“It may feel like a kick in the face, a volcano up your ass or an overwhelming vibration from the nostrils to the brain.”
– Teemu, Death Hawks
Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi Teemu. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. Congratulations on your new album.
Teemu: Hi! Thanks for the review. Good writing and depiction. (Ed: Jason’s review is here)
Jason: To begin, can you tell us what it was that drew you all together to form Death Hawks in 2010 and start writing as a band?
Teemu: I had a bunch of songs I had done and no band at the moment to play them with so I decided to do a solo record and asked the rest of the Death Hawks guys to arrange the songs and play on the record with me. Pretty soon I realized that this is a band where every person is equal and brings the missing piece of the puzzle with to make it whole.
Jason: How has the band developed since your first album, Death & Decay?
Teemu: Well, first of all we work as a band even more now. Musically, I think we surrender to the emotion and sensation more easily. If it feels right it is right. It doesn’t have anything to do with rational thinking necessarily.
Jason: What was it that you wanted to achieve with your second album? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted for this record?
Teemu: A good, fascinating and intriguing approximately 35-minute album was the goal we we’re heading to. Nothing clearer. The songs got their form not until the first studio sessions where our producer worked a lot with us. We also recorded couple of bluesier and heavier songs but they just didn’t fit to the album. Pretty soon after the first studio sessions we saw what the album was going to be like.
Jason: Is there a concept behind the album? If so, how did this concept affect the writing for the album?
Teemu: No specific concept. Or at least the frames are wider than on the first album. We just wanted to go over and beyond the point where we got on the first album. When I think of an album concept (for us), I tend to think lyrics and the story more than the music style. Of course I like that the lyrics and the music completes each other but the story continues…
Jason: How does the band approach composition? Do you collaborate or is there a main writer that brings ideas or perhaps complete tracks to the band?
Teemu: Nowadays we combine different ways more. Some songs come to life right there when playing it for the first time and each one composing their part at the same time. Then sometimes one of us brings a more prepared composition for the band to arrange.
Jason: How does your music begin life? Is it with a melody, a riff, a lyric, or a theme? And how do they develop?
Teemu: It can be any of those! No rules or customs and hopefully there will never be any rules in making music. For us there just have to be one element first that sucks you in and then we have to develop it and add more elements to make it last longer and to have a more thrilling effect.
Jason: When writing, do you have an idea of how you want the songs and your albums to sound or do they take shape as they are being developed?
Teemu: They do take shape as they are being developed. It is a fun part of the work to get lost in sounds when searching for the atmosphere.
Jason: Who are the band’s main influences? Are there any bands that have had a significant impact on the band’s sound?
Teemu: It is a wide range of influences. Any band or artist who makes an impact with the feeling of the music played, performed and which is being put out live or from a record. It may feel like a kick in the face, a volcano up your ass or an overwhelming vibration from the nostrils to the brain. MC5, Hurriganes, The Band, Wigwam, J.J Cale, John Coltrane, Dr. John, Captain Beyond, Blue Öyster Cült, Dr. Feelgood, Witch, R.L. Burnside, Can… To name a few.
Jason: Can you tell us about the artwork and what it represents? Who is responsible for the artwork? And how much freedom did you give him/her in its design?
Teemu: The artwork was done by a Brazilian artist named Penabranca. I love his work and asked if he would be interested in making us album covers and so he did. I sent him the songs and let him listen and come up with the artwork on his own. I only said a couple of wide suggestions for guidelines. I really wanted to see what sort of feelings and an output this music can awake and cause.
Jason: The video for ‘Black Acid’ was directed by Sami Sänpäkkilä. Why did you choose to work with Sami? What was it about Sami’s work that drew you to him?
Teemu: I’ve known Sami now for a couple of years and I have always loved his work as a director and a video artist. He has a fascinating way of looking things. There’s otherworldly beauty, darkness and strangeness that draws me. Now when we got a chance to work with Sami I expected no less than a personal and fascinating music video. That’s what it is.
Jason: With the impact of illegal file-sharing on music sales, as a relatively young band, do you have any concerns about survival in what seems to be an increasingly difficult market?
Teemu: Good music and bands survive. We just have to do more and on a wider area. We don’t really waste our time worrying about those things. You can make a song in the same time.
Jason: What does the future hold for Death Hawks? Is there more music in the pipeline?
Teemu: Touring and new music yes. We have a little Scandinavian tour in this month and a wider European tour in May. In between we have shows here and there and we make new tunes. Then come the summer festivals and the rest of the year. So hopefully a lot more new gigs and music to come! Why not, I say.
Jason: Will you be touring in support of the album? And if so, will we see you in the UK?
Teemu: Hopefully we get a chance to tour in UK this year. We’ve only played once in London so far!
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Teemu: The chicken and the fightin’ rooster had a fight. The fightin’ rooster knocked the chicken out of sight. The chicken told the fightin’ rooster, “That’s all right. Gonna meet you in the gumbo tomorrow night.” Cheers!