Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NINE LIVES : Prog-enough’ or Commercial-enough?
Mikko Von Hertzen of The Von Hertzen Brothers
Interview by Tony & Bill @ The Dedicated Rocker Society

True to their name, the Von Hertzen Brothers are bonded by blood and this brotherly connection really shines through in the music. Formed initially as a project in 2000 in their hometown of Helsinki, they have since reached far and wide with their epic rock.

It’s rare for a progressive and challenging rock album to top the national charts but Von Hertzen Brothers did it three times – with their 2nd album, Approach, with their 3rd, Love Remains The Same, and again with their 4th album, 2011′s Stars Aligned. All three albums have been certified gold in their native Finland.

Their 2011 release 'Stars Aligned' also helped the band make major inroads into the UK where they played a number of headline shows and drew huge crowds to the Prog Stage at the High Voltage festival in London. They were nominated for the ‘Best New Band‘ Award at Classic Rock Magazine‘s annual awards show and the “New Blood” category at the Classic Rock Prog awards 2012. After touring widely throughout the European mainland they spent the autumn of 2012 in studio preparing their 5th release.

Their 5th studio album, Nine Lives, was released in March 2013. The album was preceded by a new single and video – ‘Flowers & Rust’ – released on Feb 4th, 2013.

Musically it is impossible to pigeonhole these brothers of rock. Although their music embraces so many unique rhythms and abstract scales, using traditional rock instruments makes it all approachable and intriguing. This blending of the familiar with the unfamiliar results in mishmash that somehow makes perfect sense. There are elements of classic rock bands in the bands music, yet it always feels fresh and modern.

Drawing lyrical influences from writers such as William Blake, classic Indian authors, the writings of the ancient mystics as well as contemporary playwrights, the songs originate from the deep yearning for freedom and peace of mind that the brothers feel.
“Von Hertzen” is German and means “from the heart”.

“That’s what we try to always keep in mind when writing or performing. The point of music, any kind of music, is to create wonderful experiences that are somehow elevating and encouraging. That’s our mission. The music is our instrument”.

The band's frontman, Mikko Von Hertzen shared some insight on what the Von Hertzen Brothers are all about. Here's what he shared with us......

Talk to us about the new record, 'Nine Lives'. How long did it take to record? What's the story behind the title and who came up with it?

"The recording, editing and mixing took us five months or so. Of course the writing preceded that and was done mostly during the spring of 2012. It takes usually approximately year when we start from scratch. We took the title from the painting that ended up being the album cover. It’s a work by Samuli Heimonen, a finnish artist."

Did you approach the new record any different than with your previous releases?

"We did. Before, we have always used rented studios and hired engineers to get things on tape. This time we ended up upgrading our own rehearsing studio just enough to be able to work there in peace. It was quite a learning process for us though. But we made it. Apart from our second album (Approach, 2006), this is by far the most DIY album we have ever made".

Any memorable moments, good or bad, in the making of the record that you'd like to share with us?

"So many memories. Tough times. Everyone of us brothers had a persistent cough during the singing of the album. It was a struggle to get vocals on tape. Our deadline was tight and failing it (naturally), we ended up packing all our recording gear on the tour bus. We were touring with Opeth in Scandinavia in November last year, and every spare moment we had, we spent in the bus recording the backing vocals or editing the tracks. What made it hard core was that the bus heating was broken and it was freezing
cold. We sat in front of the computer in sleeping bags somewhere in the middle of Sweden in a snowstorm and did the final touches."

Musical influences? Any new bands on the scene right now that you listen to?

"Well you know, it’s very broad. We started playing instruments from
from an early age and were very interested in all kinds of music. Classical and popular. Elvis was a big thing when we were like ten. The most influential bands must be the seventies rock bands, such as Deep Purple, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, etc. And then a little later we listen a lot to Yes, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits and Police. Our family home was flilled with music and since we were born in the first part of the 70’s we never really got on to the new wave wagon. Our father loved Lynyrd Skynyrd and JJ Cale.
Whereas our Mother listened to ABBA and Manhattan Transfer. It’s all there I guess, in our music. As a teenager I used to always go everywhere with my Walkman on. Nowadays music is such a big part of my life that I try to enjoy the silence when I’m not working."

Are there any plans on doing a shows in America?

"There has been some talk about doing a few show case shows there in the near future. Most probably NY and L.A. So far, We’ve only played once in the US and that was in 2009. It was a prog rock festival in Pennsylvania. But yeah, we would love to come over and show you what we’ve got."

As brothers, do you find it easier working together as a band?

"Of course there are pros and cons in having us all in the same band. I like to see the positive. We share the same musical background and have a very similar approach and energy towards music and performing. There is a lot of power in getting that collective energy targeted in the same exact direction. But hell no, it ain’t always easy!"

What goals have you set for yourselves as a band in 2013 and beyond?

"This year we are touring mostly here in Finland and in the UK. In the meantime we are trying to find if there’s anyone else who could be even remotely interested in our doings. The album has been released in many countries including the US by now and of course we are hoping for some doors to open."

How would you describe The Von Hertzen Brothers sound to someone reading about you for the first time?

"Haa, every song on this album could be described in a different way. That’s our problem and also biggest asset. Hard to label. You’ll hear echoes of all decades of pop music in there. I would say that we’re an epic rock band. ‘Epic’ meaning some sort of megalomania. Put Muse, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys and the Foo Fighters in the mixer and you’ll get a taste pretty similar to us. We love Queen and the way they did things. Not restricting themselves too much to any particular genre. That’s pretty much what we are trying to accomplish. Let the songs that come be what they are supposed to
be. Without getting too anxious about whether they are ‘rock-enough’ or ‘prog-enough’ or ‘commercial-enough’."

What would you be doing if you were not making music?

"I would probably live in India which is my “second home” and engage myself in some sort of humanitarian work. I do have dreams about getting a uncomfortable in the foothills of the Himalayas and spending an easy going life there. In silence. Maybe someday."

Any words for your fans?

"First of all, thanks for reading this through. I hope this kindled your interest for checking us out. It’s worth it. And that’s a promise."

Miko, thanks again!

"No Problemo! It was a pleasure "

For more info on The Von Hertzen Brothers:

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