Friends, Romans, Music Freaks!

Today, I am with Jaakko Kettunen and Alex Keskitalo for another Q&A Session.

They are prog-rock / prog-metal band from Finland with Jaakko on the guitars, Alex on the flutes and vocals, Janne Pylkkönen on bass guitars, Tarmo Simonen on keyboards and finally, Ville Sjöblomon drums.

They are a productive band and during the ten years they were active, they have released five albums.  Now, without further ado…

Lady Obscure: Could you tell me about Overhead? How did you guys meet up? What were the members doing before Overhead?

Jaakko: Three of us, me, Tarmo and Janne are friends for a long time and met each other in school when we were kids. We played in the same bands back then. When we moved to the capital Helsinki we met the singer Alex through an internet ad. We thought that he was this strange looking and amazingly talented guy so he definitely got the job. Alex then eventually brought in Ville as the drummer replacing the first drummer we had. Alex and Ville had known each other for a long time and played in the same circles. That’s how we all came together.

Already the first album but particularly the second one (Metaepitome, 2005) brought us some recognition around the globe and we started doing some touring in Europe. In 2008 came out the third album, (And We’re Not Here After All) and the following year we released our first live DVD Live After All, which nicely summed up our career so far, followed by more touring. Now we’re back with the new album Of Sun and Moon which is musically taking the band to the next level.

LO: So, you guys have been doing prog rock and metal. Any flair of other genres?

Alex: With the new album Of Sun and Moon we tried to make a power-law leap to the next level, you know, like more of everything. Deeper lows, higher highs, wider variety, faster action, just more. This is borne out of our live set really, we have evolved crazy dynamics on stage, where we can go from sleepy small-time folk to all-out explosive stadium metal in a snap… On this album we added so many genres it is insane. Yes, even including sweaty Turkish disco, Caribbean-style reggae, rammstein-esque metal for marching, Ozric Tentacles -style pattern prog, etc. If you like, it combines 60s psychedelic surf, 70s classic heavy, 80s italodisco, 90s grunge, my god the list could just go on and on… Really it’s no use breaking it down, its like a fractal. We have all heard the saying that nothing new is ever invented, it is always a case of rehashing existing stuff.

Well, then we tried to take everything, and make something out of it. After all, it is 2012. It IS the future.

LO: That’s one interesting combination! So, how did this idea evolve?

Jaakko: Prior to Overhead we had all been in different kinds of bands.

Me, Tarmo and Janne had had this heavy/metal thing that started turning towards prog,  Alex was in a more straight forward rock’n’roll band and Ville had played all kinds of stuff I believe.

The idea of Overhead was to do something musically completely different and fresh.

To find your artistic self. Put together five talented musicians who all have a very wide range of musical taste and influences and when they start to write new stuff from a clean table, Overhead is what you get. We’re here to tear down the genre boundaries. From album to album we then have found our own original style which is now difficult to compare to any other bands. At least for ourselves.

LO: Let’s get back to your music, your new album… You must be happy with it! Excited?

Jaakko: I’m very happy with the new album. We are a bit of perfectionists though. If we did it now, we could further improve this or that a little, you could go on adjusting the bloody thing forever put at some point it’s just best to admit that it’s ready now. We have always improved major leaps from album to album on all aspects. So rather that looking back I’m much looking forward to what kind of material we’ll start cooking up next.

LO: OK, this is exciting. Tell me about the album. What do you focus in there? Is there a concept to the whole album?

Alex: There is a big theme that we are exploring with Of Sun and Moon: duality. Summer/winter, day/night, life/death, light/dark, and so on.

In a Finnish way, these all meld together seamlessly, as you may or may not know. The Finnish summer could just as well be classified as one very long day, because the sun just keeps circling in the sky, never coming down. But the winter… oh man, imagine a night that does not end, perpetual darkness and the extreme cold outside makes for a stillness only matched by the silence of death itself. That’s the overt theme, the top layer. Peel that layer away, and you get another theme, the meta-concept.

The meta-concept is to convey an innate understanding that the universe is a fractal. Sounds like math right? No. It’s a very “everything is everything” idea. The closer you look, the more you see. Even time is a fractal, all the individual micro-decisions that we make second by second push the universe forward into a deeper abyss of uncertainty, creating ever more consequences. I used to think that humans paint themselves into corners, with ever less and less options available, until death is the only option. Not true. As you explore this world, you go in some direction, only to find there are more directions inside that direction to choose from, and it never stops. This is the definition of fractals.

You know, as a matter of fact, we seemed to have worked backwards on this, as we were making the album, the original top idea became the meta-idea, and what the original idea was implying became the top thematic layer. The original dogma was for every new line of lyrics to be an elaboration of the previous one, ever deepening into the fractal, as proof that there is always more out there.

LO: So, who is composing the songs and writing the lyrics?

Jaakko: Composing is a group effort with the whole band. Everyone is involved and giving their input. I may bring a riff or someone else has an idea or something is just conjured up out of nowhere and we start jamming on that. Jamming brings up new ideas, we keep the best and try a million different arrangements for them and sooner or later we have something that resembles a song. The lyrics are solely Alex’s responsibility. Apart from a few misheard words by us others that were so good that we kept them. And we sometimes keep changing things even at the post-production phase and at the mixing process so you could say the song writing or arranging goes on pretty much until the mastering of the album…

LO: How has the overall reception been towards the album? Towards the band in general so far?

Jaakko: We have been very well received by fans and critics alike.

Many very positive reviews from around the globe. And more importantly it’s awesome to see and read how deeply we’ve touched some people with our music. Like when we play live and people sing or mime the drum fills along, bang their heads with their fists in the air. Even if they’re sober. We must have done something right when that happens.

LO: Agreed! Now that the studio bit is over, any plans to perform live? What’s next? Another album? Touring? Any international tours?

Jaakko: We’re currently planning tour dates around Europe for 2013.

We’re really looking forward to going out and playing live again and especially playing the new album material live for the first time properly. And as this album is a musical rebirth for the band, it’s also interesting to see where the next album will take us. We’ll start working on new material soon I’m sure and the road is wide open, let’s see where the music takes us this time. Seems we’re only getting started musically. Alex was just living abroad for six months, and now that he’s back home we all have a big hunger for playing together again.

LO: Which do you find more exciting then? Recording or the road?

Jaakko: They are two different worlds. In the studio you can be very creative and you have better control over everything. You can bring out all the best aspects of the band. Being on the road is an adventure where anything can happen. You forget the real world outside for a while and you get really deep into the music. You get musically so intense and energetic on a gig which is difficult to do in the studio. And on the other hand you can’t do all the same things live that you can in the studio…

LO: Let’s go back to your music in general… Who do you guys draw your inspiration from? I understand it must be a long list!

Jaakko: We all have a very wide range of influences and things we like. I come from classic hard/heavy rock background going on into into blues, pop, metal, prog… You name it. Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Vai, Satriani, Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Bowie, King Crimson…

Alex: Joose Keskitalo, Ulver, Profeetta ja uusi maailmanuskonto, Boards of Canada, Liljan loisto, Lindström, Bollywood soundtracks, just stuff I’ve been listening to recently.

LO: You have a special approach to genres as you have told me.  So, is this so people from more genres would approach your music? In other words, would you prefer catering to the audience or making music for its own sake?

Jaakko: It’s music for its own sake; we do what pleases ourselves at the time. Partly I’m always a bit afraid on how the fans will take the new stuff. But even if we tried just to please the fans, you never could please everyone anyway. We could do just 20-minute prog-epics and that would be honey among certain prog-fans but on the the other hand catchier and more-to-the-point songs are more to the liking of others. So you’re better off doing what you think is right. But I’d be lying if I said we don’t think about the audience at all. We do try to put ourselves on the place of the listener, but it’s about trying to be as objective about your writing as you can, rather than trying to fit the music into a certain format.

LO: Lastly,when you look back to your music career, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

Jaakko: Looking back, our 10th anniversary tour in 2010 was a great and intense experience and we probably played our best gigs on that tour. Also the making of the live DVD was really great since it’s such a good presentation of the band live and the live versions have improved from the original studio versions of the older songs. But I’ll still say the making of the new album Of Sun and Moon. I’m very proud of the music and the fresh direction. To me it’s on a whole new level  compared to the older stuff.

LO: Cheers guys!

So, friends, you want to know more about Overhead?

Just visit their official website here!

And as a taster, here is Berlin from their new album, Of Sun and Moon…


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