Serpico – singer Vee Dour and drummer Jani Serpico

Spread the metal:

Singer Vee Dour and drummer Jani Serpico – Serpico

Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall

Thanks to Roberto at Rockshots Records for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Rockshots Records for the promo pictures of the band.

I had a sit-down chat with Jani Serpico and Vee Dour from the Finnish band Serpico (yes, they’re named after the Al Pacino movie). I wanted them to tell me more about the band, past, present, and future as well as their brand new album THE CHOSEN FOUR. It’s their third album sure to please fans of true rock n’ roll, as it’s jammed with energetic and high fueled songs. Legendary producer Ansi Kippo recorded the album in his Astiastudio. I asked them what it was like to work with him, as well as challenges in finding a new record deal (the album’s been ready since 2019). We also touched on member changes over the years and the album the band recorded but have yet to release.


Hi guys, how are you doing today? It’s really nice to talk to you; are you ready to kick off the interview?

Jani & Vee Dour: Hi man, it’s an honor to be interviewed for such a great n’ legendary rock & metal music magazine as Metal-Rules. Thanks for having us.

First of all what’s the status regarding the pandemic in Finland at the moment, have things gone back to usual now?

Jani: It’s coming back to normal I guess yeah, no more quarantines; face masks are gone and stuff. I think there’s no going back to that shit again, I hope.

The band was founded back in 2005. How did that come about and how do you guys know each other?

Jani: I met Vee Dour when we were kids; actually we played ice hockey in the same team (Porin Ässät). We came best friends and music has always been our number one interest. Snage, I met through Vee. Andy I met by my other friend and we met Kimmo with Vee Dour somewhere in late ’90’s/early 2000’s. Turo was in the band already when I joined, so I met him at the rehearsals for the first time. Eddy I met in 2012 maybe?

Why did your former drummer Jaakko Kakko leave the band in 2008?

Jani: Briefly, it was just a pure lack of an interest and he was more interested in working in the media industry. He even moved to Helsinki and got the job with the national Finnish TV channel. No bigger story to tell, we are all still friends.

Was it hard to find someone to replace him?

Vee Dour: Well, I had to persuade Jani just a little bit to join our forces. Jani was absolutely the first pick; at least I wanted him to come check if it’s the right job for him and here we are now.

Is it correct that you Jani, were supposed to be a fill-in drummer in wait for a solid member? Well, how did that go?

Jani: Haha, yes… that was part of my twisted n’ bastard-minded plan… just kidding. Yeah, I told the guys that I can fill the drummer’s spot until they found someone new, but inside of me I knew that I was gonna stay because the guys were pretty lazy about it, haha. I just love playing in Serpico. I think it went like it should. I’m very happy about the outcome.

I know you recorded some demos with the original line up, where are the demos today?

Vee Dour: Hard to say. I guess they’re somewhere on our band members’ old computer hard drives. I might have some of them in my CD-collection as well. By the way, the very first demo was actually a cassette and it was made in our rehearsal flat.

Where does the band name Serpico come from and who came up with it?

Vee Dour: The band name comes from Al Pacino’s movie with that title. Originally the name was Jaakko’s idea because he was such a movie freak and obviously liked it very much. From those early times I remember how we said to each other every time we saw: “Hey there Serpico, how’s it going?” From that moment I instantly knew that we had something on our hands and every member of the band was excited about it. It was a very cool time when you had a chance to merge into a completely different world of music which you had not done before. By that, I mean singing in English.

In 2008 guitarist Kimmo Hautamäki joined the band. How did that come about?

Jani: Kimmo was and is an old friend of Vee Dour’s and mine. He’s awesome guitarist and a great guy, so we thought he could be a good fit for the band, and he was indeed! Unfortunately, he also decided to leave due to a lack of interest. We have so many great, funny memories to share from that era. Kimmo is a master mind of Kummeli humor (Kummeli is a legendary Finnish TV comedy show).

You recored an album that never came out. Why did UTOPIA + 358 not get released?

Jani: I think we were bit of a lost there with everything when we were making that album and it just left the whole project unfinished. Those are my feelings and memories of that era…

What did media think of your EP, BAD COMMERCIAL, released in 2011?

Jani: Honestly, I don’t know.

Was the EP released by label or did you put it out yourself?

Jani: It was a self-published EP, yeah.

In 2009 bass player Turo Sinkkonen left the band. Was his departure expected? Why has the band gone through so many member changes?

Jani: It was kinda expected that Turo was gonna leave the band at some point. I think Hhe had so many bands and other music projects going on at the same time that Serpico wasn’t that important to him, so he chose to leave. We are still good friends with Turo also, btw. Snage n’ Turo are working on a new music project together.

Has it been hard for you to go through all the changes in the line up or has it made you more confident and secure as a band?

Jani: It’s always a little bit stressful when someone’s gonna leave the band and you need to figure out how to get a new person that’s as great as the previous one. It always affects the whole band for a while. Luckily, we are hardened bastards that in the end we really don’t give a shit about a little slowdown, and we will continue doing what we love the most – playing rock n’ roll!

SHALLOW MISTRESS is the name of Serpico’s debut album from 2014. What do you think of the debut today and what did media have to say about it?

Jani: In my opinion, it’s a decent album. Somewhere in 2013 when we started writing songs, we decided to go more classic rock n’ roll / hard rock. You can hear it when you listen to it, that times of change are in the air. The album got ranked 5th on the RecordshopÄx’s TOP 5 newbies of the year 2014 in the category Metal/Rock. You can find it on RecordshopÄx’s website.

Have you done a lot of touring since the release of the debut?

Jani: Sure, in addition to Finland, we toured Sweden, Latvia, Estonia, and UK.

Back in 2014, you toured together with Bloody Heels, Rust & Rage, and Princess. How was that and what did people outside of Finland think of your music?

Jani: It was fun to tour with those bands! They are all such a great, lovely people! We were like a big family on the road at the time, I loved it. It left me the impression that people liked us very much. A few people in the audience even asked me to write autographs after the shows.

What bands and artists have inspired Serpico? 

Jani: Well, personally I’ve always been a big fan of music from the ’30s right up to the ’90s era. If I have to name a few rock bands, it would be artists such as: Carl Perkins, Little Richard, The Earls, Crazy Cavan, Shaking Pyramids, Hanoi Rocks, Michael Monroe, Stray Cats, GN’R, Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy, Motörhead, Queen, Hurriganes, Rolling Stones, Saxon, Judas Priest, etc. I also listen to all kinds of music which are not rock n’ roll or heavy metal. All the members of the band listen to music ranging from Jazz to Black Metal and I think we’re constantly taking influences from all different genres.

The band was support act to the Finnish legend Michael Monroe. How was that?

Jani: Yeah, it was awesome. Personally, I’ve been a big Hanoi Rocks fan since I was a kid and it was an honor to open the stage for him. All the guys in the band and their crew was so nice and friendly to all of us. We warmed up the stage for Sami Yaffa’s Madjuana band a couple of years earlier, so we knew Sami a little before that show. Sami is an awesomely cool guy and great bass player.

You also did a collaboration with Finnish reality TV star Aki Manninen as he released his handmade custom Harley Davidson bike. What’s the story behind that?

Jani: Aki is my old friend; we know each other from the motorcycle business. He was a seller in one of the motorcycle shops in my home town, and I’ve been working approx. 15 years with Harley Davidson as a mechanic. When Aki started building one of his bikes and was going to release it with a big bang, I was thinking that “Shout” would be a good fit for the release party as a theme song. Aki and Rita (his wife) liked the song so much that they wanted to use it, as I thought they would. The bike was actually released live on the stage when we were warming up the Michael Monroe band.

When and why did Kimmo Hautannäki leave the band?

Jani: I think it was somewhere in 2015… Kimmo told us that he didn’t have enough time for what the band required, so it was better for him to step aside. We are still good friends with Kimmo too.

Jani, how fast did you persuade Eddy from Rust N’ Rage to become the new guitarist?

Jani: It was Finnish Independence Day, Dec. 6th 2015 when we were heading to a Motörhead show at the Helsinki Ice Hall with Eddy. I told him that Kimmo left the band and we were looking for a new guitarist. He offered himself! I think Rust n’ Rage had some kind of break at that time and Eddy needed some action. By the way, Eddy is my youngest daughter’s godfather.

Are everyone in Serpico friends with Rust N’ Rage?

Jani: Yeah, definitely! They are like our brothers, awesome guys! Back in the day we were like 2 bands united and we fought together for rock n’ roll! Many of the local bands in the scene at the time quit; almost all of ’em are gone except us and Rust n’ Rage, and a few others. So it tells you that we are serious about what we do and we believe in it.

How was the response by fans & media on the single “Ain’t Better To Leave” from 2016?

Jani: It was decent, but the best thing was that Noddy Holder from Slade released it on his “Cum On Feel the Newz” music blog alongside Metallica and Papa Roach. That was pretty cool!

In 2017 you finalized the recordings of the album ROCK TATTOO. Why did it take you so long to finish the album?

Jani: That was a hard time and we did try to get songs together but it seemed that there was boredom in the band because nothing seemed to push us forward. We made it but the outcome was…I don’t know. They were hard times.

Does Serpico have a big fanbase in Finland?

Jani: We’ll see when we hit the road, let’s hope for the best!

And what about the fanbase outside Finland? Is it big?

Jani: I gotta give you the exact same answer as the previous one. =)

In 2019 another member change occurred when Eddy left the band; why did he leave?

Jani: At the time, Rust n’ Rage started getting back in business and more serious and kinda re-setting the band ready for the higher future goals. Eddy didn’t have the time for two bands trying to get themselves noticed by bigger audiences. Of course he chose Rust n’ Rage because it’s his band. We totally understood it. It was an honest, fair and natural selection.

New album THE CHOSEN FOUR

When did you start to work on material for the new album?

Jani: We recorded a demo of ‘Midnight Cowboy’ in 2018 I think, but all the other songs were written between 2019 & 2020.

Who writes the music and lyrics? What are the lyrics about on THE CHOSEN FOUR?

Jani: Main songwriters are Vee Dour & Snage.

Vee Dour: It’s all about something that you see, feel, or hear in everyday life. One song is about parenting and some songs are about love and intercourse which includes different type of elements. Then there are things where you ponder the meaning of life and stuff like how the whole universe began and why you’re here, etc. Each song I write has a small hint of truth, although they are coloured with poetic metaphors and the story around it varies depending on how dramatic the outcome has to be. Yeah, my mind is a bit twisted, I must admit, haha.

Is it correct that you started to write material as early as back in 2019?

Vee Dour: Yeah, we had a new point of view in writing with Anssi’s tips. There were many songs that didn’t make it to the album. Although you become very blind to your own songs; that’s why you need somebody from the outside who notices the best ones – like Mr. Anssi Kippo did with his outstanding professional ear.

Do you think the band has changed anything music-wise if you compare THE CHOSEN FOUR with the debut album?

Jani: Yeah, totally! We are now sounding better than ever and the band’s playing has improved massively; it’s better than ever. This album was definitely the game changer for us related to our understanding of music and songwriting. It’s getting better all the time. In music you are never done, so the next one is always the best one.

Did you use all of the songs you wrote or were there any songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?

Jani: No, I think there was 25-30 songs total.

What are the songs “I Am a Rocker” (2.38), “Holy Rocks Outta Body” (3.07) and “Silent Love” (3.27) about? Those are the shortest pieces on the album.

Vee Dour: I can only tell about “Holy Rocks Outta Body” because it’s the song which I wrote. How can you wake up the people and move aside the plugs they’re holding inside? Well, of course, you become the priest of rock ‘n roll and start preaching about the sweetness of it, haha. If you still can’t get rid of the plug, you can always just kneel and with the talents and help of the main character, voila the plug is erased…you know, haha.

Jani: Snage told me that the song “I Am a rocker” is a story about me. I’m honored.

What’s the story behind the title, THE CHOSEN FOUR?

Jani: It was Andys idea mostly. He was playing with words and rest of us liked it! I think he said first, “The Chosen For…” and I suggested that maybe we can change the “for” to “four”, because there’s four members in the band.

Who did the cover art work to the album and are you happy with it?

Jani: Respected Finnish artist Rauli Mård made the cover art. He listened our album and started painting. He actually painted it by hand and that’s why it’s so unique. We definitely love it; he is a great artist!

Jani, the info sheet states that you say “People will definitely notice it’s high quality in songs, production and sound and versatility to nowadays”. What do you mean with that?

Jani: If you listen to the album and compare it to today’s production and sound, you can’t find a single natural thing in modern day production. Every note, every hit, every voice is 100% natural on this album – no vocal tunings or Pro Tool drum samples etc. We have our own unique sound that we cherish, we don’t need, and don’t want, to sound like robots. You can hear the spaces flowing with the instruments in songs; it’s not jammed full with 35 different guitar tracks and 100 different vocal tracks. It sounds natural.

Which band members performed and recorded the album?

Vee Dour – Vocals
Snage – Guitars
Andy – Bass
Jani Serpico – Drums

How would you like to describe your music?

Jani: Rock n’ Roll / Hard Rock spiced up a bit with heavy metal + something else…I prefer to simply call it rock n’ roll!

With other acts would you say that Serpico lies close to music-wise?

Jani: I don’t know, I think you can find influences in our music similar to what I mentioned earlier. Maybe Guns n’ Roses has the biggest influence for me when playing my instrument. I love Steven Adler’s & Matt Sorum’s styles; it’s tough and clear but has groove. I think we have our own recognizable sound and we’re gonna stick with it.

Have you read any reviews of the album yet? What has the media said about your work and do you care about what critics have to say?

Jani: I have read some of it. Of course, it’s great to read good reviews but we understand that not everybody likes everything. It seems that some of the critics really love the album and some of them concentrate more on knocking the album and say it’s bad because it doesn’t have the ‘modern’ sounds etc. We really don’t care what they say because…I gotta you this. There is this one “music critic” of a well-known music magazine and he gave a really bad review for THE CHOSEN FOUR. That’s okay by me, no problem. Everybody has the right to say their opinion. Of course, I won’t give any names or magazine but…anyways, I accidentally found out that he plays guitar too. So I went on Facebook and found him. There he was, playing guitar in the video clips so badly; no wonder he didn’t understand our music. The funniest thing was, he didn’t even notice that he was playing the wrong notes and couldn’t keep the rhythm. I haven’t laughed that much in a while. So now, it’s literally proven, that many of the critics don’t understand anything about music. Many do, but unfortunately it’s a minority these days. I don’t take it personally, but sometimes it’s good to do a reality check.

Are there any differences in how the native and foreign press write about the band?

Jani: I don’t know, I really can’t divide it but I’ve noticed that media in Finland, UK, and USA are writing positive things and that’s great!

Why did producer Anssi Kippo choose the first and second single releases and the band?

Jani: Actually Anssi chose all the songs for the album. The reason why is simple: he’s the producer and knows what’s the best for the band. We trust him 100%.

The first single “Midnight Cowboy” was released with a video in November 2020. How was it to shoot the video?

Jani: It was fun. We shot it with Miaco Cinema Oy. We did it almost with 0€ budget. Those colored smokes we had to buy but they did cost like 20-30€. Antti Kyyrö & me directed the music video.

Midnight Cowboy (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)

 

Jani, in the info sheet you’re quoted saying “There’s a big difference when doing it all by full analog session, which we did. So it’s gonna stand out pretty easily from the masses I think.” Could you tell us a bit about the recording process and how the work went down in the studio?

Jani: Yeah, that’s true. Recorded by full analog session used to be a normal way to record an album back in the day when music sounded really good and you could feel it in your body. We tried to figure it out for a long time, is there something wrong with us or what, because music didn’t feel like it used to. It didn’t evoke emotions or anything, it was just basically boring. Now that we’ve done it analog, there’s no turning back now. Anssi set the whole thing on fire again; we couldn’t believe what we had missed all these years and many of people still are! For example, just compare classic albums to modern albums and you’ll notice the difference. Anyway, it’s the best studio I’ve ever been in and Anssi’s warm, calm, cheerful, friendly & professional way of working helps to get the job done in the best possible way. I highly recommend musicians all around the world try out the old-school analog recording method.

Many artists/bands consider their latest work as their best ones. Do you, with THE CHOSEN FOUR?

Jani: Yes, I think this is the best album we’ve done so far!

Dark Energy (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)

 

Producer

You were in touch with about 10 different producers when it was time to record the album. Which ones did you contact?

Jani: I prefer not to give any names or point out anybody because that’s not polite. We want to thank all of them for saving us from the modern-day trending artificial creativity.

The legendary Anssi Kippo was chosen as producer, what were your initial feelings when he said yes to working with you?

Jani: I was pretty excited & ready to give an instant roll, because we’d never worked with a professional producer before. There was this one thing that Anssi said right at the beginning, “First of all, you have a very unique thing in your hands, but before we gonna start recording anything ,you gotta start practicing your playing together as a band, and I mean A LOT OF PRACTISING”. So that was something new…hmmm we can’t be that bad, I thought, haha. When I listen to the songs recorded between 2015-2018, Anssi was right, there was no sign of groove or relaxed playing. Overall, we had to go back to the roots and started to practice. We strengthened our playing together and it hasn’t felt this good in years. So it means that if you choose to go by full analog recording method, you must improve and practice because there’s no chance to fix it later.

Were you friends with Kippo before he decided to work with you?

Jani: No, we weren’t, but we ended up very good friends after the album session.

THE CHOSEN FOUR was recorded in Kippo’s Astiastudio in Lappeenranta. Is that far from where you guys live?

Jani: It’s approx. 350km away from our hometown, Pori.

How was it to work with Kippo?

Jani: It was so easy to work with him. He is very professional, cheerful, friendly and a great unique person.

Did he help you out with anything when it comes to the material?

Jani: Yes, he helped with the different parts of the songs and arrangements.

How long did it take to record the album overall?

Jani: The studio session took approx. 17 days to get everything on tape but the pre-production lasted almost 1 year including writing new songs all the time but still rehearsing songs that were chosen already for the album.

Did Kippo also mix and master the album?

Jani: Yes.

Do you think you’re going to work with Kippo in the future?

Jani: Definitely, actually we are hitting the studio January 12th 2023.

Was it a nice experience to be in Lappeenranta?

Jani: The best!

Vee Dour, you said that “the warmth of the full analog sound is the keyword on this particular record. We hope fans will pay full attention to the album and go along with the music” Could you elaborate a little more what you mean by that?

Vee Dour: I guess it’s a sentence not a word, haha. By that I mean how it sounds natural to your ear and the things how a human body reacts to it. At some point you realize that your whole body swings along to the rhythm of the songs. I seriously recommend people listen to the album with a focus instead of updating your social media sites at the same time, hehe. You just hear on the album some specific details that you can’t find from the music so often nowadays.

Label and management

Was it hard to land a record deal? I know you were in contact with about 80 labels back in 2019. How many of them got back to you?

Jani: It was a pretty hard task but we made it. 3 got back to us with an offer. We got some help with it.

One night when you checked your e-mail you found a mail from Rockshots Records. Tell us what you thought when you read the mail?

Jani: Yeah, I found it from my trash folder, haha. It felt like we could finally move forward to the next level.

How did it feel to finally sign a deal?

Jani: I don’t know, great I guess. Finally, our albums will be distributed worldwide in bigger volumes!

Are you happy with the work RR have put into the band and the album so far?

Jani: They’ve managed OK with the album regarding the pandemic, which almost ruined everything.

For how many albums are you signed for at RR?

Jani: Only this one.

THE CHOSEN FOUR is released on both CD and vinyl. Are you fans of the vinyl format?

Jani: Vinyl has not arrived yet but it has piqued people’s interest. There’s a pre-sale of vinyl going on at the moment, so everybody who loves vinyl should go order it via our website: www.serpico-official.com.

Who released the debut SHALLOW MISTRESS and ROCK TATTOO?

Jani: SHALLOW MISTRESS was self-published as was  ROCK TATTOO but we used “Secret Entertainment” for distribution on ROCK TATTOO.

The band has about 2,000 listeners on Spotify. Do you think that number is going to increase with the release of THE CHOSEN FOUR?

Jani: Let’s hope for the best. When ‘Midnight Cowboy” was released there were over 12K monthly listeners at that time, so it goes up n’ down once in a while. I haven’t checked lately.

What’s your opinion regarding streaming music for free?

Jani: There’s good and bad sides of it.

You’re currently working with Metal Music Bookings and Management and in Finland you work with Stupido Live Booking. Are you satisfied with the work they do?

Jani: Yes, Metal Music Bookings takes care of our management and gigs outside of Finland, and Stupido Live Booking taking care of our gigs in Finland. We are lucky to have them in our team! We just got the deal with Stupido, so they are started the booking lately. We’ve been working with Metal Music Bookings about 1 year now and they’ve done a great job with the band. We can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us.

Past present and future

Last year Andy left the band and was replaced by Matt Gee. Why did Andy leave?

Jani: Andy didn’t have time for the band anymore, as much as it requires.

Do you think it’s important to be active on social forums?

Jani: Of course, it’s the name of the game these days. TikTok n’ stuff is pretty stupid, but hey, we didn’t make the rules, so we just need to go with the flow. =)

The bands FB page has about 2,200 followers. Are you happy with that number or do you want it to increase?

Jani: Sure we need more people to follow us but when we gonna hit the road in next year, let’s hope for a little rise in followers.

Who runs the band’s social media?

Jani: Me sometimes, and Metal Music Bookings will do the bigger announcements & posts.

Do you know that there is a band named Serpico in the UK?

Jani: Yeah, both Serpico’s (us & UK band) founded in 2005. They quit almost 10 years ago though. There’s also a punk band named Serpico in USA from ’70s, but I think they’ve quit a year ago too.

Are there many that purchase albums from your website?

Jani: The album has sold well, yeah.

Any plans on heading out on tour now that THE CHOSEN FOUR is out?

Jani: Definitely. Our management is working hard to get us good gigs outside of Finland for the next year and Stupido booking does the same in Finland. We are hopeful about the outcome.

I Am A Rocker (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)

 

When you tour, do you plan on focusing on Finland or do you plan to branch out to the rest of Scandinavia and Europe?

Jani: Everywhere, there are no limits. We’ll see what they have for us in 2023.

How would you describe a live show with Serpico in three words as?

Jani: Kickass Rock n’ Roll!

Finland is mostly known for goth and folk/metal acts and that makes Serpico stand out a bit. Are there many other bands that plays your kind of music in Finland?

Jani: There are many good rock & metal bands in Finland to be found, so dig into people and find your own favorite! Finland has a lot of great rock bands indeed!

You’ve said that Rock n’ Roll is not dead. What do you mean by that?

Jani: Vee Dour came up with that when we were thinking of a cool slogan to use. I think it is cool also, because Gene Simmons once said that Rock n’ Roll is dead, but it’s not, Rock n’ Roll is not dead! We won’t let it die!

Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy THE CHOSEN FOUR?

Jani: It’s an honest, fair n’ pure rock n’ roll you won’t find anywhere else!

What would you like to say to those who haven’t discovered the music of Serpico yet?

Jani: If you wanna have an awesome experience and hear what rock n’ roll has been and still is, you gotta get this album.

Well, that was all I had this time around. Thanks a lot for taking the time answering the questions. I wish you all the best in the future. Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?

Jani: Thank you for doing this interview with us, it was a pleasure. Here’s a couple of bits of wisdom for bands: work hard and believe in what you do! Don’t let nobody get you down, give them the finger and play some rock n’ roll! =)

www.serpico-official.com
Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube

Label
www.rockshots.eu
Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube

Store Page