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Itīs not always easy for bands who sing in their native tongue to be successful outside of their home country. With Finnish band Viikate lyrics do play a major role, too but the songs themselves, inspired by 50s movies, have enough potential to simply stick to your brain like toffee to your teeth. STALKER met up with band chef Kaarle Viikate during the MyötätuuliRock festival to chat about this topic and got, at the same time, a few tips on how to survive in Finland and whatīs the best way to combine rocking and cooking.
For songs with non-English lyrics itīs usually very hard to be successful internationally, why do you think that is?
I donīt know, I think that it is possible to be successful in a foreign country as well if you sing in your own language. Rammstein is one example. I think when itīs not that big kind of show and production or anything like that when you release an album; you should put your song lyrics to the booklet and put an English translation. I think that is the possibility to go elsewhere than your home country.
Why do you think itīs so difficult? Do people need to know what the song is about?
Yeah, I donīt know, if it is about the songs and the vocal melodies - they need to be together very tight. Maybe the songs themselves need a red thread so that people can listen to the songs but they still get it even if they donīt understand the words. Actually, I just bought a collection CD by an Estonian band and I donīt understand a word. Some bands have that talent that their music speaks to people even though the people donīt know the words or what they are singing about. I donīt know what it is, itīs a mystery!
In your case, how much, do you think, gets lost on the listener when he or she doesnīt understand the lyrics?
I feel that way that even though you donīt understand the lyrics thereīs a feeling in that song that reflects the lyrics so you donīt get all together lost you get an idea what the song is all about.
Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus, another band singing mostly in Finnish, even recorded two albums completely in German, would you consider that too?
Iīm so poor in my other languages, as you notice here (laughs) if the day will ever come that we release an album outside of Finland, then there will be an English translation of the lyrics in the booklet. I donīt believe that for me writing in Finish all the things I want to say the best way I can say it is in Finnish.
The Finnish language as such sounds to me very monotonous or not very melodious, do you think that because of that itīs somehow harder to write a catchy tune?
It depends; sometimes I have to wrestle more with the lyrics than with the music. And itīs more serious for me to write it right. I think thatīs the main point in our music.
When do you get your ideas for songs?
I get them all the time but there are times when your antennas are up. And you actually remember them afterwards, then you might write them down or something like that and when itīs time to write a new album you just get those notes and sum it up what is there and it feeds itself when you have some notes written down and then youīre like yeah, that kind of thing and you remember other things itīs a snowball-effect. It happens all the time but if youīre not in a creative state of mind you forget it suddenly afterwards.
Iīd like to ask you to pick one song from your latest studio album and explain to me what itīs about and what its meaning is.
The moon over South East Finland (Kuu Kaakon Yllä) I think thatīs a way of life. I want to write about the way of life we live in Finland, in the South East of Finland. Thereīs irony and humor, you have to laugh and smile to yourself because if you donīt smile or the things in life arenīt so great all the time so you have to smile and laugh harder if you get through. I think thatīs the main point so you can survive here in Finland.
Is life so hard over here?
We donīt have light...
Well, right now you do, quite a lot actually ;)
Yeah, but itīs a really short period of time you have this kind of light. All the others times of the year itīs dark. Thatīs the main thing (laughs).
You have some really cool music videos, too. Where do you get those ideas from?
(smiles) Hmm, I think the same way we get ideas for the songs from movies, tv-series, Finnish tv drama or comedy or whatever. That kind of thing that I personally watch all the time. If thereīs a great tv series or movie or something like that that really inspires you then you have to pick up the main idea and put it into your own video as a tribute to the original.
Which one was the most fun to shoot?
I think the latest Viina, Terva ja Hauta . There we had the possibility to drive motor cycles and a Pappa Tunturi moped [Finnish brand moped from the 50s]. And there were explosions and women wearing only bikinis just stupid rockīnīroll clichés. Actually, our drummer, Simo, likes them most explosions and ladies but there are also other ideas in that video itīs a good package.
When you were a teenager, say 14 years old, what were you dreaming about? Did you want to be a rock star?
At 14? I was thinking that I would never learn to play guitar. Itīs so hard. At that age I was excited about music, I listened to it all the time and I wanted to be a chef, a cook. Actually, I am a cook, I got the education for that but I didnīt think that I would be playing music at all. It for me just came and now 15 years later, what do you know! Itīs really crazy but I go along with it.
Viikate is already around since 1996, looking back is there something you would have done differently?
No, actually, Iīve done work in restaurants and doing that cook kind of thing besides. That was my occupation, I got money for rent by doing that job and playing was just a hobby. Actually, itīs just a hobby now, but playing music is where I make my living. There are small kind of things I have to do besides the gigs or records so many pieces that come together so you can make your living but itīs really crazy that things have happened that way.
Speaking about being a chef, I found youīre hosting some kind of cooking show?
In the internet, yeah. Rokit Kokit! Yeah, we have done three episodes and actually, we donīt know yet whether itīs going to continue or not. Itīs the production companyīs problem at the moment but if it continues Iīm happy to be in it.
What is it about?
With my friend, another cook, we just make food, have some guests, actually friends in music like Kotiteollisuus and Stam1na bla bla bla - thereīs a small circle in Finland. But the main point is to do easy food to show that cooking isnīt so hard. You can try different kind of things you donīt have to be stuck with one item, just explore.
Do you have a recipe you want to share with our readers?
Well, actually, no, not a food recipe but I have a seriously good summer drink! Vanilla Vodka and 5-fruit juice. I donīt remember what all the fruits are but they are five exotic fruits and vanilla vodka, ice, umbrella! Itīs summer!
Alright then, enjoy your summer! Thank you!