Write a ballad about Lemmy? I mean, come on….. Brother Firetribe on Indelible Heroes

Interview with Brother Firetribe by Adrian Hextall

Pictures (C) Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media

Brother Firetribe, the Finnish melodic rock act that sees Christian Slater’s better looking twin, Pekka Ansio Heino,  paired up with the man behind Nightwish’s guitar solos, Erno “Emppu” Vuorinen. The band is completed by Jason Flinck on bass, Tomppa Nikulainen, the man who gives the band their 80s edge and Hannes Pirila on drums, taking over from original dummer Kalle Torniainen in 2014. 

Their headline show in London was hotly anticipated and whilst you might think the band were expected the reaction they did, with people travelling in from far and wide, it still appears that the humble quintet were taken aback by a packed Borderline venue almost 2 hours before they were due to go on stage. 

We caught up with the to discuss the show, the music and the future of one of melodic rocks rising stars.  

AH: A headline show, fellas. This is very exciting for us. We’re really looking forward to this. It’s been some time coming. So, thank you very much for coming over and doing this. But, what does it feel like? It’s got to be good feelings to be able to finally do this.

Pekka Ansio Heino [PH]: You have no expectations of any kind when you hit the road with these guys, because you just can’t say, record sales they don’t say anything anymore. So we just hopped on the bus, and every night would be more or less a surprise in terms of how many people show up and how enthusiastic they are. But this time, it’s London. You know? We will see what happens.

AH: For me, normally, coming to this venue, if I come in at 7:00 PM when the doors open, I can get down to the front, find a spot to take photos. I came in at 7:15 today, it’s packed. I was 10 rows back. I cannot get to the front of the stage. It’s heaving in there…

PH: Are you kidding me?

AH: No, solid. It’s solid, man.

PH: Oh. [nervous laughter ensues]

AH: So, no pressure. Now there’s a lot of people out there looking forward to seeing you. It’s really good.

Jason Flinck [JF]: This is really cool.

AH: Yes. I think everybody that couldn’t get to Rockingham, [the melodic rock festival the band were due to play the following day in Nottingham], tomorrow, are all here tonight.

JF: Really cool.

AH: Yes. And of course, we get a longer set as well so we win. [laughter]

PH: [cough] We’ll see what the set is like because it’s really tough to get out of this place. They keep telling us. And we’re going around in a night-liner and it’s possible to bring the bus here so we had to leave it down there to O2 arena. And rent a van. And we took a taxi. The guys came in with the gear on that van and the same thing, like…when we’re getting out of it. They gave us 25 minutes to get out.

AH: That’s tough. So, what time’s curfew for you tonight, then?

PH: what does it say? [gestures towards a wall of stats and facts about the show]

AH: You’re on at nine. You’ve got 70 minutes

JF: 23 hundred

PH: 23:00, okay. It would it been so nice to just hook up with everybody who came in, and just having a chat. But, what can you do?

AH: In terms of what are we getting tonight, I have your promise from a phone interview a few months ago. Sunbound in full.

PH: Okay. If we can’t do that, that’s all the time they gave us. But there are a lot of songs from Sunbound.

AH: I’ve got it in writing…. [hands round copy of Pekka’s interview with MGM some months earlier – click here to read it] 

PH: Shit. [laughter]

AH: But a good mix of songs from the four albums then?

PH: We will do our best. We kind of tried to pick out the songs that we’ve had the vibe from the people that they actually, really, really like. But to fit them all into… excuse me. seventy five minutes, seventy minutes. You have to leave something out. And you can’t please anybody.

AH: And I presume tomorrow as well, you’ve actually got less time available to you, what do you got tomorrow when you’re up in Nothingham?

PH: We haven’t really thought about the set list yet. But, how long is it?

JF: Sixty minutes.

AH: Sixty? So, you have to- was that? Take three songs out, maybe?

PH: Three, two, yes. Well, there are the obvious ones that we feel are the obvious ones we have to play and we like to play but, it’s just that we’re still so excited about Sunbound. We really love playing those songs.

AH: And having now been listening to that for several months. When it first came out? What was it January?

PH: February.

AH: February, okay. Since I got it to listen to…and I listened to it time, after time, after time, it’s still an interesting beginning for an instrumental piece to open the album because typically for your style of music, track two, would be the normal opening. But then there is this wonderful intro which is track one, which is the title track. Why that? And why was that instrumental?

PH: It’s all up to him. [Points to Jason] He just came up with it and presented the idea. And I’m like “I can’t sing anything on top of this”. It was a good idea.

JF: I have no idea where it came from.

AH: But if it fits being an instrumental more than anything else…..

JF: Yes. But, actually, I asked Pekka if he can come up with something. But he said that “I can’t sing anything”.

PH: It sounded so instrumental. And it sounded like a perfect.. Because, at that point, we’d already come up with the title of the album, Sunbound. And the more we started thinking about it, it started sounding like, “okay, this is an instrumental piece” and it has the title of the album. It works.

AH: It’s a fascinating way, for a melodic rock band, though, to open an album, because it’s not normal, is it? It gives you guys a little bit of an edge, almost, to do something different.

PH: Yes, it could be. I remember some classic, well, not classic albums but albums from back in the day that those bands did. They had an instrumental, just a short piece to open up the album.

AH: Nowadays, you’ve a sort of 90 second instrumental opening, two minutes maybe is typically a power metal album, isn’t it? To get it with what you guys are doing is… Didn’t catch us by surprise but it’s just a neat way of doing it. It’s a nice change. It’s a different angle.

PH: It felt natural. Well, Bon Jovi…… Slippery When Wet. I think that starts with an instrumental piece. It’s even called…It’s not on the album. It’s not titled, but it’s called…David Bryan rolled that piece and it’s called Pink Flamingos or something. [A quick check via the medium of ‘internet’ will confirm the original Japaese pressing of the album has the same running time but 11 instead of 10 tracks, the 11th that leads into Let It Rock, Pink Flamingos!!]

AH: And obviously with what you close out with, as well, Phantasmagoria. Are you going to play that tonight?

PH: No.

AH: No?

PH: No, but you’ll hear…you’ll hear the strings at the end.

AH: Yes? Cool. That’s good. So, if I don’t get that one, do I get Devil’s Daughter?

PH: No.

AH: Okay. Well, sorry [crestfallen and head lowered, I stand up to leave the interview…. sometimes only so much pain can be taken.] [laughter]

PH: Oh, man! [laugh] [cough]

PH: No, but ……

AH: I’ve got it in writing. [laughter]

PH: Shit [again]

AH: See those things as you promise when you’re on the phone when you’re miles away right? [NB: It should be noted this is all being done with tongue fully embedded in cheek!].

PH: Yes, it’s so easy.

AH: But Phantasmagoria obviously takes Sunbound in a slightly different direction. It is an interesting close to the album. It’s a wonderful track, a repeat play song. Does it take you in a different direction for album number five, do you think?

PH: Who knows? But the way it came out and probably the reason why it’s so different in a way…The melody and all, in the chorus, especially, is because Jason came up with it on a guitar. He’d written this melody here on the chorus. He written it on the guitar. And made a demo. And that kind of just caught my ear and, well, “hey, hey, what was that?”. And then, we just started working on that. To me, it sounded like a melody for a chorus. And then just wrote the song around it. And because it came from Jason and he’s got a different way of coming up with a melody that I have so that’s why it sounds different and that’s the first time this kind of thing has happened.

And then we just made a kind of acoustic version. I banged it out on my acoustic and topped up with some piano, and a drum track behind it. And that was it, basically. And something was missing. And we just kept pushing it like, “okay let’s work on that later” and “we had another song coming in”. And right at the end of the… we were almost done with the mixing, I think when somebody had an idea, “what about the orchestration for this?”. And our old friend, who’d done the mixing for the previous albums. He’s doing orchestration for… He’s doing movie scores nowadays. 

AH: It does give it. That almost epic movie feel, doesn’t it?

PH: Exactly, yes. And when we heard what he’d done, it was like, “okay, that’s it”. But it’s different. And the way you said, I think it was a natural closer for the album–in a way that it kind of… We’re still thinking in terms of an album as a concept, which doesn’t happen that often anymore, and I don’t know if it’s even wise, but we just like that. And that song kind of leaves the door open to the next album in terms of, we can do basically whatever we want, because it’s so different.

AH: You could almost name the next album Phantasmagoria just to extend it……

PH: Yes, you know what I’m talking about.

AH: Absolutely, yes. And naturally to be able to get the five of you together is not the easiest of things. Some people have other bands that they work in. [A wry smile towards Emppu generates a room of laughter]. 

PH: Yes, some of them, yes.

AH: As a result, how far progressed are you? Are you already thinking another album? You turned this one around pretty quickly. It’s about three years, wasn’t it?

PH: Yes, really quickly.

AH: Which is so short compared to the previous {Diamonds in the Firepit], as well.

PH: Oh, come on. Six years.

AH: Six years.

PH: Yes, Stupid. Well, it kind of took us by surprise that we were able to put it out as soon as we did, or as quickly as we did. And we’ve kind of kept that at the back of our minds all the time and that’s why we came up with… We’ve done two new songs already and we’re just starting the tour. We’re on a good path, in a way.

AH: For me as a fan, it’s great to be able to see you on a full headline tour. But also knowing that there is something coming up again in a not distant future…means a lot. The last time we got you here live was 2014. That was FireFest, wasn’t it?

PH: Yes, it was. That’s right.

AH: For an hour of BFT and then three years later you’ve got seventy minutes.

PH: Well, that’s ten minutes more. [laugh]

AH: Ten minutes more, yes. So next time you come back in three more years, I want ninety minutes, please.

PH: Don’t write that down. Don’t write that down. [Too Late!] [laugh]

JF: Exactly, don’t write that down.

AH: But if you can turn it round within two or three years. I mean, the advertising campaign, Taste of a Champion, that’s given you so much more exposure back home, of course.

PH: It did, yes.

AH: That was able to help to keep the momentum going. There’s a lot of people out there, I’m guessing, knowing the name of the band now.

PH: I don’t know. Well, they know the song but there’s a lot of people who probably still don’t know what band that is. They probably think “that’s the band who did the Rocky soundtrack”, the “Survivor”. I don’t know, but it did help and everybody seems to know the song, in good or bad. I don’t know but that’s the way…

That’s the way it goes nowadays. The best thing what could happen to a song is to put it on a video game or soundtrack of a big movie, or something.

AH: So, the natural fit coming up,  Top Gun 2.

PH: Yes.

AH: Phantasmagoria would fit on a Top Gun 2 soundtrack, because it’s got that-

PH: Write that down [laughs]! 

AH: It’s got that feel. You can just picture you’re playing on the intro to that. The jet engines warming up and taking off. But also, things like Champion, Creed 2 is coming out.

PH: Yes, it is.

AH: So, get on the phone to these guys.

PH: Somebody should do something, yes. Definitely.

AH: You smile when you said “the guys that did the rocky soundtrack”. But some of the tracks… Your songs are the overcoming adversity type songs, aren’t they?

PH: Of course.

AH: There are the upbeat ones that will to succeed and things like that. Even Indelible Heroes, when you’re talking about those that have passed, and they were our heroes on music or whatever. It’s still done in such a way that it’s inspiring, it’s not sad.

PH: Yes. That’s what this band is about and especially in that case. That song was all about celebrating those guys who passed away.

AH: Yes. It’s not mourning them. It’s celebrating them. Isn’t it?

PH: Yes, it’s the other way around.

AH: And were there any in particular with that song that you were focusing on when you were writing it out? Was it just in general or was it particularly about, say, Lemmy or Bowie or something like that?

PH: No, it’s in general because those characters kept dying. One by one and in such a short period of time. That just got me thinking of “those are pretty really big names”. And they’re just mortals after all. Even though when you look at them on your wall when you’re a kid, they’re not mortals; they’re gods to you.

AH: You think they’re going to be there forever.

It turned out it exactly like we’ve wanted it to turn out because we didn’t wanted to write a sappy ballad about..that would have been kind of corny. So, the mood of the song just fits the lyrics.

AH: You get the sense that the artist you’re singing about, they wouldn’t want you to do a sappy ballad either.

PH: Yes, That’s right. Write a ballad about Lemmy? I mean, come on. [laughter]

AH: No, that’s very true. Listen, fellas. That’ll do me nicely for an article. I’m conscious you’re on stage in half an hour.

PH: Are you sure? Let me see what you wrote down this time….. [goes to grab notes]

AH: Yes. No, we’ll turn that off. [puts recorder away] None of it it’s true, apparently……..[laughter]

Or review of the show will appear here shortly;

The band are out on tour at the moment and return to the UK for Planet Rockstock

27.11. FI – Helsinki, Hartwall Arena (supporting Scorpions)

1.12.  FI – Helsinki, Nosturi

2.12. UK – Planet Rockstock Festival (sold out)

3.12. GER – Ludwigsburg – H.E.A.T. Festival

5.12.  FI – Turku, GONG

16.12. FI – Tampere, Olympia

 

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