David Hasselhoff Big Band - a band which does not exist
By Risto Mäki-Petäys (a.k.a. Bass Cadet)
Alternative Party V, Helsinki, January 2004. I was hanging around with Sami 'Kraku' Koistinen listening to the bands performing at the very evening and felt that we hadn't seen that specific type of band we were hoping to see. In a sense we were a bit tired of the flood of the noise bands or the bands which brought a pile of preprogrammed synths and just tweaked a bit of them during the act. The Helsinki Computer Orchestra gave us some inspiration by consisting of a large number of players and an orchestral conductor though their sound wasn't what we were after. We wanted to set up a band to bring a set of electronic instruments with no sequencer at all and play a set of distinct musical pieces with a style. However, some six months went without developing the idea any further. At Assembly 2004 (although missing all the bands which were to play there) we met again and decided to do something. Originally we planned to play only songs of our own make and with a serious intent, but at the moment we somehow got the idea of playing synth versions of some tracks people might or should know beforehand. That decision might have been the reason that made DHBB so popular from the very beginning when it was announced. So we interviewed a lot of people at Assembly 2004 about which songs they wanted to hear being played by a synth band at the next Alternative Party. We collected a list of songs that could cover about two hours of playing time.
Having two members in a non-sequenced synth
band doesn't offer much of activity on the stage so we tried to beg some known musicians to join us at Assembly 2004. Most of them told us that they are just two-finger studio-players that were not willing to play live. I asked Arto 'el-bee' Koivisto if he would be willing and he was eager to join us right away. Sami had a bit more contacts to the scene musicians than I did and he proposed Matti 'Melwyn' Palosuo to become the guitarist for the band and got a positive response. At September I had finally arranged some space in my apartment for a rehearsal studio and we gathered there to find out that we unfortunately ended having none of the requested songs on our track list. The keynote was to have the songs with some new approach and style, not to just have direct impersonal interpretations of them, and those songs didn't seem to work enough. Thus we spent time jamming at the keyboards trying to recall some catchy melodies and browsing through scene modules and sid classics. I tried to hire a drummer for us but those I could find with my contacts ended up being a bit too professional and thus expensive. So we had to give up not having a sequencer with us and set up Sami's laptop playing the drums and doing the mixing.
At that time four months to set up a gig from scratch felt acceptable and we
didn't have the distracting feeling of haste. We had already more than half an
hour of playtime planned and rehearsed by November but the major problem was
to invent a name for our band. All of us met at the house party of Arto and found out that some of us had leaked the idea of our band; everyone at the party was aware of the whole crew. Fortunately we were able to keep the songs secret. At December the Alternative Party Organization pushed us to think of a name and at one rehearsal Arto came up with David Hasselhoff Big Band. We were all amused by that name. Although we had a bunch of other names they were found out to be used already so we kept with DHBB till the deadline when the ads were published. The humour appeal seemed to work outside the band as well. Even so no-one told us that there is a demo group called David Hasselhoff Fan Club which confused some people.
Al Lowe was invited as a special guest for the event so we picked the Leisure Suit Larry theme along hoping we could ask him to play the melody with a saxophone. Al reported that his schedule didn't match but we kept the song anyway in the set.
We craved for a few tracks more and during one rehearsal while listening to
Ghosts'n'Goblins everyone suddenly burst into laughter when the second part
begun. The melody sounded so much like Finnish tango. I fetched a Russian
accordion from the attic of my parents. Arto took the chance, picked the
instrument and kept trying to find the keys for the song and managed to do it
surprisingly fast. Sami lobbied a2reason from Aem/Mass fame writing the
lyrics and Croaker/Halcyon to join us as the vocalist after a long debate.
Unfortunately he didn't have the will and gave up singing the song so he was
only going to announce the band and the tango had to go without a singer.
While listening through our set we had the idea that a video screen
could bring a bit more movement to the gig while most of the band are standing still behind the keyboards. Sami was aware that Markus 'Droid' Pasula was a professional VJ and he was eager to join us even with a minimal time limit of a couple of weeks before the gig. Although he had done visuals for mainly some electronic dance music, which didn't fit very well for our music, he managed to collect a bunch of matching video clips with Croaker before the dress rehearsal. We had to play without watching the screen in order to get distracted by monster porn, disco dancing educational videos and air guitarist finals.
We were very nervous before the first gig, as this was the first live
performance for some of us. I had about ten years of live experience and still
didn't feel steady enough playing a 100% planned non-improvisational gig. Yet
we had gained the reputation beforehand to have most of the scene friends being
there watching for our performance. We chose to play the Knight Rider theme as
our first song, as it seemed appropriate. Too bad it was quite a difficult
piece to play in the first place, we hadn't rehearsed it enough, and we hadn't
even warmed up enough. My melodica got clogged, someone was playing from the
wrong note etc. But, for the mercy, that didn't make the audience go away. The
following tracks went quite well until Dope which made people go nuts. Niko
'Uncle-x' Leskinen suddenly stood up, walked in front of the bandstand clapping
by the rhythm and the whole audience kept clapping along. The composer,
Jugi/Complex, visited the party but didn't witness the gig because we didn't
want to reveal our secret. The success was surprising, as people got to hear
their favourite songs and see C=64 music played
with accordion and lots of other personal ideas.
Although DHBB was supposed to be a one-gig band, due to the success we had in
mind to tour over Assembly 2005 and Breakpoint'05 in Germany, but Sami had
decided not to go to parties abroad. Luckily the audience collected the
money for his trip without telling him so he had to go with us. We had a bunch
of potential songs to cover having two of them, Ein Fall Fur Zwei for the
opening and Auf Wiedersehn Monty as a latin version. Carrying the equipment
was the most difficult problem to solve as we weren't allowed to carry more
than 15kg of luggage per person. The accordion, stands and keyboards (apart
from the little red plastic one that Sami plays) had to be left home and we had to borrow the ones at
the partyplace. Without the accordion we decided to drop Ghosts'n'Goblins.
We had a lot of arguments with the organizers about the schedule. Matti
didn't want to play just after having the Scene Awards show and the organizers
didn't seem to take us very seriously so we had to play right after arriving
at the partyplace. We arrived there just in time but the schedule was delayed
so we weren't allowed to bring our equipment until almost half an hour had
passed after our announced point. It was neat to see the crowd, most of our
Finnish fans, in the front of the bandstage cheering for David Hasselhoff to
enter. However, both the organizing and the crowd pushed us to hurry up when
fifteen minutes had gone and we weren't ready. Did they think we could do it
in a couple of minutes? However, after short 30 minutes we were set up and
running, but Markus had to cope up with partial VJ equipment because he forgot
a PSU home.. This time the hall was full with about a thousand people
watching with the front row
dancing and even chanting along the songs. Dope worked even better than the last time, which made XXX/Haujobb do some stagediving. I still wonder how we managed not to make any major mistakes with such a hectic and short set up and some of the crew having drunk a lot of liquor during the flight and bus trip. After all, this is still our best gig so far, I'd say.
We wanted to play one gig more and DrDoom of Assembly Organization had already wanted to make it possible and lobbied us inside. This was about to be our last gig because we didn't want to bore people by playing the same stuff over and over again and we ran short of parties close to us. We had a slight problem: we had to get permission for all the material shown. We had planned Elektronik Supersonik but Santo Cilauro from Working Dog productions didn't give any response. We also ended up dropping some songs due to copyright reasons and to shorten the set a bit, so Leisure Suit Larry and Das Model had to go. Instead we had a big surprise song at the end, and the band had evolved to a six people band. I invited Titti 'osyn' Malmivirta to play bass guitar and Sami had a little chat with Caveman/Coma complaining that we have a song with written lyrics but not a singer which led him to become our lead vocalist. I had arranged a mixer too but he never appeared at the rehearsals nor at the event. Also, the scheduling didn't go as planned as the time we were promised wasn't available and we got informed too late. However, we recruited a2reason/Aem at the partyplace to become our mixer and we got to play Saturday evening and got two and half hours of set up and soundcheck which wasn't a minute too much. We were informed that we wouldn't be cast live because the Counter Strike finale was on top of us and we would be lucky if we would have a camera on the spot. Suddenly, after the very quick soundcheck I heard a scream 'twenty minutes till airing!' and asked our Live Crew contact person if it was true and he said 'sure' which didn't help the panic. I didn't have even the time to go through the song list far apart from giving the last rehearsal before the gig while it was cast abroad and the crowd was let inside. My synth failed a bit again and I did more mistakes than ever, and even the mixing was far from perfect as the mixer hadn't heard our songs beforehand. Still the whole crowd was rocking on. The final surprise track, CNCD: Closer, played as accordion accompanied industrial and live slap bass with the very demo rolling over the canvas worked as we planned to. We got some weird feedback such as 'This is the first time I've seen anyone moshing with an accordion' and 'This may be the coolest thing made in the scene EVER' which helped the mood a lot afterwards. People kept hailing me and telling that they want more stuff at the web page and that they would still be willing to buy a record if we had one. Due to copyright reasons we can't print out a record, but look out for some more free music at our web page at http://dhbb.scene.org.
Risto Mäki-Petäys, on the 15th
of October 2005