar riff, the rhythm guitar, that was basically it.
Vesa: We managed to finish it once, I think we even have a live demo version of it, but it’s way different from what it is now. I don’t know what happened, but when we decided on the songs for the album, we basically ditched “Willpower”, for some reason, it just didn’t work for some reason. We couldn’t make it work, I don’t know what it was. For some reason, we couldn’t finish it. Then Martti came around in 2015. For some reason, we took that riff once more to the rehearsal and played it through a couple of times. We tried to see if this time around we could make it work. Well, we couldn’t. But after a week or two, Martti came to the rehearsal place and was like “Well guys, I have this killer riff and a killer melody and I wanna play them for you. I thought they would fit “Willpower”. If you don’t like it, I don’t care, we can use them, or not. If we won’t, I’ll use them somewhere else”. The riff basically is the 16 note pattern that Jan is playing in the song. And that was basically it.
Arti: We were like “Well let’s hear the thing then”.
Vesa: Then he played the riff and Jan played the second guitar riff and Martti added the thing that we now call the “Volvo Lead” because it sounds like an 80s car commercial soundtrack and the song came alive. We added the intro, nothing more.
Arti: That was 2015.
Vesa: A week or two after that, Jan took the song home and wrote the whole thing. We went to the rehearsal place and he was like “Here’s the finished song”. That’s basically what “Willpower” is now, afterwards Arti wrote the lyrics.
Arti: I then got all the parts from Jan and based on that we did a recording. I then wrote vocal melodies and lyrics on top of that and then it took some form in rehearsals. Then we did a demo track and we decided to put some layers of backing vocals on the chorus.
Vesa: (laughs) “some layers”. There’s a shit ton of layers there.
Arti: Yeah, but it’s good.
Vesa: More is more, more is always more.
Arti: How could less be more?
Vesa: More is more.
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Willpower as a theme sounds like a very motivational song, with a powerful content. Can you tell us a little bit more about the song writing?
Arti: The way I have been writing lyrics for Vile Caliber goes as followed. I usually get a topic, maybe start with the song title or the theme. I go from here. This song in particular had a good drive and a “going forward”-atmosphere into it. You know, this kind of Heavy Metal Willpower.
Vesa: Heavy metal “Willpower”.
Arti: “Willpower” had this individualism thing going on, of finding yourself, getting grips of your life and going through obstacles and stuff. Because of this vibe it had, Willpower became the theme. Afterwards, I was doing some groundwork for the lyrics and I found out that Willpower is also a William Shakespeare meme. I thought well… You know, Shakespeare is really cool. So I started adding little Shakespeare references into the song and it just kind of grew. It’s also in the music video.
So as you just mentioned, there’s also a music video to “Willpower”. Can you talk a little bit more about this music video?

Arti: One year ago, we were discussing about doing a music video for “Willpower”. We already had done some music videos before that: “Snakebite Trail”, which was a self-made video that we deleted eventually, “Break The Chains To Free Us”, was made out of material that was shot during our album release party, Animal, which was a video where we were just playing through the song and last “Lost & Lustbound”, which was just a lyric video that Vesa shot of me singing the song. We wanted something new, something with a plot. So one day we sat around the table during a rehearsal break and we just started bouncing some ideas around. We wrote a lot of those ideas down of what could be in the video and basically we tried to think what we see in mind when hearing the music and what kind of themes the lyrical content conjures up.
Vesa: Most of those ideas didn’t make it to the video, but half of them did.
Arti: It was important to put all the ideas down before having the script. After that phase, I promised to write the script, so I went home and… I didn’t do it. The following week, the guys asked me if I had done the script and I was like (starts laughing) No. It was a typical last-minute thing.
Vesa: Story of your life.
Arti: So yeah, there was some burst of creativity involved and then I basically started up Microsoft Paint and Microsoft PowerPoint and I composed the script and the storyboard in one session. Instead of going to bed and went straight to the rehearsals to show it to the guys.
Vesa: Rehearsals and zero sleep, always a good thing.
Arti: Not… (laughs) Anyway we were discussing about the storyboard then, so I had to explain what each picture means, because apparently I’m not that great with Paint. But there were some different angles thought out already and then we decided what should change. After that we decided about the budget and then getting the team to film it. That was done in two days.
Vesa: The band part was one separate day and then there were two days of the second part. The band part was easy. It was the same setup we used during our Animal video. The premise was the same, only the location was different. But we had a similar style and the angles were the same. The whole process of filming the storyline of the video, well… That was different.
Arti: The filming of the storyline began on a frosty autumn day at 5.30 in the morning. It was pitch black and the stars were still shining. The shooting was going to happen in front of this abandoned house that has been rumored to be haunted. I was putting spruce twigs and sand on the road so that the Tesla wouldn’t get stuck in the mud and it could drive all the way to the house. It was a full day, really long hours and the next day we started a bit later at downtown Helsinki in Aleksanterinteatteri.
I think it’s safe to say we are all curious about the end result. The combination of Shakespeare, a Tesla and Aleksanterinteatteri already sounds quite intriguing. When we’re talking about “Willpower”, it’s safe to say that it’s a bit different from the rest of your album. In my personal opinion it’s more powerful and more melodic than what you have done in the tracks of “Tomorrow’s For Those Who Dare”. Is there any reason as to why “Willpower” is different?

Arti: Well, I question whether it’s a shift in direction, as some might call it. The previous album is very diverse. Let’s say if someone would ask themselves about how “metal” we are, the song “Lost & Lustbound” is a pretty non-rock song, that is totally metal.
Vesa: Yeah, if you take for example “Snakebite Trail” and “Lost & Lostbound”, those songs have basically nothing in common.
Arti: Those two songs are at total ends of the spectrum. I would say “Willpower” is somewhere in the middle. It’s just what we do and we do lots of different stuff. It just happens to be that the songs on the album don’t really showcase that yet, because after all there are only eight songs out there and we don’t get to show everything we have in us.
Vesa: On top of that we have different backgrounds as musicians as well. Not everyone of us has played Rock ‘n’ Roll for their whole lives. We have metalheads who have played in death metal bands, who have played in prog metal bands. We even have someone who has had experience with humppa. I’ve basically played hard rock, heavy metal and power metal for the majority of my life. The musical spectrum that we have operated on before the band, is thus diverse. But what I know is that “Willpower” wasn’t forced. It was natural.
Arti: What is also a factor in our creative process is our workflow and the fact that we like to play rock. We like super fast guitar solos, high vocals and a super high energy and drive. So it just happened naturally.
Vesa: Good fun.
Now enough about the new single! We are all looking forward to hear “Willpower” and perhaps even get the chance to hear the new album. Speaking of that, besides “Willpower” is there any new material coming up?

Vesa: Willpower is for sure going to be on the next album and besides that we have one finished song and two others that are nearly finished.
Arti: If we started to record them, then they would basically be finished as well.
Vesa: There’s still some minor details to be done and fixed.
Arti: We always like to polish our material, maybe even too much, but it’s better that way.
Vesa: Let’s say that if the next album is also going to have 8 tracks, then we now have half of the album finished. We have been talking about doing a demo or maybe even recording the new album during the fall. That depends on how summer will go.
There might be some people who know read about you for the first times in their lives. If they get curious about you and your music, where can they find you?
Vesa: We’re everywhere, we’re like the plague.
Arti: (laughs)
Vesa: Well, we are on Facebook and we should be more active on Instagram. I think we also have a Twitter.
Arti: Oh do we? (laughs)
Vesa: We have a Twitter there somewhere, I think.
Arti: I have a Twitter too, but I don’t have any tweets yet.
Vesa: But yeah, we have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, follow us there and check our album out on Spotify!
Thank you so much for your time, guys! Now before we wrap this up, there’s only one last question that I have to ask you guys. Do you still have something you would like to share or mention to our readers?

Arti: Thanks for everyone who has supported us in the past. If you want to support us in the future, you can buy our CDs and shirts and follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Here’s a small preview of our new video Willpower, it features electric guitars and cars and lots of cool stuff like that. And it’s a thriller, so be sure to check it out.
Vesa: Only at Tuonela Magazine.

Watch the highlights of the interview in here, including an exclusive sneak peek of Willpower.