Matthew Morris – Bass
Joesph Parry – Guitar and Clean Vocals
Ollie Davis-Gower – Drums
Osku Kinnunen – Guitar and Growl
The British-Finnish band Karhu represents the novelty moving forward, hybrid but not banal, derivative but not a victim of their influences, their debut “Survival Of The Richest” (as usual you can find the review on our list is an inspired and well-played album, but who are they? Let’s find out.
Welcome on Aristocrazia Webzine, 2012 is finishing, would you like to draw some conclusions?
Joe: Well I’d say that things are looking up for us at least. Second album is in the works and more and more people are starting to check us out so, hopefully with the help of our fans and some serious elbow grease from ourselves we can continue to travel from strength to strength.
Let’s start from the beginning: your name, Karhu, means bear in Finnish, right? Surfing the Internet I noticed that a Finnish beer has the same name. Solid and alcoholic music? Was it an idea by Osku?
Joe: I think it was definitely inspired by Osku for sure! But Osku didn’t join the band and say hey… Let’s call ourselves Karhu, in fact he was pretty jarred by it at first, I remember him saying that he was a little uninspired by the name. But after a discussion we put this down to him being natively Finnish and us not, which is why he felt slightly different about the name than we did. It just happened I think, we sat around thinking of names and it came to us. We’re very interested in cultures, so it was a pretty natural step to include something of the Finnish culture within our music and aesthetics / name.
Ollie: I think it represents our sound well too, heavy and big.. Hopefully!
Osku: Haha, I had nothing to do with the name. I joined the band well after the name was settled I believe. It does ring a bit weird to me still, but that’s probably just me being Finnish again.
Who are Karhu, how were they born, how did you evolve, please give us any info useful to get in contact with your music…
Joe: Well, Karhu is a group of people who wish to express themselves through music. We aim to combine variety and dynamic punch in order to express everything from sadness and loss, through to anger, inner peace and judgement.
Ollie: Strangely our backgrounds have been pretty different, but we’re all dedicated to our work and music.
“Survival Of The Richest” is the title of your album, may I consider it true and provoking?
Joe: Yeah it is completely provocative. All of our songs talk about humanity and thoughts / feelings that we can have as real beings. We talk about the selfish nature of mankind, the liars, the honesty hidden, murderers, greed… You need to look no further than the title of our album to understand who we are and what we are about. “Survival Of The Richest” is an album which targets the government and human beings who thrive on money before passion / humanity. But the 2nd meaning to the album is also that of being richer in other ways… “Survival Of The Richest” also means being smarter, more loving, more giving and being richer in oneself, regardless of financial status. It’s aimed at the idea of Survival of the Fittest not applying anymore and the world seems to be more about money than it does about being human.
Defining your sound as Hybrid is easy, but it’s not so easy to keep a balance among all the influences, how do you get this balance while rehearsing? Is there a sort of schema to write songs or are they born jamming?
Joe: Actually the songs are practically never born through jamming. What happens is this: Osku will write a song / idea at his home in Finland and I will do the same here in the UK. When we are happy with the riffs / song progression I take it down to my garage where Ollie and myself will play through it and he will work out the drums, then we record them. Then I’ll sit down and lay out the bass tracks. We can write pretty fast at times, so it’s not uncommon for there to be six or seven ideas around with Ollie having no idea about them, but we make sure that everyone has their input because Karhu wouldn’t be Karhu without everyone being involved. None of us can write drums like Ollie can etc.
I really like the way you combine the vocals, Osku with the growled ones and Joseph with the clean ones, and on your facebook page you mentioned Chris Cornell as an artist that inspire you, how much Joseph love him? Sometimes he really sounds like Cornell. What do you think about Soundgarden’s return and his soloist rehearsing?
Joe: Well, to be honest with you, I state Chris Cornell as an influence more so that people can understand what I sound like. I only started listening to Audioslave WAY after the first album was made, so in reality Chris has had no influence on this album for me vocally, but in the future he certainly will. I’m not “in the know” when it comes to Soundgarden, I heard about his return etc and I should get around to checking it out as I love his work, but so far band stuff has been keeping me busy enough.
If he asked you to sing a song together, which one would you choose and why?
Joe: Jeeezzz anything from the “Audioslave” / “Out Of Exile” albums I love EVERY track on those… Tracks like “Shadow Of The Sun”, “Getaway Car”, “Show Me How To Live” etc… Ahh man so good.
May I ask you to talk about your lyrics? Which are the main themes you talk about?
Joe: Humanity. Hahaha! We may expand on further albums, though I doubt it.
In the digipack there is a dedication: “This album is dedicate to the people who fight for what they believe in, the people who speak out when no one else will, the people who shield and protect those around them of relation. This album is dedicated to those who love what they do and live each day to get another smile, for a new friendship or improve themselves”. I think that these words make sense and are motivating in this dark times, one of your songs is also entitled “Darker Days”, like the days we are living. Will we overcome this? Did humanity close too much itself due to a technology addiction? Did we lose contact with reality?
Joe: I think the world is split into 2 types of people. Good people and bad people. Each of those people have their own way of dealing with life, some rape and murder, some spread love and good thoughts. It is society that has dictated which actions categorize which people ion being good or bad. It might sound strange, but sometimes I feel like there isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, just an action. How that action effects the people around it dictates whether it would be good or bad because as human beings we have emotion ya know? For example, a cannibal cooking up a person for the entire village of cannibals would be considered as a good person who keeps them all fed. To another society, like the main types we live in that would be considered wrong etc… So life is full of interesting things and ways of gaining knowledge etc.. Obviosly I don’t condone eating people hahaha but hopefully it nails home my point of what is good or bad? It’s all individual perspective in my opinion. Humanity has both closed up as well as opened drastically due to technology, look at people these days… smart phones, taking pictures, texting, calling, facebook, always communicating with people and sharing. However, they are sharing through the lens of a camera instead of through their words. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a “thing”. I’m guilty of sitting on my computer and reading something or playing a game when I should be talking to my partner instead, most people are. So for people like me technology is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. Could I answer this review without technology? Would we have even met without technology? Would I have met my partner without the internet? Or Osku? Without technology Karhu wouldn’t exist, but because of technology humanity and its ability to find a walk in the sun or a conversation fully gripping is wearing away to most people… I think it’s up to us as human beings to embrace technology as an addition to our lives and not a main focus. But maybe that’s just my regrets talking hahaha.
Ollie: Darker days, for me, holds a lot more of a personal touch to my life troubles such as money difficulties, previous problems finding any work in our area, family problems etc. Just generally darker days I suppose.
In the past when we listened to self released works we often found out that the performance and the production were not really good, “Survival Of The Richest” is another proof that bands with no deal like you may be as good as the ones supported by the labels, so I ask you if is it still fundamental to be part of a roster or is it better to do it yourselves without caring too much about deals?
Joe: HA! Can of worms here buddy! Well… In blunt it all falls down to money. Time and money. Wanna make more money per sale? DIY, wanna spend 10 years finding the contacts that labels have? DIY… they both have ups and downs. I think being a part of a label isn’t a full requirement but you can’t take away the fact that those labels have bigger bands, bigger crowds, more exposure, magazine links, radio links etc that you may never get. So I think the smartest thing to do is to establish yourself as an artist before you go to a label so you still have something to hold onto. If we go to a label now and say “Ok here is our album, done dusted, sorted, we have our own merchandise, website, fan base etc.” we stand a pretty good chance of fighting a case. However if we went there and said “Hey… We need you to record us in a studio for $50,000 and then market us, build us fans, promote us etc that label would take everything from you, music rights etc.”. So from my point of view, I’d say start DIY then move to a label when you have a leg to stand on (to keep your music rights etc.).
Ollie: Also, I think as a band grows in popularity and other ways, it becomes a lot harder to manage so much yourself, time for 4 people and a crew of roadies, venue booking (a lot won’t talk with anyone but a manager), money management, the lot. Add all this to making and practicing music and it’s near impossible.
Osku: There are both good and bad deals, and the good deal at this stage for us seems to be DIY. It may change sometime in the future, but I’m not particularly looking forward to it. I like to do stuff myself.
In these times of crisis, I read of bands splitting up for money problems, may I ask you something about your situation? How much did it cost to make the album? If I think about how much Nuclear Blast spends to produce shit I feel bad.
Joe: Well making the album was pretty much free other than time. We bought Superior Drummer 2.0 and the other plugins / samples were free or we made them etc. Superior was on a deal for $120 or something so it was a great deal. We use Reaper which also allows us the ability to use it for free for as long as we want… So other than time the album came to a grand total of about $120 hahaha.
Both as musicians and metal heads, which are the main problems of the metal world? Are there limits that in more than thirty years we still can’t overstep?
Joe: Well, I think metal has come a LONG way… Where else is there to go? We’ve accepted gay communities into metal (Judas Priest etc we’ve accepted people from all backgrounds and ethnicities (Dragonforce, Sepultura, Myrath so as a group of people and a genre of music we’ve already got everything from all people, fat , thin, white, black, gay, straight etc right through to including dance music and jazz into it etc… Metal is perfect to me. The people are real and the community is genuine. Never before have I found such a group of people where skin color and nationality makes no difference to how important you are. I love it. I personally couldn’t give a shit who you are and where you’re from, if you fall back into that thing of a “good guy” then welcome aboard. I don’t know where metal can go from here, it already accepts everyone and everything… Hahaha.
Does talking about underground still make sense if we talk of new bands and scenes?
Joe: Isn’t that what the underground is for? The underground is where all the action is, the only problem is you have two types of people down there. People who want to expose bands and get them bigger and people who want to keep them underground. So it’s a warzone.
Does Kahru play live? If so, how were your songs received by the audience? Do you have a special gig that you remember with pleasure?
Joe: Yeah, we’ve played a UK tour and a few festival slots. Everywhere we’ve played has been awesome, people seem to really enjoy what we do so that;s always a huge plus. Best gig for me would be Coleford, we played a club upstairs where we got everyone jumping to Feeder and made the floor nearly collapse hahaha.
Scenario: a journey across Europe With a Seventies Volkswagen van, inside it you, your instruments and… Which albums and books would you take with you?
Joe: Marc Cohn – “The Rainy Season”, Audioslave – “Audioslave”, Devin Townsend – “Ki” and Lamb of God – “Sacrament”. Books: “Lord Of The Rings” / “The Hobbit”.
Ollie: RATM – the lot. Audioslave – the lot. Several language books, and “The Genius Writings And Drum Skills Of King Oliver Davis-Gower, Winner Of Everything” of course.
Osku: George R. R. Martin’s “Game Of Thrones” series would be my choice of books. Fantastic novels. Music on the other hand… Well I do enjoy listening to Stam1na massively so something off of their discography is a must. Mustn’t forget Opeth’s Ghost Reveries either.
Which are Kahru’s goals?
Joe: Be able to play music for a living and bring excitement / escape to the masses.
Projects for the next future? Are you already working on the follower of “Survival Of The Richest”?
Joe: We are indeed, due for release next year.
How are Kahru outside the band? Passions, work, the everyday life.
Joe: Well, I work six days a week, sometimes seven and my girlfriend lives in America so I spend all my time working on band stuff, chatting to her and working at a shop six / seven days a week.
Ollie: Yea, I work about forty hours a week, live with my girlfriend and psychopathic dog, spending the little free time I have on music and exercise.
Osku: School, school and some more school. Oh, did I already mention school?
Pretend to be on a radio program, talk about your album with a short message and present the song that you consider as a good single…
Joe: Hey, Joe here from Karhu with a track ft a full requirement but you can’t take away the fact that those labels have bigger bands, bigger crowds, more exposure, magazine links, radio links etc that you may never get. So I think the smartest thing to do is to establish yourself as an artist before you go to a label so you still have something to hold onto. If we go to a label now and say “Ok here is our album, done dusted, sorted, we have our own merchandise, website, fan base etc.” we stand a pretty good chance of fighting a case. However if we went there and said rom our debut album “Survival Of The Richest”, the track is called “B-Vera” and you can check out the music video / buy our album from or official website www.thekarhugroove.com, PEACE!
Ollie: Hey! Ollie (or sticky) here from Karhu, and from our groove soaked debut album, I drip down a personal favourite, here’s the title track “Survival Of The Richest”, available from www.thekarhugroove.com along with the rest of EVERYTHING we are and do, enjoy!
So the interview is finished, you can leave the last message for our readers…
Joe: Hope you all take a chance and check out our music! Keep it metal and keep it real!