Rock Eyez


Interview with Olli Koskela
(Vocals - Valerian)

Olli Koskela

Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: November 16th, 2005

Ollie, thanks for taking the time out to talk with our readers.
No problem, Brian. Anytime.

Did you envision when you were growing up, that you wanted to be a singer?
Well, as a matter of fact I never even dreamed I’d be a singer in the first place. I started out playing guitar, I got my first guitar when I was 11 and my dream was to be a guitar hero one day. But later on, I kinda ended up as a lead-singer in a rock band. Before Valerian, it was very, very difficult for me to sing even one note in front of anyone but when Valerian was formed, I decided it was time for me to step up, so to speak, and to face my fears. I knew I could do it - I knew I had a strong, beautiful voice but I just had to find the guts to go for it. So I became a singer-guitarist and then later on I decided to concentrate only on my singing and I dropped the guitar playing out of my act.

Did you try to emulate any singer?
No, not really. Of course, I listened to other singers and to their techniques, but what I basically did was just to try and find my own way with my own sound. From time to time I try to capture that low nasal sound that Axl Rose sometimes uses but that’s basically the only thing that I’ve "copied" or emulated from any other singer.

Did you play any sports in high school?
When I was a kid I was really into cross-country skiing and that was my thing. Of course there was hockey and soccer in the summertime and various other sports that I liked but then I started to have other interests, you know, like listening to rock and drinking beer! Oh well, maybe I wasn’t that great of a cross-country skier after all :)

What was the first record you ever got and the first concert that you attended?
It was either AC/DC´s "High Voltage" or Iron Maiden’s "The Number of the Beast", I don’t remember for sure. What I do remember is that when I purchased “High Voltage" I just went nuts. It was crazy. It just blew my mind, it was simple, it was raw, it was dangerous, and it was rock ´n´ roll from start to finish. As a kid I used to dress up like Angus Young, you know, the school uniform and all that, and I’d trash around my room trying to play Angus´ guitar licks at the same time. My parents thought I was losing my mind! My first concert was a Finnish rock band called Peer Gunt. They played so loud my sleeves were flapping in the air while I stood before their PA system. Their drummer was really giving it all he got, and man, he really knew how to work those cans.

Tell us what kind of kid were you in high school?
Well, I’ve always been a joker with a good sense of humor and sometimes a loud mouth but even then, just like now  I was really,  really shy deep down inside. I was just a little boy trying not to show his fear by acting like a fool sometimes and fronting for others.

What was the first garage band you were in?
My friends and I formed a band and we named it The Crux, I guess I must have been like 13 or 14 at that time. We didn’t know shit about anything, we just wanted to play and we dreamed of stardom and of the girls that we had never had. We were just having fun, you know, like kids do.

Have you release any material that was recorded before Valerian, if so what was it?
I played for a few years in a glam band named Plastic Tears, if I remember correctly. Some small Finnish company released their single but nothing really came out of it. Other than that there is only been demo tapes before Valerian was born.

Your last release “Intimations of Sorrow” that came out last year in 2004 had some great songs on it like “Homesick” and “Liar.” Do you feel the band has grown musically and otherwise since that release?
Sure, we’ve grown as a band and I’ve grown as a songwriter. And I can see how the individual talents of the group are getting sharper and strong. Like a diamond, it’s shaping itself as we go along.

Intimations of Sorrow” has a live sound to it. Was that the intention of the recording?
Yeah!!!  Definitely, there are so many bands around nowadays that sound like a machine instead of a rock band because all the albums are edited, auto-tuned and programmed to the max. We wanted to hone our material as much as the next guy but not overdo it and we wanted the album to sound like what it really was - an album played by a rock band. I think we did a pretty good job. You have to let your album breathe; give it a human touch, that’s my opinion.

How did you get signed by City Canyon Records and what song do you feel made them take notice?
We had already recorded "Liar" and we were just shopping the tape around, sending it all over the globe. Trebor from City Canyons contacted us saying he liked the song very much and asked if we’d like to send more material. So we sent him more our stuff and the deal was sealed.

You are working on a new CD that is slated for release in 2006. Can you tell us anything about the new CD? Will it be heavier? Release date? CD title? Song titles? Favorite track so far?
The next album may be a tad heavier but on the other hand, there’ll be The-Eagles-meets-G ’N’ ´R-featured-by-Tom-Petty-type of things. And maybe a little Hanoi Rocks to spice up the stew! Hopefully the album will be released in March-April ´06 but that’s up to our label to decide. Tentatively the album is titled "Guerilla Fighting Method". My favorite tracks at this stage are "Reservoir", "The Fugitive" and "Draft Horse", to name a few. We’ll just have to wait and see how everything turns out.

What is the scene backstage with Valerian?
We are pretty easygoing dudes, there’s not much happening, and we are just relaxing before the show and there’s really just the five of us before we go on stage. Maybe a few laughs, a few beers, pretty much the basic stuff like guitar tuning, warming up, getting ready, opening my voice a bit, that sort of thing.

Tell us about the Guns ‘N´ Roses Tribute CD Valerian worked on?
I was surfing the Internet when I happened to see info on the fact that Versailles Records was putting together a tribute album for Guns N´ Roses. I’m a big G ‘N´ R fan so I contacted the label and asked them if we could participate. We had played "Mr. Brownstone" a couple times live so it was pretty natural for us to record that particular song. When you actually rehearse and play G ‘N’ ´R songs by yourself, you really understand what the band was all about, it’s simple but effective and you need to have strong feeling toward what you do, no matter what it is. Of course, we have nothing to do with the lyrics but it’s a great song and it was fun recording it!

Can you tell us some other upcoming Finnish bands you recommend our readers to check out?
I’m not really into the Finnish music scene that much but I’d say bands like The 69 Eyes are worth checking out. And I guess HIM is getting a pretty good foothold in the US music market so you might wanna check ´em out as well.

If you had one dream come true, what would that be?
My dream is to find love that lasts forever. To find a companion with whom I could share my life, my thoughts, my dreams, my desires, my fears, everything. I haven’t found her yet, though.

Tell us you impression of each member of the band?
Toni Ritonen (guitar): Toni is our politician - he’s polite and correct but on the other hand he’s also the funniest, the craziest of us, he may come up with a joke that’ll make you laugh, want it or not. He’s also got stamina that’ll amaze you; he won’t back down no matter what. When everybody else is tired, it’s Toni who’s kicking our asses to get going again.

Matti Toivonen (guitar, backing vocals): Matti is the youngest of us, he’s like the younger brother that I never had. Him and I, we think pretty much the same, we are the bands maybe most sensitive, fragile souls. Matti is really down-to-earth guy, he’s great. He’s got some great ideas and lots of talent. He’s so innocent and pure you just gotta love the guy. There’s no faking in him.

Janne Jääskeläinen (bass): Janne´s got a big, warm heart. He’s got lots of intelligence and I’ve had many interesting conversations with him. He’s a man you can trust and that may is certainly luxury these days. Janne´s the real-deal, he knows who he is and what he wants. He’s the most silent of us but as they say: "Only fools talk too much".

Tipi Andersson (drums): If you meet Tipi, you know instantly that here’s a man behind his words. Tipi is very strong, both in body and in mind. I admire his strength and ability to take things as they come, not to rush things that can’t be rushed, to take action when action is needed. He’s a friend that won’t let you down.

If you had a chance to be a special guest on vocals with another band. Who would that band be?
Velvet Revolver, that’d be fun.

What do you see for the future of Valerian?
Now Valerian’s future looks pretty good and I hope we can continue doing what we’ve been doing these past 8 years. We’ve always walked on our own path, not really caring about styles or trends or genres, just doing our thing. I hope that the future holds great things for us, we’ll see.

Olli, Rockeyez would like to thank you for the great music that was on “Intimations of Sorrow” and we look forward to your new CD in 2006. Would you like to say anything in conclusion?
Look for the feeling in music as well as in life in general. Money, good looks, fame, prestige, your heart and soul won’t survive on the "outside" things because you need to look inside. And take care of yourselves and the ones you love. © 2005-2010 All rights reserved. The contents of this site may not be reproduced without the expressed written consent of
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