PETE AHONEN – Burning Up With Metal Thunder
Thanks to the international success of artists like Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, Finnish power metal has been on the radar for well over a decade. Guitarist Pete Ahonen contributes his talent and creativity through his power efforts in Burning Point – who currently are working on their fifth full length. And yet, he remains steadfast in his belief to create other bands based on his varied songwriting tastes. This interview focused on his most recent efforts with Ghost Machinery and Stargazery as well as his opinions on a host of other music topics and idols.
Can you tell us about your earliest memories of music growing up, and at what point did you want to pick up an instrument and start playing? Do you also remember some of the first songs you mastered on the guitar?
I recall that when I was around 12, music wasn’t that important thing in my life and I listened a lot of different stuff back then. One day I heard a friend of mine blasting Accept’s “Fast As A Shark” out of his stereo and I was like, ‘WOW, what is that?’ That was the day I found the huge world of heavy metal! If I remember correctly it was when I heard Iron Maiden’s “The Number Of The Beast”, I said to myself ‘I want to learn to play a guitar.’
The first band most of our readers would be familiar with is Burning Point, who have released five albums since 2001. What can you tell us about the early years of the group and how you’ve seen the development of the band through the years: high points and low points?
Actually, four albums to date…but who’s counting haha hah… Well, our start was really hectic. We formed the band in the fall ´99, made our first demo in March 2000 and our plan was to make a 2nd demo, but all of a sudden we got an offer from Limb Music…, and before we even realized it, our debut album was in the stores in November 2001.
Of course we’ve “matured” as songwriters and now we have a band that is fully capable of doing things all on our own, recording, mixing etc. To me, that’s a huge asset! I think that from the first demo to this day, it’s been a fun ride which continues on an on :=) Low point would be the legal shit we had to go through and our musical journey was postponed for several years.
You mention (according to the Ghost Machinery website) the idea to start your own band Ghost Machinery started in 2002 when one of your songwriting ideas for Burning Point was rejected. Tell us about the formation of this band and how you would differentiate this group from what musically was going on with Burning Point?
Yeah well, the guys in BP didn’t get excited as much about a few songs as I did so, after a while I thought that I really want to record the songs, just to hear how they sound. We listened to the stuff and to us it sounded great! Also at that time BP was kind of “on hold” because of the legal hassle and I did have some time on my hands. I wrote 13-14 songs for the Ghost Machinery debut and we went to the studio. The debut hit the stores in December 2004. There has been a misconception from the beginning about the reason why I started another band. So, once again… I didn’t form another band because I was trying to “expand” my musical vision or whatever… I just had so many songs written and I didn’t want them to go to waste. There are songs that could fit into BP’s vision and vice versa, but the thing that separates those two is the fact that GM is much more keyboard orientated than BP.
Was it frustrating to you to lose many years with Burning Point due to the legal difficulties getting away from your former label – and was this one of the main reasons why you also started a third group with Stargazery in the mid 2000’s? Do you really have a flood of ideas in different styles and know how to separate them for each act?
Yes, of course it was frustrating and I was very pissed off by that situation! Hmm, I don’t know if that was one of the reasons why I started the Stargazery… I think it started in a same way as GM did, I had one song that didn’t fit into the BP or GM :=) When you’ll hear the song “How Many Miles” you know what I mean. It’s much more classic hard rock sounding than the others. I really can’t explain how I separate the songs as to which go to which band… all in my head ha ha.
This past year has been a busy one for Pete Ahonen: a new Ghost Machinery album "Out For Blood", recording and preparing for the debut Stargazery album "Eye On The Sky" which will appear in the spring 2011 and also writing/ recording for Burning Point. How do you block out time for each band/ project? Does one have more priority this point over the others?
Oh yes sir, we’ve been busy for sure! It sometimes feels that we really need 25 hours per day, but we’ve managed to survive. Obviously the bands that have a record deal are more “important” and we don’t have a deal with BP (yet) so, we are doing Ghost Machinery and Stargazery promotion and gigs etc now. And I am very happy that we have very capable guys in the bands so, it’s not all on my shoulder.
How would you rate your vocal skills next to your guitar skills? How much time would you say per week you are putting into practice for each?
Well, I can’t rate my skills. I just sing and play guitar haha hah.. I really don’t practice, I just pick up my guitar and start jamming. Same thing with singing, I sing while I’m driving my car etc.
Sadly one of your influences passed away earlier this year in Gary Moore. What are your favorite memories of his playing and possibly your favorite song, riff and solo from this axe master? Also, did you get many chances to see him live and/or meet him in person- and if so how were these experiences?
Yes, that was very sad news. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see him live or meet him in person, but his live videos are constant “visitors” in my DVD-player. I love his hard rock albums, especially “Victims Of The Future” is a killer! Although, he wrote lots of cool blues tunes too.
What do you like to do when you have free time away from work and music? Do you share any special hobbies or passions with band members from any of the three main acts you work with?
Music and work takes so much of my time so, I just want to cuddle with my lady and watch movies on my free time.
How do you view the metal scene in 2011? Do you believe the power of the music is more in the hands of the fans and bands than ever before? What changes would you make if you had the power (and money) to do so?
The metal scene is growing all the time, but record sales are going down… I think it has lots to do with all the illegal downloading and if I had the power and solution to stop it, that’s the area I would concentrate on.
Is the Finnish metal scene still fertile and as strong as the outside world views things? What are some recommendations for newer acts to check out in some of your favorite styles of traditional, melodic and power metal/ hard rock?
Oh yes! I think it’s stronger than ever! You should check out Stargazery, Ghost Machinery…hah hah…seriously, I don’t remember the names right now, but there are lot of great bands rising.
What are your three favorite albums of the following decades: 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s? Also, do you remember the first concert you ever went to and what your all time favorite concert is?
Hmm, 70’s is a decade that doesn’t say anything to me musically. Accept – "Restless and Wild", Helloween – "Walls Of Jericho" and Bon Jovi’s first album from the 80’s. Yngwie Malmsteen – "Eclipse", Dream Theater – "Images and Words" and Gamma Ray – "Land of the Free" from the 90’s…. oh shit, it’s impossible to name just 3… maybe like 300 from each decade…
I can’t recall my first concert, but a few of the highlights have been all the Yngwie Malmsteen shows, Accept’s “best of” tour in ´93 or ´94… but I’ve enjoyed all the concerts I’ve seen!
What has been your favorite fan encounter through the years?
I do love seeing fans, they are the reason why we’re still here I have received some nice gifts from the fans also.
What is left for you to accomplish on your goal / bucket list for life? What dreams and aspirations do you have for Burning Point, Ghost Machinery and Stargazery?
I would like to see us touring around the globe and maybe sell some records on the side.
How would you describe a typical day in the life of Pete Ahonen?
Work & music, that’s about it…, maybe some television too.
Any final thoughts for the readers?
Thank you very much for your support over the years and I hope you’ll continue to support us in the future! If you’re in to melodic heavy metal, check out the Ghost Machinery’s "Out for Blood" album as well as the Stargazery’s debut “Eye on the Sky”!