Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: July 2009
Brian Rademacher: Hello Sami and Welcome to RockEyez.com thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
Sami Alho: Thank you very much! The pleasure is all mine.
Brian Rademacher: We recently reviewed your new disc "Pale Sister of Light" and it got four out of five stars. What did you think of reviews and do you read them?
Sami Alho: Yes, I read reviews and I think itís very important for a new band like FREE SPIRIT to have such great reviews like we have had with the "Pale Sister of Light" album. Of course every listener will make his/her own decision about the music, but itís more likely to attract attention among the fans if the media is accepting your music and spreading the word for you.
Brian Rademacher: Letís go back to your childhood. Describe your bedroom at home as a child? Did you have posters on the walls or anything you remember that stands out?
Sami Alho: My bedroom as a teenager was a messy place. First a Commodore 64 and a bit later an Amiga 500 were the center points of my realm alongside with my "audio headquarters" (a crappy CD/cassette player that I still have and which I use to make the ultimate test for a mix of a song).
I remember having the First Blood Part II -movie poster on the wall for a long time. It looked so cool with Sylvester Stallone posing with a bazooka in his hands and a big explosion behind him. There were also posters from artists like BON JOVI, IRON MAIDEN and many others. I remember that I use to change band posters quite often.
Brian Rademacher: What kind of kid were you in high school?
Sami Alho: I guess I was a bit of a bad-ass. I never had any difficulties to pass a course even though I never did any home work or studied for exams. I just listened to what the teacher had to say and got all the needed information. That gave me the opportunity to spend most of my time in high school just hanging with my friends. I guess some of the teachers were pissed off because I was just hanging around and still managed to get quite good numbers. And I never cheated!
Brian Rademacher: Were you in the church choir or school chorus?
Sami Alho: No. Bad-asses wonít do that!
Brian Rademacher: What did you do with your friends after school?
Sami Alho: We hung out at each otherís places, playing with computers, listening to music and reading dirty magazines. Internet and mobile phones were somewhere in the far future, so basically we gathered together and tried to figure out what to do next and how to attract girls.
Brian Rademacher: Did you collect anything as a young kid?
Sami Alho: I liked to build scale models. I had many ships, airplanes, cars etc. and I spent hours building and painting them. At some point I had a nice collection, but unfortunately most of them met their destiny when me and my friends figured out that itís so cool to blow up scale models with fire crackers. It was a great hobby. I wish I had the time to start building those models again.
Brian Rademacher: What was the first CD, cassette or record you bought?
Sami Alho: It was either AC/DC "Blow Up Your Video" or IRON MAIDEN "Seventh Son of the Seventh Son". I donít remember exactly which one came first, but I remember that one of these was the first record I bought myself with my own money.
Brian Rademacher: How about the first concert you ever attended?
Sami Alho: When I was a little kid a group called DINGO was very popular in Finland. I had a chance to go to their gig when my big sister went to see them with her boyfriend. That was my first concert experience. I wasnít a very big fan of DINGO, because all the girls loved the band, but it was a great experience to see them live.
My first big concert was when I saw AC/DC at the Helsinki Ice Hall. It was something that actually changed my life. Seeing them live and feeling the energy of the crowd was something I will never forget. After the concert I was convinced that playing rock music is the only way I want to spend my life.
Brian Rademacher: What was it like the first time you sung in front of an audience?
Sami Alho: It was a very scary moment. I wanted to try singing in a band project, in which I was playing guitar. We were playing old cover songs and I sang a few of them. I kept my eyes closed all the time I was singing and tried not to think about the audience in front of me. I guess it was more like shouting than actual singing, because I wanted to sound as rough as possible. That same project later evolved into FREE SPIRIT.
Brian Rademacher: What is the thing you miss most as a child?
Sami Alho: Definitely I miss most the summer holidays with my friends when days seemed to last forever and there were no worries and no tomorrow. We had great adventures almost every day and most of them led us into trouble, but it still feels like it was a time of total freedom.
Brian Rademacher: What was your very first garage band even before EXIT?
Sami Alho: We had tennis rackets as guitars and empty cardboard boxes as drums. We played (as loud as possible) songs from artists like IRON MAIDEN, VAN HALEN, KISS, W.A.S.P etc. Before the "show" we watched our idols performing in music videos and then tried to copy their moves. Our band didnít have a name because we couldnít pick a name that would have pleased all the members and so the group split up quite soon after due to serious "musical differences"!
Brian Rademacher: When you sung as a child who did you want to be like?
Sami Alho: I remember that we had a big mirror in our house and I used perform in front of it imagining myself as a true rock star. Sometimes I was Jon Bon Jovi and sometimes I was Dee Snider from TWISTED SISTER. Notice that even though my first instrument was the guitar I was already seeing myself as a lead singer.
Brian Rademacher: When FREE SPIRIT started tell me whatit was like at the first rehearsal and where it took place?
Sami Alho: When FREE SPIRIT originally started we had played for a few years in different bands, so the magic of the first group wasnít there anymore. But with FREE SPIRIT it felt like now we could do whatever we wanted and fulfil our dream as a melodic arena rock band. All the members came from groups which played very different types of material and at first FREE SPIRIT was a side project, but that changed quite soon.
When this current line-up rehearsed for the first time, I immediately noticed that the chemistry of this band was something I had never experienced before. It was soon very obvious that now we had a line-up to make the record weíve been dreaming of for years.
Brian Rademacher: Do you remember the first song with FREE SPIRIT you worked on?
Sami Alho: Actually I do. It sounded a bit like early AC/DC. It was very simple, but we had a great time writing it. When we recorded the first FREE SPIRIT demo, this song was the opening track.
Brian Rademacher: Letís run down the band members of FREE SPIRIT and tell me your feelings towards each member starting with Pasi Koivumški, then Vesa Yli-Mšenpšš, then Sami Hšmšlšinen, then Marko Haapamški and then Timo Alho.
Sami Alho: Pasi is my childhood friend and weíve been playing in the same bands practically our whole life. As a person Pasi is very energetic and he seems to be full of ideas. As a drummer he is very reliable and during the years his style has developed more towards a minimalistic expression.
I admire Vesa because of his skills with the guitar. He can really make a song live and breathe with his melodic guitar arrangements. Vesa always listens to the song and won't try to force extra guitar licks into his expression just to show off his skills. As a person Vesa is sometimes impatient and demanding, but he is also the party man of the band and really a great performer on stage.
Sami or Nasu, as we all call him, is also my childhood friend like Pasi. Usually he is a bit quiet, but when he opens his mouth you should pay attention. Pasi and Nasu have some kind of a spiritual connection when they are playing. Thatís perhaps because Nasu used to play drums too, so they understand each other without saying a word.
I have known Marko for less than a year now, but he has made quite an impression. As an artist he is a great performer and I really appreciate how fast he has taken his place in the band. Marko and Vesa seems to have the same kind of connection as Pasi and Nasu do, and that is very important when you have two great guitarists in a band.
Timo is my little brother and of course that makes him very special to me. As a person he is at the same time an artist, but also a scientist (master of physics). Donít ask me how these two characters can fit into one person, but you canít have one without the other. Timo is multitasking as an artist, too, because besides FREE SPIRIT he writes and performs music with his own group CELADON SKIES.
Brian Rademacher: FREE SPIRIT won the The Voice Music-TV Garage Countdown competition with the video 'Until the Night'. It was viewed over 82, 000 times, what are your thoughts on that
Sami Alho: Of course Iím very proud of it. Itís good to know that we have so much support out there. By winning the competition we got lots of TV exposure just before the album was released, so the timing couldnít have been better.
Brian Rademacher: I particularly like the video for "Heroes Donít Cry" it The song has a Celtic vibe and your vocals are just phenomenal, did you ever take voice lessons?
Sami Alho: Thank you for your kind words! I havenít taken any "official" voice lessons, but a friend of mine, who has studied singing, taught me many useful techniques. The first time when I had a chance to test these techniques was when the first version of "Heroes Donít Cry" was recorded.
Brian Rademacher: Is there any kind of warm-up you do before you go on stage?
Sami Alho: I donít have any special warm-up, but there should be. It depends on the situation. Sometimes when I have the time, I open my voice singing and humming softly and at the same time I stretch out a bit. Then there are gigs when there's no time for that and warm-up happens during the first two songs. Perhaps the most important and effective warm-up for us is a good sound check. You can concentrate on the show with good feelings if you can be sure that you can hear yourself and the other band members on stage.
Brian Rademacher: Tell me what the feeling was the first time a fan asked for your autograph?
Sami Alho: I tried to keep my poker face, Ďcause I was sure that this person must be mistaken and thinks Iím someone else. Of course I was a bit proud when I found out that there was no mistake.
Brian Rademacher: Are you working on any new material?
Sami Alho: Yes, we are writing new songs and we have new riffs and melody lines. These songs are far from ready, but I have to admit that Iím very excited about them. After "Pale Sister of Light" was finished I had moments when I was wondering if I could ever write another song again. It was very relieving to find out that we still have the touch and some might say it got even better during the recording process.
Brian Rademacher: When you guys achieve your goal of stardom is there any cause you would donate to?
Sami Alho: There would be many causes to donate to. I guess every normal human being wants to help all those who are unable to help themselves. Many rock stars have done great things and they have donated much more than money for a good cause by giving their name and reputation. I wish someday I could be like them.
Brian Rademacher: Do you have any feelings on the current state of the world and your hopes for it?
Sami Alho: Even though there are a lot of horrible things going on in the world, I'd like to stay optimistic. We're living the first times in history when most common people are aware of these problems. With the recent increase in effective freedom of speech, and the fact that more and more people around the world have the capability to get their ideas out to the public with the internet and cellular phones, etc, I hope this will keep getting even better as it's more and more difficult for governments and authorities to keep the bad things under wrap. Obviously this slightly naive and hopeful view of mine, if it is to come true, requires that all the average people keep up bringing their thoughts out in the open. It also requires that people must be open to new ideas, because real freedom of speech (and spirit!) cannot exist in a world of prejudice and dogmatist beliefs.
Brian Rademacher: In ending would you like to say anything in conclusion?
Sami Alho: I wish to thank all the readers and the staff of RockEyez.com for their great support! Have a great summer and hope to see you all at a FREE SPIRIT show in a near future!