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Interviews   

Mr. Lordi loves to tease


Mr. Lordi is always teasing. Nothing can entertain him more than facing people’s constant taunts about his dressing-up clothes or his music, especially when he can make these people eat their words by succeeding in everything he does. We all remember the words of Michel Drucker, a French TV host, sneering at them during the 2006 Eurovison song contest, saying that he couldn’t imagine them winning it. The rest is history… It’s the same old story with those, even in his close circle of friends and family, who have doubts about him. Which musician hasn’t felt that way?

Mr. Lordi even loves to speak to those who don’t like him, like in the song « Sincerely With Love », which was written for those who unfortunately see a gig of Lordi: with this song they can sing something, even if they don’t like the band!

The loquacious and jolly Mr. Lordi, who loves to tell anecdotes, reviews the band’s career and talks about the new record To Beast Or Not To Beast, which seems to be a new chapter for the band. A record written after the passing of Otus, the band’s drummer who used to break “one or two cymbals at every show”. Mr. Lordi tells us the record’s whacky genesis and also the story behind its title, in which Kiss played an indirect role.

« I’ve always hated this fucking authority system that think they are better than you and that they know your type. You know that they mean well, you know they’re just really trying to help you, but at the same time they are fuckin’ driving you crazy when they don’t understand you but they think that they do. »

Radio Metal: I guess this is more comfortable to do interviews without your costumes, I know that you did a press conference disguised yesterday…

Mr Lordi (vocals): How do you know I’m not wearing the costume right now?

Yeah right, actually I don’t! Are you?

There you go!

So are you wearing your costume?

Oh no, I’m not [laughs]…

This is the second time you work with the same producer. Do you think that it could become recurrent?

Oh yeah, I could see that happening, it’s a possibility of course. I wouldn’t say that it couldn’t happen. But the realities are also to take into account, and the problem of the scenario is that he works in the United States, on the other side of the planet. It’s a financial problem really, or let’s not say it’s a problem, but it’s more or less of a challenge every time, because it’s five members in the band and we have to fly from Finland so… That’s the only thing that might make it difficult, as well as how the music business is today, sort of… But I mean, if everything would be possible, in an ideal world, yeah, why not. I would definitely see that happening again, yeah.

You have now a new drummer and a new keyboard player. What was their implication in the writing and recording process of the album?

Well, they were not exactly part of the writing process at all. The songs were already pretty much done, or at least chosen for the album when they joined. Mana, the drummer, joined in like a month before we got into the studio so we decided that the new guys wouldn’t have a say in the work in progress, on what songs are going to be recorded, etc. They were only there for a couple of months and we had been there for years, so we didn’t let them participate at that stage. But during the recording process of course, everybody’s doing their part! We let them have the free hands. There’s no point for me to tell Mana or Hella or anyone else how they should play their own instrument. That’s their own interpretation of the songs, you know what I mean? All the stuff you hear from the keyboard is done by Hella and Hella came up with it, and same thing goes with the drums: Mana did his own drum patterns and then decided what he was going to play. Like he said actually yesterday, that’s what makes a band a band, you know.

And do you think that for the next album they will be able to bring their own influences and their flavor to your music?

Of course! We’ve always been about that even though I write 95% of the material. From the outside, it might look like I decide and do most of the stuff. But it’s not like that, everybody writes and I’m the first one to urge everybody else to write songs too for whatever we are writing. But mathematically the thing is that I write so much, I write new stuff all the time… While I write forty or fifty songs for an album, the others are happy if they get ten songs together. So that’s simple mathematics that most of our stuff is gonna be mine. I write thousands of songs and record demos, it doesn’t mean that they’re all good, but there’s just way more of them!

The first single of the album is called “The Riff”. Is it some sort of homage to the search of every metal band for “the riff”?

Good point! I never thought of that actually. The title comes from a story. The lyrics have a very clear story, like a fairy tale of Mister Lordi meeting with Mister Death and talking with Mister Death about a special guitar riff [laughs]. I just thought the whole scenario was funny in my head. But in many cases you can hear a song that actually has a really good riff but the rest of the song is really to throw away. And the other way around, you know: the chorus can be quite catchy, but you don’t have to really like the rest of the stuff. That’s how we do with the songs: not nearly half of these songs that you hear on Lordi albums were like that on the first stage as demos. In many cases, when a song is selected for an album to be recorded, we might take out for example the riff and replace it with another riff from another song that is better, but…. That’s a good point actually, the search for the perfect riff… Michael [Wagener] said a funny thing while we were in the studio: “Really work on the song called ‘The Riff’ because it would have to have a really amazing riff, there!” Well, it’s not that because the song is about the riff, but we don’t hear the riff we talk about, it’s left unsaid. And in the lyrics it says: « It goes like this… » and then there’s the part which could be the riff, if anybody wants to interpret it that way, but then again I’m leaving the doors open, I’m not claiming that this is the riff [laughs].

What would be the best riff of all time for you?

Oh wow, that’s not an easy question dude… There’s a lot of amazing riffs in the world, for instance “Bark At The Moon”, that’s an awesome riff, “War Machine”, obviously a lot of Black Sabbath riffs are excellent… The list goes on and on. Even “Jump” has a terrific riff even though it’s not on the guitar, then again it doesn’t have to be… I don’t know, that’s a tricky question. There’re so many. I could start listing riffs and start with riffs from Kiss for example, from “Double Founder”, “Almost Human”, “I Stole Your Love”, “Love Gun”, the list goes on and on. “All Hell’s Breaking Lose”, “Unholy” is an awesome riff, and that’s just one band! “Wild Child” by W.A.S.P., “Poison” by Alice Cooper…

And what would be your favorite riff from Lordi actually? Not your favorite song, but your favorite riff?

Dude, you have tricky questions! I still love the riff from “Biomechanic Man” from the first album, and also “Get Heavy”. I think we have come up with some pretty good classic sounding riffs. “This Is Heavy Metal” for example has a very interesting riff. Even though it’s just supposed to be something that really reminds you of something that you already heard, but that was kind of the point there. I always think you try to find the best possible riff for the song that you’re making at the moment. I’m pretty happy with the riff in “I’m The Best” from the new album, I like the riff there.

You declared that before passing away, Otus wrote some drums parts that were really aggressive and that it gave Lordi the orientation for this new album. Why do you think he wrote these aggressive parts? Was he angry at the time?

No! He was just being himself! He was a really, really, really respected and a really skilled metal drummer. He was one of the best metal drummers from Finland. He was really the cream of the cream, and his way of playing was like that. When you told him to play some heavy metal, that motherfucker could play. That motherfucker was aggressive. He was like Vinnie Paul on fucking drugs, he was fuckin’ awesome. He had an amazing technique and he hit really hard. There are some drummers you can actually talk to when they’re on the drums because they hit so softly, but Otus was like chopping wood! He was really hitting. Every show, he broke at least one or two cymbals. At every show! Not only sticks, but cymbals! Anybody who actually had the chance to play drums a little knows how much you have to hit these cymbals to break them. That was his playing style!

« [A friend of mine] is still asking me: ‘Oh, so you are still doing the band thing? Wouldn’t you start doing something real for your life?’ I mean, really? I know she means well, but… »

Doesn’t your new drummer feel pressure to be the new guy after him?

[Laughs] Uh, yeah, he said that there were quite big shoes to fill. But he can play along the same lines, and then again after all anybody has their way to play their instrument, whatever the instrument they play, unless you’re really copying somebody on purpose. So he’ll manage just fine, he has his own style, he’s not Otus and he’s not supposed to be Otus. But when we were looking for the new drummer, the most difficult part was to find a guy who could play things like Otus did, because the new material was really influenced by Otus’ way of playing. We needed the new drummer to be able to play that kind of stuff, but also who knows his Kiss and Twisted Sister and Alice Cooper, this 80s’ stuff because that’s what we’re based on. He has to know all these references too. And thirdly he has to be a great person, he has to fit the band chemically. He’s not there to copy Otus and I don’t think that he should think about that at all. I don’t even think that he’s thinking about that, he’s doing it the way he’s doing it, you know.

The title of the album was originally supposed to be “Upgradead”. Why did that change?

Because it was a crappy title! [laughs]

I think it was cool!

Well yeah, I mean… Yeah, it was, but the actual whole story behind the album’s title was quite long. Usually, before we even start working on the new material for the new album, we already have the working title for the album. We at least have an idea and it usually sticks. And this time, two years ago we already had this name Monsterial Phonica. We said OK, the new album will be called Monsterial Phonica, and this was before we even started to play the new material. Then Kiss announced that their new album would be called Monster, so we were like: “Oh no, what the fuck? If we put out an album after Kiss called Monsterial Phonica…” And then again they put out a song called “Hell Or Hallelujah” and we were like: “Mmh it sounds a bit like something that we did”, so Allan from Sony Finland said: “Maybe you should name your album Kiss!” [laughs] We would be joking about that for a while but then again after that, we really couldn’t find a real album title, we were searching for the main title all the fucking time, the whole summer, the whole autumn, the whole time in the studio we were fucking thinking about the album title. We just couldn’t get anything that was like what we create. And then we landed on “Upgradead” because I also wanted to have the meaning of change in the title of the album: there were so many changes in the band and in the music and in the line-up and everything… “Upgradead” was something like “OK, it’s ‘upgrade’ with ‘dead’ for the end, everything is in the name, this is a better, new version of the band.” But still somehow it felt like it was not the best album title that we could find at this moment. And we came up with tons of different album titles for the next one, but not for this one, and I was just like “Fuck!” This is the first time it ever happened. I painted the album cover with the title “Upgradead” in mind: I had this idea of an old, vintage, 50s’-40s’-30s’ whatever add with a vintage lady advertising a product, and the product is of course the new version of the human which is Lordi improved in a better version. It had a lot of scars and a lot of stuff in the painting. It didn’t look that good. Something was wrong with that so I started taking off all the extra mumbo-jumbo from there and ended up with the painting that became the album cover. When I showed that to Amen (our guitar player), he said: “I don’t get the Upgradead thing anymore. This is like to be or not to be.” and then I was like: “There you go! To beast or not to beast! That’s the question!” The good thing is the play on words, we always have the play on words, and the thing that it has a little bit of humor in it, and that also it answers its own question. To beast or not to beast and the answer is already in your hand because if you have the album it means that you have to beast!

I was thinking about it just a few minutes ago… What do you think about the album Monster by Kiss that was out last year?

Actually, we were already recording when Monster came out. We heard it, we went to the store and brought it the day it was released, we were like over halfway into the recording at the time. But we’ve listened to it. I think that’s a good album, actually. I think it’s way better than Sonic Boom.

At the end of the album, there is a song where you keep singing “Fuck you asshole, sincerely with love”. Who is it dedicated to?

[Laughs] Nobody in particular. I think anybody can relate to that. It’s a song for these people that everybody knows. Everybody have these people that I’m talking about in their lives, whether it be their mother, their father, their boss or their teacher at school, whatever. You have these people who think that they know you better than yourself, you know, and it was always really crazy. I’ve always hated this fucking authority system that think they are better than you and that they know your type, you know what I mean? You know that they mean well, you know they’re just really trying to help you, but at the same time they are fuckin’ driving you crazy when they don’t understand you but they think that they do. They’re like: “I’m just trying to help you!” That’s the whole message behind it. I think everybody can relate to that. Also when I was writing that lyric I was calculating, I wanted to have lyrics that everybody understands, universally all around the world, so it had to be simple enough, everybody have heard that line in the movies, on TV… Especially if you watch American movies you know that line. Even if you wouldn’t speak a word of fucking English, you know what “Fuck you asshole!” means. And also I thought that in the summer festival, the audience is always divided. It’s always the case when there’s like many bands playing, it’s so rare to see a festival where everybody in the audience is joining with every band. So I was figuring out: what should I do to get everybody singing on one song, even the people who fuckin’ hate Lordi, even the people that are in the beer stands all the way at the back of the festival area and think: « Oh, I fucking hate this fucking band »? OK, so they’re probably singing: “Fuck you, get out of the stage you motherfuckers!”, I’ve heard that already before playing songs. So after a few beers, when you’re at the beer stand and you hate Lordi, you will probably want to be joining to the “fuck you asshole” because you’re singing it to us. This is the scientific experiment we’ll be having next summer when we play some festivals, so let’s see [laughs].

About those people that are thinking they are better than you and that try to help you… I suppose you met a lot of them since you are a musician… I guess there are a lot of people around you that doesn’t really understand what it’s like to be a musician and would advice you to have a real job, etc.

Yeah, exactly. [Sighs] I actually have one friend still… I’m about 40 now, age wise I’m really grown up even though in my head I’m still 16. This friend has two kids, a second husband already and a steady job, living the normal, adult life, whereas I’m still living the same life I was living in fucking high school. She is still asking me [high-pitched voice]: “Oh, so you are still doing the band thing? Wouldn’t you start doing something real for your life?” I mean, really? I know she means well, but…

« we went to Eurovision and for many people it was: ‘OK that’s it, that’s bullshit’. But we did nothing differently! That’s exactly why we won. »

The album ends with a track called “SCG6 Otus’ Butcher Clinic”, which is a very weird one actually: we can hear electronic sounds and something that sounds like a solo by Otus recorded with a phone or a recorder. Can you tell us more about that track?

It’s our tribute to Otus. On every album we usually have an intro before the first song and they are always called SCGs. So this time, we have decided to put the SCG at the end. We decided to use the basic backing track that we used for drums solos during summer 2011. We took that and made that into a song. The problem with Otus is that he joined the band right after the release of our previous album and he died in the middle of when we were recording the demos for the next one, so we never got any recorded material with him. We wanted to pay out a tribute to him somehow, so at first we decided we wanted to use the backing track for his drum solo and we added some stuff for that and made that. And in the very last minute for it to make it to the album, Amen found from Otus’ hard drive in the studio a drum solo that was actually recorded in Paris, in the Trabendo, during the Babez For Breakfast tour, that he recorded it himself. We don’t know whether he recorded it by phone or by what, but he just recorded it behind the drums. There was this one file in all of these hundreds of files in his fuckin’ hard drive. And we turned to Michael: “Hey, could we use this?” and he said: “Of course, we have to use this somehow” because this is the only material that we have of him playing.

The year 2012 marked two anniversaries for Lordi: both the 20th year birthday since the band’s birth and the 10th anniversary of the release of your debut album Get Heavy. Otus passed away and you didn’t celebrate these anniversaries, but do you still intend to do it someday?

Yeah, somehow. We did an anniversary show last August in my home town, Rovaniemi. That actually was the last show with our longtime keyboard player that we had with us. But of course, all the big plans we had got pretty much canceled and we didn’t really felt like doing it. And now, the moment has kinda went away because we have a new album. But it doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t be celebrating the band’s history somehow with the band and the fans in the future. I don’t know how, I don’t know where, I don’t know when exactly, but I’m sure we’ll do something somehow.

Almost ten years passed since you’ve won the Eurovision. What was the consequences of that show on your career?

Actually, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Eurovision, the whole competition itself. It opened us a lot of new opportunities, a lot of new windows and possibilities. That goes without saying. We got such a big media exposure because of that, and you would think that since it’s Eurovision it should only work in Europe, but actually it opened up windows all around the world. It was only a positive thing. But the funny thing is that there’re so many people who actually use that against us… This band’s biggest sin was not to enter the Eurovision contest up to winning. Because some people are saying, for some fucking stupid reasons, that they will never ever be able to take us seriously, but they probably wouldn’t have taken us seriously because we were masked before that anyway. But we went to Eurovision and for many people it was: “OK that’s it, that’s bullshit”. But we did nothing differently! That’s exactly why we won: because we didn’t change one single thing of our performance, our song, our image or anything. We owned the stage. We could go do a fuckin’ church concert and we would own the stage for these three minutes and a half or two hours that we’re on the stage. We don’t care where we play because we’re doing our own thing and we are not changing for anybody. So, in a way, it’s really stupid to think that we have sold ourselves or whatever for Eurovision, it was just a form. It is the sign of a very low self-esteem in a band if a band feels like there’s certain places where they can’t play. The band should be so strong, and feel so strong and confident about their material that they can play anywhere. It’s not about the form, it’s about the confidence in what you’re doing.

What was funny about that was that the French journalists were making fun of you while you were playing for Eurovision, and they had no clue that you would win the show actually!

Yeah, I remember. I’ve heard that story over the years about that one guy. But there you go: that’s these guys that were wrong! It’s a guy who absolutely didn’t know what he was talking about.

But I’m sure that you actually love that people are making fun of you thinking that you’re just clowns so that then you prove them wrong…

Of course! That is the best feeling in the world, really [laughs]!

Interview conducted by phone on February 14th, 2013
Transcription: Spaceman

Lordi’s official website: www.lordi.fi

Album To Beast Or Not To Beast out since March the 1st, 2013 via AFM Records



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