TOMI NOUSIAINEN-GUNNAR (EX-WOLFCHILD) INTERVIEW:
February 23, 2015
One of Finland’s best ever short lived bands has to be Wolfchild. After having their self-titled debut released via Perris Records in 2006, the band went through some rapid line-up changes before finally imploding soon after the tragic death of band leader and bassist Jaska Koivusilta in April 2007. Almost eight years after Koivusilta’s passing, Wolfchild founder and drummer Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar speaks candidly for the first time about his bandmate’s tragic death and what eventually happened to the group.
Sleaze Roxx: Thank you for doing the interview, especially considering how many years have passed since Wolfchild disbanded. Let’s go back to the beginning… You, Marko Purosto (guitar) and Jaska Koivusilta (bass) joined forces with singer Kim Hogberg and formed Wolfchild. What were the early goals for the band and how were those early years?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: Wolfchild started in the afterglow of our former band Nasty. Nasty had a different lead singer, Risto Kuusakoski, and when he moved away from Hyvinkaa to Turku, which is more than 200 kms, it was obvious that we needed a new singer. Jaska knew Kimi and asked him to join forces with us and when he accepted, the band was ready to rumble! Now that the line-up was steady, we decided not to call our band Nasty anymore, but to change the name. It was Jaska’s idea to change it to Wolfchild and he got that after listening to The Cult’s song “Wildflower” where Ian Astbury sings, “I’m a Wolfchild girl howling for you… Wildflower”. Now the band had a fine name and fine style… classic hard rock with killer riffs and solos, howling vocals and a blasting rhythm section!
Our main goal at first was to write good songs and play them for people who love to rock. But soon it because obvious that we needed a product, a self financed EP, to get more gigs. So the main goal at first was to catch as many people as possible by playing gigs. And oh yes, we played and played, wrote more material, rehearsed and played covers of bands like AC/DC, The Cult, Krokus, Rhino Bucket, Free, etc. Good hard rock bands raised us and we sure loved to play that stuff too — so word began to spread and Wolfchild was playing gigs every weekend in southern Finland.
Sleaze Roxx: Fast forward to 2006 and Wolfchild released the self-titled debut record to critical acclaim. Why did the band part ways with Kim Hogberg only six months or so after the release of the debut record?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: I think there were two camps in the band — it was Kimi and the others — and the tension between those two began to rise. Jaska was the leader of the band, taking care of all the things including business decisions and connections for the gigging management. Kimi must have felt like an outsider at the end because there was no space for a second leader. He contributed on the last studio session Wolfchild made in December 2006 — recording one last song [“Give Me A Sign”] that hasn’t been released on CD. Soon after that, he announced he was leaving the band.
Sleaze Roxx: Vocalist Mika Siitonen and guitarist Antti Roksa replaced Hogberg, who had been handling both vocals and rhythm guitar. Why did Wolfchild change from a four piece to a five piece, and how was the transition?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: After Kimi left, we auditioned a few singers, but then Jaska remembered Antti Roksa with whom he had played before in the band called Skyward. It didn’t take long when Antti said he knew a singer who could suit our band well, so we were really happy to hear Mika Siitonen sing — a very nice guy with a rough voice. It felt so right to have him and Antti in the band!
When it came to Antti joining the band, it was Marko Purosto who suggested we add a second guitar player in the line-up just to make the live sound richer — and also to let him play awesome solos while there was a rhythm guitar backing him! Actually, Kimi was playing rhythm guitar during the gigs and Marko wanted to keep the twin guitar attack alive on stage. This line-up sounded great and we made many new songs (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Sadly in April 2007, Wolfchild bassist Jaska Koivusilta tragically took his own life. Did you and the rest of the guys see the trouble brewing with Jaska or was it a complete surprise when he died?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: Jaska’s death was a tremendous shock for all of us and especially for me. Nobody could see it coming. His life was in some kind of turmoil. He had lost his job and he had become angry and unpredictable, especially when he got drunk. He had become a dear friend to me during the years and we were planning the future of Wolfchild together, including doing gigs abroad. Everything seemed so fine. The new line-up was working well, new songs were done and there were even plans to book a studio to start recording our second album.
Sleaze Roxx: Not only was Jaska was of the founding members of the band, but from what I understand he was also the one who handled most of the management duties. How hard was it replacing and moving on without him?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: The replacement for Jaska was found quickly. Rude Rothsten was a friend of Jaska and also the first and only bass player who we thought was suitable for us. Rude’s playing style was very different compared to Jaska’s — mostly because Rude played the bass with fingers, not with a pick like Jaska did. We decided to give it a try, to keep going on, even though we were all broken inside — and thank God, Rude fit in perfectly! His attitude and playing was perfect. But Rude was just a musician like the rest of us, so somebody had to take care of the management duties, inform the record company [Perris Records] and all the other individuals involved in our band about the change in situation. That somebody was me.
Somehow, I struggled through all the mess I had to take care of. Damn, I even informed all the other members of the band about Jaska’s death. Why was that? Well, now I am going into details which are not nice to read at all. Jaska made his last phone call to me when he was standing on the trails waiting for the train. He said what he was going to do and that the band had to go on without him. He stated, “You’ll find someone to replace me. Don’t cancel the shows!” I tried to tell him not to do it, to convince him that we needed him, but he had made his decision and I couldn’t make him change his mind. It was horrible I admit, but life had to go on and so did Wolfchild with only Marko and I left of the original line-up.
Sleaze Roxx: How did Jaska’s passing affect you?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: Time is the best healer there is, but at first it was just horrible. I began to numb myself by heavy drinking and then I was diagnosed with depression — surprise! I got medication for that. I blamed myself for not being able to save him. I had to find help before something bad was going to happen for me. Psychiatric therapy it was and more meds — but I couldn’t stop drinking. I got myself cornered and I couldn’t find a way out. Wolfchild had called it quits before and I couldn’t play anymore, this was around the fall of 2008, but change was on its way. I had found a perfect woman for me in February who brought light to my life. Little by little, she made me quit the heavy drinking and realize there was more to life than just destroying yourself — she is my wife now! There was a five year gap when I didn’t even touch drumsticks, but I will come to that later on. Everyone in the band reacted about the same way, we were on auto-pilot and numb, but it hit me the worst. I’ve quit drinking and I haven’t been depressed for years… no meds either — I survived (laughs)!Suicide is a decision made by a desperate person and it is the last cry for help. Too bad Jaska never mentioned anything about taking his life to us, his band members. His wife told me later on that he had talked about it at home when he was drunk, and he had spoken about it so many times that when he did it again on that last night his wife just thought he was going to a bar like all the other times. However, this time, he had walked straight to those trails. Wolfchild played one last farewell song at his funeral, “I Walk Away”, without a bass player — just two acoustic guitars, vocals and a tambourine. It was the hardest “gig” I have ever done.
Sleaze Roxx: What is your favorite memory of Jaska?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: I began to know Jaska via Marko. They played in the same band in the mid ’90s. The three of us formed Nasty in 1998 and began to know each other better and as time went by we got to know each other and became very good friends. I have plenty of good memories about him. We shared the same taste of music, we partied together, took trips abroad together — hell, we even shared the same women (laughs)! He was always there for me when I needed any kind of help, and that’s how I want to remember him.
Sleaze Roxx: Both former and current Wolfchild members eventually joined forces to play a few shows in Jaska’s honor. How did those shows go and was it therapeutic or difficult to play those gigs?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: After Rude joined the band we continued gigging but something was missing. We were on auto-pilot and totally numb. Now that I think of it, I guess everyone was doing the gigs just to get some relief from our bad feelings. We did not create any new songs and just played the old ones made with Jaska. I can’t tell how many gigs we played — just a handful I think, with the last being Jaska’s anniversary gig on April 3, 2008 which was exactly a year after his passing. It was the best gig because it had meaning. To let people know how Jaska lived his life — by playing raw rock ‘n’ roll! We managed to get all the bands that Jaska had been in to participate in the event, but with a different bass player. The evening was closed by the Wolfchild performance and both Kim Hogberg and Mika Siitonen were singing in the line-up — what a night!
Sleaze Roxx: How did Rude fit into the band and was that the last line-up change before the band disbanded?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: As I said before, Rude fit in perfectly. If Rude had declined to join I think Wolfchild would have disbanded. This was the last line-up change for Wolfchild.
Sleaze Roxx: From what I understand, by the time that Rude joined Wolfchild, the band had written new material and was poised to go into a recording studio to record the new songs. Did Wolfchild ever get to that point? Do you have recorded tracks from the Wolfchild days that never got released and if so, are there any plans to put them out one day?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: I have demos, lots of demos, of songs that were going to be recorded for the second album. Some were ready, with lyrics and all the arrangements and we already played those live. Songs called “Backstabber”, a fast rocker, “Thunder Road”, a slow ballad, and “For Real”, a riff rocker, were ready in every way. The rest of the songs were ready musically, but they lacked lyrics. The most important song, one that could have been ‘that’ song for us, was called “Give Me A Sign”, and that’s the only unreleased song we made. It was recorded in December 2006 in the same studio where the ‘Wolfchild’ album was made. You can hear it, and three songs from the ‘Toxic’ EP, at www.mikseri.net/wolfchild. It’s a bit of a ‘pop-mix’ of the song, aimed for radio airwaves (laughs). There are no plans to get this song released at the moment just because Wolfchild doesn’t exist anymore — it’s just a lost gem.
Sleaze Roxx: Why did Wolfchild eventually disband and how fast did this occur once Jaska died?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: Wolfchild disbanded mainly because we were all very down. We dealt with the sorrow in our own way. Some consumed too much booze, some were angry about what had happened and there was one final episode where Marko fired Mika in the end of 2007! Mika dealt with the sorrow by not showing up to rehearsals and Marko got fed up with that. I recognized that this was it — No more new lead singers… No more Wolfchild. But there was that one final show to come so we agreed to do it and then call it a day. We rehearsed a few times with Kimi and Mika — yes, he showed up those times — did the show and then collected our gear from the rehearsal room.
In the end, we recorded one full album in 2006 which we released in August, recorded one additional song in December, and wrote the material for the next album. All this happened in just about six months. Jaska died on April 3, 2007 and Wolfchild lingered on until the end of the year so it took just about eight months. The actual last day of the band was April 4, 2008, which was the day when the anniversary gig happened.
Sleaze Roxx: Did you personally continue playing music after Wolfchild disbanded and if so, what did you do and/or are you doing?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: After collecting my drums from the rehearsal room, I continued a while with my other band. I was playing the drums in a band called Brimstone, which played stoner rock, but I was so depressed that I had to quit — that happened in August 2008. After that — nothing. I totally quit playing drums. When I met my wife and we got married, we bought a house. I took my drums upstairs, put the set back together, but I couldn’t play. I watched the kit and thought that maybe someday… and totally forgot about the drums. It took almost five years for me to grab a pair of sticks again. Time is a healer, remember? It had healed the wounds.
I was sober, but the time that had passed had done something else. I couldn’t play anymore when I tried to play again! The first problem was the force — how hard I was hitting the snare, the toms and the cymbals. It took a long while to learn the balance and keep the rhythm steady. But luckily I managed to get a rehearsal room where I could rehearse when I felt like playing — and I played often! Once I managed to play again, I started to rehearse in a new way. I would put a song in a CD player, put headphones on and start playing. It helped a lot to keep the rhythm. Then I listened to the groove — drums need groove, that’s for sure. I learned to keep it simple quite fast, so next I concentrated on the fills and all the ‘extras’ you can do with drums to fulfill the band sound. I varied the speed, tried slow ones and fast ones — hell, I even bought a double bass pedal! Well, now it’s history, but it seemed like a good idea to learn that too (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: What else have you been up to since the Wolfchild days?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: When Wolfchild disbanded, I quit playing and I had to find something else to do. Since I’m a big music fan, I started collecting music and listening to it more and more. I wanted to get original CDs and I managed to get a huge library of fine music. One could say that I’m a record collector and that’s so true! Now I’ve turned into a vinyl collector too and I recommend everyone to give vinyl a try. Get yourself a good record player, a nice pair of speakers and a big amp and get prepared to go to musical heaven (laughs).
But music wasn’t everything. My wife and I bought two dogs and started to go to dog exhibitions with them — a nice hobby, especially during the summer time. I’ve liked fishing since I was a little kid so I also started to go fishing more and now bring fish to our food table. Trolling during summertime and ice fishing during the wintertime, its lots of fun and so relaxing!
Sleaze Roxx: Do you still keep in touch with the rest of the Wolfchild guys and if so, what are the others up to these days?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: I keep in touch with Marko and Antti regularly. With Rude and Mika, we might say something to each other via Facebook, but not that much. Kimi is the only one I don’t keep in touch with mainly because I’ve understood that he doesn’t want to be involved with the Wolfchild guys anymore. Kimi has a band of his own now called Electric Black — I just hope he’s doing fine. Mika isn’t singing in any band at the moment. Antti is playing guitar in a band called Black .44 which is quite heavy stuff — they will release their first album this year. I went to see their show in Helsinki a month ago and it rocked!
Then there is Marko, my soulmate who taught me to play the drums when I was just 12 years old. I have to tell you a story about our friendship, how it all began and about the timeline too. We used to live on the same street when we were kids, so it was obvious that we were going to meet — the rest is history. We started our first band in 1983 when I didn’t even play the drums yet. I tried to play the keyboards, but that wasn’t really for me. Marko is a bit older than I am and he had learned to play the drums and guitar. He wanted to focus on the guitar and he taught me the basics of how to play the drums. The first ‘real’ band with Marko, and Kai Lindroos on bass, was Laittomat, which means ‘The Illegals’ in English. We played punk in the Ramones vein. Laittomat also released one self-financed 12-inch record in 1992 but disbanded in 1993. We then separated for a few years. Marko started to play with Jaska and they formed a band called Groundhogs that played hard rock. When they disbanded, Marko and Jaska wanted me in to continue making hard rock with them. The band was called Nasty and we got Tommi Kuri to play rhythm guitar and Risto Kuusakoski to sing. Nasty never released any albums, but recorded five demos that included three songs that were going to end up on Wolfchild’s debut album. Songs “Like A Dog”, “Queen Of The Streets” and “Day By Day” are originally Nasty songs and they appeared on the last demo Nasty recorded in 2002. Nasty existed from 1998 to 2002 and then the name changed to Wolfchild when Kimi joined the group. Tommi Kuri had left before, in 2000 if I remember correctly. So after Wolfchild disbanded, Marko and I’s paths didn’t cross for many years mainly because I didn’t play at the time and we lived in different cities.
Now fast forward to the year 2013. Tommi Kuri was planning a farewell gig for Nasty and asked me to join in. I told him that I hadn’t played the drums for five years but I decided to give it a try — and it was worthwhile, difficult at first, but worthwhile! We rehearsed a lot with Risto Kuusakoski joining in on vocals. This time Tommi played bass, so there were just four members now. But then something happened. I had been queuing for a shoulder operation for quite some time and got a letter from the hospital that my surgery would happen on December 17, 2013. I had to cancel the gig because I really needed the operation. Nasty got a substitute to handle my drum duties and they played that final show without me in Hyvinkaa, Finland on December 20, 2013 [Interviewer’s note: you can check out that full show at YouTube]. But I didn’t want to stop playing again, so once my arm was better I started to rehearse. Then I got an e-mail from Tommi Kuri — he was bringing Dave Evans, the original AC/DC vocalist, to Finland to do a mini-tour here in June 2014. He asked me if I was interested in playing the shows. Damn… was I interested? Hell yeah I was! We started to rehearse like madmen. Half of the songs in the set consisted of his solo material and the other half were AC/DC’s old songs. The shows were a success and we felt like something was finally happening, and something really was. Tommi e-mailed me again soon after the shows that he was going to stop playing the bass. Marko and I couldn’t understand his decision, it felt like we were back in the spot where we started from. We didn’t want to end up being Dave Evans’ backing musicians so we wrote our own material again. So far there are three songs that are almost ready. We were rehearsing regularly to get those songs ready and recorded. We were just planning to ask different vocalists, including Dave Evans, if they were interested in joining this project when death stepped in once again. This time, it was Tommi Kuri’s time to go. He died on New Year’s Eve suddenly from an aortic rupture at just 40 years old. Marko and I participated in his funeral that was held in Hyvinkaa on January 31, 2015 and felt extremely sad… again! But the story isn’t over, we will get those songs recorded if it’s the last thing we will ever do!
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you. What are your top three favorite records of all-time and why?
Tomi Nousiainen-Gunnar: This last one is extremely tough for a record collector like me. I had to start thinking about it both musician wise and feeling wise. With these three records, I could move to a deserted island and stay there forever! Because there are just three records, it doesn’t matter which one goes for bronze. They are all pure winners in my eyes and go for gold! All of them differ stylistically, offering different genres of music, and because I’m a drummer they have some ear candy in that area too. So here goes…
I have to start with ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ or the ‘Four Symbols’ album as it’s sometimes called. It’s a real killer and has just eight songs on it — I love every single one of them. This album is a drummer’s dream come true just because John Henry Bonham rules! He set the standard so high that it’s almost frightening. I also have a funny memory about a song on this album. Wolfchild was playing a gig in a very small bar and there wasn’t enough room for my drum kit and the guitar amps. Imagine… no room for a basic drum kit! The owner of the bar saw that we were in deep shit with my drums and the guitar amps and said, “You can borrow my son’s drum kit. It’s a bit smaller!” And guess what? It was a kit made for kids! I think his son was about seven years old. The bass drum was a joke, about the size of a normal snare drum… the snare drum was about eight inch wide, a normal snare is 14″… and the hi-hat cymbals were the size of an eight-inch splash cymbal, I use 15″ hi-hat. But I had to play with that. I put that ‘snare’ in my snare stand and that ‘hi-hat’ in my hi-hat stand. There were no toms in the set and I used just one splash cymbal. Too bad there aren’t any photos from this gig or even a bootleg tape (laughs)! And what was the first song in the set? Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll”! You can imagine how it sounded with ‘drums’ like that (laughs)? Purchase ‘Led Zeppelin IV’, you won’t be disappointed!
The second album isn’t easy either, but it is the Ramones’ first album entitled simply ‘Ramones’. What can I say? The pure energy that you can almost feel from that record is there from the start until the end. Fourteen songs and the music stops before 30 minutes have passed… fast, loud and energetic punk rock. I first heard the music of the Ramones around 1989-1990. “Pet Sematary” was a hit back then and I thought at first that the Ramones were a bit too pop for me — but then a friend of mine introduced me to their first album and I became a fan. I saw them perform at Helsinki in 1994 and the set included 33 songs and lasted 75 minutes with two encores included. It felt like I had died and gone to heaven. Get your hands on this first album of the Ramones!
Wolfchild was built on guitar riffs and steady beats so you can perhaps guess the name of the band that influenced our music the most. They come from Australia and have been in the business more than 40 years. Marko introduced me to this band when we were kids. We used to go to the library to listen to their records since we didn’t have record players of our own. Bon Scott era AC/DC! We kept listening to all the albums AC/DC had released, but Bon Scott’s voice and Angus Young’s guitar solos truly affected the little boys we were back then. There are many albums AC/DC recorded with Bon, but my favorite is ‘Highway To Hell’, so it’s the last album I choose. The song material ranges from blasting hard rock to slow blues and it’s full of perfect guitar riffs and great vocals… and those drums! As someone somewhere said, “Keep it simple stupid.” Phil Rudd must have heard that since his playing is so straight, leaving the guitars and vocals a lot of space. The music on this album kind of breathes, everything is in the right place and it goes forward like a machine. This album is a cornerstone of hard rock. If you don’t own it already, I wonder why you’re reading this (laughs)!
Wolfchild has performed tracks from all of these three albums live. Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll”, Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” and AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” have been in our setlist during the years.
I want to thank Olivier and Sleaze Roxx for this opportunity to share my memories about Wolfchild. Real rock is not dead! There was a story and it had to be told!