Stoner Kings

STONER KINGS is a band to be checked out. Michael “StarBuck” Majalahti, vocalist, songwriter answered the questions. Anders Ekdahl ©2020

Was it hard to come up with a name? What does the name mean to you? How important is it to have the right name?
– The band name was pretty easy to come up with, as all it took was the right moment and right inspiration. Back in 2000, I came across the first QOTSA release, with its Russ Meyerish dancer girl with the big boobs on the cover. I loved the look and the retro vibes, and I thought that if the band is called Queens of the Stone Age, then there must be girls in the band. I was wrong but the Stone Age part of the equation stuck with me, since I have liked prehistoric themes since I was a kid. So I thought that if there is a queen, then there must be a king. Stoner Kings was born. To us, stoner rock is about the chunky riffs and mantra-like rhythms, not about drug culture. To me, Stoner Kings means being ballsy, unapologetic and aggressive. I think it’s super important to have a catchy name, something easy to remember, for better or worse. Like Frank Sinatra said, “It doesn’t matter what they say about you, as long as they get the name right!”.

Who would say have laid the foundation for the kind of sound you have? Who are your heroes musically and what have they meant to you personally and to the sound of your band?
– Our main influences are Ad Astra-era Spiritual Beggars, Unida, early Black Sabbath, Trouble, ’90s-era Entombed and stoner rock legends like Fu Manchu and Kyuss. I’d say those are by and in large my influences for the genre, also. Sound-wise, we try to keep up with modern standards. We don’t want to sound like we’re playing in a cardboard box. I think booming drums, crunchy guitar and thick, somewhat fuzzy bass is imperative for our kind of sound.

When you play slow do you have to think differently arranging the music than if you play faster and vice versa?
– I think that playing slow is simply a question of musical aptitude. You can either play in time and with feel, or you can’t. I don’t believe it’s anything beyond that. You must be able to feel what you play, regardless of tempo. WIth age, you get better at it. When you are younger, you’re full of piss and vinegar, like we were on our 2001 debut LP, Brimstone Blues, and you only realize afterward you should have slowed the fuck down in many songs.

Will your music work in a live environment? What kind of stage environment would best suit your music; a big stage or a small club?
– Stoner Kings is a fantastic live band. We’re a show band, like an action movie on stage. It’s very easy to get into our show and lose yourself in the emotion. The size of venue doesn’t matter, it’s always the same show, the same output and effort.

It is very hard to be 100% satisfied. Everybody seems to be disappointed with something they have released. Is there something that you in hindsight would have done differently on this your latest recording?
– On this latest recording, only a couple of minute details were there originally, but they were really petty. Like I could have stretched a vocal out a bit longer or something. All in all, I am very happy with Alpha Male.

Promotion can be a bitch. Even today with all different platforms it can be hard to reach out to all those that might be interested in your music? What alleys have you used to get people familiarized with your band?
– The internet is a complete mess. Everything is so fucking monetized. You have to pay a minimum of 3000 Euros to get featured and boosted on Spotify alone. It’s ridiculous. The ROI is not there. YouTube is a jungle, and without boosting your videos, you just don’t get the reach you need. So really, it’s all up to word of mouth, how people who like your music are willing to share your songs and links themselves. It’s very difficult these days.

To me art work can be the difference between bust or success. What to you is a great front cover? What should a cover have to make it great?
– A cover must pull you in visually. There has to be some meat on the proverbial bone, something that makes you sit there and stare at it. I paint our Stoner Kings covers by hand. I’m a professional illustrator and artist and I’m very good at it. So I try to make things as visually appealing as possible.

Do you feel that you are part of a national scene? Is a local/national scene important for the development of new bands?
– In some way, we are part of the Finnish riff rock and stoner rock scene, which, granted, is very small. That said, when we broke onto the scene in 2000, we were vilified. There were many stoner rock contemporaries in Finland who looked at us like the plague of the earth. They talked shit about us and even sabotaged our chances of getting booked at certain venues whose bookers they were friends with. It was fucking unbelievable. So that is why I say that in some way we are part of the scene. Maybe not so much now, but we were looked like as a bastard child, an unwanted addition to a closed society back in the day. I do, however, believe that a healthy national scene is imperative for the spawning of new bands. You can only get ahead if someone opens doors for you.

I could just be me but I got the feeling that the live scene is not what it used to be. Could be that more and more people use the net to discover bands instead of going out and supporting new bands live. What is your experience with the live scene?
– Yes, the live scene is suffering immensely. The cost of beer alone is about 8-10€ per pint in Helsinki at the clubs. The door charge on top of that, plus coat rack, plus taxi’s or public trans, and you are looking at 100€ easily for a single night out on the town. That is too much for many people. That means they stay home, watch YouTube or listen to Spotify and drink a six-pack with friends. So it’s really become a day and age of trial and tribulation for many bands. Live shows can draw 20-30 people, or then you might be surprised to see about 150 if you are lucky.

What does the future hold?
– Only God knows!

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