We saw the Finnish hard rockers of Shiraz Lane performing on Tuska Heatseeker, the official pre-party of Tuska 2016. Through their promoter, we set up a meet at the Radisson Blue Royal Hotel in the center of Helsinki. Since the weather was nice and sunny, we decided to take place on the comfy terrace in front of the hotel to have a talk with Hannes Kett (vocals) and Ana Willman (drums).
To start a bit more informal let’s say, last night we saw some of you guys walk around in Bar Bäkkäri. So I’m guessing you guys like to have a drink?
(everyone has a laugh)
Ana: Yeah, we do. I love beer, it tastes great!
Hannes: The guys love beer, I like my red wine. (laughs)
Talking about beer, I don’t know if you know, but I’m from Belgium. Do you know any Belgian beers?
Ana: Actually Belgium…
Hannes: I’m pretty sure I’ve tasted some, but I’m not sure…
Ana: Well, what are the most famous ones?
I guess the most famous ones you can get here are Stella, Hoegaarden,…
Both: Oh yeah! Hoegaarden!
(on which Ana asks how to exactly pronounce Hoegaarden…)
Hannes: Yeah, my dad is really into beer as well, so I like my share of good beers as well. I don’t really like the Finnish cheap beers, it’s like water. It’s like they’re trying to pretend to be beer.
Ana: They don’t really do like… great beers in Finland, I think.
Well, I tried some microbrewery beers here in Finland and they were pretty ok I think. Like Bryggeri, they have some nice ones.
Both: Oh yeah!
But I have to agree that overall Finnish regular beers are a bit “meh” compared to ours. Karhu is ok still.
Hannes: Yeah, but like Karjala…
Ana: Karjala is really cheap near my place, at a big store it’s like maybe 80 cents per one bottle…
Hannes: In Finland that’s cheap…
Ana: … and I’m cursing, because it’s so cheap that I want to buy it, but it tastes like shit. So I don’t know what to do. (laughs)
Too bad, you can get good beers for that price in Belgium!
Anyway, enough about beers for now I guess… We checked your music out and noticed that you’re all about peace and love. It seems that you’re a bit more serious for a glam/sleaze/hard rock band. That you’re not just all about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Or how do you see that?
Hannes: Yeah, there’s a fair share of that as well, but…
Ana: We take our music seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously.
Hannes: Yeah, we’re not uptight or anything. But with our music, with my lyrics, I just want to write about the things happening around us. So if those things are important to me, like peace, I just want that we all live in peace. I don’t know if it’s possible. But still I try to sing about that and write about all the positives and negatives of things happening. Cause it seems like people don’t wanna hear it, so I have to do it…
Yeah, that sounds very true. Especially if you look at the recent events happening…
Hannes: Yeah, looking at the world today… it’s changing… and it’s not changing for a better place.
Now, besides carrying the message of peace and such. I don’t know if you’re also for instance into things like fighting for saving nature and such? Or is it just the peace thing?
Hannes: It’s both, but…
Ana: Yeah, it’s both. I think people are like trying to overrule nature too much and don’t see that we are actually just part of nature. Mother Nature is the bigger one and we aren’t gods, we can’t do like this. I mean, it’s one of our principles I think. We just haven’t -yet- made a song about it, save the trees or save the Earth or something.
Hannes: It just seems like humanity wants to own everything and just, I don’t know, burn everything down. Like the forests nowadays, they’re just an echo of what they used to be, it’s sad.
And in Finland they’re quite ok still…
Hannes: Yeah, we got out ok…
Still a bit going on about what you guys sing about and such, I’ve noticed that in at least two songs and the two videoclips something like mental illness is coming back. Does that have a certain reason or background?
Ana: Well first we had the song called Mental Slavery and did the music video for that one and it’s kind of… well, Hannes can tell more about the lyrics for that… but it’s like we get trapped to our own visions and our own ideas. We’re living in a bubble, you know.
Hannes: Yeah, we’re slaves to everything, we’re slaves to our minds.
Ana: We’re slaves to the system that tries to control our minds.
Hannes: Yeah, I don’t know, it sounds really silly. But that’s just how it is. There’s an illusion of freedom. We get to choose which idiot to put somewhere, we get to choose this and that. But actually we don’t get to choose anything, we don’t get to do anything…
Ana: Yeah, pretty much with the Mental Slavery song we wanted to put those things up in the music video. And it kinda ended up remaining unsolved, the story in the first music video. So we wanted to continue the story with the For Crying Out Loud music video, in which Hannes, who is this mentally ill character gets in a way freed from all the shackles.
Hannes: And the lyrics in that song are different. They’re like “stand up my brothers and sisters, you got the fire in you. Don’t be slaves anymore!”.
Nice to know that there’s a link between those two songs, that there’s a story. Now, you guys are clearly all about the 80’s hard rock scene. I’ve read already that your big idols are Guns ‘n’ Roses, Skid Row and such. Would there be any band, they don’t even have to be together anymore, that you’d wanna tour with as support?
Ana: There are tons of bands, for instance of course Led Zeppelin…
Hannes: That would be fucking… crazy (laughs)
Ana: Probably that would be the first, or then Red Hot Chili Peppers who are actually coming to Finland in September.
Hannes: Guns ‘n’ Roses, with the whole reunion going on… Whitesnake with their farewell tour, Aerosmith with their farewell tour… everybody’s quitting… booo! (laughs)
Well, they’re all grandpa’s…
Hannes: Yeah, that’s why we’re here!
I don’t know if you have a feeling that your style of music is kinda making a revival or something?
Hannes: Yeah, it has been bubbling behind the scenes for a long time.
Ana: There has been a really active underground scene in Finland. And in Helsinki there’s been for I think 10 years, that you can see people in the streets with like glam rock hair and stuff like that. So it’s definitely been an underground culture for quite a while. But then again, we are here now because the underground scene has been doing well for the past 5 years. That’s why we got here, I think.
Hannes: And with the whole music style we play, everything came naturally. We didn’t really wanted to be anyone else and we just want to be ourselves. We write the style we wanna listen to. We do love our share of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Skid Row and Michael Jackson and everything, so why the fuck not?
Of course! What do you think then of a band like Steel Panther?
Hannes: Actually, I think it’s funny because they take it to the extreme. It’s like the whole sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll but with comedy. And I think it’s really funny, it’s just like ha! (laughs)
Ana: It’s fun and they play really well. We got to see them live and they were really great…
Hannes: They’re like standup comedians but at the same time really great musicians.
Yeah, sometimes they even take it a little bit to far…
Hannes: Yeah, they do!
Ana: But I think that’s actually the point of it all, that they’re just like, there’s nothing serious about the band.
Hannes: Yeah, there’s nothing serious, you can’t take them serious.
It’s funny to see then that there are actually people taking them serious…
Hannes: Yeah I know! (laughs out loud)
Ana: That’s just weird…
Hannes: It’s like… “what the fuck?!”
And do you see them like one of the bands that is kinda helping the revival along?
Hannes: In general, I kinda. I think, because they’re so big nowadays, yeah. I don’t know, they might be. But at the same time, it might have some not so good effects as well, because like you said, they take it to the super extreme… (laughs)
Ana: Other people probably who don’t like to listen to rock music could be like “what the fuck is this?”
Hannes: It’s the same with us: we have long hair, so people come to us “Are you Steel Panther, man?” (says this with a stoner voice)
When we checked out your music we were also pretty impressed with how good it sounds already despite you guys being quite young still. I seem to remember that you’ve been playing together for quite awhile already?
Ana: Yeah, I think 6 years ago we formed this band.
Hannes: Yeah, it was me and Ana. We just, I just started singing, I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought “this is the thing I’m supposed to do”. And then we just had this idea to put a band together and we did. The first year we practiced and the line-up changed a bit and more practice, more practice, some gigs,… We played our first gig in 2011. And yeah, we just kept on going and when Joel (Alex, bass, FYI) joined the band 3 years ago everything kinda changed. Because we got the last piece of the puzzle. Cause we’re a bunch of really weird guys, so we needed that last one… We can’t have too serious discussions, it’s not possible! (laughs) So yeah, Joel joined the band and now we’re here.
Well, it’s an enrichment so to say. You can hear really well that you guys have been together a long time already and have a connection.
Ana: Yeah, you can practice your instrument and stuff like that, but you just need to have that connection with the others.
Hannes: And that’s exactly what we have. We write our songs by jamming a lot. We got one good idea.. I might have some melody, some lyrics or whatever, some idea. Ana might just have some rhythm on which we start jamming until we have a song. I don’t know, but we’re somehow connected. We’re best friends, we’re a family, everything just works. And I feel really blessed that I’m in this band.
We saw you guys live at Tuska Heatseeker and that connection was really visible, you had great “stage charisma” and it was clear that you work well together.
Hannes: Nice! Good to hear! Yeah, we had a lot of fun! Miki, our rhythm guitar player, had been in Europe for 2 weeks. So we hadn’t been playing together and we just couldn’t wait to get back together again.
Ana: We had like a 2 week break of sorts, we went to the cabin. And Joel and Jani went to Sweden and like everyone did a bit of traveling and taking some time off. And then we met each other on Thursday and were like “Yeah! Let’s go, let’s go!”, there was so much energy cause we hadn’t seen each other for 2 weeks.
It was noticable! And we loved the bubbles!
Both: Oh yes! (laughs all around again)
Hannes: Well, we have to get creative, otherwise people won’t remember our show.
The bubbles during Shiraz Lane’s show at Tuska Heatseeker
Now, I know this is going to be a difficult one, but if you could chose one -just one- favorite album. Like the best album ever for you…
Hannes: Oh shit!
Ana: I think we’re going to have a different answer here…
Hannes: I have no idea what I’m going to say!
Ana: I’m going to say Foxy Shazam. Their title album, that’s really like an underground band, they’re not very famous. It’s like awesome awesome rock with like pop-ish melodies.
Hannes: Yeah, the singer is a bit different, he’s like “YEAAOOW!”
Ana: He sounds like wicked crazy!
Hannes: Yeah, he’s amazing, check it out.
(Hannes keeps on thinking on his answer)
Hannes: And it can’t be a greatest hits album? (laughs) Euhm, I have no fucking clue what I’m going to say. I just have to say For Crying Out Loud. (laughs)
Ana: That’s true!
Hannes: Imperfection is perfection, I’m so proud of our debut album. It’s a dream-come-true and for me it’s the best album ever, so…
Until you make the next one…
Hannes: Yeah, until we make the next one! (laughs) We’ll be writing songs for the next one and it’s going to be even better.
Any plans for that already?
Hannes: Yeah, we have some plans, but I can’t really speak about them. It’s gonna take a while, but not too long…
Ana: I’m feeling quite positive about the fact that we can now take our time to write the songs. We don’t have to hurry.
Hannes: It takes time for us to write songs, because of the way they come.
Ana: Cause normally, like Hannes said, we jam a lot. It’s just like, hanging around and play and jamming along. It comes more naturally for us if we don’t have to like think “what are we going to do?” We just play and after a while it just goes somewhere and we end up making the song into what it is.
Hannes: And I’m like really a perfectionist when it comes to the lyrics, it takes a long time for me to write them. Because I always have some vision. I get some vibes from a song and just start writing. But it takes time, because like you said I can’t really write a song about sex, drugs and partying. Because for me, it’s not what life is all about. So it takes time and when we jam, we have our Iphones recording so when we listen to the recordings, I’m like “SHABALABA-ADOWA!” (laughing all around)
Yeah, it takes time for us and now we have time, so the next one is going to be a masterpiece!
We’ll be looking forward to it! Now, besides doing some press, GRIMM Gent is also there as a sort of support for the metal and rock community. For the bands, the fans, for everyone a little bit,… Do you see something like that happening or needed in Finland?
Hannes: Yeah, it’s needed everywhere, with the whole internet and such…
Ana: I don’t think there are any big ones here, there might be a few guys taking some pictures at shows and then upload them and write a review and such. But then again, from Russia there are lots of big supporters who actually travel here to watch our shows and have interviews. So there are tons of them, but not really from Finland.
Hannes: Though there’s that one married couple from Turku (a city in Finland, FYI), they started a thing like you. And it’s growing all the time, so that’s really great.
Ana: I think they have 10.000 followers or something like that, so yeah.
Hannes: Yeah, I think that’s the only one I know of in Finland.
That’s nice to hear that there are some people out there too that wanna support the scene like that, cause it’s needed. I’d like to give the last words to you guys now, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Ana: Enjoy the summer! Listen to our debut album! And hope to see you guys soon… in Belgium…
Hannes: Yeah, just enjoy life, don’t take anything too serious. Because we’re only here once, so why the fuck do we need to stress about everything all the time… Enjoy life!
Ana: Wise words!
Wise words indeed! And you’re always welcome in Belgium!
And with that we closed the interesting and rather fun talk with Hannes and Ana. We still hung around a bit to exchange some contact information and get some pictures with them. We also ended up talking about how we experienced Tuska and their experiences. Like Hannes had some cool anecdotes to share about meeting some other artists at the festival. Friday night he met Tobias Sammet of Avantasia, which he said was a dream come true as a vocalist. He also met Michael Kiske (who performed with Avantasia on stage) in a rather funny way where Kiske thought he was a girl, on which Hannes asked him if he looked that pretty then. With Kiske saying “yes, I used to have hair like that…” seems like a great and funny guy to talk to. Just like the guys from Shiraz Lane, go check their stuff out!