Part 5: Refining Metal

He was just 14, a year below me, and was sitting in the music class in our school with his white Ibanez guitar. I had been playing for a couple of years, but Janne was waaaay ahead of me. He was not only cranking out riffs but was doing simple solos as well. I had no idea someone roughly my age could play that well. I knew right away he was exactly the guy we needed. I told Assu and Rytky about him, and they were all for asking him to join the band.

And who knows, this guy could be a great singer as well!

A bit later, I went to talk to Janne at school. He seemed to be a lot like me, a shy, friendly kid who was all about music. He mentioned he had seen us unloading our gear for our first gig. To my astonishment, he told me he had only been playing the guitar for four months. He had obviously been practicing a lot, but was also a natural talent. I asked him to come to my place and see how it goes. He seemed to like the idea, even though he apparently had heard us on the radio in September, which I wouldn’t call a recommendation.

He lived close to our school, far away from the town centre and my place, but his sister gave him a ride to his first rehearsal . It was October 4th 1989, and the Finnish metal band Airdash was on TV that night. (Janne told me this, he remembers stuff like that.) One of the first songs I ever played with him was “From Dust to Dust”. I plugged my guitar and my distortion pedal in the stereo to record the riffs for him to learn. (He still has the tape, he keeps stuff like that.)

With Janne on board, we started rehearsing with a newfound determination. He fit right in and came up with a lot of cool riffs, some of which were hard for me to play, but I tried. For the next few months in the fall of 1989, we were a real creative unit with all of us writing and throwing in ideas. We soon had a bunch of new songs that made us the metal band we were supposed to be in the first place. Also, we left our garage and started rehearsing in Tunturila, which was a youth centre on the other side of town. One day, when we were there, and Rytky saw me yawning, he threw a coin into my mouth and I almost choked to death. Could have made us famous, like Mayhem!

And yes, we made Janne try singing at one of our early rehearsal, just in case there was a Hetfield hiding in his throat. There was not.

When he joined, we – of course – had a new gig poster printed. Again, Rytky drew us a new logo, but since we had no photos of the new line-up and it didn’t occur to us to have some taken, we used a cartoon from Pahkasika magazine as graphics. (No, we didn’t know it was illegal. We didn’t know much of anything.) Now we had even more gig posters that were never to be used. 

Janne played his first show with us in the end of January 1990, when Assu’s mom got us a gig in Savonlinna. We were invited to play at some youth event with bands and dancers and whatnot. I thought it was fantastic news. I mean, Arched Fire would travel 700 kilometres to play a 15-minute set and then ride all the way back – wasn’t that exactly what real bands did? The downside (for me only, probably) was that we’d go there together with all the other young performers. I always felt like a freak among people of my age, and the mere thought of spending hours on end in a bus with dozens of teens I didn’t know filled me with dread.

However, there was a silver lining: this middle-aged alcoholic lady we knew had promised to buy me a bottle of hard liquor. Anis flavoured. So, I figured if I’d endure the way there and back, I could get wasted in a new city! Plus, a couple of my friends would join the adventure. Jani and Mika, the bassist and guitarist of Oasis, respectively, tagged along as our “roadies”. Those lanky boys weren’t actually what I’d call road crew material, but it was fun to have them there.

As soon as we got there and were shown our dwellings, we left the building like a bunch of Elvises. We went to a guitar shop where Janne tested a real Gibson Les Paul, and to a record store where I bought a stack of classic Alice Cooper albums – School’s Out, Love It to Death all that classic stuff that I still love (to death). And soon enough. I cracked the anis booze open. Drinking was a strict no-no and hush-hush thing in the youth centre scene, obviously. Their events were organized to give the kids something else to do than loiter in the streets and drink, and we were way under-aged anyway.

As the winter night fell, we kept walking around the city and drinking, then singing, and eventually I was so fucked up I couldn’t see straight. I don’t really remember anything about getting back to our accommodation, but the guys told me they had to clean up my puke from the hallway, and apparently it was just plain luck they managed to smuggle me inside without anyone getting caught booze-handed. What I do remember is the morning after. I was horribly hung over and everyone was laughing at me. Served me right.

Considering the circumstances and the hangover, the gig went alright. But, we watched it later on VHS, and it wasn’t much of a show. Rytky was great onstage, moving around and actually performing, but Janne and I were just standing there like a couple of shoegaze musicians. The band played better than ever, our songs were better than ever, but there still was room for improvement. If only we’d find a singer and a frontman to rule the stage…

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