J. Ahola is mostly known for being the vocalist, bass player and one of the three songwriters of the successful Finnish heavy metal band Teräsbetoni. J.’s deep passion for music, however, has resulted in participating in other successful projects like Northern Kings and Raskasta Joulua, among others. After the announcement of Teräsbetoni’s long term break, J. has been focusing on his new hard rock band called AHOLA, where this time he plays the rhythm guitar and sings in English. Besides, he also enjoys performing small acoustic gigs that allow him to get back to his roots by singing cover songs he finds meaningful.
Jarkko Kalevi Ahola was born on August 24th 1977 in Toijala (currently called Akaa), Finland. He spent a happy childhood growing up under the guidance of his parents with two sisters by his side. As a child, J. had an extensive imagination along with a real sense for drama and was quite content doing things on his own.
During elementary school, J.’s creative side began to display itself in the form of making humorous videos and plays with his friends. Even at this early age, J. had an “inner feeling” that music should somehow be involved in these productions, but it wasn’t until a few years later that he discovered the true magic of playing and making music.
J.’s musical awakening took place when he began attending junior high school. Upon discovering the drum set in one of the classrooms, an inextinguishable burning fire for music was lit in his soul. It didn’t take long for J. and his friends to form a school band: Tribunes (originally JVS). Even though the guys lacked knowledge at that point in time, their hunger for music made them fast learners. J.’s early tastes in music were influenced by the musical styles of Deep Purple, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Whitesnake, David Coverdale, Dio and Glenn Hughes. Due to a series of events, at the age of 13 J. became the singer for the band. At first J. felt he wasn’t good enough, for he wanted to be as good as his idols from those legendary heavy metal bands, but he was persistent, stuck with it and hasn’t looked back ever since!
In 2002, J. was faced with making some major decisions concerning his life and career. He applied to and was accepted at the Pirkanmaa University of Applied Sciences and began his studies in the field of “Digital Recording & Commercial Music” in order to learn more about recording, mixing and producing.
J.’s experimentation with making music and writing songs began when the Tribunes broke up at the end of 1991. J. thought it was the end of his singing career and started making music on his computer. So, while J. wasn’t singing, music was still an integral part of his life and that kept his dream alive.
As his talents developed, even though Antti Mäkelä was the main songwriter for High Voltage, J. contributed with some of his own lyrics and melodies. The Bulldozer period, however, was the beginning of a new personal era for J. as he was writing new music almost every day! J. had discovered a new talent within himself and composed songs in their entirety: from the lyrics through to the arrangements.
The inspiration for song themes comes to a certain extent from J.’s own life experiences, his views and thoughts about the world around us and from his limitless imagination. J. feels it’s important that the songs he composes have substance and either a true or symbolic meaning, and that they affect people’s lives and emotions in a positive sense.
J. has a small home studio, and when asked about his songwriting process he described it in the following way:
“This may sound easy, but songs often just come to me. I pick up my guitar and start to play. Then I have a riff or a melody and I start writing the song, going through the process. The song slowly becomes a draft and suddenly, something happens and I have a general picture of the song in my mind. Once I have the chords, lyrics and melody, I start thinking about the different parts and fit them into the song. I think the most important thing after that is the arrangement, and here’s where the computer comes in. You can do stuff so easily with it. I have these preamps and make the drums with the computer. I try to make the song as finished and polished as possible, so that someone listening to it gets a clear idea of what the song is about. This process may take a day or a year! It’s funny, but usually I have to pick up my guitar before anything really happens. Generally, my songs don’t take shape without it. We’ve been together for too long, I guess!”
Throughout J.’s youth and early adulthood, his enthusiasm for music lead him to participate, as a vocalist, in a number of bands based in or around Tampere: High Voltage, Bulldozer, Two, Helmisetti, Critical Mess, Cosmic Spell, Dreamtale and various other short term projects.
High Voltage (1992–1996): formed by Antti Mäkelä, a huge AC/DC fan and still a good friend of J.’s. The band recorded several demos. The last one – good rock music with pop elements – is still very listenable. Antti showed J. the secrets of vocal harmonies and J. evolved a lot during the lifespan of the band. As happens quite often with young bands, the guys ended up going their separate ways, but are currently still friends.
Bulldozer (1996–2000): Ville Lehtinen, J.’s childhood friend from the Tribunes, invited J. to audition for the band. They won a local band contest in 1997 and recorded two demos: Bulldozer and Love/Hate. The band had several drummers during its lifespan including Heikki Malmberg, who is currently the “hammering man” for Diablo. Bulldozer’s break-up was emotionally hard on J., for to him it meant to witness the dissipation of his dreams.
Two (2000–2003): originally a duo formed by Jami Katajisto and J. that performed acoustic gigs locally. The duo expanded into a rock trio when Heikki Ahonen joined as their drummer.
Helmisetti (2001 –): a real “party” band formed by J. with his friends Krisse Leppänen and Antti Mäkelä. The band was a popular act in local bars and performed new adaptations of songs ranging from old entertainment classics to rock, pop and metal. The guy’s still get together to perform a gig, once or twice a year.
Critical Mess (2003–2004): J. joined in response to a singer wanted ad. The band played mainly cover songs, which wasn’t quite what J. was looking for, but the guys in the band had a real inner fire to play hard rock and J. had a deep longing to be part of a real band. It didn’t take long for the “mess” to get “critical” and the band dissolved. However, Pate Laitinen and Juspa Sillanpää, both from the band, still keep in touch with J.
Cosmic Spell (2003 –): formed by J. with Ville (Lehtinen) Terämä and Heikki Ahonen to make some “groovy” rock music. The band’s story was put on hold due to Teräsbetoni’s growing popularity, but as Cosmic Spell is one of J.’s personal favourites, the dream is not forgotten but lives on!
Dreamtale (2004–2005): a power metal band with two albums out at the time. J. appeared as the vocalist on the band’s third album, Difference, and the single Wellon (which hit the charts). J. left the band due to Teräsbetoni’s success.
Ever since the music bug bit J., he’s constantly been involved with various bands and projects. Concurrently, J.’s passion for music and the need to use it as a creative form of expression resulted in the birth of the six demos detailed below.
Songs: Hold You In My Arms, It’s Your Life and When Will It End
Trying to learn the basics of digital recording while the industry was still learning the basics of home use, owning nothing more than one dynamic mic, a cassette recorder as a preamp, a dull guitar preamp and an ageing computer, J. began making his first demo. His goal was to compose big and catchy songs. The problem proved to be the poor sound quality of the demo. Still, some say Hold is the best demo J. has made and perhaps the songs can actually be heard and enjoyed despite the harsh surface.
Songs: Blind, Through With You and Mysterious Eyes
J. heeded the suggestion of some friends who felt heavy was his thing, resulting in the rockier vibes of the Blind demo. The sound quality of the Blind demo was a better than Hold’s, but there was still room for improvement.
Songs: Down, Turn Around, The Moment and I Need Love
Bonus tracks: Is It All Worth and Blind (live)
Older, bluesy hard rock hit J. like a thousand volts! As a result, he felt compelled to write his own bluesy material. The sound quality had again improved; however, the demo still had the boomy sound of home recording.
Cosmic Spell (2004)
Songs: Cosmic Spell, Gimme A Break, Once and Guilty
Just prior to Teräsbetoni’s breakthrough, this demo containing “groovy” rock music was born, the songs having been written fast and with great enthusiasm.
Songs: Invitation (intro), Don’t Forget The Morning, Two Sides Of A Story, Right Before My Mind and Farewell (outro)
Teräsbetoni had launched their successful debut album, but finishing the Invitation demo was important to J. on a personal level, as he felt it was the strongest material he had written. J. acquired the help of his “cosmic” friends Ville Terämä and Heikki Ahonen for the making of this demo.
Cosmic Spell: Poles Apart (2006)
Songs: Poles Apart and The Calling
During the Invitation demo’s drum sessions, J. and Heikki also recorded two tracks for this demo, which were later finished by J. and Ville.
J. met A. Järvinen and V. Rantanen during his studies at the University. While the guys were out having a few beers, they started talking about music and came up with the idea of forming a band that sang genuine heavy metal music boldly in Finnish. J. Kuokkanen joined the ranks as their drummer. Rantanen came up with the name Teräsbetoni, which loosely translated means Reinforced Concrete.
In the summer of 2003, the guys quickly assembled an internet site for the band including their demo songs: Teräsbetoni, Teräksen Varjo (The Shadow Of Steel) and Maljanne Nostakaa (Raise Your Chalice). It didn’t take long for the band to raise public interest and in no time at all the visits to Teräsbetoni’s site were thousands and soon, hundreds of thousands. Teräsbetoni attracted the attention of various record labels and in 2004 Osku Ketola from Warner Music Finland signed the band to a recording contract.
Teräsbetoni went into the studio at the end of 2004 to record their first single, Taivas Lyö Tulta (Fire Stricken Skies), which was released in February 2005 and immediately rose to the top of the Finnish singles list. The recording of the Metallitotuus (Metal Truth) album began in early 2005 in Lappeenranta, at Astia Studio, with the owner/producer Anssi Kippo and it was released during the spring. The album hit the number two spot on the Finnish album list upon its release and stayed on the list for 29 weeks!
The second single, Orjatar (Slave Mistress), is to this day particularly popular with Teräsbetoni’s female audience! The third and fourth singles of the album were Metallisydän (Heart Of Metal) and Vahva Kuin Metalli (Strong As Metal).
Metallitotuus sold platinum and was awarded as “Metal Album of the Year” at the Emma Awards (Finnish equivalent to Grammy). Great shows during the summer festival season and a large scale live performance tour followed the success of the album. The band also visited the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany that same year.
Teräsbetoni’s fantastic success story continues to unravel in the PROJECTS section. Please take a look to it to find out what the band’s been up to since “Metallitotuus”!
In August 2011, J. formed a band that goes under a simple name: AHOLA. AHOLA is all about hard rock: the riffs, the beat, the screaming vocals, the passion, the power… you name it. The band members are besides J., who is also playing the rhythm guitar: Antti Mäkelä (drums), Antti Karhumaa (lead guitar) and Jamo Laitinen (bass).
The idea for the band, though, had been in J.’s mind for a long time – in fact, this is something he had been dreaming of since he started writing music – and the earlier AHOLA material dates from summer 2008. J. discussed the idea many times with Antti Mäkela, but the timing to bring the band to light simply didn’t feel right until four years later. Anyhow, now AHOLA has come to stay!
The band released its debut album Stoneface in 2012. The second album Tug of War came out almost two years later, in 2014.
Please check the PROJECTS section for more and remember to join www.facebook.com/aholaband
J. is an exceptionally gifted and multitalented artist. One of the most accurate ways to describe his unwavering conviction and deep love for music is illustrated through his own words at the dawning of his career:
“I will take what life brings me and continue making music for as long as I live. It’s as simple as that!”
Music is truly an eternal flame which burns brightly in J.’s soul! Consequently, he’s continually involved with various projects which are underway simultaneously. Please check out the PROJECTS section for more info regarding AHOLA, Teräsbetoni, Northern Kings and Raskasta Joulua.
Our sincere thanks for taking the time to get acquainted with J. AHOLA and what he’s all ABOUT!
Text by Tuula Pesonen & refurbished by anonymous.