On their latest trip to the UK, Ghost Cult caught up with Mikko Von Hertzen of the Von Hertzen Brothers where, over very strong espressos to nurse away hangovers, we talked about touring, more touring and, surprisingly, the joys of cricket….
2015 may be entering its final quarter but for the Von Hertzen Brothers, they can already look back on the last nine months with a combination of pride, satisfaction and, dare we say it, contentment. A universally acclaimed album, tours that seemed to get bigger and bigger and a series of summer festival appearances that cemented their burgeoing popularity… 2015 seems to have been a good year for the Finns.
The last time we spoke, New Day Rising (Spinefarm) was about to drop. This is now your third time back in the UK this year. How have the past few months been?]
“(laughing) You know… festivals are really the cream on top of the cake. It’s a totally different experience playing at a festival compared to a club where I can see the faces of the crowd. For me, it’s all about the interaction with the fans – whether the music is making them happy, whether they think you are doing something cool and they get caught up in the vibe of it all. At a festival it’s bang! 15 minute turnaround and bang! 20 minute set and bang! you’re outta there! In those 20 minutes you have to come out, perform and hope you connect with people.”
“At Download, we had no idea at the time if it was going well or not – about 95% of the people who came to see us were new to the band and the stage was so far away from the crowd that it was hard to tell if it was working or not. But, it seems like it had an effect in a good way because our agent told us that at that time of the morning we had 16,000 watching us and the reviews have been very kind so it must have had some effect.’
“If I am being honest though, I am a fan of the smaller more intimate gigs.”
How do you compare that set with the smaller, acoustic one you also played that weekend? Some friends of ours said that they thought you were the highlight of the weekend…
“Oh man, that was an unreal moment. We could see Faith No More in their white suits playing at the same time that we were about to walk on stage and they start playing Epic and we go “Fuck! How do we compete with THAT?!” But that’s good because it’s a challenge and we like a challenge. It was not unlike the time when we toured in Sweden with Opeth and they wanted to do a stripped down version of their show and they asked us to do the same and it was really cool.”
“That acoustic approach is also good for testing the strength of your songs; to see whether they really are as good as you hope they are.”
“You know, looking back on our summer, those Download shows really were a moment for us. At the time, the mayhem, the rain, the quick turnarounds, you don’t appreciate how important it was at the time but looking back it was really important for us.”
So, you’ve book-ended a couple of live dates around your appearance at the Prog Magazine Awards…
“Yeah, we thought we would tag a couple of shows around those as we were already flying everyone over and it was a great decision because it’s good to follow up what we did earlier in the year and say thank you to those people who have been supporting us. The ticket sales have been really good and I feel that every time we come here it feels like it is building and really going somewhere like a step by step progression; people are talking, the band are getting better known and it just feels….right.”
Going off subject for a minute, we read an article about you from back in 2006 that said your favourite sport was cricket, a very English game and not one we would normally associate with the Finnish people. How did that come about?
“Yes, it’s true! I lived in India for seven years and every one of my friends there was crazy about cricket. At first I didn’t get it at all: a bunch of people standing around for hours with nothing happening but once you start to get the rules and what everyone is doing you get into it; I love it. When we were recently on tour there I was “ I should really go and see all the important tourist sites” but I ended up staying in my hotel room for hours and hours just catching up with games, wherever and whenever I could find them! So, yes, I’m a fan!”
So what’s next for the Von Hertzen Brothers?
“For me, I’m moving house! I get the house move sorted and then we have a short break and then, come end of October, beginning of November, we start another European tour….”
How do you keep going? What’s the secret to eternally staying motivated and focused on the road?
“You have to believe in yourself and that you have something worthwhile to offer. For me though it is about the fans. The fans are like a family to us. They are long term friends. In order to keep it going we have to come up with something new and fresh and not repeat yourself. That is a big motivator. When you do come up with something, you get a fresh sense of momentum and that keeps you going too.”
“Being on the road means you can meet new people and that is fantastic. It is part of the reason why we keep coming back to the UK. This is where it all really began for us outside of Finland; not just for our band but in terms of the style of music that we love and the bands that we love. The UK is where we belong musically, this is our spiritual home.”
And with a shake of the hand and a draining of the coffee, we are done.