With the recent release of their debut album, Dead City Dreams, killing time is something best avoided for Finland’s TimeKillers
“When you do something, do everything, and do it full on.” (TimeKillers, 14/11/15)
After trawling through seemingly endless days of nothingness, Timekillers look set to end their time in the penitentiary of their local environment with the release of their debut album, ‘Dead City Dreams’.
Rather than succumb to the drab routine of life that a remote northern town of Finland has to offer, punk rock outfit TimeKillers got to work on their first long player some two years ago, with notions of stardom filling their heads but, more importantly, to create a means of escape.
Serving as a reactionary statement to the daily diet of boredom brought on by their local surrounds, ‘Dead City Dreams’ is the TimeKillers adopting positive measures in an attempt to break from a cycle of despair with a succession of openly raw emotions and dynamic and melodic tunes. Examples of such angst-ridden conditions are hinted at in subtle measures by the album’s song titles (‘Don’t Let Me Sleep’, ‘Happy People’, ‘Friday The 13th‘), and the reflective stance of many of the narratives filling these songs.
With time definitely on their side, considering the band are only in their early twenties, the potential to fulfil the aforementioned dreams of future stardom is certainly attainable, especially once the driving energy of ‘Dead City Dreams’ smacks the listeners’ senses with the equivalent power of a speeding freight train, because this is an album to stir the very foundations of mundanity that TimeKillers find themselves residing in.
If there are opportunities lying in wait for TimeKillers, then the four members of this punk rock band remain cautious about any future prospects, despite the positive reception their debut album has received, as well as the album itself providing a strong reaction to the potential snares a small town environment can leave in wait when your guards are down. Therefore, it was down to the band, comprising of T.J. TimeBomb (lead guitar), Jones TimeMachine (bass/vocal), Jeremy TimeKiller (guitar) and J. TimeAttack (drums), to give their interpretations of events leading to the making of ‘Dead City Dreams’, as well as the ideas and inspirations fuelling this debut album.
“If you take one of our songs for example, ‘The City’, it’s about how frustrating it is to live in a small town. The idea of that song is that when everyone is young and you’re one of the smartest in your class at school and you have ideas about becoming the president or something like that [laughs], the reality soon hits you when you grow up because you’re from a small town with really nowhere to go. Therefore, that little dude who was supposed to become the leader of this country suddenly finds himself alone on his sofa watching TV and drinking. So that’s about it, where you once had a great future but at some point it all died.”
There is no hiding from the fact that there is a heavy load of frustrated emotions weighing down the contents of ‘Dead City Dreams’, but the album sounds more of a catharsis than a self-pitying whinge, that should see the band take the next progressive step away from the constraints that have held them in a vice-like grip for many years, if opportunities swing their way of course.
“We’ve always had this idea of keeping it real. What we mean here is that you need to be a real rock band and write your own music and do it for the love of music. It seems like some artists today get it [success] too easy, where they don’t have to do all the hard work by performing a lot of gigs that it takes to build a name for a band.”
Are you referring to the toilet gig circuit that so many bands in the UK, for example, have to play in order to build their profile?
“Yeah, and if the venues are horrible to play, it’s hard to get yourself in a state of mind to play a good gig, no matter what the audience or the PA system is like. You have to play as good as you can, no matter where you play. When we perform live, we play loud and tight as hell. I think it helps us to develop as a band to play those sorts of gigs.”
Have TimeKillers been outside of Finland to perform any live gigs?
“All of our gigs have been in Finland. The Finnish [music] scene is certainly big, but we think that the Finnish scene isn’t enough because we want to go to other countries and, at this point, it seems like we should go to other countries. The reason for this is that in Finland we often experience this difficult situation where punk rockers think our music is too poppy; headbangers think our music is too punk and poppy, and for rockabilly dudes it’s too punk! So, in Finland, we don’t really sit in any category. However, since the album was released and distributed we’ve received quite a few reviews and things like that, and it seems like we could have much more of an audience in other countries than we do here.”
Are there any actions TimeKillers have taken to try and address any problems associated with raising the band’s profile in Finland?
“It’s sometimes hard to get people to come to see our gigs in Finland, but when they do come, they feel that it’s awesome music and that it’s just great. The problem is that we need to get these people to our gigs more regularly, but also that we need to get those gigs as well because we’re from a small town and it’s really hard to get gigs if you don’t have any connections. We actually have this campaign going right now with similar types of bands in Finland from other towns and cities. The idea is to set up a gig in these other towns and cities with another band, and then we’ll go and perform there. In return, we’ll organise a gig somewhere else and the band that organised the first gig will come and play there with us. So it’s a way of building connections to a lot more places like that.”
Do a lot of new bands have to move to Helsinki if you want to build a large following and be relatively successful in Finland?
“Maybe not, as it’s too easy to drown in all the other bands in Helsinki because there are so many of them. There are other big cities such as Tampere or Jyväskylä that are better because there’s a culture there where, if a band is playing, there’s always going to be people watching whether they know the band or not.”
Is it a frustrating experience trying to pull in large crowds of people to one of your gigs if you’re living in a small town and some distance from the bigger cities?
“From where we are based, it’s really hard to get people to come and see us from other cities. However, in Keminmaa, we are in a happy position right now because everyone knows us there, and we can get people to come and see our gigs from the local area, but it’s not like that in all cities.”
The gigs that you do get, therefore, what sorts of numbers do you see in terms of people turning up to see you play live in Keminmaa?
“At this moment, the capacity of the venues that we play are roughly a hundred capacity, and that’s what we’ve been aiming for lately as well. A hundred is a good number for an audience, and a hundred is an easy number to sell as you can get a hundred people to come to a gig quite easily.”
Playing to a packed venue of approximately one hundred people must be rather special in terms of the atmosphere?
“Yeah, it is like that, as the smaller the place, the more closely people are packed together, and that makes for an intimate atmosphere. For example, our album release party, a few weeks ago, was a private party and there were approximately sixty or seventy people there. It was a really small venue, and so the people were packed tight, and the atmosphere was incredible and one of the best gigs that we have played.”
With TimeKillers citing influences from America’s punk rock scenes ranging from Ramones, Social Distortion and other influences from the UK with the Rolling Stones, The Beatles and closer to home Finnish band Slap Betty, whose singer and guitarist, Teemu Ylinikka, was the producer for ‘Dead City Dreams’, the band soon learnt a few lessons along the way before it came to writing and recording their first album.
“When we were recorded our first EP back in 2013, the guy who recorded that record, Ahti Kortelainen, who has worked with Sonata Arctica, suggested that the vocals should sound more punk rock than what we were singing. The problem was that we were trying to get the vocals too perfect, and then we realised that it is this kind of music [punk rock], so it doesn’t need to be perfect.”
With such advice given when recording your first EP, did you encounter any similar difficulties with the vocals when it came to recording ‘Dead City Dreams’?
“Some of the vocal parts were quite hard. If you listen to the album, some of the vocals are not even close to perfect, but they are good punk vocals and we are happy with them. The choir [vocals] were really difficult for [the song] ‘The City’ as well.”
Were there any other frustrating experiences when writing and recording the album?
“The biggest frustrations were recording the solos [guitars] because a lot of them hadn’t been written before we went to the studio. The reason for that was that we didn’t have a clear idea of what to play beforehand, so we had to compose the solos there in the studio. Also, we hadn’t written all of the lyrics before we went to the studio, so we had to write them there as well.”
When and where was the album ‘Dead City Dreams’ recorded?
“The album was recorded, mixed and mastered in Kemi, Finland, at Audiopaja by a producer called Matthias Remes. The album was recorded during spring 2015. The first songs that we wrote for the album were about two years old. The whole process took about two years, but the last four or five songs of the album were written a few months before we went in the studio. When we wrote those last songs, that’s the time when Teemu Ylinikka [vocalist/guitarist in Slap Betty, Finnish punk rock band] stepped in, and we started working on the songs with him and they got their final form in the studio.”
It was this “final form” that saw the set list take shape for ‘Dead City Dreams’, musically and lyrically, with the bands now signature melodic punk rock creating a backdrop to the feelings of frustration and thwarted ambitions brought on by the backwater they find themselves residing in.
With that said, it’s this very backwater of Keminmaa that has helped to inspire the songs making up ‘Dead City Dreams’ and, in the process, create one heck of a glorious racket. So, in many ways, a debt of gratitude is owed to this small-town existence because without it, ‘Dead City Dreams’ is likely to have never surfaced; ditto the band at the centre of this record, especially as thoughts turn to the next album where similar lyrical themes are already being suggested.
“The next album probably won’t be as frustrated or as depressed as ‘Dead City Dreams’, but it will likely hang on the same areas as this debut album. We will start working hard again next year with the idea of playing as many gigs as we can before next summer. We will build a studio in one place in Keminmaa, and we will record our next album in a really old-school way by recording it on a tape recorder and stuff like that. It should be a really great sounding album.”
Until that time arrives, TimeKillers already have one great sounding album in place, and it goes by the name of ‘Dead City Dreams’.
(Photography courtesy of TimeKillers)
"You have to play as good as you can, no matter where you play."
FLW - From the Tapes
TimeKillers recount a tale involving a prohibited homebrew and the recording of their debut album ‘Dead City Dreams’.
“The incident happened when we were recording the album and, in particular, the backing vocals for ‘Good Times’. Jones [TimeMachine] and T.J. TimeBomb had made a few litres of this homemade super wine a few weeks earlier, which is basically illegal in Finland. We had the last few litres of that with us in the studio, and just before we started recording those vocals as mentioned, Jeremy [TimeKiller] decided that now was the time to get wasted! He drunk about two litres of that horrible tasting stuff, and when it was time to start singing those vocals, Jeremey was passed out on the studio sofa! So our producer stepped in at that point and sang Jeremy’s parts on that song, and that’s why there’s no Jeremy on that one particular track.”