Interview by Mohsen Fayyazi
Finnish metallers have always played a big role in the metal music industry, no doubt about it. From symphonic rock to black metal and traditional heavy metal to death metal, Finnish metalheads raise the flag, fists and the horns. Recently our Chief Editor discovered a new Scandinavian true heavy metal outfit, SOULHEALER, hailing from Kajaani, Finland. So, Mohsen conducted an interesting interview with the band’s guitarist Sami Mikkonen, which is now available to read below.
Hello Sami, thanks for Accepting Metal Shock Finland’s call for this interview. How are you doing?
Hiya! No problem at all, my pleasure. I’m doing fine thanks. SSDD you might even say you know hoho!
To begin with, would you please introduce your band and describe your music for people who don’t know SoulHealer yet?
We’re SoulHealer, a tremendous live metal band from Finland! We’re a five-piece who play melodic metal made in Finland. Catchy tunes, big choruses, guitars solos…everything you thought you left behind when the Eighties ended.
Can you tell us more about your favourite music, influences and where your metal comes from?
My favorite music…well, you could say that if has a good melody, heavy guitars and/or a guitar solo in it, I’m in! But in all honesty, I grew up in the Eighties. So that era of music has a special place in my heart of course. I do listen to all kinds of music, so if it’s good, I like it! I reserve the right to judge what is good and what is not though hahaha! My biggest infuences…well obviously Iron Maiden’s got a huge influence in my playing and songwriting and everything, as have all the bands from my teens, Ratt, Dokken, Accept, Helloween, Judas Priest…that list is endless! But I do count The Shadows and The Beatles in my influences as well.
Tough question… the album comes out on October 17th, so we haven’t seen or heard the fans’s reaction that much yet. Although the new song “Dead Man Walking” has received pretty damned nice reactions! The reviews have been very, well, promising in the lack of a better word. The people who’ve listened to the album have liked it very much.
I would like to know more about the process of recording your music, would you please tell me who is/are more responsible for writing and recording? Also I would like to know how you arrange writing lyrics?
So far we have relied very much on Teemu Kuosmanen’s songwriting. I mean the majority of songs we have recorded, the music and most of the lyrics are by him. I’ve penned a few tunes as well on our previous efforts, usually teaming up with Teemu. The recording part we usually do together at first, the basic tracks like drums for example and then the respective instruments by ourselves. Vocals are done by Jori & Teemu or Jori & me or Jori & Teemu & me. Or at least that’s how the process has been so far.
Now the topic of lyrics is an interesting one in itself. I mean, writing the music comes very naturally to me, and I’m sure it’s the same with Teemu. And he has a knack for good melodies in my opinion. He writes catchy stuff! But you really can’t have a metal band without vocals, so you need lyrics. And for me it’s always been really, really hard to express myself or anything in that kind of limited space like a song lyric usually needs to be. So you could say they’re a necessary evil if you will. As said earlier, Teemu does write most of the lyrics to his own songs, but sometimes he may ask me if I would have an idea for this or that tune, he might have the chorus worked out or some bits and pieces for the verses, you know? I take it from there and by some kind of strike of magic squeeze the lyrics out of my head hahaha! I mean there’s nothing magical about it at all. The songs need lyrics to be ready to be performed and we need to provide them. The inspiration can come from anything or anywhere, I remember writing Dead Man Walking when I took my daughter to skating school one cold Sunday evening… had the melody playing in my head and it just hooked in my head with the lines in the chorus. The whole lyric was written in like 30 minutes after I started typing on my phone. I guess what I’m trying to say that inspiration for lyrics can strike anytime, and the inspiration itself can be anything. A few lines of words you hear on TV, read somewhere etc or get pissed off enough that you need to let it all out verbally hehe.
The album was released through Pure Steel Records, a company which supports heavy/power metal. How did you get support from them, are you happy with what they did or are doing? (You can talk honestly with us) And what is the band’s relationship like with the record company?
So far so good I’d say. The first label we’ve ever been on too. If I’ve understood correctly, they’re expanding their territory to the Finnish market and we’ve been one of their “spearhead projects” in doing so. So there have been some minor hiccups on both sides but all in all, what more can one ask for from a record label these days? In my opinion the band’s relationship with the label is a good professional relationship.
Ok, almost everyone knows that now is not a good time in the music industry. Can you tell me how you see this industry and its difficulties? And what are your plans to face them as a serious group of heavy metal musicians?
I guess you want an honest and straight forward answer?
I personally think the record industry or the music industry in general is in big trouble if it doesn’t change it’s attitude towards all this new technology. And the whole culture really. As for any plans to face the music haha, well, we’re prepared to work from the ground up, basically do the same we’ve been doing the last five years, in fact whole our career. You need to work, you need luck, you need to be in the right place at the right time probably. As a musician, what else can you do? Just work your ass off and believe in yourself. May be a cliché but that’s all there is.
How do you see SoulHealer in the future; 10 years from now for example?
In 10 years SoulHealer will have outgrown Madison Square Bedroom sized venues and are playing at least Madison Square Livingrooms hahahaha!
No, kidding aside, I’ve not thought about things that far ahead. But now that you ask me…I’ll be a bit older than now. The band has released at least four more studio albums and a double live album along with the appropriate DVD release. Couple of hundred gigs at least more under our belt. We’re enjoying the fruits of our hard work with the band and can even turn down a gig every now and then if the money or time isn’t right. You could say we’ve earned our independence in a way. Yeah, that sounds about right!
Our readers are from almost everywhere, from Japan to the Middle East and Europe to the USA. So would you tell those who are not familiar with the Finnish metal scene, how is it going there and can you tell us about the current state of heavy metal music and its fans and musicians in Finland?
Man! I really haven’t got a clue of the current state of anything here in Finland! From the band’s point of view things are slowly getting better in terms of getting paid gigs and audience at the gigs, if you know what I mean. But it seems there’s a global trend going on actually, that smaller gigs don’t attract audience in the same way it was a few years ago, and that trend is pretty well seen here as well. The big names, in any genre really, they fill the icehalls and stadiums and clubs etc but the underground bands struggle to get audience. Locally, there’s not that many metal musicians in my opinion, it looks like kids want to either play with their smart phones or themselves rather than play an instrument. But there’s always the few who carry the torch!
Thanks for giving me your time, any final words?
Hey, it’s been my pleasure, thanks for having us! Anyone who reads this, check out our new album “Bear the Cross” from your preferred (legal!!!) music outlet, be it iTunes, Amazon, local mom & pop music store. I’m sure you’ll love it. If you have the chance to check us live we’ll blow your socks off and then some! Sin Chee Clearly Anymore!