AN INTERVIEW WITH TOMI JULKUNEN OF THE MILESTONES (APRIL 2014)

Our appreciation for Finn classic rock outfit The Milestones is well known here at V1.  With the band having just released their fourth album “Higher Mountain – Closer Sun” we felt it would be rude not to catch up with guitarist Tomi Julkunen for another interview.  Enjoy.

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Tomi, many thanks for agreeing to another interview with us at VirtuosityOne, and congratulations on the release of the new Milestones album “Higher Mountain –Closer Sun”.

Thanks Andy, it’s my pleasure. Got to be happy that we are interesting enough that people want to read about us. So much competition and so many bands out there these days, even more than last time we did this.

The new album to my ears is bigger and better than its rather excellent predecessor “Devil In Me”. It seems the band are pretty fired up and motivated right now, is that a fair assessment?

Cheers, yes it is indeed! Devil In Me was a big step for us as the album before that was released 10 years earlier. On DIM we were getting back to our real sound, which is that classic rock / southern rock kinda sound. The band is more motivated than ever and that’s amazing in itself as we’ve been doing this almost 20 years now. Playing is more exciting than ever and I’m sure people who have to record or come to our show can also feel the excitement. It feels like we’re only getting started and really starting to find our own voice.

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Click to read our review

So tell us about the making of the album from start to finish, how soon after “Devil In Me”did the process begin and what happened from there?

We already started writing new songs before Devil In Me was even released. We just jammed and wrote shitload of new songs. We also played some of them live just to see how people react to them. I think we had around 30 songs to choose from. It was cool as now we had to really think which songs we could put on the album. There’s couple of really cool ones that we might do something with later on, of maybe pick a riff from one song and some other part from another song and just combine different parts from different songs.

Once again there is a very live feel to the album. Was it recorded with the band in one room or individual instruments then pieced together?

Cool, that’s what we were aiming for, to get that real live sound. It was recorded with the band in one room to get that feel. We’ve tried different kind of methods but that’s the natural one, all in the same room. Lot of people say that we sound pretty much the same live as on the record so why not, we wouldn’t be able to capture all the energy and the live feel if we recorded separately one instrument at the time. It also lot more fun to play when we’re all in the same room where you can see all the faces, smiles, nods and all that.

We have a nice cross section of material, from good time up tempo rockers like “Walking Trouble”and “Shalalalover”to more mellow moments like “Oh My Soul”and “Grateful”, what were you as a band looking for in this collection of songs and how did you go about setting the track listing?

We wanted it to be rocking and mellow record at the same time. It’s boring if every song has a same kind of tempo or feel to it. Now we have nice collection of up tempo rockers, mid tempo songs and there’s a slow acoustic one too. It’s very balanced record I think. I myself like records like that.

It was great to hear the smoking cover of Foghat’s “Drivin’Wheel”, they are a band that isn’t really that known here in Europe (Slow Ride aside) so it was nice to hear you guys paying them some dues. What led to doing this particular cover?

To be honest, I hadn’t even heard Drivin’Wheel before. I only knew we sounded bit like Foghat and that they’ve been around for ages. It was Tommi, our drummer, who came up with the idea. He played it for us and straight away we knew that it would be perfect song for us to cover. I think Tommi knows someone from Foghat or their roadie or something like that. I’m proud of our version and I think we did a great job. It’s a great song!

What guitar gear did you and Marko Kiviluoma use this time around and how do you two generally go about dividing up guitar duties on the tracks?

We used the same gear we always use; Gibson and Fender Guitars, different models. As for amps I used only my old reliable, Marshall JCM 800 from the 80’s. Marko had his Vox and Ampeg amps. Very basic stuff, some cool boutique pedal like Mad Professors but nothing too fancy. We get different sounds using different guitars with the same amps. That’s the big secret behind our sound.

What do you personally look to add to a song?

Something that compliments the vocals and Markos guitar parts. We never try to play exactly the same, that would be boring. We both have our own styles so it’s pretty cool to come up with different guitar parts. I try not to overplay or play too many solo licks while recording songs. It’s better that way, then you can add some cool licks when playing live.

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Who do you look too in guitar duos in other bands as indicators to how the two guitar thing should be done?

Obviously the guitarists in The Black Crowes, especially from Southern Harmony and Amorica era when Mark Ford was still in the band; The Rolling Stones of course, Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy and so on. Those guys know how to interact between two guitars. If you have two guitarists in the band you should be able to handle both lead and rhythm parts, that makes it even more interesting to listen to.

I see you’ve got a few gigs upcoming in Scandinavia, any plans for any further afield?

Yes, the plan is to get the album out in as many countries as possible and then play gigs all over. Of course these things take time to plan and arrange. We still haven’t got any deals outside of Finland but we’re working on it at the moment. We have only one German show confirmed and that’s for 2015. But keep checking the news from our website or Facebook page.

Anything else you’d like to let us know of what’s happening with the band and other projects you have?

We have a new video coming up soon for the song Walking Trouble as it’s gonna be the next single. It was shot at one of our recent live shows. We’re planning to release two radio singles at the same time, one for rock radio and other one for more mainstream stations. We’re also planning some cool stuff for our 20th anniversary which is on September. That might include re-releasing Vol 1. as it’s impossible to get it anywhere, it’s been sold out for years and years. But we’ll see, cool stuff coming up anyway.

Tomi, thanks for your time.

No problem at all, thank you. Looking forward to the next round with the album number five!

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THE MILESTONES : HIGHER MOUNTAIN – CLOSER SUN

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Out now on Turenki Records

Finland’s classic rockers The Milestones are back with the fourth album in their 20 year history. Not exactly prolific but quality over quantity is a rare commodity in this age.  Their last effort “Devil In Me” was an excellent slice of what the band are all about. Now just 4 years later they are back with “Higher Mountain – Closer Sun”.

For the most part the album takes off where its predecessor ended, when you have a winning formula why not if the songs are as good, fortunately these are slightly better.

If you like your rock on the classic end of things this band will bring new joy into your world.  A very live feel is heard throughout,  LOUD responsive guitar tones (with a bevy of Telecaster, Firebird and Les Paul usage) and a rhythm section that clearly knows the meaning of the word – groove – throw on top a vocalist who actually seems to be enjoying his music and its hard not to listen to this and smile.

Opener “Walking Trouble” kicks the album off with high energy, a driving riff collide with gritty vocals and rocking harmonica from frontman Olavi Tikka and you’ll be turning this up loud.  “Shalalalovers” continues the theme but throws in a little more commercialism with the chorus hook likely to be in your head days after.

The band prove they have exquisite taste by next serving up a faithful cover of Foghat’s 1976 classic “Drivin Wheel”, high energy and a will to make the song their own is displayed.  Next we can catch our breath a little with the southern rock inflections of “Oh My Soul” before the predominantly acoustic “Grateful” prepares up for the Stonesy crunch of “Sweet Sounds”.

A nice Humble Pie vibe is experienced on “It’s All Right” and this is the first of a couple of corker tracks with the telecaster twang  bedrock and laid back delivery (at least for the verses) of “You” show strong song writing and good maturity from the band.

“Looking Back From Yesterday” sits in mid-tempo waters and does take a few listens to sink in fully before “Damn” ups the tempo with a ridiculously simple yet effective riff drives the song on, its also got a killer chorus as well.

Closing track “Fool Me” seems a little haphazard compared to the majority of the album with riffs that are disjointed and quirky in equal measure, maybe not the killer closing track the album deserves but pleasant enough.

“Higher Mountain – Closer Sun” is another excellent release from The Milestones, How they’ve managed to escape more widespread popularity is beyond me but this album is strong enough to certainly give them a chance of that.  Well crafted songs in a retro spirit with great vintage guitar tones and packed full of strong vocal hooks make this one of the best pure rock releases you are likely to hear in 2014.

Check it out now.

Rating – 92%

THE MILESTONES – DEVIL IN ME

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Originally reviewed in 2010 and back from the archives.

Bold, soulful and groovy are the words to describe The Milestones whose 70’s influences include such greats as Lynyrd Skynrd, Allman Brothers, a touch of Bad Company and healthy dose of the attitude of Bon Scott era AC/DC. You’d swear these guys were coming out of the southern reaches on America but no, they hail from Finland and have produced a quite marvelous album in “Devil In Me”.

If you enjoyed early Black Crowes and the two gems from Cry Of Love or the above mentioned bands you will enjoy this thoroughly. Great songs powered along by clear twin guitar with guitar tones that are on the right side of vintage dirt, a grooving rhythm section and a superb vocalist in Olavi Tikka who is equal parts Chris Robinson/Bon Scott and Paul Rodgers. This is an album made in the finest traditions of when it was the music that mattered – you can smell the earth, the bourbon and the Marlboros and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed an album in a similar vein so much in quite some time.

No need for picking out individual tracks for this is an essential purchase from start to finish. If you have a penchant for 70’s rock in its more honest form then check this out now.

Rating – 90%

TOMI JULKUNEN OF THE MILESTONES INTERVIEW (ARCHIVE)

About The Interview
Helsinki-based band The Milestones specialise in classic hard rock with a southern tinge that put many American bands to shame.  We caught up with guitarist Tomi Julkunen of the band to discuss the bands history and their fantastic new album ‘Devil In Me’.

First of all welcome to Virtuosity One Tomi.
Cheers Andy, glad to be doing this interview. And big thanks for a great review on your site!

The Milestones are a rootsy good time rock band that hail from Finland yet sound as if you should be from the USA. What is a Scandinavian band doing producing rock that shames many an American band?
Wow, that’s a big statement Andy! Probably because American bands have forgotten how to make this type of music… (laughs). Nah, just kidding. Seriously, we’ve all listened to this kind of music since our teens. So, playing classic rock is pretty natural for us.

When we formed The Milestones there wasn’t that many new classic rock bands around at the time. Grunge and boy bands were a big thing and we just wanted to have a band that could bring back that rock and roll sound we all had been missing.

Can you give our readers who may not have heard of you a brief run down of the bands history as it seems you have been at it for quite some time.
The band was formed back in 1994 so we’ve been doing this for a while now. We had two goals in the beginning; to play our first show at the best rock venue in Helsinki and get a record deal within few months. Well, we played at that venue four months after forming the band and got the record deal after that show. The first album Vol 1 was released in 1996.

For the second album Souvenirs (released in 1999) we went to New York just to see if it’s any different making an album abroad. We ended up re-recording half of the songs when we came back to Finland. I’d say we got bit lost with all the experimenting. There were violins and drum loops and all kinds of stuff which totally represented something we are not. I love the album but I’d say it’s not The Milestones sound we’re known for. Oddly enough our biggest radio song is from Souvenirs and some people think it’s better than Vol 1 and Devil In Me. Go figure (laughs).

In 2001 I left the band for few years. Other guys kept on going with other guitarists but didn’t release any new material. I rejoined in 2006 and we started planning the third album pretty much straight away.

Your new album ‘Devil In Me’ has been out for a month or so now… yet its been 10 years since your last album ‘Souvenirs’. What led to the big gap between releases and are we going to have to wait until 2020 for the follow up?
Devil In Me was actually released in Finland in April 2009 but was released in rest of the Europe earlier this year. It’s kind of surprising that the album still seems valid to people considering that albums life span is really short these days. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we’re not trendy music and our music is timeless.

The gap is my fault to be honest. As I said I quit the band in 2001 and moved to Ireland for few years. There was no arguing or bad blood between us, I just wanted to do something else for a while. We all kind of knew that getting the original line-up together was inevitable after I moved back to Finland.

Writing and recording Devil In Me took about two years all in all so if you take away those five years I spend abroad it took only five years to get this album released (laughs). It’s not that long comparing to Axl Rose!

I’m happy to say that the follow up is in pre-production already. We’re entering the studio this summer and new single should be out by September. Most of the songs have already been written. We just need to fine tune them a bit, work on lyrics and melodies and we’re good to go. I’m sure we have a new album out in early 2011. I’ve been listening to rehearsal tapes and have to say, it will be ass kicking full on rock and roll album.

‘Devil In Me’ is my first taste of the bands brand of rock n roll and very impressed I was too. Can you talk us through the making of the album – where the songs were born, recorded etc.
When we started writing new music we had no idea who would release it. Fortunately we knew these guys who had a small label and they were interested in putting out the album. They also have their own studio so we recorder the whole thing in their studio in Helsinki. They also produced. It was actually the first rock album they produced so I’d say they did an excellent job.

It took about two weeks worth of recording to put all the music on tape. We didn’t book studio time for two weeks, we just went in on couple of weekends. So there was no real pressure time wise.

We had all the material pretty well rehearsed beforehand so it didn’t take long in the studio. We always do that before recording, lock up ourselves in the rehearsal room and put together new stuff and rehearse it. We don’t make demos anymore, just rehearsal tapes to hear what should be changed and what needs more work.

How do The Milestones like to write and do you have any specific routines have proven beneficial?
The song writing almost always starts with a guitar riff or bass line. It’s very rare that we build a song around a melody or a specific drum pattern. We all have ideas and we all come up with our own parts so it’s not like there’s only one or two guys who contribute to song writing. Sometimes it might take a while longer to arrange a song as there’s five guys with ideas but on the other hand is a blessing. It makes songs sound like The Milestones and doesn’t put too much pressure on one or two guys.

Are these tracks taken from over the last 10 years or are they recent compositions?
Most of the tracks were written within a year or so before recording. There’s few old songs like Street Soul and Green Valley. Green Valley was an acoustic B-side on our single Deep In Despair from Souvenirs album. We just arranged the older song to make them sound more like the recently written songs. There might be some old riffs but mostly its new stuff.

The album has a great live vibe with a superb production. What were you looking for sonically with the album?
Thanks, that live sound and rawness was just what we were looking for. We wanted it to sound like good old fashioned rock records. Not too many effects and layers of guitars. We wanted it to have dynamics which seem to be lacking from most records these days. It’s not perfectly played but who cares as long as it sounds good and has a great feel to it, a bit like a live album.

The guitar tones received special praise from us, what gear do you guys use to get those awesome tones on the record?
As you can hear our sound is pretty organic, nothing too flashy. We use lots of vintage gear to get that cool sound. We use same gear for live and studio work. I mainly use Gibson guitars and Marshall amps for live shows. My main guitar is Gibson Les Paul Deluxe which is not that common guitar these days. I also have this new Gibson LP Standard which is really good to play and sounds great. I’m not big into using effects, some distortion pedals for solos and that’s about it.

Marko has some really cool guitars. He has Gibson Firebird which I also used in the studio, Fender Telecasters and Guild Nightingale. Marko also has cool amps such as Ampeg V-2 head and old Fender Bassman. His Ampeg is probably the best sounding amp I’ve ever heard.

I suspect the band are built for the road (you sound like it) so have you managed to do much touring outside your homeland?
Unfortunately we haven’t played much outside Finland. We played few shows in New York and in Iceland of all the places. We will play our first gigs in Germany this coming October. I’m sure it will be loads of fun. We’re really looking forward to it.

Influence wise where are the band coming from and what do you feel are the unique qualities the band have absorbed from those influences into your own sound?
We’re influenced by 70’s and 80’s American and English bands such as Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rolling Stones, Black Crowes and Thin Lizzy to name a few. Of course we listen to newer bands too but I don’t think we’ve been influenced by them much.

I think we have the same cool two guitar interaction as the bands we listen to. We don’t double each other’s parts and I think that’s one thing we have absorbed.

The Southern Rock scene seems to be making something of a comeback of late with a younger fanbase getting into the genre, along with high profile releases from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet. Have The Milestones seen evidence of this resurgence in your own fanbase?
Actually, yes we have and it’s great. It seems that youngsters are checking out their parents record collections and having a blast doing it. They’re discovering all the great band who have influenced all these new bands. When we were supporting old legends like Whitesnake and Deep Purple I was totally surprised about the number of young people in the audience. Front row was just people from 15 to 25 years old. It really was something that I didn’t expect. We went down like a storm and got a great response. Those same people come to our shows as well so it’s heart warming to see that. There’s no age racism in classic rock genre at all. It doesn’t matter if the band is old it still gets audience from babies to grannies. It’s all about the music not the image.

What plans are there to promote the new album? It seems like none name bands don’t get much of a look in from live promoters and venues so how are The Milestones coping with this side of being a band?
I agree, it’s really hard to book shows these days. Sometimes it can be really frustrating as we would love to do proper tours. We’ve been lucky enough to get good support slots and I’d say that’s the best way to get good gigs and bigger audiences.

We’re not concentrating on promoting Devil In Me that much as we’re already looking forward to promoting the next album. Hopefully it gets good amount of radio play. It always help to get promoters interested.

What else is in store for 2010 and beyond?
As I told earlier we’re doing pre-production for next record as we speak. Main plan is to get the album done. We will play few shows but mostly concentrate on recording. After the album is in the shops we will definitely play as many shows as possible.

OFFICIAL WEBSITES
http://www.themilestonesmusic.com
http://www.myspace.com/themilestonesmusic