Zero Nine, a band that many thought was done with releasing new material, will have a new album out at the end of the summer. They’ve released a new single called “Key to The Paradise” and Rockunited.com had a chance to sit down with singer Kepa and bassist Jarski at Sauna Open Air Festival in Tampere, Finland.
Rockunited: You have a long history as a band but now with the new release there’s a whole new generation that has not heard of you. Could we start with a recap of your long career?
Kepa: The band started in Kuusamo but now we’ve lived in Oulu (Finland) for about 15 years. We started out as a group of friends so it was a natural way to start. It didn’t take us that long to get a record out and in 1982 “Vision, Scenes and Dreams” came out. The album came out in January and in May we got a phone call from management office and they said that Ian Gillan would like to produce our next album. At that point we didn’t have any new material but we were supposed to start recording in August! Nevertheless that was a chance that we just couldn’t say no to. So we got to a rolling start because during our first year we had two albums out, the latter one we did with Gillan in London. That was naturally huge for country boys from Finland because when we started it was just to release a few demos so we could have something to remember these times by later.
Rockunited: How come he decided to help out with your album (Blank Verse)?
Kepa: We played in the same festival in Valkeala and Gillan had already a copy of our album prior to that. By the way, we’re a unique band in a sense that Ian Gillan has introduced us to the stage. I don’t really know what his motives were but anyway we went on to do an album and had a great time in London. The record was released in a few European countries and I think also in Japan.
Rockunited: What was it like to work with Ian Gillan?
Kepa: Well he was a great guy obviously and it was easy for him to be nice because he really had no pressure about the album. As a matter of fact we didn’t have any pressure either because everything was new so we didn’t even realise that we should have pressure about releasing the album. Gillan’s biggest input on the album was that he produced it with the recorder. For my part it was great because my singing instructor was a person who I grew up looking up to so it was pretty amazing. So he’s a nice guy and it’s was nice for us to get a taste of the bigger rock circles.
Rockunited: So tell us what happened then?
Kepa: We had had a three record deal with Warner and after that we signed with a Swedish label who was interested in us. After that we released an album called “Headline” (1984) and at that point we we’re still looking for the right Zero Nine sound but “White Lines”, which came out 1985, that was the real deal for us and with that album we started to get a better feel of what our band should sound like. T.T. Oksala, who’s later produced e.g. HIM and an album for Lordi, came in and we did “White Lines” for Virgin. That album started the golden years, if you can call them that, for the band. We toured a lot and in the next year we did “Intrigue” and two years after that we recorded “Voodoo You”. After that we were so burnt out that we didn’t do anything. In the beginning of the nineties we were in Abba’s studio in Stockholm recording an album. When we came back we felt that the songs and playing were good but there was no spirit there so we decided that ok, we will not release and album before we get a good feeling to it. Eventually we had a break of eight years and in 1996 we released our next album “Freakshow” for Poko Records. After that another 7-8 years has passed and now is time for a new album. For this album, after 21 years, we changed the bassist in the band and Jarski is the new member in Zero Nine. Thou he’s been in the band for 19 years, singing backing vocals etc. So that brings us to today and we’re finishing the new album and it’ll be in the stores this August.
Rockunited: You covered two Jeff Paris songs (Charmed Life, I Can’t Let Go) on your Freakshow album. How did you end up doing that?
Kepa: We had a friend in the States who we contacted and asked if he knew any material that would suit our band. So he sent us about half a dozen Jeff Paris songs and we started playing them. We noticed that two of them were good for us. So it was a matter of coincidence really, we had a friend in a good place at a right time. Later on we noticed that Vixen had also recorded one of the songs. We had it in the works for quite a while before we released it so Vixen beat us to it. But anyway if you’re playing someone else’s songs it doesn’t matter who wrote it, it’s the composition that matters. Jeff Paris writes good songs, but it was a coincidence that those two songs ended up on our album.
Rockunited: You’ve opened for AC/DC, ZZ Top, Iron Maiden and many other bands. What were the highpoints or lowpoints of those gigs?
Kepa: Well with AC/DC we had a few classic Spinal Tap blunders. Before a gig in Oslo we got lost in the basement when we were supposed to get on stage. There was some AC/DC staff in some lobby and we passed them at least five times. Every time we just shouted “rock ‘n’ roll” or “hello Cleveland” or something. They thought it was cool that we didn’t worry about it too much but really, crying doesn’t help if you’re too stupid to find your way to the stage. During the same tour, in Copenhagen when our gig was over we were backstage. Our bassist at the time, Elmo, had some guy telling him for a long time how good our gig had been. After he left someone came and asked Elmo what the guy had said. And it was at this point that it became clear that it was Brian, the singer of AC/DC. But for a band like us who’s done over 1500 gigs it’s pretty funny that people are only interested in those 15-20 gigs that we did with bigger bands. I think the real value of our gigs is in those gigs that we’ve done in Finland and elsewhere. But sure, if you get to do a big concert with a big name headlining, you reach the same amount of people that you would doing loads of small clubs.
Rockunited: Any other persons or gigs you like to point out?
Kepa: Well, Steve Vai was a gentleman, he took the time to come and meet with the opening act which is pretty rare. All in all they’ve all been a great to us. The big stars are people just like you and I and for us they were all cool.
Rockunited: Let’s talk about your new single “Key to the Paradise”. How did the new material come about?
Kepa: Some of the guys in Zero Nine went into the studio about two years ago without me and our keyboard player. They did some of their own stuff and at some point they called me because nobody wanted to sing those. We felt that the songs were really good so we thought that why to do anything else because we basically had the whole Zero Nine there. At that point Jarski came aboard and we worked on the songs for quite a while. Then in February we decided that we’re gonna get an album done and it’ll be out in August because the record company has that kind of schedule. The main reason for doing this is that we feel that the time is right for Zero Nine and we also have a good feeling about our music. It’s not enough that you just perform. Good records are born only if there’s a good feeling attached to making them.
Rockunited: Will your new album be distributed internationally?
Kepa: Our previous album which was also done for Poko Records was distributed to quite many countries and I think the same will happen with this one. Sure we wish and I’m sure that the record company wishes that people would buy the album. This may sound like some lah-di-dah but we really have no interest other than feeling good about making our music. When you’re free from commercial stuff it’s really great to write music. One of the biggest triumphs for the band already is that we really like our new material.
Rockunited: Could your next gig on July be described as a comeback concert?
Kepa: Everybody keeps saying that it’s a comeback gig and sure, we’ve taken a long break from recording but for us the band has existed the whole time. We’ve written some material during that time and there’s not a single year during our career when we wouldn’t have played a concert. At least to be able to say that hey, we’re still around. So it’s not a comeback for us.
by Petri Kautto