Mikko von Hertzen (Von Hertzen Brothers)

Von Hertzen Brothers live at The Fleece, Bristol

I’ve been much taken with the music of the Von Hertzen Brothers, ever since seeing them at the first High Voltage Festival at Victoria Park in London back in 2010. Three brothers (Kie, Mikko and Jonne von Hertzen), two others (Mikko Kaakkuriniemi – drums, and Juha Kuoppala – keyboards), as they say.

Back in Finland they play huge festivals and their albums routinely shoot to the top of the charts, but here in the UK, they remain something of a well kept secret. It’s a fate, perhaps, to which original, genre-spanning bands are more prone, with no one quite sure what to do with them or how best to introduce them to a new market. They rock too hard for some proggers, while their albums contain too many progressive rock diversions and left-field influences for a mainstream rock audience. But talent, and good songs, will always out, and it’s great to see their UK audience building.  If you don’t know this band, what on earth are you waiting for? You’ve got some catching up to do!

I recently saw the band at both the HRH Prog Festival in Pwllheli, and in Bristol on their March 2016 UK headline tour and caught up with middle brother, vocalist and guitarist Mikko. I was delighted when he kindly agreed not only to a long awaited Über Röck interview but to the following Words and Music Q&A session. So, with only minimal duplication, here goes …

Hi Mikko! Is it possible to say what rock music means to you?
It means everything; it’s the love of my life.

Who was the first artist to make an impression on you?
Elvis.

Tell us about an album, song or lyric that means a lot to you?
I would say the Beatles albums: ‘Abbey Road’, ‘The White Album’, and ‘Sgt. Peppers’.

Mikko von Hertzen live at The Fleece, BristolWe were talking earlier (pre-interview) about the 1970s influences on the Von Hertzen Brothers’ music, but you’re going back beyond that in the answers you’re giving.
When I think about the pivotal moments that sealed our destiny, it must have been our father bringing home, when we were small kids, all these LPs. He was a businessman, and he was bringing home Lynyrd Skynyrd from the States, the Eagles from the States, and then from England the Beatles albums and a Queen box set with 16 LPs in it. It was like heaven for us.

So the three of you shared tastes right from the start?
Oh yeah, though of course we had our own favourites. My big brother Kie was a guitar player so he was into Ritchie Blackmore and Brian May and all that. I was more into drumming, so I was more, like, ‘Bonzo is my god’ [laughs], and my little brother, Jonne, was into pop.

Is there an artist who has stayed with you over time?
I would say Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd has had, for me, personally, the longest influence. Since hearing the first Pink Floyd album that my father brought – I think it was ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ – up to the later ones like the live album ‘Pulse’, it has had a huge effect on me.

There was a famous book written by a psychiatrist called Eric Berne called ‘What Do You Say After You Say Hello?’ I like to ask people what do you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
If I met a rock star? [laughs] I would say “Hello, I’m a really huge fan and I just want to express my appreciation for what you are doing.”

Von Hertzen Brothers live at The Fleece, Bristol

Your best encounter with an artist as a fan? There are so many. Like when I met Jónsi from Sigur Rós. It was one of those moments. I remember being in North India and sitting on a hill – not on top of a mountain, but just there meditating – and I put on a Sigur Rós album, the second one, and you know … how it felt. And when I met Jónsi, I tried to describe to him what it actually meant to me, and that was a beautiful moment because, you know, there was no bullshit. There was no ‘you’ and ‘me’.  It was just, like, the music has its role. So that’s one thing that I really remember. That’s one of the most precious interactions with somebody else who writes. And then meeting Steven Wilson for the first time, telling him how much I appreciate what he is doing. And also, I am a huge fan of the Cardigans, the Swedish pop band, a huge fan. So Nina [Nina Persson, lead singer] was one of the girls I was always in love with, always. And when I met her, and I could say this aloud to her, that was beautiful. [Laughs]

How did she react?
Well, she was like her usual self: “Oh thank you, that’s so sweet of you.” Can I have a photo? “Well, ok.” [Laughs]

Your strangest encounter with a fan as an artist?
Wow! My strangest? Well, I have to say, we were playing in the States at a prog festival of sorts, called RoSfest. We played a 90 minute set. The next morning I was just walking in the hotel area, outdoors, to the restaurant to have my breakfast, and I was all drowsy, I’d just woken up, and we’d had a bit of a party, and there was this huge pick-up truck coming behind me, like really roaring, and this massive guy, who must have weighed 300lbs, shouted out right into my ear “You guys fucking rock!” [Laughs] And it scared the shit out of me. I was in a panic. I thought someone was attacking me. But he just wanted to show his appreciation. That’s the one that just came to my mind now, but there are so many weird happenings with the fans, you know, some telling you their life stories, and thinking that I’m next to God and all that stuff, you know. But that one was funny.

What would you say makes a rock gig special?
The audience. It’s the audience that always makes a gig special. If there’s a good audience that’s what makes a rock show for me.

Mikko and fan

Do you have a particularly memorable gig, or gig moment, either as a fan or as a musician?
Well, as a fan, I remember when AC/DC were touring ‘For Those About To Rock’, and they had the big canons. I was about 12. I went to the Ice Hall, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever! “For those about to rock …” and then the loud bang!

And as an artist?
As an artist, we were playing this famous Finnish festival, Pori Jazz, maybe five or six years ago. And it’s a festival where people are out on an island, with an outdoor stage, and there’s all this cool jazz going on the whole day. And then, on the way back to the city, we were playing in a tent that took maybe 3,000 people. So everybody had been outdoors for the whole day, picnicking and listening to jazz, and all these people then jammed into the tent, and the sun is setting and coming from beneath the roof of the tent and lighting everybody with a golden colour. We were playing ‘Kiss a Wish’ or something, you know, one of the instrumental things, and I just remember that moment. That was beautiful because everybody was sick of hearing something very sweet, and they wanted to rock out, and they all wanted to come to the gig, and it was the best gig ever. It was such an amazingly, beautiful, Finnish sunset. You know, Finland can be beautiful too. There are a few months of the year when it’s exceptionally beautiful.

Yes, I am wary of telling a Fin how beautiful parts of Wales are.
Oh yeah, yeah. We drove to the HRH Prog festival last weekend, and it was absolutely stunning. Really, really stunning. But the thing that we have which is very special is the archipelago. There are tons of islands, beautiful, beautiful islands. So in the summertime people go sailing there. It’s so beautiful. But yeah, nothing compared to Wales [laughs].

Last question: sex, drugs and rock ʾn’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
Well, you know, maybe when you’re a kid, all those things mean a lot. But when you get older and you do this more, for me, like I said, the love of my life is not cocaine or sex. I tend to be more towards the rock ʾn’ roll side of things. [Laughs] So, in moderation, everything. I don’t do drugs. I never did. But I did have … um … I got laid a few times, let’s put it that way! [Laughs]

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
No, I’m just grateful to those reading this and I think people should give us a chance. We’re a good band and we do it with a big heart. Von Hertzen is German and it means ‘from the heart’. And we always try to remind ourselves that as long as we do this from the heart, without any pretence, just being true to ourselves, it’s the most beautiful thing that we do and offer to the world.

Mikko von Hertzen

 

Cheers Mikko!

Live photography courtesy of Mike Evans. See more at Mike’s blog.

More on the Von Hertzen Brothers on their official website and Facebook page.

Check out the band’s ‘New Day Rising’ video on You Tube

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Martijn Westerholt (Delain)

Delain

 

Fans of Delain expecting a new album in the wake of recent successful tours might well have been surprised by the appearance instead of the new ‘Lunar Prelude’ EP.

I had the pleasure of interviewing founding member and keyboard player Martijn Westerholt for Fireworks Magazine. He was great fun to chat to, and more than happy to give me the low down on the EP, album plans and forthcoming live work. He also had some interesting things to say about cultural differences between audiences in different parts of the world, and even in different parts of Germany!

The interview has recently been published on the Fireworks/Rocktopia website and can be read in full here:

http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7616:fireworks-magazine-online-74-interview-with-delain&catid=903:fireworksmagazine&Itemid=474

I’ve been really impressed with the band’s recent output and, as you’ll see from the interview, their live show. They’ve recently expanded their line-up and now benefit from the skills of ‘second’ guitarist Merel Bechtold.

If you don’t know the band, or even if you do, check out the video for the new single ‘Suckerpunch’. It augers well for the forthcoming album, which, Martijn assured me, is on the way!

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Robbie Cavanagh – Which Way To New York

Robbie Cavanagh

Those who were bowled over by his critically acclaimed debut album The State of Maine (April 2014), and have waited patiently for new material, will be delighted to hear that singer-songwriter Robbie Cavanagh is preparing to release a new single at the end of February.

‘Which Way To New York’ is described as having “a heartfelt, travelling country beat” and, in feel and construction, invites comparison with the likes of Ryan Adams and Ben Folds. It’s a beautiful song – thoughtfully arranged, superbly played, and featuring an aching vocal that’s distinctively Robbie.

The accompanying video has been directed by Jessica Fox, and shot and edited by Tom Rout. You can see the video and hear a pre-release version of the song on You Tube.

Since the release of The State Of Maine, Robbie has had an impact on the country/Americana scene, developing a loyal and dedicated following around the UK. Those who know his work from this website will know he writes emotive songs performed with passion and sincerity. ‘Which Way To New York’ is no exception.

The single is set for worldwide release on Great Beyond Records on 29 February 2016.

Do check it out!


Related posts

Robbie Cavanagh Words and Music Q&A

The State of Maine album launch (gig review)

‘The Willingness To Move’ (video single)

www.robbiecavanagh.co.uk

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Lemmy Feature/Tribute

Motorhead - Ace of Spades album cover

There can’t be many rock fans of a certain vintage, whose experience of rock music was not touched in some way by the life and work of Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known, of course, as Lemmy.

Love him or er … not, he was unique – a real one off. Not just iconic, but iconoclastic. He may have been notorious for his appetites, but he was also a smart guy, a man who always had an interesting take on life and a fresh perspective. He lived the way he wanted to live. He kept it real. If you’ve not done so already, check out his autobiography, ‘White Line Fever’. It’ll have you howling at times, and re-evaluating your attitude to life at others. It’s one of my favourite rock books.

Lemmy - White Line FeverHis music, like his approach to life, was uncompromising. I always found that Motörhead’s music had a certain charm. I loved the humour and quirkiness as well as the power. Lemmy had a wry wit (“I really like this jacket but the sleeves are much too long” from ‘Back At The Funny Farm’)  and was a master of tautological overstatement (‘Killed By Death’). His music was the music of fun, rage and hedonism, all on the same album and all at the same time. Everything louder than everything else! He influenced many and he will be missed.

It was both an honour and a pleasure to be asked to do a feature and tribute to Lemmy with Alan Thompson for his BBC Radio Wales show. Not that it should be a surprise to anyone that Radio Wales would want to pay tribute, especially given Lemmy’s childhood links with Anglesey, the National Assembly for Wales plenary debate he inspired (‘Heroin. Is Lemmy right?’) and the presence in his band for nigh on 30 years of Welsh guitar whizz Phil Campbell.

The piece was broadcast on Sunday 24 January 2016, a few short weeks after Lemmy’s sudden passing. It features music and chat – classic tracks from Hawkwind and Motörhead and a closing song that, I hope, surprised a few people, as it showcases a more sensitive side of Lemmy’s character.

You can hear the full piece here on Alan’s pages on the Radio Wales site, via the BBC iPlayer. The Lemmy piece kicks in at around the 1hr 26 mark with ‘Silver Machine’. Enjoy!

As for this short article, I can think of no better sign off than Dave Ling’s recent paraphrase (in his Classic Rock magazine send off) of Lemmy’s own on stage battle cry:

“He was Lemmy – he played rock ‘n’ roll!”

Motorhead - Snaggletooth - No Remorse album cover

Born to lose; Live to win

Rest in Peace, Lem!

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Michael Schenker – new interview

Michael Schenker

It hasn’t been the happiest of New Years for rock fans, with longstanding icons apparently going down like nine pins. An enthusiastic and energetic Michael Schenker, however, is always a mood lifting joy to the ears, as much when he converses, I’m starting to think, as when he picks up his famed Flying V and solos with a melodic fluidity and emotional depth that in the world of heavy rock is still without equal.

It was an absolute pleasure, therefore, to find Michael in such fine form as we picked up the threads of a previous interview and he gave me a progress report on the ongoing construction and continuing ascent of his Temple of Rock and Temple of Rock’s world tour.

Read the interview in full here as an Über Röck interview exclusive!

Schenker, Buchholz, Findlay

Photos provided by Noble PR

(Top photo by John Bull, bottom photo by Adam Kennedy)

Read some of Michael Anthony’s other interviews in the Words and Music Q&A Series.

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