» Hannes/Miki - Shiraz Lane
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Interview conducted January 26 2018
Interview published February 19 2018

"I don't personally understand that you get a gold record for streams."

The up and coming Finnish rockers Shiraz Lane made a stop in Stockholm on their promo tour for the new album Carnival Days and Metal Covenant seized the opportunity to talk to vocalist Hannes Kett and guitar player Miki Kalske.

Tobbe: Even if the new record is a bit different than the first full length record [For Crying Out Loud, 2016], in what way does it still follow the footprints of what you've done before?

Miki: Well, I think the core of, you know, our soul and music is still the same, but it has just evolved and it's kind of varied, and interesting to my own ears, and hopefully for the ears of other people as well. (Hannes:) As an artist you have to evolve all the time, like from album to album, and that's what we've done. It feels natural to us.

Tobbe: When I listen to the new record it's definitely cleaner and less rough than the first one.

Hannes: I think it's just better produced. That's the thing; like, we wanted it to have the sound that we wanted to have instead of just… Well, the first album, we have some good songs on it and it's cool, but… (Miki:) The whole package isn't as, you know, solid as it is on the new record. And if you listen to the new record you can also hear that there's edgy songs and rough songs as well, so. They're just played and produced better.

Tobbe: So that was your intention, to polish things up, even before you were writing the songs?

Hannes: Definitely. We just knew that with the next album we wanted to be huge. (Miki:) And we wanted it to sound big. (Hannes:) Yes. Sound big. And sound like something, well, that won't come out in 2018, and that's our album. And I think other rock bands are going to do the same, because we got different instruments. We got some new stuff there, so. (Miki:) We're unique. We were in for a global sound.

Tobbe: You have brass instruments and what made that become an element in your music?

Miki: We just thought "Why not?". (Hannes:) And if it suits the song, why not use it?

Tobbe: And using, like, brass instruments and stuff distinguish you guys from a lot of other bands that maybe only have, like, guitar, drums, bass and a vocalist.

Hannes: Personally I think it's boring if all the songs sound the same. (Miki:) And of course those are only elements to kind of, you know, put that topping on the cake, so to speak. They're not the main thing. Of course the songs play the biggest role in the record.

Tobbe: Will the brass instruments make people pay more attention to your songs when they hear it?

Hannes: I think so. They probably will. And of course when we play live we're not gonna have brass instruments. But at some point we're gonna have some, like for the special shows. You know, at Wembley Arena. [Laughs]

Tobbe: So you will have recorded stuff in your shows?

Miki: Well, actually not. (Hannes:) No. We're gonna play it raw. Just the way music is supposed to be. No backing tracks. We're gonna have some intros and stuff, but when it comes to music it has to live.

Tobbe: A lot of bands use backing tracks, you know.

Hannes: Yeah, they do. Like 90 % and that's kind of the problem. Because if you're a live band and if you're gonna play live, then play live.

Tobbe: People outside the band, what do they say about the sound and the songwriting?

Miki: People outside our band, like our management and our friends and people that have heard the album and reviewers and all that, they love it. (Hannes:) They're impressed.

Tobbe: Did someone guide you to make different songs? Like, in the songwriting?

Hannes: No. We write the songs together. That's what Shiraz Lane is all about. And then we had a lovely producer, and one of our great friends nowadays, Per Aldeheim from Sweden. (Miki:) We co-wrote some songs with him as well. (Hannes:) That was really pleasant, and I loved it.

Tobbe: Do you guys follow your social media or write on your social media to see what the fans maybe want out of you as a group?

Hannes: No, not really. The only thing, like, what we wrote is, like "Hey! Here's a new song. Your comments. What do you like? What don't you like?". It's nice, but still it won't change the fact that we're gonna keep writing songs for ourselves and not for other people. We haven't really had any bad comments, because everyone's been loving the new songs.

And that's great. Of course some people, and we knew this would come, are gonna be, like, a bit upset because in their ears it's not kind of like the '80s. Which is fine by me, because I don't really care what people say about our genre or our style or whatever, but it's just something that I've noticed. They seem to like the new songs, but they were hoping for something like the first two records.

Tobbe: It's been, like, two years since For Crying Out Loud and in younger men's life a lot of stuff can happen during two years, so do you feel personal growth too?

Hannes: Definitely musical and personal growth. And that's why I co-wrote a lot of the lyrics with Miki for this album, which is great, and we're gonna do it in the future as well, because he knows what I can sing and he knows what I feel and I know what he feels. So it was great. I really feel like, with the lyrics, they have definitely evolved and they're even more personal now than before. Looking at For Crying Out Loud; it's got some songs that were really personal for me, but then some which didn't feel that personal. This time around it's completely different.

Tobbe: And in you guys' type of playing. Do you feel any difference too in maybe two years?

Miki: Well, yeah. Of course. Some of the songs are, like, much more different, compared to the older songs. We have different styles mixed in and stuff so we have to kind of top up our game to be able to play everything. (Hannes:) And same goes with the vocals as well. I wanted to do something that would be really hard for me so I would grow as a singer. And that's what I did. Giving my all and you can definitely hear it on the album.

Tobbe: And on the personal side of your life? Are you still young in your heart or are you actually starting to get a little bit older? In a rock 'n' roll way older, I mean.

Miki: Well, we'll always be young in our heart. (Hannes:) I've been told, like, many, many, many times that I'm an old soul, which means I'm a bit different, but still at the same time I'm still just a kid. And I love it, because, like "Yeah, we're growing up." and all that, but you'd have to really grow up. (Miki:) And maybe, you know, some naivety has worn off of us. Maybe you can hear that on the album.

Tobbe: When you sit down and start writing a new song, have you already decided what kind of song you wanna write? I mean, like a speedier one, a ballad, or whatever.

Miki: Well, it depends, 'cause often one of us has an idea or a riff or a chord progression or something, and from that we can already hear if it's gonna be a, you know, hard song, or a ballad, or something like that. But we just take it forward from that and make it sound like us. (Hannes:) Yeah, and then we go to our rehearsal space and jam and that's where the magic happens.

Tobbe: So you don't send too many files over the internet between each other?

Miki: Well, we do send files over the internet, but… (Hannes:) We see each other, like, every week, or many times in a week, so.

Tobbe: Still rehearsing a lot?

Hannes: Yeah, of course. It's never gonna stop, hopefully.

Tobbe: Come back in 20 years and tell me exactly the same.

Miki: The only reason why I see us rehearing less is that we're on tour. Because you have to rehearse and you have to play together to keep the vibes going. That's what we do. We grow as players because we look at each other and listen to each other and we want to get better all the time.

Tobbe: Even if you've been around for quite a few years now, you've only released records for a couple of years, so you're still kind of newcomers to the scene and how does it affect your everyday life when you're touring more?

Hannes: Of course it affects our lives, but we're gonna do whatever it takes for the band. On a personal level and whatever. We're just gonna do what's best for the band. I mean, this is not a job; it's just a dream come true to do this. And to get to come to Sweden now and we fly to Copenhagen [Denmark] in a few hours to play a show there. That's fucking amazing. That's like what life's all about. We get to meet new people, we get to play our music for them and to make them sing along; it's like "Wow!".

(Miki:) And on a certain level, playing in a band is kind of running your own business. If you don't do anything, if you don't do enough, nothing will happen, so you'll constantly just have to push yourself out there and do your best. (Hannes:) Even if we're doing this, like 95 % of us have a 9 to 5 job right now to pay the bills and all that. But still, like "Man, we're artists. We're supposed to write music and play music.". That's just the way it is.

I think some people are born for this and some aren't. Because it's really hard work of course. On a personal level; at some point, when we were touring, it was a bit hard to not see your parents and your friends. But these guys are my family. These are my best friends. I have, like, two or three friends outside of the band. But that's fine with me, like: things change. (Miki:) I have more friends, but I never see them.

(Hannes:) Yeah, well, that's how it is, because I used to have a lot of friends and acquaintances, but it's like "Hey! Let's have a beer!" and I'm like "No, I'm rehearsing." and "Hey! Let's have a beer!" and "No, I'm at a gig." and "Hey! Let's have a beer!" and I'm like "Hey, come to the show, and then we'll have a beer.".

And of course that's not the same, because you have to play the show and after the show you're meeting your fans, taking pictures, loadouts and all that and you can't, like, hang out with them. Last week, my friend from high-school, I haven't seen him in 4 or 5 years now, and he just came to the place where I'm working and said "Hey Hannes!" and then I said "Let's have a beer, or two, or three. Let's go!" and then we just went for a beer. (Miki:) But it's cool to see that, you know, our friends support our band as well. (Hannes:) Definitely. They're proud and they're, like, part of the Shiraz family. Just like our manager Heta [Hyttinen] is. It's amazing.

Tobbe: I guess you guys are looking for more headliner shows now and what can we expect in that department?

Hannes: We'll see where the road takes us. We have some plans, but we're not gonna spill the beans yet. We definitely have some plans with the new album. We have many places to go and we have fans all around the world and we want to play for them.

Tobbe: There have been great bands in your genre from Finland, but where did you get your greatest influences?

Miki: Of course there's many sources of inspiration, but I think all of us maybe have started off from the, like, Guns N' Roses sector, so to speak. But for me, especially, like, Dire Straits and softer music is really, really important.

(Hannes:) I really started singing when this band started. It was the first time I sang. So I was new to all of the bands. Of course I had listened to some music, like, in my youth, but my dad played Queen and Deep Purple, which I love, so that's where my inspiration came from. But for me, my main inspiration is, like, Michael Jackson. When I started singing, Ana [Willman], our drummer, who is also my best friend since we were 7 years old, just showed me some songs, like "Have you heard Skid Row? Have you heard Guns N' Roses? Have you heard Mötley Crüe?" and I was like "Oh no.", but I just absorbed it and that's how it started.

All of us have some bands, like Ana's got Red Hot Chili Peppers, I'd say Led Zeppelin, Joel's [Alex, bass] got Nightwish from Finland and Jani's [Laine, guitar] got Def Leppard and Children Of Bodom. And there's also, nowadays, like, bands from Finland; I'd say Lost Society, who are great guys and amazing musicians and they really inspire us and it's great to see.

(Miki:) The younger generation can do something right as well. [Laughs] But I think nowadays it's not so important what genre it is, it's just about the music. If you hear, like, a good song, it inspires you and it doesn't matter if it's, like, pop or rock or rap. (Hannes:) And for me personally, in the future, one of my dreams is to just, you know, write songs. Like Shiraz Lane, and just write songs, and I can sell them or just give them away, and just, you know, play music in general.

I had this friend of mine and he invited me to participate in one of his songs and it was, like, electronic, EDM, or something like that and "Oh, fuck yeah! Let's do it!" and then I wrote, like, the lyrics, the melodies and produced it with him a bit. That was really a pleasant experience for me. And it was nice because some of our fans loved it and they were like "It's so different. What the fuck is this? But wow, really good.".

Tobbe: Is this just the right time for a band to get a big breakthrough, because the older bands are slowly starting to leave the scene permanently now?

Miki: I think they need successors, you know. If we're not gonna do it, who's gonna do it? Or the genre is just gonna die and we don't want that.

Tobbe: So how much time do you guys got before things must start happening for real?

Hannes: They're happening already. The big wheels keep on turning, but, like, it takes its time. But we're in no hurry. (Miki:) If you think about schedules too much, it stresses you out. Work hard and at some time it pays off. (Hannes:) I remember, back in the day when we'd just started the band and then to play at a bar was like the biggest thing ever. And then we got to play at a bar and it was like "Wow! What's next?".

And then, in Finland, there's Tavastia, which is like a legendary pub [in Helsinki] and we got to play there and "Wow! What's next?". And then we got to go to fucking Japan and Toronto [Canada] and it was like "Wow! What's next?". And then we ended up opening up for Deep Purple in the [Helsinki] Ice Hall in Finland and now we're like "What's next?". [Laughs]

Tobbe: What do you guys really expect to come out of your career? I'm not talking about dreams and hopes and it's a harsh reality and it's hard to make it as a musician.

Miki: Well, in my opinion, if you don't have those, like, hopes and dreams, then you'll never achieve them either. Of course you have to be realistic, but at the same time you have to aim for the stars, because otherwise you will never reach them.

(Hannes:) Aim for the stars and get to the moon and that's, like, pretty fucking awesome already. I just wanna play our songs and it has been really nice to see that our fans love our songs and they spread our message, which is about peace, in some of the songs. 'Cause I'm a total hippie and I'd like to see the world getting a better place. We'll see what happens, but step by step we can all make a change if we want to.

Tobbe: As a younger band, in what way do you look at, like, streaming services and…

Hannes: That's what it is nowadays, unfortunately. I don't personally understand that you get a gold record for streams. But that's how it is and we have no idea what's gonna happen in 10 years. What do we have then? Nowadays people don't really buy albums, which is a shame. We are kind of old school when it comes to albums because we want to make it, like, a whole package, with pictures and everything and Joel, our bass player, is really good with that.

(Miki:) And I think the bad thing about stream services as well is that people don't listen to the album anymore; they just listen to the songs and they don't, you know, listen to the whole package. (Hannes:) We got a red thread throughout the album and every song fits and it's a whole package, but if you start listening to a song and skip after 10 seconds because the intro is too long for you, you could just fuck off. It's sad.

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