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Thanks to On the Rocks Sametti Klubi on Tuesdays, we happened to find out about this band called Polanski hailing for Helsinki, Finland. Because their singer Anttoni jumped on stage as the last act of the evening to perform two of the songs of the first Polanski record (released 3rd October), we took the chance to meet the mastermind again a few days later for a chat, accompanied by drummer Tyko. While having a few beers, Anttoni not only shared his views about the music business nowadays, he also told us about the long and difficult process until this band was born: Polanski!
Hi guys, so could you first of all introduce the band and its members for those who don’t know you yet?
Yeah sure. The band is called Polanski and I am Anttoni, Tyko our Drummer, our guitarist Kalle and our bassist Miika.
Why did you choose the name Polanski? It’s a bit uncommon for a band.
Yeah, well it is a long story…
The process of picking a band name is very hard. You wanna find the perfect thing in your dreams and when you wake up, you are like “that’s it.” And you just can’t force it. I had a couple of bands and every single time the band name choosing process has been very hard. So we were thinking about a few very cool and heavy sounding suggestions, and actually he (points to Tyko) remembered this incident I had told the guys: In the 80’s, before I was born, my parents visited the Canary Islands and ran into Roman Polanski, the famous director. And apparently he was so impressed by the look of my blonde mother that he asked my father, if it would be possible to spend some time with that woman in exchange for some money. That’s it, as far as I know nothing happened. That is at least what my dad tells me. So Tukko came of the blue with this sentence “Polanski tried to buy my mother”. I thought it was hilarious and stimulating on a certain level. And for a couple of days it just stuck in my head, first I didn’t think of it as a band name, but then it started resonating. It’s a long and not the simplest name, but we decided to go with that. And back then it felt very good. It had that kind of punk attitude that we try to convey. The feedback was horrible. Some thought it is funny and other really close friends said “If you have a band with that name I never come to your shows!” The hate was so obvious. And you had to repeat the story so many times until people actually got it, and then they always mixed it up like “Roman tried to mess with my father” and stuff like that all the time. When we had gigs, they always misspelled us. So I just got tired of it and suggested to shorten it to Polanski.
So, you are a four member band that was formed in 2011, which is not too long ago. Did you know each other before of how did the band form?
Me and our guitar player Kalle are friends from school all the way back from the 90’s and I basically played with him in every band that I had. So the core was the two of us, and when we moved to Helsinki from this smaller town in eastern Finland called Mikkeli, we tried to find players, we needed a bass player and a drummer. We always wanted to have a new band, because the previous bands had failed.
Was it the same kind of music or different? Anttoni: A lot different. It took me a while before my identity as a composer became what it is today. It took a lot of songs that were thrown out, because I just couldn’t fit them in the bands that I had back then. But anyway, then I met Tyko while working in the Jazz Club called Storyville. He was playing with some rhythm and blues band there. And we just had a couple of Gin tonics and started talking about stuff and I just popped the question if he’d be interested in playing drums in my not-yet-ready-band. And we got him excited about the material that I already had. With the bass player it was bit more difficult. How many did we have, 2 or 3 different guys? Tyko: Yeah, two or three, and then our current bass player Miika once called me: “I am frustrated, I need a band. Do you have any band for me to play in?” And I was thinking, because we had some problem with our bassist back then, so I said “We already have one, it’s a tough life, maybe next time!” (Laughs) Anttoni: Yeah at that time we had a bass player, but nothing was happening. Tyko But then that bass player left and I called Miika Anttoni: And that was just love
So when did you start to play together in this Line-up?
2011, that is when I start counting, because before that I was trying to figure out the compositions, arrangements, the elements, basically what I wanted to do. Why I make music and what I am saying.
So I guess you then are the only one who is responsible for songwriting?
It was more of an economical solution. Because Kalle and me coming up with a lot of riffs and me completing them into songs and then figuring out that this is just horse shit. I think every single song that we at first rehearsed as Polanski - we trashed them all. So it was faster that way, if I just tried to complete a composition by myself and I brought it to the guys, that took the process further a lot faster. So it became a process of my own, to have enough songs that we could actually play a show. That’s why I think the compositions have been done mostly by me and we arranged them collectively. But hopefully now that we got the wheel running, we’ll be able to compose new stuff by the four of us.
For me personally it is really hard to jump into somebody else’s compositions and then writing lyrics to this or sing on this song? I have never done that, because I just can’t put myself into someone else’s music and then add my melodies and vocals. I don’t get the feeling for it, because for me music always comes first. I don’t think I listened to the lyrics in my favorite artists´ songs until a couple of years ago. When I started to feel the need to look up to what other people have written. You know the lyrics when you grow up in Finland, not in English but in Finnish, listening to Metallica and Nirvana; when you are just kicking your jumpers, they didn’t make any sense, you didn’t understand a word, you just imitated the sound of the words and you could know the songs by heart, but without any lyrics.
Yeah and when you slowly start to understand you are like WTF….
Yeah, WTF Mr. Cobain, that doesn’t make any sense at all….. So anyway, I don’t put that much effort in lyrics, I just like the way that it paints something on top of the music.
Ok, but what kind of topics do you use for your lyrics, where do you take the inspiration for the lyrics from, if you are more into the music?
Mine? Oh damn… In a way the lyrics are very personal. It is something that I need to pour out. There are relationship issues; I am not saying my personal ones, but things that happen around me. The agenda would be the general disbelieve of the way that this world is going. I am just surprised that life is so superficial. So that’s probably my main issue that I need to pour out.
You said that the music part is the most important to you, so did you ever consider to play just instrumental songs?
I am considering to write some instrumental stuff, but I am not good enough. Not yet…. I will be tomorrow. (Laughs) Especially live I would love to do some instrumental stuff, because it would give me a break from trying to convey my thoughts by screaming out loud.
Do you think it is harder to catch the audience when you just play instrumental tracks?
I don’t know, I really haven’t thought about it from that perspective. It is more about inspiration, I mean you don’t write songs, they choose you. (Laughs) You are just the instrument. I mean I would love to do instrumental pieces, but maybe it is a bit too far in the Prog-side of music to do it with this band, at least right now.
You released your first record two days ago, with a release party at Circus - how did you feel during the show?
It was great. It was sooo beautiful. I was so surprised of the fact that so many people came. You’ve been working so hard to get a record, four players in the same room at the same time with a producer, then doing it twice. Then eventually being able to celebrate that release and be able to see your loved ones in the audience, plus a lot of people that you don’t even know. It was just overwhelming. I didn’t have to think about anything because I saw that there where people that came here to see us, so let’s just do our thing, simple as that.
Have you been playing many gigs before that or?
Yeah, we have been playing some dozens of gigs.
I was surprised, I wasn’t expecting that you are that “professional” yet. Maybe some little things, but otherwise..
Was it like that? (Laughs out loud) I am happy about it, but it was probably because the guitars were so loud you couldn’t hear my mistakes. Which were not just a few… We just know this is it. This was our best chance of convincing people that something is happening and that we will be doing this in the future as well. Cause there is a problem within the scene. You have friends that are not jumping on the band wagon at all, it is not the 70s anymore. You just need to establish yourselves for your own friends because basically they are the hardest critics. But that gig was the land mark for us to know that now they are going to see us in a different way. Making everything of this wonderful possibility to play this big stage and just show the people that this is for real for us. And what is for real for us is for real for our friends as well.
So you had the feeling they didn’t take it so seriously before?
Yeah, it’s like “friends playing in this place, should we maybe go there.” That is normal, I am not trying to come out ungrateful! I am all grateful for my friends, but the general idea is that you need to have somebody from the outside to say that this thing is good. Then your friends are like “Yeah, I know these guys!” (Laughs) The snowball effect, it’s the same everywhere, also on Facebook. No likes, but if somebody goes crazy about it, then all of a sudden people go crazy about it too. It’s like parasites… (laughs) People turn onto things very slowly. It is funny, but in almost every single other aspect of life people are exaggerating and making up stuff every fucking day, they just play with images and associations, and when somebody actually does something like artists, painters, songwriters etc., it is not that incredible anymore. But “you under a palm tree” is fucking unbelievable (mimes taking a selfie; laughs) - isn’t it? It is! That is something why I am asking myself where the hell is this world going to...
I read that the process of doing the record was really exhausting.. Tyko: You’ve done your homework….
See, so what was the worst part of it?
Well, we started to do this record which is called “Between this and Hate” about 3,5 years ago, with two producers, a friend, and we were really excited that we were doing a record that would change everything for the six of us. Making a record that would blow everybody away! And the recording process took more than a year. And we recorded the whole thing, but then we run into personal and to other issues that had to do with the material that we had recorded and the thing couldn’t be completed. Let’s put it that way. We needed to back off. And that was a very hard decision after working almost two years on the record.
Rocky rough roads teach you a lot, it was a very big lesson that needed to be learned, but it´s totally worth it - it was faith, this is the way it needed to be done, to be in the place where we are now as a band.
And then, that was basically the easy part, finding a new producer, finding a new studio; it came very naturally when the wheel started running properly. It was the beginning of this year. It only took us 3 days to do drums and bass and then a week for guitars and another week for the vocals. And now we are good.
Why did you choose these Sonic Pump Studios, it is actually not one of the cheapest Studios around?
It came because Mikko Herranen, our producer, used to work there. We couldn’t afford to use the studio for all the recordings, so we needed to lay down some guitar tracks in our rehearsal place, which saved us a lot of money. I think even two or three songs where sung in the rehearsal studio. But Sonic Pump is a very nice studio. And I think we paid for all the days that we were there. There was no hustling. No night sessions that nobody was aware off… (smiles) Nothing like that! Mikko was so excited about our band, about doing this album. He had this RUST thing, you know?
And the way I see it is that maybe he suffered from the loss of Rust and he wanted to find this new band that would take kind of like his personal legacy. So he was very into doing this.
So how did you get the chance to work together with him?
Mikko is the cousin of our guitar player’s friend, from the same small town close to Mikkeli called Otava. That’s the connection. So when we figured out that we need to do this again, needed to find a new producer, we approached him and he was like “WTF is going on, I was the man from the getgo!” It was really funny that he told us that once he heard that we were doing a record, he was like “With whom? Why not me?” So when we actually asked him, he was like “Fuck yeah let’s do this!”
Is there one song on the record you are really proud of?
Not really, but for some reason I think “Lidless Sky” is just something that needed to be done. It’s a song of which I hope that people would like it. It’s an old song actually. That’s a song I do like as a composition, I think it is very strong.
You also covered this Top Gun theme song “Take my breath away”. Why the hell do guys cover a cheesy song like this?
Yeah, but I think it was a great idea (laughs) The story behind it is funny. I was waiting for a tram at the railway station and heard a song from somewhere - maybe it was some passers-by Ipod - and I immediately thought this would do a great cover. And then I was like really feeling it. Tyko was there too and we kept on talking about stuff, and I just forgot about the song, and once we got to my place I was like “What was the song?” And we both couldn’t remember it. And all of a sudden “Take my breath away” just started out of the blue, I don’t know, maybe it was playing somewhere or just in my head, and I was like “well this is it!” This is not the same song, but this will be the song. We had fun. And I was trying to include it to our set in Circus, but they didn’t want to do it.
Why not! All the girls would have been melting… Anttoni: Exactly, this is like the climax of our songwriting - we can take other people´s songs and can make it our own! But I can understand playing cover songs is playing cover songs… we´re not that band... Tyko: We have enough problems already, you know… (ALL LAUGH)
So why is your record called ”Between This and Hate”? What is “This?”
It is this, everything around us. This feeling, this place, this day, everything. Between the idea a person having a life, and hate. I just couldn’t avoid the fact that it is a very angry record. I am pouring out stuff from ´85 when I was born, cause this is the first album. So basically it is a combination of songs that I think are the best ones I’ve ever written during this whole trip, from the very early stages when I took the guitar and played for the first time. I just like the phrase ”Between this and hate”, cause it kind of sets the mind free. It means that there is a lot to say. But I do mean it, I would like people to understand that it is not pathetic to realize what is happening in the world, in the society, between you and your loved ones etc. It is not pathetic to talk about it. If you are concerned about something, I think it is better to have a chat about it rather than keep it to yourself.
And what is this thing on the cover of your record? Anttoni: You haven’t figured it out? It’s a bird! Tyko: A dead bird Anttoni: Not dead. A skeleton of a bird! Tyko: That´s kind of dead. Anttoni: It is a beautiful picture, and I wanted to incorporate it into our cover art. I was really surprised that a lot of people came and asked “what is this?” - isn´t it obvious?
So you are still an independent band, do you wanna stay independent or are you looking for a record company?
Pros and Cons of having one: Obviously the con is not having one, but the pro is that you can pull your strings. In the past five years I’ve heard 1000’s of bands Jazz, Rock etc. been talking with those guys about how does it work for them to be in this or that label with these people promoting you etc. And it is not good. And that is the problem if we were on a label that we would be the priority to help our band to make it, but apparently nowadays it is something that doesn’t even exist. We did have some interest from labels, but the general message was very confusing. For example, one of the biggest labels in the world, their Finnish section told me that they’ve already signed five English singing rock bands last year, so that’s their full capacity. And they are not going to sign anymore. You read that email and you go like “? Is there a capacity of music?” They have already filled that slot of five bands and if something good came up, they gonna ignore it? And then at that time I was working in this place called Liberté, and there I actually met two of those bands who had signed a contract there. And their albums where in the store´s half price section, without any gigs selling, going into dust because the label does not do their work and there is no support. That is when I realized that signing to this label would have been commercial suicide. I would rather kill myself than to see that something that I poured out of my own blood, heart, flesh and mind gets treated like that. Sure we need a label to pay for the studio etc., but not at any cost.
Ok what would you say would be the ultimate success for Polanski, the proof that you made it in music business?
Haha - yeah sure!
No really, I mean, I could die in an accident tomorrow. I hope not, because there’s a lot of stuff going on. Either I am saying this or I am saying I wanna be the biggest band in the world, but this is not going to happen. I wanna be a pioneer about people questioning their idea about music consumption. It used to be the biggest thing in the world, and nowadays bands are like candy... The adventure is not being the biggest band in the world, the adventure is that there are four guys trying to be better men, collectively, doing something that also involves music. We found a way to ventilate our steam out, so this music is a must. It is something every single one of us has to do, to avoid turning insane.
What is the rebel thing, the rebel music nowadays? Metal became commercial, especially in Finland. So what would be a rebel thing a teenager could listen to, to piss of the parents?
The way I see it that they’ve taken the rebel out of everything. Even though it is punk, metal, rock or whatever it is, even HipHop is commercial, it used to be from the ghetto, they still try to be from the Ghetto, but the ones who do it are fucking millionairs. Which is not a bad thing. But they’ve taken out the rebel out of rebel. We need to come up with new ways to prove that we are willing to stand up in the development. The general opinion right now sounds like: Be aware and consume as much as you can. No Drinks, Sex, Drugs, no Rock’n’Roll, sounds a bit boring to me. I don’t wanna be a part of that boat, I’m gonna sail the opposite way, (laughs)
So there is the rebel!
Yeah, but nowadays you have to be verbal about it!
Ok thanks for the interview and all the best!
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Author: Sandy Mahrer, photos Sami Siilin, K.Weber Date: 2014-11-01