INTERVIEW BY ARTO LEHTINEN AND MARKO SYRJALA
Thunder In The East definitely roared out of loudspeakers and ghetto-blasters of heavy metal kids in the 80’s when the Japanese metal tornado hit the jackpot with the fifth album in a row. Loudness toured with several big league names such as Mötley Crue, AC/DC, Saxon in the 80’s. Toward the end of the 80’s the band’s line-up went changes when Minoru Niihara was dismissed. The band went through several line-up changes in the 90’s till 2000 when the classic line-up reunited. Loudness never ever visited Finland before the debut show at the prestigious Jalometalli Metal festival. Metal-Rules.Com had the great opportunity of chatting with the Loudness frontman Minoru Niihara.
COMING TO FINLAND
Finally you are here in Finland. You were really popular here in the’80s, but you never made it to up here before until now. You have played a few shows in Sweden a couple of years ago but it seems Europe has not overall been a priority for Loudness, right??
We played shows in Sweden and Germany a few years ago. But why we haven’t play more many shows in Europe, I don’t know why, it just happened for some reason. We always wanted to play in Europe, because Europe is one of the biggest heavy metal areas in the world. There are so many great bands coming Europe, which we love, like Judas Priest, Scorpions and Iron Maiden. So, we wanted to come and play here, but it didn’t happen for some reason. This time we’re supposed to play a two week tour here, but it didn’t come true.
During the past few years you’ve been touring heavily in the East but a lot in the States too. Do you see that these areas are the most important areas for Loudness nowadays?
We released our album in the States and we got signed by the American promoter and they wanted us play. So, it’s not things like this country is important, this country is not important. That’s not the way. It just happened. So, we finally came here all the way from Tokyo to rock with people in Finland.
This is the only show in Europe this year ?
I think so. This year, this is the first show in Europe.
There are plenty of European Metal festivals everywhere in Europe; France, Germany, Slovenia, Sweden. You should try to do more of those I think?
We would love to play everywhere. You better ask and we will be there! “Laughs”.
MAKING THE NEW MUSIC
The front cover of the latest album THE SUN WILL RISE AGAIN goes back to the 80’s style.
Yeah. It reminds me of the ’80s, yeah.
Loudness music has changed a lot since the 80’s. In fact, the band has gone through many different musical genres during the years. How about you personally, which musical style works best in Loudness for you?
The key person is Akira; he’s the one who writes most of the songs. So, he was the one who had the music, the same thing, over and over again .We want to play something newer, different. So that’s what we’ve done for the last album. I know people like ’80s, like THUNDER IN THE EAST or even the HURRICANE EYES album. Now it’s 2014, so we should do something different than it used to be.
How do you start writing new stuff, is it Akira behind the whole thing or do you others come up with some ideas as well?
Most of the songs he starts with his ideas, simple guitar riffs, starting from there. He brings his idea into the studio and we jam in the session to make complete. But Akira has got the view of songs, so most of the time he told us, “We will go this way in general.” He’s sort of a producer. But some songs are arranged by a drummer, some songs by a bassist, some songs by myself and we also make songs together.
Do you guys know that it’s really hard to get your albums here in Europe?
Yeah. Expensive, I know. I’m so sorry. We try to get a deal here. No-one seems to meet us and ask.
A few years ago you released album RACING it was also released in Europe by German label Drakkar.
Really? Drakkar? Never heard of it. Really?
Yes and I think RACING is the only one of the newer albums which came out here as well.
Really? I didn’t know that. Well, I didn’t know that. We have released 26 albums so far and so many albums… so I don’t remember which labels released which one. Like Drakkar, why should I remember them all ..hmmm “Laughs”
A couple of years ago you had a tragic loss of the drummer Munetaka Higuchi. Do you still miss him?
Yeah. Big time, I never had that sad experience before. Because this was sad to lose a member, a band mate. He got the cancer, liver cancer. It was very sad and we had so many things together all over the world, we got many shows and we made lots of albums with him. I miss him a lot. But I believe that he wants us to continue with the band instead of breakup, so we will keep on rocking for him.
Where did you find your new drummer Masayuki Suzuki?
Akira found him. Me and the bass player Masayoshi we never knew about him until the audition. Akira brought him from Sapporo, Sapporo is in Northern Japan. The drummer is from Sapporo and then he came down to do the audition and then we did and he played great. So, since then he became a drummer of Loudness.
It seems that he does play drums very different style compared to Munetaka.
Yes because he’s using the double bass and the kick drums and the previous drummer never played the way. That changed our sound a lot.
It gives a new dimension and opportunities to try different things, right?
Yeah. Changing drummer changes the music in a rock band a lot. The way he’s playing changed everything in Loudness and that’s what Akira was looking for, something different from original drummer. I think he’s got the right choice, decision.
LEAVING THE BAND AND THE RE-UNION
You were out from the band many, many years, until you returned in year 2000. Why did you leave the band back then?
They kicked me out actually end of the ’80s, maybe because…
Was it because they wanted to be more commercial at the time?
I don’t, you should ask them. But they wanted to have the American singer. Actually I did not listen to their stuff in the 90’s. So, I know they were doing hard working, but I was too busy to do my stuff, to survive in my life. I was doing like my solo stuff and I was making my solo albums, I got married twice and I changed everything since then. So, now in our concert we played some songs from the ’90s, when I was not in the band and then I started listening to their stuff from the ’90s. And it sounds good to me now, but back then I didn’t want to hear any songs. That looked strange to me. It’s an American singer singing in this band. But they made really quite good albums, which is called SOLDIER OF FORTUNE and LOUDNESS. These were really, I thought, good albums.
Like said, you came back to the band in year 2000. Was it some kind of surprise for you to get the phone call from Akira wanting to get the classic Loudness lineup back together?
It was in 2001, yeah. He called me. Because he wanted to start over again with the original lineup and then I was touring with another band in Japan, and then I was in a tourbus and then I received a phone call from him. He was saying that, “Do you want to join again and others will.” And I said, “Let me think a little bit.” But it was 20th anniversary with Loudness. I thought it was a good timing to do something with the original lineup and then I told him, “Let’s do it. Make one album and then think about afterwards.” After one album and then we toured. After our re-union album and then we toured. Well, it sounds great. Well, it was about 10 years that we haven’t played together since I left. But 2000 we started again and did not seem like we broke up such a long time. So, It really sounds like Loudness. And Loudness was playing really good to me and I told him, “Akira, lets do it.” Until we don’t need to play anymore.
The original band got together then but the musical direction has changed into more into much heavier direction and Loudness now sounded totally different band?
Yeah. Akira wanted it that way and I was not used to that kind of heavier sound. So, I was like, “How should I sing this kind of music?” I was doing many experiments and now I’m listening to the heavier stuff.
CRAZY NIGHTS OF THE 80’s
You used to tour a lot in Europe back in the ’80s . Which places were the wildest and what kind of reception did you get there ?
In many ways in England they’re crazy. Some places like England it was very tough in many ways. I remember the English audiences were very different for me. So, they’re crazy, they’re wild. Also they are mean, if they don’t like us it’s so easy to give us booing and throwing bottles.
You made great tours in The States in the ’80s with bands with Motley Crue. Do you remember that tour still?
Yeah. That was a big tour, we had a great experience. 20 – 50,000 every night, huge stage, big crowd. We also learned so many things from them.
Some good and some bad things. “Laughs”
Yeah(laughter). New album, it was easy. But we were so busy to tour, after a show you guys have to go to a next town. So, you cannot hang out to do some parties after a concert. After show; change your clothes, get in bus and hit the road, next place. That’s how you do it. But yeah so many girls in back stage and everywhere
It seems that you are still in good friends with Motley Crue, because I remember that you recently played with them in Japan?
Yeah, yeah. We opened for them. We know them but we’re not so like good friends. We know them. It was like saying “How are you guys doing?” and talking to each other a lot, but musical yeah.
Loudness was really a big thing when THUNDER IN THE EAST came out in Finland. I remember that there was a lot of interviews of you in the Finnish magazines, big posters as well. It was your breakthrough album as well
Yeah. We were lucky to have this album, it’s so similar. We were lucky to have a producer Max Norman; he was a tough guy to work with. But yeah, we were lucky to have this album. It’s made us and brought us to the high level and the next step.
What about THE LIGHTING STRIKES? That was another success.
Honestly I had such a hard time to work with a recording on this album; Max Norman did not like how I was performing on this album. So, he let me sing over and over again like almost one year. But still I don’t know. There are many good songs out there, “Let It go”, “Dark Desire.”
What was the purpose to release a video collection of every song of THUNDER IN THE EAST?
I don’t know. We made the video. Just promoting this album for, “Everyone.” I don’t know, we just did what the manager told me. I have never seen that.
I remember seeing that cover in the ’80s, but until now when having seen it on YouTube. The whole video is there nowadays.
Yeah. There is tons of old Loudness stuff.
I also found a tour documentary from your European tour ’84 on YouTube.
That was from the tour we did with Saxon? I remember the tour. I wasn’t too much around then. Biff told me that, “You drink too much.”
Ok it’s time of the last question now. What is the next step for Loudness, what you’re going to do next?
We will try to get a deal with this new album and to release it in Europe somehow. Then hopefully we will be back here again in Europe and then we want to do a tour and to do a promotion for this album. But I don’t know. Who knows? It’s very hard nowadays.
Thank you very much. Enjoy the show tonight.
Absolutely. Thank you.
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