Interview with a Wild Boy Hannu Lepistö (12.11.2012)

I was thinking if I should share it here, but I simply cannot live without music. That’s why with this post, I decided to stop keeping this blog too personal and spread those white crows of mine. This is the last one – an interview I made when I still have been a part of music website I partly created.  I made it with a person worth listening, following and respecting: Hannu Lepistö. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

1.  You come from the small village of Hausjärvi. You achived so much being a normal guy that has to work hard instead of taking everything the easy way. How do you see your career with no history of a boy from a big city? And what do you think about all the artists that get it so easy?
No artist can get anything easy,  no matter where one is from. Music is calling, passion and curse and Life. 🙂 At least to me it is, well I’m a Singer-Songwriter. 🙂 One has to have an urge to play, write and rehearse constantly.  No easy way for anyone.  Musical talent helps in the beginning.
There were also benefits to living in a small place.  Not so much competition at school with your instrument, mine were drums, so I had the opportunity to perform much – and at high school era we were “living” in the music class. Skipped classes (whenever it was free and booked it after school and jammed and played with my band mates then. My lead-guitarist Petteri Mard was my real partner in musical crime 🙂 already back then, as well. And when we were good enough and our demos were good enough, we got some gigs in Helsinki as well and near cities.  No matter where we were from. But of course we all moved to Helsinki after High School to go universities etc.
And then, after compulsory military service, we formed The Matt Pistol Project (tMPP) and my big brother came in and a new drummer (they already lived in Helsinki), so we continued the hard work and became better. And logistic-wise it was easier to Helsinki’s rock clubs and generated little buzz among labels and agencies as well.

2. Music was always a part of your life. Also your brother was playing piano. It was kind of obvious for you to go in this direction in your life. But what was that precise moment when you decided to make music the most important thing in your life?
The most breathtaking mind-blowing experiences for me as a kid were seeing the documentary of Hanoi Rocks, Elvis “rock’n’roll” era movies, and The Boss’s Born In The USA and other great albums bro brought home. when I was about five. Of course, I was irritated and bored of my big brother Markku’s constant, mostly classical, piano playing and my father’s (vicar) voice practice and hymns. And I swore then when they practised ,  “I don’t ever want to be involved in music!” Well the rock’s energy, looks and totally different opposite attitude and compellingness left a stain to me. And here I am now. 🙂

3. You’ve been listening to great music by Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash or Dire Straits to mention a few. You’re also called the Finnish answer for artists like Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen. These are great names in music industry. Were they all an inspiration for you or do you have other influences?
Of course, all these great artists and bands you mentioned, but there are so many influences for me, from country, to hip-hop, to rock, to metal – every genre rocks  🙂 – it is just a matter of the songs. One has to see beyond the production,  it’s the songs that count ,to me. But to define me best maybe: I’m an alternative genre-bending singer-songwriter rocker. 🙂
Influences other than music: life, death, love, relationships, guilt, mercy, people’s stories, ladies, bible, God, angels, existence, and of course a post-modern view so everything I see/read/interpret:   I look through my eyes and experience things my own way, so my life and the roller coaster ride it is and has been, inspire me the most, although in writing process I tend to write the lyrics bit more universal and not so personal…

4. How does it look like from your perspective in Finnish music community: do you know any other artist or band in a friendly way or you don’t keep contacts with one another? Also I’d like to ask if you know any musician from other country in Scandinavia?
Oh, yeah indeed – I know lot of Finnish artists and players in friend basis, as well. And like on my debut EP, there is players, producers and friends from USA/Sweden; Messers Blair and ‘Rockis’ Ivarsson. And on my soon to be released debut LP there are Blair and Rockis, as well, and there is Canadian female backing vocalist. Won’t reveal her name yet. 🙂 And via Reverbnation – I’ve become friends with lots of great artists around the world. One of my most best friend there, Mr. James Ferris, passed away while ago, so lot of love and hugs to Texas to his partner my dear friend, Patty. And
I’ve been very ill during (now recovered well from the depression etc.) this year (and now 24/7 working on the album), so want to apologize to my dear musician and other friends that You are on my mind and I love You all,  although I’ve been quiet and living low.

5. During high school you’ve been playing drums in several bands. What made you decide to leave drums and becoming a solo musician playing guitar?
I felt like I could write better songs and wanted to be more in charge. And when we were at studio with the band prior tMPP – I had started to write and sing. So  I sang the melody of one of my songs as a reference to our vocalist and then the recording-and mixing engineer praised my voice and tone. That gave me lot of courage to continue on this path.
Maybe not a smart move from engineer considering our vocalist who had just started to record the final vocals to the song. But to me personally it meant a lot and one of the sparks on this path I’m.

6. Before you became known as Hannu Lepisto, you’ve been playing in The Matt Pistol Project that made you recognizable as a musician. When you look at the past what do you think make you different now, once you’re a solo artist than when you’ve been a part of a band?
Freedom artistically, don’t have to make too much compromises. Will be able to play with different great players and not be stuck on “the same band sound”.  Though I’m very happy with my living/versatile band and the steady members my new bassist Tuomas Kuusniemi, Petteri, Markku, still secret female backing singer 🙂 and huge legends Michael Blair and Rockis, and as well few other top-notch players; and I’ve really wanted to bring their magic and they’ve gone even more far with the craziness production- and soundwise.  Which is great!

7. Apart from being a musician, you’ve studied Theology in the University of Helsinki and you’ve got a Master’s degree in this subject. What made you choose this direction in education?
I wanted an easy way to get to Uni and continue concentrating on music. 🙂  Well, I’ve always been very interested about religions, philosophy, Christianity. And as a son of a Lutheran priest – the religion was always big part of our lives and in “safe” Low-Christianity/ way.  Bishops, etc. visited our home, so religion/Christianity was normal part of life while growing up.  And religion as a school subject was very easy to me.  But no I’m not a master of Theology – but just a thesis away.  Concentrating fully on music now. Got good memories of Uni and it was great to learn how to read New Testament/Novum in its original written language Koine Greek. Gives lot more out of it.

8. Your debut EP “Run Away With Me” consists of songs that tell a story of what you’ve been through since The Matt Pistol Project split up. You wrote songs about your journey from divorce to your addictions; to your knocks at heaven’s door and finding new love in your life.  Was it hard to share such personal emotions to others in your songs?
The writing was actually therapeutic, had really rough times then with everything. I believe when You write from the heart, it touches lot of and people and people’s lives. One can relate. We all got so much shit on our shoulders. Music is a consolating thing and bringing hope as well, and everyone listens and interprets it and the lyrics their own way. Oh, and finding the new love in my life brought me hope and solutions that I’m still alive and feeling now better than ages and pushing 110% to bring you guys new music. Been a long road but rewarding at the end! Life is a gift and one-time experience.

9. You recorded your EP under Homeward Records, Oy label. Do you think it was helpful for you or – because you always wanted the best and got the best – you think it would be easier to be your own boss, your own producer?
Well, I am my own boss and the label have given me free hands, concerning everything which is reasonable financially and everything musicwise. And by the way I am the head producer of the coming long play album that I’m now working on! That artistic freedom is a great advance when signed to a small label.

10. Now, when your dream came true, do you think about conquering Europe with your music or you’re concentrated on Finland?
I would like to conquer the whole world. 😉 That’s one reason I sing and write in English.

11. And last question: is there anything you would like to share with Black Water Project readers?
My forthcoming album’s title is “Have A Beautiful Life” – not publicly announced – so You are among the first ones to hear the title, 🙂  It would be great if You’d listen to it and if you like what You hear, please buy it and spread the word!
And I want to thank You for finding and featuring me. This has been joy and an honor!  Keep following the cool Black Water Project, and most importantly, take care, everyone!

Thank you, Hannu.
Thank you, my pleasure. 🙂