Interview: Mr. Lordi – Finnish Monster Man speaks… Posted: 27/12/2016 by John O'Brien
Knee deep in the monster invasion of Galway, I got to speak exclusively with the lead singer of Finnish Rock band LORDI. The band are probably best known for their outlandish appearance and their runaway anthem Hard Rock Hallelujah which catapulted them into the limelight via the Eurovision Song Contest back in 2006. However, LORDI are far from a mere novelty act. The real life monsters of rock have a weighty back catalogue of eight records and are known to tour relentlessly for each one.
When the opportunity arose to speak one to one with frontmonster, Mr. Lordi, I decided to begin by asking why a band who are a national treasure in Finland, chose to recite their lyrics in English instead of their own national language.
“Oh, well for me there never was any question about it. I mean, for me, rock n roll’s language is English.” Mr. Lordi said confidently. “That’s the thing. Obviously every country has their bands and artists singing their own native language, but for me the language of rock n roll is English. Period! There’s lots of Finnish bands singing in Finnish, even metal bands nowadays or rock, but for me the whole idea feels really uncomfortable, really awkward. It’s not the language of rock, or any other language… For example, RAMMSTEIN, I cannot get into that at all because of the German language.”
LORDI are often seen before they are heard due to their large, elaborate and often intimidating appearance. Brandishing rough leathery skin, long nails and the aesthetic of classical depictions of demons and monsters, the band’s nightmarish imagery is a strong part of their appeal for many fans, and the idea of their being monsters is often applied to the records’ lyrical content. I asked Mr. Lordi where the concept for the band’s appearance first originated.
“Well I’ve always been a big fan of monsters since growing up, since I was a little kid.” The monster said seemingly excited about the very idea of talking about monsters. “Even before school I’ve always been a huge fan of monsters and, you know, horror in general and all that stuff. It started off a whole lifelong monster fandom that I’ve always had. Then being a huge KISS fan, TWISTED SISTER, ALICE COOPER, W.A.S.P., KING DIAMOND; the shock rock, the bands that, you know, are also really visually strong; that’s another addition to the whole thing. Then being a huge horror film freak, then add into that my love for SFX make-up, which I also started around the age of seven or eight with my mother’s make-up. So… ” Mr. Lordi stopped mid-sentence to vocalise the sound of a tape being fast forwarded before continuing on. “… Fast forward to 1994 when I was graduating from film school and as my final exam I was doing the music video for LORDI. So I had all my friends there performing in the video and I put them all in all sorts of zombie and monster masks and make-up, and then I realised that I was the only one who wasn’t wearing anything. And then I realised, oh my god, it’s the wrong way. It’s completely the wrong way around. I should be the one who looks cool. So that was the starting point for the whole thing. But by that time I had already been doing LORDI demos for four years, but without any of that image, any of the monsters.”
Although monsters are the band’s main theme, each musician still manages to stand out and look unique from the others. Their characters all shine through on stage. I wanted to know how much control they had over their own personal monster design. I asked the singer if they each got to choose their beast’s characteristics.
“Absolutely, yeah!” he said with an element of pride in his voice. “Well that hasn’t really been the case with all of them, but unfortunately we have had 14 different members in this band over the years and of course we always wish that, you know, nobody leaves or nobody’s asked to leave to put it diplomatically. Whenever there’s a new person joining the band of course I ask ’What kind of monsters do you like or do you prefer?’ A good example is our drummer, Mana, who said that ‘Well, you cannot make me a raging werewolf because I’m not that person at all.’ and that is really, really, really important that your character in this band has to be your favourite character. You know, otherwise it doesn’t work. And it has to be an extension of your own personality in a way. And Hella, for example, when I was asking what she would like to be, what kind of monsters she likes and one of the things she said was “doll”! I already had that idea before I even met her that it would be cool to have a doll in the band. There are others like Amen, our guitar player, the longest member, my partner in crime since 96 I guess…” Mr. Lordi said with a smile “Originally Amen wasn’t a mummy, he was like a zombie dressed in leather.” A light chuckle escaped as he thought back to the band’s earlier days. “So they also change sometimes!”
LORDI’s monstrous reach branches out much farther than just the music featured on their albums. With eight major label records behind them, they tend to indulge in horror themed music videos which show the members of the band as entities to be feared as they possess college students in old wooden cabins or unleash a horde of demons upon unsuspecting couples. Furthermore, their personal brand of horror saw the band appear in their own line of comic books and even star in major motion picture, Dark Floors. I asked Mr. Lordi what the next step would be in their quest for multimedia domination. Would they ever consider a LORDI based video game?
“Yeah, I would, but then again I’m absolutely the wrong person to talk about it. I’ve never owned a games console in my life, for example. I’m not into that shit at all.” He laughed. “But, to be fair, there has been talks in the past few years, well maybe it’s already five or six years ago, but there have been talks but the problem of course is that me personally I don’t understand anything about gaming or games or anything like that. And then everybody in the band, our time is really limited. To build a game, as I understand, it is such a big project. If you want it to be current and somehow up to date it is really, really, really difficult. It takes a long time to finish it, and to make it or code it or whatever the fuck they do to actually have it done. And then, of course, we as a band, would like it to be somehow connected with the upcoming album, for example. So it’s really difficult to make this kind of game that takes up these few years, if I’m correct, that’s longer than making an album.” There was a brief silence as Mr. Lordi considered the possibilities before he announced “Well, if there’s anybody out there who wants to do a LORDI game, then sure. Have contact!”
LORDI’s latest record, “Monstereophonic: Theaterror vs Demonarchy” comes across very different from their earlier offerings. While the first half of the album features typical LORDI-style tracks, the latter half takes the form of a concept album and provides a much heavier experience. I was interested to hear why, after seven previous albums, they decided to change the traditional format.
“In the past two albums we had slowly kind of started having these two different roads, two different veins of LORDI music. The other one, of course obviously being the so called classic LORDI, traditional LORDI if you will; 80’s hair metal orientated, big hooks, three to four minute singalong choruses, simple riffs kind of stuff. And then, like I said, with the past two albums we have been having more and more of these influences of a little bit more modern metal things. The fan response for those have been pretty divided- there are the fans that want us only to do those classic kind of traditional LORDI stuff, 80’s orientated stuff, and then there are the other fans, usually the younger ones, who are really happy to hear that a little bit more metal, a little bit more aggressive stuff from us. So, I just said before we started even thinking about the next album, I said ‘Well, let’s split it in half. Let’s get really schizophrenic here. Let’s just do it’. So there is something for both parties there. At least if you hate the other half of the album, in all logic you would love the other half. It really shows the two sides of LORDI.
Musically the latter part of the album, ‘Demonarchy’, it’s not new to me or to us really.” The Finnish beast continued. “I have been writing that kind of stuff since, well pretty much since the early LORDI demos, but they just haven’t been selected to [appear on] any of the the albums before. We always have the saying ‘AC/DC shouldn’t do a disco album.’ To simplify it we haven’t really had balls or courage to try something different like that. Of course it’s nothing new in the world of music or the world of rock or metal, but in the LORDI framework it is quite new. But then again, it has always been there, it’s just that this is the first time that we actually let people hear it, that’s the thing.”
Keeping with the theme of changes within LORDI’s musical style, the band have begun to use foul language in recent records, and there has also been a sharp increase in sexually explicit content. The lyrics recited in ‘Hug You Hardcore’ or ‘Nailed by the Hammer of Frankenstein’ are worlds apart from the tamer material heard on their earlier records. The same could be said for the foul language heard in such tracks as ‘Sincerely with Love’. I asked the monster why they’ve come to take this harsher lyrical approach.
“Well it’s quite funny…” He said chuckling at some of the song titles they had devised. “Originally when we were signed to BMG, the label people were really like ‘You shouldn’t go too extreme with the lyrics. No fuck words. You should keep it clean.’ I was like ‘Alright, okay’.
But then again it was just a little bit more hidden in the past. Would ‘You Love a Monsterman’ is about sex, for example. ‘Rock The Hell Outta You’ is not about rocking the hell outta you, you know. If you change a few letters, you get what it is. ‘Fire In The Hole’ on the second album, ‘Wake the Snake’; I mean it’s always been there but this time, or in the past few albums I’m just like ‘Who the fuck cares anymore?’ It’s like come on! We really haven’t been changing, or I haven’t been really changing anything, it’s just that I got really tired of trying to sugar coat it or hide it somehow.”
Mr. Lordi took a deep breath before continuing. “If I wanna say fuck, I’ll say fuck! I think I’m old enough already to say fuck. Even though there, it’s funny, there are some diehard fans of LORDI who really don’t like me saying fuck, and I don’t get it. Why?”
I brought his attention to the fact that the first six records containing little to no swearing results in the foul language sounding even more severe when it finally does happen.
“I don’t analyse it that much.” He replied after taking a moment to think about the potential impact of the lyrics. “It’s just something that, if we feel like doing something, we fucking do it, and we don’t ask permission from anybody to do it. I don’t get along with authorities that well. And then, for example, if there are some fans, don’t get me wrong I love all our fans pretty much, but if there are people who somehow have a misconception that they can call the shots and they can tell us what we should do that really grinds my gear.” The beast let out an aggravated growl. “So if I wanna say fuck, I’ll say fuck. If I wanna write a song about anal fisting, I will do that!” he said laughing at the absurdity of the Hug You Hardcore’s concept.
‘Monseterophonic’ ends with a seven minute epic called ‘The Night The Monsters Died’. This song and the lyrics heard within could easily be depicted as a sign of things to come for LORDI. Lyrics like “Now we’ll say goodbye for the final time” paint a grim picture, while the line “Don’t have to be afraid ‘cause we’re already dead” doesn’t seem to bode well for a band that focused their career on the concept of fear and being hellish creatures. I had to ask Mr. Lordi the all-consuming question. Does this mark the end of LORDI?
“No!” Mr. Lordi laughed. “It’s marking the end of the story, of the conceptual six songs on Demonarchy. And I’m like what? You’re not the first one asking that. It’s a story. It’s six songs. It’s clearly a story about these four monsters. It’s a storyline. It’s the end of those monsters, in the story! They’re even coming back, they are not even dying there. So it’s like, ‘What! Are you reading the lyrics or not? What the hell?’ It’s a story!”
I asked if this meant we could expect more LORDI in the future, to which he cheerily replied “Fuck Yes!”
“But, like I said…” he continued once the laughter died down “Being a huge KISS buff, I remember in ‘96/’95 when the still unreleased at the time, the ‘Carnival of Souls’ album came out. There’s one line in one of the songs from the album ‘Some things will end, some things begin, some things will never be.’ And those, for KISS fans, those three lines were something that we were really trying to speculate; what does mean. Okay ‘Some things will end’, it meant the end of the unmasked era of KISS. ‘Some things begin’, okay, reunion! And ‘Some things will never be’, okay the line-up with Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer will never come back again. And those were the speculation at the time, of course it felt really stupid, but then again, now 20 years later, it turns out to be the truth. Even though, I don’t think that Paul Stanley, while he was writing that, that he was really saying that. But yeah…” the towering creature exclaimed, returning to his original point. “…’The Night the Monsters Died’ has nothing to do with these monsters playing in this band”
LORDI’s “Mostereophonic: Theaterror Vs. Demonarchy”, featuring their hit single ‘Hug You Hardcore’, is now available for purchase, and is set to be another classic offering from the music’s real monsters of rock.
Interview & Photos by Eoghan Murphy
Eoghan Murphy is a Galway City based music and gaming journalist. Born and raised on 1980s thrash metal, this ex-vocalist also enjoys a touch of hard rock and hip hop. When not banging his head to extreme music, he can usually be found knee deep in piles of video games, competing at tournaments and writing for www.Hit-Start-Now.com or spinning chiptunes on Flirt FM at 2pm each Thursday as the Galway Gamer