Lordi is a Finnish group from Rovaniemi formed in 1992. They are known for their horror costumes and they rose to fame in Greece with their song “Hard Rock Hallelujah” after they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 with it. Mr. Lordi, the front-man and the founder of the group is the main artist behind it. The other members in the group are Amen, Hella, Mana and Hiisi.
Since they released their new studio album and the tenth overall, entitled “Killection”, SounDarts.gr communicated with Mr. Lordi in order to talk to us about it. With great sincerity Mr. Lordi share with us some amazing stories about the collaboration with Michael Monroe and Jean Beauvoir as well as the song “Like a Bee to the Honey”. Who are the artists that Lordi wish to collaborate with in the future and what should we expect from the release of this album?
Furthermore, Mr. Lordi didn’t hesitate to share with us the main idea behind their costumes. As he told us, every character has its own story and he would never make a costume-free performance. A discussed issue was the substitution of OX by Hiisi, and Mr. Lordi talked to us about him with very special words. If you want to learn how and when Mr. Lordi’s character came to life, Mr. Lordi has an interesting story to tell you. What value does the band’s image have for its success and what are its memories of joining the Eurovision Song Contest back in 2006?
All of these and many more are the discussed issues with Mr. Lordi. You can read the whole interview that he gave to SounDarts.gr below!
Hello Mr.Lordi and welcome to SounDarts.gr! What have you been up to these days?
They’ve been really busy days. For the past few days I’ve been doing all the graphics for everything, like for the stage design which is gonna be a little different this time. We tend to paint the stuff ourselves. Usually this is done by me but now I wanted to do it with graphics so now everything’s printed. Also I’ve doing the merchandise graphics for the tour, for T-shirts and everything. Just last night I spent 4 hours on the phone with Mana, our drummer trying to decide the order of all these. Other than that just trying to have everything done on time so busy, busy… a lot of stuff to do.
A few days ago you released the song “Bee to The Honey”, which was written by KISS’s lead singer Paul Stanley along with Jean Beauvoir. How did this song ended up in your hands in the first place and what does it mean to you?
It was a trail of coincidences kinda. A little less than a year ago, I started writing stuff for the album and we already knew what kind of album we were making. Amen our guitar player contacted Jean, they’ve been friends for a while but they’ve never met physically. Then Jean contacted Amen to say that he was coming to Finland, to Helsinki, and I think it was last March-April or something, and they said that it would be fun if we actually meet and then write something together because that was their plan for years. Amen said “Sure” and then he called me and said “you know Jean is coming for a Kiss-expo in Helsinki you wanna come and write with us?” and I said “Yeah, sure”. So I called Jean and I said what kind of an album we were doing and he said “alright, cool, we’ll do this fictional compilation album” and he came. When we were on our way to our rehearsal, we were discussing in the car about what kind of songs we were going to write and eventually we collected seven songs in one and a half days, the three of us and only one of those songs actually made it to the album. Then Jean said “well if you’re trying to do an authentic thing like writing a song that would be supposedly from the late 80’s, how about use a song from the 80’s?” and I was like “Whaaat?”. He had this already planned because he had the song with him. So he played it in the car while we were going to the rehearsal. This is a song that he and Paul Stanley wrote back in the days that was never used anywhere and as I am a huge fan addict, I mean this band wouldn’t be here without the influence of Kiss, and the moment when you hear the song that nobody has heard before and then he’s offering the song to us and Paul said “yeah sure, take it” and we were like “Alrighty then… fucking hell”. As I said it was something that it was a 100% Jean’s and Paul’s idea not ours. It was offered. It is so cool to have this as a KISS fan.
It also features the Hanoi Rocks legend Michael Monroe on saxophone an instrument that was never used before in any of your previous songs! Do you like experimenting with different sounds?
Not really, I don’t! That’s the funny thing. I usually like the normal rock sound and leave all the extra weird things away but saxophone is a part of rock, not necessarily the kind of rock that I grew up to. I like just the main instruments and all kinds of horns don’t really play a part in that. I don’t really like experiments but saxophone is one of those instruments that sounds cool. I’ve always liked the sound of saxophone that cannot be said about other instruments, and since the original demo of Paul Stanley and Jean Beauvoir had a saxophone solo, we decided not to have a guitar solo but a saxophone solo. It marks the time really well, it really sounds like the 80’s. The thing is that none of us plays the saxophone so the only guy that came into my mind was Mike. So I called Michael and said “dude, can you do this maybe?” and he said “yeah, sure, why not?”. It turned out really good.
How do feel about your collaboration with Mr. Monroe ?
Michael is a fucking awesome guy, and full of energy, probably the most positive person on the planet but I didn’t think it like that. We’ve met before and we had some shows together over the years so it was easy to call him. It was like “just calling Michael”. We had fun doing it. It would also be great if someday we could do it live. If we could play it in the same place somewhere and he could do the solo live! That would be awesome!
Are there any other artists that you wish to collaborate with in the future either discographically or on stage?
There are lots of them but with quite many of them, we have already done a collaboration. It would be awesome to do something with Alice Cooper for example or Rob Zombie and obviously Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and these guys who are my fucking gods. Now we kinda have something with Paul Stanley, not really, not technically but kinda. We already had some of these collaborations like for example Udo Dirkschneider who was one of my biggest idols and now he’s my good friend. I am still a huge fan! Bruce Kulick, there’s a lot of people like that. King Diamond would be another one.
Last November you also released two new singles “Shake the Baby Silent” and “I Dug a Hole in the Yard for You”, promoting your next discographical step for the album “Killection”. What should we expect from this release?
The whole album is a fictional compilation. All the songs sound different on purpose and they are supposedly from different times, so it was quite hard to choose the songs that were gonna be the first singles because none of those songs would actually represent the sound of the album because they are all very, very different from each other so this time I could say that it wouldn’t have mattered whatever song we select as a single from the album because it would give you 1/11th part of the album and that’s it! I think the reaction for “Shake the Baby” and “I Dug a Hole in the Yard for You” that was as expected, it was good, it was normal that’s pretty much what we expected. On the other hand I was trying to get us to release the songs: “Cutterfly”, “Blow My Fuse” and “Zombimbo” which are more lighter and softer songs and the record label wanted us to release “Evil” which is the hardest song on the album. It’s always a bit tricky to choose the songs that you should put out first. When you set out a single you usually select the song that would represent the album the best but this time is impossible to do it.
Is there a song in this album that has an interesting story behind its writing and it’s worth to tell it to the public?
Tons of interesting stories. Like you probably know the whole idea of the album is a fictional compilation and this is the first time that anything like this has been done. Ιt was a very challenging process!
Why was it challenging?
Because we recorded this in seven different studios all through the summer while at the same time we were doing summer festivals and our long-time-bass player, Ox was leaving the band. We had a new guy in the studio, and on top of that we were doing the new masks and costumes… all these AT THE SAME TIME, so it was a nightmare. At the beginning of the week you’re somewhere in the studio for 3 or 4 days and you record 2-3 songs and then on the weekend you go to a festival somewhere else with a completely different line-up, with different songs while your head’s at the new songs in the studio. Then you come back from the festival after the weekend and you are trying to do your costumes and your masks for a few days before you go to the next studio. The whole summer was crazy! It wasn’t as challenging for me as it was for our A&R person who we hired to do the schedule and do basically the logistics with this, and he said two times during the process “can I still say no? can I step out?” and I said “Nope! Now you have to do it”. It was a bit of a nightmare because everything had to be on time. And we had different studios and different guys engineering and mixing our songs and so on.
Recently OX was substituted by Hiisi. Could you introduce his character to our readers with a few words?
Well I call him “reptroll” which is a reptile and a troll. The name “Hiisi” comes from Finnish and it he is a demon from the deep. An old, ancient, Finnish, folklore demon. It is a really bad spirit which lives in the forests or in the water. When I was growing up I remember my parents or other adults always saying “don’t swim too far away”, when swimming in the rivers or in the lake, so they’d say “don’t go too far because Hiisi will take you”. It wasn’t easy to come up with his character because sometimes when you have a new guy joining the band, you may meet a guy that is not into horror films. I am but Hiisi is not. He is a great musician and everything and he digs the same bands as we do, but he is not a horror fan. When someone joins the band I always ask “what is your favorite horror character or what kind of horror character would you like to be”, and he said “I don’t know, I have no clue. I don’t know anything about horror”. It was a bit difficult but we managed to collect some things that he liked. This is very important when you join Lordi, and you become a character of the Lordi world. It is very important that your character is your favorite which somehow represents your own personality and the things you like, so we took all the elements that he likes and put them together, we made them into a monster and Hiisi was something that would sum it up. It’s interesting every time. Like for example, back in the day when Otus or Hella joined the band it was easy because they were horror fans.
Do you believe that all these changes in the band’s line-up harmed Lordi’s career?
I don’t think they have harmed the career because the band will go on as long as I am alive. It’s not gonna change whoever I have with me. I know that there are some fans for example that haven’t really gotten the whole idea, the chemistry or the politics in our band because even though we are a band, we’re a democratic band but sometimes people don’t seem to realize what is actually done by who and how certain people affect the sound of the band. I would say that the biggest member-change is when Kita left the band -now we have Mana in his place- because that affected the sound of the band, to have a much more technically skillful drummer than Kita was. We are still really good friends with Kita and he knows that his playing skills. He’s a good drummer but he’s not the kind of drummer that could play our new songs so in that way it affects the material. Earlier I always thought that it would harm the band but now I’ve noticed that since we have had, I don’t know, nine or ten different line-up changes already, I’ve noticed that actually it doesn’t. There are a lot of popular characters within the fans. It hasn’t affected our overall career at all. There are people that are missing Awa, Kita, Kalma, Ox and everybody misses Otus because he’s dead but this is the thing I am still very good friends with all those people. I keep contact with them but sometimes fans throw you to different direction and then you just cannot be in the band anymore if you want to do something else.
If you could go back in time what would you have done differently to benefit the band?
I wouldn’t have selected to do the documentary film! We would have selected another guy to direct the documentary film, that’s all pretty much what I would have done differently.
Because the documentary “Monsterman” is like reading every second page of the book. We had a big fight over that and that film is out now, without my permission or the band’s permission and of course it was done seven years ago and what we wanted the documentary film to be was about showing the big contrast when I’m at home playing with the dogs or the animals or whatever and then showing that when we go outside Finland doing shows. We also wanted to show how much work is done behind the scenes, the writing or the studio process, the endless meetings with the record label and the management of making the costumes and the masks but what the director decision was a fucking shock because he decided to only use the negative stuff and to create a world where nothing is happening. He left out most of the important people. Imagine I was married at the time when the film was made and there’s not even a single shot of my ex-wife in the film because he didn’t feel that it’d fix the story. He made it feel better that my best friend and my mother are the only people that I’m in contact with. I was actually living in Helsinki at that time, in the city, not at my summer cabin like it shows. It gives you the impression that I’m living in a small cabin in the woods. Everything that happens in the film is true but it’s like reading every second page of the book and leaving the other half out.
Whose inspiration is the monster-characters each one of you represents? How does one of these characters come to life?
It depends. Mr. Lordi is a character which was born in ’95-’96 and it’s a combination of all the horror characters that I grew up. There’s a lot of Freddy Krueger in it, there’s a lot of Gene Simmons, there’s a little bit of Dee Snider, there’s Incredible Hulk my old-time favorite comic book character, there’s a little bit of some kind of zombie there, there’s Dracula. It’s a combination of things! Amen for example is clearer, he’s a mummy. Usually the influences for the characters come from horror films, obviously, because we’re monsters and like I said with Hiisi is difficult when you have somebody that you need to create a character for, who’s not into horror, who doesn’t know so much about it, who doesn’t even have a favorite character so it’s difficult to find the right influences. What I’ve noticed is that whenever I write the songs or whenever we are deciding the new costumes and masks, the best way is to actually look at new horror films and get the influences from there because those things look cool in my eyes. I’ll give you an example; this is not about the characters per se but it has a huge impact. The whole idea of our previous album “Sexorcism” came because I was watching once again the “Conjuring” movies. When Mana joined the band he said “what kind of character am I going to be?” and I said “Whatever you like” but he’s not into horror either that much, so he didn’t know a lot of horror characters that well. Of course everybody knows Leatherface, Freddy Krueger etc, but he was not into these guys. He’s a big “Star Wars” fan though, like I am. If you look at his face, it’s a combination of Big Fortuna, which is Jabba the Hutt’s assistant, and Alice Cooper. These were the two faces that he said “Cool”!
You must spend a lot of time in the make-up room before your shows. How much does your suit weight?
At the moment it’s 22 kilos but it used to be 26. I think the last costume was 23 kilos but now it’s 22. My shoes weight 4 kilos each but they used to be 5 kilos per leg. Every time I have to make a new costume we do some little improvements to make it a little bit lighter. There are certain parts that you can make it a little more comfortable in a way.
But do the costumes make you feel comfortable while performing on stage or is this some kind of burden sometimes?
It is easy because I don’t even remember how it is to perform without it. When we do sound check, before a show and before everybody starts getting into the costumes, we do it in our simple clothes and I feel naked and a bit weird. I feel kinda like ashamed during the sound check without my character. It actually brings you an extra boost. Even though music is the main thing for me but without the costumes we wouldn’t be doing this interview for example! Without the costumes we would be another band, looking like everybody else, like some metal guys from Finland.
You feel that you owe your success to your image?
To the imagine we owe a lot. Even though for the ten first years it was a thing that was holding us back. For the first 10 years when I was trying to get us a record deal the companies would say that the problem was the image, that it was silly. The music was cool but the image is stupid. So you have to leave it off or there were other labels which said that the image is cool but your music sucks, your music is more pop and you have to play black metal or death metal. I kept my vision for ten years and even before the first record there were so many people leaving the band already because they were tired of waiting to finally get a record deal. At the beginning it was a factor that slowed us down but eventually we owe to the image a lot.
What is the strangest experience you have had while performing on stage?
We usually try to do the shows in a way that there are no weird experiences. Although I remember this from the first album-era when I didn’t plan the costumes and I didn’t know what to expect, so there was no hole for my dick. It was completely solid and when I had to go pee there was no hole. So during our first tour for our first album, there were a couple of shows the only possibility was to pee in my pants because there was no chance to take the costume off and go to the toilet… yet nobody could know unless I told them. But for the second album we already had the hole in the costume which was something really important but you don’t realize it unless you’re experiencing it for the first time.
You won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 here in Greece. Did your participation in the contest have a good or a bad impact on Lordi?
Both! It’s 95% positive. I’m proud that we are part of Eurovision history and I’m proud that Eurovision is part of our history. There’s one thing that’s very important: we didn’t change anything for Eurovision because we were asked by the Finnish Eurovision people to join in so we did it on our terms. Those three minutes we were on stage we were just Lordi, we were not thinking we were in Eurovision. My conscious is clear, we did Eurovision and we happened to win it but this is a different story. It’s been almost 15 years and the most of it, had a positive reaction. The media exposure that we got back then, really broke us for a moment in mainstream and then it really increased the awareness of the band overnight. Over a few weeks everybody knew what this band is, and this is something that you cannot buy with money… but there are idiots in this world who somehow feel that participating in Eurovision is something that ruins the whole band and anybody who sings like that is a moron but you are the idiot if you think like that. I have never seen or understood the reasoning or the logic behind that. It’s stupid and strange. I believe that they’re not confident people. The forum where you are shouldn’t have any impact on the art you’re doing. We could play anywhere and we would still be 100% Lordi. Unfortunately going to Eurovision we lost a lot of fans but why?
That’s really unfortunate but do you believe that Lordi inducted hard-rock music in the contest?
Obviously we were completely different than anything before in Eurovision. After us there were quite a few metal or hard-rock bands in Eurovision. Before us there was a band from Norway called Wig-Wam who were a little more glam-rock. After us there were a lot more heavier and more metal bands than we are musically in Eurovision. I think after we won, for the next three or four years there were some countries who were trying to send bands like that. Eurovision is funny thing! You never know what’s gonna go well because there are so many millions of fans who are voting and the reasons to vote something could be anything. They’re not necessarily voting for the best song, they could be voting for the best show or something that is completely different. I know that in our case it wasn’t about the music per se, we could have had any song from our album and we could have still won. People were voting because we were so different and also because of our look. We were something new and refreshing for Eurovision and that’s why they voted for us. I know that during that time there were metal and rock communities which were not necessarily fans of Lordi but they were just fruiting for us because we were representing their zone. Even if they didn’t like the band, they would still vote for us because it was something that was never done before.
What did you think of our country? What is your most vivid memory from your visits here?
The heat! I was there for a couple of weeks or something like that and that’s the only time I’ve been to Greece. It was very hot! Unfortunately I didn’t see much! My typical day was: waking up at 6 am in the hotel to put all the make-up then 9 o’clock in the morning we were in the hotel lobby in full costume with a lot of photographers. Then we went straight to the venue, so what we saw from Athens was from the van window on our way from the hotel to the venue. Then in the venue we did our rehearsals, the interviews, so we were just there. In the evening, we drove back and we had to do some extra interviews and it was already midnight when we were in our rooms to take our costumes off. That were our two weeks in Greece.
What’s your opinion or feelings about Amen-Ra’s first solo project under the moniker Amen-Ra’s Dynasty?
Cool! Why not? For the last five years or something, he was saying that he wanted to do something with his old friends, you know to play something together and it was a great song! There’s a huge difference that you have to see! Amen still does his thing as Amen, he’s not “killing” the character. It’s not the same with what Kita did. Kita was fired from the band because he “killed” his character. You cannot do a side project with your civil persona, as yourself and not as your Lordi character and still be in this band. You’re either a Lordi character or you’re not! That is so black and white so that’s why Kita was fired when he did his side project. Kita was not doing a side project like Amen does. When Ox wanted to leave the band, it was exactly because of this. He wanted to do something else, which is OK if he would be still Ox.
What is your motto in life?
I try to live my life in a way that it pleases myself. I do and I will do my everything to do the things that I love without harming anybody else. If anyone else is getting offended or feels that I’m harming them, that’s their problem because I am trying to live my life. That’s the way I was raised and everything I do is not on the excess of others. So that’s my motto “Live your life and do your stuff without hurting anybody else. Just do what you need to do”!
Interview: Elektra Limnios
Questions/transcript/translation: Thodoris Kolliopoulos