With Finnish demi-gods Lordi’s new album, ‘To Beast Or Not To Beast’, due for release on March 1st, Planet Mosh caught up with the sexy manbeast known as Mr Lordi to discuss his band’s new heavier direction, how he hasn’t given up on his love of classic ‘80s rock, the untimely loss – and legacy – of drummer Otus, costume design… and, of course, that Eurovision Song Contest win back in 2006…
We start by discussing the heavier, more aggressive direction of the new album, I and ask if this was a deliberate move in that direction: it turns out that the inspiration behind this ‘new’ sound was the aforesaid Otus:
“It happened along the way,” the frontman explains.
“After the release of our previous album, ‘Babez For Breakfast’, we were still thinking about doing another album like that – a really 80s, hair metal, rock ‘n’ party all night kind of AOR album: but, after the album was released, I had to fire our original drummer, Kita, and we brought in Otus – and his way of playing changed our way of playing, even with the older material, because he took it in a much more aggressive direction. So, gradually, during the tour for ‘Babez…’ we started writing new material and it dawned on us that we could actually pull this off: we could do much more aggressive stuff that we hadn’t even dared to try out before! So, we started writing a little bit more experimentally, with more aggressive riffs…
“This was also the first Lordi album that I didn’t write the first notes for…. It was actually Amen, our guitar player, who wrote three riffs, based on drum patterns that Otus played, and those were the starting point. Actually, two of those three riffs made it onto the album – the one on the first track, ‘We’re Not Bad For Your Children (We’re Worse)’, and the other is the riff in ‘The Riff’!! So, yes it was intentional for us to do a lot heavier album than anything we had done before… And the leap from ‘Babez…’ is enormous, because that is considered to be our ‘softest’ album…”
The ‘80s feel of ‘Babez…’ was accentuated by the fact that Lordi recruited legendary hair metal producer Michael Wagener to help record the album, which also featured contributions from former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick and Mark Slaughter (this was a road the band had travelled down before, with 2006’s breakthrough album ‘The Arockalypse’ featuring collaborations with Kulick, Udo Dirkschneider and Twisted Sister legends Dee Snider and Jay Jay French). With the more aggressive direction of ‘To Beast…’, PM cannot but help but wonder if they’ve got their fixation with that era out of the system – it turns out nothing could be further from the truth!
“I don’t think so… I’m an Eighties child! For me, there’s no one better than Twisted Sister or W.A.S.P. – and Alice Cooper was at his best in the ‘80s, for me anyway. I love ‘80s metal – that’s true heavy metal for me! So, have we got it out of our systems? I’m afraid we haven’t!
“I’m pretty closed-minded in a way… Every once and a while, people ask me what I think about one band or another, or this album, and I have to ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about’! I don’t really follow ‘new’ metal, because I feel I missed that train: I understand bands like Pantera and Rob Zombie, but black and death metal… I do hear the quality of their work and the craftsmanship, but I don’t understand the music any more, if you know what I mean, so, to answer your question: the Eighties are my cup of tea – when everything was simple, with big melodies and hooky choruses and huge riffs: everything was simple and BIG, and that’s what I like… ‘cos I’m a simple and big man!!”
The year 2012 was an important year in Lordi’s history: it was the 20th anniversary of the founding of the band, by the then Tomi Putaansuu, and the tenth anniversary of both the release of their first album, ‘Get Heavy’, in November 2002, and their first live gig, in their native Helsinki the following month. However, the year got off to a tragic and traumatic start for the band, with the sudden death, on February 13th, of Otus – or Tonmi Lillman, who had only joined the band at the end of 2010. I wonder, what memories does Mr Lordi hold of the drummer and his brief stay in the band… understandably, the frontman pauses briefly before answering:
“Well, even though he wasn’t with the band that long, and, unfortunately, he never got to record anything with the band, he did leave us a legacy – what you could call the ‘new direction of Lordi’, and our more aggressive approach to our music, that is solely influenced by him and his way of playing the drums: I know he didn’t mean that to happen, but it just did. He was the kind of guy who played every night differently: every night, he played the songs, the fills, in a different way, and he was experimenting all the time.
“I wish we could have something more to remember him by. The only recordings we have are the backing track that he used for his live drum solos, and a drum solo that he recorded himself in Paris, and those are all that is left of him, for us as a band… I still miss the guy, but then again your life goes on: he’s probably laughing his ass off right now, going ‘you fucking wimp, shut the fuck up you fucking whoos’!”
So, would it be fair to say that the heaviness of ‘To Beast…’ is a tribute to the late drummer and the all-to-brief contribution he brought to the band?
“It’s not a tribute to him, but he was the main influence in that (sound). He was still alive when we started writing the new material, and his style of drumming was the starting point, the catalyst for everything. And then it became really difficult, because we were in the middle of recording the demos and the motherfucker goes and dies on us!
“(Obviously) we had to start to find a new drummer, and it wasn’t that easy! We went through a lot of people, and we had an old friend who helped us out during the summer festival shows, but it wasn’t until July that we finally got our man – Mana: in him we found a guy who not only knew his Kiss and Twisted Sister and his ‘80s stuff but also with the same technique and accuracy as Otus – and he’s also a cool dude! So, out of everything negative there comes something positive!”
Of course, with Lordi, it’s difficult to escape the band’s OTT image: as with each of their previous albums, ‘To Beast…’ has brought with it a whole new Lordi look. What influences and inspires the band’s stage gear?
“It’s mainly horror movies, of course, but also (the image of) bands like Kiss and Twisted Sister are big influences: I mean, we wouldn’t be wearing platform boots if Kiss hadn’t worn them – that goes without saying!
“This time, when it came to designing the new masks and costumes, it was more difficult – but it was also easier, because we have two new members. It’s always easy, and difficult at the same time, to create something new for myself, as the Mr Lordi character, or for Amen or OX: I mean, many how different mummies can you do? There are only so many (variations). But, now, we have two new characters, in Mana and Hella [keyboards, who replaced Awa after the latter suddenly quit in the second half of 2012], who we’ve only just started and there are endless opportunities – so, we’ll see where they go… you never know, by the next album we might have run out of ideas already!”
Lordi have always been very protective of their image, and especially the identities of the real people behind the masks – even going so far as to take out injunctions against Finnish newspapers and websites which have tried to ‘unmask’ them. But, given the band’s outrageous stage personas, the frontman is quick to agree there is a danger of people not looking past the image to the actual musical abilities of the people involved – and he is very strong in his approach to those who cannot see more than the costumes:
“I know there are those people – I call them idiots – who cannot see past the image: there are those people. And I don’t understand how there can be people who willingly admit that they are so stupid! I always ask (such people) to look at their favourite band – let’s say Metallica, or Led Zeppelin, or The Beatles – and ask themselves if they looked like Lordi would that have made them sound worse, or made less of their musical achievements? And the shocking thing is that the answer for many people is ‘yes’! I know, for example, there are a lot of people who say that if Devin Townsend was to dress up like Gene Simmons then his albums wouldn’t be as good as they are now! It’s just so stupid: judging a book by the cover is the stupidest thing to do… and then to actually admit that is the clear mark and stamp of an idiot…
Talk of the band’s image sort of brings us neatly to the band’s notorious triumph on the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest… like many rockers, I’ve many friends who openly admit to not knowing who Lordi are, if you just mention their name – but throw in that night in Athens and recognition dawns: so, is that infamous victory a burden, or an important period in the history of both Lordi the band and Lordi the man?
“I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the Eurovision, about the contest itself. It only gave us positive things: it opened up new opportunities, new windows for us…
“On the other hand, it’s some people’s reaction to a band going on Eurovision: that is something I have a problem with. I mean, we didn’t do anything differently for Eurovision: we were still who we are and we did what we did – we wouldn’t have done anything differently if we had come in last! We still would have done exactly the same thing… It’s funny that just entering a competition like that, a pop song competition, but still doing exactly what we had always done, (was seen to) somehow lessen the value of what we do – that’s another example of the idiots who can’t see what it’s really all about.
Certainly, that night in 2006 brought a lot of enjoyment to this particular rocker, not least because of the huge amount of fun Lordi brought to the usually inane and avoidable Eurovision – and the embarrassment it caused to one Terry Wogan! But, that aside, how would Lordi like to be remembered?
“We tried our hardest not to suck!”
Sounds like a suitable epitaph for the Putaansuu gravestone – although, hopefully, not for many, many years to come…
‘To Beast Or Not To Beast’ is released on AFM Records on March 1st.
Thursday May 2nd – The Button Factory, Dublin
Saturday May 4th – Limelight 1, Belfast
Monday May 6th – Warehouse 23, Wakefield
Wednesday May 8th – Ritz, Manchester
Thursday May 9th – The Picture House, Edinburgh
Friday May 10th – The Institute, Birmingham
Saturday May 11th – Rock City, Nottingham
Sunday May 12th – The Forum, London
Check out the official Lordi website at http://www.lordi.fi/
Follow the band on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LordiOfficial