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Just right before it starts to get cold again in Finland, the Finnish rock-metal band Leverage releases their third record „Circus Colossus“ to warm up our hearts again. The EU edition contains 10 songs full of power and it showcases that the band is only going forward. We met main songwriter Tuomas Heikkinen and singer Pekka Heino for a chat in Tammisaari at Finland’s south coast to talk about the start of the tour and superstitious things.
Hey guys, two days ago you had your record release party in Jyväskylä, and yesterday two gigs, how was it? And how are you doing today? Tuomas Heikkinen: Jyväskylä was fine Pekka Heino: Yeah, it was the first gig and it’s always kind of exciting, you are sort of always on your toes when you are playing the first gig for the new album but, considering that, I think it was brilliant. It is always good to play in Jyväskylä because it is sort of our hometown, even though we (Pekka & Tuomas) live in Helsinki but the rest is from Jyväskylä. There are always lots of people who know the band and come to see the band. They know the music so it’s always great and the …. gig yesterday in Helsinki, I think it was the best gig we have ever done. People were crazy, so it was really amazing.
You had two gigs in a row yesterday, one acoustic gig and in the evening one in the rock club Dante’s Highlight in Helsinki. Isn’t it bit too much for one day? How do you manage it with your voice because I have heard you have some problems sometimes? Pekka: It’s no problem, for some reason I… always the second gig after a break, the first gig is not that easy but for some reason it kind of warms me up for the next night so that’s exactly what happened yesterday I think it was one of the easiest gigs I have ever done as far as the vocals go.
So you are not over-using your voice? Pekka: Apparently not, I don’t know what I’m doing but I guess the drinking and staying up late and smoking…than it goes, kind of funny that way
Your new record “Circus Colossus” was released on 4th of November in Europe, I have ordered my copy from Japan because in Switzerland it will be released only at the end of November. The Japanese edition has two bonus songs on it “Mean & Evil” and “Walk on Home”, how come those two songs are not on the EU edition as well? Tuomas: That’s part of the contract, we have with Japan, I guess the worst part is, in our contract it says that it´s used to be since Japanese people have to pay more money for Cds and medias, and with us the contract included two bonus tracks, and this time… actually “Walk on Home” was already recorded two years ago with the Blind Fire setlist. So that song was pretty much ready, it just didn’t fit, not because it’s a bad song, but since Blind Fire had three ballads that we thought are the best ones it was left over at that time but now since Circus Colossus only has one and we were thinking what we send over to Japan it was sure it goes there. And “Mean and Evil” is written by Marko and me and Pekka and then a fourth guy who wrote lot of the lyrics so we just put it kind of together quickly - it turned out nice but it´s written quickly.
Are there some other songs you think should have been on the record but they got sorted out during the producing process? Tuomas: No, not really, no Pekka: That’s all we got! Tuomas: The way it goes. I guess it comes with the experience when you start working on a song, we had it a few times that I had him sing something and then you know it´s like ”No, this is not Leverage”, you know? And some of the songs might end up in the closet, so to speak!
Pekka, in your studio diary you wrote that there was one song that made you little bit mad because it was the most difficult song of the set, unfortunately I couldn’t find out which one it was because the diary is not on the new website anymore. So which song was it and what were the difficult parts in it? Pekka: Oh, yeah that was ahh…Worldbeater! It´s one of the most aggressive songs the way I’m singing it. I kind of use my raspy voice. It was not that difficult to sing actually but I think the first time we recorded vocals for that song I had already sang and recorded like five songs during that day, which is quite a lot. And at the end when I had done the fifth song we took a break and I was like "ok, that’s it" and just kind of hung around and the guys were like “hey, do you feel like sing one more song, your voice is great!” and I’m like, ”What the hell? Ok, then let’s give it a try", and we were doing that and we have nailed it. We recorded the whole song and we were like: ”WOW, we made it like six songs in one day, what the fuck!” And it was great but then the next morning we came back and kind of took a listen to it, and they were like: ”Ah, what do you think, should we do this again? At least try a few lines, see how it goes with your voice", so I sang couple of lines and the guys were like: “That’s cool, do the whole fucking song all over again!” So that’s why it was kind of crushing to me cause it’s a pretty hard song to sing and it sounds like, “That was shit”, you know, I thought I nailed it and I had to do it all over again. In that sense it was difficult but well you know that song is a funny song to sing cause you use that raspy thing, it’s a cool one.
Do you plan to do a video for one of the songs? Tuomas: We shot a new video on Thursday in Jyväskylä, so we went there really early, it´s going to be “Wolf and the Moon”. So the way we did it was that we went trough the song at least 15 to 20 times with different cameras and with no audience and then we also shot the whole gig and our director here is already working on the material now. So he will put it together within the next one or two weeks. It´s not going to be an official video, that would be pushed on TV but it´s going to be in the internet and it´s going to be a lot better than some fans´ shootings because we used professional gear you know, hopefully it´s going to be great.
(see video here )
So it won’t be a video like “Mr. Universe”? Tuomas: No
Pekka: Not that kind, there is no storylines, nothing like that, no extra just the band playing live that’s it. So we try to make that in the best possible way
Tuomas, how did you come up with the idea to the song “Wolf and the Moon”? How was the song written? Are the songs inspired by your personal life or are they only fiction? Pekka: Yeah, he looks like a wolf, and don’t know what happens during the night?(all laugh) Tuomas: I don’t remember (laughs) Anyway, the thing is that…that’s a good question, but ahmm... songs start in different ways so but with that one I was just kind of playing around with the studio gear and I started looking at these film scores and then I found a passage a certain course or something that I really liked, and I sat at the computer and then I started playing around and then it sounded very good and I thought what the hell the song is going to be about? And for some reason, always when it came to the chorus lines I started with “wolf and the moon…wolf... and what the hell is that?” Sounds good and then you gonna go from there. I mean, he (points to Pekka) writes lyrics to our songs, many people do it. I guess it is always different, sometimes things are personal, sometimes it´s like you know, the music takes you to a story and then you try to write it in a way the people can interpret what they want to. I want to leave it to the listeners, you know, instead of talking about my life, you know, my life is not of the interest of anyone, you know! Pekka: Yeah, true! Tuomas: But if there are things that you have been gone through in your life, that you can put to the lyrics that people can kind of see themselves, that is awesome and great!
But you have written almost all of the lyrics and music on this album? Tuomas: Yeah, all the lyrics on this and the previous albums, this is the first time that “Mean & Evil”, I didn’t write lyrics on that but so far I did everything, yeah.
How did you come up with the idea to the song “ Mean & Evil”, Pekka? Pekka; Well you know, we were trying to think of the bonus songs and Marko came up with the music and you helped him out a bit (point to Tuomas) and he was like would you like to try to write the lyrics for this one? And I was like: “Yeah, absolutely whatever!” And I went to our summer cottage and there was another song which we wrote there which ended up with Agnes from this Idols winner. .. No, she didn’t win, so the other song ended up on her album and then I wrote the lyrics to this.
What song is that you wrote for Agnes?
Tuomas: It’s on the new Agnes record, it’s got plenty of songs that I have written and this one is written with Pekka together and it’s called “Wasn’t it enough!” Pekka: That´s right, yeah! But anyway at the same time I called up my old friend we have known each other since we´re about 3 years old or something like that and I called him up because he lives pretty near. He came around and, we have written lyrics before together, so we just sat down with some drinks and started to bring things down.
And then there comes something out like Mean and Evil? (laughs) Pekka: Yeah. That’s right! I had the title already before he came in and said: “This one’s called “Mean and Evil”, what do you think?”
Do you already have plans for a European tour? Tuomas: Well, there are no plans, more holes than plans; there has been a lot of talk, we get a lot of mails from other countries, “Want to come here? Want to come here? “ Like it was up to us, like you know that we will go there anytime, but we will have to… things have to click, we need to get a few things together to hopefully get to play outside Finland next year and it´s our main interest. We have been around Finland for a long time already and we played these places already so now it would be a natural status for us to really try to get something going to play abroad. I hope the record does well and hopefully somebody gets interested. We love to play at festivals or little tours like that but like I said, it seems to me that lot of bands take huge circumstances in their lives to get to play on tours, you know, they go to the bank and get a huge debt and then they go to play to empty houses. Then they come back broke and at the worst it might destroy the whole band, so we all have our personal lives, families, jobs, you know, things going so whatever we do needs to be well planed and that takes the barriers high. So hopefully we can reach that level so that we can do it.
You have a new face on the bass, how come? (Editorial comment: At the point of our interview the band hadn’t officicial announced that Pekka Lampinen is replaced by Sami Norrbacka. Now that the band has informed their fans we can publish the following question!) Tuomas: This will be official in the next few weeks but this is really just for you now so don’t write it down yet. This is a permanent situation, Sami is our new bass player in the band and we will announce this later but there is no real tragedy behind. We get along with our original bass player but his life situation has changed. And we are all very, very sorry and upset about this but in the end we had to make this move and we are really happy to have someone like Sami available and now he is part of the family.
Yesterday was Friday, the 13th. Are you guys superstitious? Pekka: (laughs) Well, sometimes it seems it’s always Friday the 13th within this band but yesterday can’t prove it. It had nothing to do with bad luck, yesterday was amazing. Tuomas: Yeah, there were a lot of things which could have gone wrong, you know, our schedules were very tight, we had to come back very early from Jyväskylä with the film gear, me and Pekka were travelling with our director because we had to go to the record store for the unplugged thing. So there have been so many things that could have gone wrong, and they all went like “well”. So yesterday was one of the better days within this band ever. Pekka: Absolutely! Tuomas: Even tough it was Friday, the 13th (laughs)
Do you believe in the afterlife? How do you think it looks like? Pekka: Well, ah I don’t believe in it! No! Tuomas: I don’t know, I do but probably not in the commercial way you know not like in religion stuff but I believe that there are things that we don’t know about and one of them might be something that has to do with what happens to you when you die.
Pekka, I know you are a big music fan, what are your top 5 at the moment? Pekka: Oh, Jesus Christ! That’s impossible to say! There are so many great artists like honestly top 5 I can’t put it down, it´s just impossible to put down since you know I am a huge music fan and always been. I dig different kinds of music and there are so many great albums in different styles of music that I can’t put them down.
So how big is your collection then? Pekka: Oh, it’s not that big. I got a few records over thousand or something like, and quite a few vinyls, too. I found LPs again because I got my player working again so right now I am collecting vinyls like crazy.
You took some with you yesterday from the record store you played at. What was that? Pekka: Yeah, actually they were free (laughs) That was Michael McDonald, the guy from the Doobie Brothers if you know the band from the 70’s. The lead singer at that time he has done quite a few solo records and he´s a great singer. I didn’t have time to listen to those yet but yeah…pfff.
What kind of things are you doing to relax? To get away from you daily work and the music business for a while? Pekka: Well, whenever I have the chance to do that it’s always involved with music, the best way to relax is to sit down and put down a few albums just read something or have a few drinks, I don’t watch TV that much, that’s the best way, you know, it´s rare nowadays but whenever I have a chance that’s what I do to relax. Tuomas: I like to go play something with my friends, play badminton or something like that, go lift weights. I love sports so anytime I have some spare time I watch American Football NFL, I am a big fan so if I have free time and I know there is nothing else to do and if I get some games then I just get on the sofa, get something to drink and watch football, that´s what I like.
Ok, do you have some final words for the readers? Tuomas: Final Word (laughs) Pekka : (laughs) Well, just be save, be happy and thanks for the support, hope you have already found Circus Colossus and if you like it, we like it and if you have a chance to come and see us play live please do so. Tuomas: Yeah, that’s it and you know if there is a chance for us to get to play to you guys, we will! That´s why we do this! Make music for the album that’s one story and then playing live is a different story. I know we´re not doing it right now but we would love to do it as soon as possible. And keep rocking!
Ok, thank you for the interview and your time and have a great gig tonight! Pekka: Thanks Tuomas: Thank you!