» Hannes Kett - Shiraz Lane
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Interview conducted January 30 2020
Interview published March 13 2020

"If you do it, you can do it in a classy way, instead of doing it the Mötley Crüe way."

Metal Covenant met up with Finnish rockers Shiraz Lane's vocalist Hannes Kett.

Tobbe: You guys have recently put out an EP. Tell me about that one. [Vibration I. Out on January 17th.]

Hannes: Well, it's 5 songs that we wrote with the band and then we came to Stockholm to record it. We've been working with our producer Per Aldeheim since our second album Carnival Days [2018], so we thought that it's a match made in heaven. So we just wanted to continue that.

I think you can hear the growth in us, because now that we have 5 songs we got lots of time to work on them and produce them. And also sound-wise we took a few steps forward, into a brand new world. These 5 songs started, like, with Do You. I and Jani [Laine, guitar] were writing it in January 2019, because Ana [Willman, drums] was in India and Miki [Kalske, guitar] was in Sri Lanka.

We started demoing stuff. That's something new for us, to use Pro Tools for demos. It's been a pleasant experience. I'm really proud of all the songs and our fans seem to love them as well. So I'm really excited.

Tobbe: You have a cover song on the album.

Hannes: Yes, we have. Personally I wanted to do a cover for a long time. Usually bands do a mediocre job, because they just take a song and then they just make it heavy. They don't give it a special flavor. So now with To The Moon And Back we wanted to take the song and make it Shiraz Lane and I think we did a great job with that. And young people out there, that haven't heard about Savage Garden, are like "What is this song?" and we're like "It's an old song. You don't know it?". [Laughs]

Tobbe: But the best song on the EP is Keep It Alive. It's one of the best songs you've ever written.

Hannes: I think so too. It's the groove… Just everything fits there. And I love the lyrics as well, because it's all about Hippie Hannes. [Laughs] So I got to express that side as well.

Tobbe: The step between the first album [For Crying Out Loud, 2016] and Carnival Days was bigger than the step from Carnival Days to this EP. So have you guys kind of found a clearer direction for the band now or will you continue to grow?

Hannes: Well, we continue to grow, because as an artist you evolve all the time. So now with the first EP, this was the sound that we were going for. It's pretty mainstream, in a good way, I think. It's got the Shiraz Lane flavors with a twist of Swedish production. So that's why I really love being a Swedish speaking Finn. It feels really like home for me. [Laughs]

But, you know, the songs that we are writing right now, I can say that they are different, and so will the sound be as well, because that's what we do. I don't feel like writing the same album or the same songs time after time after time, because that's just boring for us and it would be boring for our audience as well. When it comes to Shiraz Lane we take all genres and just mix them together and make it our own.

Tobbe: You're in Stockholm right now and tell me what you're doing here.

Hannes: We're having a pre-production session right now. We have written songs and we're demoing them right now. So the guys are in a couple of studios behind your back and we're just about to start recording vocals for one of the songs. So, yesterday we came to Stockholm, we put everything together, and now for the next few days I'm just gonna be singing all the time, and I love it!

Tobbe: Like you said, you are working with Per again. Tell me about that collaboration.

Hannes: It just works. We're his best kept secret. He used to be a rocker, so through us he can live his young years again. [Laughs] Which is really cool, because he brings a really cool vibe to our songs, and he lets us be us, and helps us be even better. So it just works.

Tobbe: So the second EP. Will it be out this year?

Hannes: Yes. The plan is we're gonna do the proper recordings during the summer and then the first single will come out this fall. And then we'll combine the two EPs to one album. Vinyl and everything. I'm really looking forward to that. It's gonna be our first vinyl, so.

Tobbe: But if you keep going forward and have a growth, then these two EPs will be a little different from each other, and how will you merge those into one album then?

Hannes: That's the whole point. It will work. It was my idea to write EPs instead of one album. We started with an EP. Well, we started with doing demos back in the day. Let's not talk about those. [Laughs] Well, we started with an EP, Be The Slave Or Be The Change [2015] and then we got the record deal from Frontiers and because of the schedules we got 5 months to write, record, mix and master everything.

It sounds like us, but it could have been so much better with proper time. But at that time we were pressured to do it the way we did. As we took a lot of time with the second album and we got the production right, it just got better. If you listen to the first EP, I think it sounds better than our first album. You clearly hear a difference. I think the first album has great songs, but it sounds like a high-quality home-demo, because it sounds really tiny. But, you know, that's what it's all about. It's live and learn and grow.

So then with Carnival Days, like you said, it's a huge step forward, sound-wise and songwriting-wise as well. When we write songs, someone comes up with an idea and then we just jam, and that's how the magic happens. And the same with these new songs. That's how we do it. And we keep exploring different sides of music, and of ourselves, because for me personally, as a singer, when I sing I have to mean everything I sing. I can't sing anything that I don't feel.

You know, I could never sing some Mötley Crüe, because I don't like that. [Laughs] So I could never go all about girls, girls, girls and drugs here and there. If you do it, you can do it in a classy way, instead of doing it the Mötley Crüe way. And I know, this is blasphemy for many listeners, but you know, it is what it is. I'm just speaking my truth. So respect my truth. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Well, everyone loves different types of music, so.

Hannes: Yeah, sure. I've always been all about, you know, soul and bluesy singers. Even though Michael Jackson is my number one. He had so many different layers. And then there's Whitesnake. And I found this new band. Well, not new. Gotthard, which is a band from Switzerland. Steve Lee is one of my all-time favorite singers. So when I found them, "Oh, my God. I got to go and see them live. Oh, he's dead. Well…".

I've been talking about Steve Lee, like, in every interview, because I'm so excited. Because, as a singer, what I do is I try to figure out and decode their singing technique and decode their vocal tone and color, because that's how you find new things to your voice and then you make it your own style, you know. I just love nerding out on singing. I love it.

Tobbe: Back to your two EPs. When you're gonna put them together and make an album out of the two EPs, will you put the first one as side A and…

Hannes: I don't know yet. Well, like I started saying before I rambled out, the whole idea was to write EPs, so that we could release more songs and so that you can hear the change in us. Just like I said, the first album, you can hear us being younger; the second album, you can hear us being a bit more mature, and that goes with all the instruments, all the vocals, everything.

So I think it's gonna be really cool to combine these two, because the first 5 songs are really straightforward. Like really melodic and really singalong tunes. And these next 5 songs are gonna be different. Still with great melodies, still great riffs, but we're gonna bring out our trippy side, for sure. Because there is that and there's always been like that and there's always gonna be that. So it's gonna be cool.

And if it goes according to plan, that we're gonna play around with sounds as well, it's gonna be a really cool mixture of songs. But I don't know if we're gonna do, like, side A/ side B. Of course that would be cool because it's, you know, vinyl. Actually I think that would be better because, you know, Vibration Part I/ Vibration Part II.

Tobbe: You and I last talked about two years ago, around the time that you guys released Carnival Days, and besides writing these EPs, tell me briefly what you've been doing since that time.

Hannes: Well, two European tours, lots of shows, and personal growth. For me personally, these last 3 years were the hardest years of my life. But now I can say, with a smile on my face, that I've never been better. And it shows in every aspect of my life. I found true happiness again. I gave myself permission to be happy instead of, you know, being in a very toxic relationship with myself.

Lots of things have happened, to all of us. Individually, but as a group as well. Because we're a family and we just keep on growing together more and more. As it should be, because we all support each other and we all want each other to get better, because we're a unit. You're as good as your weakest link and I don't think we have any weakest links.

Tobbe: And I can tell, meeting you two years later, that you have grown on a personal level. You seem more mature now, more experienced, and you're having more self-confidence. Well, it takes a little time to get there.

Hannes: Yes, it takes time. It takes a lot of shows, you know. The fact that you live and the fact that you get to live… You know, you have to be grateful every morning when you wake up. Now I wake up with a smile on my face and I thank the universe for everything that I have, because, you know, you never know when you take your last breath.

And I just wish that I can leave a legacy behind, and through my music I'm gonna be eternal. Well, I know I'm eternal either ways, because I believe that we're here forever. We're just different vibrations. We're just energy, you know. So we go forward to the unknown.

Tobbe: Can you feel your voice changing from, like, one year to another?

Hannes: Yes, it changes, it evolves, because I've found so many new things. I can play around with my voice in a whole different way. It all comes down to practice. You know, I spend lots of time on my voice. And like I said, the last years were hard, so I didn't have personal growth and I didn't tap into my potential. From day to day I was just surviving. So I was doing my best to not drown in my own thoughts.

There was a time where I felt that my voice got worse. Because if there's something going on with your mind, your body reacts to it. If you feed yourself toxic thoughts every day, and that's all you do, then your body reacts to that, and that's what happened to me. So I'm really grateful that I got myself out of that hole that I was digging for myself.

And now, let's say in the last 3 months, my voice is better than ever. As I let go of my past and all my toxic thoughts and found happiness again, you can hear in my voice that I'm more self-confident than ever. For instance, I used to be obsessed with vocal warm-ups. I still am, but all I need now is my guitar and 5 minutes, instead of an hour and a half doing lip trills, and this and that, and "Oh, my God! My voice is not working! Oh, my God! It's not working! It's not working!".

So I'm really happy, and of course I know that our fans can hear it as well. You know, everyone can hear it, 'cause I've been experimenting with different vocal colors, with different effects, with just everything, and it's just gonna get better all the time.

Tobbe: The band is only in the beginning of your journey yet, and what do you expect to happen as time passes by? You've got to have, like, dreams and hopes and fantasies or whatever about a coming career.

Hannes: Yeah, sure. I see us touring, I see us writing many amazing albums, and creating our legacy, because that's what it's all about. I see us doing this, but bigger. And also we will be doing music with different people as well. So, you know, there's Shiraz Lane, but I'm also gonna record a solo album at some point, just because we write so many songs and all the songs that I write don't fit Shiraz Lane. Well, they could, but, you know, some songs are better kept to yourself. That's in the far future. Well, I don't know far future, but you know, you never know.

Tobbe: I was actually gonna ask you about maybe doing a solo album one day and my question would be like: What could a solo album from Hannes contain?

Hannes: Well, let's see. Different music styles, for sure, because different music styles have inspired me a lot. I'm all about groove, so it would totally have some epic funky songs with horn sections and big-ass backing vocals, because I love backing vocals. I love creating those packages. But also I'm gonna have piano, acoustic and just, you know, make it raw, and do something different than I'm doing in Shiraz Lane. In Shiraz Lane we have that style also, but I'd like to experiment with my voice and experiment with songwriting in general. So it would be a mixture of different styles, for sure.

Tobbe: Okay, my final question. What do you do besides music?

Hannes: Well, this goes to everyone that is interested in me, because people ask me what I do, how I take care of my voice, what I do day to day. We all work to pay the bills, more or less. Apart from that, nowadays I do yoga daily, and I try to do everything that I can to make my voice work as good as possible, which means inhaling water vapor and drinking healthy stuff. I love Kombucha. I'm making my own Kombucha right now.

I just try to keep my mental and physical being balanced, because that's what it's all about, and I've found lots of comfort in yoga and meditation. I used to have a problem with quieting the world around me, all the voices around me, but right now I can close my eyes and go within, and that's something I didn't think I could do. That's something I used to do with other ways, other unhealthy ways. Let's put it that way. But not anymore.

I write music every day, I sing every day and that's what it's all about for me, because if I can't do that I don't feel good, and that's when I get sick, and if I get sick I can't do that and, you know, the cycle keeps on going and going. And now I haven't been sick in a very long time because my mind feels very much at peace.

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