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In order to get a few girls to the backstage dressing room after a gig, having good-looking members is quite often the only thing required from a band. But if grown men are fighting for access just to to buy them some drinks, there must be much more behind it. A lot of real talent, for example. As in the case of the Finnish rock band Caroline who received STALKER backstage after their so far last gig at "Molly Malone`s" in Vantaa-Myyrmäki...
After so many years and so many gigs, this is just your first interview with STALKER, so: Would you like to introduce yourselves? Tommy Gun: Our band name is "Caroline", my name is Tommy Gun and I play acoustic guitar, percussions and I sing in this band. Palfinger: I`m Palfinger and I play the drums. Ville: I`m Ville and I play guitar. And I have to say that there is no lead guitarist in this band. Tommy Gun: Except me - and my name is Tommy Gun! [Laughter] Simo: I`m... Simo. [Laughter] And I play the lead guitar in this band even though I don`t want to play the lead guitar but... Tommy Gun: [interrupts] Ok, his name is Simo... Let me introduce you Simo Kuusela... He plays guitar. [A drunk male fan enters the backstage dressing room and starts to praise Caroline and their gig vociferously in Finnish and offers them to buy them some drinks at the bar.] Cheri: Cheri. I`m playing bass.
How would you describe the musical style of Caroline? Tommy Gun: The musical style? It`s Rock! Simo: And Roll! [Laughter] Tommy Gun: Well, some people want to rock and some want more to roll. Simo: Good Time Rock`n`Roll! Tommy Gun: Caroline is influenced by almost every kind of Rock`n`Roll. Simo: We want to movin` and groovin`... Tommy Gun: Ok, Simo, you can go to the bar! [which he does, with the fan mentioned] Bye-bye! Well, yeah, Caroline is a rock band.
How come that the band name is "Caroline" which is actually a girl`s name? Tommy Gun: Our first guitarist came up with that idea and ...Well, it`s a beautiful name and Caroline plays beautiful music. That`s the main idea.
When and where has everything started with Caroline? Tommy Gun: Caroline was born in the year of 2005. I had the idea to found this band before there was even a name for it. And as already mentioned, our first guitarist - Heikki - came up with the bandname. But I already wrote the first songs and so on.
And in the beginning, Caroline consisted of three band members only, if I`m right? So how has the change from a trio to a quintet taken place? Ville: Well, for me it`s kind of tricky because Simo had left the band... Tommy Gun: Yeah, there were just Simo, Heikki and me and then Simo left the band for his summer holidays... [Laughter] Ville: Well, yeah, that was in the summer of 2007. I met Tommy at "Tavastia", during a gig of The Hellacopters. I met him before sometime in 2005 but just then, in 2007, we started to talk a bit more with each other. And then he asked me if I would like to visit them in their rehearsal room one day and as I had nothing better to do, I agreed and went there. Tommy Gun: It took two months! Ville called me like: "Hmmm, I was thinking about it... Maybe I can come..." He is a little bit like... A slow kind of guy, if you wanna know. Ville: Well, I didn`t know what to expect. But when I was playing with that guys, it was sooo great...! So we played a few gigs together, without Simo, and then Simo called us that he wants to return to Caroline...
So that`s the reason why there are now two guitarists in the band? Ville: Yeah. Tommy Gun: There are three of us - but I am the lead guitarist! Those are the rhythm guitarists. They are really bad guitarists! [Laughter]
Ok, Mister Lead Guitarist, but in the beginning you were playing the drums and singing at the same time, weren`t you? And wasn`t it tough to do both at the same time? Tommy Gun: Yeah, in the beginning, when we didn`t have a drummer. And also some time later on. So we had plenty of gigs with me at the drums and singing at the same time. But I don`t know if it is tougher than singing and doing all the stuff I`m doing nowadays at the same time. I think that`s tougher because... I always played drums. I started with the drums when I was a little kid. And just later on I started to play bass and guitar as well because I wanted to write songs. I always wrote lyrics but when I had the melody to that lyrics in my head, I couldn`t play it because I was only able to play the drums. And as it is quite hard to tell someone else the melody in your head, I just had to learn a few chords...
And now Palfinger is sitting behind the drums. How did you come to the band? Cheri: He didn`t come - he just started! In 2009. He hitch-hiked to Jyväskylä. That`s how we met. And then he came to a gig where we played as a quartet and we ask him to join us on stage. He took a seat behind the drums - and stayed there.
And how about yourself? How did you end up in Caroline? Cheri: I was playing in another band and Tommy helped us out when we didn`t have a singer. In return, I was playing bass for Caroline. I was supposed to play only one gig with Caroline but then they dismissed their actual bass player... So, I just stayed.
Why did you dismiss the previous bass player? Ville: Well, there were some personal issues but Samu is a good friend of ours and meanwhile everything if fine again between us. Tommy Gun: He is also here tonight.
And how about Henkka, the previous drummer? Tommy Gun: The same! [Laughter] Both are from the Helsinki district Puistola, "Parkstad" in Swedish, and actually I had a band with them before Caroline. In that band, I played the bass, Samu was singing and Henkka played the drums. And after this band had split, I decided to start Caroline with Heikki and Simo and later on Samu played the bass and Henkka the drums and... Well, yeah, I know the guys from those times.
Which bands are influencing you the most? Tommy Gun: Oh, there are so many! We can do it that way that each of us mentions the first three bands coming into his mind... Ville: You start! Tommy Gun: Ok: Elvis Presley, Rod Stewart, Hanoi Rocks. Palfinger: Hurriganes, The Clash, Sex Pistols. Ville: Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, Black Sabbath. Cheri: The Rolling Stones, Faces and the old Motörhead. Ville: And I have to add The Hellacopters! Tommy Gun: There are so many! The Cult, D-A-D... This is just a small selection but it also shows our own musical direction. Ville: Music with guitar and soul!
The first time I came in touch with your music was when I ended up with a friend at "Bar Bäkkäri" where you were playing an acoustic gig. We really liked it but we are still asking ourselves if this performance was planned or spontaneous...? Ville: It was spontaneous! Even I didn`t know anything about having a gig on that night. I just walk through the bar, the bartender called my name, I was like "Yeah?" and then he told me that I`ll have a gig on the very same night. I was wondering like "Ok..." - and then they gave me a beer, Tommy appeared and we just started to play something. Tommy Gun: Yeah, it was the same for me. They called me and said: "Take a taxi and come here!" I didn`t feel like coming there. I was shaking like a leaf... Ville: He had a hangover... Tommy Gun: Yeah, it was a really, really bad one and I didn`t feel like playing at all but, anyway, I caught a taxi, Ville was already in the bar anyway - and so it came...
But if it was so spontaneous, how come that you had your guitar with you, Ville? Ville: Johnny from Santa Cruz brought it to me. Tommy Gun: He is a lovely guy!
Weren`t they supposed to play on that night? Ville: No, they didn`t play on that night because Archie caught a cold. Johnny just helped us.
We were and we are still impressed by your voice which sounds like you are smoking like a chimney. Do you smoke? Tommy Gun: Yes! [Huge laughter] If you really wanna know it... Ville: Yes, but he was also born with that voice. Tommy Gun: Yes, I always had this different kind of voice. I remember when I was something like 7 years old, my friends and cousins and everyone else around me asked me if I smoke. At that age, I, of course, didn`t even taste it but later on when I tasted it, I just started to love it. So, yeah: Cigarettes are good friends of mine. Cigarettes and alcohol!
Are you still in the band Automatic Eye, beside Caroline? Tommy Gun: No, I`m not there any more since 2009. Actually their bass player Heikki is the man behind the name of Caroline. Heikki and I started the band Caroline but he just stayed for one spring or something like this. He played the guitar. Rhythm guitar. Simo was the lead guitarist. Well, after me because I`ve always been THE lead guitarist. [Huge laughter] And, yeah, Heikki and Pete, the singer and guitarist of Automatic Eye, started to record their first demo and they didn`t had a drummer back then and as Heikki knew that I can play the drums, he asked me to join them and so I came to Automatic Eye. It was fun to play with them. They are nice guys and we had lots of fun. Playing is always fun and I love to play the drums. And with them it was even more fun.
So why are you not in Automatic Eye anymore? Ville: Maybe because we have too many gigs with Caroline. It was the same for me with Hunters, a punk band from Helsinki. I joined them in 2010, I played gigs with them and everything was just great. It was really good but we had too many gigs with Caroline and then the guys from Hunters said that it is way too much and asked me if I want to continue or not... And then I just had to quit. I had to make a decision...
In which other bands have you played before Caroline? And does anyone of you have other musical projects beside Caroline going on? Tommy Gun: I`ve been only in Automatic Eye. Of course, there were thousands of other bands before Caroline and Automatic Eye but nothing worth mentioning. Palfinger: I had like seven or eight bands before and now I have three other bands beside Caroline: "Frank Brothers" whose style is Rock / Soul / Blues, "Kuningasidea" whose style is Reggae / Rap / World and the third band is still a secret. Ville: Well, I started with some school bands like everyone of us has done it so it`s nothing worth mentioning. My first real band was called "Mean Street". The style of music was something like "Drunk Rock". Back then I already had met Tommy. At that time, it was all about partying, having fun and so on. And we had some audience but... Tommy Gun: Ville was the only good player in that band! Ville: Well, at some point I was really fed up with that because I really wanted to play more music. So I quit the band and after one year or two, I met Tommy again, joined Caroline and started to play gigs with them. And, as already mentioned, I played additionally in Hunters. And now there is a Hellacopters tribute band coming up, with a few band members of Santa Cruz in it and one guy called Sonny Dawoud who plays nowadays in Hunters. The bandname is "Helikopterit" and it`s gonna be great! Cheri: I played in quite a few bands and actually I can`t remember them all.
But you remember Smack? Cheri: Well, everyone reminds me about that so how could I forget it? But it`s a long time ago that I have played in Smack and after that I played amongst others for about five years in a band called "Smilers". I was even playing in The 69 Eyes, during their very, very first rehearsals...
Really?!? Cheri: Yeah, just recently Jyrki [Jyrki69, the singer of The 69 Eyes] came to me and reminded me of that.
So you are somehow like the predecessor of Archzie... Cheri: Yeah but, well, I started to play around 1978 / 1979 so there are a few bands I played in and I just can`t remember them all.
Tonight`s gig was the last gig of your "More Beer" tour. When and where did it start? Tommy Gun: That`s just a joke. We always play gigs so there is no official tour. Cheri: Yeah, it`s a joke because quite many bands start to talk about having a tour even if they just play five gigs in a year... Tommy Gun: Yeah, and we are like always on tour, so...
Ok, but even though the tour thing is joke, there aren`t any upcoming gigs. Quite unusual for you and it also seems that you cancelled the actual last show ... Tommy Gun: Yeah, that`s because we decided to have a break. We really need to have a rest.
Will you use this break to go to the studio and do some new recordings? Tommy Gun: We haven`t planned any things of that kind yet but the release of "Sweet Sweet Rock`n`Roll", our first official EP, isn`t that long time ago.
For your so far last gig, you have chosen Queen Seventeen as your support act. Where do you know the guys from? Cheri: They are friends of ours. Tommy Gun: Yes, they are. I know Mikko, the drummer and singer, since around 2005. He used to play in the band Dirty Licks. Palfinger: Queen Seventeen are pretty young but great. Tommy Gun: The are the same age like us. Twentysomething. Palfinger: Well, it doesn`t matter - They are good! Tommy Gun: They are vampires - They don`t age!
When you will go on tour again... Tommy Gun: Another "Beer" tour... [Laughter]
Yes, "Much More Beer" tour or so... And you could choose with whom to go on tour together, who would it be? Tommy Gun: The Quireboys! The Quireboys because I see something in them what is quite similar to us... Cheri: The Quireboys are ok but why not The Rolling Stones? Tommy Gun: Michael Monroe would be also great!
How about having an own events series like Santa Cruz have theirs at "On The Rocks"? Have you ever thought about it? Tommy Gun: I`ve been to a few gigs there and even performed once with them and it`s a great thing. There are always some new faces around. I see the advantages of doing something like this but we haven`t discussed about it yet. On the other hand... I have the feeling that the Rock`n`Roll scene in Finland is quite simple nowadays. Santa Cruz are great, Face Of God are great, Queen Seventeen are great... But there are like ten young bands like this - and that`s it. That`s my opinion.
So how about playing more gigs abroad? You already played a few shows in Russia and Estonia but how about playing further gigs in Germany, Sweden, the UK, the US...? Tommy Gun: I think we should completely move to one of those places! That`s my opinion...
What are your plans for the next few months? Tommy Gun: Well, one thing is for sure: Caroline won`t split! As long as I`m alive, Caroline is alive, too... [The drunk male fan returns to the backstage dressing room and starts again to praise Caroline vociferously.] Fan: These guys are like Lynyrd Skynyrd! The Finnish Lynyrd Skynyrd! You have to realise that these guys are really the personified Rock`n`Roll!
Yes, I know that already and it`s a good thing `cause the people out there need Rock`n`Roll... Tommy Gun: I want to see it! As I said already, I wouldn`t mind to move to somewhere else... Palfinger: … because the people here just don`t get it! When you play this kind of music in Finland... They just don`t get it! "Helmiä sioille!" [in English: "Pearls before swine!"] This are our "famous last words"!
Author: Stefanie Singh, Photos by Stefanie Singh / Promotional picture by Heikki Snellman Date: 2011-10-22