Graydance – Jarkko Virta: Rock music will never fade away

Graydance is the Finnish rock band formed in Lohja in 1997. The music of the group is influenced by grunge, rock, and progressive genre. The sound is based on true emotions, and varies from hard rock songs to ethereal ballads.

After playing cover songs from their favorite bands, such as Stone Temple Pilots, Screaming Trees, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains, Radiohead, Life of Agony, the band realised that they have ambition and passion to write songs of their own.

Since then, Graydance have been active all the time, releasing two LPs (“All Under the Rose Above” 2015, “WideAwake” 2009) and EPs (“Away From This Moment” 2012, “Care less, Hurt less” 2005, “Like A May Morning” 2004, “Choose Any Road” 2003, “Drowning” 2002, “Beautiful” 2001, “Bruised” 2000, “Tyypit (demo)” 1999. Most of the gigs have been played in southern Finland, but the band has also tasted the atmosphere of some international stages in Germany and Hungary.

Nowadays, after twenty years of composing and playing a great number of gigs, the band is working on a new material, according to the band’s frontman Jarkko Virta.

You’ve already released two singles as an intro for a new album. Is there a plan for releasing an EP, first?

Yeah, we have been discussed whether we release an EP or a full album. We decided to release the full album, because we are such an „old school“ guys. We also have to make some CDs. I like to have the music digital, but having CD is something more concrete.

We still have plans to do the third video before the releasing of an album, but the artist who is supposed to work with us is so busy nowadays, and he haven´t got time enough to do it. I hope it will be possible this autumn. We already recorded and mixed 4 songs earlier, but the corona situation changed our plans badly. Now, we continued with the work, and all the drums are recorded. Also, guitars for 2 tracks are ready. Graydance always takes too long to complete the record.That’s a shame, in my opinion. One day, a guy from Tampere said that we are the Finnish Tool – always has to wait the eternity to make a new album.  I agree with him.

Graydance live – Geislingen, 2018, with Erkki Virta

Since 1997, you were playing cover songs, from Stone Temple Pilots,  Screaming Trees, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains, and then started to write your own songs. Is that fact considered to become the birth of Graydance? And what happened next, in the music history of the band?

Yeah, first, we started to play covers of Alice in Chains. We were huge fans of the band with guitar player Jukka. We also had a few gigs playing those songs, but the line up was different then. Soon, we took material of other favourite bands, and the group started to get near to „Graydance“. So, we started to write own music quite soon. First demo tape was released 1998, and the band was called „Tyypit“ .The name came from “ Tyypit plays Alice in Chains”. What a stupid name, indeed! So, the first demo went really well, and it was broadcasted on the radio.. The first single called “Bruised” came somewhere in 2000. We did that for the first time in a  good studio, and the line up was almost same as today. Then, we continued making EP’s and singles almost every year. Next one was “Beautiful”. That was released by „Saturnus Records“. That was biggest hit for us. We sold 500 copies from hand to hand, and played great gigs at that time. Also, visited Germany for first time. Next one, was “Drowning” single which was a duet with present Amorphis singer Tomi Joutsen. It was great, indeed. We were really happy to work with Tomi as a singer. Actually, he was first drummer of the band when we started. Then we made one more EP before our full length album – Wideawake. It was self published. We write it quite long time, and our formal bass player quit playing in the band, at that time. It was a hard time, and almost an end of the Graydance story. We were glad that we found great musician Ipi Kiiskinen from, our region. He actually saved the band, and I’m still happy about it. And what a cheerfull guy he is! Also, a good sing, and that fact what was a bonus for the band. At that time we had little children, from the band memeber,s and activity was not so good any more. We still made few gigs every year, but not as much as before.. Most of the gigs were in Germany where I have friend who organize the festivals. We also started to do acoustic sets which were mixture of our own music and the bands we loved. We never have been playing any rock classics, and never wanted to be a cover band. That still holds. On of the favourites has been Radiohead. Second alum was released 2015. and its called ”All Under The Rose Above”… what a name Monster! So, nothing much happened after that, but making new songs and few gigs every year. The quys from band are quite busy all the time so it’s hard to find the time for the music. That’s pity, because chemistry works so beautifully with us.

Photo: Minna Granö

Can you introduce to us your mates and musicians from Graydance? How would you describe each of them?

Yeah of course!

So, I´m Jarkko Virta, the lead singer of the band. Earlier, I also played guitar and acoustic guitar, when we had only 4 members. Nowadays, I only sing because i´m a lousy guitar player. When I was younger, I also played bass guitar in Finnish band called Protected Illusion. I have studied classical singing for about 14 years. I can say that’s quite hard, after singing Rock music. I had to practice that style from point zero… I have done some great operet productions in Finland, as a member of choir. My voice is bass baritone. I am very emotional while I´m singing. That’s what i love!

Lead guitarist is Jukka Veiksola. We had our first band together, 4 years before Graydance was formed. Jukka is a great player and composer. He composes basicly 80% of the band music. Jukka have several musical projects. He is playing in Turbonegro cover band called Bi-Bubba Lula & The Shemale Babies. He also plays in new death metal band called Death Talks. They are negotiating a record deal, right now. Jukka also plays band called Chatty manatee, etc…Jukka directed most of our music videos. With him we have a promisse that we’ll never stop playing together. He always knows the songs and riffs, even if we hadn´t played the song in 5-6 years.

Rhytm guitarist is Niklas Granö. Niklas is my old school mate. We met while studying and we formed punk band, back in days. Quite soon, I’ve  found out how the great guy he is. We asked him to join the Graydance and he agreed, of course. Niklas also have a doom metal project. He built amplifires, guitars and pedals by himself. His profession is a Doctor of psychology. Great company always, and I´m so glad that we found him.

Bass player is Ipi Kiiskinen. He has been in the band for 15 years. Ipi is a great multi-instrumentalist, also a great singer. He brought so much to the band. Ipi’s other band is called Wasara. They were quite popular in Finland when they were active. Ipi also plays in Chatty Manatee. He is the one who always kicks  our butts when we can´t have anything ready! Great mucisian and a friend. Ipi is also composing some songs for the band.

The drummer is Esa Alavillamo. Esa is allso multi-instrumentalist. He can play anything. Esa and his wife formed a Duo,  and that’s their profession – to play gigs in the weddings, etc. They allso have band called Corebaroque. They have released one record and they have really unique style. Esa is allso playing in his wife’s band called Elina Valkea. They make finish pop music. I met Esa allso while i was studying, but he came for the band 2 years before Niklas. So, the 3 of us went to same school.

How things work between all of you, music wise? Do you have a good creative interaction in the band?

Yes, we have great chemistry. Normally, Jukka brings new song, or riffs in the rehersals, and we just start to play it. He also brings ready demo for the rehersal, so it’s really easy to make it done. Some of the songs are really difficult to have the right form. There might be four different version of the song, before it has been recorded. It´s great that we have 3 good singers, nowadays. It brings a lot more, when it comes to the songs. Nowadays, we don’t see each other so often, so when we have time to play, we use it really well. Of course, there is still allways time for the bad humor. That’s in what we are experts! When we have rehersal, guys usually brings a lot of new ideas.

The energy and chemistry is very important if you want to have a great band. Of course, you have to have good songs.You can feel the atmosphere if it´s real or fake. Also, you have to have respect for all of your band mates. There has to be the leader, but I think it’s good to hear everybody. Also, we are lucky that we are such a good friends. We like to hang out together, outside of the band.. For me, the main point is that the band is Unit. Not just a buch of well playing dudes. It’s important that everybody have the same goal.

Photo: Konrad Flegr

While listening to Graydance, I got the notion that your music reflects strong emotions. Talking about rock genre as a movement back in the days, it represented a Belief.  It was a State of mind. It seems that people today forget how to express their emotions towards the world. From that point, do you think that Rock lost its true meaning? Is there a hope for the rock music, in general?

It might be possible that the meaning is hazy in these times, but Rock music will never fade away. Thats for sure. There will be always good new rock bands, even if most of them are not so good…  The process of listening to the music changed so much in the past 10 years. Spotify wants to have new songs all the time, and their opinion is that album is a dead format. I disagree with that. If you make a good album it will last forever, but if there is only singles, they will fade away. Of course, youngsters disagree on that! All they want is a playlists, and don’t even know the names of the artists, anymore. That’s sad.

There is always hope for the Rock music as long as there are good Albums! My favourite latest are Katatonia „City Burial“ and Sinisthra album „The Broad And beaten Way“. Both, great albums!

Jarkko Virta

In this almost faceless world, where people often lose theirselves while chasing the money, is it hard for an Artist? From your perspective, as a creative being, do you sometimes need to make some compromises, or do you believe that you have to fight for your artistic freedom?

I never make compromises. Playing in the band, we never earn enough money. The salary from the gigs we’ve allways used for the next recordings, or Germany tours. I also make operet projects all over the Finlland, but there are so many people involved in it, so  I´m like a volunteer. I do that because i love to sing live.

The artist freedom will stay on, as long as I sing. There is always a new great Graydance song that I love the most, and that’s the salt of whole thing! Actually, now there is 2 songs.. Hahhaaa…

Photo: Johanna Muukkonen

What art inspires you the most, besides music?

Operet productions. It is about mixing classical singing and acting. It’s really great work of art. I like it more than Operas, where people only sing. In Operets there is also a dialog included. I have a possibility to work with greatest classical singign stars in Finland, so I really enjoy that. We have done some Operets of Lehar(Paganini), Kálmán and Strauss (Night in Venice). Of course, that’s music also, but so much different that making gigs with the Rock Band.

Chatty Manatee payed a beautiful tribute to Scott Weiland, and you also took a part in it. The song is called „Stone Revolver“. Graydance’s story is partly based on 90-s grunge music..  What are your favorite music artist ever? What music do you like personally, and which bands and performers inspires you the most?

I´m glad that you find that Chatty song! The lyrics are taken from the songs of Stone Temple Pilots and Velevet Revolver. That’s why it’s called „Stone revolver“. Weiland was one of my all time favourites, with Layne Staley.  Graydance is very much influensed by grunge music. One of my favourite genres… Besides, I love so much the older progressive rock music.

My alltime favourite bands are:

Marillion, Alice in Chains, Anathema, Tool,Genesis, Faith no More, Screaming trees, Radiohead, etc…….

Lohja offers good bands and musicians. You already played a tour with many bands, such as Sinnisthra, who are active after a long time break. What can you say about Lohja’s music scene, in general?

There are lots of great bands in our area. Of course, the same guys play in different line ups, but still… I don´t know if there is any new bands, besides rap musicians and those who make electric music. We had plans to make gigs with Sinisthra and the Enchained last spring,  but we had to cancel it because of the corona virus. We will try to organise it again in december, if the situation gets better. All the musicians are friends, and respect each other. No envy between the bands.  In our rehersal room there are 5-6 diffrent line ups playing.

In your opinion, what is the main essence that makes Finnish music so creatively unique?

Maybe we have good sense of melody and drama. Also, we are gloomy and quiet people. It is a good thing, especially when it comes to metal music genre. We don’t try to please anybody. We just make what sounds good for us!

Cover photo at Schloss Hohenzollern: Erkki Virta

http://www.graydance.net/

Discography:

“All Under the Rose Above” LP 2015.

“Far Away From This Moment” EP 2012.

“WideAwake” LP 2009.

“Care Less, Hurt Less” EP 2005.

“Like A May Morning” EP 2004.

“Choose Any Road” EP 2003.

“Aubades After Dark” EP Compilation Album 2003.

“Drowning” EP 2002.

“Beautiful” EP 2001 (Saturnus Records SATCD04)

“Bruised” EP 2000.

“Tyypit” demo 1997.

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