Lordi released their latest album, Screem Writers Guild, just over a week ago. It’s a steaming, bloodstained slice of quality Metal that absolutely doesn’t take itself too seriously. They’ve nailed the message they want to put across, and they do it very entertainingly.
MetalTalk’s Mark Rotherham spoke with Hella, keyboards, and drummer Mana to find out more about how working with Lordi “still isn’t a job. It’s a lifestyle.”
Lordi were formed in 1992 by lead singer, songwriter and costume maker Mr Lordi. Lordi are all about horror, monsters, and nightmares, which Mana describes as escapism. “My dreams are happy, but real life is a constant nightmare,” Mana says, smiling. “No, the horror theme around this band is pure escapism for people who need good entertainment in their lives. Like a good movie or a book, I think good entertainment is definitely a force for good.”
And Lordi have stood the test of time very well, which is even more impressive given that they have stuck with some constant themes. “It all comes down to the music and being true and honest to yourself,” Mana says. “If the songs are good and the costumes are great, then the people will show up and show their support. It tells the people that we truly put our hearts and souls into this. We have a really dedicated fan base, and we are grateful for that.”
Heavy Metal is such a powerful force in Finland. “We have nine dark and cold months in the year,” Hella says. “Maybe that has something to do with it, that people like melancholic music?”
“We have one of the highest alcohol consumption and suicide rates in the world,” Mana says. “Metal goes well along depression, I guess. I don’t get how Finland is rated as the happiest country in the world since people have so many mental health issues, and the government doesn’t have the money to help them properly. All you can do is listen to Black Metal and eat pills with vodka.”
Lordi have had town squares named after them, postage stamps, and even Lordi Cola. “I don’t really care for those,” Mana says. “I just want people to appreciate the work we’re doing by buying the albums and coming to see the shows.” What future civic recognitions should Lordi aspire to? “A statue of Mr. Lordi I would love to see,” smiles Hella.
When you think of Lordi, you think of music, but with visual elements too. “For me, it’s always music first,” Mana says, “but this band is a whole lot more than just music, and the visuals go hand in hand with the audio experience. There is no Lordi without the show.” Hella agrees that music comes first, “but if you ask Mr. Lordi, he could answer something different,” she says.
You imagine the heat of summer festivals could be challenging for the band. “My outfit isn’t too bad,” Hella says, “since it doesn’t have heavy pieces like Hiisi [bass] or Mr. Lordi does. But in the summer heat, it’s still pretty damn hot. Latex does not breathe at all.”
“Mine isn’t that hot or heavy anymore,” Mana says, “but I do feel bad for Hiisi since the new costume looks infernal. I can’t remember having any major malfunctions, but for the others, it seems to be a constant struggle [laughs].”
There are monster wardrobes. “When each album gets released, the whole band gets new costumes with an updated look,” Hella says. “Those are worn until the next album, so spare outfits exist.” Fortunately, when travelling, passport identification is not a problem. “Characters travel in a suitcase,” Hella says.
“The whole deal with the characters is that they have to reflect one’s personality,” Mana says. “For example, I couldn’t portray a raging werewolf since I’m such a calm person in real life. That would look awkward.”
I first heard of Lordi when they won the Eurovision song contest in 2006. For me, it was a high point in the competition’s history. Does Eurovision need more Metal? “I think the competition is great as it is now,” Mana says. “The more variety, the better, of course.” The hype around the band at that time led to some media elements trying to unmask the band. “After the Eurovision hype, there haven’t really been any tricks by the media,” Mana says. “They leave us alone, luckily. The media isn’t that interested in our real faces anymore, and that truly is bliss. It would be terrifying to be a recognisable face in the real world. For me, at least.”
Kiss went unmasked, but there is no chance of that happening here. “Absolutely not,” says Mana. “It would be ridiculous and awkward. There’s no Lordi without the masks and costumes.”
There are four opportunities to see Lordi live in the UK this month. “Of course, we would like to have shows there more often,” Hella says, “but unfortunately, it’s not in our hands.”
Neither are concerned about venue sizes. “It’s not about the quantity but the quality,” Mana says. “If the audience is crazy and enthusiastic, it doesn’t matter if there are 50 or 50,000 people. Of course, it’s easier to do the show if there’s room on the stage. Makes life easier.”
“Playing live is the thing for me,” Mana says. “Making new albums is just a mandatory thing to get the band on the road. But I know for a fact that for Mr. Lordi, it’s the complete opposite [laughs].” Hella almost agrees. “Both are fun, but if I have to choose, play live and do vocals in the studio. 😊”
After a show, “a hot shower, cold beer, big salad and some sleep” is Hella’s routine. For Mana, that depends if there is an off-day coming or not. “If there is an off-day,” he says, “then it might be a bit more than one beer. Usually, just take a shower, eat something and hit the bunk and watch a movie.”
Lordi kept busy during the pandemic. “We made seven albums,” Hella says. Was it difficult to come up with so many songs? “Mr. Lordi could only answer that question,” she says. “but I believe it wasn’t hard at all. He’s a songwriting machine.”
Did the pandemic affect the band? “Maybe not too much in the end,” Hella says, “on top of what it did to the whole music industry.” But they filled the time well. “When the world was in shutdown,” Mana says, “Mr. Lordi had a lot of time. He could have (and would have) written ten albums, but the record label said, ‘noooo…!'”
The new album is Screem Writers Guild. “Some good old Lordi with a new twist,” Hella says. Mana agrees. “Banger riffs and catchy choruses with the usual word games like the one in the title,” he says.
Are they involved in the songwriting process? “Lyrics not at all,” Hella says, “but we are all free to present ideas to the music. Mr. Lordi basically decides, then, whether the idea gets used or not.”
“I have never ever cared about the lyrics in music,” Mana says. “For me, it’s just a mandatory thing for singers to express the melody in the song. I would be fine if the singer would just hum or even whistle the melodies [laughs].”
“Mr. Lordi writes most of the keyboards in Lordi music,” Hella says. “I like to listen to Melodic and Progressive Metal, and maybe some [of my] influences come from there. My background is in classical piano, so for example, I can read and write notes and play by ear easily, but I’m not much of a Metal solo shredder. I like anything with touching lyrics.”
“I grew up listening to Kiss, and Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden,” Mana says, “and those bands have probably influenced me the most. Eric Singer, Nico McBrain, Vinny Appice and Cozy Powell are my drum gods. Recently I’ve listened to a lot of ’80s prog rock like Rush, Genesis and Yes. Those bands started in the ’70s, but I think they made their best work in the ’80s when the synthesisers came along more heavily. Dream Theater is also a big favourite of mine, and I like their albums a lot.”
If being in Lordi wasn’t your job, what would you do? “It still isn’t a job. It’s a lifestyle,” Hella says. “Well said, Hella,” Mana says. “I’d like to add that if Lordi were a job, I wouldn’t have to do any other jobs [laughs].”
And just like that, our time was up. My Finnish friend asked me to tell the band, ‘Kiitos paljon. Te kundit rokkaatte helvetin hyvin.’
“As we like to say in Finland,” Mana says, “Kiitti vitusti!”