“Music is the greatest channel for our frustration”

Interview with Heathen Hearts

Finnish hardcore outfit Heathen Hearts started only a few years ago, but is already making an impact. This tight-knit group of seasoned musician makes direct, hard-hitting songs. Their music is heavy and emotional at the same time and is inspired by a variety of styles. One can sense that they have true passion for music and an interpersonal chemistry, that drives the creative process. They are also very serious about their craft – whether performance, sound engineering or visual presentation, they are not half-assing anything. Our reporter Katja sat down with them at the Dark River Festival in Kotka, which is also their hometown, and had a very cordial and relaxed chat about their motivations, plans and ambitions. Their honest character and easy-going personalities really shine through the words in this text. Enjoy.

Obscuro: Hello guys, can you introduce yourselves to the readers?

Antti (A): My name is Antti, I am the vocalist.
Juhana (J): Juhana, I am the bassist and backing vocalist.

Such a big afternoon crowd

How did you like the gig you did, here this afternoon and the Dark River festival?

A: It was really good. It was our first festival gig; we had done like club gigs, but our first festival gig. It went well. And there were more people than we expected. We kind of expected that maybe some relatives and girlfriends would be back there, but… 

J: Yeah there were many people!  We expected twenty people or something like that.

It was more like a three figures number. Certainly. 

J: Good sound, at least on stage. So, yeah. Perfect show.

What was different between playing here on the festival stage and on a smaller club stage? 

Juhana, they call him Daddy

J: Well… well, it’s a bigger stage [laughing].

A: First and foremost, it’s the surroundings…

J: Yeah, exactly. First and foremost, the surroundings. We’ve been here as an audience and playing with other bands before, like I played here in 2014 and 2018, with another band. The festival has changed a lot, it’s bigger but the atmosphere is still … still the same, kind of old-school. And yeah, you can feel it on stage as well. It has a warm atmosphere.

So you’re kind of veterans to the festival, actually. 

J: Yeah, sort of.

How long have you been around the festival? Like, as visitors and as musicians playing here. 

A: If I remember correctly, I came here for the first time… I think it was in 2008 or something, and it was seven times after that. 

You guys are locals here in Kotka, right?

Both: Yeah.

That’s something to achieve. (Juhana)

That means you’ve seen all this grow. And how did the festival affect your musical career? Did it inspire you to see that the festival is thriving and more bands coming, more visitors coming? 

J: Oh, it’s nice to see that you have such a festival in your hometown. Of course it’s inspiring, [you think] ‘maybe we can one day go and play that festival ourselves’. And that’s that’s like the inspiration. And you can see a lot of cool bands here and now more international as well. So yeah, it’s been that inspiration sort of. That’s something to achieve.

A: Yeah.  

Inspired by Pop and Black Metal

 Where do you take inspiration to compose your songs from otherwise? 

J: Well, we have the kind of variety of music that we listen to. The band members have a diverse musical taste, but we also like the same bands as well. So we’re into everything from black metal to pop music, you could say.

A: We would listen to something like Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds but also hardcore and black metal.

J: Our foundation is in hardcore, and we all like hardcore bands, but then we just take everything else as well, like different kinds of metal. We blend it into our music, so that’s kind of an inspiration to us. And pop music as well. So there is a little bit of a melodic side to our music as well. But everything is still based on hardcore.

Jerre. Mr Machine

Can you talk about the writing process in detail? Is it more of a team effort,  or is everybody doing their thing and then sending it around or showing it to everyone when you’re meeting? What is it like? 

J: Well, our guitarists, Lauri and Jere, usually compose the songs, either one or both of them. And then they bring the ideas to our rehearsal place and then we put the song together as a team. Then Antti writes the lyrics usually, and then.. well, that’s the process. 

From Cover band to Real Band

How did you form as a band? Was it like – one had the idea and started looking for others? 

J: We have to go back to back to maybe 2019 or 2020. We were supposed to play a Turbonegro cover gig at a local Turbonegro Fan Club party. But of course, COVID came and it happened and ruined everything. The gig never happened. And then our drummer Ville asked if we wanted to try to play hardcore, hardcore metal or something. And we went: ‘well, let’s try and see what comes out, let’s go to a rehearsal place and play something and see what comes out.’ That’s how it got started. And we quickly realized that it could  work.

A: Yeah, we were like: ‘this is a real band, not just a cover band.’

J: We all have other bands, or at least at that point we all had other bands. But we decided to focus on this. We got a couple of songs ready quite fast for our first EP. We were quite excited about this project. 

So that moment was a spark that started it all.

J: Yeah there was a spark of inspiration, and we started writing songs and it went from there. 

About the weight of the world

What kind of emotions do you channel into your music? 

A: Well, I’d say melancholy and the weight of the world, you know? 

So it’s rather the darker, the heavier. 

J: Yeah. Fury, frustration, maybe anger. 

So where do the other emotions go, how do you channel them, if not into the music? I hope there are positive emotions, too? 

J: Of course there are. We are quite easy-going fellows, but I guess we want to channel all the bad feelings through music. That’s just the natural way of expressing them. So we don’t need to express them in other ways. 

A: The fact is that if I didn’t have this band, I’d probably be channeling something [in a bad way]. It’s the greatest channel for my frustration.

We’re, like metal people often seen as being aggressive and bad and dark and all of these things because our music is aggressive. But what would your message to the outside mainstream world be? What is the metal world like? 

J: I would say that, you know, be yourself a “good person”. We’ll have the outcasts. They’re my people. 

Antti, the fun guy.

Yeah, that’s interesting. Wherever I go, metal seems to be the place where the outcasts meet. 

Both: Exactly. 

Question of Chemistry

A question for Antti: when your and your bandmates show you their music, you have to come up with the lyrics as well as the tune for them. How do you find the perfect mix? It has to be fit the instrumentals, but it still has to be a little different to make it interesting. Do you have some kind of method to make that work? 

A: Actually I do not. I just play around with the rhythm and different deliveries or vocal styles.

J: It comes naturally. Every time, we do the song, I don’t know how, but it did. 

A: It just happens.

So it’s a question of chemistry. 

Both: Right.

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