Today is a very special day, because today we had a long interesting and fun conversation with the amazing Larry Sandman. Larry Sandman, the creative mind behind the gorgeous single “Upside Down”, released June 3rd this year. Larry, the man who knows how to surround himself with like-minded artists to produce beautiful songs, rock and classy with a dash of “je n’sais quoi” that makes all the difference.
Before we start, go pre-order Larry Sandman’s debut album on iTunes
More Than Free to be released June 21st 2022.
Origins: in a few words, who is Larry Sandman?
[Larry] First of all Claire, let me say thanks. I appreciate you taking the time to listen to my bullshit. Big Thanks!
[Misfit] You are most welcome Larry. I had a blast listening to your stories, no bullshit 💖. Thank you for indulging me and for your time.
– Many of us know that you have your roots in the South of France, but could you tell us what inspire this kind-hearted “marseillais” to move to Helsinki, Finland?
[Larry] I was born in the city of Marseille France, and grew up there, then ended up moving and living in Canada (Sarnia, Ontario), England (Carlisle) and Ireland (Dublin) over the years. I am now settled in Finland. I did take a good few trips to the USA, trying to understand Blues music and where it came from. I immersed myself in it. Places like New Orleans (Louisiana), Austin and Memphis (Texas), Nashville (Tennessee), Clarksdale (Mississippi). I was looking for the crossroads … And I consider all these places my home. I also have a family home in Corsica on the Mediterranean sea. All these places are a part of me as much as I’m a part of them.
Come to think of it, I can’t imagine staying in one place for an entire lifetime, it simply doesn’t work for me.
[Misfit] Where does the name “Larry Sandman” come from?
[Larry] When you wake up in the morning, do you have grit in your eyes? Who do you think put that there? When you feel sleepy, why do you think that is? 🙂
[Misfit] Is that all YOUR doing?! Dang! Ease-up on the sand too early in the evening, will you. 😅
– When did you decide to become a musician? Who inspired you?
[Larry] When I was a kid, I saw a video of Jimi Hendrix Live and it made me want to pick up the guitar. I’ve been hearing sounds and melodies in my head for as long as I can remember.
Many other artists have been a source of inspiration for me, there are probably too many to list but I’d say (in no particular order):
Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Albert Collins, James Brown, Albert King, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Deep Purple, The Who, Thin Lizzy, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers, Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, AC/DC, Motörhead, Aerosmith. These bands and artists provided the original inspiration. As I became a musician and started playing on the regular, then came Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Gov’t Mule. I also started listening to more acoustic music, be it folk, blue grass or some hippie stuff.
Vocal wise: I’m really into artists like Otis Redding, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Dr John, Aretha Franklin, Glenn Hugues, Ian Gillan, James Brown, Gregg Allman, Bon Scott & Brian Johnson, Rob Halford, Dio, Lenny Kravitz, Chris Cornell. I’m also influenced by Corsican polyphonic songs which are sang acapella. That’s vocal harmony at its best. I tend to prefer singers who sing high, with the exception of my good friend Marko Saaresto who can deliver exceptional vocals in the lower register.
[Misfit] I love Corsican polyphonic songs, they’re so pure and emotionally loaded. I Muvrini comes to mind, but I know there are so many other gifted artists I haven’t listened to yet. Any tips?
[Larry] Guitar wise, my major influences are: Hendrix, Albert Collins, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Mark Knopfler, Rory Gallagher, Zakk Wylde, Randy Rhoads, Billy Gibbons, Slash, Joe Bonamassa, Keith Richards and Ron Wood, Eric Gales, Carlos Santana, Django Reinhardt and Eric Clapton (especially during the Cream era).
Bass wise: James Jamerson, Jack Bruce, Glenn Hugues, Phil Lynott, Duff McKagan, John Paul Jones. I also love Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten.
Keyboard wise: I absolutely love Jon Lord. He is the ultimate player for me. Then there’s Derek Sherinian who is just extraordinary. I still can’t believe Derek’s on the album. I mean this man has played with Joe Bonamassa, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Buddy Miles and many more!!! It’s a dream come true for me. Dr John, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Smith, Lucky Peterson, Elton John and Ray Manzarek are also players I admire.
Lyrics wise: Leonard Cohen, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen. I’m also influenced by poetry from Baudelaire. I like Edgar Poe too.
From producer to solo artist
[Misfit] That is quite a journey! Where did you go?
[Larry] Actually, the transition was more from session musician to solo artist I’d say. I made a name for myself playing my guitar for other artists, especially Live but also in the studio. I was lucky enough to play with Jimmie Lawson, over 500 shows with him. I consider Jimmie as a member of my family. He’s an extraordinary man and has set the example for me. I also worked with Julio Romero’s band. Julio appears on over 60 Latin Jazz albums including some of the greats like Ray Barretto and Larry Harlow. It was a perfect experience for me as it got me out of my comfort zone (which is Rock and Blues) into Jazz and Latin territory, playing with a big band.
But you’re right, I’ve also worked as a Producer before. For example, I produced an R&B/Rock n Roll band called Truth and more recently I worked on an adaptation project with Poets Of The Fall, a song called “The Sweet Escape”. The band wanted to create an adaptation of the lyrics from English into French. It successfully became “Partir avec moi”. Luckily, I happen to be fluent in English and French and I had worked on some adaptations before.
[Misfit] What did you get from your journeys?
[Larry] Mostly kicks in the nuts and slaps in the face, but it’s all worth it. Meeting so many different people makes it worth. The “Fans”, I prefer to call them “Friends” as I’m exactly like them, I just love concerts, buying vinyls and arguing about who the best guitar player is!
[Larry] I don’t take myself or life very seriously for that matter. Anyone who has to face serious illness for themselves or their family will quickly understand that we are just a grain of sand in the universe. A drop in the ocean. Death is certain for all of us. Life is not: How you live and enjoy your life and make the most of it is never guaranteed. It’s up to each and everyone of us. But as long as you have your health and your freedom in this life, anything else is just icing on the cake. You literally can do anything you decide to do.
Playing rock music is something I do because I love it. It’s as simple as that. Many people look at it from the success side but how do you define success? Your numbers of followers on the internet? How many streams you have? How much money you’re making? Nope. Success to me is Happiness. And that can mean different things for each and everyone of us.
[Misfit] Interesting! Success is a very relative term in our societies. Success of a musician could be the joy of playing what he/she communicates through the music. I cannot see Happiness as success, because then it is just a goal. To me, Happiness is a path and success is the beautiful things you get to see and experience along that path. What do you think? – philosophical much? 🙃
[Larry] Of course any artist or band hopes to be successful from the point of view of wanting to share their music with as many people as possible. But if you do it for the money or the fame, then I wish you luck. You may not last very long in this game. Music is something I’ve always done and I’ll always do it no matter what. I don’t know how to live any other way. If I don’t make music, then I feel like I’m not getting enough air … and guess what happens when you can’t breathe? Not an option!
[Misfit] I usually say writing is like breathing to me, whether I share or not what I write is not the point, as long as I write. I understand so well what you mean. 😊
[Larry] My favourite memories from this on-going journey are definitely playing the bigger shows: when you play so loud that you can feel the air and the energy move on the stage. Throughout the journey, I also drifted away quite a bit, did odd jobs, worked in software, became an alcohol importer, tried different things … The only constant in my life has been the Music.
Larry Sandman a force to be reckoned with
[Misfit] Singer/Songwriter and Multi-Instrumentalist you are a force to be reckoned with. You have travelled the world and worked with many big names in the rock industry. What can you tell us about that?
[Larry] Don’t forget the most important: I’m a force when it comes to the dinner table. When I’m hungry I’m apparently very dangerous. Actually, eating is my main skill.
[Misfit] Is that an invitation? 😂
[Larry] Well you see, I’ve always liked to play different instruments, so that came in handy when I decided to produce my solo album. Song writing is something I’ve always done. I probably have a catalogue of almost 1000 songs that I can use if needed. I really enjoy the song writing part. When I started working on the “More Than Free” album, I tried looking for the right musicians for the project but I was mostly unsuccessful. That’s when I decided to do everything myself.
At least this record will have my fingerprints all over it. The exception being the drums: I don’t touch the drums. I work with the one and only Lester Estelle Jr, who’s one of the best studio drummers in the world. His professionalism, his sound, his kindness. It made everything possible again.
Before that, I have worked extensively with Jimmie Lawson and Julio Romero as explained above.
On the album, I got to feature artists such as Derek Sherinian, who’s simply the best Rock keyboardist in the world, and Marko Saaresto who needs no introduction as a vocalist and songwriter.
[Misfit] It seems to me that your music is making some kind of a point, like “Rock ‘n Roll isn’t dead” or something, yet your music has a modern and soulful touch. Wouldn’t you agree? How would you define your music?
[Larry] You’re right about that: Rock n Roll ain’t dead and it will never die. It will always be here in one form or another. They try to label it with different names: Indy Rock, Grunge, etc … But it simply won’t go away. It’s as much an attitude as it is a musical style. We are all from the same tribe/family kind of thing. I was walking down the street in Helsinki the other day and there was a girl walking by with a Joan Jett T-shirt. I waved and gave her the horns hand gesture and she shouted “Rock n roll!!”. That’s what it’s all about. If I release an album or if I play a show, I want people to leave all their worries behind thanks to the music. I’m trying to unplug them from this ugly world.
Mind you, I don’t make music to send a message or anything like that. I’m trying to write songs and record them and I always ask myself: “Is this something I would listen to?”. That’s pretty much it.
I try to write and record music from the “guts” or “soul” level instead of from the “brain” level if that makes sense.
[Misfit] It makes all the sense in the world 😎
[Larry] If I have an idea and start writing a text, 9 times out of 10 it ends up being recorded. So it’s raw. I don’t like to work on texts or songs for days and days. The more you try to “polish” things the more you lose the “essence” of it. You hope for accidents and mistakes. They’re the most important things. They are what makes a Rock recording interesting in my opinion.
New album release: More than Free – June 21st, 2022
[Misfit] A debut album is a big deal, though as I understand it, you were in a band before the pandemic. How did the idea of a solo album come about?
[Larry] Yeah, I’ve been in a bunch of bands before.
I ended up working on my own on this project (for the most part). I’ve always liked the “band spirit” where everyone brings something to the table … but this is a different era, you see. This is 2022. We live in a time where most people put their own little self before the development of a band. They look at their own interest and their own timetable and their own goals, and they ain’t prepared to deviate from that to work for the band. They don’t go wild and crazy anymore, they don’t drink alcohol or eat fat because it’s bad for you, they need a permit from the government to have fun, at times it feels like they are not themselves. The authentic unfiltered version of themselves has gone, vanished. They follow the trends, they believe in the news … And that’s cool-I respect everyone’s attitude but I’m at the opposite end of that. With me, what you see is what you get.
So, I can’t force anyone to like me but I can make them respect me if necessary.
Anyhow, the point I was trying to make was that It’s not that easy to make it work as a band if you don’t find like minded people. So what do you do then? You wait for a miracle to happen or you just go forward? I decided to go forward as music is an absolute necessity for me. I know from personal experience that life is very short so you’ve got to go and pursue what it is you want to achieve. Some people seem to have the luxury of waiting forever and planning things ahead. I don’t.
I’ve often asked for Marko Saaresto’s help on how to actually get going as a solo artist and he has been pushing me forward quite a lot. I believe he was the first person to actually believe this would be possible. He’s the sort of positive spirit everyone needs. Not to mention he’s an extraordinary artist as well.
Let’s not forget we just went through a pandemic and everyone knows what happened to bands/artists and clubs/concerts. So it was far from easy to get going but Marko’s advice was priceless.
[Misfit] What is the most challenging part with going solo?
[Larry] The “non musical” stuff: Music Distribution, Social Media, money matters, platforms, etc … All those things around the music which are necessary (as in every line of work) but not directly related to the music.
On the contrary, being in the studio or on stage is never a challenge, it is pure fun. That’s where the fun part is. It’s all very hard work but you don’t feel it because you love doing it.
[Misfit] What can we expect from “More than Free” than what we haven’t already heard?
[Larry] 10 tracks of pure Rock!!
This album was written as one “Rock Story”, so the tracks crossfade into one another and there’s a logical thread in the story. If you’re interested in that, you could try and listen to it from beginning to end, you’ll get a different experience for sure!
Larry’s treat to you dear readers! Hang tight, we aren’t done yet 🤩
Here’s a bit of insight about the songs:
🎶Intro: The Spirits Of Louisian’
It’s about redemption.
A conversation between an older person and a young kid sinking into depression and addiction. Inspired by the Finnish film “Reindeerspotting”
Can you fly with broken wings? A story of rebirth.
🎶More Than Free
Do we all understand the meaning of the word “Free”?
Then, what does “More Than Free” mean?
Being “More Than Free” is being Dangerous.
It’s about being who you are, free of stereotype and pressure. Slightly political …
🎶Upside Down (feat. Marko Saaresto)
Separation. It can be loss, divorce, distance, sudden death … whatever applies to you.
And time. Time is all relative but often makes a difference.
It’s hard to turn the page when your world looks Upside Down and nothing makes sense right? If you had a magical wand to play with time, would you use it?
The story of a homeless man. He’s exactly like all of us. But no one cares …
🎶Liar, Liar, Liar
Some politicians are liars. What else is new?
Neighbourhood in Paris. Sadness, desperation but always light at the end of the tunnel
🎶The Devil’s Grin
When you see bullies doing what they do best, do you look away? Do you run away? How can you?
Why not stand up for the ones who can’t defend themselves?
🎶Outro: November 13th (feat. Derek Sherinian)
Written after the attacks on Paris on that day in 2015
[Misfit] Now, there is something that makes me a bit sad from the list above, “Prisoner” is not on there😭. Why?
[Larry] “Prisoner” was just a freestyle/improvised acoustic piece that I did on YouTube. I will probably structure it and release it into a song at some point but I don’t know when if/when it will happen.
Glad to hear you enjoyed it! I did too but it was first and foremost an improvised tune.
[Misfit] I really loved it and now I will cross my fingers for you to release it as a song 😊 I’ll be waiting!
– Your album features “Heavy-weight musicians”. Derek Sherinian, Marko Saaresto and Lester Estelle Jr. How did this come about?
[Larry] I knew Marko before this whole project took place and we had worked together before on the adaptation of “The Sweet Escape” as you know.
Lester had the drum sound I wanted for this album. He hits hard and has an awesome sense of groove. He’s got a collection of awesome gear that can be changed on-demand to suit a particular song. One thing that’s very important for me as a producer is the sound of the Toms on a drum kit. I’m always searching for very resonant toms. So, Lester was the top man on the list. He’s also extremely reliable and professional. That’s a big change from working with the wannabees who think they’re big drummers and won’t even answer their emails. Their negativity and lack of professionalism can set you back months on a solo project. I’m done working with those arrogant players. Nowadays, I try to surround myself with the coolest and best players. I recently played with Gas Lipstick (Drummer for the band HIM), Pate Kivinen (Hanoï Rocks, Popeda and more) and Jukka Jylli (Kingston Wall, Saunabadh, Zook and more) and it’s such a breeze to play with these guys. They are as cool as they are pro. And they love to play.
When I wrote “November 13th”, to me there was only one man for the job on Keys. But it seemed unthinkable. When the pandemic started, Derek started offering to play on artists’ records. I had sent him a first demo and we easily hooked up after that. We started working on the actual track and it was a dream come true for me. His solo on the song is absolutely epic and has that distinctive sound/style which is unique to Derek.
Poets of the Fall
[Misfit] Of course, Poets of the Fall are responsible for putting you on my radar. In his interview with Misfit Heart – for the release of The Sweet Escape & Partir avec Moi – Marko Saaresto mentioned your name, so obviously I had to check you out 🙃. I met “The Devil’s Grin” and fell for it; the rest is history 😎.
As you mentioned earlier, you adapted The Sweet Escape to French. How difficult was it to adapt the English lyrics to French?
[Larry] It’s never easy to work on an adaptation. If you translate word for word, you will obviously lose the rhymes. If you keep the rhymes, you may lose some of the song meaning.
Luckily, I was working with Marko and he speaks French so between the both of us, we managed to create the adaptation. Looking back, it was not particularly difficult as Marko knew his original lyrics well and therefore it was a smooth process.
What was remarkable working on that song was how precise Marko’s ear was.
He was able to sing in French very quickly which is usually difficult to do. No problem for him! Everything was recorded rather fast.
[Misfit] Did you know the band prior to this? Who contacted whom? Any fun stories while working on the song?
[Larry] I’ve been listening to the band since their first album.
Marko was the only band member that I knew personally before that project. We have known each other for a number of years although funny enough we never really spoke about music in the past.
Back to The Sweet Escape adaptation: Marko contacted me asking if I’d be interested to work on the Sweet Escape/Partir Avec Moi project and we got started.
That’s how the project came about.
Another thing: Did you know that Jani Snellman plays bass on the version of “The Devil’s Grin” entitled “Evil Paradise Version”? That was recorded when I started the solo project. I then proceeded to record all the other basslines by myself.
[Misfit] Who do you think I am 😎? Of course I knew Jani was playing bass on “The Devil’s Grin” (the version actually on YouTube at the moment) 😁
[Misfit] Anyhow, back to The Sweet Escape, I guess this is when you met Miika Hakala, wasn’t it?
[Larry] Yeah, Miika was introduced to me by Marko so that was easy. He’s a cool dude and a fantastic director. I had met him a year prior, when I organized a studio session for some of the demo/songs for the album.
[Misfit] Now, of course and as we have already mentioned a few times already, Marko Saaresto sings on your latest single “Upside Down”. You found the magic in harmonizing your voice with Marko’s, how much of a gamble was it?
[Larry] Marko is a great musician. He understands harmonies and song writing. He’s an awesome singer. That’s his playground. He’s also very proficient in the lower vocal register. Taking all these things into consideration, I knew that if he liked the song, he could deliver awesome vocals. So I sent him a few demo tracks and the lyrics, and invited him to visit my home studio and the whole thing got started naturally.
Come to think of it, It’s amazing that we were able to record these vocals only within a few hours. We got everything we needed right there and then.
It’s never particularly easy to have 2 singers sing together in harmony, this time it worked.
Miika Hakala – Upside Down video
[Misfit] The video feels a bit Tarantino inspired, just saying 😄.
– As I understand it, you wrote your album as you’d do a movie. You created a compelling world for it – Miika’s words, not mine. Without giving it all away, could you tell us what is going on in the video?
[Larry] Hey, I love Tarantino’s work! Yeah, the album was written as one story as I said earlier. I have always loved concept albums. It keeps you focused on being creative. And then the listener can interpret and see different things according to their own world which is so cool and important.
The video has several stories running at the same time but not necessarily in order. The story has to do with time, or you could say “the sands of time” since there’s an hourglass at play and one of the characters is called “Sandman”. But this world is Upside Down, so we can only understand parts of the story and have to imagine the rest to try to understand how everything threads together …
Larry’s second treat to you dear readers! 🤩
I’ll give you some hints of all the stories at play:
🎭 “The Meeting”
Sandman is on his way. He’s hitch hiking. He ends up stealing a car to get to an important meeting with The Poet, who’s already on his way, walking on some back roads to get to the meeting point. What happens during that meeting? What were they trying to do? Have they stolen something important? Or did they recover something that belongs to them? Are they protecting something? We’ll never know …
🎭 “Reunited Through Hell, Separated By Time”
Both characters are finally together, reunited … Though they look like they’ve gone through hell and back. They are battered and bruised. They sure had to fight for something. They sing in the getaway car after their “job is done”, by a clearing near a lake. Sandman writes some magical words on a piece of paper to try and help the situation they’re in … What in the world happen during that “meeting” ?!
Eventually, they have to go their separate ways and Sandman hands over a bag to the Poet (containing the Hourglass) before they split up.
🎭 “The Hunt Goes On”
After they’ve gone, a boy discovers the abandoned stolen car and a bounty hunter appears, revealing that he is after Sandman and the Poet. He wants to know if the boy has seen them. He wants the Hourglass.
🎭 “The Everlast”
Sandman had the hourglass with him all along in his guitar case. Both characters were supposed to meet so that the Poet could take away the Hourglass and keep it safe.
Sandman would like to break the endless cycle of time, but he can’t. How ironic for the man they call Sandman? Whenever he tries to use the Hourglass, he ends up right back where he started, walking on that road … Trying to get away and protect the very thing that makes the struggle eternal.
The story never ends, it is an everlasting, perpetual struggle. Isn’t everyday Life just like that?
[Misfit] You wrote the story for the video based on the larger picture you created on your album. Tell us how this goes when three amazing creators such as yourself, Miika Hakala and Marko Saaresto work together on video?
[Larry] All I can say is that it’s always fun working with these 2 guys. It’s always a good time. When you attempt to create music videos (or music or any art) that are out of the ordinary, you need creative, open minded partners in crime. We all contributed to the project in our own way. At the start, there’s always a massive exchange of ideas going on. Once we’ve selected all the ideas we like, we proceed.
Miika’s area is the Directing part obviously. He supervises all the takes he needs to thread the story together. That’s his comfort zone and he’s just awesome at that. He knows exactly what he needs to create the right atmosphere. We started by exchanging ideas over email and then we put the different pieces together: make up, cars, clothes, shooting locations … etc. As I said before, I’ve made myself a promise to work only with artists and people who truly enjoy being in this line of business. The positive energy helps you translate what you have in mind into a real project. For that, I am thankful to absolutely everyone who contributed to this project.
[Misfit] The premiere was a success as far as I am concerned. Were you happy with the turn up? Will there be more videos do you think?
[Larry] The Premiere was awesome! I’ve been able to meet so many new friends from all over the world. They are all awesome people. Definitely they’ll be more music videos in the future. I’m actually working on something as we speak but right now the priority is to put a show together to support the album.
Questions for fun, as it is tradition on Misfit Heart 😊:
[Misfit] Favourite movie(s)?
[Larry] Goodfellas, Vengo, Training Day, Remember The Titans, Shawshank Redemption, Thelma & Louise, Fight Club and Everything Star Wars or Marvel
[Misfit] Favourite book(s)?
[Larry] My favourite poem is “The Raven” by Edgar Poe. Then there’s “Les Fleurs du mal” By Charles Baudelaire. So What, The Life Of Miles Davis. Another long poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”
[Misfit] Country you would like to visit?
[Misfit] Favourite food?
[Misfit] Favourite drink?
[Larry] (in no particular order) Coffee, Ale, Stout, Whiskey, Red Wine
[Misfit] Sea or mountain?
[Misfit] City or village?
[Larry] City during the week, Village at weekends
[Misfit] Last but not least:
– Favourite band(s)?
[Larry] The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple
[Misfit] This was absolutely amazing. Good luck with the album now and hope to see you on tour very soon!
Thanks a bunch Larry!
That’s all folks! 🤩
Be kind to each other,