© Isten Fanzine

Isten's Guide to 20th Century Finnish HardRock & Heavy Metal

 

 

OZ / SARCOFAGUS - BLADE RUNNER

You've led rock'n'roll life from quite early on, haven't you? How did you get into heavy rock in the first place? What was your first band Masque like?
"I got into heavy rock through Alice Cooper, and later on I started listening to bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, etc. The early band experiences are not worth mentioning, except for Masque, which was a good learning situation. But we didn't have enough original material, so it didn't really lead anywhere. I joined Sarcofagus around the same time, and went from playing bass and singing to just lead vocals."

How did you get involved in Sarcofagus? Did you have experience on vocals at that point? What about "Guts" Leidén, any idea why he'd left the group?
"I put an ad in Soundi magazine, after which we got in touch with Kimmo Kuusniemi and quickly arranged a meeting. I had been singing, of course, but never as a lead vocalist without an instrument. I don't know anything about the Leidén times."

There are two Sarcofagus playback TV appearances with you on vocals and wearing silver facepaint, with lots of fire and smoke about. Please tell us something about the shooting sessions - how did it come about and were those two the only ones you did?
"Those TV tapings were done at TV2, Tohloppi, Tampere, and they were the only songs we did there. We got paid nicely, that's all I remember."

How did the story of Sarcofagus end? You were told that your services weren't needed and the band eventually turned into Kimmo Kuusniemi Band/Moottorilinnut… What's your stance on the "Moottorilinnut" LP, by the way?
"They fired me with "extreme prejudice", or Kimmo did. In other words I was the last one to know about it, call it a conspiracy if you wish. By the way, this is the only time I've been sacked from a group, and there's been a lot of groups. I think Moottorilinnut sucks big time, it sounds like it's been recorded in a big fuckin' toilet. And I say that with a big smile."

How would you describe Kimmo Kuusniemi as a person? As a band leader? As a musician?
"Well, I guess he had his moments. Good songwriter, and he also had lots of interesting ideas. But the albums sounded weird. He wasn't too great when it came to producing. I felt that he was trying to get energy from the Dark Side, which I admit to doing as well back then, although minimally compared to him. My final thought on him remains that he truly was (probably not anymore) a "black magic hobbyist" during that period of his life."

It could be argued that Sarcofagus have been quite influential - e.g. bands like Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost have certainly at times sounded like they'd given "Envoy of Death" a listen or two… What do you think?
"It's possible, but "Envoy" was hardly a widespread album back then, so I wonder how they could have heard it."

How did you team up with Messrs DeMartini, Wolff, Ruffneck and Foxx, then? When exactly did this happen?
"They heard about me through a friend, and we tried things out at rehearsal. This was in 1982."

OZ were the most internationally oriented heavy metal band in Finland at the time. What was the situation like - didn't Masque have what it takes to make it to the top, or after the Sarcofagus experience, were you in a hurry to pick up the pace as far as your career was concerned?
"I never even spared a thought on my career back then, none of us did. We were too young. Rock music is not like sports where you plan things ahead. OZ was a real band compared to the others. We fuckin' rocked, man."

Planning ahead or not, you sort of took over the band straight away, or at least the song writing dept?
"Song writing was my thing, but as far as leadership goes, there was no leader, it was democratic and friendly. Maybe at times I was making decisions based on my songwriting capabilities."

 

How much did you joining the band affect the image et al? New stage names and no more wearing jackets or yellow sunshades on stage...
"We started to look like the bands we listened to - Scorpions, Accept, Priest, etc."

What's the story behind your stage name Jay C. Blade? And who's who for real in OZ? The band went through line-up changes between the first and second LP so could you please fill us in on that?
"I don't know about the first line-up, I wasn't there, see? There's no story behind my stage name. I still use it in Heavy Metal projects I'm involved in. Also, I will not reveal anybody's real names."

What made the band move to Stockholm? What was the Stockholm scene like back then?
"Ruffneck moved first, the rest soon followed. It was hard times, no money, no food, but eventually everyone got jobs and things started moving along. The scene was pretty good, lots of new bands. We were feared by them because we were 'crazy drinking/fighting Finns'."

The cover of your "Fire in the Brain" LP was designed by the son of your label boss Börje the Boss, right? This father and son combination became known as Bathory. Any fun recollections from that period and how did all this affect the relationship of the label and OZ? Quorthon has claimed that the better known groups on the "Scandinavian Metal Attack" compilation were annoyed because suddenly it was Bathory that got the most attention...
"No comment on those, sorry!"

Did you or any OZ members ever play on a Bathory recording?
"No."

Blackie Lawless of WASP has once said that fans who take things (the show, the image) too seriously make him quite uncomfortable. In Scandinavia all this Bathory/Venom/Hellhammer worship went over the top in the early '90s when youngsters really started to burn churches to the ground and boasted that " what the old bands only talked about, we do for real". Fans often tend to take bands more seriously than the bands themselves. What's your stance on this? You're a big fan of Alice Cooper, aren't you - has it ever gotten unhealthy?
"There are always people who take things to extremes. I don't like that but what can I do? I'm not a dumb-ass, so no unhealthy stuff."

"Fire in the Brain" was released under license also in the USA, Canada and Japan which was totally unheard of for a Finnish band back then. Where did you play live in addition to Sweden and did you feel the support from the label on this department was good enough?
"The label sucked big time. They got us two gigs and that was it. It just makes me mad every time I think about it."

How would you describe OZ shows in general - you must have been one of the most spectacular live acts in Northern Europe. Any particularly fond memories?
"Our shows were totally crazy. A guy from Atlantic Records (
New York) saw us in Stockholm and he wanted to sign us right away. But guess what happened? Our own label fucked it up."

Alongside with the LP you also released the super sound maxi "Turn the Cross Upside Down" - how come such a strong metal anthem didn't end up on any of your albums?
"I refer to the label on that, as well."

The legend says when you got the first royalty cheque for the 12" the number on the dotted line was none other than six-six-six and you took this as a sign of some sort and never wrote a "satanic" song ever again? What's your stance on this decision some 20 years later?
"It's a true story. It's almost too corny but it did happen. I prefer the forces of good nowadays."

We know this guy who's bought several copies of the maxi single in question and has made an upside down cross of them on his bedroom wall. What does this sound like to you?
"Sounds like a big fan of us, right? I guess I shouldn't have made that song."

What were your main influences in your opinion? Iron Maiden and Accept perhaps?
"Accept, definitely."

What about "Third Warning", how do you feel about the song material on that one? And especially the production values?
"Great songs, really awful production. And that's a shame."

And "Decibel Storm"?
"My favourite album. I can still listen to this one and feel proud."

 

Was drummer Mark Ruffneck some sort of a dictator in the band as he was the one who continued with OZ while others drifted away?

"He wasn't a dictator. But he was out of control when drunk. That's when you had to look out.""

Have you even heard "Roll the Dice" yourself and how do you like it? This line-up also used to play ABBA's "Money, Money, Money" live...
"Of course I've heard "Roll the Dice". It's ok but the singer needed guidance on this one as well."

Would you say in the end there was some sort of contradiction between your personal aspirations and the band's goals?
"No contradiction. I just got offered a better deal with Princess Pang. Who wouldn't want to play in the States instead of
Sweden?"

The CD re-releases of OZ records look pretty damn cheap and poor - any comments? Should the albums be re-released on vinyl, what do you think?
"I don't give a shit. Or actually, I would like to see "Decibel" released on CD."

Do you have any idea in how many countries your records have been released? Any sales figures?
"I would say about 50.000 units altogether, starting the count from "Fire...". And that's pretty damn close."

Do you have any idea where the name OZ came in the first place? (BTW, is it a capital "Z"?) Who designed the logo?
"Capital Z. No idea. Wizard of Oz?"

Why do you think even prestigeous Heavy Metal encyclopedias and magazines mistake you for a Swedish band?
"Because we lived in
Sweden."

Were you familiar with the band Shock Tilt? The Vaasa based band who moved to Stockholm in the late '80s to seek success like you did several years before. Their homicidal maniac of a manager killed and dismembered guitarist Hannu Rajala in 1987...
"No."

What do you consider your greatest achievement in music? And the best song you have ever written? (What about the best heavy metal song?)
"Those songs are still unreleased. In metal it's "Fire in the Brain"."

What do you think about the Finnish heavy metal of the '80s - Zero Nine, Riff Raff, Ironcross et al?
"I liked Riff Raff a lot."

When you think of OZ, the band's image was somehow burdened with a sort of "dog is in the details" syndrome - whether it be the smoking jacket on the first album cover, or Ape wearing a rather silly yellow sun shade on a TV session, or whatever?
"Bad taste, that's all."

How volatile was the band's life together in Sweden - genuine Finnish style drinking habits and violent encounters of the Ruffneck kind?
"That's how it was. Blood, broken glass and lost teeth."

So how did it come about that you left OZ behind for the land of milk and honey and Big Apple? Princess Pang didn't quite succeed in conquering those pastures of green, although you were marketed as "the most popular band in Sweden"? Kind of in the wake of Europe?
"I think we did pretty good considering that we were a new band. Two major videos on American MTV, long tour with Mr.Big and tons of radio interviews and magazines. They wrote about us a lot."

You've criticised American society and its values quite heavily. How come it took you 13 years to get fed up with it?
" I had enough money to enjoy myself with for those first 10 years. American people are great, but their whole system is total complete bullshit, no matter what Ted Nugent says. Corruption is widespread in the whole political system, as well as the judicial. It's a lot worse than people know. It's fuckin' scary to live there. And remember, I'm not into politics. I just tell it like I see it."

Princess Pang was, if I may say so, a pretty commercial enterprise. Some might think that your criticism stems from bitterness… How do you plead?
"No reason to be bitter, it was my own decision. Princess Pang was everything but commercial. You have no idea how crazy that sounds to me."

Nowadays you're playing in Yö, one of Finland's most successful rock bands. Is it tough enough for you or do you need projects like Heep Purple to express your heavier side?
"Yö is the best band I have ever played in. Great guys, good players and no bullshit attitudes. I love it."

Do you find it more natural to play in a mainstream band like Yö than joining a contemporary heavy metal band like Stratovarius or whatever? Apparently you did not race Marco Hietala of Tarot for the bass player/2nd vocalist spot in Nightwish?
"I have absolutely no interest in playing in Stratovarius or Nightwish. HIM would be different. That I might like."

Are you in touch with the OZ chaps these days? What are they up to nowadays?
"We don't talk often but occasionally I get in touch with Spooky and Ape."

So is there a new OZ album in the pipeline? What else is in store for Mr Bassojasso in the future?
"I'd like to do the "final chapter" for OZ, but there's no time. I've tried to contact Ape about it, but he's gone underground or something. The songs are ready. Maybe one day."

© Mikko Mattila / Janne Sarna / Dominique Poulain 2003

 © ISTEN FANZINE

Isten's Guide to 20th Century Finnish HardRock & Heavy Metal