Interview with VOLA — “We will have to get back into the rhythm again of showering, sleeping, loading in and out, and just being on a bus for long.”

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Progressive metal act VOLA has been playing around Finland quite a lot recently. At Tuska Festival, we caught up with drummer Adam Janzi about playing shows, heading on tour again, and what fans can expect from the European tour. Watch the interview here or read the transcript below…

First of all thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I’d ask you how you are but maybe it’s been a bit of a frustrating morning for you.

I’m actually quite okay because I flew from Sweden, the other guys from Denmark. My gear arrived, so I’m safe, I did sleep like 2 hours though because I played a show in Sweden last night, so I’m a bit hyper, but the other guys are pretty stressed out because all their gear got lost on the flight, so we had to figure out rental gear, what we could get so we could just play the show and make it happen. It’s been hectic.

Did you play somewhere with your other band?

I play drums for a Swedish pop artist, called DOTTER. So we played at my hometown festival, an hour from Stockholm. So I played that show, packed down the gear, went home and showered, slept 2 hours, then went to the airport, and here I am. [laughs]

Now, you have to play quite complex music here. What is the contract for you to be in a pop act and then in a progressive metal band?

I love it actually. Then I never get this feeling that every show is the same, of course, every show is different, but when you play shows in a row, it’s often the same setlist. Here I can really have this variation and also in my drum setup, I can have that variation. It keeps me a bit on my toes as well.

Must also be nice that you can maybe relax more during the pop shows than during VOLA, where you play more complex music.

The pop shows are actually surprisingly complex because there are so many nuances that I have to nail because pop music doesn’t have so much stuff on it, so everything has to be there. If something is off, you hear it right away. Now that I’ve played it a lot of times, there are no worries.

That’s interesting because I know very little about drums, so I would have thought it was the other way around. Is there some room for some improv drum fills or so in VOLA’s set?

Yeah, there is some room for that. With VOLA some specific songs where I can just improvise a bit, but with the pop act it’s a bit more strict. Maybe tonight I’ll have to be a bit surprising on the drums. [laughter]

Yeah, I’ll be watching. [laughter] Actually, you’ve been quite much to Finland lately with VOLA. You’ve had some shows in March and you also have a lot of Finnish festivals, so have you also had some time to explore the country during those times?

So, like you said, we played in Helsinki and Tampere in March, so we had some time to just explore Helsinki. We played around the big Ice Hockey hall where those stadiums are, we played in a venue in there. We walked around that area and went to like the water, so that was very cool to see that. Then it was Nordic winter, so it was cool, it was very very beautiful. Now, we will be back in Finland in 2 weeks and then 2 weeks after that, we’ll be back again. These next few weeks, we’ll hopefully even have more time to explore.

I remember seeing VOLA as a support act for KATATONIA some years ago, do you feel like your fan base in Finland has grown a lot since then?

During that tour, I wasn’t in the band, so I didn’t see what the fan base was like, but from what I have heard, I think it was pretty good I guess. I don’t know, but what we had in March, was some of the best I’ve ever experienced. It was beyond expectations, our first headline shows in Finland, my first time playing in Finland. Everything was just amazing. [laughs]

If I remember correctly it was sold out, which is pretty nice because I have heard from everywhere that pre-sales have been really bad since the pandemic. I noticed that your latest album, “Witness” is already 1 year old. You were one of the bands that was lucky to play a couple of shows during the pandemic. How has it been to play the new material to audience?

To play the songs themselves has been pretty cool. They just have a different energy than our past material, so it just felt good to have that hype on stage and to meet the hype of the crowd for those new songs. One thing which has been a bit weird during the pandemic is to ease into it because we couldn’t release the album and have a release show and tour on that. We had to see whether we could make it happen, play a few shows with the new album, then wait a bit, take it slow. Now, finally, in September, we can have a proper European headline tour on the album and what we did in March was the headline run for that album in the Nordic countries.

A lot of bands say that an album becomes really full circle when you get to go on tour. Is that for you?

I think so, yeah. People need to experience it live, we as well. We need to play the album live so it feels complete.

I guess with the festival shows you’re also playing different material than what you would on the “Witness” tour.

For sure, on a headline show on tour, you can have an encore and a lot of nuance in the setlist. At festivals, you have limited time, there are many different bands playing, so you have to set it up differently, so people can have an enjoyable experience.

I’m assuming you are including some songs you haven’t been playing live so much before, so are there any songs that you feel like a little bit difficult?

There are some songs on the new album that we haven’t played, so those I guess need more work. We have played “Future Bird” a few times, that one can be a bit tricky because we haven’t played it so much. “Napalm” is also a song that we play a bit more, but it’s a bit hard.

Do you have any favorites that you are looking forward to play live?

I love playing “Head Mounted Sideways,” that one is fun, I love the energy of it.

Of course, you’re preparing for the European tour too. Is there anything special you can talk about it related to those shows? Are you bringing a cool stage production?

With this new album, since we started playing shows with the album, we started working with a light company from Denmark, called Vertigo. That was our step to up the production level, so the European headline tour will definitely be the next step in the production for people who haven’t seen us during this “Witness” run. Of course, the new songs will be a big new thing on those shows.

When I looked at photos of your shows in Finland, you already had the lights then. How do you usually plan these things, do you come with ideas together and then find someone?

That’s the cool thing about working with Vertigo they are very creative, so they’ve built their own stuff using it specifically for us, bringing ideas themselves, so we don’t really have to direct or bring any of our own ideas to the table. They are very good at interpreting our songs and making their own thing with them.

If you would have an unlimited budget like bands like IRON MAIDEN. What would you do?

For sure, to have the gear there so we don’t have to fly with it. [laughter] I think a really huge light setup, would be something really preferable and a good sounding stage as well. Other than that, I don’t know what else there could be. I’m not like I need pyros and such.

No drum riser or anything? [laughs]

No. [laughter]

You don’t want to be the center of the attention?

No, I’m more like less is more.

Makes sense when the music is so complex.

Yeah and also, the vibe of the music can be quite mellow, so it would be weird to be upside down on a drum riser with fire and spinning sticks when there’s like a soft song.

Makes sense. We’ve been talking about playing live quite much, but in general, how are you looking forward to be on a tour bus again? I guess it’s been a while!

2019 was the last time we did that. That will be very exciting, we will have to get back into the rhythm again of showering, sleeping, loading in and out, and just being on a bus for long. [laughs]

Is that something you’ve missed?

Not specifically being in a bus, but the adventure of going on a tour and seeing those different places and meeting fans from all those different countries because you get to know the people, you get to see the specific cultures of those places, and often I also have drum students on tour, so then I also get to meet drummers from those cities and countries, so I think that’s very cool to get to experience.

Have you ever experienced some sort of culture shock while on tour?

There is this one thing where in Sweden, for example, people really keep their distance, they watch a show, they applaud a bit and then they go home. While in Italy, for example, we’re not METALLICA, so having people waiting there hours before by the bus, wow, that never happens in Sweden, unless you are METALLICA. That’s apparently in more Southern countries, people are more passionate in that way. Also something about buying tickets is pretty interesting, they very rarely buy tickets online. A lot of it sells at the door. So I remember when we played in Italy, we really didn’t sell many tickets, how is this going to go? But then everyone just arrives and buys at the door instead. So that’s a big difference. In Sweden, there will be like ten people buying at the door maybe, maybe five spontaneous people, but yeah, it’s a big difference. [laughs]

Yeah, I guess it must be a bit of a panic when your ticket sale is low, but I guess when you do your own tour, you always attract a crowd.

Now also that we know that that’s the case, then you can be a bit relaxed and be like that’s how it works there, but if it would be the case in Sweden, then for sure, we would be no, it’s not going to get better. [laughs]

What other plans do you guys have in store? Are you just focusing on the tour now?

We’re mainly focusing on the tour and the festival shows, but we’ve started writing some new music slowly to get into that rhythm as well. So we’re juggling between playing shows and writing music at the time.

Well, looking forward to whenever that sees the daylight. Anyway, that’s it for my questions. Any last thoughts you want to share with your fans?

I just want to say a big thank you for all the support, especially on a day like this when gear disappears and we have many fans wanting to help out and offering to lend their gear. I want to give a big sincere thanks.

Interview by Laureline Tilkin