Hanna Tsepesh: Hello Mikko and Thomas! Thanks so much for accepting this interview and Welcome to THE GATES OF METAL! First of all: how are you and how are the things doing with your concerts?
Mikko: Hello and thank you for inviting us to do an interview with you. I’m doing fine, despite freezing here in this midwinter coldness. Lately I’ve personally been recovering of the busy year with all kinds of music productions. We haven’t done any concerts with Mehida this year, because we’ve been waiting for an opportunity to do more concerts than just once in a while.
Thomas: Fine thank you! A lot of work these days before Christmas. Like Mikko said we did not do any concerts this year but hopefully we will play again soon!
Hanna Tsepesh: for those who do not know the band, could tell us a little how it all started?
Mikko:Our career began as a project in 2006 when I had a bunch of songs composed and we recorded them in a weird manner, all working by ourselves in many different studios. We actually met first time together after the record was finished and we were supposed to take promo pictures for the album. We met Thomas in the Helsinki harbor, where we went to pick him up as he was coming by boat from Sweden to Finland. After that we went to local McDonalds to have a meal, and there we also met Jani our guitar player who had came from Gothenburg, Sweden by plane. So that was what I would call our humble beginning. We have all worked as session musicians in different productions, so we are somehow used to weird situations but everything went quite smooth in my opinion and since then it has been fun.
Thomas: Its a little funny, I think I got a mail or a phonecall from Mikko. He asked me and I said yes. I did not had the time to go over to Finland then so I did all the vocals in Stockholm myself. All I had was a demo with some very "Free" guide lines sung by a girl. The first time we met was actually for the coverphotoshoot in Finland. After the album was mixed and done.
Hanna Tsepesh: What inspired you the most to create the lyrics and what process the band use to create the riffs, melody to comply with the lyrics?
Mikko:Mostly the lyrics I write are from faith, because for me it’s the thing that completely changed my life. I’m not talking about belonging to some church or any dead religion or wearing some certain clothes and speaking some certain language preventing to be a good human. I’m talking about the living God who is alive today and who wants to forgive our sins set us free.
So far the composing process has worked like the following: I write the songs with keys and computer (the basic harmony and melody lines with lyrics and sometimes some riffs and basic rhythms.) Then we arrange the basic rhythm sections with Markus (the drummer) and after that everyone will put their own dressing on the cake by arranging their parts with their ideas.
I usually have the basic songs up there first and after that I write the lyrics.
Thomas: I did not write anything (yet) for Mehida. Maybee I came up with some melody ideas during the recordings. When I come to a Mehida recording everything is already done. And its done very good so I never have to worry. Otherwise when I write music I can be inspired by a special moment or movie or whatever. But I dont sit around and wait for inspiration when I shall write something. Sometimes you are and sometimes you dont. I almost always write the music first and then the lyrics. The music always give me pictures and "movies" in my mind. And from them comes the lyrics.
Hanna Tsepesh: What are your favorite bands? You have any musician that you admire the most?
Mikko:My favorite bands or artists at this moment are: Metallica and Tori Amos. I like Jens Johansson as a musician the most. He is my all time favorite keyboard player. I really like the way he has the freedom and creativity in his way of playing.
Thomas: My Favorite bands are KISS, QUEEN, ABBA, ALICE COOPER. Why?? Because they have so many good songs. And they are not only musicians they are also entertainers and thats very important for me. Amongst singer I cant pick only one but to mention a few: Freddie Mercury, Rob Halford, Michael Bolton (Yes, he is great despite what everybody says) Ronnie James Dio. I also just discovered the guy from Rhapsody. he is REALLY good!
Hanna Tsepesh: I would like to know if you had or have any singing lessons or any other preparation? And how are the things doing with Therion?
Thomas: Mostly Im self-taught. My father was an Operasinger and he gave me some advices and showed me some stuff. One important thing he said was to have fun with your voice and with your singing. It has to be lustful to sing. He also taught me very early that even if this is funny this is also a job, a profession. I remember he was at a party and the guy who hosted the party said: Hey Sven Erik!! Sing something! Entertain us a little!! My father did. The next time they met it was in my parents holiday house on my fathers birthday. My father came up to him with brushes and a roller and a big bucket of wal lcolour and said: Hey!! Paint the house for me! Make it shine!This guy worked as a painter.
With Therion everything is going just fine! We are about to finish our new album and after that we go on worldtour. I cant wait!
Hanna Tsepesh: When you start to play keyboards? Was it difficult to learn?
Mikko: I began to play keyboards at the age of four with the assistance of my grandfather. There have been a lot of difficulties on the way. I don’t consider myself to be the kind of person who is typically considered to be musical. I have disqualified in many tests in music school and also later on in conservatorium, but I have my own weird way of doing music. It’s more graphical than conservative musical.
Hanna Tsepesh: What was the highest and lowest point of your career as a musician?
Mikko:Well, one of my highest points of being musician was to be able to tour together with Jens Johansson in year 2000 when we did almost a seven week tour together with Stratovarius and Rhapsody. It was a great and taught full experience. The lowest points have been trying to play an improvised blues solo in the workshop taught by a famous finnish jazz musician Severi Pyysalo in conservatorium. I was so struck, that I couldn’t play anything but some notes that didn’t fit to the scale at all and with terrible rhythm. So that’s about blues. Also I have messed up many times publicly when trying to accompany somebody from the notes. (I’m not that good at reading notes.)
Thomas: Hard to say...I think Im at my peak now really. I have most fun now. Commercially my biggest success was with my first band Talk Of The Town. It was a huge hit here in Sweden. The lowest point must have been when I made a throat surgery and was not able to sing for a long long time.
Hanna Tsepesh: Let’s talk about the “The Eminent Storm” album. This album is amazing! I am very surprised! Is a little bit different from what I was expecting. Excellent work! Congratulations! Can you tell to our readers what they can expect from this album?
Mikko:Thanks for encouraging feedback. The album is surely a different kind of album. You can think of it as a lonely shooting star in the music world. It’s melancholic and melodic; it sounds raw in the terms of production, but it’s energetic. I think the slower songs are very emotional, and the harder ones kick down the walls with their high level energy.
Thomas: I think that Mikko described that perfect. In my ears and heart this album is much better and interesting than the first record. We also worked tighter together with it. I spended a week in the studio with the guys in the middle of Finnish nowhere. But we had a blast!
Hanna Tsepesh: at recording studio, you guys faced with difficulties? If yes, tell which was and how as the whole process? The album was produced by you Mikko, right?
Mikko: Yes, there were some difficulties, mostly technological. One example was that our hard drive broke and we didn’t have backups of the files, so we had to re-record the drums, basses and some keys, which was a lot of work. Yep, I’m responsible of the production together with our drummer Markus and his brother Niklas who is the owner of the Drum Forest studio where we did the album. The whole process was very time consuming and hard both physically and mentally, but now it’s done and it’s good.
Thomas: Its ALWAYS hard to record with Mehida. Because the music is very complex. But its also a lot of fun. Mikko is great to work with. But from recording to release it has been a loooooooong time! Maybee a world record??
Hanna Tsepesh: what is your favorite music in this album and why?
Mikko: I like a song Until the Day Breaks a lot. It’s a very special song to me. Sometimes I have shed a tear listening to this song (for example in the studio when we were recording the vocals, luckily Thomas didn’t see it…). Other my favorites on the album are the Masquerade which is as I remember the one of the first songs I have ever written in my life and the song called A Block of Wood.
Thomas: I can't pick a single favorite song from this album. They are all very strong.
Hanna Tsepesh: What is your big advice for a young musician?
Mikko:Play and experience with your instruments like a little baby. Without thinking that this is not right to play like this etc. Just play with full power and energy and enjoy finding new sounds and let them inspire you to experience even more.
Thomas: Have fun, dont be afraid, and most important NEVER let go of your dream and dont listen to so many advices!
Hanna Tsepesh: Do you want to send any message for the people who are going to read this interview?
Mikko:There’s an eminent storm rising, so remember this when you’re in the storm: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Says the Lord of hosts.
Thomas: I hope that you will like our new album and that we can see each other soon somewhere on tour. Maybee with Mehida or Therion. Portugal is one of the few European countries I never visited so far so I am very exited to see it! Also I wish everybody a happy 2010!!
Hanna Tsepesh: Thanks o much for your answers and time. THE GATES OF METAL wishes the entire band a big success and a great 2010! Hope to see you guys very soon in here…
Mikko: Thanks a lot. Would be more than great to visit your beautiful country, and meet you people.
Hanna Tsepesh: We hope that too, thanks a lot!
Thomas: See you everybody! And keep on rocking!
By: Hanna Tsepesh
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Publicada por THE GATES OF METAL Webzine