Johanna Aaltonen (HB)
Musical Discoveries: Hello Johanna! Thank you for your time for Musical Discoveries audience. Our readers are familiar with your early production. How are you doing?
Johanna: Well, all is fine. During the summer I'm working at a switchboard but weekends are busy with HB gigs. I still had the opportunity to balance it all with some holiday. My summer was quite relaxed.
Must admit, we were quite surprised first time we listened to your new album. This is awesome. Your style is now pretty heavy metallic. How did you end up with this kind of change in your musical style with the band?
Thank you, nice to hear that (smiling). You should ask the same questions from our songwriter Antti as well. He felt these tunes are just coming up in his mind. All our band members do listen more or less the similar style, so there was no big discussion about what we’re gonna do next. Myself I was very passionate about the new singing parts, because I found them much more challenging compared to our early production.
We all have liked the music Antti has done so far. The style may change from an album to another, as we certainly did now, especially we did not want to make a copy of our previous production. It‘s interesting to see what kind of material Antti will present next. I have the feeling you will hear again some new direction and development.
Gospel bands are traditionally something else than heavy rock. Now HB is entering the same area with female voice big names such as Nightwish and Within Temptation. Do you search attention on purpose?
Well ... yes, why not? (smiling!). We are not the first ones anyway. There has been other names of heavier gospel styles on the market some time allready and HB is definitely not the heaviest at all. So from that perspective I don’t see HB beeing a first leader at all. I think our music is more love for certain kind of music all band members are fond of. All the orchestral arrangements and choir just simply belong to that. Yes, we have heard those Nightwish comments enough, sometimes in a positive way, sometimes not at all that way.
How did your audience react and has your fan base changed along with the new album?
I feel the new heavier style divides the opinions of our audience. Some medium "yes, nice listen"--comments we have not heard for long time. Either one likes us really or not at all. It's been surprising to experience all the various feedback, but of course we are sad if some of our old style fans say they never again come to our concerts. On the other hand we have attracted lots of new fans too. We believe the fan base has changed and actually increased a little bit.
How did you start your personal singing career?
My career?! Oh, you make that sound so glamorous. Hmm ... my sister and I have been a "walking jukebox" since we were kids (laughing). When thinking this, I found that I have always been singing. Allready in the primary school I participated the choir and several kind of events that time. When I was 14 years old, I took singing lessons provided by our local church. Last autumn I started private singing lessons in Jyväskylä city where I live.
To sing in a band was my interest since school times. The guys from HB were the ones I joined and in the beginning we played mainly in the events provided by church and adressed to young people of same age. But really as HB we started 2002 when we participated a local band competition with our songs. We did not win, but got the second place anyway.
How do train your own instrument, your voice?
My own singing lessons require other stuff than HB songs of course. With HB we haven't actually been at rehersals at all. Earlier we definitely had more training together. Nowadays every band member have taken care of their own area and playing on their own time and then we just play the gigs.
A listener can experience strong feelings along the songs and their lyrics. How do you feel as singer? Are you feeling more what the lyrics say or is a performance just a "whatever-heavy-rock-show" to you?
I am a true believer. So I think this has a great influence on what I do or say on stage--the basic motivation is there anyway. In our gigs we tell about Jesus as first priority, we really don't try to be the top charts rock stars (smiling!).
On the other hand, what's wrong if you feel a bit like rock? We play rock, but some feedback still tells we are not hard enough in this style. My own feelings are with me when performing and I believe in the message I'm singing to the audience.
Who are the artists you find yourself listening to?
I don’t think I have specific idols. From an early age I can remember Elvis and Dire Straits that my father often listened to. Finnish gospel-music includes bands called The Rain and Terapia that I like very much and I'm really keen to learn more from this area.
I have to admit I have been listening a bit of Nightwish and Within Temptation, the ones we discussed earlier. HB guys also made me understand bands like Dream Theater, Rammstein and Apocalyptica and sometimes I really like to listen to those bands from the 80s, Van Halen and Bon Jovi as an example. To balance all above, Phil Collins or other pop music must be suggested for certain moments as well.
If you would not sing gospel music, then what would it be and why?
Maybe I would just be singing in the shower or to disturb friends. I cannot think of singing anything else than gospel. I feel this moment is mine. I must use the gift God gave me and use it in a way the message from Him is shared with the people.
Do you have another career outside music?
I'm still studying in Jyväskylä University. When I some day graduate with health related science, I'm keen to see what kind of career will open for me.
What do you think, do we see HB in a traditional rock festivals or do you concentrate on religious events?
So far we have participated only religious events. Last mid summer celebration we almost reached the Raumanmeri festival area, when we played in the neighbourhood. I think we do not have big chance to get in with our message really.
However, if the invitation comes we would definitely think of these opportunities. HB would love festival audience having a bit of religious thoughts and we would reach people with our music about our own faith and God.
You as HB are messengers. What kind of message you would like to give to our audience?
John 3:16, would be good base for building your life. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Thank you Johanna, our audience will certainly consider your message.
Antti Niskala (HB)
Congratulations for the great composing of Enne. Please tell us about your musical background and education.
Antti: I have had lessons with guitar and play a lot. I don’t feel I’m a virtuoso with anything, but I do play piano, bass and drums as well, which gives good base for composing and especially arranging different instruments.
From where do you get the melodies and themes?
They are in my head. I hear the melodies and sort them out for various instruments. Sometimes the ideas just do not fit, so we get together with the band and find our way with a challenging point in particular song. Enne was composed in various places; supermarket, along the simple daily work, when visiting the social security office, etc. An dea may pop up in any place. When a new idea comes up, you really find value even from your mobile phone equipped with voice recorder.
I don't feel I have created anything new with our music. Before composing any HB hymns I may listen to traditional hymns or church choirs. For gospel songs that is more stimulating than listening any pop stars. I love the idea to be free of all musical cathegories or genres when creating new songs. I have tried and made walz, techno, pop, rock, tango, even rap and so on. Of course I do listen to all kind of music, but most of all my own heart is dedicated to gospel style which you can hear from HB.
They say about blues musicians one has to be lying in a street ditch for year, before being able to make true blues. What is needed to make gospel music?
Finnish gospel music is more tied to the message than music style. Here you can hear gospel based on jenka or even heavy metal. The key point is to tell about Jesus.
So I would say here that true faith brings out lyrics, that are same time touching and have taste of life. When Holy Spirit (Bang! and next moment You are among the believers. This is our mission. I feel the credits of our work should be adressed to God, not only to HB. HB is just one of his servants and we are active in the musical area. All the Glory to God!