Das Interview mit Tom Gardiner von Red Eleven zum Album Collect Your Scars (English Version)

Artist: Red Eleven

Origin: Jyväskylä, Finnland

Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Metal

Label: Lifeforce Records

Link: https://www.facebook.com/redelevenband

Band Members:

Vocals – Tony Kaikkonen
Guitar and Background Vocals – Teemu Liekkala
Guitar – Tom Gardiner
Bass Guitar – Petteri Vaalimaa
Drums – Pasi Pasanen
 

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

Hi guys, thanks for taking your time doing this interview. Could you please first of all tell a little bit about the history of Red Eleven? There may be some readers of Time for Metal, that still don’t know you 😉

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

Yeah sure! Unofficially, I guess, we established ourselves as a band in 2009. There were some demos that Teemu and Tony were fiddling around with that found their way to Pasi and the other guys. One thing led to another and soon the fellas would reserve their spot in the line-up as more songs were on their way. By the time the first album, Idiot Factory, was fully completed and released (in 2013), the boys had pretty much written the second album in the waiting. In this period the band signed with Lifeforce Records to record the follow-up, Round II, and just now we released the third album, Collect Your Scars. Yeah that’s 3 albums in 4 years (we get constantly reminded of this), but let’s not forget that there were those few years we had to prepare for this. Still it would be kind of an understatement to say that it’s been a busy ride! Meanwhile we’ve played a good amount of live shows, done several music videos and luckily we’ll be featured in the upcoming Rendel movie soundtrack. We’re not exactly sweetie-little cutie-little teenagers anymore as our average age is way past thirty. However all members share a vast experience in the industry from previous bands, projects and other efforts such as producing and engineering, album cover art design, live sound and stage management and such. Not to say that alone will get us anywhere, but hopefully we know what we’re doing…

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

How does it feel after all the hard work before the release of the album to finally present it to the audience? And what do you love most: The song writing and all preparations before going to the studio, the work in the studio or the time after the release with all the promotion stuff and the shows? Or are all these steps equal to each other, because one couldn’t happen without the others?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

It feels liberating and utterly frightening (in a good way) at the same time. I can’t really compare the production steps to each other as all of them have their excitements and troubles. I joined the band just when we hit the studio so I have yet to experience the pre-production phase with this bunch. Generally though, this is my favorite part of making an album. Everything is still open. Things start to connect together and it is just super exciting when the whole picture is slowly unfolding in front of your eyes (or ears, actually). In our case, I would say our material is about 85% ready when we hit the studio, and the final 15% is just things that we can try out or change during tracking/mixing that isn’t really considered songwriting anymore. Things like final vocal harmonies, guitar solos, orchestration and sound design are easy to implement at the last minute if necessary, but all of the songs are structurally pretty solid months before tracking! The final part is mostly setting up the album artwork and layouts, and getting promo pics, video shoots and what not. This phase is funny as it feels like a huge weight is lifted from your shoulders, and yet it is (or can be) more stressful than the two previous phases put together. I can only speak from previous experiences, and sadly I have to admit that not all albums are happy albums to make! If there is any kind of pressure or other issues going on, then you might experience what we call „artist depression“ 🙂 This must be similar to what authors go through after completing a book: you feel so empty and mentally numb after months of hard work that you hardly give a shit anymore. Gladly enough that’s not the case here. Everybody has been super open and supportive to each other!

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

Was it a smooth process in writing the songs and going to the studio? And how are all the small steps in the preparation of an album allocated on the band members? Do all of them work together already in the song writing, or do some band members have specific tasks?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

We all have our own tasks on a general level of keeping the wheels in motion. Pasi takes care of the webpages and other social media stuff, Petteri designs our stage light to match our live set, Tony does the cover art, I’m in charge of merchandise and lastly, Teemu works in a studio so he basically produces and engineers Red Eleven. Teemu is also the main songwriter and wrote all the music on the album with the exception of Tainted Scene, which J-V wrote. Tony contributes with the lyrics and they arrange it to match their voices. It is not at all a closed environment, as now that I joined the band the guys have invited me to write music, too. We all use the same software so we are compatible with each other even though we all live far away from each other. If someone has an idea or a riff or something going on, we can send it back and forth and have it grow into a song like this. Or if someone presents a complete song (other than Teemu), it’ll still end up having that Red Eleven-vibe once everybody contributes in the studio.

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

You have a new guitar player. Was it a smooth replacement? When did he take this position and was he already involved in the preparation phase before going to the studio?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

Hahaha, you’re talking to him 🙂 On my behalf this has been the best thing happening to me, musically related, in perhaps the whole decade! I used to play in Solution .45 and Hateform. We put the whole Hateform thing on the shelf because we got sacked from our label Spinefarm. I left Solution .45 at around the same time so I was in-between bands for over a year. At this time I did a lot of cover- and tributeband gigs and one of them featured Tony on vocals. We became friends immediately and just had a great time together. At this particular gig I was playing keyboards also. We got drunk after the gig and I guess I must have casually slipped out of my mouth something like: „hey dude, let me know if you ever need a keyboard player. You know who to call won’t you..“! Of course I didn’t actually mean that literally. It was just one way of saying, with no strings attached, that I really dig the band and secretly yearn to be part of a band that actually is achieving something worthwhile. Sure as shit, Tony in fact contacted me the next week and asked me to consider joining Red Eleven as a guitar player. J-V Hintikka was working on his own band (which we can now call Psychework) and decided he needed to dedicate his time solely on this, which we can absolutely understand and respect! So from all perspectives and for all parties, it could not have been a smoother or better procedure. J-V played guitar on one song, Tainted Scene which he wrote so he is also on the album! Basically I jumped directly into the studio. I played guitar parts and some solos as well as some piano parts since our story together started as me being the keyboard player. Although the music was fully written and pre-produced, the guys tell me that I did a great contribution to the album and fully took my place in the band. As reassuring as this is alone, the whole inner circle of crew members, friends and family, all have been very supportive and kind! J-V, the nice and humble character that he is, even borrowed he’s guitar rig for the first couple of rehearsals that we had! I simply couldn’t ask for better bandmates!

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

I wrote reviews for your single Tomorrow’s Path and for both albums Round II and Collect Your Scars, and I was not really content with the different styles on the albums. To me it sounded like you are still trying to find out, what kind of music you want to concentrate on. As I didn’t read other reviews I don’t know if my opinion represents the minority or the majority. Can you explain why you mixed up so many different styles, or do you have a different point of view?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

Please don’t get upset, but I think you represent the definite minority in this respect. If anyone has mentioned us combining styles or opposite elements together, then it has been mainly as a compliment. Most people don’t see one element ruling out the next. But I fully understand that in some bands it is annoying if the styles drift apart too much. I have to admit that I don’t in fact like being labeled as „alternative metal“, but as misleading as this can be sometimes, at least it gives us the leverage of getting away with such a broad musical expression. In previous bands I learned to my dismay that the more heavier the music gets, the more people have fucking silly expectations of what they think the music should or shouldn’t be. My humble point of view is this: since the music industry is in a state of nuclear-shitstorm-fallout, where nothing is really sustaining nothing financially, and bands like us (and sooooo many others) are mostly funding our endeavors ourselves, both financially and with immense sacrifice on a personal level, there is absolutely no one in the universe who is in the position to have any kind of expectations from us!! The music is free for all, so we are free to make what we want with it. I’m not saying we would come up with something fucked up and out of place just for the sake of annoying people, but merely pointing out that we will be the judge of where we draw our boundaries. If there is people out there who like what we do, then we have great news for you: we won’t be running out of ideas any time soon, thanks to the broad palette of colours we have at our disposal.

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

Second question for reviews: Do you try to read all reviews, or at least the ones of the most important magazines? Or are you only looking at the final rating? And if you read them, are you sometimes surprised how your music is considered and which comparisons sometimes are made?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

We are truly grateful for all reviews. We try to read all of them word for word and even share them on our facebook page be it good, mediocre or even bad. Sometimes though, we can’t understand it if it is written a foreign language like Spanish, Portuguese. We can understand them partially if they are in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian or German, but in these cases, too, we are left with just the rating. A good review is all about the writing quality, and not just the rating! Sometimes we might get good points, but the writing is just so poor that it is a shame to post it anywhere. Likewise, we don’t mind mediocre ratings if the writing is good and intelligent. As the music industry is a falling house of cards, it also affects everything around it. If there is little money in music, then there can’t be much more of it in journalism. An esteemed writer will always be appreciated if he/she writes thoughtful and honest reviews, no matter what the rating ends up being. This is where you reviewers need to be careful! It is the shit quality writing and poor journalism that will destroy your industry, too, if you can’t stand behind your words!! I mean, if we read a totally mind-numblingly bad review with the content being clearly unresearched and biased, then it is as meaningless in the end as the turd I am about to push to the toilet from my asshole. There is absolutely no way we don’t know that the reviewer isn’t in fact our 15 year old next door neighbor Timmy, who is pissed since he can’t get past level 6 on GTA. Quality over quantity is usually a good guideline for everything (if it can be afforded) be it music, art, writing or even ranting on the internet: if it has your name on it, then you should be able to stand behind it!

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

To me it sounds like the songs are not that easy to play and are demanding a certain level of technical skills. You are in the music business for approximately seven years and have quite a lot of experience, but I still wonder, if you had some musical education, or are you self-educated?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

All of us have most likely played and performed more technically challenging music than Red Eleven in other/past projects. The focus here is definitely in songwriting and arranging. Though having a well-equipped line-up, both musically and technically, gives the freedom to write the music without worrying about if we have the capacity to perform it. It’s cool that we can focus on the performance and tightness more, and occasionally there is some space to display some personal craft. I can say from experience that it is not so enjoyable if the music is so challenging that you need to turn down free beer just to get up on stage with confidence. This might have been my idea of the whole picture when I was younger, but the party animal that I have become over the years keeps saying to me that if I need to be fully sober on stage, then it’s too hard, aaaarrrgh, fuck it-VENOM!! As for education, I don’t know how far the rest have studied formally, but everything operates at pro level so that’s all that counts. Teemu for instance, can play drums, bass and guitar and he has perfect pitch with a 4 octave vocal range. He can sing the „Ritchie Sambora„-parts over Tony’s main lines, which is fantastic, haha. I played Cello as my first instrument and converted to guitar and later added piano/keyboards. I have formal education pretty high up, and I also work as a guitar instructor in my home town. But any kind of education is only as good as the willingness to utilize it. I have always been serious with music, so acquiring knowledge has always been a dear habit of mine.

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

The cover of the last album Collect Your Scars is quite mind-boggling to me. Is there any specific meaning behind? And did you invent this cover or was it an external artist?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

For this we can thank our singer, Tony Kaikkonen. Just as a side note, Tony is an esteemed tattoo artist and pretty well known in Finland. He also wrote all the lyrics to the album and they have an obvious connection with the album artwork. There’s the obvious hourglass and some dude is draining down through it, and behind it is a compass and some maps of sorts.. I have to admit, that we haven’t exactly sat down together with tissue paper and camomile tea to discuss the different meanings to the lyrics and their cover art counter links, hahahaha, but Tony once again showcases he’s gifts as an artist!

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

And now after this long work in the studio and the release of the album you will be on tour for some gigs in Finland. Is there anything else in preparation, maybe some shows outside Finland?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

At this time, I really don’t know! We can assure you, that this is our top priority this year to make something like this happen. Unfortunately we will need a lot of help here, so anybody reading this can take note. Little things always lead into big things, and right now we could use any help we can get here! Things like this require good and reliable contacts, a shit load of preparation and still shows and tours might get cancelled at the last minute. But one day, in a city near you, you and me, we will party like it’s 1987!!

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

Another question for tours: What do you do in your leisure time? Do you do some sightseeing to see something else of the towns than just the concert halls, or do you just relax to stay in shape for the certainly exhausting shows?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

Most of the leisure time is when we travel. We might have some funky quiz going on, or just laugh at our inside jokes while listening to music. If the company gets really tired/lame, then there’s modern technology to the rescue. I dunno what the rest have installed on their mobile devices, but I usually play World Of Tanks and I have the sports channels, too, so I can see the Premiere League on Saturdays and Sundays. As for sightseeing, there isn’t actually that much things to see here in Finland, especially in the north/south axis. However, if you travel to the east to places like Kuopio or that direction, then the views can get really spectacular with all the lakes and bumpy hills. Naturally, if (hopefully when) we do get abroad to play, then we’d do what we can to arrange some sightseeing! What we actually get to do once we arrive to town is all up to how far the venues are from each other, do we travel at night or the morning and finally, are we headlining or opening up for someone. Unfortunately we don’t have a 30 man crew of guitar- and drumtechs, helicopter pilots and personal trainers so we’re pretty busy from the moment we load in ‚till we load out! We do our soundchecks ourselves, then it’s eat, check-in, shower, change clothes, get back to venue and set up the merchandise, warm up, play show and take a few moments to cool down before we pack up again. Every opportunity we get, we try to hang out with the staff and people coming to see the show, because that is one of the most important things to do when building up a fanbase!

Time For Metal / Heike L.:

So that’s it for now. Thank you very much for your frank answers. Is there anything left you would like to say to your fans, the people that didn’t know you yet and the readers of Time for Metal?

Red Eleven / Tom Gardiner:

First of all, I would like to thank YOU, Time For Metal! Thanks for this opportunity! For the readers/fans: Thanks for all support so far and for times to come! It really has been a shitty year in Europe, nobody needs reminding on this! Still, stick together and care! Take responsibility of your actions, words and even thoughts, and don’t lash out for wrong reasons! We might think our own dignity and integrity is more valuable than the person next to you, but as history proves, that clearly is not the case! So, with kind regards, God Bless you and/or Hail Satan (which ever you prefer), have a nice day and let us raise hell together when we meet!

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