The Finnish metallers from the 80’s, OZ, definitely surprised several old and even newer classic metal fans by returning to the limelight. The band’s main core started penning new material, and the result is a new album of new OZ songs. The new video fr the song "Dominator" was without any doubts a strong piece of evidence showing that OZ haven’t lost an inch even though the band has been on hiatus for about 20 years. OZ returned to Finland by doing the excellent gig at Jalometalli. Therefore it was about time to have an interview with Mark Ruffneck from the Finnish metal pioneers OZ here in Metal-Rules.com.
Interview and pictures by Arto Lehtinen
What’s up in the OZ camp right now, what have you been doing recently ?
Well, we have record contracts ready with AFM Records in Germany and Spiritual Beast in Japan. So now we have World Wide distribution ready for the new OZ album called BURNING LEATHER. And now we are working with artwork for CD and vinyl covers…
REBIRTH OF OZ
The reformation of OZ came a bit of surprise to several old school metal fans to be honest. How did the reformation thing start in the first place and were all of you extremely thrilled about getting back together in the first place or did you feel some of skepticism about the return of OZ ?
We just wanted to get together again and make some music. I called both Jay and Ape and asked them would they be interested and they thought about it and after a while they said yes. Then we start to make plans, what we’d like to do and how. After more planning and working we are at this point. All songs are recorded, mixed and mastered. "Dominator" video has been released and we’ve played shows at a few festivals.We didn’t know what would happen when we got back together again, but it worked a lot better than we probably expected. It‘s really fun to work with the boys again and as much fun as in the good old days.
Were the other former members contacted or approached to find out their interest to take part in the reformation ? Or was it clear already in the beginning Oz will consist of you (Mark, Ape and Jay C Blade) and new guitarists ? As far as I know Jay has kept the contact to Spooky time to time (http://thirdwarning.com/int_isten.htm)
No, we decided already from the beginning that us three hard core members would do this together and we would use hired guns for the guitar parts.
Did Jay C Blade suggest about recruiting these two Finnish legendary guitarists Markku Petander and Costello Hautamäki to OZ, and was it a logical choice to recruit them as Jay C Blade with both Petander and Hautamaki have the common background in the Finnish rock scene ?
Yes, the idea to ask Costello Hautamäki and Markku Petander as guitar players for OZ came from Jay. We had also other possibilities, but in the end we found these two guitar players to be the best choice at that time. Now OZ have other guitar players on stage and this just shows that guitar players are a special kind of people and we have to deal with them anytime, anywhere as they are, special people.
There have been a lot of various comebacks and reunion during the past ten years. Some of them has worked very well and some of them not, were you kind of worried about reactions of the metalheads toward the return of OZ or were you completely determinated to the rebirth of OZ that will success?
We were not worried at all. We are doing this because we like to do it and how people take our reunion is something that we can’t worry about. WE have many times done things as we like, with “gut feeling” and this is also why we can do this reunion without any pressure. We do our best, if people like it or not, it’s out of our control, so why worry? We just enjoy it all the time when we can do things together and this reunion lasts as long as we like to do it and when it’s over then it’s over.
Has the return of OZ been on your mind since the split up in the beginning of the 90’s thinking some day OZ will make a return to the limelight ?
No, I was thinking that I will never play drums in the future, but I was wrong.
Jay C Blade had ruled out the reunion several times in interviews, what made your mind change ?
Well, I think that this time us three hard core members were talking seriously the first time about the reunion. And also the time was right for that! If timing is right, things can happen, otherwise not.
RECORDING A NEW ALBUM
BURNING LEATHER is the title of the upcoming album and was recorded under the observation of Nicke Andersson. How did he step into the picture to work with you ?
When we were talking about doing the new album, we were in the beginning thinking about other plans, but in the end we started to realize that if OZ is doing a new album after 20 years break, it has to be good, and to reach our plans and dreams we should use a producer who is good also and can do the work with OZ. We were talking with many of our friends and got information for example from Dregen that Nicke is a good producer and when we talked with him we also got to know that he owned OZ records, so he was the man to do the work and to produce OZ’s new album.
Apparently you and Ape haven’t been in studios for years, whereas other guys spend times in studios quite often. Was it kind of shocking or interesting experience for you to return to the studio environment after two decades ?
Well, Ape has been in studio during the years, so for him entering Park Studio was probably not such a big deal, but yes, I haven’t been in studio since 1991, so it was an interesting experience for me, but not shocking. We were recording all drums in Finland and we were using Tomi Pietilä’s Mobile Recording Studio for recording the drums. I recorded 5 songs on the first session and 8 songs on the second session. And those 2 sessions are the best times I have ever had in a studio. I was checking with Tomi all of our songs in detail and together with him we designed how to play the drum tracks. So this was the first time when all my drumming has been analyzed and afterwards performed to fit songs perfectly. We were also recording all the drums using 5.1 surround technique and in total more than 30 microphones were used for recording the drums. So the drum sounds are the best that you can get here in Scandinavia, I think.
What kind of input did Nicke Andersson bring in the recording process of the leather, was he also involved as a musician role, just staying as a producer ?
He was a perfect producer. He was giving inspiration, advising what we have to do and what we can’t do and most of all he was keeping OZ as OZ should be, Raw Metal. And he was also so involved with OZ recording that he sang some background vocals with the boys and also played some extra drums, so what more can you ask?
As far as I know Jay C Blade wrote most of the songs for the album, did Mark and Ape bring the ideas and opinions of their own as well as input into the song writing process ?
Song writing worked at this time as follows: Jay wrote a demo song and after that we listened and checked what kind of drums I would play there and also Ape had his options for singing. More work with demos and then we were ready to go into the studio and there Nicke was doing his changes and modifications, and then we had the final version of a song. We all work well as a team, because we have the respect for each other, and we all know what we can do, we have the same end result in mind, which is to get the songs as good as possible.
As far as I know some of parts of the album were recorded elsewhere, not in the studio owned by Nicke Andersson, but how come and could you shed more light on why ?
As I told earlier, drums were recorded in Finland using Tomi Pietilä’s Mobile Recording Studio.The drums were recorded in a big live room to get the right acoustic Metal drums as needed for the OZ Raw Metal. The drum sound that we needed was not possible to get in any small studio room, so recording in Finland was our only choice.
Originally the title of the album was supposed to be called Greatezt Blits featuring re-recorded versions of the old OZ classics, well why was the title scrapped ?! Did you however re-record some of the old OZ classic ones ?
We had "Greatest Blitz" as a working title, but after some time we found out that Burning Leather was a better title for the new album and that‘s the story. Yes, the new album will include some re-recorded old OZ classics and also some totally new songs, a cool mix of old and new songs.
MEMBERS OLD AND NEW
The main core of OZ consists of Mark Ruffneck, Ape De Martini and Jay C Blade, but the recording line-up contained Markku Petander and Costello Hautamäki being the famous and skilled guitar duet in the Finnish rock world, how was the working with these guitarists, were they however eager to remain in OZ further ?!
The main core of OZ is doing the main part of OZ sound. We were only playing together such a short time at Park Studio that it’s not possible to say more about that. It worked well at the time, and we were planning to do the new album together with that lineup, but the recording session at Park Studio became a situation where we needed a new guitarist.
Was it some sort of risk to recruit both Hautamaki and Petander as they have serious hectic schedules otherwise, or were you already aware of they might be absent from the touring and live gig playing commitments in the future ?
Our plans with OZ have changed so many times now, and also in the past, so we are quite used to unexpected things happening for OZ. Don’t look for trouble, it will come to you. We just improvised in different situations and lived with that. People are people and what they like to do with their lives is out of our control.
Apparently Costello Hautamäki is officially out, but what is the role of Markku Petander, will he make a guest visit at gigs ?
Who knows, maybe he can be on stage with OZ some day, but I would see that as a big surprise. In rock bands you need members that you can trust, and play together anytime, anywhere and for OZ the best choice now is to have two Swedish axemen on guitars. Michel Santunione and John Berg are both young, easygoing good guys , so why have some old guitar players who have something else going on in their lives. And one major point for using Swedish guitar players is OZ’s location, me and Ape are living in Stockholm and all OZ activity is here, so having Finnish members other than Jay is just for the logistic point of view not possible.
Regarding the old members being in the band in the early days. When Jay C Blade stepped into the picture, replacing the original OZ bass player, what kind of new breathe and vibes did you bring into the song writing process ? How was he found ?
When Jay started in the band he had some ideas for songs, and we started to test those ideas. He had both melodies and lyrics to new songs, so we got some songs ready quite fast then, and all songs for Fire in the Brain were getting their final shape in OZ’s rehearsal room. I was living in Tampere at that time and we found him there.
Do you have any kind of idea what’s up with Speedy Foxx and Spooky Wolff nowadays, did you loose the contact after their departure ?
I have had no contact with those boys after they left the band, and why should I keep contact with them?
Speedy Foxx and Spooky Wolff belonged to so called classic OZ line-up back in the day, what actually resulted their departure from the band ?
The lack of motivation, they lost The American Rock and Roll Dream!
The ROLL THE DICE album featured new faces in the rank Fredrik Thörnblom, Michael Lundholm, Jörgen Schelande, what kind of background did they have before joining OZ and how was the working with these new guys when the classic line-up had kind of split up ?
Michael Lundholm was from Umeå and when he was living there, he was a guitar player in a band called Gotham City. Fredrik Thörnblom and Jörgen Schelander were playing in local bands in the Stockholm area. It took a long time before we got OZ on the road again after the split-up of the classic line-up. A lot of testing and looking after new guitar and bass players! Not fun for me or Ape, but at last we got the new line-up together and could enter the studio. and also play on stage again.
As for the current live line-up featuring two young Swedish guitar heroes, could you introduce them ?
Michel Santunione is previously known as the guitar player in the Queen Musical “We Will Rock You” in Sweden/Norway. John Berg is a former member of Dynasty and he’s also playing guitar on stage with Chris Laney.
GOING BACK IN TIME
OZ was founded back in the late 70’s in Finland when metal was definitely not any big thing. What made four guys play heavy metal in the early days, not for instance the punk stuff which appeared to be rather popular ?
We were a local band from Nakkila, Finland and we were always playing the same old Beatles and Santana songs when some new group was started. I was starting OZ with the first bass player and we decided in the beginning that we will play Hard Rock. Later we got Ape on vocals and the OZ circus was started. Punk rock has never been interesting me, sorry! At that time we weren’t thinking what music was popular in Finland or not. We were just playing the music that we liked.
OZ used to have quite a rough reputation due to boozing and being party animals, afterwards several stories have been told and made about OZ, could you tell some of the weirdest and craziest story of your heyday in OZ ?
Well, when we were young, we were partying a lot and boozing, but those days are gone. Talking about our private life is not possible…we never talk about it in public anymore.
Relocating to Sweden was rather radical move from the Finnish band, apparently the climate and attitude toward heavy metal bands in Finland was as cold as the Finnish winter, who’s idea was it originally and how did you adopt to the Swedish life after moving from Finland ?
Probably all 3 hard core members were involved for that idea. After Fire in the Brain album recording we got the mastermind idea, let’s move to Stockholm, a fun place to be. Probably also Hanoi Rocks was giving us some inspiration. They left Finland just a short time before OZ. As I told before, 80’s in Stockholm, F*** Cool, a lot of activities, music, bands, parties, a really fun place to live, as it still is.
After the split up the band were basically forgotten entirely until during the last decade the cult status of OZ has been recognized by old school metal and even younger fans. Have you paid attention to the recognized cult status of OZ and in general the interest toward OZ has tremendously increased during the past decade ?
No, I was not working in the music business at all after 1992,when we took a break with OZ, so for me it was a big surprise that OZ music was remembered by so many around the world. When I called Jay and Ape I had no idea about OZ cult status and how Black Mark Production have continued to produce and sell OZ records around the world. Later on I have gotten information of these things, but OZ reunion was planned before I have any knowledge of all that.
The debut album titled The OZ came out 1982 as far as I am able to remember right, what kind of process was to have the first deal for the album ?
We did a demo tape at MS Studios in Lempäälä, probably 1980 or 1981 and played that in Finland for different Record Companies, but no one showed any interest for our music.Then we were heading west, to Stockholm. We had some contacts in Vaasa and they knew some record companies in Stockholm, and we were visiting some of those.In the end we signed a contract with Börje Forsberg and Tyfon Grammofon AB.
As for signing the deal with Tyfon Gramophone run by Börje The Boss Forsberg, how did they show the interest toward OZ and did you approach The Boss in the first place or did you some common friends and contacts recommending OZ to The Boss ?
Well, after we visited Börje in Stockholm, he liked to see OZ on stage and he was on his way many times to see OZ in Finland, but it was taking time, but at last he came and after one show, the deal was done.
Was the deal with them basically the entire mistake for you after thinking afterwards ? Or was the deal with Tyfon however good and reasonable for a band like OZ at that time ?
The first deal was a normal record deal and that was really fun for OZ to sign a deal with a swedish record company. We were recording OZ’s first album in Stockholm and at that time there were not so many finnish bands that were recording their album in Stockholm.
As you got a deal Kräk for the debut album and finally landed a deal with Tyfon and as far as I know all the albums were licensed to other labels like Banzai, Combat etc.. Did you ever manage to keep the pace with selling figures of albums and where the albums were licensed and how the money moved between labels or did you get ripped off severely by record labels ?
OZ was having a record contract with Tyfon Grammofon AB and Börje Forsberg. Other contracts with different record companies as Kräk, Banzai, Combat, RCA were fixed by Börje and OZ was never involved with those contracts. Selling figures and different contracts here and there were always some kind of mystery business for OZ and of course we never get the total picture about the numbers and money. But at that time we were not so much interested about money and business, we were living rock and roll life and there was no place or time for money business.
The "Scandinavian Metal Attack" compilation presented a lot of bands mainly Sweden and of course the Finnish own Zero Nine were on it, but apparently Bathory drew the more attention than other bands, did this bug you in some way ? In general did the comp. album bring more attention toward OZ ?
Well, at that time when Scandinavian Metal Attack was released, OZ was one of the main bands on compilations and Bathory was just a filling act. Bathory was not getting so much attention at that time, that happened later on. So we were never in a situation where we were thinking about what Bathory got or not. Probably different compilation albums were helping OZ also.
I have come across re-mastered cd versions of FIRE IN THE BRAIN and ROLL THE DICE, have those re-mastered cd versions been carried out without your permissions and approvals ?
I met Börje for the last time probably 1991 or 1992, and after that I haven’t been involved with the music business, what he has done during all these years??? I have no information about that, but I have gotten information from people around the world that they have these albums.
Back to the present day as it was announced OZ have signed a deal with AFM, how did this come about ?
Contacts and hard work. When business talk started with AFM Records, they were getting interested after listening to Burning Leather. So OZ music still has it!
Did you explore other option to unleash the BURNING LEATHER ALBUM for example a self financed or was the AFM deal only real possibility after all ?
Well, we have self-financed the whole recording, mixing and mastering process and we wrote a master deal with AFM Records. We have been talking with other records companies as well about distribution of Burning Leather worldwide, but in the end we got a feeling that AFM Records are the best choice and the kind of record company OZ needs. UDO can’t be wrong!
SWEDISH METAL AND BATHORY
How did you meet Quorthon and his father in the first place and how did the co-operation with Borje Boss Forsberg started out ?
After we didn’t get any record contract in Finland in the early 80’s we were heading west to Stockholm and contacted Börje Forsberg and his Tyfon Grammofon AB. The first time I met Börje Forsberg was in Stockholm and later I met both Quorthon and Börje in Finland, where they were checking out OZ live.
I can’t help asking if any of you participated on the Bathory albums ?! Or did Quorthon participate on any OZ album apart from his design of his hand with the skull on the frontcover of FIRE IN THE BRAIN ?
No, we were never participating on each other’s albums, but if I remember right, Bathory was using my drums and OZ guitar gear on some evenings when we were working in the studio, and they probably recorded some songs using OZ instruments.
Quorthon of Bathory were interviewed in Metal-Rules.Com around 2003-2004 (http://www.metal-rules.com/interviews/Bathory.htm) where he recalled Sweden was an awful place as far as the powerful was concerned as Europe was a big act and other bands were supposed like them. How did you cope with all these glam/hair/spandex things and scene in the 80’s Stockholm ?
In the 80’s the music life in Stockholm was great, as I told before, a fun place to live in. Of course Europe’s success was affecting the other bands and many of the bands liked to copy Europe’ s success story, but no band ever got to that level. Well, I can think that Quorthon was feeling that way, as he said in 2003-2004. He was living quite a different and probably lonely life, but what Europe have to do with his life, is a little mystery to me. He was supported by Börje his whole life and he could do his music and never was forced to do anything else.
Which bands did you mainly gig with in Stockholm ?! Did you ever have to share the stage with 220 Volt, Treat etc ? Or did you have an entire different audience compared to these hair bands ?!
When we were playing in Rock Clubs in Stockholm, OZ was often the main act. I think that we have been sharing the stage a few times with Trash, Treat and some other Swedish bands too, but it’s so many years ago, so I don’t remember. When we were playing outside Stockholm, there were probably local bands supporting OZ, but I don’t remember the names. I think all bands were having a mixed audience, but probably OZ audience wasn’t having many "hair band" supporters.
When “Final The Countdown” hit the big selling hit around the world, it was presumably rather an unexpected blow to you and others disliking Europe ?
Well, we didn’t dislike Europe, but they were playing a different style of music from OZ and we never were inside Europe’s circle of people. Europe and "The Final Countdown" as a hit was depending on their management and a lot of work from management, and of course a lot of luck, too. Be at the right place at the right time! The 80’s in Stockholm was a cool time, a lot of bands and many of them touring in Europe, Usa and Japan. OZ was unlucky to find a good management to start touring outside of Sweden and that made us unhappy, because we liked to go out and play just like many other bands from Stockholm.
Does Metal with the wide range still appeal to your taste or do you rather stick to the good old classics than new metal forces ?
I’m not listening to music that much, but when I’m doing it I’m listening to both the old classics and new metal bands. Somehow my lifestyle is ruling my musical life too, I like to do things and not watch or listen when someone else is doing things.
I thereby thank for your time and interest to do the interview to Metal-Rules.Com I wish nothing, but the best for OZ, but before concluding the interview the last words are yours …..
Well, OZ is living "AfterBurner Time" now, and we will rock on as long we can! Rock on and Check news at www.ozofficial.com And remember: Impossible is possible with hard work!
The Official OZ site
The first official video DOMINATOR