In the Spotlight

Positivity makes the world a better place: Don Johnson Big Band ja Michael Monroe

Nuorgam, the snazziest little music site in Finland, takes a long look at the bands we are carting off to Eurosonic. In this episode it's all about positivity as Michael Monroe and Don Johnson Big Band go under the microscope.

Even though music is serious business, you can make it with a smile. Energy and happiness are important, too. This is something that these two superficially very dissimilar artists have understood: Michael Monroe, who has led a band that carries his name since early this century, and the smaller-than-their-name Don Johnson Big Band, which has a fearsome reputation as a live band and bringer of good cheer. This attitude has not stopped Monroe from writing some aggressive and rebellious rock songs or Don Johnson Big Band from dealing with societal issues and the more melancholy corners of our inner space. Where Monroe pledges allegiance to rock’n’roll, DJBB has over the years been influenced by pretty much every genre imaginable. What unites the two, however, is positive energy.

7. Don Johnson Big Band

Video: Living The Life (dir. Tuukka Konttinen & Aleksi Raij)

What is it?

The Helsinki-based quartet released their debut album, Support de Microphones, on their own in 2000. The hip hop boom on the early-2000s propelled the world’s smallest big band to the top of the charts and platinum sales with Breaking Daylight (2003). DJBB has released an album every three years, bringing the current total up to five. The sound of the band has continually expanded to harvest hues from pop, funk, jazz, progressive rock, dance music, easy listening – and everything else under the sun. Tommy Lindgren’s hyperkinetic rapping has become the band’s most recognizable element and visiting vocalists as well as instrumentalist have given the audience more points of entry into to DJBB universe. DJBB has established its position as one of the most loved names in Finnish music.

Why do we care?

We care, because they never bore us. The first time I listen to a DJBB record has always felt like an exploration: you never know what’s behind the next corner. The stylistic eclecticism does not result in fragmentation, because there are enough recognizable elements in the band’s sound to produce cohesion. Songs that make you dance are interspersed with more introspective material, providing the records with enviable dynamics. DJBB has never shied away from going where no trend seeker ever dared to venture and, as a result, they’ve often ended up being opinion leaders and at the forefront of trends despite themselves.

Lineup:

Tommy Lindgren – vocals
Johannes Laiho – keyboards
Kari Saarilahti – guitar, bass, drums
Pekka Mikkonen – saxophone, flute

Releases:

Support de Microphones (self-released, 2000)
Breaking Daylight (Universal, 2003)
Don Johnson Big Band (Universal, 2006)
Records Are Forever (Universal, 2009)
Fiesta (Universal, 2012)

If we had to pick three adjectives to describe the band, they would be…
...colorful, warm, brave.

What record have the band members probably listened to the most in their lives?
An imaginary Prince compilation that has all the stylistic extremes to which the Short Purple One has ventured.

If a good fairy gave the band one wish it would be…
… a song on the soundtrack of a high quality remake of Miami Vice.

If the band were to go on the road to support a big star, it would tour with…

... Outkast making a victorious return to top form. Outkast would have to work hard to overshadow the Finns every night.

In two years...
...DJBB is putting the finishing touches on a record to be released in 2015, natch. It may end up being their definitive masterpiece, since bands like this age well.

8. Michael Monroe

Video: ´78

Who is he?

An authentic rock legend. Monroe rose into the rock firmament as vocalist for Hanoi Rocks in the early-1980s and hasn’t stopped since. He is an outsize personality and a born star, with countless years of glory and tribulation behind him. Too many to delve into in any detail here. After the second coming of Hanoi Rocks reached its eventual conclusion, Monroe started a new band carrying his own name and to the surprise of some, it has become the most popular project he’s been involved in for a quarter of a century. As a live performer Monroe is better than ever, Classic Rock Magazine chose his latest album Sensory Overdrive, released in early-2011, as Album of the Year and it went to number one on the Finnish charts. The next album is nearing release and domestic as well as international expectations are running high.

Why do we care?

There’s more of the international rock star in Monroe than any other Finnish performer. He is instantly recognizable and extremely mediagenic, and has managed to steer clear of any injurious compromises in his career. It doesn’t hurt that many global rock stars sing his praises and name check him frequently. Most importantly, it seems he is making the most volatile rock music he has made in ages right now and the band is a guaranteed barnburner on stage, night after night. Monroe and his band represent a whiff of “the good old days” in this world of Spotify and download charts.

Lineup:

Michael Monroe (vocals)
Dregen (guitar)
Steve Conte (guitar)
Sami Yaffa (bass)
Karl Rockfist (drums)

Releases (solo / Michael Monroe Band):

Nights Are So Long (Yahoo!, 1987)
Not Fakin' It (Mercury Records, 1989)
Peace of Mind (Poko Rekords, 1996)
Life Gets You Dirty (Steamhammer, 1999)
Whatcha Want (Steamhammer, 2003)
Another Night In the Sun: Live in Helsinki (Spinefarm Records, 2010)
Sensory Overdrive (Spinefarm Records, 2011)

If we had to pick three adjectives to describe the band, they would be…
…tireless, positive, like quicksilver

What record have the band members probably listened to the most in their lives?
...MC5: Back In The U.S.A.

If a good fairy gave the band one wish it would be…
...to die, years and years from now, in the middle of an explosively energetic gig.

If the band were to go on the road to support a big star, it would tour with…
...The Stooges, but they’d soon be kicked off the tour for upstaging the headliners night after night.

In two years...
...the global nation of rock is holding its breath in expectation of Monroe’s next record and album number two has ended up being his best selling record ever.

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