Hannu Lepisto – Have A Beautiful Life
…one world…let’s talk about…interview with… ***** HANNU LEPISTO *****
1. Hannu my friend…always good for a great surprise…back on space after a break of two years. We have missed you. Where have you been?
Jutta – great to hear from you. I’ve missed you like hell, punky angel! And of course all my other friends, while I was “missing in action”.
Actually, I was concentrated really hard on making, producing, playing, writing, recording and mixing my debut LP album ”Have A Beautiful Life”.
And for person like me – I can fully concentrate on one thing at a time, although I’ve got a million things going on at the same time. LOL. And, of course, struggling with personal life and everything going on it in. I was diagnosed bipolar (well I kinda knew and sensed that I had it..) but getting the proper and right treatment for the disease is a long journey. And living with it is a roller coaster ride. So, that’s one reason why I haven’t been so active. But the knowledge of having it explains a lot of the things I’ve done and had to go through… But it’s not a wall, which one can hide behind and blame everything on. And I’ve done a lot of stupid things in the past and I’m way sorry that I’ve got some things left so far undone. For example, I am sorry to my dear friend Ken with super band Atomic Honey (love you guys!) and we are gonna make our surprise.
;-) If they will still count me in!
2. After “Run Away With Me” (released spring 2011) this is now your 2. album ”Have A Beautiful Life” (released December 2013). A big bunch of flowers from Hell-sinki. 10 new songs with the typical Hannu song writing and well done in a fresh Hannu style. Please tell us some more about, seems every song has its own story?
Humble thank yous to you, Jutta, for all the compliments! Yes, every song has its story and history. For example I wrote ”Abuse Me To Soothe Me” during and after a massive ”cold turkey” in rehab, just trying to describe the emotions you go through in the beginning of rehab, the guilt, the addiction, survivalism, etc. And Messrs. Petteri Mård, Michael Blair and Ulf ”Rockis” Ivarsson pre-produced and made the song just as heavy and rough as the vibe was when I wrote it. ”Ugly Soul” I wrote in rehab, as well. ”I Wanna Walk All Night” is a typical safe relationship argument story, with a happy ending – and a good rocker song. ”Have A Beautiful Life” is kinda about acceptance and a final closure to the painful divorce I had to go through in 2009. ”Larger Than Life” is time after time ”falling in love again” song, and ”I’ll Do Anything For You” is a song to my love who saved me from the downward spiral I was heading into.
”Homebound”- I wrote years ago when I lost a child (who was stillborn) and I was wondering about existence. Just trying to vindicate the problem of theodicy at the same time – basically that question so many ask: “why does God allow evil?”
Me and Petteri Mård (my lead guitarist and partner in musical crime and one of my co-producers) recorded the song half-ready, way back during the ”Run Away With Me” sessions. And now I had the guts to finish it and release it.
”Conquerors Of The World” is a new, slightly faster, so more joyful, version of the song I was honored to do before, for Olli Pirhonen’s book and DVD ”Maailman Valloittajat” (‘Conquerors of the World’ in English). It’s all about Finnish heroes on land, in the ocean, and in space. (Technically, NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra wasn’t born in Finland but he is of Suomi heritage.) The book and DVD were published by WSOYPro / Docendo. It was Mr. Michael Blair’s idea when we were recording the song, to speed it up little, do it a bit more americana-ish and I think we nailed a great version of the song with his great ”twisted kit”- percussion. He used a baby bath as a kick drum, spoons, an alarm clock and in ”Trapped Me Trapped You” as well. *Laughing*
Also, he and I co-wrote that chorus of ”Trapped Me Trapped You”. I had the lyrics and song ready, but Michael had a wish that the chorus would be more ”pop” and more ”Hannu” against the bluesy riff approach in the verses – to give a good contrast between then and a better song. Michael’s view and approach was that the lyrics are great but he felt the way we were playing the chorus riff before sounded like ”millions of southern rock bands are playing”. So I wrote a new chorus and chord progression in one night and we tweaked the main vocal line hook and the structure the next day. Now it had more depth.
And later the song got fantastic Miss Aqualyra’s great vocals supporting mine (she is in ”Conquerors Of The World” and “Larger Than Life”, too). She wrote the hook in the verse that she sings on “Larger Than Life”. Aqualyra is a great singer-songwriter from Canada, with a melting, very versatile and beautiful, sexy voice. So I finally found a female voice that suits perfectly with mine. And that happened immediately. (And Lord knows how many times I’ve tried with other female singers) *Laughing*. I’m proud that she is onboard and will be on the next album as well. We worked together with the songs and after all she was one of the co-producers for the album with me.
I gave totally free hands to Petteri to play whatever he wants on his guitar and get crazy on ”Trapped Me Trapped You”. And he jammed many fucking fantastic lead guitar and mandolin tracks – that I then had the pleasure to mix. As to the lyrics, people will find their own relating points. I tend to write lyrics more universal and not so personal, and not all my lyrics are straight from my life. A lot of what I write is storytelling from other people’s everyday issues, happenings and threats. All the unequal and unfair things unfortunately happening in the world, movies and books inspire me, as well. And as an eternal theological student, religions (mainly Christianity and its theology and Bible) are very inspiring. And in the end, writing and playing music are very therapeutic – and a good addiction. So there is a lot of existentialism, survivalism, love, life & death, irony, despair and hope in the album.
One of my favorite quotes is this: ”lyrics are your crossword puzzle” - Kurt Cobain. That I tend to repeat lol almost in every interview. *laughing*
3. After all – you have now a big track list to perform on stage and your fan base is worldwide massively grown. What about your plans for the future? Will Hannu be a social media star or will you hit the stages? What about a tour? The success of the new album is great…the people love your music. We both know…charts are made by sales…and one thing haven’t changed in the music biz…the most success you can earn is live on stage.
Hannu – a star? Wow, sounds so cool. LOL. Thank You. I’m very grateful that a lot of new people have found my music. And most of all I’m touched by how my songs have touched other people. That has been my dream and the biggest success anyone can have. Big thank youís, to You Jutta too, for that and your magnificent eye- and ear-care that have helped promoting-wise, as well. And a big thanks to Victorian Underground Music (VUMusic) (my promoter & sub-publisher in North-America and worldwide as well, and webmaster). And to Ana Leary (a true professional graphic designer from Brazil) who has done a fantastic job designing my last gig poster and one of the CD covers for “Have A Beautiful Life” the one on Bandcamp & Reverbnation), which we now have a T-shirt based on that for ladies. One coming for men soon! Little plug there lol Anyway, I feel they’ve got my back. VUMusic kept me in the loop, working with me to connect to more fans. So less time on design and with finding fans, so I’ve had time to concentrate on music. Of course I want to head to the stage again, when the time is right. But now I am writing and planning a new album. That’s what I like the most. But I love to perform, as well. I have a feeling that I need one more album out to get active in gigging. I’m not sure where this feeling comes from. Maybe, I want people to know more of my songs?? This little success has been great, it has proven to me I’m on the right track. And it’s shown those who always mocked and judged, and laughed at me, that they were wrong. I am a musician – so I’m proud I have kept my vision and dream and worked hard for it. Now this is a good point to start, I think. And if everything goes according to plans, there will be a worldwide streaming concert, hopefully soon.
And touring follows that. Haven’t been actively seeking gigs, have said “yes” or “no” when asked. I’m in the “Hard Rock Rising” Global Competition. Right now it’s the local part to see who goes on to finals. We will see about that one, hope you have vote for me! ;-) I just have performed on 07. February 2014 in a ”Live and Unplugged” series of the HARD ROCK CAFÉ Helsinki. And it was fantastic: the venue and support was top-notch and a lot of old fans came, plus I scored lots of new fans. The feedback was great from the audience and from Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki, the organizer. And one festival gig for this coming summer is certain – Suomi Sound Fest in Poland – and maybe I could make a little European tour then? Jutta, you know Germany – so please book me some club/pub “man and his guitar” gigs? So little European tour then. :-)
4. Hannu – you know my personal fav is still ”There Is Angel For Everyone” from your first album. This second album is very special, not easy to choose a fav. The songs represent different music styles; the song writing goes from dark ironic to pure love. I know this is typical Hannu; you have this great talent to write on your kitchen desk stories from real life and love. Your very unique voice gives these songs the breath of an authentic life, which everybody can understand. And in your very own way you sing about daily things we all know. Life is sometimes high and sometimes down. Music is an important part of your life. What is your personal fav of the 2. album? Is there a special song you will tell us some more about?
Thank You again for the great compliments! Yes, I know, dear. Angel is one of my favs still, as well. And the cover we made for the single together with your angel is very beautiful. It’s hard to choose best or fav, since they are all like babies. And yes, music is life. *Laughing*.
From the ”Have A Beautiful Life” album, I’d say ”Homebound” and ”Have A Beautiful Life”. You can read why in the question number two’s answers.
”Abuse Me To Soothe Me” is a hell of a noise-rocker. And ”Larger Than Life” cut my writer’s block I had for couple of months. And it was great to hear that it inspired one of my dear fans, too. Now she is writing poetry again! Wow – that’s really the best feedback one can have. And I like ”I Wanna Walk All Night” - it’s a great song to play live! And I think ”Ugly Soul’s” riff is one of the best I have come up with and the lyrics suits well there. And Tuomas Kuusniemi’s upright bass and lines are so cool in it.
5. Let’s talk about the new music style of Hannu. You are a God-blessed incredible talent and the most of the work you do yourself. Your projects are always supported by great musician friends. Is there a band behind? Who has worked with you? Who has mastered the 2nd album? Which is your first genre? Who are the people behind Hannu? Please tell us some more?
Thank You again for such compliments – you surely make me blush all the time… *laughing*, I’m the man behind the album. And I’ve been blessed to be able to work on this record, too, with Michael Blair, Ulf ”Rockis” Ivarsson, Petteri and Markku. And new great players and vocalist this time: Tuomas Kuusniemi and Sampo Riskilä on the bass and Aqualyra’s fantastic backing vocals. There is not a band ”band” but very versatile session players.
”Have A Beautiful Life” has mastered by Matthew Agoglia at his new ”Ranch Mastering Studios”, NYC, USA. I wanted him to do the mastering and he was very excited to work with me again. He mastered my debut-EP with THE Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk mastering studios, NY, USA and I knew what to expect, because I love Matthew’s (and Howie’s too of course, LOL) work (Emmy-Lou Harris, James Taylor, Gorillaz…), I love his ears, dedication, style and professionalism, but the result was still a surprise – how great he got the album sounding, and mastered. Totally satisfied with the result.
I think my first genre is alternative – it is a wide definition and I’m not just a plain rock or singer-songwriter / americana rocker – I like to blend hip-hop, blues, heavy riffs, you name it. LOL – etc. elements to songs. Alternative singer-songwriter rocker. There you go. *laughing*
6. ”Have A Beautiful Life” is one of the songs from your NEW album. Is this Hannu? Dark Ironic a man from Helsinki, a typical Fin? By the way your very personal video to the song ”I Wanna Walk All Night” shows some Hannu in Hell-sinki by night with a very funny Hannu. You have got a lot of new fans; tell us something personal about Hannu and his daily life in Helsinki.
Yes, I can be a funny guy, as well. *laughing* Indeed I’m funny guy. But I got the dark, sad clown-side. My head spins fast with thoughts – lil’ thinker and home philosopher, here. And what’s going on in my mind ain’t always fun – but that’s where the true songs and lyrics come from. I like to hang out in guitar stores, vinyl stores, and have a good coffee. I smoke like a chimney. *laughing* I love to play guitar, practice and plan what I’m going to get next. As a singer-songwriter, musician, studio guy etc., I have to admit that I’m a total gearslut. *laughing*
Posted pics of my rig for proof of that. :-) Darn that the BJFE Sea Blue EQ serial #28 ;) don’t show in it properly… *Laughing* Got LOTS of pedals and I built that rig for that acoustic performance in Hard Rock Cafe…
Yeah, thank You! We Finns are said to be hard to get to know, very reserved – but good company after one get to know a Finn. And very reliable as friends with a good sense of humor thrown in. I think I’m more open and easy-going and not so reserved as the typical Finn, but hoping to be reliable as *laughing* a typical Finn. Well, we have 5 million different Finns here! So it’s not easy to describe what is typical, *laughing*, since we are all different.
It’s fantastic that so many new fans have come abroad and like my music. But I don’t want to share my personal life too much in public, it is better to keep something mystical, like in the days when internet didn’t exist and you just looked at the cool vinyl covers and the music and lyrics and the artist – and at the end you didn’t know shit about an artist but preconceived your own image of them! But when living in the modern world – one can find much information about anyone. So, since this is the most open interview I’ve ever given :-) I will tell You a little more, the bipolar-thingie we went through already. OK: so I studied Theology at the University of Helsinki and am a thesis away from graduating… in the Masters program. My thesis was half-done a long time ago, but still left undone… :-) So you got an eternal Theologian student here. I’m the son of a Lutheran Vicar, and my mother was a pharmacist. Both are retired and very dear to me. My dear big brother Markku is a great rock’n’roll pianist and another of my partners in musical-crime. He’s got my back, too, in everything. I’m a proud father and live my life with my love; we have a big family, lot of lovely kids and a dog. And I was born and lived and graduated from high-school in Oitti, Hausjärvi in countryside approx. 80 km’s north of Helsinki. Other of my grandmas lived in Helsinki, and my mother (her daughter) obviously is from Helsinki, so we were much in Helsinki when I was kid. Not just in the village. And I hung out and skateboarded a lot in Helsinki as a teenager. I moved to Helsinki right after finishing high-school. Then I was in the army (we have this compulsory military service here in Finland). Then because I had been accepted to U of Helsinki’s Theology faculty I was ordered to serve as a ”soldier-priest”, a chaplain is it in English? And had an education in army for that. And I love to drink Light-Cola a lot per day and I’m big fan of Tappara, a Finnish ice-hockey team in our national league SM-Liiga. Quite safe addictions. :-)
7. The NEW album ”Have A Beautiful Life” is released with a big success. Where can we get it? What comes next? Is it possible to get a signed CD from Hannu? Where is a place for fans to get news about Hannu?
Yes, it was great to be the most sold alternative artist in iTunes for two days, beating the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay (felt so surreal *laughing*) here in Finland. And ”Have A Beautiful Life” made the top-ten in all album categories on the release date on iTunes Finland. And it felt totally great that for over a month ”Have A Beautiful Life” was listed as ”New & Noteworthy” on iTunes Finland in the alt category.
And a big success on Reverbnation’s charts – awesome as well… #1 Helsinki and Finland artist in Alternative and went to #1 for awhile for Finland in all categories, plus climbing reverb’s alternative charts for the whole world – made it to #19 global alternative!
You can get the digital album from every digital store you can think of; iTunes, Amazon, Nokia, Reverbnation etc. and listen to it at Spotify etc.
We are still thinking cd, maybe vinyl-press? But I can’t promise anything concerning that yet. At some point there will be a hard copy release, yes, but who releases it, what and how are still *under work* :) between my label and some others. Then when that happens I promise to arrange for a CD signing in some store, so anyone who wants to buy it can if they want a signed copy. If we (hopefully!) come to that point. :-)
For news you can go to hannuofficial.info and hannulepisto.com. run by my promoter Victorian Underground Music. There we always make sure we have the latest news and also you can check on twitter @hannuofficial – every day we got something new ;) and on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/HannuOfficial so please follow those, like, etc. And check my Reverbnation site www.reverbnation.com/hannulepisto as well.
And what comes next? Well I’m upgrading my studio – so recording equipment will be much better. I got lots of songs ready to demo.
Some demoing of the songs has started. :) And there will be at least one cover but its secret which song it will be. So my new album’s recordings start in May!! We’ll see how long it takes to have it finished, but I promise – not two years, like happened with ”Have A Beautiful Life”. I had bad health problems then that delayed the planned release. Now things are much better. And I’ve been very creative recently. So if everything goes according to plan there will be big time names featuring (again). Very excited about that.
The working name for the album is – ”Burn Bridges Burn” - let’s see if it ends up to be the final. And oh almost forgot please do get my free iPhone- /Android app! :)
8. Hannu Lepisto is your solo project. You were in several bands before and then you have started over with your personal project in the social media. This is a hard daily job of support to get your fan base grown over all the different profiles. Help is always welcome and you give a lot of free downloads to get people into your music. The whole success is made by fans. Tell us something about this work? Do you love your fan base? What can fans do for Hannu?
Fans are everything. Of course I love my fans! And like I’ve said, the feeling that my music inspires, or helps, or touches people, is the best reward one can get. I would be writing music and lyrics, and songs anyway, so it is natural to let them out in public. I’ve been so lucky that so many have found my music. Promoter and I try to share with the people we think they like my sound. But like I was saying, I’m on a way to grow the fan base. My street team and other fans help a lot by sharing and telling their friends about my music. So I wanna thank each and everyone of you on my street team and other fans that have gone above and beyond sharing my music – You guys totally rock! Thank You so much for spreading the Hannu-virus! :-) Of course, buying my album and merch (like T-shirts – what else do fans want?). Most of all it allows me/us to upgrade equipment, so the future releases can sound even better for you than the previous two! And it feels so amazing that I have fans, something like a dream come true, surreal and hard to believe, lol. But great! But I work as hard as I can for YOUR love!! ;) a lil’ quote from Mr.Springsteen’s great song titled “I work for your love”.
9. Not everything is Hannu ;-)))… this planet has a lot of problems – over the social media we can help each other to alive – is there something which has your special support? I know you are engaged in Amnesty.fi. Is there something else?
Thank God! LOL But seriously we live in world full of problem. I’m not engaged in any organization – but basic human rights are the starting point. So that’s why I played for, supported (…even modelled a T-shirt) for amnesty.fi. Every organization which helps to make the world better place is good to support; they bring knowledge to people of the
unjust and unequal world we are living in. And we rich West-European countries & North-America – we could help poor ones more by adding little bit of taxes. Love and peace is what we need and it’s a great pleasure to see the peace page back alive on myspace – great to be a part Jutta – this planet need music for peace - against fascism where ever. http://myspace.com/artandmusicagainstwar
Of course psychiatric disorders and mental health issues are very close to my heart. Everyone who needs it should have help and treatment for these health concerns. So I support that cause by giving 50% of the profit on some select songs to the great charity Sweet Relief, when you buy “99” and “Larger Than Life” via my Reverbnation page. http://www.reverbnation.com/hannulepisto
Sweet Relief helps homeless musicians find living quarters and helps musicians with mental health and other health problems get treatment. Depression, anxiety disorder and the others, un-cared for, are terrible – and can lead to terrible addictions – or even worse! – and the person often doesn’t even realize he/she has a disorder in his or her brain, in the background.
And domestic violence is terrible. How common it can be for men to live in abusive relationships but no one will speak about this. Everyone talks about woman’s rights – and (obviously of course) women deserve equal right and violence against women is terrible! But I’m also worried about men’s welfare in families where the woman or partner is abusive. They exist. So I wrote a song about that subject called ”On The Eggshells” and it is going to be on my next album.
But I’m just a singer-songwriter, so I better stick with that, and not play Bono! :-) People want music to take them on a trip so the hardness of life vanishes for a while, and so I hope to continue to write songs that brings joy & hope – and sing stories that people can relate too, or just to rock’n’roll with.. :-)
10. Hannu my friend…the next time I visit Hell-Sinki…and be sure I will visit in summer…too much snow and ice in winter…;-)))…where can I meet you for a coffee? Do you have a fav place in Helsinki a lil tip for your fans…? Is there a place where you love to perform life?
Oh yeah, this time we definitely meet and first I take you to Cafe Regatta, great ”different” :-) cafeteria near Sibelius monument and 10 meters of the sea. I’ll grab my Guild and sing and jam some, there are lot of Helsinki-”regulars” and some times lot of tourists, and people jamming guitar and whatever instruments in the beautiful terrace along the sea.. Then we decide where to head out next. :-) I have to say Cafe Regatta as my favorite cafe place and Bar/Cafe/Breakfast place Tin-Tin Tango is a great too. I like to hang out in guitar stores so not to mention names ;-) , but Custom Sounds, F-Musiikki and (vinyl) record stores like Black & White, Levykauppa Äx etc. and of course in my studio. And home. :-)
I don’t have any favorite place to play live, most places in Helsinki are very good as an artist wise and Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki was a pleasant surprise although everyone knows the concept, and I like it… Kinda missing Semifinal-Club, it’s alive and kickin’ well, we were performing with The Matt Pistol Project a lot there, cool-, rugged-, pure rock -place… Have to be active in to that direction too or my soon coming booking agent, (already settled), have to be. :-) .. when the time is right, but now I concentrate fully on writing, playing, keeping myself in shape, upgrading the studio and planning the next album and spending some quality family time. …And will be doing interviews and try to be even more active on social media.. :-)
Thank You, Jutta, for everything – always a delight and pleasure to ”work” with You, and thank you for the great questions and magnificent eye care to my songs, dear friend. And thank You to all my fans and supporters from all over the world – without you I wouldn’t exist.
Peace, love & respect! Rock’n’roll and Greets from Helsinki!
Hannu…thank you so much for this great interview…and sharing your time with us…a lot of great news and insights…have a very creative time in your fresh sorted studio…get out the best of your new most loved toys…;-)…sure No.3 is getting one more – the very best from Hannu!
Love & Peace for the whole universe and for You and Yours too my friend.
- Jutta -
Interview made by Jutta Gabriel/published 27. February 2014
…and here you will get your music by… HANNU LEPISTO …alternative singer/songwriter from Helsinki…and if you love music from Lou Reed, Tom Waits or Nick Cave…be sure…you will love the lyrics and music of Hannu too!
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Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki – Hannu Lepisto – stage time