"Happy Birthday Waltari"
Suiciderock: 25 Years of Waltari, how does that feel?
Kärtsy: It feels very weird. The time went by so fast and all those years seemed to fly. All has came so quickly. I have no idea how all this years went by so fast. But it’s definitely a positive feeling and 25 years of existence definitely proof that we have done something at least. On the other hand there are still so many things to do.
Suiciderock: We are here at the Nosturi to celebrate this very special birthday. You will play a special show and there for you have invited a couple of guests. What expects us tonight?
Kärtsy: This night will be very special for us, our friends and our fans. We are going to play an extra long set that will contain a lot of guests as well. Apocalyptica will perform with us tonight for example. There will be some other musicians from other bands like The 69 Eyes or Amorphis on stage with us tonight. Those are our friends from the old 90`s Finnish rock scene, from where we all started from. My original idea was to gather all this original people we used to hang out in bars together with back in those days. Unfortunately most of these bands are on tour at the moment. The guys who will join us tonight on stage are the ones who were in town. It would have been nice to have the guys from The Rasmus or HIM with us here, Timo Tolkki had to cancel… He was supposed to come with the original line up of Stratovarius but that shouldn’t effect tonight’s show. We definitely have enough guests to fill this gap. There were only two guys from Apocalyptica who promised to come tonight but now the whole band is coming.
Suiciderock: How had the idea for this anniversary gala?
Kärtsy: The idea already turned out before our 20th anniversary 5 years ago. However it was too late to organise anything like that as the time was too short so we just had a small party with a couple of friends. Than we decided if we will make it to our 25th anniversary we will make a bigger celebration out of it and here we are.
Suiciderock: So you had 5 years to plan the whole thing. That must be very special tonight than…
Kärtsy: Yeah, of course and if you consider that it has been two years now since our last Waltari release plus the fact that I went solo last year, this party has been something to wait for and to look forward to. And with the release of our “Covers All” album regarding this anniversary it feels like a gathering for this very special moment today.
Suiciderock: Before we can start to celebrate we have to look a bit back on your band history… Do you still recall how everything started?
Kärtsy: Sure I remember that. It was a very poor time here in Finland when it comes to Rock`n Roll music. Even Metal wasn’t that well known here back than. And besides The Lenningrad Cowboys there were no bands who went on tour abroad or whatever. We were kids at this time and we had the idea to form a band that reflects all possibly emotions of that music style. The Finnish Rock scene was very boring. Our vision was to push the barriers and to try to create something new and more exiting. We found out that Rock is going to be a bit more commercial so we made the decision to discover something different. And we did quite well I think.
Suiciderock: Your musical style have been special and different comparing to other bands ever since. Was that musical direction clear when you started with the band?
Kärtsy: Yeah, we wanted the band to be like this since it’s very start. This was not easy although. Because of this extraordinary idea it took us almost 5 years before we had our first internationally release. It was a long long trip to the top. But it lasts and I never would have guessed back than, that I will be sitting here 20 years later talking to you here in Helsinki about all those years. We were thinking that we might play a little bit, maybe 5 years and than we go to find a normal day job.
Suiciderock: So you didn’t really expect such a great success back than?
Kärtsy: Not really. We felt like aliens when we started. There was not possibility to become a Rock Musician back in the 80`s. So we couldn’t really plan this career option. Especially with this different style of music. We were thinking that we are very strange and innovative and that there is only a small chance that somebody wants to listen to us even after a couple of years. We didn’t have any plans to become the new Michael Jackson’s or whatever. We just kept trying to stay true to ourselves and our style and to serve people with some nice inspiration of Rock`n Roll. I’m a little sad that Rock`n Roll has changed during the last years. I kind of miss those old bands who were willing to experiment with music because I think playing in a rock band should be some kind of adventure. It must be surprising all the time. I think it is boring if you know today what the band will be like after 10 years. It is important that you challenge yourself every year. You always should be able to try to find a new way to discover new styles. That’s the way how you keep the music alive and that is also the way to push the Rock music forward.
Suiciderock: With that kind of thinking you brought that self titled “Strange Music Style” outside of Finland to Europe. How was that?
Kärtsy: Exactly. It was a great surprise when we went to Germany for the first time for example. Finland was a totally undiscovered sector when it comes to Rock music in our early years. All that people knew about the country was that it is a very cold place somewhere in the North. I remember one of our very first interviews where a German journalist asked us “Are there polar bears walking through the streets of Helsinki?”. All we could do is to laugh and to confirm this assumption. So you see we have been very exotic back than even if it Finland wasn’t that far away.
Suiciderock: But this weird questions couldn’t keep you away from Germany. You went there to record an album and there for you moved the entire band from Finland to Germany.
Kärtsy: As I said that was no international music industry at that time here in Finland. There was no other way than to leave Finland if you wanted to break through in Europe. Everything changed in the mid 90`s when we joined the EU but before that it was impossible to gain any foreign interest. We had already many good bands in Finland but none of them dared to do the same what we did. It demanded a lot of faith and believing in yourself to take this step. We started and than Amorphis came around one year after us. Yeah I think we and Amorphis have been the first ones conquer the European music market.
Suiciderock: That is a reason to be very proud of. You kind of opened the doors for other bands who came after you.
Kärtsy: I think so yeah but how could have known that this will happen. All we wanted was to get more gigs and a little bigger audience because it was so boring to play here in the same venues again and again. I mean we had the famous Tavastia club already but even that wasn’t the same comparing to what it is nowadays. It was really boring back than.
Suiciderock: One thing you have also done was that Opera and Ballet project. I think no other band who’s roots can be found in the metal sector have ever done this. How did you end up doing this?
Kärtsy: We have already done some project with the orchestra for “Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die!” We mixed classic and death metal there. It was one of my early dreams to do that one day. We were pretty lucky to have that opportunity in the mid 90`s. There was this guy from the Finish national ballet, who is that kind of experimental dancer and well known here in Finland. He was in the head board of the ballet. After a while he contacted us that he is willing to do some cooperation with us. In the first place we were thinking that he just wanted to make a choreography from the “Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die!” but in fact he wanted to create a new piece for the national ballet. This was a very huge spectacular. There were more than 150 persons on stage. There was this classical orchestra choir, Waltari. Tarja Turunen who sang for Nightwish at this time was there, we had 50 dancers with us… it was a big thing and a very special experience for us as a band.
Suiciderock: You also took some steps into a solo career which was a completely different direction comparing to Waltari`s music…
Kärtsy: My solo project had nothing to do with Waltari or the style of Waltari. It was clear from the beginning that when I do a solo album it has to be very different from what we do with Waltari. Otherwise it would make no sense to go solo. It was kind of different and I kind of missed my band because we have so great players in our band. But when the idea for the solo album came up I decided to do everything in a completely different way. I took a guitar player from Sunrise Avenue for example, just to make clear that this is something unique apart from Waltari. I made a very commercial pop rock album out of it. This was very experimental to me again as I have never done some kind of mainstream album. It was a good decision and I will stick to that that the music which I do solo will be completely different than the one I don with Waltari.
Suiciderock: How did your band members react when you decided to make that solo album?
Kärtsy: Not at all. You know Sami, our guitar player is playing for Kreator as well and all of our other members have some kind of different projects going on next to Waltari so it was natural in a way that also I did something apart from the band. I was the last one in our band to take that step. I kind of had to do that. I think that they were more or less pleased that I decided to do that as well. This kind of experiences feeds each other. If you do only one think you get stuck with it. You could get blind for other, new things. It keeps your eyes and your mind open for other things, too if you try some other ways for yourself every now and than. I think it is just positive to have some side projects going on. It keeps you inspired.
Suiciderock: So it was seen more as a side project than?
Kärtsy: Kind of. It is so special when we gather together to create new music for Waltari. I love this guys in my band. I feel kind of sad that our music is always connected to my face. We have such good players in our band and there is something which I can create only with this guys. We arrange and we complete all the songs together so the sound and the music that comes out of this creative process is definitely the result of this five person group. I have realised that especially when I did music apart from Waltari. You could maybe compare it to what Cory Taylor from Slipknot does when he plays with Stonesour. He wants to have two different worlds. My idea of doing this solo project is kind of the same.
Suiciderock: You had the honour to perform with many bands during your career. You’ve performed with Faith No More here in Helsinki or with Kiss in Prague. Was there any other special memorable show that stick in your head out of a certain reason?
Kärtsy: Of course we are proud of that. Besides playing together with this bands we have also been playing at many big festivals all around Germany for example. That’s how we got to know the guys from Faith No More for example. There are lots of this memorable shows, it’s too hard to pick one out of them. Of course this big things which you mentioned are special to remember but for me a small club show can be as memorable as one of those big festival gigs. I enjoy to play in all different kinds of places.
Suiciderock: Maybe we should ask you the same question tomorrow or after your 25 anniversary show. Maybe the answer would be easier than?
Kärtsy: Yeah maybe. I think that this is going to be at least the most special show as their won’t be another 25 years to celebrate. I’m kind of sure about that. I don’t want to be that kind of old guy singing on stage while sitting in a wheelchair or whatever.
Suiciderock. After all those successful years you decided to have a break back in 2001. Was it really just mend to be a creative break or did you consider to split the band?
Kärtsy: You know me and the original members have been busy with the band about 15 years in a row without having any kind of break. Our last year before this actual break was very very tough. We had this opera thing going on and than at the same time we had our own tour as well as this mixture album with this girl duo from Lapland. That means we had three different projects going on with full force. Meanwhile it became pretty clear that we need a break. And still while doing this project I told the guys that we should have this break when everything is done. Otherwise I would have suffered from a burn out I think.
Suiciderock: So how did that break actually feel. It must have been very strange after years and years of Waltari?
Kärtsy: It was but on the other hand it felt pretty good. I realised that there is a world around me apart from Waltari. I had time to do some experimental solo stuff for the Finnish EMI. I did two electro disco singles. Than I also had time to write the music to the computer game “Max Payne”, which sold 7 Mio. World wide, so that was not bad either. I also wrote some theatre music. That time was an important period in my life because I had to think about if I want to be a musician for the rest of my life even without playing in a band. As I got some pretty good jobs my questions was answered and when we got back together with Waltari, everything felt very homely and good. All the stress was gone so we could move on with full power. You could see the break more as checking the inventario. *smiles*
Suiciderock: Let’s get back to the future… You’ve e just released a book about the band’s history. So far it is available in Finnish only. Will there be any translations for your fans abroad or are they force to learn Finnish if they want to read the book?
Kärtsy: I really hope that the book will be translated into other languages as well. There are already some guys who would be willing to do so. You have to talk to the people over there as they are responsible for the whole publishing process and everything surrounding that kind of things. I really hope that it will be available in other languages in the future.
Suiciderock: Did you put the book together on your own or did you seek some help from an outside writer?
Kärtsy: We worked together with a writer who is here tonight as well. We set together and she interviewed each of us separately and she made a lot of research. He interviewed everybody around the band, like some of our old friends as well as my brother for instance. We chatted a bit before we started and to talk about what the book should be like. I never would have thought that it is important that the book includes all the possible reasons why the band has became so unique as it is now. She included also all the explanations for the music itself. That interests people in the first place. But than again, I have read many many biographies from all different kind of artists which is actually the only thing I read. So I know that the book should also be easy to read. It should also include some tour stories, so drug things, all this nice Rock`n Roll happenings. It must been nice and comfortable to read. I’m pretty happy that the book turned out so nicely.
Suiciderock: The new year is around the corner and 2012 will keep the whole band very busy. You will head on a European tour in the beginning of next year. What are you looking forward the most when thinking about this tour?
Kärtsy: It’s like going home for us. You know touring in Central Europe is like touring here in Finland. It means to us that we are going to see some of our old friends, hardcore fans who have turned to friends over the years. I love to play in Central Europe. The audience is very cool there. I’m very hungry to go on tour.
Suiciderock: 25 Years of Waltari have also been the reason for the release of your Cover album “Covers All”. Can we expect a new Waltari album in the near future?
Kärtsy: I think the next project for me is to write a new solo album. I have this new rhythm for me. We’ll do an Waltari album and than I go for the solo album again. I keep it fresh that way. And for example Kreator will have a lot of tourings next year so Sami will be away quite a long time and I can concentrate on my solo project than. But don’t worry we already have plans for the new Waltari recordings. The plan is that we might release the next album in 2013. Let’s see two years are a pretty long time. Two years are the normal rhythm for the band when it comes to releases…
Suiciderock: Your future plans for Waltari and hopefully the next 25 years?
Kärtsy: Music, music, music. That’s my life and also the life of the other guys.