INTERVIEW: Pekka Ansio Heino – Brother Firetribe

Sunbound the new Brother Firetribe album is out in April 2017

Finnish melodic/AOR rockers Brother Firetribe has just released their fourth album ‘Sunbound’ and it sounds huge – great songs beautifully executed and made to play live. We caught up with vocalist Pekka Ansio Heino to get the lowdown on the album and their plans for the rest of 2017.

It’s been a bit hard getting through but finally we’re connected and it’s silence for a few more seconds…

The Rockpit: Hi this is Mark from the Rockpit are you there Finland?

Pekka: Yeah, I can hear you, how you doing mate? (that last bit said in a pretty reasonable facsimile of an Australian accent!)

The Rockpit: I’m good thanks! I hope you’re good. Was that the twang of an Aussie accent I heard there?

Pekka: I tried my best! (laughs)

The Rockpit: It was pretty good. I’ll give you that.

Pekka: Put another shrimp on the barbie!

The Rockpit: Not quite as good but we can work on it (laughing). Thanks so much for talking to The Rockpit today; we love the new album ‘Sunbound’ as we have all of Brother Firetribe’s releases over the years, it’s been too long since ‘Diamond in the Firepit’ what have you been up to in-between releases?

Pekka: Well you know considering the pace that we are used to putting out albums this has been really fast to be honest. The gap between ‘Diamond in the Firepit’ and ‘Heart Full of Fire’ was six years and that was just ridiculous. So after we wrapped up the tour for ‘Diamond’ we made a promise to ourselves and everyone who was interested that the next one wasn’t going to take that long. So we pretty much started throwing ideas around as soon as we wrapped up the tour. So all in all it took us two years to start from a clean table to write the songs, record them and put it out. So that’s pretty fast for us.

The Rockpit: So how do you feel at a point like this, the album’s done the press have it, the reviews are coming in, singles are being released and the public are getting their first listen, do you feel apprehensive especially as there’s a pretty big tour already lined up, with Nightwish on hiatus for the year? You must be excited to get out on the road?

Pekka: Oh come on, the touring is the best part of the whole thing that’s what this band lives for. It’s been like that ever since day one. It’s always been about live for us and we’ve learnt to operate around the fact that Nightwish goes first and that’s all right man because it’s been like that ever since the beginning and so we’ve learnt to live with those terms. But you know it’s always a big party when we get together and have a chance to do something. And this time for some reason all the stars were aligned and everything was going our way, it felt great writing the songs and that’s kind of where the album title came from – ‘Sunbound’ we felt like we were going towards the light.

The Rockpit: Great title and great album, I love the sound on this one; I think it’s probably my favourite sounding ‘Firetribe’ album so far. It’s really nailed it!

Pekka: Hey that makes two of us.

The Rockpit: My only problem is, I was sat here thinking today what on earth will you play on tour because I’d literally want to play the whole thing.

Pekka: Yeah, it’s a nice problem to have, we’ve started touring here in Finland, we’ve done four shows so far and we are playing the new album, every song from it, we just enjoy it too much. Plus of course selected songs from our other albums.

The Rockpit: That’s great to hear, it’s so good to hear a band these days that sounds as good as you really getting behind their new material. The band has been together 15 years now – time has flown!

Pekka: It doesn’t make any sense to be honest, it really doesn’t feel like it does it, and that’s maybe because we haven’t done that much, I mean 4 albums in 15 years. But it’s true, we started messing around with the songs 15 years ago and in the beginning we didn’t mean this to be a band at all, it was just an excuse to get out of the house and have a few beers and have a few laughs and all of a sudden the music came as a side product almost. And then things sort of got out of hand, all of a sudden someone was crazy enough to want to sign us; so that’s what happened.

The Rockpit: I see you’re also playing at my old University in October at the Rockingham Festival!

Pekka: You were there studying, that’s cool I like Nottingham, I’ve been there as a fan to Firefest just to hang out plus we finally had a chance to play there with Brother Firetribe a couple of years ago.

The Rockpit: I know I was so upset I was on the other side of the world when that happened. Let’s take a look at some of the songs from the album – ‘Taste of a Champion’ was our first look at the new material and I understand it got a good airing on a TV commercial back home, and it does have that mid-eighties ‘Rocky’ soundtrack vibe, it really does capture that feel without becoming a pastiche.

Pekka: Yeah, that’s exactly what we were after, and that really is what the band is all about. The basic idea is to always make the sort of song that makes you do push-ups!

The Rockpit: I feel a new genre or maybe even a new lifestyle coming on: ‘Heath Rock’, or maybe ‘Heart Starter Rock’, you could be onto something.

Pekka: (laughs) You know what I mean? Well for that song we were approached by an ‘Ad agency’ with a script for this big supermarket campaign and the script was really all about the Rocky movies, and they wanted that kind of mood so of course as that’s what we write we were more than happy to do that. It wasn’t supposed to be a Brother Firetribe song at all, it was just me and Tomppa Nikulainen our keyboard player, but it started sounding so good that we knew it had to be, so we called up the guys and they did their parts really quickly. The title of the song, it’s really funny and if you check out the commercial you’ll see what it’s all about, but that was the title the ‘Ad agency’ gave us, so we wrote around that title.

The Rockpit: We’ve lost so many great names in the music industry especially over the past eighteen months and so ‘Indelible heroes’ is a very apt and respectful song name checking those artists and their legacies. Was the original idea to do just that?

Pekka: Absolutely I mean if you look at 2016; and the trend is ongoing unfortunately, all those larger than life characters we lost, artists of that stature aren’t created any more, the world doesn’t give it a chance. So that just made me wonder about first of all I never thought those names would die – they were the people I had on my wall, those larger than life characters and all of a sudden that many of them passing away. It just hot me and I’m not the only one, and that was the idea behind the song, I wanted to do a tip of the hat to those people that brought so much to the table and at the same time I didn’t want it to be a syrupy, sappy ballad, So it’s a celebration for those heroes.

The Rockpit: I agree, it works so much better not being a ballad, it feels more like a celebration of life, and it’s cool to see that you name check an artist like Prince alongside Lemmy.

Pekka: That’s a funny story what happened with Prince, and this is the God’s honest truth – I was in the vocal booth doing the vocals for that song right at the same time that Prince passed away in Paisley Park. So I had different lyrics for the chorus, I think it was something like “the new kid in town never goes away” so I finished my vocals and found out later Prince had died I had to go back in and get him in there so it ended up something like “the new kid in town, the Purple Rain” something like that.

The Rockpit: That’s so spooky I was a big fan, and I got the chance to see him a couple of months before he died, I hadn’t seen him for years but I just had this feeling I might never again. I even got invited to the after party where he didn’t appear till almost everyone had gone and he then came out and played. A few months later he had died.

Pekka: Oh wow! That was in Australia? Oh shit I’m getting goose bumps.

The Rockpit: It’s a great tribute and a great song. The one issue I really have with the album though is what to listen to – I keep it on repeat unable to skip anything. I love ‘Shock’ and Strangled’ most of all at the moment I think, what are some of your favourites on there?

Pekka: I’m too close, it’s really hard to say, I’m just happy with the whole thing and the fact that it sounds like an ‘album’ if you know what I mean. As you well know the album as a form has pretty much gone, no one thinks of albums as a whole and we’re always trying to capture that again, thinking of it in terms of an ‘A’ side and a ‘B’ side. But there are songs on there like ‘Shock’ that took us by surprise, it triggered a sound that brought about a certain mood, I had the sound in my head and it kind of made me think of Michael Jackson’s ‘Give into Me’ if you remember that song, or Billy Idol’s ‘Flesh For Fantasy’ or something like that. So we tried to find that vibe and I think it worked pretty well. Then there’s also a song called ‘Phantasmagoria’ and that’s a song that’s totally new to this band, the way the melody rises and the orchestration.

The Rockpit: It’s very ‘movie soundtrack ‘like I think, big and bold soundscape that makes you wonder being at the end of the album where can you take it from there. A wonderful door opener!

Pekka: Yeah, I don’t know how that happened but it is very cool, and as you say it leaves the gate open for the next album.

The Rockpit: A wonderful way to leave it hanging. Just a quick question for me now, I think one of my favourite albums this side of the millennium was by your other band Leverage – the album was ‘Blind Fire’…

Pekka: Blind Fire, Leverage! Wow.

The Rockpit: What is happening with Leverage these days?

Pekka: Pretty much nothing. We still haven’t done anything more. ‘Circus Colossus’ the last album came out in 2010 I guess and what happened with that was the record company pretty much killed it. We put a lot of effort into it and put it out with high hopes, we were really proud of it, and I still am, and what happened was … nothing. That really brought us down and to this day we haven’t said let’s split but we’re just on a very long hiatus, who knows maybe someday we’ll do something but at this moment nothing is on the horizon.

The Rockpit: Let’s hope so I really enjoyed all of the albums you put out.

Pekka: Yeah me too, I loved that band and we’re still all on very good terms, I love those guys, amazing players. But Leverage as a band is not active at the moment.

The Rockpit: And now it’s that time in the interview when we get to our traditional closing questions. I love to ask this one, what was it that made you realise that being a musician would be your life? Was there a defining moment or a gradual journey?

Pekka: Well it’s been a long time; music stepped into my life and turned everything around when I was seven years old so I can’t remember the time when music wasn’t the number one thing in my life. I started playing in bands when I was twelve years old and my first real band put out an album when I was in my twenties, and from that moment on it was really obvious. I went into the army and thought while I was in there I would find an idea of what to do with my life in terms of maybe I should study something, but as my band had that album out I knew that was what I should do. I’m a huge music fan, I always have been and to get to do this for a living, I mean it’s not the easiest job in the world as far as making a living, but I’m just so happy I am able to do that right now.

The Rockpit: and we’re pretty happy you chose that path. If you could have been a ‘fly on the wall’ in the studio for the creation of any classic album, just to see how it all happened, what’s that album for you and why?

Pekka: Oh Elvis’ first I mean the day he walked into Sun Studio I would have been happy to have been there to witness that, that’s how it all started, I mean if I could go back in time any place or any time I’d go to the United States in the mid-fifties to see how the whole music revolution all started.

The Rockpit: You’ve got me thinking now.

Pekka: Man, that’s history. That was the big day.

The Rockpit: And following on from that the easy question to close: ‘what is the meaning of life’?

Pekka: (laughs) The meaning of life would be to enjoy it to the max, it’s such a short time we get here and God knows what happens after we leave but you know, but that short time should be fun.

The Rockpit: A great sentiment to leave us with, thank you so much for your time today Pekka , everyone should now get out and buy ‘Sunbound’ out in all good stores and online now!

Pekka: Thank you so much, spread the word man, bye.

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