J T LEHTONEN

This week I am doing a Inverse Records interview special. If you haven’t checked out the quality metal this Finnish label brings us now is the time. I present to you J T LEHTONEN. Anders Ekdahl ©2017

What fascinates me is how you can still come up with new combinations of chords to make new songs and sounds that have not been heard before. What is it that fascinates you into coming up with new songs and albums?
-I’m glad, that you have noticed that important point (for me) in my songs; I really have been tried to make songs, that does not sound like some other band. But that comes almost automatically, first I’ve tried to make a good guitar riff that is suitable for core of the song. After that everything comes just like that. If there has been some parts that brings some other song or band on my mind, I’ve been rejected them immediately. Sometimes by changing some parts from major to minor has been enough, for example in “Day After Day” in solo. First it sounded like Hotel California by Eagles!
Where the combinations of chords comes is hard to say, but for me, I think that exactly that is the fuel of making music. Making songs that are a little bit of surprising in a good way, is many times the big goal to achieve for me. Unfortunately, it is also a bad feature in commercial music because it takes many times to listen before you get into it. Many people have told me that those songs are for musicians. Maybe so, but making something new is the thing that fascinates me the most!

How is this new recording different from the previous? How do you take your sound one step further?
-Well, this was my first album, but there is lots of music that waits for recording and they belong to the same category. All tracks have been recorded in downstairs of my garage and by amateur; me. Drumtracks in four songs are recorded by Risto Niska. He is almost pro and he also mastered the album. So the sound of the album comes from me and to take one or more steps further, I have to let the professionals do the mixing.

When you write songs about the topics you do what kind of reactions do you get? How important is it to have a message in your lyrics? What kind of topics do each song deal with? Is there a red thread to the songs?
-I have to say, that I am so poor of making lyrics! They are very important part of the music but the most difficult part for me. At the first place, the album was meant to be “for my and my friends ears only”. So I didn’t focus to the lyrics too much. Many people have been asked that “when I can listen the album from Spotify?” so I decided to put it to Spotify. I sent the album to Jaakko (Inverse records) and after that he said that it would be wise to make some promotion and here we are; People around the world can listen metal music where some guy is singing about building a house!
Still there is a real message in a few songs; Evil Mind, You’re wrong, Never Give Up, Newsflash, Seeking and Liar. Other songs are just stories about something, from my life or somebodys I know. There is no any kind of link between the songs, they are all individual songs. If you are interested of more detailed description, please feel free to ask!
However, at first I always finished the songs with instruments and then I took a few weeks by tasting the songs and tried to figure out the nature of the song. Somehow I managed to find topics and started to write lyrics. I got also help from Mika Aalto to couple of songs but the topic was given by me.

Whenever I think of you I cannot help wandering off to different bands. What bands/sounds do you indentify with?
-My musical parents were Van Halen and Stray Cats, strange couple I guess, but really they gave me the spark of starting to play guitar more seriously. Even now I like the sound on Van Halen (Van Halen-1984) a lot! Bright and dense distortion guitar is my favorite guitar sound and I like use same kind of sound in my guitars also. Guitar sounds on the album are little bit darker due to lower tuning and doubled guitars.
Biggest influences to my playing comes from Edward Van Halen, Brian Setzer, Steve Vai, Steve Morse, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsten and Randy Rhoads. Currently I listen lots of different players but I’m so old now, that I feel that I can’t learn anything new anymore.
Bands, I like to listen now are: Dream Theater, Rush, Von Herzen Brothers (They all have strange structures in they songs. I like!), Suburban Tribe and Foo Fighters with excellent sounds.

How did you go about choosing art work for this new album? What was important to have in it?
-I believe, that you don’t have the physical album? The following may be difficult to understand without it. If you would like to have one, please let me know, f.e. via Inverse records. I’ll send it to you.
The cover picture was the main reason why cover art is what it is. I was already recorded few songs for the album and because I made some music for slot machines in my work, our internal “newspaper” wanted to make a story of it. So interviewer and a photographer came to my studio and the photographer took about thousand pictures and one of them was that picture in front of the album. That picture is the only picture of me that is even close to good picture. Original plan was to put the drawing from backcover to front but the picture changed the plans.
Also I wanted to share same feelings with other musicians on that album by putting their pictures with. This was the first “real” album for everybody else, except for Mika “Gas Lipstick” Karppinen.
The art desinger Anna Salminen from my work made the hard work with my specs and she wanted to hear the album before work. I think the mood of the Cover Art is quite good, not too abstract, if any. Gives a bit different understanding of the artist than the music itself. Theme fits with the “surprising” music. I’ve been satisfied, somebody else may think otherwise.

Something that scares me a bit is this I hear from more and more bands that they aren’t that bothered with art work anymore because people today download rather than buy physical. To me the whole point is to have art work that matches the music. I don’t know how many times I’ve been disappointed by weak art work to an otherwise cool album. What’s your opinion on this subject?
-I think you’re just right. The music does not tell you everythig of the artist or of the album. Art work somehow fills some holes and brings more complete package and tells you something more around the album. Besides, it is very interesting to look, read and feel things beyond the music while listening the album.

How do you come up with song titles? What do they have to have to fit the songs?
-I think, that the title should be as close as possible to the “conclusion or summary of the song”. Usually it is some word or sentence from the lyrics, specially from chorus. It helps, if the title sounds good and punchy but not necesserily. But that is only my opinion and I’ve tried to make my songtitles with those rules.

I use Spotify and Deezer but only as compliment to buying CDS (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when you’re out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
-The physical album is an artistic set, which gives people a lot more than the pure music. I believe and hope, that your fear is needless! Even old vinyl record is coming back, it has bigger cover and some old school listeners thinks that they sound better. It is lot easier to listen what ever you want when ever you want allright, but to own a copy is lot cooler. It gives a feeling that the artist himself has been given it to you.
But also releasing music digitally, gives whole differerent opportunities for artistis. To break big time, it needs only good music and some information. Quality of music is getting better, because all music available does not come from the same mold. So currently I have no real worries in these issues.

How much of a live band are you? How important is playing live?
-I’ve played hundreds of gigs but the songs of my album is a different story. I’ve played live few songs from the album only once. Usually I am only guitar player and singing only in chorus, but with those songs I should play and sing lead at the same time. However, we have a band (trio) now, with same players that performs also on the album. They can handle songs easily but for me it has been real Via Dolorosa. And there is also difficulties to sound good enough; I’ve played/sung everything on the album except drums and bass. So we should have at least three more singing guitarplayers and one singing keyboardplayer to sound even close to album.
Even so, we are going to fit most of the songs for trio and go play live.

What lies in the future?
-Now I am finalizing a music video from song “Seeking”. It is cutted mostly from clips of authentic recording sessions. Also there is professional video artist making some more artistic videos of some songs as we speak. I don’t know how long time it takes but this first “selfmaid” video is almost ready. I believe that it is in the youtube in this month (July).
Also, going to play live is one of our plan.
Not going to record own music for couple of years but I’m doing it for some other bands.
If not speaking of music, I am raising two kids, Sami and Anni, with my wife Netta and I am still building that same damn house, I mentioned in Day After Day.

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