Interviewed by Adrian Hextall (Writer/Journalist/Contributor)
Brother Firetribe is a Finnish AOR band formed back in 2002. They take their name from an in-joke as a perfect description of their music being ‘tennis heavy’ and the name of a Finnish former professional tennis player Veli Paloheimo translates into English as ‘Brother Firetribe’. Their first album False Metal was released in 2006, it was later re-issued as Break Out. Heart full of Fire was released in 2008 and aside from a live DVD / live album all has been quiet until now. Not surprisingly it’s difficult to get the band together when your lead singer is also the lead vocalist in melodic metal band Leverage and your guitarist is Erno “Emppu” Vuorinen of Nightwish. To get the lowdown on the 6 year gap and how scheduling time for the band must be very difficult MGM spoke to lead singer Pekka Ansio Heino
Hey Pekka. How’s it going?
PAH: I’m very good, thank you very much. How are you?
I’m good. Thanks.
PAH: It’s all good. It’s a sunny day in Helsinki, believe it or not.
It’s getting to that time of year when you get sunshine till maybe midnight, isn’t it, now?
PAH: Exactly, yeah. Been looking forward to it all year.
Nice sunny evenings, and a good time of the year for you guys. We were out there to see ‘Rock the Beach’, down by the water last summer. That was a wonderful place to be.
PAH: Oh, right. Oh, so you’ve been here? Alright.
Yeah. I think it was the first time the festival had ever been held there, and I came out with some of my friends on vacation, and we had, I think Green Day, Rammstein, and one other band headlining, but just being on the beach, stood up to my knees in the water, watching the bands, that was something else.
PAH: Not bad. I need that right now, it’s a cool place to all comers, definitely.
I think we’ve got a lot to talk about, because you guys have got a new album out.
PAH: Absolutely. Ask me anything you want.
I believe it’s now been six years since the last one? That’s the length of delay only Def Leppard usually gets away with. [laughter] How come it has been such a long time?
PAH: Yeah, six years, it’s ridiculous. Def Leppard and us yeah !! After we recorded and shot the light DVD thing, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. That’s Live at the Apollo. That was actually in 2010 and that was basically the last gig we toured for our first album, and we agreed on taking a break. You probably know that Emppu is in Nightwish, which is one of those biggest bands in Europe. Emppu went on tour with them and the rest of us did whatever we were doing at the time. We didn’t mean to stay on a break for this long. Let’s put it that way. Time just flew by, and me and Tomppa (Nikulainen) the keyboard player, we write the songs, so we got together every now and then and wrote a song. It was really really slow because we didn’t have a schedule and we were pretty short on our break. So up until the point where we had something like six songs written and gambled, that’s when we realized, “Hey, wait a minute, this is half the album, basically.” That’s when we woke up like, “Holy shit, has it been that long?” That’s when we brought up the subject of maybe we should actually finish the album. Absolutely, those magic words “finish the album”. The main reason basically that it took so long, time just went by, but when we started working on the album, we really took our time with each step and we really wanted to make the best of it. We didn’t want to come back from such a long hiatus with a bad album. So yeah, Def Leppard. Definitely.
Exactly. If they can get away with it, so can you guys. Obviously, it gives you the chance to get it right, to perfect it as well, doesn’t it?
So, with the new album, ‘Diamond in the Fire Pit’, one of the interesting things I noticed it, from the track listing, the title of the album, isn’t a track on the album. So what’s the meaning behind the title of the album itself?
PAH: Well, that came out of me and– I mean, we had basically recorded for our album, but didn’t have a name for it, so I called up my trustee, one of my best friends, and we sat down in my kitchen and started tossing around ideas, and at some point he just came up with this ‘Diamond in the Fire Pit’. If somebody is has said that if you place a diamond into a fire pit, it just gets more brilliant or something like, that so that sounded cool, plus it has the words diamond and fire in it, so we can’t not use that.
That’s very true.
PAH: So afterwards, we got to thinking about maybe because it’s a long time, so these songs on the album have been in that fire pit for six long years, so they must shine like hell right now. I don’t know. I think it’s a cool name.
That’s pretty neat. I like that. Thank you. Obviously with the last album you had Annette Olson guesting with you, as well. Is there anybody guesting on this one or is it just the five of you playing this time?
PAH: Well, sort of, on background vocals we have Anthony, who used to sing with Machine Men. He’s absolutely one of the best metal singers in probably the whole world. He’s just incredible. He’s a good friend of ours. He takes care of all of the background vocals with me and Jason. There is just a high profile Finnish solo artist, a good friend of mine who plays a mean slapping bass solo on one track. Not many people here know that he’s one of the best bass players in Finland, because he’s such a prolific songwriter and an artist, and he’s sold a shitload of records in Finland. He began his career as a bass player, and gained a lot of fans, and he just jumped at the chance when I called him up, and I just said, “Hey, man. What’s going on? Would you like to play a bass solo?” and he said, “Yes” and that was pretty much it, and the result was pretty good.
Of course, you only get to see where somebody’s mentioned as a direct credit, perhaps, on the album, so to understand what’s gone into the process, and what’s gone on behind it and who else has played that. That’s good to know. Thank you. Presumably, you’re going to be taking this on tour, as well. You’re going to be starting touring soon?
PAH: The album came out so late and this band is always so fucking late. We missed out on the summer festivals unfortunately. We have a handful of those in Finland during the summer, but our aim is to tour as much as possible after the summer, and so at the end of the year, because that’s basically the only time we have to operate the job and could choose. Starting the next year, I think Nightwish is taking off again, so we’re back on a break basically, for some time. So, people are working on taking care of that. I’m just keeping my fingers and legs and arms and what have you crossed. I’m just looking forward to taking the band on the road again. It’s been way too long.
I know one of the dates you have got, which is going to be, I think, in October, you’re going to be playing the final FireFest over here in the UK, aren’t you?
PAH: Yes, absolutely.
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to that, because it’ll be the first time I have managed to see you guys, and having got all of the previous albums, and the ‘Live at the Apollo’ disc, as well. I’m really stoked about seeing you guys play on the Sunday evening. That is not only a cracking show for you to be at, it’s the right scene, the right audience, but of course it’s going to be the last ever FireFest, and you get to play on the final day.
PAH: That’s beautiful. So you’re going to be there?
Yes. Yeah, I’m not going to miss that. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. The line-up on that day that you’re playing is immense.
PAH: It’s pretty incredible. Yes, yeah. I’m just so looking forward to it. I’ve been there as a fan a couple of years back and thoroughly enjoyed the festival. The venue is great. Obviously, the bands are great. People there, it’s a really rare– How do you say? Camaraderie. Is that a word?
I know exactly what you mean. The whole thing is run by the fans that appreciate that style of music, isn’t it?
PAH: Yes. It’s a very warm atmosphere in general. I just loved it. To get to play there finally, is just really, really cool. I mean, I’m so embarrassed at the time Kieran (Dargan – co creator of FireFest) called me up. They’d been asking us to take part and we had to say no because of scheduling problems, and that was really embarrassing. So when Kieran called me up for this one, I just said, “I’ll make it happen, no matter what.” Especially when he told me that it was definitely going to be the last FireFest, so we wouldn’t miss it for the world.
That’s very true, I mean, there’s an awful lot of people I know that are going that are very excited to see you guys. So, it’s clearly going to be a great three days that we’ve got out there.
PAH: That’s cool.
Obviously, if you are going to be over here, is there a possibility of additional shows do you think, or do you think that may well be the only one in the UK later this year?
PAH: That’s another thing that the management and those guys are working on. I mean, we’d love to tour UK and there’s been talk about we were supposed to do a couple of shows even before FireFest, actually around this time, but that fell through, because we couldn’t afford it, let’s put it that way. Yeah, if we can find a suitable– another band to tour with, that’s definitely going to happen, and I’m just looking forward to it because people are constantly that there actually is an audience for Firetribe in the UK, so that would be really cool.
There’s certainly a lot of us over here waiting to see it, so that would be great, if you could.
In terms of the releases to date, I have a nice copy in a case of a debut album back home from when it was called ‘False Metal’. How come you re-released it as ‘Break Out’, what made you change the title and move it out under a different release?
PAH: Well, to be honest with you man, I have no idea. I have absolutely no idea why somebody wanted to change the title. That certainly didn’t come from the band. When somebody thought that, from the record company, obviously, we just raised our hands and like whatever. Do what you want, if that’s the case. Maybe somebody just didn’t like it, or thought that if you put it out with this title False Metal wouldn’t sell as much or something stupid like that. But it didn’t come from the band.
It’s interesting, because I am assuming the title ‘False Metal’ originally came about as more of a humorous take on some of the metal bands that you’ve got out there like Manowar, who almost denounced the more melodic music don’t they? Because it’s not aggressive enough, it’s not warrior driven. I am guessing you guys pick up on things like that and just like what the heck we’ll just call it ‘False Metal’, because it’s amusing.
PAH: Yeah. Well, that was actually– It was really very much that and it came straight from Manowar. We thought their slogan, “Death to false metal” was pretty funny, and at the time we came up with that is exactly what they meant by that. Yeah, it was a bit of fun, well, not just a bit, but it was a bit of a joke, but we really liked the title, and I think that other people remember it, too.
Of course what it has done for you guys now as well, of course, is made it that you’ve got a collectable version of your debut album that the fans are going to look for as you guys progress.
PAH: Yeah, but these things are funny. It was purely the record company’s idea, and they even came up with the new title, ‘Break Out’. They took it from the first song from the album, probably – something like that.
Just in terms of the content on the new album, any particular songs that stand out for you that you’d want to draw the fans’ attention to, or are all the 12 equally important to you?
PAH: They’re important to Rob, and naturally I liked all of those songs, otherwise those songs wouldn’t be on the album, but my personal favourite would be, probably ‘Hanging by a Thread’. I really, really enjoy that song. I think it has this cool, classic AOR vibe to it. We struggled with that song a bit when we were mixing it, it needed this pumping synth bass to it, but we could find a sound ourselves, so we had to call up our mixer, who just built that sound with his own bare hands. It took a day from him, but that was perfect, and that now the sound is exactly how we pictured it when we recording it and liking it. That’s my favourite song, that’s something that I can still put on without getting bored to tears. [laughter] As it happens when you’re working on an album that you just did. When I come home, I don’t put it on, that’s what it does. Hanging by a Thread is also a cool song.
One of the most notable things at the moment, and you certainly see it, when you get to festivals such as, FireFest. The amount of quality music – melodic rock, hard rock, AOR coming out of Scandinavia, and especially Finland. You’ve got yourselves, you’ve got the guys like Santa Cruz, as well, and then you’ve guys like H.E.A.T. coming from Sweden, what is it at the moment that’s managing to drive such quality output from the Nordics?
PAH: That’s a good question. I have no idea, but it’s heart-warming for me, personally, to look at all these young guys, these young bands coming out with this traditional stuff, and the way they do it is so convincing, and they really put their heart into it. That’s the coolest thing ever, and the attitude is there, the quality of the music, the quality of the playing. The attitude, it’s just really, really cool. I love those guys, Santa Cruz, H.E.A.T.’s obviously good friends of mine. Those guys, they’re ten years – or even more – younger than we are. Basically, it’s understandable that the stuff that we come up with – it’s the complete book in that era, when this music was top shit. But those guys weren’t born then, but for some reason they’ve just taken it to their heart, and coming up with stuff like that is just really, really cool. Erik (Martensson from W.E.T & Eclipse) is a friend of mine, and these great guys, playing great music, being really talented, it’s just really, really cool. But the reason for that – why Nordic? – Sweden has always been melodic music. Ever since ABBA, they’ve got tradition for that stuff, but Finland, I had no idea. Looking back 20 years ago, 25 years ago, you couldn’t find an international act or whatever. Something happened, and right now, especially in metal regions, I think Finland is one of the leading countries in the whole world in metal.
Oh, I totally agree, yeah.
PAH: The scene – the metal scene here in Finland is just huge. I’m not trying to be a part of it. Brother Firetribe is a bit sticking out like a sore thumb is actually, for obvious reasons, but I still think it’s really cool. I don’t know. Maybe one common thing could be that we really take pride in learning our craft. We learn how to play our instruments and really take pride in that. Good working morals. I don’t know.
It certainly seems to be paying off. I would say, I’m buying more music from where you guys are all from these days, than probably from the rest of Europe combined. I’m buying releases from Nightwish, I’ve got all the albums from Turisas, I’ve got the albums from Santa Cruz, I’ve got yours. In fact, Amazon has just dispatched my vinyl copy of your latest album, so I’m really looking forward to getting that in the post, as well. So there’s an awful lot out there, and it’s all coming from Finland, as well.
PAH: That’s really nice to hear, all in all, especially if you are talking about melodic rock scene and definitely hard rock nowadays. It should all be about quality. Quality of the songs and the quality of the songs, the quality of the production and, personally, I think people should pay more attention to that. In some ways– I’m not saying that we are doing everything right, quite far from it, but I don’t find myself– I’m a huge metal music fan and a fan of the genre. I buy music all the time, I listen to music all the time, but I tend to go back in time and try to find the quality albums from bands and artists that I missed back in the day, because of some reason or another. So, of course I’m checking out what’s going on today, but it leaves me cold sometimes, or just really ashamed.
Yeah, yeah, I agree. That’s a nice insight, thank you very much for that
PAH: Oh, that’s cool.
Thank you very much for your time this evening.
PAH: Hey, this was a pleasure and very cool talking to you. And I’ll see you at FireFest. Let’s sit down and have a beer or two.
That would be absolutely fantastic, thank you very much. Look forward to it.
PAH: Okay, really cool, now take care, man.
Brother Firetribe play ‘FireFest – The Final Fling’ on Sunday 26th October 2014