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Interview with Brother Firetribe
28 April 2014
BROTHER FIRETRIBE: An interview with Pekka Ansio Heino
It took six long years for the Finnish melodic rock heroes to deliver a follow-up to their much-acclaimed 2008 album ‘Heart Full Of Fire’. And yet, as it turns out – it was worth waiting! The release of their new video from their upcoming, much-anticipated ‘Diamond In The Firepit’ album and their performance on the legendary Firefest in October is a good pretext to talk about both – so here’s Brother Firetribe’s singer Pekka Ansio Heino talking to Alexandra Mrozowska about the third effort of theirs as well as inviting everyone to Nottingham’s Rock City towards the end of this year.
Brother Firetribe’s previous studio album ‘Heart Full Of Fire’ has seen the light of day in 2008, six years ago. Why did it take you so long to release its follow-up ‘Diamond In The Firepit’?
We decided to take a break after finishing the tour for ‘Heart Full Of Fire’, our guitarist Emppu’s Nighwish got active and all the others got busy with whatever they were doing. Time just went by and all of a sudden we kind of woke up realizing it’s been way too long. Me and Tomppa had written songs every now and then, without any thoughts about making a record up until we had demoed around half the songs. That’s when we actually brought up the subject of actually doing an album.
What are your personal highlights of ‘Diamond In The Firepit’? Any favourites in particular?
I think my favorite song on the album is ‘Hanging By A Thread’. I love the mood on that one. The synth bass sound built by our mixer Torsti Spoof is just wonderful. It’s got that classic AOR vibe to it.
Are there any stories or ideas behind any of the twelve new songs you’d like to share?
Most of the songs deal with stuff that happens between a man and a woman, good and bad. There’s also songs about changes in one’s life, about moving on and such. But all in all it’s kind of natural to write about love and relationships when playing the kind of music we play. It suits way better than writing about politics for example. We’ve never felt the need to be political or to change the world, we aim to entertain. There’s enough negative stuff in the news every night, I don’t want to hear that stuff on our albums too. I appreciate the bands and artists who do that but that’s just not us.
You get quite personal on ‘Diamond In The Firepit’. What is your approach towards songwriting in general – are you inspired by events and thoughts on your personal life rather than general experiences and topics?
I’m more on the personal side when talking about writing. I get inspired by people around me too, it’s not all about stuff that happens to me and it’s not always spot on like things had happened in real life. You mix fact and fiction and try make it something that most people can relate to.
The release of the album is preceded with a song (and a video) ‘For Better And For Worse’. Are there any particular reasons for such a choice for the first single off the album?
That song represents what this band is all about pretty well. We’re always after the hooks and catchy choruses and we feel like we succeeded quite well with this one. Although I have to say we were struggling a bit when trying to decide which song would the best as a first single - it’s always difficult as you’re so close to the songs yourself - so we asked a lot of opinions from outside the band.
Talking about videos… gone are the MTV’s glory days. Now it’s the Internet where bands promote their works. How do you think, how important is the medium of a music video for contemporary rock bands?
MTV sure is something totally different from how I remember it… Seeing a video on YouTube is not the same as seeing a video on TV, in my opinion, but I still think it’s important to put out a video. Just make sure it stands out. Putting out a cheap looking video can almost destroy a song. And Lord knows there’s a lot of those videos on YouTube.
Music-wise, ‘Diamond In The Firepit’ is brilliant-yet-predictable kind of record – no experiments, no drastic changes to the band’s sound since 2008 ‘Heart Full Of Fire’… Weren’t you tempted to take a different direction this time, while recording the third album?
No, not at all. That’s the sound of this band, that’s what comes out no matter what we do. That’s what sounds good to us. We just try to make the best with what we’ve got.
Were your musical inspirations any different this time? Are there any recent music-related discoveries that you find influential?
I can’t speak on behalf of the other guys, I have no idea what they’re listening to, actually! I tend to listen to anything but metal nowadays but I can’t say I’ve been influenced by anything in particular in a way that it’s affected Brother Firetribe. I’ve got Engelbert Humperdinck playing in the background right now but you don’t hear it on a Brother Firetribe album! Which is good, me thinks…
Yet another ‘tradition’ of Brother Firetribe is to deliver splendid covers of the hard rock/AOR classics. After ‘Mighty Wings’ or ‘Chasing The Angels’, this time you came up with a rendition of Sammy Hagar’s ‘The Winner Takes It All’. Why such a choice?
Yes it’s true, it’s become a sort of a tradition and we knew right from the start that we’d include another soundtrack cover to this album too. We had a hard time picking out a suitable one this time. We went through dozens of songs until a friend of ours suggested this one. It was so obvious we hadn’t even thought about it. I love Sammy Hagar and that song was one of my favorites when I was a kid. I’ve read it’s not one of Sammy’s favorites from his catalogue but I hope we did justice to it.
Who handled the task of being a producer this time and how do you think it influenced the sound on ‘Diamond In The Firepit’?
Tomppa and Emppu handled producing duties as with previous albums too. I think we have Torsti Spoof and Jari Mikkola to thank for the sound, they mixed the album and just killed, as always. They know exactly what we want and have the knowledge and wisdom to make it happen.
Some, I’ve noticed, find the artwork for ‘Diamond In The Firepit’ and the first single off the album somewhat inspired with typical progressive rock album cover aesthetics. In your view, does the cover artwork correspond with the content of the album in one way or another?
We wanted the cover to look big and grand. It looks the way the album sounds, I’d like to think. I like the fact that it has that painting feel to it even though it’s done with a computer. Tuomas Korpi did a great job with it. The album covers today, especially in the field of metal and hard rock, tend to look like they’re all done by the same guy… we didn’t exactly have the urge to find out who he is. No offense but too much is too much.
‘Diamond In The Firepit’ will be also released in a vinyl format via Spinefarm Records. Is the collectible factor the only reason behind this limited edition, or are there any bonuses or special treats for the vinyl lovers?
I think it’s really special that there’s a vinyl edition out there. I’m personally an avid fan of vinyl LPs so I’m excited about it. The vinyl itself is red and it’s a gatefold, can’t wait to see it and put it on for at least once! No bonus songs on it, as far as I know.
Also this year, you’re to play your first ever UK gig at Firefest at Nottingham’s Rock City. What are your expectations of playing at the legendary festival?
Yes, finally! I was so embarrassed every time we had to say ‘no’ previously. Knowing that this is the last one, we just had to make it happen. I’m glad the good folks at Firefest still gave us a chance. I’ve been there as fan a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. Great people, a great venue, great bands. Absolutely looking forward to actually playing there this time!
The first UK gig marks an important moment in band’s career. Do you think your Firefest performance will differ from the other festival performances you’ve given throughout your career? Why/why not?
There’s an extra spark with the band when hitting the stage there, I’m sure. All we can do is do our best to please and entertain the people who’ve shown up to see us. We’ll play our assess off, that’s for sure.
Will the set list for Firefest differ from the regular Brother Firetribe gigs? Are there any musical treats or surprises you’d prepare for this special October night?
You’ll have to come down and see for yourself! We’ve got three albums to choose the setlist from, should be fun.
At Firefest, you’ll perform alongside the original line-up of Danger Danger, Autograph, Coney Hatch, Axxis, Touch and C.I.T.A/Guild Of Angels. Apart from your own performance, are there any other you find particularly interesting in this year’s line-up?
If it was up to me, I’d love to see every band on the bill but I have to say I’m really looking forward to seeing Boulevard and Tower City. I would have never imagined I’d see those bands performing live. Really cool.
Although this year’s Firefest is the ‘final fling’, we can let our imagination run wild… at least a bit. What would your dream Firefest line-up be? Any ideas?
Steve Perry, Michael Bolton (the early stuff, please…), Sammy Hagar, Bad English, John Waite solo stuff, Loverboy, Giant, Steely Dan, Kansas, Richard Marx, Van Halen, Night Ranger, Eddie Money, Rick Springfield, Little River Band with Farnham….shit, I could go on forever. Dakota! Franke & The Knockouts!
Apart from playing at Firefest, what are the band’s current plans?
We can’t wait to get on the road. We were once again a little too late with the album when thinking about summer and festivals so we’re crossing our fingers on touring as much as possible during the rest of the year.
Anything you’d like to add in the end?
Sincere thanks to everybody who’ve been patiently waiting for us to come up with something again, it’s been heartwarming and really cool to hear so much positive feedback all through these years that we’ve been non active. It gave us a lot of energy which I hope can be heard on ‘Diamond In The Firepit’. Hope to see you soon!