Meeting Erkka Korhonen
I had the pleasure of seeing some gigs with Erkka and the last of those had ended in an unexpected meet & greet session after a most memorable Raskasta Joulua concert. Interestingly, I found out during this interview that Erkka still remembers this particular day quite vividly although it is is some years back by now. Raskasta Joulua has become a really big event with more than impressive line-up and this year even some guest vocalists.
We met in a café near the Tuska venue. It felt horribly early to me although it was not too far from noon. But then: festival nights tend to end when sun rises. The night before was no exception. Erkka, however, is very open and talkative person. We grabbed a mug of coffee and soon we were deep in an interesting conversation on several aspects of Tuska such as one of the headlining bands and the management.
My mug was half empty already, when we finally remembered the actual cause of the meeting.
The history of Raskasta Joulua
“Is it the 11th or 12th year of Raskasta Joulua already?” – He sighs, “I think it’s 13th.” – “Oh really. Wow.” – “2014 was the 10th anniversary tour, so 2015, 2016, 2017, makes the 13th already.”
“What did you hope for in the beginning?” – “Of course, a person has hopes. I’ve been dreaming of doing gigs such as we had lately since we started playing or even before that. I would say that when we started that thing in 2004, the main thing was being able to do the album, maybe a couple of gigs here and there.
I got a lot of influence from that Transsiberian Orchestra. And they started like doing really, really big shows already 2006/2007. Of course, we watched videos over youtube. I started thinking like it would be really cool to do something like that. But at that point, we were playing bars and pubs. Nothing wrong with that but it’t like you’re always have to adapt to a situation in which you might not have a lot of space. You might be eating the bass player’s neck.” He sees me starting to smile and corrects himself in an instant: “Oh no, the bass neck, not the actual …” I frown still. “The bass neck while you are playing. So we would be like really tight and close and not being able to create a lot of what you’d call a big show.
But then slowly the thing started growing. We didn’t record an album for a long time, actually 2006. But when the second album was released, we just started growing the thing slowly by touring every year. We would play something between 15 to 20 shows a year. And then, I think it was the 2012 tour, when a friend of mine got a new job at Spinefarm. And he started pushing. Maybe I ‘should give it a shot one more time. And we wanna like to sign you. And we wanna do an album.’ He was really pushy.”
I am laughing as Erkka looks slightly distressed thinking of this moment. “I wouldn’t say he was a pain in the ass but he kept bringing it up. I produced their album. I produced the God’s Plague thing, but they did at the time. So he saw my studio. He saw my work. So I was like ‘Ok.’ 2012 was a good tour. At that point, we were already playing theatres in some cities. We noticed the difference because for some reasons a couple of years before that, maybe in 2009 it was that some theatre shows appeared on the calendar. For some reasons, I don’t actually know why. But we noticed like: we packed this place! And ok it’s kids. And it’s elderly people. Hm? People we did never see in the clubs.
And then 2010 Marco (Hietala, Nightwish, Tarot) was involved in a TV show called Kuorosota,” he translates “Choir War.” — “I remember”, I add – and I do. It was. “And one of the girls in the choir was some sort of manager at the Kuopio Music Center. And they have a hall which has 1,060 seat capacity, seated by theatre seating. And she asked: ‘Would you guys like to play here?’ And we were like, well, Kuopio, we have played different places 350 to 400 people max. in a night club. Ok, what if we’d give it a shot? And see what happens? And usually, when we would play night clubs we had 18 to 20 Euros ticket maybe. ‘Oh shit, the tickets gonna cost 30 Euros!’ Is anybody gonna come? And we did sell 750 tickets! We doubled the amount of people. And we were like, ‘Ok there is something in this thing. Maybe we should like look into this?’ And we started adding in different places. In 2012, we played Tampere Talo for the first time. And we sold 1,000 tickets there. And we were like ‘Ok, so it’s decided. Let’s combine these things. Let’s do the album and let’s do a full concert tour, theatres only at our own risk.’ So it was a very big jump into the deep end.”
“But it totally worked out!” I insist. “Uffff” Erkka sighs relieved. “It payed off big time. The album sold platinum that season. Mostly physical copies, which make us a very weird band.
And then you know after the first week of the tour, we started like selling a lot of shows out. And from there it is just like a jet plane. It’s like a horror to see where it’s gonna end. And on what plateau will it gonna settle? But we had been able to add shows, play bigger venues. Now it’s like, at the moment it’s like more sports halls where you play basketball halls and ice halls and stuff like that.
So basically we’re on that level and this year, for the first time that we’re actually bringing the full production ourselves: from the staging to the … well, basically, we’re bringing everything with us. Up to this point it’s been like ‘Ok, let’s have the back drops. whatever scenery we have. But we used the stages that they have in the theatres. But this time it’s everything. We went from having one lorry to three trucks this year. So the production is quite a lot bigger. So I wouldn’t have thought that it’s gonna get this far but I am really happy that it did because now we’re able to bring those people who are in some of the smaller cities they never get the – up to this point – they have never gotten the show that Turku gets or Helsinki gets. But now they’re getting the same show. They’re getting the same pyrotechnics. Everything. We’re bringing the same thing to every place.” –
“That’s really cool”, I say but Erkka is so deep into telling he hardly notices: “Of course, Hartwall Arena, is different because we can rig everything to the ceiling instead of having like a support system. That’s gonna be a bit different. But otherwise, every city will get the same show.”
“That’s really cool. Actually I was there in Turku in 2013 in Logomo which was, I think, one of the first really big, sold-out shows and I noticed that I wasn’t the only one from abroad. Evenmore I think there was a girl from the United States.” – “Yeah, there was somebody from Seattle!” – “That was so weird.” – “Yeah, it was weird and it was the biggest audience up to that point that we had ever played. And it …” – “You seemed awefully pride that night.” – “Oh for sure. I almost shit my pants before the show. I was so scared. I missed like the first notes of the first song. Just, you know, things were so weird.” He drifts into memory.
“It was so cool how you all handled it when the stage was literally on fire!” Erkka is getting really excited now. “And we almost set the place on fire, yeah.” – “But half of you didn’t even notice. That was so cool.” – “Yeah, it was on the fourth song of the set” – “I wouldn’t remember that but I do remember the stage crew like trying to kill the fire while all the rest was playing on just as usual. Just as if nothing happened. That was really cool!” – “Yeah, you have to try to do this. Because if someone from the audience would have called the fire department that would have been the end of the show!” – “Definitely, yes.” – “If would stop playing the people were thinking ‘oh what’s just happening?’ And then the next week, we were in Hameenlinna, we set off the fire alarm.” Laughing I look at Erkka wondering what had happened. “Yep. You know they forgot to kill the alarming on the floors. But that was fortunately at the end of the show. And of course, we made headlines from that, you know.”
“Yeah, maybe helpful. I mean if nothing really happened and if it is in the end of the show so everything is like being brought to an good end then … some publicity might work out quite well.” Erkka agrees. “I remember the day in Logomo. We travelled from Mikkeli not that short of drive as you need to drive to Lahti and it was a perfectly sunny day, throughout the day.” I remember this perfect day, too. “We’d got a phone call from the record company in the morning, broken the platinum barrier with the album.” He sighs and goes on: “And then we knew what was waiting. And it’s just one of those moments that kind of stick in your head.”
It is amazing. The band was so touched by this gig in Turku in 2013 because of the huge number of sold tickets. They mentioned it during the show. And this year, they will play at the Hartwall Arena!
They were touched and they showed it. I remeber Vili (Ollila, keyboards) speakig to us after the show for quite some time. And he said it was the best gig he could remember. He still was very touched. Also during the show the band was touched although perhaps for more reasons. I will never forget Marco Hietala performing the “Ave Maria” that night. We all in this spot could see his tears. He was more than deeply moved and he performed at his very, very best.
… to be continued
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