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Progressive Rock Interviews

Overhead

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Jaakko Kettunen and Tarmo Simonen of Overhead from 2013
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

Jaakko Kettunen: Prior to Overhead, Alex was in this straight forward rock n roll band. Me, Tarmo and Janne had this heavy/metal band that started shifting towards prog and after coming to its end sort of reincarnated as Overhead. That would be 1999, when Overhead came into existence. Already Overhead's first album but particularly the second one, Metaepitome in 2005, brought us some recognition around the globe and we started doing some touring in Europe. In 2008 came out the third album And We're Not Here After All and the following year we released our first live DVD Live After All, which nicely summed up our career so far, followed by more touring. Now we're back with the new album Of Sun and Moon which is musically taking the band to the next level.

Besides Overhead, some of us have had other projects on the side. Alex and Ville had another band called “Valvomo” that had a number one summer hit in Finland some years ago. That song was huge here. Tarmo played in a kind of singer-songwriter folk rock band, where I also substituted on bass for quite some time. Ville has been involved in so many projects that I probably don't even know half of them. If you need a good drummer, he's your man.

But at least for me, Overhead has always been clearly the number one thing.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Tarmo Simonen: I would probably be living simple life in the woods. Making music seems to be the only good reason for living among civilization. You need all kinds of mediums to make music; you need a space to do it in, electricity to power up the gear, the gear itself, people to work with and a place to live. The bottom line is you need money to make music and a job to make money. You need music and other stimulants to balance things out. The cycle is ready.

Jaakko Kettunen: Music saved me from football, but I wouldn't be doing that in any case. Without music it would be as King Crimson put it: sex, sleep, eat, drink, dream.

MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?
Tarmo Simonen: In a rush. We needed a name to book our first rehearsal pit. We had like five seconds to come up with a name to get our weekly one hour slot.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Tarmo Simonen: Anyone who makes music! From Beethoven to Britney Spears. I try to avoid listening to music that is too close to our own style. It's bad for evolution.

Jaakko Kettunen:I come from classic hard/heavy rock background and continuing into blues, pop, metal, prog - you name it. Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Vai, Satriani, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kansas, David Bowie, King Crimson...

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Jaakko Kettunen: Hopefully fame, fortune and a couple of Grammys. Or maybe not, but we're currently planning tour dates for 2013 and really looking forward to playing the new material live. And as Alex lived abroad for six months and has just come back home, we're all very keen to just get together and play, and I'm sure we'll start jamming for new material. That's always interesting.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeon-holed or labelled, but how would you describe your music?
Tarmo Simonen: When I was young and naive, I thought "progressive rock" meant rock that is progressing. Now I know it's not. I'd rather label us indie rock because any popular music is labelled rock these days and indie means independent. Or at least I think that now. Soon I may find out that indie means that you have to use certain instruments or make songs of certain length... 

Jaakko Kettunen: I don't necessarily hate it but it's difficult to label it. We're a crossover melodic prog rock band. We're a rock band that doesn't have any genre boundaries. In our music you can find bits of indie/alternative rock, prog rock, metal, pop, space rock, psychedelia...you name it. And at the same time it's not an aimless mess of things, there's a clear musical red line which can only be described as Overhead. Particularity this goes for the new album Of Sun and Moon, where you could say we really found our own original style.

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Tarmo Simonen: No.

Jaakko Kettunen: With Overhead we've had a guest violin player, guitarist and guest singer. So what's next, maybe cello? I'd like that. Outside of Overhead, it's always a pleasure to play with any good musicians. You can learn a lot from other players and other instruments and hopefully get some new aspects into your own playing.

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Tarmo Simonen: It certainly helps unknown bands to spread the word, but such bands (like us) should spread their music for free anyways. There should be legal ways for people to find new music. When someone is making illegally money out of someone else's work, then it's bad.

Jaakko Kettunen: I think for us it's doing more good than harm. It may reduce the CD sales which makes it non-profitable to actually make albums. But then again if it's spreading the music and Overhead's name, then that's just good. It's sort of free promotion. You can't fight it even if you'd want to, so I don't mind that much. Besides you can just go to our Bandcamp site (overheadband.bandcamp.com) or Spotify and listen to it. You don't have to use an unauthorized download. But if you like our stuff, please support us in anyway you can.

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Tarmo Simonen: I think it's a good thing. Again it helps spreading the word. If our shows were so horrible we didn't want anyone to find out, we should stop playing live.

Jaakko Kettunen: Go ahead. No problem, as long as you're not selling them as official releases or anything. Give us a copy, too, please.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Tarmo Simonen: I'm going to say Genesis. It's not a person, but I hate the band so much. Not because of the music, but because it's so popular. And it depresses me to still hear Genesis references in the reviews of modern prog records. A song or an album sounds like Genesis or it doesn't sound enough like Genesis. People should let Genesis go already!
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Tarmo Simonen: The Doors. Because of my age, I never had a chance to see them live. I know this isn't quite what was being asked. Music is about creating, reacting and experimenting. Some line ups may look interesting on a paper, but don't actually work. I personally don't care about names or musicians. It's the result of their doings that is interesting (or not). 

Jaakko Kettunen: Ah, this is a drinking game for me and my guitarist friends, naming your favourite players... could be: Phil Lynott on bass and vocals, Dio singing, as well, Esa Kotilainen on keyboards, Ian Paice on drums..and who should play the guitar? David Gilmour and Joe Satriani, and Ian Andersson playing flute. But I fear some of these guys are no longer with us...And yeah, that wouldn't work in reality.

MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Tarmo Simonen: In performing order: Porcupine tree, Overhead, Muse. 

Jaakko Kettunen: David Bowie, Uriah Heep, Sheryl Crow, Marillion, Symphony X, Gov't Mule...and of course, Overhead. I'd go.

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Tarmo Simonen: Soundgarden's latest. Sounds okay based on the first single. 

Jaakko Kettunen: I've been listening to the Allman Brothers quite a bit - fabulous band. I never got around to listening them properly before, I always heard them at my friends and liked them but only lately started listening to more of them. Same goes for Gov't Mule for a couple of years back. 

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Tarmo Simonen: Mielensä pahoittaja ja ruskea kastike (by Tuomas Kyrö). It is about an old man, who learns to cook after his wife was taken into a senior house. The guy is of the old school and won’t accept ready made meals he's being fed.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Tarmo Simonen: Last month in Prague I went to see Pearl Jam tribute. The singer was awesome!
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Tarmo Simonen: Oh yes, many! To watch MTV with sound turned off, MTV with sounds on, Finnish schlager songs, Finnish schlager metal and sometimes progressive rock. 80s Italo disco doesn't count, because I don't feel any guilt listening to it. 

Jaakko Kettunen: Yes, plenty of them. For example some 80s pop hits like Sandra, the Miami Vice soundtrack, Lita Ford and after ten beers, Helloween.

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Tarmo Simonen: There's been so many! Lost in the airports, lost in Germany, lost in the backstage area (really)... But the biggest might be that I find myself often thinking the same way those idiots do. And my motto being "have a good time, all the time.”

Jaakko Kettunen: Back in the early days, for one gig we dressed up in these white wizard or monk-like cloaks...That's got to be it. We didn't have any Stonehenge’s or dwarfs, though.

MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Tarmo Simonen: Jim Morrison, Tori Amos and Elton John.

Jaakko Kettunen: David Lynch, Salvador Dali and Ronnie James Dio.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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