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zondag 21 juli 2019
LEVERAGE: Playing on a heavy rock album is what Leverage is about!

Interview with guitarist Tuomas Heikkinen by Vera in May 2019

More and more bands return after a hiatus of ten years! Leverage is one of them and since their recent album ‘DeterminUs’ happens to be a stunner in the loud applauded symphonic power metal genre, we contacted the main composer and guitarist Tuomas Heikkinen to have a nice chat about this Finnish band. The tile of the album speaks for itself when we talk with Tuomas…

’DeterminUs’ is the first Leverage album in ten years, that’s quite a while. What happened?
Indeed, it has been a long time. Sometimes I can’t believe that it is already ten years ago since ‘Circus Colossus’ came out. We kept on playing live until 2011, but it wasn’t really going somewhere. I did not want to start writing an album this way. To me the answer was no. At that time. I was a bit burnt out and when something happens, it was always somebody fault. There was a lot of complaining. It is always the same. When you look back and look in the mirror you have to be true to yourself. We spent some time off. Everybody is busy with music anyways, but we could take a kind of distance from all the things going on during that break and that’s what we needed.

Indeed, I can understand. And was there a kind of spark to reinvent Leverage then after all these years?
Somewhere during these years I started writing these songs with Mikko, the new guitar player. We met once in a week and looked at his ideas and considered mine. By bringing these ideas on the table we found out that it worked really well. He sent the first demo and that was actually pretty good. That was one thing. The other thing is that he is a huge fan of old Rainbow. That’s a band I was really into as a kid. I realized that ‘Rising’ – in my opinion their best album ever – was released forty years ago, and it still rules. As a kid I spent so many evenings listening to Rainbow. That was another mutual interest that shaped our friendship. I contacted the other guys and we started to play Rainbow songs as a tribute. We had a lot of fun doing a gig now and then. We brought out an EP ‘The Devil’s Turn’, just by ourselves, just for fun and around that time we had a lot of talking if we should go on as Leverage or under another moniker. They were wondering if it was ever going to happen. Why not? Two days later we were signed with Frontiers. Whatever happened was then and this is now. Now it is people talking to people, no management involved and in the end it is better. I guess we all grew older and got wiser, no problems at all. I met the people from Frontiers and it is all running smooth.

I know you have always been the main man, writing and recording the music, the guitarist. What about this album?
I did write the most of it. I would say half of the songs are written by Mikko and me together. Either it is me or Mikko. It is pretty much the same as it was before, but now we put a lot of good things from the past into the songs and fine-tuned them when we were sitting in the studio together last Summer. Also the big difference compared to the old songs, is that I used to be very tight about how the other would play. I would play the demo bass and told the bass player he would play exactly what’s on the demo. Now I put the songs together and say: ‘hey guys, you are musicians, you should be able to know how to play’, but I did not go in too much details, that is a big change. Another difference is the recruitment of Kimmo. I always hear a singer in my head when I write. It does not matter who he is, but I hear a voice as a guideline. Now Kimmo is very different from Pekka. If I would write something for Pekka now in 2019, it would be totally different, but I don’t want to force him into something. I don’t really see him sing heavy metal anymore these days. He is a fantastic guy and one of my best friends ever, but Kimmo is a guy who can sing anything. It is great to have that guy in the band. I love it, he is a chameleon. He can learn songs very fast and throw himself into it.

Does he have a classical training or so, because he is more into commercial things and contests, isn’t it?
We were into that together. Mikko and me wrote a song together for the Eurovision song contest three or four years ago. He was there. I know he has done a lot of different things through the years, because I was there too. I know him for some twenty years, I know where he’s at. I played, let’s say, 150 gigs with him. We are friends, we know each other.

How did you ever get into metal or music?
That’s a pretty long story. I started playing the piano when I was six years old, because my parents wanted me to play piano. So I did and I guess I was nine years old I saw a kid from the neighborhood – he was a bit older than me – and he was playing a song that was very popular on guitar. It sounded and looked so cool! It was only a major chord and I told my parents I wanted to play guitar. First they said: ‘no way’ and then finally I got a guitar, half a year later maybe and I started by myself. Then I went to class, at 13 I started a band and we got signed when I was 19. I played on an album first when I was 19 years old. That was simple rock-‘n-roll, not very difficult, but anyway. I just kept playing but finally I got a bit tired of the situation. I was living in a small city and just kept playing in local bands. So I moved to Helsinki and played in some bands over there as well. That kept going on for about ten years, me playing guitar now and then, without much things happening. Then I met Thor (Torsti Steep – ex-guitarist – VM), our former guitar player. He is a former student of mine, I was his first teacher. He asked me to come over to his studio and we started playing together. I had some demos and he told me it were good songs. I did not know if it would be good enough, but we started from there and that’s when Leverage came into being. He was supposed to be the singer, but that never happened. Then I did a cover band gig and people told me they had a good suggestion for a singer. That was Pekka. I never met him before, I just heard about him, but I was on stage with him and I thought: ‘wow, this is really good’. I started talking with him and it seemed that he just left his band. We worked together, wrote a few songs and then suddenly Leverage was signed.

So you have done a lot of gigs in your life…
Yes, for me that is a natural thing, just like playing guitar. I play guitar period. That’s so natural for me that I don’t talk about it and after all these years I still know a lot of people who are not aware of the fact that I play guitar. So what… that’s the music side of life and then there is the other side, like family, work and things like that.

Finland is a real metal country. Are you not in contact with other musicians who are more famous?
I guess we all have. Finland is a small country. My experience is that when you meet people who have done a lot of things in the Finnish metal scène, they are all down to earth and so friendly. As far as I know… I guess it goes to all kinds of subgenres of music, but to me it was always my dream to play on a heavy rock album one day. So that is what Leverage is about. Also I have written songs for other artists, I have written lyrics for other artists, and I played in bands as a hired gun, but I think every musician wants to get famous with their own sound. I cannot complain at all about the atmosphere between Finnish people. Music is a wonderful thing. I was once in Italy and did not understand a word about what was going on at the stage. Yet I could play with them for once, because music is an international language. This makes me so happy.

It is important to travel and meet other people. Did you travel and toured with Leverage before?
You know what? The first time we played with Leverage outside of Finland was two weeks ago in Milan. The thing is… with the first three albums, I remember, we were support on some European tours, but the way it was, was that it was so expensive. We had to pay to be able to get on the road with a headliner. We had to quit our jobs, lost a lot of money. I never regret that we have done it, but never again under those circumstances. It is absolutely great to play live, but I hope we will get other opportunities in the near future. Milan was great. Let us hope we can arrange a EU tour after our release and this will be only the start.

Geplaatst door Vera op zondag 21 juli 2019 - 10:45:47
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