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Two years ago AHOLA released their first record, now just a few weeks ago their second album “Tug of War” was presented to the market. We talked to singer J.Ahola about the idea of “Tug of War” and also about the work as musician in general. Because being a musician is more than just writing songs, recording them and playing them live, a lot more. Nowadays you have to pamper your fans and manage your Social Network accounts. Jarkko Ahola is now very present on those networks, and what he’d like to do instead with his time you can find out below.
Hello Jarkko it’s been a while since you last talked to Stalker. How is life?
Thank you for asking. I’m quite alright, but got to say that writing all those songs, rehearsing them, arranging them, putting them together, recording, playing, singing, producing, supervising the process of the recording & mixing, photos, art etc. was pretty demanding process. Don’t want to do that in a while, haha! I’m a stresser, you know. ...Is that even a word?
(the editors: not in English, but in Swiss German it is – anyway, we know you mean that you are someone who always needs to be on the run and keep yourself busy )
So first of all, how did the title “Tug of War” come up? It’s not something you hear every day.
Well, I was writing the title song lyrics and I wasn’t sure how to sum it all up in the chorus. Then I thought in Finnish that it’s like “pulling a rope” (which is how we say it) and I wondered how they say it in English and I found out it was “tug of war”. Hell yeah! It sounded cool and I knew it would be a great song title, but maybe also an album title.
Who had the idea for the album cover? We see a broken rope but that is still hold together by a thin twine, why? I don’t think it looks like this for no reason.
I had this vision about the album cover which Ville Terämä well imaged on the computer screen. The thin twine came from him, but for me it really gives only more perspective. The rope is not yet broken, it can be mended, or at least you can still STOP THIS MADNESS. …And can you see the heart inside the “explosion”? ;)
The tour for the new Ahola record “Tug of War” has just begun, and eight shows will follow during the next two months, how do you prepare for the live shows?
We tried to practise as often as we could…which wasn’t too much, since we live far apart and people have other things in life as well. Anyway, it’s funny how people manage to top themselves when the moment of real deal comes. The guys really show a true musicianship out there. As for the days of the show, it’s pretty much work and wait. We’re a small band, so we carry the amps and cabs ourselves, the sound check takes time and of course the traveling as well. I am happy, if I have two, three hour before the gig, so I can take a shower and just chill out for a moment. It’s important.
I heard “Tug of War” has been selling quite well so far. Are you satisfied with the responses you’ve got?
Yea, it’s been selling ok, if you compare to it to the massive productions that get airplay, advertised, TV time etc. We really have none of those. Of course I want to thank all the radio DJ’s who’ve been playing our songs every now and then. It’s all good media time for us.
But our, my, thanks go to all the fans who have been supporting me for a long time and now AHOLA as well. It’s something that money just can’t buy. I am so grateful for the people who use their time and money to tell others that AHOLA is worth checking out and buying the album is the real option, not copying or downloading illegally or something like that.
Do you think the sales are also that good because the “Ave Maria” record sold so well, or do more people now know about Ahola band than back then when “Stoneface” was released?
It’s pretty hard to say, since I know there are people who don’t give a rat’s ass about my own music but want me to hear singing the stuff they like. I’d say some people come and stay, if you know what I mean. Most of the listeners want to be part of some kind of hype. The music itself isn’t often that important. So, it takes a lot of time to build a foundation. And I got to tell you it’s a bit harder to take when you’re close to 37 and not to 25. It’s all work, work without a pay. …Anyway, read the lyrics of Rock’n’Roll and you know why I am doing this.
There are two songs on the new album “Still Metal” and “ Rock’n’Roll”. One get’s a bit the feeling, you try to show that you originally come from the Metal scene and you kind of try to remind people after the “Ave Maria” album that you are, after all, still Metal. Was that one of the reasons why you wrote these songs?
Something like that. It wasn’t only Ave Maria, but I’ve been doing so much different stuff in recent years that I am having a hard time to remember all those different gigs, stages, styles and concerts. I just felt like writing a song, that tells where I come from, and that’s something no one gets out of me. You know, “it follows me ‘til the day I die”.
The new record sounds very ambivalent compared to the one before, on one side the very aggressive and chaotic side on the other a very emotional and mellow, one get’s the feeling other emotions ,then the ones you had while writing “Stoneface”, led you this time while writing the songs, could that be?
Yeah, I’m glad you noticed this, too. When I was thinking of the order of the songs, it’s almost like side A for rougher stuff and side B for milder stuff. To me it sounded the best track order. First we kick your ass and then we tell you “it’s alright, all good”, hah! But I wrote songs I felt like and for example One Among The Crowd had different chorus and lyrics at first, but I wanted to make it more mellow and beautiful. Antti Mäkelä was at my place and we were up to recording drums tracks the next day. I told him that I had this feeling of this song and we wrote a new chorus to it. He came up with few nice chords and I sang, improvised a melody and added few chords myself as well. After that I rewrote the lyrics. …That’s how I do music. If you’re too intentional on your doings, it might sound phony.
Was it harder to write the songs for “Tug of War” or easier?
In a way yes, but I guess the biggest reason is that I didn’t have four years, but less than two and of course I wanted to make us sound better and write better songs. So, yea, I guess it’s fair to say: it was.
Is there a song you are most proud of? And is there one, you would now not add to the album anymore?
It’s really hard to tell, since I love’em all and sometimes I think that this or that song sucks, but the next time I’m like “what the fuck was I thinkin’, it’s good”. But when I look back to the Stoneface-album, I might leave Does It Matter What I Wear out, ‘cause it didn’t end up being as good as I wanted.
You are able to live from your music, how does a day usually look like when there is no gig or studio work to do?
Well, sometimes I just do nothing, but if you’re an artist, your mind is working all the time. It can be a bit stressing sometimes not to worry about something or more like be angry to yourself about doing nothing. A lot of time is consumed by the social media nowadays. Lots of questions to be answered, updates, photos, videos and so on taking my time. I’m a bit frustrated about it sometimes, ‘cause I’d like to concentrate on music more, but still Facebook or homepage update or stuff like that haunts me! Haha!
Of course next to AHOLA the readers would like to know what is going on with the other projects. Do you plan to release another Solo record in the style of “Ave Maria” or maybe something more heavy?
Well, the second solo album is on the pre-production phase and I can’t really say too much about it yet, since the record label has its word to say as well. It’s possible that it won’t come out at all.
Teräsbetoni are again on a break and Raskasta Joulua is something that comes up in November/December again. What plans do you have until then? Any new project coming up?
AHOLA and me are doing gigs now and maybe that solo album is the next big thing for me.
Most artists do at some point of their career a duet with someone else. Of course you have done that also with Raskasta Joulua, Northern Kings and also for Cheek, but is there someone you would like to do a song with? If you could choose who would it be?
I would love to do a version of Temple of the King with Ritchie Blackmore. He’s my guitar hero and the song is just awesome. But hey, it’s Ritchie Blackmore, so I’ll just dream on.
You will play with AHOLA at the Down by the Laituri Festival. As the festival of Love, it has a tradition called “Tahdon by the Laituri” (I Do by the Laituri) where couples get married at the festival, would that be something for you? ;-)
Ahhaha! I’m a private person and I would never do things like that in public. The whole media is full crappy TV shows people doing whatever, like getting married or going for a date for example. I can’t understand where all those attention craving people come from.
You have been very busy the last two years, working on the new AHOLA album, one show with Teräsbetoni, the Ave Maria record, Raskasta Joulua, Queen shows and Solo gigs. Did you find some time to relax at all? Or do you first of all need a holiday after the tour is done?
It’s funny how that “one show with Teräsbetoni” sounds pretty small, but it was a long time since we even saw each other before that, so the training and putting it all together took some time. Anyway, yea, I have time to relax, but I like I told you, I stress a lot, so I’d really need a long vacation to truly let my mind rest. Hopefully I’ll find that time soon!
Ok then, last but not least: Is there a question you always wanted to be asked in an interview, but no one asked you so far?
Would you like to have million euros on your account right now?
Thank you for your time and all the best!
Thank you and no problem. Take care!