Interview with NEGATIVE

If we talk about Finland, everyone will think of darkness (too many hours without light, in this time of the year), hostile climate, melancholy and introversion... from where hard bands, with dark tones are born, from Children of Bodom to To/Die/For, Amorphis, Apocalyptica, Insomnium or HIM... What happens? Is it that whoever is not working in Nokia, does so on stages and at recording studios? It must be so, because some find in music a way to escape from negative feelings and ... Or that's what Negative singer, Jonne Aaron, told me among other stuff.

Welcome back to Spain. You're here promoting your album "Neon", which was released in June 2010. What can you say about it? 
Jonne: We took two years to have all the material, it was recorded in Los Angeles and it was definitely the most exciting recording in the history of Negative.

Jonne: Because we could go to Glendale, California and spend some months there. And if you think about Negative, our heroes, most of them are from Los Angeles, for example, Guns N'Roses. It was a dream come true. And working with such a talented producer as Jimmy Westerlund... something happened. Jimmy, to me, as a writer, as a singer, he gave me a new perspective: that you can do everything in this world, you know what I mean. The sky is the limit. If you listen to the whole Negative catalogue, you can hear the evolution, it's been huge and right now I think it's hard to beat that.

So you think with "Neon" a big door opens for you...
Jonne: It has been the first album recorded in a major label. So I think it will open new countries, new territories...

Is there any country left for you to conquer?
Jonne: United Kingdom and United States. But we're still young, we have a lot of time. We're going to do it as long as we can stand on stage. And if one day it's not possible, we can get some wheelchairs.

Even if you didn't enjoy it and it was just business?
Jonne: No, it's not that. Specially in this tour. Jay said one day "this is like being on holidays", and I agree with him.

Holidays! After many years, now that it's your duty to go on stage even if you're ill, or tired... You have to go out there and play and sing.
Jonne: I know, I know. That's the more exigent part. But you learn to handle it. At first it shocked me, when things really started with Negative and we had a first longer tour, in 2003 or 2004. I didn't know how to take it at first, but you have to grow with it, it's a long process. If you compare for example (Jonne points the stage) one hour and a half to a job 9 to 5 in a place you hate... I feel very lucky. I mean, this is not for everyone. Not everyone can play in a band and live on it, not everyone can be a model... In this society, in the world, everybody has their place: someone is good at driving buses, someon is good at digging graves, someone is good at... whatever. I feel this is the only thing I can do and I enjoy it. And we all do it, I think.

I guess it wouldn't work otherwise. There wouldn't be people out there waiting for you to come out.  Ok, you've said you like going on stage and play for your fans, and you enjoy it. But I imagine being a musician implies a lot more time (in the studio, songwriting at home and so on).
Jonne: Yes, recording is a long process, definitely. Writing songs is the first of all. If you are able to put out of yourself some beautiful tunes that you get shivers from them, then you have to find a good production for them, record them, do a great promo for it and cross your fingers so that it will sell enough to make a tour.

But doesn't it all take too much time? Wouldn't you prefer sometimes being with your family and friends? How do you deal with that?
Jonne: Hmm... randomly (laughs). My friends understand what I do and that I have to be sometimes really selfish and take a lot of time for myself, and I do something creative. But they understand. They've learnt it. At first they were like "you fucking asshole, what are you doing?" It's been always like that. In teenage years I had a nice girlfriend and I told her "sorry, it's either you or the band", and I made my decission: Negative's my girl.

I would say your sound it's still melodic as in the first albums, but from "Anorectic" it has progressively becoming somewhat heavier, more rocky. "Karma Killer" the most of them, but also "Neon".
Jonne: "Karma Killer" was much heavier. I think "War Of Love" was a collection of demos, like all the bands say when they put their first album out. It's usually like that. With "Sweet and Deceitful", all the songs were written for that album, so that's what you listen there. And I think it's the most beautiful Negative album. And "Anorectic"... we had the idea of showing our roots, the crunchy roots of Negative, and the history of when we were digging Nirvana and Seattle scene. With "Karma Killer" it was a new start for us, when the other guitarist left the band and the set up was finding its new place. Mikko Karmila, the producer of "Karma Killer", he's done very, very heavy bands, so... we told him "make it heavy", and he did.
So "Neon" is a combination of all those previous albums. That's how I see it. Somehow it's very '80s.

You say you sing about sad topics (broken hearts and so on) but you do it with hope, to make it sound more positive. How's that possible?
Jonne: I don't know. I think there is always hope, every day is different, to me, personally. Whenever I feel down I feel like... I discovered the freedom of listening to all kinds of music. For example, when I feel down,   I like to listen Tom Petty or something very melancholic, something acoustic, organic, and when I feel "party mood" I might listen to Kylie. Or Lady Gaga, it doesn't matter. It's like a therapy. And writing songs is the same.

A therapy.
Jonne: Yes, it's the same. I think it's best when you've been there. You can make it sound... I don't know, something starts to happen. Sometimes you have the key to yourself, then suddenly you're reading a story, all the time you are processing influences from your environment and the people you are meeting, for example this conversation... it probably stays in some place here (points his head) and at some point it comes out... That's it.

What kind of songs do you feel more comfortable with on stage: more rocky, heavier ones, or romantic ballads?
 Oh my God! (dramatic pause). Once again, it depends on your mood. There's no favourites. Everything depends on how you feel. Sometimes you feel with more energy than other days. When you haven't slept, you prefer faster songs. What I like about our set is that there are all sort of songs.

There's room for everything.

Jonne: Yes, exactly, that's what we want to give to the people. I want people to use all their instincts when they come to see the shows. Not like "ok, I've already listened to this another time", again and again.

And don't you feel tired of playing the same songs again and again?
Jonne: Not really, because everytime it's different, every day it's different.

Different people, different place...
Jonne: At first, I remember I started to think, for example "how many times have we played 'The Moment Of Our Love'?", and it was like "Oh my God...!" But that was in 2005 (laughs).

Ah... 2005, now it's 2011... I think you've played it a few more times! And even so, is it still different every time?
Yes, it is. I don't know... It might be because of my body, how I use my voice, the audience... everything.

Now that you mention the audience, there's a lot of girls out there. It must be amazing that all those people know you and admire what you do. On the internet I've seen many, many Negative street team and fan club pages. What do you think of them?
I appreciate that. I call it dedication. Because it's very nice that someone gets so involved in something, and some of them are really behind you. And for example on the internet, the good thing we're trying to do is Negative Legion, which is already in our website but it's still under construction. You have to enter, get the password and that stuff, and then you can be in touch with all the street teams and fan clubs in the world.

Do you know any of those people or were they friends of yours already? 
Jonne: I know the Finnish president of Negative Legion, Janni Eerola. She's been une of the people that started this idea. She's the organizer of everything related to Negative Legion. We'll see if it works... like Kiss Army.

I'm sure it will, you have a lot of dedicated people supporting you.
Jonne: Yeah, I hope so, I'm looking forward to it. And the idea is that once a year we'll have this 'Negative Legion Award' in Finland. We may broadcast it from our site, so people can get involved from their living-rooms. We'll see.

You wrote the lyrics for 'Fucking Worthless' basing it on one of the letters you receive from your fans. How did it happen?
Jonne: Oooh... I had that idea when I was reading the letter at home. I took a lot of those letters and one really caught my attention, because it said how that person saw me as a miserable person on stage. It caught my attention because somehow it was intelligent. It said... "You look so... perfect, but you're worthless", or something like that.

I suppose it was a very different letter among the many you receive.
Jonne: Yes, yes. I mean, it was very sincere, I took it that way. But of course, it wasn't that. You've already said it: even if you feel miserable or have a a bad day, you have to go on stage. That's why I felt like "My God, someone has sussed me!" I don't know, I just wrote those two lines, 'so fucking perfect, so fucking worthless', and it started to come alive.

From what you've said, there are days when emotions kind of take control. Days when you feel thrilled about something, nervous, angry... Can people notice that when you're singing? 
Jonne: I don't know, probably not.

Then, how do you do to pretend everything's alright and you're 'so perfect'?
Jonne: It's not about that. Music is the only way to get rid of your bad mood, that's it. It's the only place where you can't lie. And even if you have a bad day, faster songs give you a good kick in your ass, for example. And if you're tired, slow ones give you very intense energy.
For example, once I had a very bad day in Tampere, I was angry and very sad, it was one of the worst days I've had, and I knew it would be a bad rehearsal... My motivation was completely zero. But afterwards I went to the rehearsal room, saw the guys, we started playing and singing together... In an hour my mood had changed, and I told the guys. That's how it should be.

Music as a therapy itself.
Jonne: Yes, it is. I enjoy writing.

When did you write your first song?
Jonne: I was 12. It was an instrumental song, no lyrics, just melody.

You Finnish people have a very fluent English... Is it good enough to make writing lyrics more or less easy?
I learnt from British music, Beatles and so on, and listening to Guns N'Roses, of course, The Eagles... all sort of music in English. And watching films. For me it's nto easy but I admit that maybe I see some trees as a forest, you know what I mean? It gives me a whole new perspective when it's not my mother tongue.

Have you ever thought about recording something in Finnish?
Jonne: We already have. 'Sinä ja minä'. It was a collection of music from TV or a radio station, I don't remember. And I also did another thing, 'Rakastella sinua', long time ago, on my own.

We've talked before about feelings when you're on stage. Do you still get nervous when you're about to start the show?
Jonne: Always.

Tonight the venue is very small...
Jonne: I know, the smaller, the more nervous you get. I think about how my voice is, how I'm going to give everything I can to the audience and to the songs.

What are Negative's future plans?
Jonne: Touring, touring, touring... We don't have other plans than making tours. I don't know. Tomorrow I'll be back home. That's my plan. We're going to take some time for promotion and tours, something I'm looking forward to. In spring we have dates in South America, and maybe in UK. We'll see, with a bit of luck we may be able to play new songs to the British this year.

Thank you very much for your time and attention, Jonne.
Jonne: You're welcome, it's been a pleasure.