“When it comes to rock and roll, I have to say that my vocals are inspired by Paul Stanley” – interview with Liverbox’s Ilkka Järvenpää

Author Benedetta Baldin - 13.10.2023

Get ready to embark on a journey through the lush soundscapes of melodic rock as we dive deep into the world of Liverbox, a Finnish band that has been making waves in the AOR scene. With their enchanting harmonies, soul-stirring lyrics, and infectious melodies, Liverbox has captured the hearts of music enthusiasts far and wide, myself included. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with the group’s lead singer, and he has kindly shared with us his inspirations and some behind-the-scenes of their latest record.

Hello Ilkka! How are you doing? 

Ilkka Järvenpää: I’m doing fine. It’s cold here in Finland, and that’s normal. This was the first day that it snowed today. So winter is coming. 

Oh yeah, definitely. You have just released “The Great Spirit of Rock ‘n Roll”: how do you feel when your work is available for everyone to listen to?

Ilkka Järvenpää: Well, for me personally, it’s a sense of relief that it’s finally out. And then when you listen to it, you get those feelings, “Maybe we should have done something different. Why did I sing that part like that? Why did we do that?” But now that it’s almost two months since it was released, I feel quite good about the album, I think it’s much better than our first album. The songs are better, and now I’m actually quite pleased that’s how we sounded when we made the album. I think we can do much better albums than this. Because every time you make a record, it never comes out the way you think. I find limitations as a singer. I can’t sing something like I hear it in my head, and then you have to compromise. Every musician has those things that they think that something should be done this way, but I can’t do it. I am not good enough. But I’m very pleased with this album. I think it’s a good rock and roll album.

It’s a very good album. I personally adore it and my favorite track is “No One Way Ticket”: can you share with us a funny moment that happened during the recording? 

Ilkka Järvenpää: I think for me personally, it was almost a nightmare while making that album because I was sick; we made it the old-fashioned way. We were two weeks in the studio when we did almost everything then. We did a few touch-ups after that, there were some guitar parts and some vocals because I lost my voice during those sessions. I got stung by some bee, and I looked like a character from Family Guy, Quagmire, with this huge jaw. And they started to call me Quagmire: that’s when my singing stopped. Luckily we had those additional dates so I could sing the parts I couldn’t fix. There was really no excessive use of alcohol. People were sober, and we had fun with our producer. I think the atmosphere was, like I said, for me, it was a nightmare in many ways, but we had really much fun. For example, we worked hard for an hour or one hour and a half. And then we just started to watch YouTube videos saying: “Do you remember this band from the 80s?” And so on and so forth. For example, there is one song that sounds a little bit like The Cult on the album: “Calling On You”. That’s what we were aiming for. So we were checking what kind of gear they used on the road during that time. Our producer found a similar amplifier; there was a chorus effect there, so it was a four-piece band turned into a five-piece band, sort of like brotherhood. We mostly recorded during summer, so we took breaks and grilled sausages and meat outside the studio. It was really fun that way. We recorded everything live. Those basic tracks, the four of us, went to the tape on there; we recorded drums to the analog tape and then transferred it to ProTools to the computer. So we tried to get this old rock and roll feeling, and there were no click tracks. I had to sing it from the beginning to the end, so we couldn’t copy anything. I had to do it. Everything had to be played there. For example, in metal, guitar players play the same part four times to get that huge guitar sound, but we didn’t use that much. There’s only one guitar: we try to get close to how we sound live because there are four of us playing live, so that’s what we were aiming for. But of course, there are some keyboards here, and they’re hidden because we don’t have that live.

I wanted to go back in time a little bit. What was the role of music in the early years of your life? 

Ilkka Järvenpää: In Finland, there is, especially nowadays, music sung in Finnish. And it was pretty much the same when I was growing up, but I was always attracted to music that was sung in English. And for me, it was something like from Kiss, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, you know, those classics. I just fell in love with music, and I was just listening to albums and thinking that I was a singer or guitar player as a young boy. And it was something that filled my mind: I fantasized about playing, but I didn’t play because I was shy then. It was dear to me, and nothing has changed since then, I’m still listening to the same bands that I listened to when I was 11 years old. They were my first love.

At Chaoszine, we are very interested in vocalists and the inspiration behind your vocals. So I wanted to ask, which artists have inspired or still inspired your vocal style? 

Ilkka Järvenpää: I can hear when I rip off something, but I don’t think I intentionally rip off anything. I don’t think I sound anything like my favourite singers. I love Chris Cornell and AOR singers, Journey’s Steve Perry, Foreigners’ Lou Gramm, and high tenor singers. I actually love that kind of music. When I was younger, I didn’t have the guts to tell anyone that I loved Toto and Foreigner, but as an older guy, I don’t care. I just love good melodies. But when it comes to rock and roll, of course, I have to say, Paul Stanley, Bon Scott, Brian Johnson, and Freddie Mercury that’s probably my all-time favourite singer. Also, Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley, Lemmy, that’s the true essence of rock and roll. And if I think about metal singers, of course, Phil Anselmo is someone I know who can do different, but I’m not a metal singer. We have three songwriters in a band, and when they write the vocal melodies to their songs and present it to me, I twist them and turn it into something bluesy. I don’t consider myself a blues singer like David Coverdale and Paul Rodgers; those are way better singers than me. But how they did that bluesy stuff there, that comes naturally to me, I don’t know where that comes from, and we were not trying to put that blues, but you mentioned “No One Way Ticket” because that was my song, and there is some bluesy stuff and phrasing. I sang it in two or three takes; the other stuff took much longer, but the first take was close to being perfect. Then I fixed something little and added the harmony vocal there. It was something like 10 or 15 minutes done. But the other stuff took much longer. That was when I was singing in my own element and not hiding that blue stuff. I love different kinds of singers, and I played in different kinds of bands, so I try to sing a little bit here and there, and so slowly your arsenal gets bigger as a vocalist. In the album, there is some of Brian Johnson’s vocals, bluesy stuff, mellows and melodic stuff. I actually like that. I am not just going full-on Brian Johnson. And there’s nothing wrong with Brian Johnson. The songs had to be sung in different ways. 

What do you think is essential, like the most important thing for an artist these days?

Ilkka JärvenpääI think the most important thing is that, as a listener, if I listen to someone, or someone says, “Check out this band or this artist”, if I don’t hear the heart and soul, that’s not for me. And it doesn’t mean it’s not there, but if I can’t hear it, it’s not for me. Do it from your heart and your soul, and if someone, if it’s one person, ten people, or thousands, millions, hear it the same way you poured your heart and soul into it, I think it has served its purpose. Mostly I don’t hear that heart and soul in music nowadays. Less and less, and I think it’s because the production ways have changed. And so albums are much more sterilized: they sound huge and perfect, but life ain’t perfect, mistakes are much more beautiful sometimes than perfection. 

I absolutely agree! What kind of questions don’t you like to answer? 

Ilkka Järvenpää: The hardest thing to answer is if someone asks: “What are these lyrics about?” because, you know, it might be that I don’t even remember what I was writing about, and the whole meaning has changed. Then I remember one interview because we talked about a glam rock band. We don’t look like a glam rock band. I was asked, “How’s the glam rock scene in Finland?”. I said: “I have no idea because I’m not a part of that scene”, just take a look. How do I look? I have short hair and don’t wear makeup And I have a beard. There is nothing that resonates with glam rock in me. So that was probably the hardest. 

Oh, well, that was not ideal. I am a huge pancakes lover, so what do you eat for breakfast?

Ilkka Järvenpää: This is the most boring thing ever. As for breakfast, I eat every day if I’m at home, or if I’m at a hotel because you can find it there. I always eat oatmeal. And usually some eggs or something like that. So maybe bread. Quite boring. As an older guy, you gotta watch those lines. I’m quite a skinny dude: but if I’m at a hotel, then I go whole buffet, everything. 

I wanted to play a game with you if that’s all right. If you could have a superpower of your choice, which one would you choose?

Ilkka Järvenpää: I think that teleportation would be great. For example, “Oh, I want to go see Iron Maiden tonight. Okay, let’s go.” Like that. I want to go see that football match there, and so that would be great. No need to worry that if you crash your car or if you’re on a plane, it’s going to crash because you just skip the whole damn thing. And it’s much faster and probably it’s better for the environment. 

Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview! Would you like to add anything else to our readers?

Ilkka Järvenpää: Check out our album or any good album you like, and remember to support musicians and smaller bands because quite a lot of music comes from the smaller bands. If I think about bands today, I listen to more of those bands that people don’t know much. So support the smaller bands, some of them might turn into bigger ones. And you can say that “I was the first one to found this band”. For example, listen to us.

And you can listen to Liverbox’s “The Great Spirit of Rock’n’Roll” here: