2012.10.26 - Baby Janeexclusive
Formed in 2007 in Gothenburg and since then on the road with the original line-up, Baby Jane make a splash not only in the Scandinavian rock scene. Right before their first common show with The 69 Eyes at "Klubi" in Finland's oldest city and former capital Åbo [in Finnish: Turku], the Swedish hard rockers enlightened us about the controversial method of "pay to play", why the quintet left the "Mama Trash Family" and why it does not always pay off to be the opening act for L.A. Guns...
Q: First of all, thank you, guys, for taking some time for this interview. As this is your first interview with Neon Lights, would you like to introduce yourselves?
Manx: I'm Manx, I play the bass guitar and do a lot of background vocals.
Freddie Wizzp: I'm the singer and my name is Freddie.
Matt: My name is Matt. I play the drums.
Rikk: I'm Rick, I play guitars, background harmonies and the piano.
Mikey: And I'm Mikey and I play the guitar.
Q: Tonight's gig is your first gig here in Åbo. Have you been in Åbo before?
Manx: Yeah, we have been here three years ago.
Rikk: I've been to Åbo many times. My mother is from Finland, so in my childhood I spent all my summers here. Last time we were here, we were visiting my grandparents. My grandmother just turned 100, so we visited them and had some coffee with them. With the band,we have been to Åbo once.
Manx: But we just landed in Åbo and took a car to Helsinki to play a show there. At "Gloria".
Mikey: It was within the framework of "Trash Fest III" in 2010.
Rikk: We never played in Åbo before.
Mikey: "Trash Fest III" was the first time that we played in Finland.
Manx: Yeah, we really liked it. It was nice so we were happy when the guys from The 69 Eyes asked us to join them on this two shows. It's phenomenal!
Q: How about joining them on their upcoming European tour? Wouldn't that be an idea?
Mikey: It's very much up to them. We are always open for suggestions and we like those guys and we are very happy to play with them here, so... We wouldn't mind... [smiles]
Rikk: Let's see what happens...
Manx: We truly respect those guys. We think that they are the coolest guys and one of the best rock bands in Northern Europe. Of course, it would be an honour to do lots of shows with them but it's their decision. And it's also a question of the record company. For this gigs, we were very fortunate that Jyrki69 [The frontman of The 69 Eyes] has something to say about who he wants to play with The 69 Eyes. Normally, it's the record companies who decide who is going on tour with a band since there is a little money involved...
Rikk: It's not only up to us what we want and it's not up to other bands what they want. There is always a management involved, strategies and so on...
Q: How about "pay to play" where up-and-coming bands pay a certain amount of money in order to play as a warm-up for bigger bands?
Manx: Way back, Baby Jane payed a lot of money to play with Backyard Babies...
Matt: We received such offers also for Crashdïet and L.A. Guns...
Mikey: But it's not sexy to "pay to play"...
Manx: And tonight, we don't "pay to play". We were invited to play here.
Q: Being invited by The 69 Eyes to join them on their two Halloween shows here in Finland isn't a bad start... How did you meet the guys?
Rikk: I think we met them the first time in 2007 when they played in Gothenburg.
Manx: We met them and gave them our demo tape.
Rikk: Back then, we always had after parties at my place. Every weekend, almost every night... That was our routine, our life back then. Whoever looked for an after party, came to my place. It was like an open house. [Laughter] Everybody could come and leave and do whatever they wanted. And one night, The 69 Eyes came over and we had a good time. And I think that left a lasting impression on them.
Mikey: Yeah, I just talked with them about that night... They still remember that! [Laughter]
Q: You already mentioned your gig within the framework of "Trash Fest III". You used to be a member of the "Mama Trash Family" - but you aren't anymore...
Manx: Yeah, we worked one year with Mama Trash. I think it was back in 2009 / 2010. We really needed her and her support back then, so we had a one-year contract with her. After that, it was about time for us to find a local manager. It would be a lot easier to work with a manager from Sweden or from around here - but we haven't found one yet... [Laughter]
Mikey: We also changed our focus a bit 'cause during that time we were touring and gigging pretty extensively, but we only had our home produced EPs back then so it was about time to get back in the cabin and record a proper album. So that's why we started to back off and concentrate on that. And now, since the album release of "In The Spotlight" in April 2012, we are here and ready and see what the market has to offer us, now that we deliver our music with this record and just released a music video as well...
Q: Yeah, the video shoot for "My Behavior" in your home town Gothenburg... How was it? The music video has been released just yesterday or the day before yesterday...?
Mikey: It was interesting!
The other band members: Cold!
Matt: It was very cold and a very short amount of time we had. We only had around eight hours...
Freddie Wizzp: I think we did it in six hours. They came around 10 o'clock and we finished around 4 o'clock.
Matt: We were in an old, closed factory. But they still have a lot of guards there and the gates were closed at 4 p.m. sharp, so we had to leave. Otherwise, we would have been locked in the cold.
Manx: It was almost minus degrees... Really cold!
Matt: And no electricity at all.
Manx: It was really cold during the video shoot but we are very happy about the result. We did a great cooperation with the production company "Greenworks Television". Very professional guys who work a lot with TV and commercials and also music videos. They shot music videos with amongst others Hardcore Superstar, H.E.A.T and so on... They did a great job, so hopefully we will work together again, do more videos...
Freddie Wizzp: It's pretty fun to do videos. [The other band members agree]
Q: It's quite impressive that you had an actual video shoot, considering the fact that even more and more of the bigger bands start to put these simple, so-called "Lyric Videos" on youtube - and that's it...
Rikk: Yeah, we have done those as well but we wanted to show ourselves in action, during our live performances, so it would tell a lot about us being a very visual band, not just having lyrics... We really liked this experiences and loved the response we got from a lot of people, so we definitely gonna do more of that.
Manx: Unfortunately, there is no platform anymore besides internet where you could present your music video. MTV won't show it and there aren't any Swedish channels on television which show music videos anymore... That's a bit sad.
Mikey: It's pretty tough to reach new people, new audience… You have your fanbase which follows you on facebook and they like what you do since they started to follow you in the first place, but... Through cooperations with different bands like The 69 Eyes... Jyrki69 shared our music video on their facebook page and we got 2000 views during one day from that, so I think that the whole community could cooperate with each other and share among the fans since, you know, listening to only one band as a music fan... You are in need of a longer playlist. I think that we are going to work for more, building up relationships with other bands and see how we can share the audience among each other. You don't lose anything by helping each other. If a crowd likes the one band, it might also like the other. And if they don't, you don't lose anything. I mean you don't have to choose between Mötley Crüe and Guns'n'Roses. Many people love them both. And I think our video is actually for potential new fans, to experience what we are all about. In three minutes.
Q: For an up-and-coming band, you seem to have a quite realistic view on what's going on in the music business nowadays...
Manx: I think we have been around a long time...
Rikk: It's always good to have reasonable expectations and goals - but it's also good to know the surrounding. I think we can analyse the situation pretty good to take it from there. There is no lack of will or goals or mindset or anything like that. This is what we love to do. But it's a hard business. It's like climbing an iceberg. [Laughter]
Mikey: You learn the hard way. We have been around for a couple of years now and we have played with other bands before. You learn from your mistakes. We have been invited to play with L.A. Guns when they came to Gothenburg, and that sounded great to us. I love L.A. Guns. But the mentioned gig was on a Wednesday at "Sticky Fingers", with a total of four bands playing. Three support acts and L.A. Guns on a Wednesday in Gothenburg... Not a good idea! And the ticket prices were around 200 SEK. Our band was pretty well-known while the other support acts weren't. There was an Italian band who performed first, we were the second one performing, followed by another Swedish Hard Rock band called "Badmouth", and then L.A. Guns played. I think we had around 50 people in the venue that night while we ourselves played a sold-out show in front of around 500 people later on. But you learn from your mistakes. It's not always the best thing to play with L.A. Guns on a Wednesday, even though it sounds like a lot of fun.
Rikk: We refused the offer to go on tour with them, so we only played that one show in Gothenburg with L.A. Guns.
Manx: It's a couple of years ago. I think it was in 2009.
Rikk: I guess they liked us, so they invited us to go on tour with them. But it was again some "pay to play" thing - and we don't do that anymore...
Q: But being asked by L.A. Guns to join them on tour is a huge compliment anyway, isn't it?
Baby Jane: Yeah, of course!
Manx: We had requests like this before but you can't say "yes" to all those requests because first of all you don't have the time and secondly you can't afford it since you don't earn that money by playing in front of 15 people on a Tuesday somewhere in Italy.
Rikk: We want to aim higher than that. [The other band members agree]
Mikey: Through the experiences we have gained from different shows we have done and different offers, we have learned which steps are strategically the best to take next. And now with this video, it's the perfect time to build up a crowd, to see what's happening and, maybe, we have a bigger crowd waiting for us in Europe in spring or in the summer. And since we also have the whole record released now, our fans can start to learn our lyrics by heart. Everything at the proper time. You can't really go ahead, claim to be a rockstar and tour Europe when you don't have a crowd...
Q: Now that you have the album and the music video released, wouldn't it make sense to rejoin the "Mama Trash Family"? Three weeks ago, we were in Helsinki at "Trash Fest V" and we actually saw a lot of Baby Jane bags in the audience, so there is your crowd...
Baby Jane: Cool! Hopefully they are all coming tomorrow to our show at "Nosturi"...
Manx: It's not impossible. We don't close any doors. But, you know... We must see a return on investment. It's not for free to be a member of the "Mama Trash Family". You have to pay for it. And for every money you invest, you want to see a return on investment by selling records, playing shows, selling merchandise... And right now, we don't see that Mama Trash has those contacts we need. We are located in Sweden and try to become as big as possible in Sweden, Finland and the rest of Northern Europe. And we are still looking for the right people to work with in Sweden - and that's hard enough. I think Mama Trash is doing a good job and has a great family of artists. We are not against it... Absolutely not! But I think we need someone who is dedicated to work with Baby Jane only. Like the guy who is selling our merchandise out there. He is also doing our hair and make-up... You see that we are very good-looking, aren't we? [Laughter] He is working as a hairdresser. He is really, really cool. I think a guy like him is the perfect guy to work with because he wants to work with Baby Jane. He is joining us on tour, he wakes us up in the morning, sells our merchandise, never complains... We want more people like that! People who are focusing. We would like to build up a crew around the band which is like a family at the same time. We are very used to do it all by ourselves: All the marketing and all the merchandise we have done by ourselves... The whole realisation of the album "In The Spotlight" was a "Do It Yourself" project: We invested our own money, booked our own studio, we are our own producers, we even printed the records ourselves, made the booklets ourselves... No-one fucking helps us with all those things! We don't have a record company which does that. We only have a record company which distributes the final product we give them. And now we are here and see a bigger band and how many guys are working around them...
Q: Isn't it somehow cool to have the full control over the things around you, talking about having more people involved?
Rikk: That's the way we used to do things because we know exactly what we want and we are pretty strong-minded. Every single one of us is very strong-minded. There is nobody else who can do it better than us because we know exactly what we want.
Manx: But one thing where we handed over the control to someone else was the video shoot. We had such as little amount of time so there was no time for us to work on a manuscript for the video ourselves. We found the location ourselves and we had some ideas, but then we just handed over the control to "Greenworks Television" and they took care of the schedule for the shoot, the make-up artists, the production assistants and so on.
Rikk: We didn't know what to expect and left it to chance - but it worked out perfectly for us.
Manx: It was better than we had expected. [The other band members agree] If we would have taken care of everything, it would have taken us two months to get the whole music video done. Although... It took us two years to finalise our album, from the preproduction to the final product. It's good when there is someone who says "I'm gonna do this shoot in one day!" - and only one week later, you are holding the final result in your hands. That's perfect. If we would have done it ourselves, maybe the music video wouldn't have been out before 2015...
Q: Talking about TV productions: Do you know the band "Pompei Nights" from Stockholm?
Rikk: We heard of them but we don't know them personally.
Manx: They are the main characters in the Swedish TV show "Rockstjärnor" [in English: "Rockstars"].
Freddie Wizzp: I haven't seen it.
Manx: There are commercials about it on Swedish television.
Mikey: This kind of television broadcasting things are starting to become really huge in Sweden, so even more and more smaller productions get a platform where they can present themselves. That's pretty interesting.
Q: Could you imagine to be involved in a similar format like Pompei Nights?
Manx: No, I don't think so. The thing is: When the TV show is over, often the same applies to the career of the band, too. It's like with the music competitions. Remember Lordi. Great Finnish act. I love them. And I loved it when they were participating in the "Eurovision Song Contest" in 2006, next to Carola, one of Sweden's most popular artists. And everybody thought that Lordi would be huge around the world after they had won the "Eurovision Song Contest". They became huge around the world, but just for a couple of months. Now I don't hear anything about Lordi. The hype about them being the winner of the "Eurovision Song Contest 2006" is over. There are other acts now. And I think it's the same when you participate in a TV show like "Rockstjärnor". When the show is over or gets boring, often the same applies to the band, too.
Mikey: I think filming us for a documentary in an interesting context and within a true environment and not just for the sake of doing a documentary... That would be ok. For example when we would go on tour with an interesting band and film everything ourselves... That would be natural and also something nice for us to remember what happened. But not something where a production team is following us all the time.
Manx: And I think it would be boring to watch Mikey or me being at work. We can't do this full-time and if the production company would film what we are doing on weekdays, it wouldn't be that interesting. They would be welcomed to join us on tour, but I think it's better to do it yourself and release it yourself.
Q: Wouldn't be tonight the perfect occasion for some footage?
Rikk: Yeah, we should definitely find a guy who is in charge of our documentaries. That would be cool.
Manx: We made one promo video... Have you seen that one? It's a small promo video on youtube about how we recorded our album, with some clips from our live-shows. It's a short documentary about Baby Jane.
Q: Baby Jane are around since 2007 but it took five years until you released your debut album "In The Spotlight"...
Freddie Wizzp: Well, we are a quality band. We don't release anything that's not done with quality. So that's why.
Manx: We are five persons in the band and everyone has the same right to decide in every decision we make. Sometimes we get stuck in the discussion and since none of us is like the boss in the band who says "Leave this and go in another direction"... That's why you need a manager.
Q: Let's talk a little bit about the Rock'n'Roll scene in Sweden. Which city would you say has the better Rock'n'Roll scene in Sweden: Stockholm or Gothenburg?
Baby Jane: Gothenburg!
Manx: Have you ever been to Gothenburg?
Q: No, I haven't. So far, I have only been to Stockholm...
Manx: You should come to Gothenburg! There, you will find the real Rock'n'Roll scene and the tallest guys...
Q: So there is always something happening in the famous venue "Sticky Fingers"?
Baby Jane: Yeah!
Mikey: Manko, the owner of "Sticky Fingers", is a great guy. He used to play the guitar in the band "Swedish Erotica" in the 80s and 90s, under the name "Magnus Axx".
Rikk: Gothenburg has this history of great bands in Rock and Metal, so it has a good crowd. All these bands like In Flames, At The Gates, Hardcore Superstar, Lillasyster, Hammerfall, Mustasch...
Mikey: When you think about it, it's really crazy... Right now, we have "Sticky Fingers", "Pustervik", "Trädgår'n", "Parken"... Almost every week, there is a great Rock or Heavy Metal band playing. Or two or three or four... If you are a concert lover, you could go to concerts every week...
Rikk: But all in all, I don't think that there is a huge Rock'n'Roll scene in Sweden. I mean if you play in Stockholm, you can only play in Stockholm twice a year. Maximum. There is no use to go there more often to play. Sweden is a pretty small country and the rock scene over there is not that huge, so that's why it wouldn't help to be on the road 360 days a year. You will end up in the same venue two weeks later...
Manx: It might sound pretty funny for you since you see a lot of bands coming from Sweden. They are great, good-looking, always sound fucking great, are perfectly produced... But it's not that we see bands from Stockholm running down the streets everyday outside in Gothenburg or that they see us in Stockholm. We are Swedes and we are pretty introverted. I think there isn't really a scene these days, so we have to create one again because there are great Rock'n'Roll bands but everyone is doing their own thing and isn't very helpful if you know what I mean...
Q: Indeed, it sounds funny, not to say weird 'cause when it comes to Sleaze, Hair, Glam and Hard Rock, a band from Sweden only has to say where they are from and there is immediately interest...
Rikk: I think we, the bands, have to thank each other for keeping up a pretty high level of quality and standard. We have to feel good with what we are doing before we release something.
Manx: The problem in Sweden is that there are too many bands and not enough clubs.
Rikk: [laughs] And too many bands and not enough people.
Manx: Baby Jane wouldn't have a problem to play every weekend but it's pretty hard to get the gigs you want. And there might be another good band playing on the same weekend. In Sweden, there is also the thing that you have to play one instrument in school. That's really good. I started to play the saxophone when I was ten years old and that sucked, so I switched to the bass guitar. And when you want to start a band, everyone is very helpful with providing you with a rehearsal room. And then there is this community which gives you money when you are playing in a band. That's fucking great. In Sweden, you choose to be either a rockstar or a sports star. Both is strongly supported in the schools in Sweden. Or you are becoming a nerd, playing with the computer. We are all of those: Nerds, athletic guys and rockstars. [Laughter] We got everything. We are the perfect combination. But, yeah, I think that's why there is good quality in Sweden, in the Swedish bands... Why they are good musicians.
Mikey: They are well-equipped as well. In Sweden, there are studios in every corner, I think.
Rikk: We have this tradition in music ever since ABBA, Roxette, Denniz PoP... Now we have Max Martin, doing productions for the latest and greatest artists in the world-wide pop scene. We are very influenced by that.
Manx: And internet became bigger than TV pretty early in Sweden, so it has been easy for us to collect stuff. And it influenced the whole Sleaze scene which started in 2007 / 2008 and became really big in 2009. That's because all the kids had seen all the youtube vids of Mötley Crüe and wanted to look like them. For us, it would have been great to release our album back then in 2009 when the Sleaze-influenced scene in Sweden was pretty huge. It's harder times these days than in 2009. Now, in 2012, it's not the same thing anymore. It's more about dudes in tights and with lipstick. We have never been a Glam band like that. We are more hard-edged. Hopefully something good will come out of it. Sweden is in big need of a new big cool rock band.
Q: How about Crashdïet? Wasn't there a huge Sleaze wave in Sweden, thanks to them?
Manx: Yeah, I think we can thank Crashdïet a lot for that.
Mikey: It wasn't really huge but it was a wave which started with them in 2003.
Rikk: We have been around the same time as them but back then we played in other bands. We were one of the bands who created the Sleaze scene but they were the ones who made it all the way to the top, and now we are trying to rebuild this scene.
Manx: I met the guys in 2002 at a Hanoi Rocks concert. Crashdïet had this demo with their first songs, it sounded really crazy, and they had this big hairs... I thought I would work but they actually showed that it did, so all respect to those guys because they did it the hard way.
Q: Before you had your debut album "In The Spotlight" out, a few EPs were released...
Manx: Yes, "Easy Game", "Taste Of Underground" and "Next In Line / This Is War".
Mikey: It's so funny that "Easy Game" is still in demand on youtube with a total of 10 000 views or so.
Manx: We played this song as an encore at our live-shows until 2010, I think. Many people claim that this is our best song. [Laughter] One reason for that might be our UK tour with Wrathchild. This UK tour and the release of the EP were both happening around the same time. In 2007.
Q: Alright, we are almost done, so... Do you have any "Famous last words" - or plans to come to Russia one day?
Manx: We would love to come to Russia... Of course! Hopefully they will invite us one day. If there is a demand for us, we surely will be there...
Photos by: Adrian Nysand / Promotional picture by Baby Jane