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Year Gone: Homework done well

Unusual circumstances made me discover this band: Jussi Väänänen and his wife Katja Koukkula were the dancers in the new video of Siberian Jay (check out our "1h with..." special). Naturally I was stunned to hear that he is also the drummer in a Rock’n’Roll band. As this is a slightly unsual combination of professions, STALKER just had to dig deeper into the background of Year Gone from cold Northern Finland, next to the Arctic circle.

First of all, could you please introduce the band and its members?
Lari: Hi guys, what’s up! We are a Finnish rock n’ roll band called Year Gone. There’s four of us in the band, my name is Lari:, I’m the lead singer and play guitar. Our lead guitarist is Jussi, bassist is Jani:, and behind the cans sits band’s other Jussi. To know which Jussi we’re talking about, they are Jussi Y (guitar) and Jussi V (drums). We have all grown up in a northern Finnish town called Oulu, and nowadays all of us live in Helsinki area.

When was the band founded and how did it all begin?
Lari: This band started forming in late 2007 when Jani and Jussi V picked up their instruments and started jamming their favorite rock songs. Pretty soon they called up Jussi Y to play guitars, who then contacted me to join in. With Jussi Y, whom I’ve know for more than 20 years, we had talked about putting together a band, and with these guys all pieces just fell into place immediately.

What kind of music are you playing and why did you choose to play this kind of music?
Lari: The musical style is pretty straightforward rock and roll, guitar riff driven, honest rock music, bowing heads into direction of bands such as The Hellacopters, Michael Monroe and Foo Fighters. That came pretty naturally, since we’re all fans of them and share that musical taste. So we never really thought about any other ways to go, although there’s some variety in music that each of us like outside rock genre,

Why did you choose the name Year Gone? Any special story behind it?
Lari: As mentioned above, very soon it was clear that with our chemistry and friendship the band was going to be more than just recreational music therapy, so we needed a name! For months, we wrote down every idea (even the bad jokes) and then after some rehearsal session hang out, drank beer and went through the list of about 100 names. None of them really hit home, so me and Jani went home. Both Jussis went to a local bar where Jussi V kind of cursed the situation: “We’ve been playing for over a year, and we still don’t have a name! #@%ing year gone… “ So there it was.
Jussi V: That´s a true story. Like said, I just snapped, "god damn it, a year gone and still no name". Then I stopped right there and repeated it to Jussi Y "Year gone!" He said, ok. And informed the rest of the band via SMS.

You released your debut record “Secrets for Sale” which was recorded at Seawolf Studios on Suomenlinna, a fortress Island in the harbor of Helsinki. Why did you choose Seawolf Studios to record your debut album?
Lari: We had been introduced to Petri Majuri, who runs things at Seawolf, and Hannu Leidén, singer of Havana Black, a band they both play in, originally by their booking agent. He had seen us live and liked us. That meeting took us to Seawolf Studios for the first time around a year before this debut album. First sessions at Seawolf were just aimed to record some material to help us book gigs, but ended up becoming our first two-track single “Hit Song – To Day”. Seawolf Studios is a legendary place, having had artists from around the world work in that special environment of the fortress island. Having worked with Hanoi Rocks and whatnot, Petri knew the kind of music we wanted to do. As we started working on the album, that studio and crew were the obvious choice.
Jussi Y: The place is amazing. Once you step into the studio, which by the way is built in a 19th century military barrack with meter thick walls, the outer world disappears. It is just you, the music and the thing you’ve come to do. Guys working there are world-class talents pushing the best out of you. If ever planning to record in Finland, you should absolutely consider doing it at Seawolf.

Any special stories about the record, I can imagine it is a very special place to work on a record?
Lari: Being the first album we made together, everything felt special! First two weeks we took the ferry every day to the island, and came back to the city late in the evening, to allow some air for thought after each long day. After that I went there alone for a while, for the singing parts. For Christmas 2011 we took a few days off, and by mid January 2012 started mixing. We heard great stories, learned tons about recording, studio work, guitars, amps, song arrangement etc. Like you said, it’s a very special place and atmosphere, I can totally recommend it!
Jani: The whole experience was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but there is one memory that stands out. We were almost finished recording my basslines when Petri Majuri, our producer, decided that he still wanted to finetune one song’s bassline. I felt exhausted after a long day, and my fingers simply couldn’t keep up. So Petri recorded the bassline on a cd, and gave it to me as homework. I was up half the night practising with the cd, and the next morning when I returned to the studio, I finally nailed it! I wish I’d done my homework half as well when I was still in school. Lari: still has that cd and every now and then he jokes about me having to pack up my bass and go back home and practise. :)

Who is responsible for the songwriting in the band, is it something you do all together or how does it work?
Lari: More often than not, I play song ideas on tape (well, computer) at home. I’ll then send those early stage demos to the other guys, and together we tighten the screws, so to speak. Most lyrics are from me and Jussi V. Jussi Y brings in a lot of riffs and chord progressions as well, and also Jani throws in his bass line ideas. Sometimes we just start jamming and get a song going. We like to have the songs as ready as possible, before recording them. When a song feels good and ready, we try it out at a gig, so we can move around with it, if needed. Some of the songs on the album changed a bit from how we had been playing them before, but that’s just rock n’ roll!

What makes you special as a band? Why should people listen to Year Gone?
Lari: I see us as a band with good feeling, you know, the kind that just spreads happiness and energy, especially on gigs. Something that comes naturally from having a great time with each other. Giving what I’m getting. With the album and the songs on it, you can hopefully go back to that fun rock n’ roll – night out – crazy party vibe!

Jussi V: I know that you are an awesome dancer but I’ve heard that even two of you guys in the band are actually professional dancers too, is that right? Can you tell us a bit more about it? When did you started dancing and what kind of dancing are you doing?
Jussi V: Yeah, I started dancing way back as 10-year-old kid and have been doing it ever since. It´s been my profession for the last 12 years now... I started with competitive Latin American dancing, but I finished the actual competing at the end of 2005. Since then I´ve been working mainly on stage and TV with my partner of 18 yrs, Katja (who also happenes to be my wife!). Besides teaching and demonstrating, we are currently doing this new dancing shtick, and we are calling it "contemporary partner dancing". Cool, but monster of a genre name, right?
Also our bassplayer Jani has the same background. We´ve known each other since those early days. It´s bit like Jimi Hendrix had his army buddy, Billy Cox, come and play in the Band of Gypsys... Dancing and army is not quite the same, but old buddies is the main thing here!
Jani:- I started dancing when I was six years old. At first, I did both ballroom and latin, but when I was around 16 years old, I started focusing only on latin. I used to compete both in Finland and internationally, but have now retired from competitive dancing. Now I mostly dance in shows and musicals.

It is quite unusual to hear that a “Rocker” is also a dancer, that makes the whole thing very special, so how can you combine both things with each other?
Jussi V: The only combining thing is the problem with conflicting schedules! Man, we have some serious calendar planning with three of us guys (me, Jani and Lari) working with irregular timetables. Other than that, it´s not a big deal. Most people who know me and Jani are also interested about the same thing, but for me it´s like, people are fathers and bus drivers, or farmers and death metal musicians at the same time, right? Or maybe it´s the simple reason that there´re plenty of good looking women in both worlds!
Jani: Easily. Rhythm is essential in both and they both support each other. Thanx to dancing, I developed a sense of rhythm at a young age and that’s actually why I chose to play bass guitar.

So how does it work are you give advice to the other guys how they should move on stage, or that they should wiggle their hips a bit more, or do you strictly separate dancing and playing in a band?
Jussi V: No, Lari and Jussi Y have got their own special moves on stage, which at times are out of this world (in a good way). We wouldn´t dare to touch that kind of soul bearing... *snicker*. Like I said before, the approach is very natural. We talk about dancing just as much as we talk about the other guys´ dayjobs, so no, there´s no reason to separate or bind them together anymore than they naturally mix. But, in our music video, "Everything for me", the other girl is Jani´s previous partner. So yeah, they do mix when it´s needed!
Jani: To be honest, I couldn’t care less how the other guys move on stage! :-D I have every confidence in how they wiggle their hips, so I do not need to supervise.
Lari: Yeah, I definitely need to get those cha-cha steps working!
Jussi Y: Despite the fact that those dancers refuse admitting it, I know I’d kick their ass in cha-cha. At least my mom says so.

And what is the rest of you guys doing next to music? Now I am curious about it, this seems to be a very interesting combination of people in this band ?
Lari: I’m a pilot, I work on the first officer’s seat of the Boeing 757 aircraft. The combo in the band is indeed a bit unusual, but we don’t think about it that much. I think the things that we do outside of the band, have helped us a lot! They bring features to each of our personality and to the whole band. I guess having some kind of life experience outside of music business gives some perspective too..? Also, we’ve gotten great help from people we know from other areas of life, I’m very thankful!
Jussi Y: My rent is paid by working in an advertisement agency, to be more specific, in digital marketing field. With the friends from work, we’ve got (in my opinion) pretty cool visual identity to the band, as well as lot of help with album covers, promotional photos etc. Nevertheless, what I’ve learned from marketing I do to my clients, can somewhat be adapted to marketing of the band.
Jani:- Well, I have to add, that in addition to being a dancer, I’m also a barber.

What do you want to reach with your music? What are your goals and dreams?
Lari: Headline at Wembley Stadion. Well, really it’s the same thing I said before about having great time together with the guys, playing music, enjoying every moment and spreading that feeling. I believe strongly that with it, good things will happen and we’ll get what we deserve.
Jussi Y: Even though some would say it’s childish to dream about Wembley and MSG, as we are grown up guys, I still go for it. Hopefully it takes us at least to the 02 or to the Nassau. Still trying not to forget that “it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock’n’roll” as one rookie rock band sang long ago.
Jussi V:. What they said. And, to still be friends after Webley.
Jani: Right now, I’d be happy to get a gig in Sweden. However, the more I get, the more I want. So after Sweden, I’d probably want to play in Norway. And Denmark. And Germany. And Great Britain...

So your debut record is released, what are the plans for the next few months, I saw you have already played few gigs around Finland, what comes next?
Lari: Gigs and more gigs, hopefully! We’ve written new material, and you’ll be hearing them every now and then at our shows.. The second album looms somewhere in the future, I’d estimate that we’ll be taking steps toward that during next year. Too early to say when exactly. I’ve got some ideas how we’re gonna go about it, but we’ll get to them later..

What can people expect when they come to one of your shows?
Lari: Sweaty, energetic rock n’ roll show with a wink, wink! If you like distortion rock guitars backed with grungy bass and edgy drumming, come and say hi!
Jussi V: Lots and lots of pure rockin´ energy with some stupid, but oh-so-funny one-liners.

So if people now are curious about Year Gone where do they get more information about you guys and where can they buy your record, merch etc?
Lari: If you are not able to come to Finland for now, just go and check out www.yeargone.fi. That’ll get you started. Music can be found online in iTunes and Spotify. CDs can also be ordered from online stores like cdon.com or recordshopx.com.
Jussi Y: Not to forget our Facebook page where everything is shinier than in the next one. Join our saga - www.facebook.com/yeargone

Any famous last words for the STALKER-readers?
Lari: Year Gone – now we’re Stalking! Hahah! Wave your flags high, keep your poles standing or at least your knobs shining!
Jussi V:. That´s some Finnish sense of humour for ya right there! Knobs shining = You´re rockin´!

Thanks a lot for your time and all the best, looking forward to the next record and seeing you on stage.

Band website: www.yeargone.fi

Author: Sandy Mahrer, Photos: Jussi Hyttinen / FLC415
Date: 2012-12-14

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