So., ex-Lordi drummer (Kita)
INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
So. was originally founded in 1997 in a small Finnish town called Karkkila. The band are best known for their melodic rock tunes, energetic live shows and great musicianship. So. is fronted by a charismatic singer, Stala, who was once also known as Kita when he was still playing in Finnish monsterband Lordi. So. is heavily influenced by such names as: Slade, Sweet, T-Rex and 70’s Bowie as well as some 80’s L.A. hard rock bands. After releasing several independent EP’s the band has now put together their first album, containing of a "best of" selection of songs from the last 10 years. The band has written, recorded and produced the album themselves. In early 2011 the band will take part in the Finnish Eurovision Song Contest under the name of Stala & SO. The Finnish broadcasting company, YLE, invited the band into the competition to become Finland’s representative for the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 in Germany. The band happily accepted the challenge. YLE’s invitation offered such a big boost to his own band, that Stala decided to drop off his monster mask and left to follow his dream and pursue his own career in music. Read on !
STALA & SO.
First of all… Tell us briefly who actually are Stala & So.?
Well, I’m Stala. And the band is called So. Basically So. is an old band, which I and our bass player, Nick, started back in 1997? The band has been an on and off thing. It’s been a couple of years that we haven’t done anything. And then suddenly, we’ve been activated and we’re doing some EP’s, some gigs, whatever. Actually what happened was, I started to do my solo album and basically I was using half of the guys from So.. We came back together but I just wanted to keep it like “Stala & So” because in a way it’s my solo album but So is still there. So maybe in the future we will be So. again. We have to wait and see?
What does the name So. actually mean? Is there any deeper meaning there behind that title?
Well actually, it doesn’t mean anything, basically. Funny thing is that So., s-o-dot, in Finnish means “it is.” And I’m thinking that the first album that will be out this February [will be] called “It Is So” (Laughter) Just for fun’s sake.
Yeah, that sounds like a great title.
Yeah, I think so too.
As you mentioned, the history of the band is like thirteen years already. As far as I know you have had a great number of line-up changes in the past. Maybe at least ten different band members have been in the band. Could you tell us something about the current line-up?
Well, I’m a huge fan of David Coverdale (laughing). And you know, in bands people come and go. I and Nick are the only originals left but this line up, the guitar players Sami and Pate, they’ve been in this line-up for the last five years. It was a pretty different band back when we started. We were just rehearsing, being in a band, and the music was not the same as it is nowadays. We’ve done this together for a while. The newest member is the drummer and he’s called Hank. The thing was that when I started to do the album, I had a plenty of guest stars playing there like some musicians in the Finnish music scene who are such a big names here locally. I just wanted to have the guys that I wanted to have, you know. That was my motivation to start doing the album. And I wasn’t happy with the ex-drummer and his drumming, and I just basically asked Hank to play a couple of songs. There were seven songs that he played and it just worked out so well. It was the obvious choice to ask him to join permanently and he was happy to join. We are really happy now. This is the best line-up of So. so far. The musicianship is really good and strong this time.
Right. The thing is, I don’t know if it is confirmed yet, but I know you are having a record deal and you have plans to have that album out in February, right?
That’s the goal, February’s the goal. The album has been ready as early as December. The music has been ready for two months already. But right now we’re doing the album cover, the layout and stuff. Hopefully the release is going be in February. I’m pretty sure it will be, but I don’t know the exact date yet. At the same time we have this Finnish Eurovision thing going on so we’re gonna milk it, you know? All the media is going around at that time so it’s good to have the album out at that time. Also at the time we’re going to have our first major Finnish tour. So we really need to milk it ”laughs”
Tell something more about that upcoming Eurovision thing, how you ended up being there?
Well, I was mixing the album and there was one song that my friend and I composed together. And he heard it when it was mixed, he was like “I’m going to send this to Eurovision.” And I was just laughing, “Yeah right, whatever.” And it was the last day to send in a song because it was like an open competition or whatever. And there was another song as well that I mixed the very same day and I said, “What the hell, let’s just send those songs there.” And that was it. I didn’t think it any further and then a couple of months later they, the Eurovision organization, just called me, “Alright, you’re in.” What’s funny is that at that point I didn’t even have a band. So there was something like panicking going on at the time “laughs”. I was just thinking, “What the hell am I doing with this?” But now, this is the situation and now we’re there so everything is alright by now.
What makes this upcoming album really special is that you have produced and recorded the whole thing by yourself.
That was the only way that I could do the album. I couldn’t afford to just go to a big studio and have a big producer because it might have cost me a fortune. Of course it was hard work but luckily I have the education. I have my own studio and I have been doing production for other bands and artists before and so is Sami as well, the guitar player. We two actually studied the same thing and graduated at the same school in 2005. So he was a big help during the whole process and then I had this guy called Pekka Laine who was helping as the extra ear for the whole thing. It took almost a whole year to do the album. It was about a year ago we did the first drum tracks for the album. Obviously we didn’t do this every day all the time. There was a couple months gap [working on the album]. But yeah, it was the only choice to do it by yourself .
Like you mentioned, you have released a couple of EP’s and stuff before. If I’m right, you have released like three EP’s in the past…?
Yeah. SHOUT! was released in 2008, 3+1 in 2001 and… BURN THE ROCKS came out in… 2000, I think?
THE IMAGE AND TATTOOS
One thing that makes So. a little bit different to most of other bands is your image and the outfits. Tell something more about that image thing, how important it is for you?
Well I think it’s fair to the audience that the band is giving them something extra. That has been the thing since the beginning when we started the band. We wanted to look like rock stars. Our image is like a combination of 70’s glam rock bands from England like David Bowie, Sweet, Slade, T-Rex, and a combination of 80’s metal bands like the L.A. stuff. We always wanted to use a lot of make up and make it circus-like. We’re not different but we don’t look exactly like hard rock bands, if you’re thinking of the 80’s metal scene. Oh yeah, there’s some stuff from there as well but there’s also a lot of 70’s stuff. It’s just something extra and its lots of fun to do it. We’re not too serious about the outfit thing it’s just about giving a good show to people who come and see us.
There’s one band in Sweden called the Ark who have a lot of common things with your image, I think?
The Ark… in image-wise, we have the same attitude. They are also getting their image from the 70’s like glitter-rock/glam-rock bands. But musically, we are kind of different I think.
Lots of people, at least here in Finland… when you’re going to be on television for Eurovision, what kind of reaction do you think that people might get when they see you on TV?
Hopefully there’s going be a lot of different reactions because that’s the thing, to have a reaction. So probably some people will be like “oh yeah, this is cool,” that they’re going to like it. But I know that there’s going be some people who do think, “What a bunch of faggots out there, jumping around” or whatever (Laughter). But that’s the main thing, to have the reaction. We don’t want be the band where everyone’s just saying like “Well yeah, they’re okay.” We want be like the coolest shit ever and we want be the baddest stuff that there’s ever been “laughs”
What do you think that your own parents will think when she see’s you on TV with those outfits?
Well actually, we had this gig a week ago and my mother was there watching us and she likes it. She actually helps me do those outfits. And also my father, they totally understand that it’s about the show and the glitter thing. It’s just like when an actor goes on stage and he has to be a knight, then of course he has to have the costume. So it’s all costume, you know?
Like you have mentioned before, you and Nick have been a band for 13 years, and you also share a common history with certain another band as well…
Yeah, Nick and the other guys, they are my best friends. I’m even Nick’s daughter’s godfather. We are hanging with each other even though it’s not band related. Yeah, we’ve also been in different bands together with Nick … I think you do mean that one particular monster band from Finland. (Laughs)
Right, we’ll get back to that later on. But let’s get back to the Stala & So. discussion… What kind of expectations you do have with this band, I mean in commercial wise, because it’s not going to be easy to sell albums on these days?
It’s a huge challenge of course but this album has been like a dream that has finally come true. And I hope we can at least sell some albums so we can do this, you know, so we can afford to do it. But even if it doesn’t sell, we are still going to do it. So it doesn’t change anything. This band has always been close to my heart. And I know it’s close to Nick’s heart and the rest of the guys.
Yeah, it’s in your heart and also in your shoulder so it has to be really serious thing for you ”laughs”
Yeah, me and Nick we do have So. tattoos in our shoulders. Both of us have it and we got those a long, long time ago. They were our first tattoos ever. It just tells you that it’s much more than just a band, it’s the whole attitude. And So. has always been like, music-wise, if we want do a hard rock song we do it, if we want do a pop song as well we can do that, and if we want play jazz music we can do it. When we’re doing So., musically, it’s always an honest thing. That’s who we are. It comes straight from our hearts. We are not doing that music thinking about album sales or radio play or whatever. It’s just us doing what we’ve done for the last thirteen years.
How did Lordi fans did first react when they first find out about So.?
Obviously they found out. They found it out I guess like five years ago, after the Eurovision thing. It was a good thing for them because there was like more bands to dig, you know. A couple of fans did know. After all, the music wasn’t that different melody-wise. Now that I’m no longer in Lordi, some fans have been really sad, and maybe some fans have been mad. But overall, the fans that have written me letters and emails have been really supporting. Some fans have even been happy that finally I can do So. because plenty of them are really huge So. fans. And they ask So., “When can we hear more of that stuff.” And now finally I can do it. But still I can’t do this because of the fans, I need to do it because of me. And then if there are fans who like that, then that’s a good thing obviously. But it has to be from yourself, from you. You can’t do it only because of the fans.
Promoshot from year 2008
THE THING WITH LORDI
I can’t hesitate to ask something about the breakup you had with Lordi…
I would say that in my opinion it was such a surprising thing to happen after all. Now after a couple of months, what do you think was the actual reason that you had to leave the band after ten years?
Good question. I was doing this band every time we had time off from Lordi and that was never a problem. So. didn’t go headlines before Lordi announced the whole thing but… now [So] became bigger because the media attention came over there. That was Lordi’s fear, that now…
Do you see that there was some kind of competition between So. and Lordi?
I don’t think it was about competition because… from Lordi’s side it was more like keeping the image that Santa Claus is real. In a way, it’s kind of like that. When I became in the media using with my own name and face, it was like, it ruined his magic, you know? That was basically the thing and I can totally understand that. I only did that band because of the music. I never took it too seriously, playing the monster thing, but that’s me. They knew I was doing my own album all the time. But the Eurovision thing kind of broke the thing. It came so fast and that’s why maybe their reactions were like they over-reacted as well. Either way, I was going to put the album out and it would come eventually. But that’s bygones now.
How was the situation when the actual breakup did happen? What kind of discussions you had between you and the rest of the guys?
I wasn’t leaving. I was like, “I can do that tour.” But it was their decision and still everything that was planned was happening. The album [BABIES FOR BREAKFAST] came out as planned, the tour did happen as planned, so now with this, they actually got more attention because of this thing. So I don’t see it in a bad way, I see it in a good way. I’m actually reading this Ritchie Blackmore book at the moment and he’s talking about the changes with line-up. So every time there’s a new blood in your band it gives you more energy and everyone needs to push a little bit harder. So I think it’s a good thing for them as well. They have a new drummer, so they don’t have anything to worry about.
So everything is settled now between you and them?
This is the situation and everyone has to accept it. There are no hard feelings from my side and I totally give all my support to them and hope that they do that forever. It’s Mr.Lordi’s dream to do that and I’ve been fulfilling his dream, so now it’s time to make my own dream come true with my guys. And I hope all the best for them.
What things do you miss most about your time with Lordi?
Well… I think was meeting the fans. I was always really, and still am, bad at writing those forums and emails, I always liked to meet fans face-to-face. The best part of it was the tours and meeting the fans and playing for the fans. That’s one thing that I’m missing for but hopefully in the future I can do the same thing with my own band. To meet the fans, talk with the fans, and play some music to them.
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LIVE PICS FROM STALA & SO. SHOW IN HELSINKI