Interview By Ville Krannila / October 2012
The second coming of PriestOne in 2011 and 2012 has been nothing short of spectacular with legendary shows both in Helsinki and Turku sealing the band’s now familiar reputation as one of the premier Judas Priest tribute acts in the world.
The group has been active for nearly 10 years but re-shaped itself recently with only guitarist Jukka Pentti (Downforce) remaining from the previous line-up. Band’s founder and former drummer Jari Asell stepped back into shadows now mostly helping the band. Nowadays the presence two vocal giants Taage Laiho (Kilpi) and OP Kärki (Downforce, Heartbreakers, The Coverslaves) brilliantly complements guitarists Seppo Kolehmainen (Dreamtale) and Pentti (Downforce), with bassist Heikki Ahonen (Dreamtale) and drummer Arto Pitkänen (ex-Dreamtale) rounding out the cast.
After group’s recent gigs in Helsinki’s On The Rocks and Turku’s Klubi, Steel Mill discussed the band’s inner workings, recent activities and future.
You have now played three concerts together with this line-up. How do you feel the chemistry of the band is shaping up?
Jukka: It’s unbelievable how quickly and smoothly everything has happened. From an idea getting a group of talented musicians together to form a JP tribute band to our first concert took less than three months!
Without right chemistry and everyone’s professional approach to this project it wouldn’t have been possible. Also there’s one especially important person behind the project – Jari Asell. Without his help and personal contact to Judas Priest this certainly would have not happened. He even allowed us to use the name “PriestOne” which I think is one of the best possible names for a JP tribute band!
Seppo: Chemistry of the band is very good. For me it was of course very easy to join the band because Jukka was the only member I didn’t know before. Olli and Arto are my former band mates from Ruinside and Dreamtale and I also play with Heikki in Dreamtale.
Heikki: Very well. I personally already knew almost all the players before we formed the current line-up, Jukka is the only member with whom I haven’t worked before. We all have the same attitude and the
feeling about how things should be done. Using two lead singers seems to be a great idea.
OP: Chemistry at the moment is working brilliantly; the only downside is there’s just not enough gigs to play. The band is hungry!
Taage: In my opinion the chemistry is great and I see great future with this line-up.
Arto: The band already feels so great, and we have only got three shows behind us! We are improving together and I’m really looking forward to new gigs! And we also get along, which is nice…
How much practice did it take to get everyone settled in with this set list?
Jukka:Everybody practiced their own parts at home and it took surprisingly short time to get everything sounding good – excluding our first rehearsal – it was so horrible that I didn’t sleep that night at all.
Taage: For me it’s more like doing my “homework”, mainly because I live in other city than rest of the guys. But we’ve had band rehearsal before each show.
OP: The whole package came together within few months. In fact Seppo, Heikki and Arto had the songs mapped out in just two months.
Heikki: We sat down for the first time about two months before the first show. There was quite a lot home work since we only had a few rehearsals together before the very first show.
Seppo: It required not too many rehearsals but very much homework.
Arto: That’s the great thing about this band; all musicians have played in different groups for many years. We have trained less than ten times together, so not too many rehearsals that’s for sure! (Only the untalented need to rehearse anyway, haha). But like I told you before, we need more shows since that is the way the band really comes together. You never learn how to perform during rehearsals; rehearsals are the place where you check all the notes are in place. Rest of it happens in front of a live audience.
What “gear” are the players currently using?
Guitars: ’84 Hamer Vector “K.K.”
Seppo: At the moment I use Capararison Delliger II guitar. Amplification is handled by Axe Fx II preamp and Marshall poweramp. Who knows what gear I’m going to be using tomorrow.
Heikki: In a nut shell: A custom P-bass through SansAmp pre amp / SWR power amp / MesaBoogie 4×12 powerhouse cabinet.
Arto: Drums Pearl EXR basic set, consisting 3 toms, bass drum and snare. Cymbals vary between Paiste, Meinl and Zildjian. Sticks always Vic Firth 7A.
Question for the singers: Singing the songs originally done by the Metal God himself isn’t the easiest thing in the world. How do you get your voice up to shape and do you try to emulate the famous screams or rather interpret them with your own style?
OP: I’ve tried to respect Rob’s original style of performing through my own voice. I was surprised how well my vocals fitted in with Priest’s music, which is very demanding.
Taage: When the voice is in good shape I`m able to reach basically every scream but copying..? I don’t think so. Singers voice is quite a personal thing so I think that it`s more like own style for every singer.
Similar question for guitarists: how closely do you follow the famous guitar leads for example?
Jukka:I try to play K.K.’s guitar leads and licks as accurately as I can. I take my guitar and play along with Priest’s live and studio albums and watch their concert videos trying to capture the sound, the vibe and K.K.’s playing style.
Seppo: I try to practice the songs the way they were composed but when I’m playing live I always mix in something of my own. In the first shows I’ve been making a bit too many compromises but I’m planning to be more “faithful” during the future shows 🙂
How about drum parts, how do you approach playing the songs originally done by different drummers with very different drum styles? Priest fans are often conservative expecting the exact replication of drum parts for example in songs like “Desert Plains?”
Arto: As a drummer I try to respect the original parts, but never replicate them exactly. Everyone has their own playing style and you also must have freedom to interpret. I want to respect the idea of the song and always look at the bigger picture. Some songs like “Desert Plains” I have changed a bit to fit my own drumming style. These are always matters of taste, and people can argue them till the end of the world. Unfortunately you cannot please everyone, but I’m trying my best!
What’s the hardest Priest song to play live? Which one took most work to get done?
Taage: “Freewheel Burning” and “Painkiller.” There are lots of high notes and little time to get your air..
OP: “Rock Hard Ride Free” is the hardest, because forming certain syllables in that required high pitched voice is extremely hard…….”they´ll never put us down.”
Heikki: There are lots of things going on during the “Painkiller”. So the whole package needs to be tight and precise. A song like that will easily sound very messy and blurry if you’re sloppy.
Seppo: “The Sentinel”
Arto: All the songs are difficult. The hardest thing is to make them sound like Priest, because that feeling is so unique. That is exactly why Priest has always been one of the greatest; very few bands can generate such a special feeling. And huh, their catalogue is pretty extensive so there are plenty of songs to choose from! But maybe the toughest songs to play are the simple rockers, because “less is more” and tracks like “Painkiller” are demanding technically. So I have my work cut out! I think the rest of the band agrees, no matter what instrument you are playing, you have to work hard!
How do you feel PriestOne has evolved in this year?
Jukka:From the first rehearsals to latest gig there’s a huge improvement. Our performance has become more relaxed and we really enjoy being on stage.
OP: PriestOne is a complete concept, which is now fully operating and evolving through our concerts.
Arto: I think the only way is up and we are constantly reaching for something better…
How about your other bands? What can we expect from Dreamtale, Kilpi and Downforce next?
Jukka:Downforce are going to change their set lists completely and add lots of new songs from various bands and artists. Even keyboards may be seen on stage in the future.
OP: Yes, Downforce are reshaping their set list and plans to tour more!
Taage: Kilpi is planning a new album and getting ready to celebrate its 10 years anniversary next year 2013.
Heikki: Dreamtale is working on the next album. It will be out in the early 2013. We’ll also have a small tour in Russia in November 2012.
If you could add any song to the PriestOne set, which would it be and why?
Jukka: “Blood Red Skies” –I have some really reckless memories from wild nights and hot crazy days in the summer of 1990 heading out to the highway in my 440 cid ’72 Dodge Charger and ramming it down, four barrels of Holley carburator wide open, running wild and breaking the law! Cassette player cranked up I was listening to and singing along with “BRS”.
OP: “Turn On Your Light.” It’s a positive sounding ballad..
Taage: This is a very difficult question because there are way too many great songs to choose…but let’s say “Evening Star” for example.
Heikki: “Blood Red Skies.” Simply a great tune!
Seppo: “Hell Patrol” would be a nice song to play.
Arto: I let the others make the choices, I’m just happy to play the songs!
And if you had to pick one Priest album over the others, what would your choice be?
Jukka:“Screaming for Vengeance” is very important album for me. It really turned me into a huge Priest fan in the early eighties.
OP: “Defenders Of The Faith”
Taage: “Defenders Of The Faith” because it was the first Priest album I bought for myself.
Heikki: ”Screaming for Vengeance”
Seppo: Definitely “Painkiller”
Do you have plans to cut some studio versions of Priest classics with the band?
Jukka: We haven’t been talking about this but you never know how things are rolling though…
OP: Not at the moment but thanks for the idea!
Arto: I hope so! That’s an excellent way to rehearse as well and surely improves the band’s playing. The future is open!
What is the most memorable gig that you’ve played and what made it great?
OP: Our first show, that’s when everything came together.
Arto: All the shows have been memorable, maybe the last one was the best musically. I think the best concert is yet to come, though.
Heikki: I think the last show in Turku was awesome. The venue is good and the crowd was great.
One thing separates Priestone from other tributes – rotating vocal and front man duties during the live show. How did you decide which song each of you would actually sing and did it present a challenge to the band, how to approach playing the tracks?
OP: I had already picked few favourites before Taage came along and he also found his songs easily. Skilled musicians played the songs faithfully and also took notice of the live versions available.
Taage: We made our own choices basically…
Heikki: There were no such difficulties. I think Taage and Olli would do a great job no matter what songs they’d be singing. 🙂
Any final words for the readers of Steel Mill?
Heikki: What can I say..It’s really an honor to play these songs with these guys. Keep up the faith!
Taage: Keep the faith, so this great Judas Priest legacy will keep on living forever.
OP: We will keep the flame burning here in cold North, the flame that the Priest music ignited in us. Be the guardians of the flame and join us in our shows! Keep The Faith!
Arto: Keep on rockin’ and let the Priest-flame burn!!! See ya at the gig!!! Cheers!!!
Thank You! Keep playing and keep bringing PRIEST fans an excellent tribute!
More info on PriestOne: