Interview with keyboardist and vocalist Pekka Montin, bassist, guitarist and vocalist Kimmo Perämäki and drummer Vesa Vinhavirta
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 25, 2023
Desert Song (now doesn't that name sound familiar?) is a new Finnish 3-piece band featuring current and former musicians from bands like Ensiferum, Wishing Well, Spiritus Mortis, etc., who want to bring their music back to the roots of hard rock and heavy metal. They shamelessly adore artists like Ian Pace, Michel Schenker, Tony Iommi, and others. Keeping it simple, clear and with the ability to maintain a jamming vibe are what the music world needs because the current trend among musicians and bands seems to be "more is more," which can ruin things in terms of overproduced and plastic-sounding recordings, lack of artistic identity and such. Desert Song trusts the '70s and '80s simple yet heavy sounds, which is the main reason why they gathered in the first place.
The Metal Crypt checked in to ask about the purpose of Desert Song, so without further ado, allow them to lead us into their miraculous world and reveal more about this band.
How did you get the idea to put this band together, and was it easy to find like-minded musicians?
Pekka: I have had the idea for a rock band smoldering in my head for a long time, which would not be a prisoner of, and which would strive to produce music based entirely on intuition and a unified experience. I knew Vesa (drums) from the band Wishing Well in 2016-2017 when we supported the Graham Bonnet band around Scandinavia. Vesa's style is completely unique, so I definitely wanted him to be part of the band.
I knew Kimmo (vocals and guitar) from the band Celesty and knew he was suitable because he is an open, versatile and experienced rock musician, just like Vesa and me. Together we created a rock music dream team, at least in our opinion!
What are some of the best assets of your fellow bandmates, and how important is the right chemistry inside a band?
Pekka: We all get along great because we are open to each other's ideas and we know each other's musical heritage and experience. Being a newbie or one-trick pony won't work in this band, because in our music, you need to have some ability to adapt in the interpretation and in the composition of our music. We will all get along great with each other.
Kimmo: Openness and experience for sure.
Do each of you write songs for the band equally?
Pekka: This band is probably the only one today where the entire songwriting process starts with the drums. Vesa first composes the song he hears in his head, and after that the rest of us start building harmonic material on top of the drumbeat. Real old-school action in every way and it works for us because Vesa is a thinking drummer. He knows what he's doing.
Kimmo: In this band, we compose all our parts in our own way, so to speak, and complement each other's ideas, without stepping on each other's toes. Everyone has their own artistic liberties here. Vesa built a great stone base, on top of which a decent log house has been built.
As you are known for having a relatively wide vocal register, do you believe Desert Song allows you to go to different places vocally where you possibly haven't visited yet?
Pekka: In Desert Song, all the singing will be shared between Kimmo and me, so yes, something new and interesting is coming. In Ensiferum, singing is shared between up to four different members, so this is nothing new to me. I like to constantly approach singing from new angles.
Do you love to challenge yourself vocally, so Desert Song offers a perfect opportunity for you to do exactly that?
Pekka: Yes. Kimmo is a great singer, so we'll have fun sharing the songs together. However, we will not do any competitive singing.
How would you describe the sound of Desert Song for those who'd like to get a clue about what to expect from the band?
Pekka: Imagine what it would sound like to combine Deep Purple, Rainbow, Blue Öyster Cult, Queensrÿche, and early Michael Schenker Group. However, we are more of a rock band, so there will be no traditional heavy metal shouting in our music. We also want to challenge ourselves.
Vesa: A groovy, '70s-tinged sound would be enough words here.
Kimmo: Well, what Pekka and Vesa have already said describes our sound very well.
Would there be certain reference records out there that could sum up the sound of the band?
Pekka: Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers, Blue Öyster Cult's whole catalog, Uriah Heep, the '80s Black Sabbath. There are some examples of the influences that will be heard in our music. Of course, we will have our own sound, but we can never escape our influences, nor should we. For us, good music was made in an era when music dared to take risks and when work was done before art.
Vesa: All the records produced by Martin Birch. There, you've got references enough, I guess. The drum sounds will be as organic as possible. The world's best drum sounds are on Black Sabbath's Paranoid album where the organic and dry jazz sounds in the drums are counterbalanced by the heavy and dark guitar, but it still works incredibly well. No one uses that kind of concept nowadays, that's why it sounds so damn unique. Ian Paice's snare sound on Purple's Machine Head album is also worth mentioning. I used vintage equipment in the studio, e.g., a Ludwig 6.5-inch Supraphonic snare drum from 1974, Paiste 22" Signature Dry Heavy Ride cymbal from 1984 as a ride drum. When you hit it once, it plays for half an hour!
But yeah, if I were to look for a drum sound reference from a record, it would probably be Sabbath's Paranoid, spiced up with Martin Birch's spatial sound and a touch of Ian Paice's snare drum.
Kimmo: Influences from '70s and '80s rock/heavy metal are certainly audible in our music, no doubt.
How many songs have you already written for your debut album, and how many more are you planning to write before entering the studio to record them?
Pekka: Basically, the whole record has already been written and we are currently working on it in studios in Pori and Seinäjoki in Finland. The drums were recorded in Helsinki.
Producers play an important role in the album-making process when some magic, so to speak, is meant to happen. Have you had any thoughts on who would be an optimal producer to work with Desert Song? I guess you may have a few names in mind...
Pekka: Ourselves. There are many reasons for this, but let's put it this way; we know what we want and how we want to sound. Together, we now have the resources to implement these things as well.
Kimmo: We all have clear visions of how we want our music to be recorded and how it should sound.
However, we don't want to lock our sound into any specific mold and force the record to be a certain way, we will allow it to grow according to our feelings.
As the band's sound is mostly based on the old-school metal/rock sound, do you believe you might use analog equipment to record your debut album?
Pekka: Our influences come from the old, but our sound is timeless. Personally, I think that we will use everything that works, even a cheese grater, if it gives the desired result.
What's your take on the overproduced and clinical-sounding albums that are floating in the metal music markets all the time? Do you think some of the bands sometimes completely miss the point of what's truly essential for getting "the right sound" for their products?
Pekka: Pekka: For me, metal music today represents a hopeless, conservative world maintained by old, middle-aged dudes on the verge of retirement or young bands, 99% of whom are fans of their own role models with their own bands. Courage to try something new is completely missing from today's field and bands suffer from a general lack of perspective and systematic genericization. Interpretively, in the big picture, metal is becoming a lot hollower, and the genuine desire for self-expression shines through its absence. You may not hear a single good, new metal song during the whole year, when compared to how much more metal music used to focus on content and songs instead of technical masturbation. This applies to new and old bands alike.
In Ensiferum, I still get to experience something new, for which I am grateful, but outside of that, I try to move my own efforts more and more to rock and experimental music, of which Desert Song is a living example.
The future of metal in its current form does not look good, because if the general development stops, we all know what will follow. The signs of the stifling of development and genuine self-expression can already be seen. Technology dominates music and art, not the other way around. This is a bad direction for the future of metal. Many genres have died from this or at least been permanently crippled.
Kimmo: We live in a time when YouTube stars from all over the world sing rock/heavy metal cover songs that are polished to the utmost and collect their merits with them, instead of trying to make a better song themselves. Today, music too often lacks that sense of danger and life. All the tracks are tweaked and fixed in the studios as if played by a machine. It has been completely forgotten that the interplay conveyed by the record is one of the most important things. Interpretations seem to be overshadowed by techniques and excessive smoothing. It's hard to get those goose bumps if you're not fully present at that very moment. Of course, in certain styles of music, things must be precise, but this excessive smoothing, unfortunately, seems to apply to every genre of music. As an example of new melodic metal records, I have to say too often that this sounds like a product from Frontiers Records, and not like any unique-sounding band.
Nowadays, many bands tend to sound like studio or label products, instead of trying to sound like something personal. Even in the '90s, you knew when you heard the first guitar riff from a new record on the radio, you immediately said, "Ah, yes... this is clearly a new Accept song." Nowadays, the latest Accept records sound exactly the same as the new Priest products. Just to conclude my rant, it's safe to say that everything was done much better before. Haha!!
How are you going to make the new generation of metal and rock fans interested in you? Do you have any strategy for how to sell your music to them? I mean, how can we be sure the old-school metal/rock sound still appeals to people who were born in 2000+?
Pekka: We don't bother with these things much. I mean, the most important thing for us is to make genuine and spontaneous music that conveys the right things to the listener. The most important thing is to be true to yourself and make music without fear. Good music always finds its listeners.
Kimmo: No idea. Let's just go one step at a time.
Apparently, you don't want this to be a studio band only but are aiming to play some gigs around as well, right? Do you have a booking agency in mind that might be interested in working with the band?
Pekka: All in due time. The train is moving all the time. We don't want to rush things too much.
What are some of the next steps you guys are going to take with this band in terms of visibility and things that would give more exposure to the band?
Pekka: Invest everything essential until 2024.
Vesa: Make new, even better and more striking songs, I guess.
What are the band's short-term and long-term plans?
Pekka: We are aiming to record a couple of studio albums and activities will be systematically built around that in the next two years or so.
Well, that's all I had in mind for this "chat" regarding Desert Song's future comings and goings. I, for one, would like to thank all of you for your time to get this interview done, and in the very same breath I'd like to wish you all the best with the band. And, finally, let there be those famous last comments in case you happen to have any in your mind to conclude this conversation...
Pekka, Vesa and Kimmo: Thank you Luxi for this opportunity, keep the flame alive!
Rock will never die!
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