||MIKO VON HERTZEN: IN CONVERSATION ABOUT VON HERTZEN BROTHERS
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
Finnish Progressive Rockers Von Hertzen Brothers are growing a substantial reputation and fan-base all around the globe since breaking out from the confines of their native country.
After securing success in Finland, around the time of their fourth studio album 'Stars Aligned', they began promoting themselves in other parts of the world including the UK. Since visiting these shores a few times already, especially to push their fifth studio opus 'Nine Lives', the Von Hertzen Brothers are no strangers to touring this fair country.
The reason I was granted an audience with a very busy lead vocalist who was rushing around the country checking in with an artist who was responsible for the cover artwork for 'Nine Lives' amongst a plethora of other activities, was due to their imminent arrival supporting the rejuvenated The Wildhearts, a live spectacle that is sure to blow many minds and represent top quality live Rock music at its finest. A package that includes not only The Wildhearts and the Von Hertzen Brothers but also the successful Hey! Hello! featuring Ginger Wildheart and female vocalist Victoria Liedtke.
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Getting the ball rolling, I asked Mikko how this union with The Wildhearts came about in the first place.
Mikko: "Back in 2010 I think when Ginger was playing with Michael Monroe still (Ginger Wildheart had a stint where he co-wrote a lot of material on the Michael Monroe album 'Sensory Overdrive' and toured with the band), we were doing some gigs together here in Finland. We had one of those music and media big happenings and we were on the same stage, and that's where I met him the first time. He saw us play and according to his words – he was blown away.
"Ever since, whatever we have done in England he has been a great support for us. When he went back to England he would start talking about us and he's just been like a really lovable guy that he can be you know.
"When they put the line-up back together for The Wildhearts for this tour, it was his idea. He asked his agent there in the UK to contact our manager, and it's like this network of people, everyone knows each other. I think why we kind of became a possibility for this tour was because I was over in London to play at his Birthday Bash, and so we were talking about our plans and what we were going to do and he was telling me about the upcoming tour. Luckily the schedules somehow clicked, and we can do it together.
"I am really happy - it's true it's not an obvious choice to have us on the bill, but then again you know The Wildhearts are not just an ordinary Punk band are they? They have a lot of different stuff in their music and so do we. I think it's going to be a pretty good match in the end to be honest.
"It's just a matter of what songs we choose to play because we have done five albums and we have a lot of different kind of songs there. In the Birthday Bash I played this song with him called 'Do The Channel Bop' (from the album 'Fishing For Luckies' or more recently included on the representative 'The Works' triple album collection), it's one of those songs that's very complex and a really good song and it's not that far from the style that we actually do. I think it's going to be a lot of fun, I think it's going to be a blast! I really hope people are open minded enough to see these Scandinavian melancholy, somehow get a grip of it."
To coincide with this tour, I'd noticed how a six track E.P. titled after one of the songs from 'Nine Lives' was going to be released. 'Flowers And Rust' contains four live acoustic tracks including a cover version of Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now', along with an alternative version of the title track and the prominent presence of an older song called 'Let Thy Will Be Done' (originally found on their 2006 album 'Approach').
Mikko informed me that the acoustic tracks were recorded live in London when the three brothers were playing some acoustic shows. The inclusion of 'Let Thy Will Be Done' was for the benefit of those who are partial to the Rockier side of the band that may have missed it the first time around, plus it was the song that helped the band break-through in Finland back in the day.
I tackled Mikko about their lengthy live shows in Finland and wanted to know how they were going to cope condensing their set-list for these upcoming UK tour dates.
Mikko: "We've been doing support tours with different kind of bands. We've toured with Opeth and we have toured with Touchstone over there in the UK and now we're going to tour with The Wildhearts. So, according to whoever is the headliner we try to just like think, maybe this crowd will maybe like this song and so forth. Now, two days back we played a gig here in Helsinki and we did play three hours.
"I mean we started with an acoustic set which was one hour, and then we had a half hour change over and then we played two hours more. In those three hours you know we were still discussing backstage whether we should go back and do another four songs. We didn't play the hit songs at all; it was more like an artistic concert type thing, so we had like six or seven single tracks that we left out of the gig. It was a Wednesday night so people had to go home because they had jobs the next day so we were still thinking whether we should go onstage and do another forty five minutes or so!"
Thinking about what they may have already decided to play, I asked if he would share any song titles.
Mikko: "On this tour, well, we're going to play most probably a few rarities and then we're going to play 'Let Thy Will Be Done' and 'Flowers And Rust'. Especially 'Flowers And Rust' because it's one of those songs that if there is one song that people may know, it's most probably that one. I was thinking today that we're going to do a lot of songs with harmonies because I know that Wildheart fans they appreciate harmonies and we have a lot of songs sung in harmony. We'll just have to see how it goes. If we feel one of the songs that we choose on the first night aren't hitting any chords, then we'll change it."
Changing the subject matter to their 6th studio album, I began to probe hoping for some updates. Noting on a popular website that plans looked sealed for a March, 2015 release date I wanted to see if that was true.
Mikko: "That's the plan, and actually it's something that we already agreed because band-wise and we're kind of in a spot that we have to think ahead like 18 months, because the next release is going to be a worldwide release and everyone involved needs to know what we're doing and when."
I mentioned to Mikko how I'd noticed he was supposed to have been writing new material in January and asked how far the process had gone, and whether there was a title for the new album.
Mikko: "We haven't started recording it. We have 30 or so demos that we're playing around with still. I think we're going to do a lot of talking and thinking during the tour when we're there in the UK. So far the three of us individually putting down ideas and I've been at the lake, I've been in London writing, I've been in India writing - I've been going to places to get inspired by different things. At the moment those demos, we're trying to get feedback from some people we trust about which ones would be the ones we're going to record.
"The plans are still up in the air because we haven't decided yet whether we're going to use a producer for the album or whether we're going to do it ourselves."
Mikko continues: "There's a good chance that we might get a totally fresh set of ears to come along with us to do the next album, a producer that hasn't worked with us before and somebody who has an objective perception of the band, a totally fresh, like a blank sheet. So, we'll see what happens. I do have an idea what we're trying to achieve with the album, but it's still a little bit up in the air, because we have so many good songs already that we can really decide whether we'll do an album that is purely a Rock album or a totally moody Sigur Rós kind of thing or whether we just go for something very diverse - we haven't discussed that yet.
"But what I do know is that we have a lot of good new material and whatever we decide it's going to be an excellent album, I already know that so that's a good start!"
I tell Mikko that I love his confidence regarding the new material and with such a positive vibe coming from him, I'm left with the thoughts that this UK tour is going to be so cool and the next studio album by the Von Hertzen Brothers is going to be a genuine treat whatever they decide is the best way to proceed.
Apr 08 Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom
Apr 09 O2 Academy, Bristol, United Kingdom
Apr 10 Academy 1, Manchester, United Kingdom
Apr 12 Rock City, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Apr 13 O2 Academy, Newcastle, United Kingdom
Apr 14 O2 ABC, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Apr 16 Junction, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Apr 17 Electric Ballroom, London, United Kingdom