LORDI – Mr. Lordi; Helsinki, 2020 (English)

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Lordi hasn’t exactly bathed in the spotlight in the Finnish mainstream in recent years, and the uninformed may have even thought the band wasn’t around anymore. However, at the end of January the hard rock monsters unleashed their tenth studio album, the fictional compilation Killection, for which the songs were written and recorded in the styles of past decades, and the band is also going to tour in Finland for the first time in years. We talked to the main man, Mr. Lordi himself about the new album, the upcoming shows, and of course the man’s passion for KISS.

Lue suomeksi TÄÄLLÄ!

 

First of all, when and how did you come up with the Killection concept?
It was born out of a certain need, because for many albums already I’ve been pissed off about the fact that I write a lot of songs, and usually 10 end up on the record, but it means that I’ve had enough time to demo some 30, 40, 50 songs, so for each of those 10 songs that end up being recorded, at least 20 are left out. When we try to pick the best ones for the album, those 20 tend to include gems that everyone considers fucking great, but they “don’t fit the sound of the album.” The songs should be selected on the basis of the songs themselves, and not whether they fit the sound or the production you’re working on. Good songs are rejected for that reason, and that’s how a few years ago already I started to think how it could be changed.

Before we started to record our previous album, Sexorcism (2018), my idea was to make an album with songs from different decades and years. Mikko Karmila, who produced it, was already on board with that, but I decided to pull the brake right before the recordings and save it for the tenth album. I realized that you can’t just take a song and decide that it’s a 70s song. It doesn’t go like that, because there’s so much more than just the sound that gives something a, say, ’82 vibe. You can’t write a song in 2019 under the contemporary rules and put an ’82 sound on it to make it sound authentic. That’s why we saved the idea and after a little while – following the Sexorcism tour and gigs and everything – it started to snowball, appetite came with eating, things got out of hand, and all the possible allegories. It ended up with “let’s make this kind of fictional compilation album,” so that I’d specifically write the songs in the styles of different years, and then we’d [create] the sound.

The craziest thing is the fact that now that I’ve been doing all these interviews for a few months, I’ve always asked – just like we asked right before we started recording – whether any other band has done something like this, and so far nobody has been able to think of anyone having done a concept like this – recording an album that’s meant to be a compilation and with this exact template. Apparently no one has done it, which feels pretty crazy like, “Fucking hell, has no one seriously come up with this before?” That’s how the idea got started, and here I am sitting now.

Are there any old songs on the album that were waiting for the right time and place to be released?
No, there are not! I mean, it’s funny how many others have asked me whether there’s something from these old demos. No, there aren’t – all of these songs were written last year. I started writing a year ago, probably in January or February. However, there are bits and some little ideas that are older: for example, the chorus of “I Dug a Hole in the Yard for You” – that line and the vocal melody – are from The Monsterican Dream (2004) era, but the rest of it was written now. Then there’s “Apollyon,” which is a kind of eccentric entertainment film music/prog epic, and the whole intro – the piano bit and until the vocals come in – is so old that I wrote it at the age of 18. Not a single note has been changed! You can’t even say it’s the oldest thing from Lordi, because that bit that I wrote back then wasn’t even for Lordi. But otherwise everything was written now, of course with the exception of “Like a Bee to the Honey,” which wasn’t written by us and was written back in ’88 or ’89.

The lyrics to “Shake the Baby Silent” had some listeners scratching their heads – were they intentionally written in this stream-of-consciousness style?
Yes, it was fully intentional, because even with the lyrics on this record, Tracy [Lipp] – an American guy who’s my lyric co-writer and vocal coach – and I tried to write Lordi lyrics the way they would’ve sounded like if they’d come from a certain genre or artist or decade or year or album. The obvious reference there is Rob Zombie, and Rob Zombie’s lyrics tend to be rather psychedelic, surrealistic stream-of-consciousness writing. I mean, if you look at “Dead I am the one, watching angels cry…” [from “Dragula”] I can’t even remember the words, but they’re pretty much a bunch of gobbledygook. They’re usually just lists of strange sentences, so that’s exactly what we wanted to do. They’re rhyming sentences, a kind of higher poetry that doesn’t actually make any fucking sense, but strangely people’s brains combine them into some kind of common thread. There’s not one here, and I believe when it comes to most Rob Zombie songs, you can’t make any sense of what they’re about. [laughs] This is exactly like that.

Speaking of 90s music, for your latest DVD [Recordead Live – Sextourcism in Z7] you pulled out a treasure from the vault, namely the video for “Inferno” from the mid-90s. Now that there’s some of the spirit of that song on the new album as well, could you imagine performing it live?
I could – in fact, our guitarist Amen and I were joking that it’d be fun to play “Inferno.” I’d argue that we will do it some day. I mean, it’s never been performed live and I’m the only one playing on it. Some day, yes, but since we have existing backing tracks of every other song, so it’s easy to go out there and play them, we’d have to re-record the basic tracks of that song. Of course I have the MIDI files of it at home, but we don’t have any [backing tracks], because it was recorded analogically on a multitrack recorder in ’95, and you can’t find those reels from any studio in Rovaniemi, if that studio even exists anymore. All that’s left of it is essentially what’s on the Rockmurskaa recording [a 1995 compilation including music from Rovaniemi bands]. But we could pull it off live, for sure.

As a slightly modernized version?
Yeah, or actually I feel that we should try to keep it as close to the original as possible. Now that song truly has crappy lyrics! [laughter] That was from the time before I had a vocal coach. The grammar is strangely all over the place in each line, but that’s kind of the point. Even most of the lyrics by Accept are all fucked up. [laughs]

When you started planning the new tour, did you think of putting together a setlist that could also be a kind of musical journey from the 70s to the present?
Not exactly like that, but last summer I – being all giddy about the new album, of course – suggested that “what if we just played the new album and then the obligatory “[Would You Love a] Monsterman,” “Devil is a Loser,” and “[Hard Rock] Hallelujah” at the end?” Even in January this year we were thinking “what if we did this?” and came really close to doing it. Well, now we’re not doing that. I asked a few diehard fans who I trust, and with a 2-to-1 majority they voted so that now we have a set that’s 1/3 new material, 1/3 so called must-play songs like “[Hard Rock] Hallelujah,” “[Blood Red] Sandman,” etc., and then 1/3 other album tracks/true rarities. We’ve always had one bonus track on each tour, but this time, instead of bonus tracks we went for songs that have never been played live. There isn’t just one of those, but three, I think.

By the way, this was also the first time we asked the fans – usually I create the setlist like a dictator and we just go with it, and if the other band members go, “Hey, could we play this?” then we’ll play it. For example, Hella [keyboards] asked if we could play “Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man,” so now we’re doing it again, even though it was last played just a couple of albums ago, but everyone thinks it’s a nice song, so we’ll play it.

Our editor-in-chief recently interviewed Henriikka Klint-Connelly and Sanna Vakkala, who were involved in the making of the Killection comics. You’d reportedly seen their works at Kemin Sarjakuvakeskus [Kemi’s Comic Book Center], so were you there specifically with this project in mind?
Yes, because at that point in the summer we of course knew what we would do and already had the idea of making a comic book again. There was no comic book for the last album, because we simply ran out of time, even though Kaarle could’ve drawn it, but I didn’t have the time to give him the specifications, and I wouldn’t have managed to draw it in time myself, so it was left undone. Back then we already had in mind that it should be done by multiple artists, so that it’s not just Kaarle or me or me and Kaarle drawing, because the concept album has so many different sounds, and therefore the comics have to have different styles as well. In the ideal situation it would’ve had 10 or 11 different artists, which would’ve been technically possible, but within the confines of the given time it was pretty much impossible to find them and get everything done by the deadline. I found Henriikka and Sanna by chance there at the opening of the new premises of Kemin Sarjakuvakeskus, so I did have it in mind, but I didn’t think I’d find anyone there. But that’s where I found them then!

Were their styles Lordi-like enough?
I don’t think there’s such a thing as Lordi-like. Those girls’ styles are very different from each other, and they’re very different compared to, say, Kaarle’s style, and they’re very different compared to my style, but that’s exactly the asset here. I dug the styles of both artists – Henriikka in particular has a really unique style that she draws in. Sanna is a downright world-class artist – she should be drawing for Marvel, for real! It’s unbelievable how someone can have such skills, hot damn.

You’re going to play outside the capital area in Finland for the first time in ages. Was the Tavastia gig a while ago a sort of test to see whether there was enough interest in Finland?
You should ask the Fullsteam Agency what the idea was here! We switched from Live Nation to Fullsteam 1.5-2 years ago, and Toni [Ritonen] has truly pulled out all the stops there. He tried to convince me and Amen for a long time that he had a feeling that there’d be demand for Lordi in Finland. We were like, “We’ve heard that so many times,” and believed our domestic gig situation wouldn’t improve simply by changing booking agencies. Well fuck, we were wrong! It did improve, because he was right. He has a good strategy going on: first we had Rockfest and Tavastia, and now we indeed have our first own gigs in Finland in 13-14 goddamn years. We have a Finnish leg as part of our tour, so the last 10 days – or 6 shows – of the 2-month tour are in Finland, which is totally exceptional for us nowadays. However, for the record, let’s just say that I’m skeptical and pessimistic. I feel I’m a realist: “No-fucking-body will be there!” [laughter] That’s the feeling I have – hopefully I’m wrong, but somehow I just feel like “nobody fucking cares”.

Then again, those who were kids around the time of Get Heavy (2002) and The Arockalypse (2006) are starting to be grown-ups.
That’s what they said at Fullsteam, but we’ll see. [laughs] Hopefully yes, but it could be that those who were kids sometime around The Arockalypse have grown askew and listen to hip hop now. All kinds of unfortunate things happen in the world – I’ve noticed that my friends’ kids, who used to be big metalheads 15 years ago, are now wearing crooked caps and their big brothers’ pants and going “yo man!”

The obligatory KISS question: do you believe that they’re at the end of their road for real?
I do believe that it’s the end of touring, but it’s not the end of KISS, because you have to be able to read KISS and what’s being said there. Nowhere has it been stated that the last show of End of the Road is the final one for KISS – it’s [just] the last show on that tour. It hasn’t been said in any way that they couldn’t still do one-off shows. And since in 3 years’ time in 2023 the first KISS album will turn 50, there’s a 99.99% likelihood that [Paul] Stanley and [Gene] Simmons won’t leave that unused. KISS 50 must’ve been trademarked already! In 2023, if the guys are still alive and well, KISS will do something for sure. This is just my educated guess, but I’d argue that if there was a bet going on, this is the horse you should put your money on. I believe that no matter how much they keep saying that the final show is in 2021, it’s not and something will happen in 2023.

Do you believe in the possibility of a KISS 2.0 without original members?
I do – it’s very much possible. I wouldn’t rule it out as unlikely in any way. For me KISS is basically Gene – visually – and since they haven’t made new music in a long time, of course I’d miss Gene and Paul, but I would go if KISS was KISS and – let’s say – [Eric] Singer, [Tommy] Thayer, and two other names were playing in it. I mean, there are countless old 70s and 60s bands out there with no remaining original members. It’s not that unusual or exceptional.

Can you picture yourself still on stage at the age of 70 like Gene?
I can – however, as a 70-year-old, Gene is probably in a way fucking better shape than me now at 46, but I can picture it. Albeit gigs and performing is easily my least favorite part of being in a band. I like writing songs, recording, making the masks, posing, shooting music videos, making the merchandise, painting the album covers… I like everything else, and at the end of the list there’s live gigs and touring, which is by far the least pleasant thing to me personally. It’s okay, but it’s not my favorite thing, while for the rest of the band it’s the #1 thing. I’d be perfectly happy just making music and videos and photos, but not playing live. That’d be totally fine with me. Somehow I’m such a lazy fellow that it’s a whole lot of trouble to go on stage and scream – you get sweaty and don’t get to sleep…

The end is not in sight for Lordi, though.
It’s not until I feel like it, and I think I won’t feel like that until I pass on. I don’t have the slightest thought of ending it!

On that note [laughter]… thanks for your time!
Thank you!

Photos: Sander Burmeister

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