From a ‘heart’-drive to FLAT EARTH – more than an exclusive interview

A couple of songs on Niclas’ hard drive (or ‘heart’-drive speaking in Anttoni’s words) were the seed from which FLAT EARTH has grown. Are they newcomers? A superband? Veterans? Or hilarious geniuses? Former ‘Heartagram‘ (HIM) instrumentalists Gas Lipstick (Mika Karppinen) and Linde (Mikko Lindström) joined the former Amorphis bass player Niclas (Niklas Etelävuori) and found in the Polanski singer Anthony (Anttoni Pikkarainen) their perfect match, conneting these grownups in his emotion club. Their first single, “Blame” will be out any moment. You might just have enough time to read how they met, how the success of their crowd funding and growing number of street teams has overwhelmed them and finally explore their incredible band chemistry and personalities. Their humble, humorous, honest, heart-warming, hard-working and a lot more. I am afraid there is no way not to love them!

We met in a cosy bar and famous bar downtown Helsinki and no, we were not drunken. But up to this point we had spoken for some time already and the atmosphere was sort of relaxed. …

“Forming a Band Around Your Just Sketches”

Backstage: Flat Earth @ Ilosaari 2018 by Krogography

“Ok, got the point”, I say trying to swallow more laughter and getting back to my questions. “So how important is idealism to start over? I mean, don’t get me wrong”, looking at Niklas, “we’re the same age and if I’d consider starting over, this is a big step!”  NIKLAS: “It really is. But I mean I was at some point thinking maybe I start doing something else. But then I knew I had these songs on my hard drive still and nothing was done with them. And I just wanted to get rid of them [starting a new band only to get rid of some songs … interesting idea, I think] and see what happens. But then it kind of took over and I started to focus more on that.” I am laughing again. Now this dedication in its purest form! “And then I forgot all about everything else I thought of doing.” Shaking my head in awe, “Now that’s passionate” slips my tongue half loud but he hears it anyway. NIKLAS: “Yeah. Originally I think I had twelve ideas and I listened to them for a while and ‘fuck, that’s crap’ and ‘yeah, that’s good. I keep that.’ And when Linde came first, I think there were about six structures or something like that.” There is a meaningful sort of silence in the air when ANTTONI begins: “And to be able as grownup”, he says slowly and with momentum, “and doing music and being capable of forming a band around your just sketches, your ideas, is unbelievable! I would say”, and he looks more to NIKLAS again, “nobody has this privilege of being where you are and just doing music, and creating all of a sudden a band out of your own ideas.” The heavy emotions of ANTTONI’s words still linger when NIKLAS’ understatement crashes strikingly into it: “Yeah, it is fun” he says humbly. “I mean, I go like I’ve been playing music most of my life. 25 years in bands and stuff like that.” ANTTONI comments the emotional shift with some half loud laughing. “So I go, what else should I do? I’ve been doing this all the time. Why don’t continue?” I laugh half loud too, and NIKLAS pauses for a second. “I mean now I can have more input than in and it is good company to be in …” I look at ANTTONI and say.

“There Is No Point to Try To Quit”

Niclas/Flat Earth opening for Kamelot in Helsinki 2018, by Krogography

Absolutely, I agree. “Do you guys have some kind of benchmark you want to hit? I mean this in more than an economical sense, of course.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, I mean, our new benchmarks come as you go. Our first benchmark is just to get this single done and then see what happens. But of course, it goes on and then we have to get new challenges and things we have to deal with. I have played in so many places that I don’t do it because of being famous or anything, it has to be fun. And as long as I feel we have something to give I guess it will be fun. But then if you run out of ideas then it’s maybe better to take a break.” This is one of the moments the music in the background sounding in from the actual bar adds perfectly to the atmosphere. Some relaxed reggae highlighting the fun that live and music should be. We laugh acknowledging. „My benchmarks are always very personal and social. I am just interested in you”, ANTTONI looks at Niklas, “in Linde, in Gas. And I wanna see, what we have for each other and just try to become a better man. Basically. The music is a very … hm, sort of a by-product.” At some point in this statement NIKLAS utters a half loud “Thanks.” Afterwards he says: “Music unites, it is connecting people.” ANTTONI: “Absolutely. I think it’s a good form for well-being.” NIKLAS: “It’s very hard to give up, so a long time ago I was down, I mean when Kyyria went down. I was like ‘Fuck this up!’ I will do something else and then I played for almost twenty years. I know there is no point to try to quit because you can’t if it is in you then it is in you. I might have a break for some weeks. But after that I need to touch something that makes some sound”, NIKLAS explains frowning.

“Art is a matter of must, someone else said in an interview. It forces its way out.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, it is like that. Even if we’d never release this, I would have anyway done.” ANTTONI: “… in a way or another.” NIKLAS: “I had this stuff on my hard drive, and I knew I had to do something with it before I die.” ANTTONI forms a heart with his hands and repeats silently “heart drive”. I wonder if Niklas is able to cancel material he has. “No, what I mean, I do that all the time. Sometimes I maybe thrash stuff, that I shouldn’t”, he says smiling in an excusing manner. “So that sort of happened. But suddenly I saw the light. And that’s a process I mean. It starts sometimes you have like 50 ideas. And one year later, you throw 30 of them away. And you have 20 of what you think, ‘ok’. And then not anymore but in the end you have ten songs.”

“Stay Grounded or Get Grounded!”

Anttoni/Flat Earth @ Ilosaari 2018 by Krogography

I take a deep breath and Niklas another sip from his glass. “Is there a lesson you guys have learned from your time as a band already?” ANTTONI slowly: “Many. Many. I would say, I learned the most.” And NIKLAS says very dryly: “Don’t steal my beer!” And ANTTONI goes on with very much momentum in his voice: “Yeah! Don’t touch another man’s beer. And one of the things that hit me the most was with these guys that they told me not to elevate too much.” NIKLAS laughs as ANTTONIS says: “They told me to stay grounded. And I respect that so much. Because that has a lot from their past that they don’t wanna be a part of a nonsense kind of a circus, I mean people-wise. And I’ve been trying to learn that. But obviously for me it’s a bit tough because I am experiencing many things for the first time. And I try my best to make the guys feel like they can be proud of me. And then they would actually see that I am not only listening but learning at the same time.” NIKLAS add a very dry: “Yeah! Stay grounded or get grounded!” In this moment all quietness and tension bursts out in form of another heavy laughter from ANTTONI. “Yeah”, he mumbles in between and it somehow includes the message: Learned that already perhaps not the smoothest way. “Some sort of pretty much”, ANTTONI says and NIKLAS continues: “I mean”, in a serious voice, “we’re not brutal but we can be.” Weird images pop up in my mind and I better not speak of them in detail. ANTTONI, however, points out: “I haven’t witnessed that brutal side yet! But if I just stick to behaving well, maybe I won’t.” NIKLAS mumbles half loud: “We’re doing a good job.” On this, the guys need to toast. “Maybe cheers?” – “Yeah, !” NIKLAS says quietly: “It would be awful to be grounded on a tour bus.” And I had just regained my countenance. Damn. Lost again. “Yeah, yeah”, agrees ANTTONI while NIKLAS extends the thread: “… in the bay!” ANTTONI: “And for me it is wonderful ‘cause I get to become a band with these guys that have so many miles on them – too many miles. And I get to be the clown of the pack. I get to do that like … you like that? You like hugging?” It is hard to describe what’s going on here. Surely we are amidst a very serious and most important interview and perhaps at one of the most critical points when ANTTONI shows how this hugging could work. “I love hugging! Let’s try it out. So I get to take the shit out of everybody. Nobody’s telling me anything. So I get to irritate the shit out of everybody and no one’s telling me anything ’cause they enjoy the energy that I have.” NIKLAS has a perfect idea to attract perhaps mostly female fans: “In our concerts in the merch stands maybe you get free hugs?” Well, it will work with me and ANTTONI is laughing, of course. “Free hugs, licks, everything! So I love the idea of giving these grownups some shallow love.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, yeah, he has energy. Yeah, I mean, my batteries were almost dead when I started and now they’re recharged.” ANTTONI is still laughing. Me too.

My attempt to have the guys match the band members with characters from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen results in matching them with golden Buddhas.

Flat Earth Crowd Funding Connects

Anttoni/Flat Earth opening for Kamelot in Helsinki 2018, by Krogography

But then, speaking of gold, it is a perfect bridge to my next question. “How is the crowd funding working and how did you come upon the idea?” – “To raise funds. It came kind of quick”, NIKLAS explains, “I mean we didn’t prepare for it. Like three days before we went to studio, we got this option. ‘Hei, you could do the crowd funding.‘ And: ‘Ok, let’s try it.‘ And I mean, when we started, we didn’t expect anything. And I mean, we have covered now at least half of our …. ” ANTTONI: “Studio expenses.” NIKLAS: “studio expenses with that. So I am happy.” ANTTONI: “And I had a big problem for me with that because I thought it sends the wrong kind of message.” I am surprised: “Because of what?” – “Because of the idea that I had on fund raising”, he continues, “It was that we’re asking for money. But instead we’re actually giving stuff.” NIKLAS whispers more: “Presale.”  ANTTONI: “Yeah, it’s a presale. We’re delivering.” NIKLAS: “And I mean it’s good for everybody, and for us especially. Some products, we know how much we need to make.” ANTTONI: “Here, we can be precise with the demand. It scratches everybody’s backs.” NIKLAS: “Yeah it’s good I mean even for the future like, ok, even if we have a label – I don’t know how it’s gonna go yet – but we might need tour support or whatever. We’re gonna go and do a tour then we can do another one.” ANTTONI: “And to see that people aren’t really afraid of the product. They have so much faith it’s gonna be something that they gonna enjoy anyways. They actually give money to have the product later on. I just love the idea of having that.” NIKLAS: “What they are gonna get, it’s anyway the first print of everything. So if there is a collector’s item – that’s it!” Why not!

“Yeah, indeed. And then of course, it is a brilliant way to get in touch with the audience at a very early stage.”  A most enthusiastically “Yes, yes!” comes from ANTTONI. “They identify with you guys and your music.” ANTTONI: “Yeah. They could actually be part of it.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, that’s what I’ve kept saying. If we did it just when the album comes out, we would have launched our social media stuff then we would have zero fans.” – “Exactly”, ANTTONI agrees and NIKLAS goes on: “So at least at that point we have, when it comes out, there is some fans.” ANTTONI: “Putting out a record when you have a distributor and everything, the record just goes out. Let’s talk about the physical copies. We talk about CDs. It goes to a shelf. People just buy them. You’re not connected in any way. It’s very disconnected in that sense. But this … I would love the people to know what the sound would be like. But we’re getting there in a couple of weeks but … Still to see that support it’s just like …” NIKLAS: “Yeah, I mean, it’s gonna be our fans.” ANTTONI: “Yeah. I would say those guys are crazy now who are doing the presale. They’re crazy but still they will be to it.”

“I would say the appreciativeness of the metal community. They have relied on your music – I look at Niklas – before and now they trust the product will be to their liking. And they simply want you to go on and support you in this.” NIKLAS: “Yeah, that’s cool.” – “So that’s about being part of the community”, I add. NIKLAS: “True and this way you get also … I know you can check that: now we have enough money to do the studio. And you could do it over a longer period and then you have enough and then, ok, we can do the next one. This was just for us like ‘do you want to do a fund raiser?’ now there were only three days before we went into the studio.” ANTTONI: “The studio was booked anyway.” – NIKLAS: “I mean we were prepared to pay everything from our own pockets. But then of course this helps because this isn’t cheap. But anything is good.” ANTTONI: “And plus having the idea that when you are selling records, or shirts or anything that way  y o u  are producing the goods. And  y o u  are also getting the money to do whatever you need to do with the money. Having the label in between would mean that somebody else would be just sitting down and laughing.”

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