Interviewed by Adrian Hextall (Journalist/Writer/Photographer) Myglobalmind Webzine
The Finnish hard-rockers Santa Cruz formed in the year 2007, inspired by such greats as Skid Row and Guns ´n´Roses. After a few line-up changes and two demos they released a self-produced EP “Anthems For The Young ´n´ Restless”. With the EP they managed to obtain a world-wide record deal with Spinefarm Records.
The 11 track album was released in 2013 and Myglobalmind spoke to lead guitarist Johnny before they played a support slot for label mates Voodoo Six at The Underworld in Camden.
Did you release many tracks from “Screaming for Adrenaline” originally before signing to Spinefarm? Did they remix the earlier material and then re release it?
Johnny” No, we had a couple of EPs done before the album, and there were the same songs, but we were able to rewrite them, then went to recording studio and made the whole album.”
You’re label mates with Voodoo Six. (Headliners on the same bill tonight at the Underworld)
Johnny”Voodoo Six, yes.You’ve also got Dynasty, who are here tonight to watch us as well.”
Let’s talk influences. Several have to be from my era (70s and 80s), I would have thought?
Johnny”Yeah, I think it’s like, when we met with Archie back in 2007, we were listening to Motley Crüe, Skid Row, Guns N’ Roses all the time. Of course, when you get older you expand your music interest like we have done. If you heard our new single, We are the Ones to Fall….”
Yeah what is that about? Its a great video as well.
Johnny”It was so fun to shoot. But I think that song was like the next step for us to do something more wider audience maybe, not so sleaze and all that thing. But we didn’t write or shoot it like the great big rock band either.
There still boundaries where you can go with the sleaze rock. So we’re going to break those boundaries.”
Everything you seem to play is big in style. You can picture the stadium bands, like the ones you’ve mentioned.
Johnny”It’s an arena sound. It’s a stadium sound. It’s not to say that’s there isn’t a sleazy feel at times. You might get booked to the small clubs, and as you say, you want to step above that.”
You mentioned the Crue, Skid Row. Have you played with them?
Johnny”No. We’ve played after-party, like Motley Crue after-party, but not with the band. I think we had a chance to play with Skid Row, but it’s not Skid Row without Sebastian Bach. “[chuckles]
No, I agree with you, yeah. In fact, they played over here on the back of one of the new EPs that’s just come out as well, and Johnny Solinger, he does a good job, but like you say, everybody just…. It’s like “come on guys, kiss and make up”.
Johnny” Yeah. I’ve seen Sebastian Bach also live and, okay, he’s Sebastian Bach, but it’s just playing how Skid Row sounds. It’s not as cool as it should be if the rest of the band were there.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It needs to be the original band and you want him (Bach) to sing Youth Gone Wild.
Johnny”That’s how it goes”. [chuckles]
Okay, so, it’d be good for me, given that I was the one that went through the album, if you could talk me through one or two tracks off the album. The first, Screaming for Adrenaline is the title track, obviously.
Johnny”Yeah. It was actually written already in 2008, I think. I made a demo of it and then it was a ‘get the fuck off’ style of song, so I just wanted to blast out this huge opening song. I think we wanted to kick out the doors when we started to record.”
Anthem for the Young and Restless came from one of your the earlier E.P.s as well?
Johnny“Yeah, that was actually…. I remember Archie came up with that title, “I think we have to call the next E.P Anthem for the Young and the Restless.” Then we did the song. I think it was the first acoustic song, actually.”
It’s got a little bit more life to it now.
Johnny”Yeah, we got some Lenny Kravitz guitars on it. I think it was like one day that Archie worked on the song and then went to rehearsal and plays it incredibly like that, nothing else to it. I think it was one of the easiest songs to make and record, because we knew exactly what we wanted.”
High On You, for me, that’s one of my favourites on the album. I’d like to hear how that one came about.
Johnny“It was actually….you don’t want to hear this [chuckles], but…”
No, come on, man.
Johnny”I was listening in to a Savage Garden record. You’ve heard of Savage Garden?”
Yes. (Pop music duo with considerable chart success back in the late 1990s)
Johnny”There was this one song, I think it was called The Animal Song or something, and it was like this great jungle beat. I’m like, that would be cool on the record, like one of our songs, and then it just became like this pop song. It’s pretty pop for us, I think.”
It is, yeah, yeah, yeah. But it’s one, when I haven’t got anyone in the car, it goes up and you can really sing along to it.
Johnny”Yeah, that’s good for all of us.”
It’s a good thing, definitely. And lyric-wise [laughter] “Let Me Lay My Love On You”, obviously, the quote I put on the end of the review because I love it, it ends the album so well was, “Light my fire, baby. We’re going to get crazy. Let me lay my love on you.” This is the song you need to play to your girlfriend, it cannot fail. [laughter] That’s the intention, presumably.
Johnny”Yeah, I think that was actually one of the first songs we’d ever written with Archie. And he came up with the chorus, like before we even met, and it was so much fun, so we had to use it. There’s not so much with girls in that album, if you listen to the lyrics.So we wanted to make a song for everyone else.”
“Nothing Compares to You,” that to me sounds almost like classic Poison, but in the sense that you could almost see Bret Michaels would kill to have written it.
Johnny” [chuckles] Thanks. “- (clearly put out by the comparison to Poison, there is a moment where it looks like Johnny is about to walk… The silence is suddenly noticeable even though the bar area is packed, tumbleweed blows across the floor and we wonder if a pistol duel at noon will be required to restore honour)
I mean, you might not see it as a complement, but to me, I listen to that, and I think you can’t write songs like that these days. Back in the day, maybe, but now… It’s another song where you guys have captured their audience, as well.
Johnny”Yeah, but you know what’s a hard thing is that if you want to write a good ballad-type, like a country ballad-type song, the best ones are already made.”
Yeah. You find yourself having to find the gap when it’s not really there.
Johnny”Yeah, but at the time, I think that that was one of our best songs, and it’s still in our favourite set. It’s a great….people are clapping for it and it’s easy to sing along. Actually, Archie’s dead on with that… Yeah, yeah, we finished that one from a piece Archie had started. He had a demo.”
Fantastic. How are you finding – pressure’s not the right word I think- the competition? Because you guys in the Nordics at the moment seem to be just coming out with some of the best music for the rock fans. I was looking at statistics, you’ve got so may bands coming out of Sweden and Finland obviously as well, that play a similar style of music to you guys. You have the Heat, for example, Crazy Lixx, and then you’ve got the slightly sleazier elements still like Crashdiet, for example. Is it tough to find a gap in all of that? Because they’re all good bands making a good name for themselves as well as you guys.
Johnny”I think we’re not the same genre. I think we’re a little bit different because we try to be this rock band, true rock band. We never thought of ourselves like a serious band like that. No competition because everybody…… well,you have to be friends. Like the good thing about rap is that, okay there’s always a war going on, but there’s also lots of helping each other. They are going to feed someone’s album and that kind of thing. Rockers don’t do that so much.”
Even in Scandinavia?
Johnny”It’s very brotherly. So it’s better”
Who would you like to be touring with and like to be on the same bills as?
Johnny” Oh, from Scandinavia?”
No, just if you could tour with anybody.
Johnny”Anybody? That’s a hard question. Maybe original Guns N’ Roses would be good or Motley Crüe maybe. I’d like that.”
And that’s where you say presumably your desire to play what you would call just good rock music, you should be able to appeal to either audience?
Johnny”Even AC/DC has not got everybody. AC/DC is the best rock and roll band in the world, and I think it works for everyone. You have to make music that works for everyone. Of course you’ll always have haters but you can’t please everyone….if you focus all on doing like sleaze, that’s not our thing.”
No, I can understand that. Tell me a little bit about the video. Is the video something else? I mean, we were waiting – watching the countdown on Facebook – for this to come out, and it finally gets released, and you’ve given us these teasers with the pictures and the drumstick in the eye. What was the idea behind that?
Johnny”We had this idea of doing like a Fight Club film. People fighting each other and that kind of thing. But then we met with Avilla, the director, and we didn’t have enough money to do actors and that thing, so we decided why don’t we fight ourselves? Because it’s a good element if you hit someone in your band. It causes much more attention than if somebody else hits somebody else nobody knows.
So, that was the idea of doing like Fight Club and then a couple of other ideas and combined them. That’s how we went. Ville (Juurikkala) the director, he’s a great guy. He has great work.”
You’ve got some great slow motion pieces on it and the colouring as well where it just goes across the screen with the blood. You can just see the purple and the red and the blue coming sideways.
Johnny”It tastes actually really good, the blood. [laughter]”
What do they use? Is it like corn syrup or something?
Johnny”It’s peppermint or something, Yeah, it tastes like peppermint.”
How long did it take you to make?
Johnny”Two days, and lots of beer.” [laughter]
So back to the live music. What’s next, you doing the festivals this summer?
Johnny”We have a couple of gigs in Finland, and then we going to do summer festivals in Finland and hopefully U.K. also. We’re starting to record our second album in May. We’re continuing through the summer on the weeks and weekends we are on tour and then continue on through Europe, and then hopefully come back to U.K. to do some kind of tour before we release our next album in 2015.”
Your own tour or….?
Johnny”Own tour, or some bigger opening slot like the O2 tour, something like that. That would be great.”
Yeah, because having seen Voodoo Six play at The Garage in London, as well, which is probably about twice the size of this place, and then seeing them again supporting Iron Maiden at the O2, the space you give them, the freedom of the stage, that’s got to be great. Have you been in some of the bigger venues?
Johnny”A couple of times, yeah. It’s actually really hard, because you have to run always. You get exhausted. [chuckles] But it’s fun. I would love to play everywhere with that size of venue.”
Yeah, much more freedom, much greater chance to express yourselves.
Johnny”Yeah, and usually– okay, this is a good size venue, but with small-time venues you have to be like this (stands like a statue showing lack of space to move) You cannot do anything for the show.”
Whereas here, the stage is a reasonable height off the ground, as well as. That’s always a good view. In fact, there is no bad view in this place. That’s one of the best things about it.
Johnny”Except here. ” (Sitting at the back of the bar with no view of the stage at all) [chuckles]
Johnny, it’s been really good. Thank you very much.