came out of nowhere in 2006, causing a stir with the release of its
debut album, ‘Tides’. The group's blend of modern metal sound and
old-school, melody-based songwriting earned rave reviews from the media
and created a fan base both in Finland and throughout the rock community
in many countries.
third full-length album, ‘Circus Colossus’, which entered the official
chart in the band's home country at position No. 27 was released on
November 4 via Spinefarm Records. And so we tracked down guitarist
Tuomas Heikkinen to ask him some questions about LEVERAGE’s
Congratulations on the release of your new album ‘Circus
Colossus’ which came out recently in Europe, of course we’d like to ask
you a couple of questions about it. First of all, I’m not familiar with
your band, so could you start this interview off with a short
Tuomas: We’re a bunch of seasoned veterans in the field of playing heavy
rock, Leverage got started between me (Tuomas Heikkinen, guitar), Torsti
(Spoof, guitar) and Pekka (Heino, vocals) in late 2003 when we started
working on some demo songs I had written. I had played them to Torsti
with a friend of mine, Kimmo Blom (Urban Tale etc), singing. Torsti
liked them very much, and wanted to start working on making them into
good demos. Then I ran into Pekka to play a cover gig, one of those
somebody-get-a-band-together deals, I was blown away by his talent and
quickly got him introduced to what I had so far. We hit it off really
well right from the start, Torsti has a great studio (more about this
later) and we little by little got some good demo recordings completed
while recruiting the rest of the band (Pekka Lampinen, bass; Valtteri
Revonkorpi, drums; Marko Niskala, keys) on the way, leading us to having
a 7-song promotional CD in our hands early 2005. To make the story
short, we got signed a month later and started writing the rest of what
became ‘Tides’ and entered the studio late ’05 to record everything over
again with the now complete band. We played some cover gigs during ’05
and ’06 to get the band vibe going before the release of ‘Tides’ in
How did you launch into writing material for ‘Circus
Colossus’ and how much time did you spend on the songs?
Tuomas: This was pretty much a year ago, we signed with Spinefarm and
realized that it was time to start writing like hell. From there on we
spent tons of time writing, demoing etc up until May when we hit the
studio. I believe everything you hear on CC was written or at least put
together for the first time between November ’08 and May ’09.
Which approach did you choose to create this album, did
you go for a more raw exposition.. Or something more reminiscent of your
previous other works, or something all together different?
Tuomas: There was a big change in attitude, it suddenly hit us that the
honeymoon was over, that we’d be making our third album which often is
referred to as the do-or-die one. And with that, we wanted to make the
biggest sounding studio album we ever could.
I still love the first two albums we made, the difference here is that
we now understood the fact that we had not gotten to play live in front
of all people who had our albums, that there would also be people
getting the new one who would most probably never see us play live, and
therefore the idea of making yet another album sounding as much as
possible like a ‘Leverage-live-in-your-living-room’ setup didn’t make
I mean, that had been the guideline with both ‘Tides’ and ‘Blind Fire’,
an honest sonic view on what our six-piece sounds like live. Then people
at the gigs came to tell us that we sound bigger live than on the albums
and we’re like ‘what the heck…?’ I guess it’s a fact that seeing a band
live with a live volume doesn’t call for every audio track that is heard
on the album to still be enjoyed, we just didn’t get that earlier.
So we decided to go for huge choirs when needed, some orchestrations,
more overdubs on the guitars at some points etc, in other words we
pretty much came to our senses and decided to start doing what you
generally do in the studio.
Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them
down or was it more of a careful composing thing?
Tuomas: I can only speak for myself, and it varies a lot. More often
than not I get started with some little idea, and then that little thing
seems to call for some other thing next to it and so on, until you have
the basic structure with some holes here and there that need some ‘glue’
material, my demos really are a mess in the beginning. It’s like ’this
part needs to be really heavy’ and I’ll just quickly build something on
the computer and kind of try to mold and sculpt it all together the
following day. Often the end result is very simple compared to a demo
stage. I try to follow the rule of thumb: ‘Does the song really need all
this?’. But there are songs on CC, especially “Wolf and the Moon” and
“Worldbeater “ and maybe “Prisoners” also that I really tried to put
What comes first, lyrics or melodies?
Tuomas: Very often it is a case of humming a chorus line with ‘work
lyrics’ that sound good, whether they make sense or not. If they do,
they’ll most likely end up being the guideline to the actual lyrics, if
not I’ll have to start elsewhere. But it is melody first with an idea of
what that type of melody might tell you about.
What were the goals you had in mind when you started to
record ‘Circus Colossus’, any elements you definitely wanted to have on
Tuomas: Choirs and orchestrations, this we had decided early on. Big
choruses. Really ‘chunky’ guitars.
Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?
Tuomas: Yes it was, the orchestration part is a result of the recent
development in software, just a few years ago those sample based
orchestras were really not that convincing, now they’ve become really
good. We couldn’t pay for a real orchestra anyway, so we’re really happy
about the fact that these days you can get a very good ‘next best thing’
with a budget such as ours.
How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the
typical writing process like for Leverage? For example, is it a group
process or did some people write more songs than others?
Tuomas: I think some of this is covered already. But I’ll put it like
this: we’ve been together as a band for some time already, I know how
the guys play, how Pekka sings, what they’ve liked in the past and so
on. So I am fairly confident that if I feel a song will be good for
Leverage, it most likely will please the guys, too.
With that said, here’s the data on CC, of the 10 songs I’ve written 5
all by myself, one with Torsti (“Movie Gods”) and one with Valtteri
(“Don’t Keep Me Waiting”), Torsti has written the music for two songs
(“Rider of Storm”, “Revelation”) all by himself, there’s 10 if you count
“Rise”, that is totally played by Sami Boman, the orhestra guy that
helped me build “Wolf and the Moon” to what it is. “Rise” is actually
the intro for Wolf, I had an intro on the demo with the basic harmony,
and he took it on from there.
I have also written all the lyrics on all Leverage albums up until now,
on the Japan version of CC there is a song called “Mean and Evil” that
Pekka wrote the lyrics for with a friend of his.
After the release of your previous album, one of
Leverage’s long time members Pekka Lampinen left and Sami Norrbacka
stepped in. Did this line-up change have an influence on the new songs?
Tuomas: No, Pekka was still attempting to stay in the band, and he also
plays on CC, Sami was merely the substitute Leverage live bass player
until it became clear that Pekka would not be able to play with us on a
regular basis anymore and then we asked Sami to become a permanent
member of Leverage. They’re both great players and good guys, we’re sad
to lose Pekka but happy to have Sami.
What is the utmost important ingredient for a song
according to you?
Tuomas: A story with a memorable chorus. A mood.
Could you please describe the implications of the title
‘Circus Colossus’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning
Tuomas: That thing is very much tongue-in-cheek. We thought we had made
a very big sounding album, and were passing all kinds of ideas back and
forth for a title. At some point I just mailed. ‘You want it big, how
about Circus Colossus?’ I thought it was funny as hell, but the guys
loved it. And after having given it some thought, it made everything
else we had discussed look very small. So we kept it.
Can you give us a short explanation of what the lyrics
are about, is there a story behind them?
Tuomas: So I am the guilty part. I’d rather let people interpret the
lyrics the way they want to, and a couple of times I’ve been very
surprised talking with someone hearing how they’ve turned a song’s
lyrics into something that fits their lives or their way of thinking in
general. On CC, there are elements that can be connected to my own life
or to the story of someone I know, but not quite directly. I’ll give you
an example, “Worldbeater” describes a situation where you’ve just had
enough of someone running his mouth, and decide to do something about
it, come what may. We’ve all had those, I believe.
How did the recording process proceed this time, did you
work differently than on previous albums and how much time did you spend
in the studio?
Tuomas: It went smoothly, even though it was a lot of work with the
track numbers passing 100 here and there. We started late May and were
done in August.
Who produced the album, and what made him the perfect man
for this job?
Tuomas: I would say Jari Mikkola and our Torsti did the actual hands-on
producing since it’s their studio, I sat there a lot, too and maybe
deserve my name on the album sheet as the third producer.
In which things/songs on the new album can one clearly
hear his vision and ideas?
Tuomas: Jari kept Torsti and me focused on the work at hand, and helped
out tremendously in getting everything done. As far as visions and ideas
go, we’ve developed a great rapport in the studio with the three
recording burdens, so I can’t really say where each or any single one of
us has a clear stamp on something, it is very much a co-operation thing.
Do you have any favourites on the album?
Tuomas: Yes, but they keep changing, I am very happy with that. I don’t
listen to it too much right now, but when I do I don’t press skip.
Have you received any feedback on the album yet?
Tuomas: Yes, we have. The fans loved it, the critics have had mixed
opinions, we seem to be getting real physical releases country by
country which is great.
Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your
music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that
Tuomas: Fans are of course very important, they’re the reason for us to
get out and play live. Media is important for us to develop Leverage’s
‘career’, and we’re glad to give interviews and such whenever needed.
Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or
would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective? Which
element of the CD are you the most proud of?
Tuomas: There’s always some little things here and there, but overall I
am very happy with the end result.
How has the band's sound progressed from your first album
to ‘Circus Colossus’ in your opinion?
Tuomas: A friend of mine who’s a great player said that ‘you guys
somehow seemed to hold something back on the first two but not anymore’.
I think that is well said, we really weren’t as sure about what we
wanted to sound like on the first two albums as we were this time. They
both turned out fine, but this time it was not a matter of luck but
finishing what we had planned.
Which song is your favourite one to play live? Which song
do you find is the most challenging one to play live?
Tuomas: “Wolf” is the opener and has that great adrenaline flow in that
sense, “Prisoners” is a bit challenging ‘cause we need to play really
sharp at some points to make it sound right.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of
things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics?
Tuomas: I have been a heavy rock fan all my life, since I was 9 or so,
and my musical influences date back to old Rainbow, Purple, early Van
Halen and such. I have also been involved in contact sports at an
international level for a long period of time, and I believe some of the
things I believe in come from there. I read a lot and with a lot of
With several albums under your belt, how far has Leverage
surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most
rewarding part of being in the band?
Tuomas: In some ways, we’ve already gone further than I thought we
would. In some others, some things seem within reach but hard to get.
The most rewarding part has been getting messages from people all over
the world that they’ve started to like what we do.
What were the highlights and low points throughout your
Tuomas: I hope the highlights are yet to come. The low was the music
scene of the 90’s, the grunge-era and all that rubbish, there was
absolutely no place for the type of music I love.
What is your opinion on the metal scene these days? What
do you think about the overload of bands at the moment and is there
anything missing in the scene?
Tuomas: The heavier the music the better…I think metal has become its
own victim in many ways, it has grown bigger and now all the side
effects that are mostly connected with popular music are visible, bands
mimicking each other and so on.
What might be missing, purely in my opinion, is the feeling of music
that seems to be replaced with aggression and showcases of technical
skill. Nothing wrong with either, but those things alone do not make up
for lack of emotion in the music.
What can we expect from Leverage in the near future, any
Tuomas: More wishes than actual plans at this stage.
Where do you see the band going within the next five
years, and where do you see the band’s musical direction going for the
Tuomas: We’d like to get to play for as many people outside of Finland
as possible in 2010, and as far as the next album goes, I hope we’ll
have some serious live playing to do before we start even to plan it.
The musical direction will be interesting to see, that’s all I can say
Any last statement?
Tuomas: Thanks for the support, keep rocking and hope to see you one
Thanks for your time.
Pekka Heino - Vocals
Tuomas Heikkinen - Guitar
Torsti Spoof - Guitar
Sami Norrbacka - bass
Marko Niskala -Keyboards
Valtteri Revonkorpi – Drums
(2008) Blind Fire
(2009) Circus Colossus
(2007) Follow Down That River