A couple of songs on Niclas’ hard drive (or ‘heart’-drive speaking in Anttoni’s words) were the seed from which FLAT EARTH has grown. Are they newcomers? A superband? Veterans? Or hilarious geniuses? Former ‘Heartagram‘ (HIM) instrumentalists Gas Lipstick (Mika Karppinen) and Linde (Mikko Lindström) joined the former Amorphis bass player Niclas (Niklas Etelävuori) and found in the Polanski singer Anthony (Anttoni Pikkarainen) their perfect match, conneting these grownups in his emotion club. Their first single, “Blame” will be out any moment. You might just have enough time to read how they met, how the success of their crowd funding and growing number of street teams has overwhelmed them and finally explore their incredible band chemistry and personalities. Their humble, humorous, honest, heart-warming, hard-working and a lot more. I am afraid there is no way not to love them!
We met in a cosy bar and famous bar downtown Helsinki and no, we were not drunken. But up to this point we had spoken for some time already and the atmosphere was sort of relaxed. …
Forming a Band Around Your Just Sketches
“Ok, got the point”, I say trying to swallow more laughter and getting back to my questions. “So how important is idealism to start over? I mean, don’t get me wrong”, looking at Niklas, “we’re the same age and if I’d consider starting over, this is a big step!” NIKLAS: “It really is. But I mean I was at some point thinking maybe I start doing something else. But then I knew I had these songs on my hard drive still and nothing was done with them. And I just wanted to get rid of them [starting a new band only to get rid of some songs … interesting idea, I think]and see what happens. But then it kind of took over and I started to focus more on that.” I am laughing again. Now this dedication in its purest form! “And then I forgot all about everything else I thought of doing.” Shaking my head in awe, “Now that’s passionate” slips my tongue half loud but he hears it anyway. NIKLAS: “Yeah. Originally I think I had twelve ideas and I listened to them for a while and ‘fuck, that’s crap’ and ‘yeah, that’s good. I keep that.’ And when Linde came first, I think there were about six structures or something like that.” There is a meaningful sort of silence in the air when ANTTONI begins: “And to be able as grownup”, he says slowly and with momentum, “and doing music and being capable of forming a band around your just sketches, your ideas, is unbelievable! I would say”, and he looks more to NIKLAS again, “nobody has this privilege of being where you are and just doing music, and creating all of a sudden a band out of your own ideas.” The heavy emotions of ANTTONI’s words still linger when NIKLAS’ understatement crashes strikingly into it: “Yeah, it is fun” he says humbly. “I mean, I go like I’ve been playing music most of my life. 25 years in bands and stuff like that.” ANTTONI comments the emotional shift with some half loud laughing. “So I go, what else should I do? I’ve been doing this all the time. Why don’t continue?” I laugh half loud too, and NIKLAS pauses for a second. “I mean now I can have more input than in and it is good company to be in …” I look at ANTTONI and say.
There Is No Point to Try To Quit
Absolutely, I agree. “Do you guys have some kind of benchmark you want to hit? I mean this in more than an economical sense, of course.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, I mean, our new benchmarks come as you go. Our first benchmark is just to get this single done and then see what happens. But of course, it goes on and then we have to get new challenges and things we have to deal with. I have played in so many places that I don’t do it because of being famous or anything, it has to be fun. And as long as I feel we have something to give I guess it will be fun. But then if you run out of ideas then it’s maybe better to take a break.” This is one of the moments the music in the background sounding in from the actual bar adds perfectly to the atmosphere. Some relaxed reggae highlighting the fun that live and music should be. We laugh acknowledging. „My benchmarks are always very personal and social. I am just interested in you”, ANTTONI looks at Niklas, “in Linde, in Gas. And I wanna see, what we have for each other and just try to become a better man. Basically. The music is a very … hm, sort of a by-product.” At some point in this statement NIKLAS utters a half loud “Thanks.” Afterwards he says: “Music unites, it is connecting people.” ANTTONI: “Absolutely. I think it’s a good form for well-being.” NIKLAS: “It’s very hard to give up, so a long time ago I was down, I mean when Kyyria went down. I was like ‘Fuck this up!’ I will do something else and then I played for almost twenty years. I know there is no point to try to quit because you can’t if it is in you then it is in you. I might have a break for some weeks. But after that I need to touch something that makes some sound”, NIKLAS explains frowning.
“Art is a matter of must, someone else said in an interview. It forces its way out.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, it is like that. Even if we’d never release this, I would have anyway done.” ANTTONI: “… in a way or another.” NIKLAS: “I had this stuff on my hard drive, and I knew I had to do something with it before I die.” ANTTONI forms a heart with his hands and repeats silently “heart drive”. I wonder if Niklas is able to cancel material he has. “No, what I mean, I do that all the time. Sometimes I maybe thrash stuff, that I shouldn’t”, he says smiling in an excusing manner. “So that sort of happened. But suddenly I saw the light. And that’s a process I mean. It starts sometimes you have like 50 ideas. And one year later, you throw 30 of them away. And you have 20 of what you think, ‘ok’. And then not anymore but in the end you have ten songs.”
Stay Grounded or Get Grounded!
I take a deep breath and Niklas another sip from his glass. “Is there a lesson you guys have learned from your time as a band already?” ANTTONI slowly: “Many. Many. I would say, I learned the most.” And NIKLAS says very dryly: “Don’t steal my beer!” And ANTTONI goes on with very much momentum in his voice: “Yeah! Don’t touch another man’s beer. And one of the things that hit me the most was with these guys that they told me not to elevate too much.” NIKLAS laughs as ANTTONIS says: “They told me to stay grounded. And I respect that so much. Because that has a lot from their past that they don’t wanna be a part of a nonsense kind of a circus, I mean people-wise. And I’ve been trying to learn that. But obviously for me it’s a bit tough because I am experiencing many things for the first time. And I try my best to make the guys feel like they can be proud of me. And then they would actually see that I am not only listening but learning at the same time.” NIKLAS add a very dry: “Yeah! Stay grounded or get grounded!” In this moment all quietness and tension bursts out in form of another heavy laughter from ANTTONI. “Yeah”, he mumbles in between and it somehow includes the message: Learned that already perhaps not the smoothest way. “Some sort of pretty much”, ANTTONI says and NIKLAS continues: “I mean”, in a serious voice, “we’re not brutal but we can be.” Weird images pop up in my mind and I better not speak of them in detail. ANTTONI, however, points out: “I haven’t witnessed that brutal side yet! But if I just stick to behaving well, maybe I won’t.” NIKLAS mumbles half loud: “We’re doing a good job.” On this, the guys need to toast. “Maybe cheers?” – “Yeah, !” NIKLAS says quietly: “It would be awful to be grounded on a tour bus.” And I had just regained my countenance. Damn. Lost again. “Yeah, yeah”, agrees ANTTONI while NIKLAS extends the thread: “… in the bay!” ANTTONI: “And for me it is wonderful ‘cause I get to become a band with these guys that have so many miles on them – too many miles. And I get to be the clown of the pack. I get to do that like … you like that? You like hugging?” It is hard to describe what’s going on here. Surely we are amidst a very serious and most important interview and perhaps at one of the most critical points when ANTTONI shows how this hugging could work. “I love hugging! Let’s try it out. So I get to take the shit out of everybody. Nobody’s telling me anything. So I get to irritate the shit out of everybody and no one’s telling me anything ’cause they enjoy the energy that I have.” NIKLAS has a perfect idea to attract perhaps mostly female fans: “In our concerts in the merch stands maybe you get free hugs?” Well, it will work with me and ANTTONI is laughing, of course. “Free hugs, licks, everything! So I love the idea of giving these grownups some shallow love.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, yeah, he has energy. Yeah, I mean, my batteries were almost dead when I started and now they’re recharged.” ANTTONI is still laughing. Me too.
My attempt to have the guys match the band members with characters from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen results in matching them with golden Buddhas.
Flat Earth Crowd Funding Connects
But then, speaking of gold, it is a perfect bridge to my next question. “How is the crowd funding working and how did you come upon the idea?” – “To raise funds. It came kind of quick”, NIKLAS explains, “I mean we didn’t prepare for it. Like three days before we went to studio, we got this option. ‘Hei, you could do the crowd funding.‘ And: ‘Ok, let’s try it.‘ And I mean, when we started, we didn’t expect anything. And I mean, we have covered now at least half of our …. ” ANTTONI: “Studio expenses.” NIKLAS: “studio expenses with that. So I am happy.” ANTTONI: “And I had a big problem for me with that because I thought it sends the wrong kind of message.” I am surprised: “Because of what?” – “Because of the idea that I had on fund raising”, he continues, “It was that we’re asking for money. But instead we’re actually giving stuff.” NIKLAS whispers more: “Presale.” ANTTONI: “Yeah, it’s a presale. We’re delivering.” NIKLAS: “And I mean it’s good for everybody, and for us especially. Some products, we know how much we need to make.” ANTTONI: “Here, we can be precise with the demand. It scratches everybody’s backs.” NIKLAS: “Yeah it’s good I mean even for the future like, ok, even if we have a label – I don’t know how it’s gonna go yet – but we might need tour support or whatever. We’re gonna go and do a tour then we can do another one.” ANTTONI: “And to see that people aren’t really afraid of the product. They have so much faith it’s gonna be something that they gonna enjoy anyways. They actually give money to have the product later on. I just love the idea of having that.” NIKLAS: “What they are gonna get, it’s anyway the first print of everything. So if there is a collector’s item – that’s it!” Why not!
“Yeah, indeed. And then of course, it is a brilliant way to get in touch with the audience at a very early stage.” A most enthusiastically “Yes, yes!” comes from ANTTONI. “They identify with you guys and your music.” ANTTONI: “Yeah. They could actually be part of it.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, that’s what I’ve kept saying. If we did it just when the album comes out, we would have launched our social media stuff then we would have zero fans.” – “Exactly”, ANTTONI agrees and NIKLAS goes on: “So at least at that point we have, when it comes out, there is some fans.” ANTTONI: “Putting out a record when you have a distributor and everything, the record just goes out. Let’s talk about the physical copies. We talk about CDs. It goes to a shelf. People just buy them. You’re not connected in any way. It’s very disconnected in that sense. But this … I would love the people to know what the sound would be like. But we’re getting there in a couple of weeks but … Still to see that support it’s just like …” NIKLAS: “Yeah, I mean, it’s gonna be our fans.” ANTTONI: “Yeah. I would say those guys are crazy now who are doing the presale. They’re crazy but still they will be to it.”
“I would say the appreciativeness of the metal community. They have relied on your music – I look at Niklas – before and now they trust the product will be to their liking. And they simply want you to go on and support you in this.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, that’s cool.” – “So that’s about being part of the community”, I add. NIKLAS: “True and this way you get also … I know you can check that: now we have enough money to do the studio. And you could do it over a longer period and then you have enough and then, ok, we can do the next one. This was just for us like ‘do you want to do a fund raiser?’ now there were only three days before we went into the studio.” ANTTONI: “The studio was booked anyway.” – NIKLAS: “I mean we were prepared to pay everything from our own pockets. But then of course this helps because this isn’t cheap. But anything is good.” ANTTONI: “And plus having the idea that when you are selling records, or shirts or anything that way y o u are producing the goods. And y o u are also getting the money to do whatever you need to do with the money. Having the label in between would mean that somebody else would be just sitting down and laughing.”
What If the Music Is Lesser?
How about the jobs in the band beyond the actual music, who is doing what?” NIKLAS: “Well Anttoni is dealing with the street teams” ANTTONI: “Yeah, but otherwise it’s been you.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, I did the active programming of that. But then Gas is still our social media boss.” – “I’m trying to steal that”, ANTTONI mentions. NIKLAS: “But he doesn’t have an account.” We all laugh and NIKLAS continues: “But he is very good at it. I mean everybody can share that stuff. It just comes out automatic.” ANTTONI: “I think we put ourselves in the mix. You and I we just have the tendency of being very concerned of what’s going out. So we are the ones on it”, ANTTONI says and NIKLAS: “So we have our staff. So while we were being in the studio a guy was editing, what we have done and later on we can start again.” ANTTONI: „And you were organizing it all.” NIKLAS: “Yeah. It’s been interesting and actually I found everybody within a few blocks from where I live.” ANTTONI: “Don’t be to humble about it.” I agree, “Yes, it actually sounds like a full-time job.” ANTTONI: ” Yeah!” NIKLAS: “It is.” ANTTONI: “Often, I try to think that the amount of hours you actually put into just checking that everything works, I mean, web-wise….” NIKLAS: “Yeah, it takes a lot of time. But I mean, I had a lot of time lately. I don’t mind it. And I can pretty much update everything from one place.” ANTTONI: “From my point of view, you know, let’s go back to kids starting bands. You can’t have that. You can’t have any of that. I would call it some sort of necessity. Almost genius. You need to have that to achieve audience nowadays. You just need to have that. Kids can’t have that. They need to have a killer song that’s gonna penetrate through everything. And well that messes up my mind!” he ends in a lower voice.
“But you’re not talking small your own music, do you?” I say with a blink. Interestingly it takes a couple of seconds but then ANTTONI says: “I am just concerned that what if the music is lesser? Important-wise? What if the music is the by-product?” NIKLAS: “yeah, well a lot of the business, it works like that. People make their money from everything else except the music.” ANTTONI: “And who are we to say that we care a lot about the music. Who are we to say that we put actually a lot into the music? That’s just …yeah, fucked up.” NIKLAS: „I mean, there are so many ways of doing it. This is still a very honest way of doing it. And there is a lot bull shit. And anyway the first idea was to get the songs out of my hard drive. Yeah?” – “H e a r t-drive” ANTTONI says pronouncing it carefully and underlining the term once more with the gesture of the hand-heart in front of his heart. NIKLAS: “That was the original idea, and everything else comes then.” ANTTONI: “And then all of a sudden Linde puts his h e a r t in and then I put my h e a r t and s o u l into it and then like wuop? What happened? Those were just sketches? And then we have a product. But the thing is we can’t tell anyone how much there is to it. Because the system doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t work like you do a painting and tell people to really look at it, like ‘look deep into it! Appreciate the nuances.’ You can’t say that. Everything else is …”
Anttoni in Lala Land
I wondered earlier about their future plans and what would be better than touring to present their heart and soul? So what about touring? NIKLAS: “Yeah, we cannot really negotiate anything with anyone before we have the album. So that has to wait until this is done and then we can start talking of that.” ANTTONI: “It’s like looking at a strawberry not ripe enough to be stripped of.” NIKLAS: “But the single is coming out very soon so. At least, we get one song out soon.” ANTTONI: “I’m not waiting for anything but you guys told me that you want to do the whole shit bang: album-tour-recording-album-tour rotation and I was like ‘Alright. Sure.” NIKLAS: “Yeah. That’s what we have to do.” ANTTONI laughs at his dream coming true: “Yeah but for me that’s like Lala Land. That’s like, ‘what I get to do music and get to do music?!” NIKLAS: “Yeah but I hope that we can keep it and we don’t just do it because like you have to do it. You have to have an idea before you start doing it. So every album must have something. You know it can’t just be like we do the songs like we already did.” I frown at Niklas: “Yeah but then it was not something that forces itself out of you but you forcing it to come out.” – “Yeah. But now we have like in the band, everybody can write songs.” ANTTONI: “And we haven’t even touched the surface.” NIKLAS: “So I think it won’t be a problem to produce more music, and I think that next time it likely being more even, like everybody has a little bit of a clue of what we are playing. But it’s a wide range. So I think people come with bolder ideas.” ANTTONI: “Yeah. I need to try stop myself not going in there what we can actually do music-wise. Because this was h i s own ideas on h i s h e a r t -disc. That was it. And we did that. And they were like, ‘have you got more now?’ They were like, ‘that’s not enough.’ Than Gas was like, ‘I got a couple’ and Linde was like, ‘I have one’ and I was like, ‘I need to make one’. And now it was like ‘Is that enough?’ – ‘Yeah, if we use everything.’ So we are still in becoming a band in that sense that we haven’t really.” NIKLAS: “Actually, we had one left over.” ANTTONI: “Yeah but we haven’t – we will never be in the situation again where somebody just comes like in Flat Earth this is my take on a new song. We will never be in this situation again because we will be writing collectively from now on basically.” NIKLAS: “Well no, that depends.” ANTTONI adds: “In a sense”, while NIKLAS explains further on: “I think every idea comes from somewhere.” ANTTONI: Of course. NIKLAS: “But anyway we were blessed and fortunate. But we had the chance to even to this. And we did a demo of almost every song.” ANTTONI: “With Linde being on tour with HIM all the time. We knew that Linde has let’s say 200 of riff ideas. We couldn’t even have that. Because we didn’t even have the time to actually explore what he has. And this band taking off like hopefully it does, we will have that opportunity of seeing what we have.” NIKLAS: “But then that’s the potential, it’s just getting better because now we just scratch the surface.” ANTTONI: “Exactly”.
Mistaken for a Gentlemen’s Club
“But then of course, you need some time to grow into working together, to develop faith into the way of doing things together and how the others do things.” ANTTONI immediately points out: “But you have to be very smart to do that!” NIKLAS: “Yeah and we’re actually still in the beginning of that. So far I mean we couldn’t really do it because not everybody could be present when we were writing all the time. But anyway.” ANTTONI: “But to have that chance like from Linde to have that one song that he contributed for the record, he wrote it when he was, I think, 14.” NIKLAS: “13, I think. It is the oldest song.” They’re getting very excited here again. ANTTONI: “Well, that’s like d e c a d e s!” NIKLAS: “Yeah well, that’s like a song has to be able to take the test of time.” ANTTONI: „Absolutely. But listen to me! He didn’t have a melody for that song. So he just gave it to me like: ‘This is something I’ve been sitting on for 30 years.’ And I am like ‘Sure?!’ Two days later we were like, I was cooking for you, and we were trying to get a name of the band and I was like ‘Can I sing this?’ Like putting on from the stereo something, and can I just sing on top of that instrumental? I have an idea how this song would go. And I just did it and he was just like ‘Wow! That’s it’ And I was like ‘You’re kidding me!!!” This last sentence is hard to understand as Anttoni is so overexcited telling this episode he apparently has yet not processed. [Yes, good stuff needs processing as well in my experience!] He is entirely filled with happiness. “Kidding and killing me at the same time. How? You know when you have that, when you can meet another person there, it’s – you can do the sniffing and getting to know him or her better along the way. You just know it’s …” There is a pause. I wait a moment, look at Anttoni and say: “I think I got the point!” And he replies nodding: “I think you got the point.” – “Definitely” – “Giving me that and giving me the freedom to do whatever I wish on that end, being happy with the outcome, yeah, it’s like”, ANTTONI’s voice changes remarkably drifting a bit into his thoughts, “more than just a bit. That’s a … “ – “That’s a big compliment”, I fill in. “Welcome in that men’s club” NIKLAS says quietly from the background. ANTTONI: “For me and I try to make it as much of a compliment to Linde. And he”, looking at Niklas, “is just laughing all the time like ‘those kids just make me …” NIKLAS: “This makes me just happy.” ANTTONI: “…playing emotions.” – “It makes me happy”, NIKLAS repeats. And this scene it could not be more idyllic (well perhaps it meets not exactly the most classical definition of the term but who cares?). “And I try to hug him like ‘Come on! Be a part of the club.’ I mean the emotion club, that’s like.” ANTTONI attempts to hug NIKLAS but stops just before touching him who dryly comments: “And I thought it was a gentlemen’s club, but now I realize the gentlemen’s club is across the street.” Do I need to mention that I lost in trying to remain seriously. Full fail. NIKLAS: “It’s a bit different. Well, we are not in the gentlemen’s club.” ANTTONI: “Wrong door, man! Wrong door.” NIKLAS: “It’s a cricket club.” ANTTONI: “Swedish cricket club. But I mean, that’s the medium. That’s how deep the medium can be. I can’t make this fucking up, you know. I wanna have a song that I would give in 20 years to someone who’s”, ANTTONI lowers his voice, “‘you wanna do a melody and lyrics on this song that I’ve been keeping to myself in 30 years?’ – You can’t have that as a kid. Nobody has that. And I was just dummy enough not to even think about it. I just went for there and did what I felt like, ‘Well, that song rocks like, let’s do it like this.’ And when I gave it to Linde and actually realized that ‘oh fuck! This is h i s song that’s he been savoring so many years’ that I should be concerned what if he doesn’t like your something. So that kind of stuff just elevates people. Make the whole thing more precious and beautiful.”
Lady Doro of Warlock and the Chicks in White
As if all this wasn’t odd enough already – and I mean this in the very best of senses – it is time to come to an end and thereby naturally for what I intended to be my only odd question. And this time I ask my interviewees to imagine they were to go and attend the Vienna Opera Ball, this big, big annual event to introduce the young ladies to the society. Traditionally there are a lot of visitors to more observe than attend the event from the opera house’s balconies. The society requests naturally to come pairwise. So whom would Niklas and Anttoni ask to join them. ANTTONI: “The lady from the street”, he says in the most natural tone ever, “asking for money”. NIKLAS hums thinking meanwhile. ANTTONI: “Definitely that would be my choice.” NIKLAS: “That is very tough, I mean. I have to be down there dancing! But then I can choose anyone down there.” – “Yes and no”, I explain, “because before that you need company to be allowed in in the first place.” NIKLAS: “But if you want to have all access you have to like Queen Elizabeth or so?” ANTTONI is laughing out loudly. “Yeah, exactly”, I say encouraging. ANTTONI: “And the way I would say it is, who would benefit the most? Well, a homeless person would benefit the most of it. Well, radically speaking I would go with the homeless.” NIKLAS: “But I don’t think that wasn’t enough so you can get in yourself. You are the homeless person!” – “Jesus!” ANTTONI swears. “Man, yeah?!” – “And so you need a kind of escort service. But somebody famous. Who the fuck …? No, but then.” ANTTONI comments for me: “He is actually kind of coming up with an answer.” – “Yeah, I am thinking about, but I am …” – “I feel it coming”, ANTTONI says in rising excitement and NIKLAS points out “but, that would sound gay ‘cause …” “It would ‘cause it wouldn’t be a she!” But NIKLAS is still hesitating. So ANTTONI takes his chance: “I feel it, Tom Cruise is coming.” NIKLAS: “No, no, no! But I was thinking of this guy from Germany.” ANTTONI: “Brad?” NIKLAS: “… because you have to speak German because otherwise they don’t let you in in Vienna.” Brilliant, I think. ANTTONI: “Good point.” NIKLAS swears once more which seems to fuel his imagination. “Maybe, maybe, Doro!” ANTTONI: “Maybe resurrect somebody from the dead?” ANTTONI suggests before he notices the reply, “Doro???” – “Doro from Warlock! Or nowadays just Doro!” After a sip from his glass: “She is a lady! She can probably walk me in, and then I can dance with the chicks in white!” ANTTONI: “Princess Lea, Maria? Good!” But NIKLAS has an even better idea: “Otherwise I will go with the Fantastischen Vier!” No need to say but yes, ANTTONI IS laughing. Loud. Heavily. Me, too! Fighting tears, I try to speak: “That’s amazing. Both. No, all three!” So sorry you can’t hear the weird sound with that ANTTONI is trying to end his laughing. Well, he fails anyway and screams into his palms covering his face. “I think, Fantastischen Vier would in the end be the best because, then there is four of them and when you’re bored with one there are still …” – “But you won’t get bored with them!” I say and NIKLAS returns on it: “No, no. And then it would get big, fucking hilarious.” ANTTONI: “And I would be there with the homeless lady!” NIKLAS illustrating a vivid image of the situation: “No think about it, if we then go dancing there would be five of us. We’re the Fantastischen Fünf!” – “Fünf – with you and me. Eins, zwei. Sieben“, ANTTONI concludes. I look at him: „You are the privileged one because you can watch all this with your girl from some distance and have all the fun watching the guys!” NIKLAS: “Yeah, me and the Fantastischen Vier dancing with the girls in white!” ANTTONI: “That would be so fantastic watching them struggle.” NIKLAS: “I bet they weren’t in white for long when me and Fantastischen Vier come.” ANTTONI still failing to fight his laughing: “Forget about white! Oh man! … Oh no… Alright.”
It takes a moment to dry my tears. Actually it’s really late and I still have no photo for the post. Well, see yourselves … And yes, I can’t wait to see them on stage!
If the spark has just set your curiosity on fire to read more about FLAT EARTH there is good news! This was only the short version. Click here to read the full-lenght interview!
Very personal: Thank you Niklas & Anttoni!
Photos (title) Flat Earth; (1) Flat Earth; (2) Ms Cesar Little
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