Meeting a Monster: Mr. Lordi Tells of Monsters and Ghosts
Interview by Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
I woke up bright and early to call Mr. Lordi, creator of the Finnish Monster Metal Band Lordi, to catch him (in the evening) for a fun, interesting, and educational conversation. Being such a huge Lordi fan, I was deeply honored to spend thirty minutes on the phone with Mr. Lordi himself and really enjoyed experiencing his personality and hearing him laugh as he told me stories of the band’s inception, musical influence, costuming practices, and even ghosts.
Lordi released their seventh studio album, ‘Scare Force One,’ on November 4th, 2014 in the States, with a Halloween release in Europe and a 26 November 2014 release in Japan, which included a bonus track. Some interesting things I learned about Mr. Lordi are that he is not a devil worshipper or a religious person. He doesn’t care either way. He owns twenty snakes, and his family actually has lived in a “House of Ghosts.”
Metal Babe: I read that you have said if it wasn’t for Kiss there probably wouldn’t be Lordi. Tell me about what an influence Kiss has been on your career.
Mr. Lordi: Kiss was the first rock band that I ever heard. My first album that I got was Kiss ‘Destroyer.’ The funny thing is that I actually heard the music of Kiss before I saw them. And when I saw them, they already had taken off the make-up. I had some friends that would show me pictures of Kiss, and I was like, what the hell? I thought, oh my God, this monster thing could be born. When I first saw a picture of Gene Simmons… That was it. Without Kiss… I don’t know. I think it’s pretty obvious. Lordi wouldn’t look the way we look. We got the platform boots and the whole costume thing. I think Kiss was the main influence on the band and Kiss has been a big part in the birth of Lordi in so many ways.
Metal Babe: What was the defining moment when you decided to create the band Lordi?
Mr. Lordi: I was ten, eleven, maybe even nine… I don’t know. Up until the time I was like 16 or 17, it was, either I wanna be a horror movie director or I wanna be a rock star.
Metal Babe: You can combine them both this way!
Mr. Lordi: Yeah. At that time, I was playing with bands in my hometown, and at that the same time I was doing short films with my friends. I wanted to do both of them, and I loved both of those things. I went to film school in 1991 and what happened is that the music world started changing again, and my then bandmates didn’t wanna play my songs anymore because they thought it was yesterday’s stuff. I was influenced by bands like Scorpions, Kiss, WASP, Twisted Sister, Megadeth, Metallica, and Anthrax. Then for a few years the grunge thing was happening, which I did not like one bit. I wanted to play melodic heavy metal. The birth of Lordi was to get these songs out of my system. My current band members refused to play that stuff. They wanted to do something modern. When I started to do the demos under Lordi, which was my nickname, I realized that this is the sh*t, and that I am my own boss now. There’s no one else that can tell me what kind of songs I can do, and stuff I should like and shouldn’t like. That was 1992… Twenty something years later, here I am.
Metal Babe: I’m with you. I didn’t like the grunge either. I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. (Mr. Lordi Laughs.) You said Lordi was your nickname. How did you get it?
Mr. Lordi: Lordi is a Finnish word for Lord. It’s not like the Lord Almighty. It’s like an English Lord. In Finland if you call somebody Lordi, it’s really putting them up on a pedestal. My best friend’s mother started calling me Lordi. ‘Here comes Lordi again.’ It stuck. Actually, when I was in film school, my classmates would call me Lordi Hardcore, because I love a lot of hardcore porn. (Laughs.)
Metal Babe: Great explanation and story! You actually change your costumes with each album. That’s amazing. How do you come up for the idea of each theme and how do you actually create the costumes?
Mr. Lordi: Well, you know what, it’s getting harder and harder every time. I wanna change more than I can in a way because… How can I put it. I can’t dye my hair red, or I can’t make the Lordi costume white, or blue. Well, I guess I could, but then the trademark would be pending. (Laughs.) So it’s a bit difficult. It’s really, really hard, for my own costume, or for Amen, (guitar) or Oxnard (bass). It’s already been seven costumes for Lordi (himself) and seven costumes for Amen. There are certain things that make Lordi, Lordi, and Amen, Amen. That make the characters them. And I kind of change them and tweak them, but I can’t change them too much, because if you lose them, then it’s not Lordi. It’s not the character that the fans know.
Metal Babe: Do new members have a say in their character’s costume or is it already determined?
Mr. Lordi: Yeah, they do. When a new guy joins the band, I always ask “Hey, do you have any ideas?” I asked both of them, (Amen/Oxnard) which I have done for many people before, what kind of a monster or character would you want to be?
For example, if somebody is really small and quiet, it’s hard to make a really small and quiet giant. The drummer, (Mana) cannot be like a raging werewolf, for example, because that’s not his character. That’s not who he is. The character and the costume are extensions of their own personality.
Mana is not really quiet, but he is a really calmed down kind of guy. He’s not running from anyone. He’s taking his time listening to everybody and he speaks slowly. We spent a lot of time thinking about his character because he’s a drummer, which is the most critical in the band. We have to come up with a character for him that really fits his personality. And that’s where the whole pastor, and the unholy priest came about. He’s calmed down and he’s just cool. I forgot the original question that you asked. (Laughs.)
Metal Babe: (Laughs.) You were saying that their costumes are an extension of them, and that you work together to create the best fit.
Mr. Lordi: Every time we stop to think about new costumes, we consider the physical thing that we want to change. If it’s something really technical, that relates to the drummer’s playing style, like having to hook his hair underneath the mask in a ponytail, we can do that. When we put the drummer in a noose in his first costume, his drumsticks got stuck all the time, and that’s really bad. Because he played in a certain way, he cannot have any kind of thick spikes or anything interfering on the costume. If you go back two drummers, (or something) he had all different kinds of neat little spikes on the costume, and they didn’t bother him one bit.
With Mana, you know, he cannot have any kind of extensions on the costume. And it’s funny when I see how fans are reacting to the new costumes, and they are really, really strict about how they should be. They’re like, why is Mana so plain, and why doesn’t Mana have this and doesn’t that? It’s because human beings are supposed to play drums. This human being happens to play in a certain way, so it’s either he’s gonna play right or he’s gonna look good. So which one do you wanna take? (Laughs.)
Metal Babe: You need both! Tell me about the meaning behind “Hard Rock Hallelujah.” I saw a Finnish documentary, ‘Promised Land of Heavy Metal,’ that made it sound like it was about a rock church in Finland (that I accidently found when visiting in 2008).
Mr. Lordi: The whole “Hard Rock Hallelujah” has nothing to do with religion. I mean… I used some Biblical references to tell how cool it was to do pop rock. But there were so many people who took it either pro-religion, or anti-religion. It’s funny because it doesn’t really matter what you say because people have some sort of idea before they open their mouth. On our first album we had a song called “Devil Is A Loser.”
Metal Babe: I love that song!
Mr. Lordi: And that song… (Laughs.) Even though we have a song called that, there are so many people accusing of us of being devil worshipers. No devil worshipper would ever title a song or do a song called “Devil Was A Loser.” Then there are people who think that that title proves that we are devil worshippers. I’m not a devil worshipper and I’m not a religious person. I don’t care either way.
Metal Babe: To me it’s a creative play on words… Everyone has their own interpretation.
Mr. Lordi: For me, and with the lyrics I write for Lordi, there’s no subject in the world that should be so sacred that we cannot either write a song about it, or talk about it, or even joke about it. There’s not a single issue in the world that we cannot touch. “The Devil Is A Loser,” to me, is just so funny, because it’s ridiculous how many… I call them ‘teen Satanists,’ those darkened spirits who are 16, or 17, or 18 year’s old, and they are so (in weird voice) evil/Satan. They are so… (Laughs.) It seems that they are so deep in that world that they know everything. Those people are so orthodox. They are using that… Like, badmouthing Jesus, or whoever. But, don’t you dare say anything about our dear devil. I’m like, come one. Grow up people.
Metal Babe: That is so crazy. I really love your catchy and memorable lyrics. What is the writing process like for Lordi, and what gives you inspiration?
Mr. Lordi: Usually it starts with the full title. Although, a lot of times I write the music first, and then I come up with the title. Because I write so much faster that way. If there are ten songs on the album, it means there are 30 songs on the album, of 40, that I left out. I just come up with the titles. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Usually the ideas come from the horror genre in general. Sometimes I get really excited in my own mind and can write a horror story which actually has another message that’s involved.
Metal Babe: What is the title track about?
Lordi: I find it really hilarious that the title song “Scare Force One” is actually about the power of Judas Priest. It’s like, how would Judas Priest do this album? What kind of release would they have? Of course, if you have half monster, half machine, half… I don’t know, whatever. This song calls for this real heavy metal, traditional Judas Priest kind of lyrics.
Metal Babe: I don’t think people would know that unless you told them. I have been listening to the CD since it came out and I love it. Is there a specific concept for this album?
Lordi: We already knew the name of the album ‘Scare Force One’ before the last album came out. We were thinking about doing a concept album. Like a theme album of ‘Scare Force One.’ Along the way, somehow, I said that maybe we are not ready for that yet. I don’t think I have the balls yet to try that. Like, it’s easier to write one song. But if you have to have a full album of songs that have a story line… I can write the story line in 10 or 11 sections, but the actual songs should work on their own too. That’s the difficult part. Maybe someday… I know that our A&R have been asking for that for the last three or four albums. Now! Now! Now! You know. (Laughs.)
Metal Babe: I love the entire CD, but I have to say “House of Ghosts” is definitely one of my top favorite songs on the album. What’s the story behind this song?
Lordi: Good question. It’s a true story. I am living in the “House of Ghosts.” It’s all real as far as I know. It’s my grandparent’s house, that me and my wife started renovating four years ago. It’s at least 79 years old; built in 1935. No one knew what the house was used for until recently. My grandparents bought the house when my dad was young, maybe six or seven years old. The Second World War was going on. The wallpaper has been on those walls since 1939 or 1940. When we started renovating the house, we started taking off the wallpaper because we wanted to remove the old wood. What we found under the motherf*cking wallpaper is that there are actually written messages in Russian on the walls! I didn’t know any Russian, so I called my friend who knows some, and she came there and she said, oh my God, these are cries for help.
We had discovered that the house that I’m living in, that is my home, was actually one of the Nazi’s radio controlling centers! I had no idea. Nobody ever told me. My relatives never told me that.
Metal Babe: Wow.
Lordi: When we talked to people a little bit more, it turns out, like I said, it was the Nazi’s radio control center and also they had Russian war criminals there. There are so many weird things that were happening while we were renovating the house. Those lyrics are in the song. I could have written an hour and a half song of “House of Ghosts.” The ghosts are following somebody that we do not see. You see somebody sit in an empty chair, for example. There are talks, whispers… There are sounds, there are shadows… All kinds of weird sh*t. (Laughs.)
Metal Babe: Oh my gosh. That’s crazy.
Lordi: I consider myself to be a sane person. Even though I have been a fan of horror and monsters since I was a little kid. This stuff is really happening. It’s scary. Weird things are happening in that house.
Metal Babe: I’m sorry to cut our call short, but I only have one minute left on my calling card. Last question, do you have any plans to come back to the U.S.?
Lordi: I hope so. I hope so. I always keep my fingers crossed. It’s been way too long since we’ve been there. There were actually two times in the last year that we got asked, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. So maybe this time.
Metal Babe: You have a lot of fans here in the United States that love you so we hope that you come back here soon!
Lordi: (Yells) And we love them!
Metal Babe: Thank you. I’m going to hang up before the calling card hangs up on you. Thank you so much for your time.
Lordi: Cool. Awesome. Thank you. Absolutely my pleasure.
For more information on Lordi: