JAY LEWIS – discusses his past career with Sarcofagus, Oz, Princess Pang, and more.

©Marko Syrjala 2022
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INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJALA AND ARTO LEHTINEN

The Finnish metal and metal bands are widely known concepts and highly appreciated nowadays. Nowadays, several bands have gained a loyal and passionate following amongst metal fans. Even new and rising talented bands receive immense recognition and following due to the Finnish metal aspects and heritage. How did all the Finnish metal phenomenon and fuss start over 40 years ago? The first generation of the Finnish metal and hard rock bands paved the path for several other bands to emerge and gain success. One of the Finnish metal scene pioneers was Oz, hailing originally from Nakkila, Finland. The band’s bassist/songwriter Jay C Blade sat down with the Metal-Rules.Com team to look back to the heyday of the ’80s of heavy metal and how things have changed after that. We discussed the bands he played with before joining Oz, how the band met Quorthon and Börje “The Boss” Forsberg and relocated to Stockholm in the early ’80s. Jay left the band in 1987 and moved to New York to team up with Princess Pang and the other bands later on. However, in 2010 Oz was resurrected back to the limelight, and the band released a new album, “Burning Leather” (2011). Here is the whole story of the band, told by Jay Lewis, also known as Jay C Blade.

SARCOFAGUS, THE FIRST FINNISH HEAVY METAL BAND?

You joined Sarcofagus for the second album, “Envoy of Death,” well, how did this happen?

I was aware of the band, and I had also heard their songs on the radio. I also owned a Sarcofagus t-shirt with a great-looking skull on it. The first singer had left the band; the guy who formed Havanna Black later, Hannu Leiden. I was only seventeen years old and saw an ad that the band was looking for a singer in Soundi magazine. It said, “Sarcofagus is looking for a singer.” I was “Oh, wow!”. I sent them a piece of paper where I said: “I can sing metal and my favorite singer is Rob Halford of Judas Priest.” The guitar player, Kimmo Kuusniemi, called me and said, “Do you want to come here and try ? “ I was “Yeah for sure.” I went to Helsinki then, but I don’t really remember what happened there.

I think we went to the studio and I tried to sing something. They wanted to hear my voice. They said: “Sounds pretty good.” But they already had another guy chosen, and they even had taken band pictures with him. I don’t remember his name, but something happened to him. He was a bit weirdo or something, and they kicked him out and called me back again. “Yeah, you are in.” I was. “Wow! That was easy.” Kimmo said, “You have to come to Helsinki for the band photos first, and then we go to do rehearsals in the studio.” The vocal rehearsals lasted one week, maybe one and a half – I don’t remember exactly because I was so young. It was a long time ago, 41 years ago.

We went through every song we had every day, and Kimmo told me how to sing the melodies. It was Kimmo’s band, and he made all the decisions. After the rehearsals, he said to me, “ We will start recordings in January in the middle of the winter, and you need to come to Helsinki then.” Luckily, I had a grandmother who lived in Helsinki, and I could sleep at her place. Kimmo still lived with his mom because he was only a couple of years older. So, we did that recording, and the album “Envoy of Death” was finished. I remember drinking a lot of tea because I wasn’t used to singing that much back then. I hadn’t done any gigs or anything like that before the recording. Now my voice can take anything, but back then, no. But I managed to do everything, and the album was ready.

Do you still remember the promo photo session that you did with the band?

I remember that we were taking band photos at a cemetery because Kimmo had a fixation on things like that. It was a Jewish cemetery because a normal one wasn’t good enough for him. “Laughs”

You also filmed some TV -footage with Sarcofagus?

Yeah. We got into Yle TV2’s “Iltatähti” program, which was the only pop music program in Finland at that time. I was really excited when I got on TV, and specifically that I was performing on “Iltatähti,” which I thought was the best show on the TV at the time. We played three songs, and Kimmo lit candles with his guitar during the last song in a very ritualistic-looking ceremony. I remember that I had an Egyptian “Eye of Horus” painted on my face, and I had a mustache at the time. I looked utterly ridiculous .“Laughs” We also used colossal blue and red-colored smoke bombs and filled the entire studio. That performance caused a big fuss then, but it was a decent Spinal Tap moment from start to finish. But it was a great experience for a young man, and I got paid more for that show than I ever imagined I would get. I sang three songs on Finnish TV, and I was paid almost 250 euros in today’s currency. That’s when I thought I would one day get rich.

Did you get any feedback about your TV performance ?!

After seeing the TV show, my grandfather said to my dad, “Do  people always have to look that horrible to get on TV?” However, he later said it was good that we got on TV. But I think Kimmo got all the feedback because he was the bandleader. I was still in High School, and even some people recognized me, but that was it. I was only seventeen then.

It has often been said that Kimmo Kuusniemi was the first real heavy metal guy in Finland. What do you think about that?

I suppose so? I didn’t know anyone else who was that devoted to heavy metal in Finland at that point. But he was. He was into the occult, and he was really serious about it. And he was also a bit strange. To be honest, I was a little bit scared of him, as I was so young then. He had skulls and all that bizarre stuff at his home. All the books that I lent from him were about black magic and things like that.

Were you also interested in the dark side of life?

Nah, I was too young to figure out those things. Later on, when I was living in America, I did some stupid spell, but that’s another story. Back then, no, because I was still a kid.

Kimmo was called Finland’s first metal man, and Sarcofagus was considered Finland’s first heavy metal band. What do you think of that because there were already bands like Zero Nine, Iron Cross that played heavy metal or heavy rock in Finland?

I think that they were more hard rock than metal. We were a very dark-sounding band. Our sound, look, everything was different. Zero Nine was never a dark-sounding band. They sound more like a classic hard rock band like…

Like Deep Purple, for example?

Yeah.

However, your career with Sarcofagus didn’t last long. What broke the camel’s neck back then? 

There are many stories about that, but this is my story. One night Kimmo called me and said that Sarcofagus would make a cover of  Rainbow’s hit song “I Surrender” in Finnish. I was wondering how I could sing it? Apparently, Kimmo was thinking the same thing because a few days later, he announced that Kirka Babitzin would be singing that song with Sarcofagus. It was evident that my services were no longer needed in the band. Kimmo never said that to me directly, and I have never officially been kicked out of the band, but that’s what then happened. But it’s also true that, at the time, I was not able to sing “I Surrender.” Now I can, but then I wasn’t.

 

JOINING OZ AND A NEW RECORD DEAL

You joined the Finnish metal band Oz in 1982. How much did you know about the band and their music before joining?

After Sarcofagus, I played shortly with a band called Masque. It was a trio, and we played cover songs from bands like Rush, Kansas, and Saga.  We recorded a demo at Mika Sundqvist’s studio, and our booking agent Heikki Kauppila paid for our demo.  He was happy with the result. We shared the same agency with Oz, and one day the band’s drummer Pekka Mark visited the office. He heard Masque’s demo, liked it very much, and then asked Heikki, who are the musicians playing in the band? He was originally interested in our guitarist Esa Niva, who joined the Oz band just a little later.

I went to see Oz a couple of times then, and I wanted to join the band as well. It didn’t take very long for Pekka and the band’s original bassist, Tani, started to quarrel, and Tani left the band. However, the Oz guys had heard about me, and they were interested. I agreed to meet Pekka and the band’s vocalist Tapani in Tampere a few weeks later. Then we had this weird meeting. We discussed for hours and found out that we were thinking the same way and had similar goals in music. So, they asked if I wanted to be their bass player. I said, “Yeah, I do.” We made a contract, and I got 100 Finnish marks, which is nothing today. It is about 20 euros nowadays, but it was cool then.

The Masque band in 1982: Mika Muurinen, Jay, Esa NIva. (Jay Lewis archive)

“Hey, I got some money for playing.” I was nineteen then, and we started doing gigs. Oz’s rehearsal place was in Nakkila, where Pekka and Tapani originally came from. We rehearsed hard, and we played every Friday and Saturday.  I traveled between Nakkila and Tampere every week. We used to go sauna, sometimes we drank alcohol, but mostly we just rehearsed a lot, all the time. At the time, I started writing songs because Oz had lost the guitarist who wrote most songs for the first Oz album. They had no songwriter, so I started writing songs.

The first song I wrote for Oz was “Part-Time Lover,” which we never recorded. It was composed before Stevie Wonder’s song with the same title. I can’t remember how the riff went anymore.  Next, I wrote “Fire In The Brain” and “Search Lights.” We sent those songs to the Swedish record label called Tyfon Grammofon. Sometime later, we received a letter from Sweden asking, “When are you guys going to do an album? And how many songs do you have? “We were like, “What?”  I wrote more songs, and then Pekka and I went to Tukhoma to meet the record company people. The first meeting with Thomas “Ace” Forsberg (Quorthon) was very convincing. The man was dressed in black leather from the neck down, and when you added his long black hair and pale skin, the man looked like a vampire. Despite the first impression, we became friends immediately. We visited the RCA studio together, and everything looked really good there. We were ready to go.

The record label, Tyfon Grammofon, was run by Börje “The Boss” Forsberg (RIP), who was the father of Quorthon (RIP). They both kind of took Oz under their wings.

It was more Quorthon who helped us. I call him Ace, cos I know him as Ace. He was a huge Ace Frehley fan, and that’s where his nickname came from. He was one of my best friends in Stockholm when I moved there. We were together all the time, and we were like brothers. At the time, he was starting his band Bathory, and he asked me, “What do you think of this ?” I remember that I said, “Venom is okay for me, but I’m not sure about this?”. It was because I wasn’t into the black metal thing at all. The black metal genre was starting then, and I remember that he was always like, “I want to do this stuff,”  and I was like, “Go for it if you think that’s your thing – Do what your thing is.”  And He definitely did.

Did you also meet Jonas Åkerlund, who was the drummer of Bathory?

Sure I met him several times. We partied together too. We had many great parties because we were young guys, and there were girls everywhere. Stockholm’s Hard Rock Cafe was a fantastic party place. It was a great time.

Bathory has had a significant influence on the black and extreme metal scene. How did you adjust yourself to the black metal thing when the first Bathory album came out?

I have a signed album from him; he gave it to me. I haven’t checked it out in a long time. I believe I could get 10.000 euros if I sold it on eBay. I have got some offers, but I won’t sell it because he was a good friend of mine and it’s not about the money. But anyway, he was doing his thing, and he was happy with what he was doing. You know, his hand is on the album covers of  “Fire on the Brain” and ” Turn the Cross Upside Down.” Those covers look almost the same because almost the same picture was used on both covers, that melted skull made of plastic. I remember that he burnt his hand very badly when we took those photos. It was true rock’n’roll “Laughs.” He was a very devoted guy, and he was doing his things, and I was doing my thing.

Then The Boss, his father, said, “Let’s go to New York together, the three of us. You can promote Oz, and Ace can promote Bathory there. We were going to go there together.” But then, I had a problem with my Visa. It took a long time to get it because I am a Finnish citizen. I tried to get it to Sweden, but it took longer than expected. “The Boss” got tired of waiting, and he said to Ace, “We have to leave without Jay.” And so they did. I was furious about it. I was furious. On the day they left, I finally got my Visa. I was like, “Fuck you.” Ace was genuinely sorry about what had happened. He said to me later, “I’m really sorry.” They went there and came back a few weeks later. I was thinking like,  “I am going to get you for this.” What happened soon was that I got the offer to join Princess Pang, and I was thinking, “I am leaving. Fuck you, Börje Forsberg”

As you said, you were close with the members of Bathory at the time. Did you ever collaborate any music with them?

No, Nobody did. We were just friends, and that’s about it.

MOVING TO SWEDEN AND BUILDING THE OZ BRAND

In 1983 the band relocated permanently to Sweden. Was that something the band had planned even before you had joined the band?

The idea of the band moving to Sweden was really interesting. The first Oz man who moved to Stockholm was Pekka Mark because he had suddenly decided that it was the best thing to do with the band.  And as far as all the changes go, Oz was always Pekka’s band. And yeah, we always discussed openly; there was not any kind of dictatorship there. As far as music and songwriting went, it was my show. But all the other things, everything else related to the band was more of his stuff. He took care of many things, and he was always very amicable. We had no arguments about anything back then. It was always a very friendly atmosphere. When Pekka had decided that moving to Sweden was the best thing to do, I probably said, “I agree,” because I was the next to move after him. The others came a bit later, both guitar players and Tapani almost simultaneously.

We had a mutual friend, Köpä, who lived in a large rental apartment in the suburbs of Tyresö. Pekka moved there, and before I followed him. Pekka started to work in a big cleaning company. He had managed to find another apartment from the same crab where Köpa’s place was. I then moved into Köpä’s apartment, in the same room where Pekka had stayed before. In fact, his new apartment was straight above that room. Pekka lived alone there with no furniture. Oh, sorry, there was one chair in there. For evenings, he sat in that chair and slept on the floor for nights. He acquired some used furniture a little later, but it took time. I slept on the floor too, but I still had a thin mattress, pillow, and blanket. The room I had, was really small but now I had my own place to stay. When the other guys came later and moved in, suddenly we had furniture. At least, everybody had their own beds.

Ape De Martini doing his thing in Stockholm. (Jay Lewis archives)

A couple of Finnish bands had moved to Stockholm earlier, such as Hanoi Rocks.

Yeah, and Hanoi Rocks served us a bit like an example. We thought that if they had done it before, they moved to Stockholm as a band, then we could do it too. We played completely different music, but at the same time, we had similar goals. They definitely had more ambition than we did, and they also had a good manager like we didn’t have. We just had an inexperienced record label guy as our manager.

 

After moving to Sweden, one of Oz’s significant changes was that the band members started to use artistic names. Whose idea was that, and how did you come up with those names, which are actually quite funny?

I think I was the guilty one behind the idea. Pekka Mark became Mark Ruffneck, and Ruffneck means you’re a tough guy. A funny coincidence is that they have these big trash cans that say “roughneck” on them in America. [laughter] But it’s written differently, not R-O-U-G-H. So, it’s not the same thing, but anyway. I think I had seen it somewhere, and I thought, “Well.” So, I suggested it to Mark, and he said, “Yeah, that’s good. I’m going to take that.” And then Jari “Speedy” Koski and Jyrki “Spooky” Taipale. “Spooky” was Jyrki’s nickname when he was younger because he liked to listen to Spooky Tooth, the band. And Jari came up with” Speedy” himself, but I came up with the last name. So, they became Speedy Fox and Spooky Wolf because I thought it was kind of cool. Speedy looked more like a fox, and Spooky looked like a wolf, and he had that kind of looks of Tony Iommi. He was the first guy in Finland who had mustaches like Tony Iommi. So that was it. Tapani became Ape de Martini. It was because he liked to climb to high places when you were drunk, bridges, radio masts, and stuff like that. So, he became Ape because of that. Then the Martini part came from cheap alcohol called Martini. We used to drink dry Martini a lot, and it was the most disgusting alcohol you can buy in Finland. You had to be a really tough guy if you were able to drink warm Martini; it tastes like shit. So, it was like, “Oh, I’m a tougher guy than you because I’m drinking this warm Martini.” We all had bottles of Martini, and it was just horrible. And it’s like, “Ooh-ooh.” But we drank that, and that’s where the Martini name comes from. Ape de Martini. And my name Jay C Blade was– I always had a fascination with knives. I even had a small silver knife in my neck back then. And so, Blade comes from that. I think Jay came from my real name then. I was thinking something that starts with a J, and if you write Jay, you say J. So, it’s the same thing. That’s cool. I don’t even remember where the C came from. But Jay C Blade had more like a rhyme to it than just J Blade or JC Blade. That’s probably why I decided to use it.

One of the first OZ photos in Stockholm in 1984. (Jay Lewis archive)

Jay C Blade in the band apartment living room. Mostly flight cases. (Jay Lewis archive)

FIRE IN THE BRAIN” -ALBUM AND ERA

You had a record deal, a stable lineup, the songs; it was time to go to the studio and start working on “Fire in the Brain,” being your first professional album.

Yeah. “Fire In The Brain” was my first Oz album.  Yes, it was also my first professional album. It was recorded in RCA studio owned by the record company in the Stockholm industrial area.

How was the recording process for you and the band?

It started really badly “laughs.” Except for me, the whole band arrived at Stockholm by ship. I was kind of working for Finnair, and that’s why I got a free air ticket. So, I flew to Stockholm Arlanda, and the plan was that the other guys would pick me up from the airport. But somehow, we got everything mixed up. Somehow I mixed the airport gate information, and the other guys didn’t find me. I’m thinking like, “What am I going to do?” So, I went to the subway and jumped off close to where I knew the RCA recording studio was. I walked there even it was far away. It was like three kilometers or something, and when I got there, nobody else was there.  I’m thinking like, “What the fuck?” I went back to the subway station and tried to call various numbers. There were no cell phones at the time, so it wasn’t easy to find each other. “Well, I’m going back to the studio anyway because where else could those others go?” So, I went back there when they arrived. They came there with a big 508 Mercedes-Benz, and they were really upset and angry with me. So was I, and we almost started fighting right there.  -“What the fuck? You went there when I was here!” and, “But you weren’t there when we were there,” and so on. Everybody was blaming each other. Then we just thought, “fuck it,” and gave it up and started carrying stuff into the studio.

However, the other guys brought the band’s full backline; the Marshall’s, bass stuff, and drums; everything. It was just like the band was on its way to a gig. They had that MB van in use, and we later used it to transport the band between our studio and our accommodation, which was actually the home of the record company owner. When we went there for the first time, the living room floor was filled with toasted mattresses, and the whole band slept there. We had rehearsed a lot in Finland, so the band’s playing was on a really tight level. Now, we were only waiting to record our stuff on the tape as soon as possible. Because we had brought our backline from Finland, we were familiar with it, and it didn’t take long for us to set it up. After we had set everything up, I mean, even microphones for cabinets and– maybe not drums, but then we had some technical problems in the studio. The whole thing started to be just waiting and waiting for more for us. And what always happens to the bands if they have too much free time? That’s right; they start to get drunk. At first, we began to fetch beer from the local shops. And after those were finished, we began to drink the liquor that the guys had brought with them from the ship. I remember that I had a big bottle of Smirnoff Vodka. It was 60% strong, and we started doing cola drinks until the bottle was empty. We had a super fun time, and everything went really well before I began to feel really sick. I realized that I hadn’t eaten almost anything that day because I had only prepared for our studio work and recordings. Sometimes things change fast! “Laughs”

The infamous first OZ radio interview 1982 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Jay Lewis archive)

The record boss’s apartment was so filled with cigarette smoke that I couldn’t breathe there. I tried to persevere, but I had to give up soon, and I was forced to open the living room window. I opened it, and I vomited out on the street at the same time. It helped, and I started to feel a little better, but because the same thing just went on and on, I began to feel sick again soon. So, I went to rest on the kitchen floor, but suddenly I was forced to open the kitchen window and vomit again. The same thing repeated several times, but we just kept on partying. Later on, we continued to the local bar, Hasselby Gård. But before we left there, someone from our crew went to the local store to get more beer to the fridge to ensure that there was enough of it on the following day. There was never a shortage of alcohol in Börje’s place. But yeah, we were having fun that night. On the next day, we went pretty early to the studio. Everyone had a bad hangover, but luckily, there was a sauna and a swimming pool next to the studio. We relaxed there, and it helped us clear our heads and feel better. Then we ate something and started recording. And they, Börje and Seppo (our sound engineer), just wondered how well prepared we were and how we managed to play after the previous night. We played great, and we cut off almost all the tracks on the first take.

As you said before, the band was ready, and the songs were ready. Did you have to make any last-minute changes, or did everything go as planned?

All the songs were ready when we got there, and as I said, we had rehearsed a lot in advance. We were prepared, and we were like, “If this is going to go this well, we can have more days off, and then we can drink more.” “Laughs,” I think it was on the third day when the Zero Nine guys came to check out the studio because maybe they wanted to use it too. They had heard the rumor that we were there, so they wanted to come and check the place. And the drummer, Mark, was in half-sleep lying on the couch when they came in. They asked him, “Oh, so how’s it going?” And he said, “We’re just going to take a couple of days off because we’re so good.” And they were like, “What the fuck? This is an expensive studio, and they’re just sleeping here.” They couldn’t believe it. But it was just a part of our “show” for them. In fact, we worked every day. At least, we did something every day. Everything we did was very fast-paced, but we liked it because we were ready.

 Börje Forsberg produced the album, or should I say, “The Boss.”

The Boss, yes. He was self-named, by the way. “Laughs.”

He was the owner of the record label, he had signed Oz, and the band lived in his apartment during the recordings. But how was he like as a producer?

Börje didn’t actually produce the album. He didn’t know much about music, and I think he was almost tone-deaf or something. He mixed the album together with the other guy, Seppo F.A Johansson. So, I guess that Seppo was the guy who did most of the work. I also think that Börje didn’t do much because it sounded fucking awesome “Laughs.” But “The Boss” knew how to set up microphones properly, and then I had the best bass sound I’ve ever had in a metal band. I had a B.C.Rich bass in the studio. We borrowed it from some music store in Slussen, or we had to pay for it, maybe 1000 crowns a week or something. It had an incredible 100 Hz booster, and with that, you could get the intense low-end bass sound. I had a Lab Series amp and two huge Fender Bassman cabinets. So, “The Boss” put mikes on both of them, and then we also had a line sound. You can hear that massive sound, for example, on, “Free me, Leave me.” When the bass comes in, it sounds very fucking powerful.

Is there anything you would like to change or make differently on that album if it was possible?

What would I change on the album? I thought that the result was very good. I’m trying to think, would I change anything on it? Probably not, because I was pleased with it, and honestly, I don’t listen to that album anymore. It feels really weird to listen to your old stuff. How old was I then? Nineteen? It’s like, “Wow.” Is that really me?”

When the album came out, it also made some headlines saying that you were a satanist band because of some lyrics on the album?

Do you mean “Black Candles”? That’s the only one, and that’s more like… it feels almost more like a movie script to me.

Maybe it was more about “Turn the Cross Upside Down” that caused the “scandal” then?

So that’s different because of Quorthon. He said to me, “You have to write a song like that.” And I was like, “Why don’t you write it?” He said, “I don’t have a band. Okay, so you’ll do it. I’ll try.” And then it came out pretty good. But back then, at that time, I was heavily influenced by bands like Manowar. I was not that influenced by Venom because I thought they were kind of a crappy band. They were terrible players, and their albums sounded very sloppy. I mean, the “Black Metal” was okay, but everything else is like, come on! But yeah, there was nothing satanic on any Oz albums. Nothing. I don’t even remember why I chose to write a song called “Black Candles,” but to me, it was just another song among others.

How visible band was Oz in the Swedish press at the time? If I remember right, there was a magazine called OKEJ, which released a bunch of Oz articles at the time.

Waiting for the Studion gig, 1986. (Jay Lewis archive)

Yeah. That guy’s name was Stefan Johansson. He was writing for OKEJ. He was a friend of ours and a friendly guy. He sort of liked us because we were more metal than bands in Sweden. He liked that roughness. He wrote about us every once in a while, but nothing huge.

Did you ever feel that you should make music even more aggressive because, at that time, Metallica and bands like them were becoming a trendy thing?

I never liked Metallica, and I still don’t. I don’t like them at all. So they were no influence on me. My influences were bands like Saxon, Judas Priest, and many others, but I never liked Metallica.

So, you’re an old-school metal guy?

I’m a very old-school guy, but some influences were also leaking from Quorthon. For example, there’s a song called “Crucified” on the album. I mean, in that form, we see Lucifer right because it somehow rhymed with “Crucified.” That was the reason, the only reason. I remember that that record company guy liked that it was so disgusting that we just went growling like that instead of saying something. So he was already smelling that disgusting, black metal-type style that was coming later.

I remember having seen a piece of the ticket of Oz, and…

and Venom, Yeah!

That tour was about to happen?!

Do you know why it got canceled? Both the bands didn’t get tour support from labels. Even Venom didn’t get it. Can you believe it? Especially us. Börje said, “I am not gonna give ten thousand dollars that they can go to tour in America.” He was so fucking stupid. Of course, you have to do that. If you invest ten thousand dollars, you get 50.000 back from sales. He was a fucken dumbass. Ace would have done that. I talked to him, and he said: “I would do it, but it is not my money, so I can’t decide.”  He was always on our side, but The Boss was only on his own side. He was very selfish too.

You used to do a lot of gigs in Finland, but not that much in Sweden?

We did a lot more gigs in Finland than in Sweden. It was like ten or something in Sweden. Almost nothing.

How come? You lived in Sweden.

I can tell you an answer. I had no clue what his idea was, but The Boss said to us, “Do you want to play more gigs?”. I think he was afraid that someone else would pick us and offer a better deal. He was a very paranoid person. Every gig we did, he booked.  He was like a booking agency too.  He made sure we didn’t go to any places where it could be a danger that he would lose us as a band. We were stupid, and we didn’t realize that he was fucking with us. That was what happened.

III WARNING, AND DECIBEL STORM 

“Fire In the Brain” is a classic metal album indeed, and it was a great success. It was time to start recording the next album, “III Warning.”  What is the most significant difference between those albums seen from your point of view?

The biggest difference is that “The Boss” mixed it badly, and the album sounds like shit. Some of the songs were so mixed badly that we wanted to redo them again. When we made the “Burning Leather” -album in 2010, we re-recorded some of the “III Warning” songs, like “Total Metal.”  I hate that album because it was mixed so badly. “The Boss” wanted to go to New York to promote the album, and he mixed the album in one night only. Plus, he drank a lot of Whiskey or Cognac, and he was drunk when he was mixing it. When you drink, your ears kind of shut down, and you can’t hear what’s going on. It was a horrible mix, and that’s why I can’t listen to the album ever in my life again. You should hear the raw mixes of the album. It was kicking ass stuff because Oz was such a tight band back then. But Börje totally ruined it, and we almost left the label because of that. Then he said, “Okay, okay. We need to save this situation. The next Oz album, you can produce it yourself, ok?” That’s what he said to me, and I said, “ I can do it.” The next album was “Decibel Storm,” and you can hear the difference on that album.  There’s a big difference. I remember that I was thinking like, “I want the Accept-sounding guitars, raw bass,” everything would be totally different. I was in control of the whole thing, but I never said it out loud. But everybody understood the situation because we all were still so angry about the result of the “III Warning” mixing. And “The Boss” gave us free hands. Okay, fine. “Here’s a studio. Do what you want.” He never even came to the studio. Not even once.

So, was he asked not to come to the studio?

No. I guess he realized himself that we would do better without him. I think so. Or maybe he was angry because we encouraged him to stay out. “III Warning” had the worst mix ever.

As you said, you had free hands in the studio when you recorded “Decibel Storm.” How was the working process now different compared to the past Oz albums?

That’s when we start to work hard again in the rehearsal room. I mean, we practiced about three times a week after work. We always played two, three hours at a time, the same songs all the time. “I got a new song.” We’re going to practice that for the whole evening and then move on to the next one. We were very ambitious in that sense. “Okay, we’re going to get this together and do the same thing again, go in the studio and just play it.” but no, it didn’t go like that.

We went into the studio, and this time, it was a way more professional studio than the RCA, in my opinion. There were great guys there too, two guys, Pelle Blom and Stefan “something” was the other guy. I remember that he was a great guitar player as well. They were the studio engineers, and we had a good rapport with each other. They understood what I meant, and back then, I already spoke Swedish enough to talk in Swedish. And first, we recorded basic tracks with everybody playing, but then we just left the drums because the guys, the engineers, said, “Let’s do it this way,” and we were “okay.” All right. It wasn’t the same band anymore, because now we had played so much more with each other. We knew what sort of plusses and minuses, and we decided to concentrate on Mark’s drums only at first.

And after that, I think that the live guitar tracks were still there when I played my bass parts. Then we started working with the guitars, which went pretty fast because Spooky and Speedy played their guitar parts simultaneously. It was like an Iron Maiden style. They wanted to play together, and they kind of feed each other. And then we did the guitar solos, and then finally the vocal parts. And the vocals, this time, I was very particular about the vocals. Every word had to be correctly pronounced because there was a lot of badly pronounced English in “Fire in the Brain” -album, and it was the same thing on “III Warning.” But now we concentrated on pronouncing, and Ape really liked it. Later on, he thanked me many times that we did it properly this time. I knew what I wanted to get out of him. I knew that sometimes he could sound a little bit like Udo, but his voice is not as harsh as Udo’s. He could also go very high with his strong clean voice. In some parts, he could sound a little bit like Bruce Dickinson. So, I knew what I could get out of him, but it was difficult because he was so frustrated at times. Sometimes he would just sort of– he’d say to me, “I’m going to throw this chair through the fucking window to the control room.” because he was so angry because I repeated, “No. Again. Sing it again. Please sing it again.” And it wasn’t because he was out of tune; it was because his pronunciation didn’t sound right.

Whose idea was to include the Sweet cover “Teenage Rampage” on the album?

It was my idea. My first album was Sweet’s “Biggest Hits,” but I know that it’s not a good version of the song. It was a wrong choice, and we should have done something else like “Hellraiser.” Later, we did “Hellraiser” with Skin and Bones, which was my idea. But yeah, we did “Teenage Rampage” with Oz, and the result is not good. But I don’t know. It was an experience. Let’s put it that way.

As far as I can remember, Wikipedia says that all members have been equally involved in writing the songs on this record? It might not be the whole truth, right?

Absolutely not. I mean, Mark and Spooky wrote: “The Show Must Go On.” Ape helped Speedy to write the “Firestarter.” And I think we changed “Exterminator” a little bit. Maybe Ape or Spooky were involved with that as well? I really can’t remember. But it was a good modification they suggested. Once, the band kind of ganged up together against me. I remember we went into rehearsal, and they were like, “Well, we’re going to change this part.” They had decided it together, the four of them. I’m like,  “What do you mean?” Then they played the part, and I’m like, “Okay, it’s better. Sure. Let’s do it that way.” I had no problem with that. But because the other guys were not as active, I had to take the leading role as the songwriter. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had those three Oz albums. Honestly, those albums would not have happened without me.

THE END OF AN CHAPTER

I remember one old review of “Decibel Strom” from ’86, and there was a line saying, “Oz is now playing safe. Who needs such a thing?”

I do not know? Was Oz playing safe? That record was better, I mean, everything was played better on that record, and the songs were better. I mean, “Eyes of a Stranger” How safe is that? It starts with a very strong Manowar influence because it starts slow, and then it starts going fast and moves more into maybe Iron Maiden type of thing or whatever. I was playing very fast on bass then, all the way up and down. [laughter]. I don’t think it was a safe album at all. It was a much better album for my ears.

Maybe the reviewer was still in love with “Fire in the Brain” and the early stuff?

Yeah, but you can’t go back in time. You can think about Judas Priest, for example. I mean, they can never sound “British Steel” again, no matter how much they try. It’s impossible. Even Rob Halford can’t sing anymore as he did back in the day. I just listened to something he did recently. I’m like, “Oh, yeah” It was “Beyond Realms of Death.” Please! I mean, I can sing it higher than him now, which is quite funny.

But you have to remember that he’s 70 years old nowadays.

I know. I’m 58 now, so there’s only 12 years apart [laughter].

Although “Decibel Storm” was a success on many levels, it became your last album with the band. At which point did you start realizing Oz was not going anywhere and that you wanted to do something else in the future?

At the beginning of the “Decibel Storm” recordings, I realized it would become my last Oz album because of that record company asshole. I just couldn’t work with him anymore. And then the final straw was that the three of us, Börje, me, and Quorthon, we were supposed to go to New York together to promote the band. But in the end, they went without me because it took a little longer for my visa to arrive than for them. I was Finnish and lived in Sweden, so of course, it took longer to get it. They then left me alone in Sweden. Mark was also very dissatisfied with this. He said, “I’m sorry, but he still pays it all. So leave him alone now. Let him go.” And so I did, and I went to New York for 11 years.

Besides that New York thing, did you have other tensions within the band at the time?

When I finally left permanently, it was a bad situation because Ape was going to jail for drunk driving. And I didn’t think it was good at all because we couldn’t practice properly without him. And all the other guys went … Oh no, wait. I remember Spooky and Speedy left the band when I returned from my first trip to New York. The trip lasted only three weeks, and when I got home, they both sat there and said they no longer lived there and would leave the band. I was like, “what?” Maybe they sensed I was leaving, so they decided to leave first. After that, we have one guy, Roger Armand, playing guitar. He later died in a car accident. But I remember he was a great player. He was kind of John Sykes style, and he would have been a great guitarist if we had continued the band. There was also tension between Mark and me because he was kind of mad at me for going to New York. And that’s when I started thinking that this band isn’t going anywhere. Not with that record company, not in this city, and not in this ever-changing lineup. Nothing seemed certain at all anymore, so I decided to leave.

Your story with Oz came to an end at that point. Now afterward, how would you rate those three Oz albums you had recorded with the band?

“Fire in the Brain,” 4 out of 5. And maybe 2 out of 5 for the “III Warning.” And “Decibel Strom,” 4 out of 5. It wasn’t perfect, but it was really good. We’re trying hard. I mean, there are a lot of weird things there because I had free hands. At the beginning of “Exterminator,” because I had just watched the movie “Terminator,” the tanks are going, and the skulls are crushing. And you hear that all the time. I did that with a synth, but it was way too long. It should have been only like 30 seconds, but then, people had a much better attention span. Nowadays, it’s something like three seconds. So, you never thought how long something would last. You just go with the vibe, “Oh, no, not yet, just a couple of more explosions. Then we start the song.” That was the idea. And I think that’s an actual super song, “Exterminator,” and so is “Firestarter,” which was Speedy’s song with my lyrics.

OZ band in 1987.

ROLL THE DICE

In 1992 Ape and Mark put together a new version of the band and released the album “Roll the Dice.” What do you think about that album?

Well, it could have been an ok album, but – then again, they used the wrong guy. It was Borje behind the desk again. The same old things happened again, but it didn’t sound as bad as “Warning III.” In fact, I made my versions of maybe three or four tracks on the album. I added my backing vocals for the songs and then sent them to Ape. And he thought it sounded fantastic. He was like, “Wow.” I did it after the album had been out for at least six months. I recorded it in my home studio and then said to Ape, “That’s what that record would have sounded like if I had been there too.” I wanted to show him how much better it could have been. And he replies, “Yeah, you’re right.” But he didn’t ask me back because he knew I wouldn’t come.

That was also a little bit different album, musically. Of course, the songwriters were the other guys, but they also used a lot of keyboards on the album.

Yeah. Musically, that record was a kind of return to the first Oz album. But not entirely, because the songs were better now, I think. But Ape had started singing the same way he did on the first record. [laughs] And I didn’t think that was a good thing because he always had a bit of a weird singing style.

At that time, Oz was on Swedish TV and performed the Abba classic “Money, Money, Money.”

Oh, yeah.

It was a legendary performance and changed everything “Laughs.”

It changed everything, yeah [laughter]. I’m happy I wasn’t there.

Jay Lewis, aka Jay C Blade. Live at Vantaa 2021. Photo by Marko Syrjala

MOVING TO THE BIG APPLE

Next, let’s discuss your career change and joining the band Princess Pang. The band was based in New York, but most band members were from Sweden. Did you know the guys in advance, like their bassist Ronnie Roze?

A little bit, not much. I mean, we had spoken a few times in Sweden, but when I went up there, we didn’t actually know each other. But I knew Jenny, the vocalist, the first drummer, and guitar player, the blonde guys, who were already gone then. But yeah, I knew Jenny well, and she called me every once in a while. And I’m like, every time she called, I’d say like, “Oh, I wish I was there. I hate this place. I’m done with Stockholm.” And she started thinking, you know? At one point, they had a lot of trouble with the blonde guitar player, Steffe. The bass player Ronnie had some problems with him, and finally, Steffe left the band. Then they started calling people in Stockholm. They were looking for someone who would maybe help them out with the band showcase in New York, which was like one and a half months away from that time. And I believe that I was the last one they called to because I had heard that they had reached a lot of people, and nobody said, “Yeah, I’ll come.” I said right away, in five seconds, “Yeah, I’ll be there

Were you still living in Stockholm then?

Yeah.  I was still living in that apartment, the original Oz apartment. And Ape was in Finland, on vacation then. I was thinking like, “Yeah, I’m going to give it a try to that Princess Pang thing.” I called my boss, who was a Finnish guy. At the time, I was a cleaner with Ape. We were cleaning warehouses, staircases, etc., in Stockholm. So, I called the guy and explained the situation to him. And he said, “Yeah, of course. When do you have to leave?” I said, “In a few weeks.” And he said, “Okay, you can go. But can you work this week?” And then I said, “Sure, I’ll need money.” And he said, “Yeah, you can come and pick up your last paycheque when you need it. And good luck.” I was thrilled then, and I was thinking like, “I’m going to check this out and see how it feels.” I went to New York for the first time, and after four days of rehearsals, we played the showcase gig with Princess Pang in Times Square, high up there, on the 16’th floor, you know? At the Nirvana restaurant. I was feeling like, “I’m coming back here. I’m not staying in Stockholm. My life is here from now on,” I decided.

When we finally had the Polygram showcase, Joey Ramone was there. Richie Totts from the Plasmatic was there; all those important people were there. I was thinking,  “lots of famous people came to see our show, what the hell? Why did they come here to see us, a brand new band?” New York was the place to be back then. Nirvana club was like, before the Cat Club, you know, it was THE rock place. Everybody went there. I don’t even remember how the actual gig went, probably okay. There might even be a video of it somewhere? Polygram’s A&R man Jim Lewis was undoubtedly the most important person there to see us, or maybe I should say for them because I wasn’t an official band member yet. He was interested in us, but finally, he decided not to pick us to the label. And then after,  I mean, after two weeks, I went back to Sweden, and I started planning a move to New York. I began to get rid of my stuff. My dad came to Sweden, and he took all my vinyl albums to Finland. There were like 400 albums, and I was thinking like, “I have to take care of those, at least.” Not much else was saved, maybe some clothing. And then, I think it was the beginning of July, and I finally left to New York. It was the same time when Ape went to prison.

How long did you spend in Stockholm before leaving to the States?

I was there from the end of April to the beginning of July. And during that time, Oz even had a gig in June with our new guitar player. It was a big outdoor festival in Sweden, and there were a lot of motorcycle people. I remember that we played some really weird songs like “Real American,” which was originally sung by Hulk Hogan. I think it was Ape’s idea, and  I was like, “Let’s do this.” It was a rocking song. “Yeah, let’s do that.” And we also played some other weird stuff because we didn’t want to play just our songs. Too bad I don’t remember much of that. But there’s a video of it, and  I probably have it still somewhere. Spooky was there and filmed the show. He had a video camera that was state of the art back then.

Was he in the crowd?

Yeah, he was in the crowd, filming the show, and all the other festivities too, which were really wild. [laughter]

When you played that show, had you already told the band that you were leaving?

No. It was a secret because of Mark. When he was young, he was very aggressive. Now, he’s a different person. He’s a sophisticated guy compared to what he was back then. But everybody said to me, do not say anything to them. I’m like, “Okay, I guess you’re right. He’s going to break my hand or something so that I couldn’t leave.” So, I was completely silent about it. And at the same time, I was thinking, “Well, if it doesn’t work out in the States, I have to come back.” But by then, they would know anyway that I’ve been there. So, I took a high risk, a big risk, but you got to take risks in life to go forward. And when I went back to New York, I didn’t know what would happen. I mean that the bass player, Ronnie, was really upset. He didn’t want me in the band first, but we became good friends later. I think he thought I had something going on with Jenny, which never happened. He was jealous, and he was like, “We got to get somebody else now. Not that Jay guy.” He was drunk and furious because we were hanging out a lot together with Jenny, and they were a couple then.

And then when I came back to New York, I moved to the drummer Brian Keats, rest in peace, place in the Lower East Side, I was living on his couch. We started rehearsing again. Then the Markku Petander thing happened. Jenny had split with Ronnie, and she wanted to get rid of him completely. She wanted me to switch to bass, and she suggested that the band needed a new guitar player. I had played her my solo song that we had done together with Markku in Finland. He was an amazing guitar player, and she was like, “Yeah, heäs great. Let’s ask him to the band.” And I called him right away. It was on Thanksgiving Day of 1987. Markku said, “Yeah, I might want to try it out.” He left his band Yö because of that and came over there. But then Jenny changed her mind. She didn’t want him in the band, and Ronnie would continue. I don’t know what happened between them. Maybe something that wasn’t cool, I don’t know? Nobody has ever told me, but she said, “No, I don’t want him.” I’m saying, “Thanks. Now I got him here for nothing.” We didn’t know what to do. He decided to stay in New York, he moved to Brian’s place and played briefly with Jason Starr’s band.  The stint didn’t last long, and a bit later on, I suggested that he should leave for Brazil with a friend of mine. It was a great experience for him. I have never even been to Brazil, but I suggested it to him. “Because you’re already here, why don’t you go to Brazil and have a great time because the band thing wasn’t happening?” And so he did, and he had a great time.

Princess Pang alternative lineup w/Markku Petander on guitar (up on the left) (Jay Lewis archives)

Markku Petander, Ape De Martini & Jay in Tampere, Finland, 1989. I had just finished the P.Pang/Mr.Big US tour. (Jay Lewis archive)

PRINCESS PANG AND TOURING

Markku didn’t get the job with Princess Pang, but you already had it, so you stayed in New York. So, how did things develop there?

I was there, and  I needed to get a job, so I started doing jewelry in a small sweatshop in East Village. And I did it at home. I was doing all kinds of bracelets and stuff in the middle of the night because I didn’t want to wake up early and go to the office. So the boss said to me, “Ok, take these cardboard boxes. And you can do the work at home; it’s fine with me. And I’ll pay you for each box when it’s ready. Then you get $100 per box.” I’m like, “Fucking great. I always wanted to work at home.” So I did that until I got married. Because then, my wife was a stripper, she had a lot of money. She said to me, “No, no, no. Don’t go there anymore. We can manage until you get a deal.” She believed that we would get a deal, which we did later. I’m like, “Yeah. Sounds good to me.” [laughter] So I said to the boss, “I’m not coming back anymore” He’s like, “What do you mean?” I’m like, “Well, I’m getting married.” He’s like, “You don’t have to quit your job if you’re going to get married.” I’m saying like, “Actually, I do because she has a lot of money.” [laughter] So we managed with her money until we got signed, which was– let me think. It was in 1988, somewhere around May or June.

Then we played, maybe eight months of gigs around New York, Jersey, Brooklyn, and Queen’s, yeah. And I don’t think we got paid at all because the guy was a mafia guy. We did a lot of gigs; we did much more gigs than Oz ever did. We played almost every weekend, and it was because everybody in Princess Pang knew everybody in the East Village. They knew every music person there. So you could get a gig by just calling. “Hey, do you have any open slots?” “Yeah, next Saturday.” “Okay, we’re coming.” That’s it. That’s how easy it was back then.

Princess Pang US tour bus, 1989. (Jay Lewis archive)

Can you name some of the bands you played with at that time?

Circus of Power. At least them, and Cycle Sluts from Hell, and Raging Slab. They were our friends, too. It was a very close community back then, and we were in that community strongly.

I remember that you also played some shows with Mr.Big, and you once played a show supporting Ace Frehley?

Oh yeah, that’s right. I still have the pass from the Limelight Club,

I remember that you were once a big Kiss fan, so how was it to play that show?

Great, of course.

That show must have been in 1989 after he had released the album “Trouble Walkin’.” At that time, Ace wasn’t in the best shape possible.

Yeah. There was a guy next to him all the time who watched him not drink or take anything, even in the toilet. And we had the same manager then. Andy Gold managed Ace Frehley and us.

Richie Scarlet played guitar in Ace’s band then,  and John Regan was on bass.

Well, that I remember. And the drummer’s name, what was that? Because that guy– I think that guy even played with Kiss at some point?

Oh, you’re talking about Anton Fig.

Yeah. But that show was amazing because we could see the smoking guitar and the light guitar. There was a massive flightcase in the backstage, and the guy who took care of those because, basically, Ace never did anything himself. That guy fixed the guitars and put that smoking guitar thing to work, and so on. We could see how it all was done. It was cool. And yeah, Andy was upset, Andy Gold, because he couldn’t get the Nike deal for Ace. Nike people had said to him, “Are you fucking crazy? Do you think we’re going to let this drug addict get any sponsorship from Nike? Are you fucking mad”? [laughter] And Andy told that to Ace, and then was like, “Goodbye Andy.”

Official Princess Pang promo shot, 1988. (Photo: Phin Dali)

A RECORD DEAL

What’s the with Princess Pang and the record labels anyway?

We had a gig at the Ritz in New York, and after the show, the Metal Blade people wanted to talk to us. It was a good show. There were not super many people, but it was not bad either. “Listen, we’re interested in working with you.” and at the same time, there was another label interested in us, the same label that had released Stone’s debut album in the States.

Are you talking about Mechanic Records?

In the end, they didn’t make it. So, the Mechanic Records people were there, and basically, they were MCA. And we had a meeting with Mike Faley, and he liked to say bad things about Mechanix. “It’s a black label,” meaning the color of your skin. And we were like, “What the fuck is he talking about?” And we didn’t– I don’t know. Did he think we were racists or something? And I was married to a black girl. Maybe he didn’t know that. That was a bad thing to say, but we finally signed with Metal Blade anyway because they had a better deal. And our manager said, “This is the deal you should get.” The Mechanic offer was crap compared to that, and we didn’t like the main guy at Mechanic. I don’t remember his name either, but yeah, we did that deal with Metal Blade. But six months later, Capitol bought the contract, and that’s why we did the music videos. Otherwise, it would have been impossible—money talks.

But still, Metal Blade was very involved with us from the beginning to the end. Capitol was more like a– they just gave us more muscle for everything. And I also have to mention Concrete Management, which was very crucial to any success we ever had. Andy Gold worked there, and Concrete also took care of artists like Ozzy Osbourne and AC/DC. They were big management, and they had a lot of muscle as well. We could use them all the time, and with that help, we did a ton of radio interviews. I remember that we did most of those via phone, and everyone was sitting in a room talking to different radio stations. I felt sorry for some of those guys in the band because they couldn’t speak English that well. Especially the other guitar player, Andy. He didn’t know what to say. We did a lot of promotion in every possible way.  Concrete Foundation had an office in New York. We often flew there, and we were just hanging out, partying, playing some gigs, and having a great time.

When you mentioned the music video, do you have any memories of shooting the video for “Trouble in Paradise”?

Oh sure. It was the hottest day in July in New York in 20 years, and the video shooting place was in a big garage with no air conditioning at all. I remember that we were almost dying from the heat and drinking a lot of beer. But it’s American beer; you don’t really get drunk on it. And we were dying to take breaks because it was so hot. We had a stylist from Capital there. She was there for the first hour when we were setting up, and she was sitting there in an air-conditioned RV. We were like, “Who are you?” She said, “I’m the stylist.” And then she goes, “I’m thinking that the whole band should wear Geisha outfits in the video.” I’m like, “Fuck. What the fuck, come on.” And we said, “No, no. This is what we’re going to wear. We don’t care if you’re a stylist or not. This is what we are going to wear.”  Everybody in the band had great clothes; we didn’t need a stylist.  She then said, “So what am I going to do then?”

We said, “You can as well go home. Close the doors and do not pour our beers, bye.” But we were much nicer than Motley Crue had been in the same situation. I knew a girl who used to work for Elektra when the band was shooting the “Girls, Girls, Girls” video. She told me that the band sent them all home, the whole video crew. “Fuck you all! This is our band. We’re going to do things our way. Fuck off!” And then they did that video, where they are riding Harley-Davidsons and going to the strip clubs. Those were their ideas.

Princess Pang was often categorized as a sleaze rock band, although I would say that it was more like a traditional hard rock band. Pretty Boy Floyd is a sleaze rock band, not.

Musically, we were very close to Aerosmith and Guns N ‘Roses, depending on the song. The term Sleaze comes from New York, and because we were from New York, we were classified as a Sleaze band.

I guess that the term Sleaze rock comes originally from the New York Dolls?

Yeah, exactly. And it comes especially because when you are from New York, but musically, we were more towards Aerosmith and stuff like that. I had started listening to Aerosmith a year before I went to New York for the first time. But that was the type of music I wanted to play on the guitar because I wasn’t super good with shredding. I was always more a blues-oriented guitarist. I’m still like that when I play guitar. I’m not a shredder at all.

Princess Pang guitars & bass, The Cathouse, LA, 1989. (Jay Lewis archive)

Inside P.Pang US tour bus, l to r: Ronnie, Andy, and Brian. (Jay Lewis archive)

THE UK TOUR AND THE END OF AN ERA

If I’m right, the last tour Princess Pang ever did was with Wolfsbane in the UK. Now, tell us a bit of that tour, and what happened then?

Yeah. It was in the spring of ’89. We had a good tour manager. I don’t remember his name, but he was British. And only two guys were traveling with the band, him, and then one roadie with us. We had, again, a Mercedes-Benz van. Everybody had good seats, and Ronnie and I were playing chess, travel chess, all the time, and smoking a lot of hash [laughter]. That’s how we got through that tour because Jennie quit after, I think, the fourth or fifth gig, and then I had to sing the rest of the tour. She quit, and then we fired her after she quit, and she never returned. That’s the end of that. But it was a lovely time. I always thought that England is a place where it rains all the time, but there was beautiful weather for the whole two or three weeks that we were there. We even went to Glasgow. Yeah, and we saw– what was the band? Georgia Satellites. After our gig, we went to see them in a huge fucking place. I was like, “How can this place be so big?” And it was packed. Oh, the Scots love Georgia Satellites, I can tell you that.  I thought that was amazing, that they were so interested in a band like that.

How about Wolfsbane? How were they to work with on tour?

They were nice guys. We didn’t go out together for a drink, but we chatted a little bit. The guitar player let me warm up with his guitar stuff backstage a couple of times, which was nice. And that was it. I mean, after we had played, we didn’t watch their show.

Yeah, at the time, Wolfsbane was in almost every second Kerrang! magazine, on the cover.

Really?

Back then, the British metal press used to push their “own” bands coming from England. Metal Hammer and Kerrang! They were doing it all the time. Wolfsbane, Terrorvison, The Wildhearts and so on.

It must have been after I stopped reading Kerrang because I don’t remember that at all. I quit reading it because there were only strange names on the covers. I made one exception when our album was reviewed there. It got great reviews, by the way, [laughter] we got 4 out of 5.

But if we go back to the split the band had with Jenny on that tour, it was the end of Princes Pang?

“Well, we just wanted to teach her a lesson since she walked off stage during the show, to our horror. But the lesson didn’t quite work out because she was not interested in coming back, no matter what the record company, our manager, or we would say. And we said, “Yeah, sure. You can come back. All good. And we can talk it over.” But she was just like, “No, I’m not coming back.” Everything we owed the record company fell on her because of that. We didn’t know it at first. I got a letter from Capitol Records saying that “You don’t owe us anything anymore. You are free from every debt owed by the band Princess Pang.” And we had taken a lot of money from them slowly. I mean, we asked $1,000 every time we visited Concrete Mgmt, me and Ronnie, nobody else did that, I don’t think. Maybe Jenny, but we didn’t know about it if she did. Ronnie and I went there quite often. We were like, “We need the money.” So we went to the manager and said, “We have a $1 million record deal here on the table, but we still need money to survive, ok?”

You still did a bunch of vocalist auditions after you got back to New York?

We tried to find a male singer. We had a lot of candidates, at least ten of them. We had somebody to kind of sort the singers out before the auditions, So we only got the guys who could actually sing, no amateurs. And I remember that one of the guys was the guy who wrote “Trash” with Alice Cooper. I don’t remember his name?

I think you’re talking about Jamie Sever?

I think that’s the guy. However, he came to the rehearsal studio, which was really expensive, and he was totally drunk. He smelled of cheap whiskey, and we were like, “What? Come on. Be professional.” He was really shitty, but Ronnie liked him because they used the same drugs or something.  Well, I think he was from Seattle or some weird place or something, I don’t remember. But anyway, I didn’t like him at all. So I’m saying like, “No way. Not him.” So, he was out of the picture, and then I tried to sing the lead. We did some demos, but I wasn’t much of a good singer back then. As I said earlier, It didn’t work out.

So then you just decided to give up, and the band split up?

Yeah, we kind of gave up. First, before the band disbanded, I had heard that Brian…  -I had heard some things he had said that was probably not even true. But we rose against him together, Ronnie and I. Andy knew nothing about it. So we spoke to Brian, “You’re done,” and he just looked absolutely amazed. It was annoying. Sometimes things like that happen in bands. Sometimes you listen to the wrong people and draw the wrong conclusions, and that’s what happened here. That’s what it was then, and the band was over.

First L.A mini-tour…on our way, 1988. (Jay Lewis archive)

On a rooftop in East Village, NYC, 1994. (Photo: Keiko Oka)

THE CHIEFS, AND SKIN & BONES

After Princess Pang, you played with several other bands in the States?

That’s correct. Then we had a band called The Chiefs. It was me singing and playing guitar. Ronnie was on bass, and the rest was basically Johnny Thunders’ backing band; Stevie Klasson on guitar, Jamie Heat (RIP) on saxophone, and Jeff West on drums.  We did a couple of opening shows for Johnny Thunders at New York back then. And then he suddenly died. And when Johnny died, Stevie went totally crazy. Johnny was maybe his best friend and a father figure for Steve, and I understood that. He kind of disappeared for a long time, and the band was done. We did one demo over Capitol, though. And the number one song there was “Boys Night Out.” I released that later on with Jay Lewis Gang; it was the same song. And then Ronnie had a song, “Psychedelic Circus,” which KISS stole “Psycho Circus” from– [laughter] because it was a Capitol demo. “Laughs”

Do you have the demo somewhere?

Yeah, I have it, but I don’t know where. It says Capitol and “Psychedelic Circus.” It was probably a different song than “Psycho Circus,” but it had the same title. And then what other songs do we do? “Come Back to Bed with Me” is one song. Well, nothing came out of it because the band broke. And then I joined Skin & Bones.

Yeah. But at the time– that was in ’91, I guess?

Yeah, probably ’91.

The Chiefs at the Limelight, supporting Johnny Thunders, 1992. (Jay Lewis archive)

Skin & Bones in the early ’90s

Because at the time that sleaze hard rock glam stuff, it was going down because those flannel shirt guys from Seattle were taking over.

Grunge was coming, yeah. But we still had lots of gigs with Skin & Bones.

Didn’t you release one EP, which was only sold on the gigs?

Yeah, it was called “Madhouse.”

I found out that it came out as an official release back in 2003.

Could be? But since it doesn’t have songs I’ve made, I don’t care. “laugh.”

Yeah, because some label re-released the first album with  EP  in 2003.

We rereleased “Not A Pretty Sight” again with a new cover ourselves completely and sold that in our gigs. CDs, cassettes. And later, we also sold that “Madhouse” EP on our shows. To be honest, it didn’t sound that good because it was recorded in a really cheap studio.

Skin+Bones gig somewhere, 1994. (Jay LewisL Archive)

So you mostly played in the New York area with Skin & Bones?

Yes, but we were also touring in Virginia Baltimore because the guys were from Baltimore. We went there many times, stayed for the weekends, and partied like crazy. We did, I could say, the East Coast all the way up to maybe– well, not up there where Stephen King lives but higher up anyway, like up to Philadelphia– not Philadelphia, I mean Boston, Massachusetts. And then we did lots of shows with Kix, supporting them. And then Jimmy joined Kix after Skin & Bones broke up or when the band was going to break. I saw his first gig with Kix. Our manager Madeleine had a black Thunderbird car from the ’50s. So when we left the venue, I was so drunk that I was lying on the hood of the car. I said, “No, no, just keep going. I’m fine.” [laughter] So she drove like 20 miles an hour, and then she said, “Come on, Jay. You got to come inside.” I’m like, “Okay.” [laughter]

In the early 90s, grunge came and took over almost everything. What kind of time was it for a hard rock band like Skin & Bones?

It was the same thing there. In America, things don’t change quickly. You know that, right? It was a very slow transition, especially when you go down from New York to Baltimore. They are very slow to change, and they’re kind of like country people compared to New York people. In New York, things change like this, okay? “In and out.” But over there in Baltimore, things change very slowly. I mean, when we played– what’s that colossal place in Baltimore again? I think it was called Hammerjacks. It was a huge place, and it was full of beautiful women every night. It was always packed every time we played there, so hard rock still had a good foundation left there, and it took a long time to disappear completely.

And I think that the first– what happened was the record sales went down, but people still came to see the show.

Yeah. Right. It was the same situation as it is like nowadays. We did a lot of gigs. And then, suddenly, Jimmy decided to join Kix, and I had some other plans too. What did I do? Oh yeah, now I remember. For the first time, I started planning to move back to Finland. And I did move back for one summer, and that was probably ’92 or ’93. And I didn’t like it at all.

You had to go back?

I had to go back. It was a practice run.

Did the test fail? “Laughs”

Yeah, and then ’98, I did come back for good.

Billion Dollar Babies “Cold Ethyl,” plastic is quite cold, you see. (Jay Lewis Archive)

Before moving back to Finland, you also did shows with a band called Billion Dollar Babies?

Oh yeah, that was an Alice Cooper cover band or tribute band. There was nobody famous in that band. The guys were good players, but they had never got anywhere. But we had some connections with Dennis Dunaway back then. He gave us some props like these “Billion Dollar Babies props.” You could put it on a bass drum. It looked like a giant coin, but it was made of plastic or something. And yeah, the Cooper band guys, they knew about us. Maybe even Alice knew about us. We were successful because many people thought we were the real Alice Cooper band.

So you were playing the Alice Cooper role in that band?

Me. I had black hair then, and that was enough. [laughter] And I had these leopard long boots, and on stage, everything looked very much the same Alice Cooper had used. We had a trash can onstage, and I had a whip and a sword onstage.

But you had no real snake on stage?

We had no snake. But we had heard about the dead babies thing, that he used to “kill baby dolls” on stage. So we decided to make it even worse. We removed the doll’s head and filled it with a raw liver. Then I smashed the doll’s head with a hammer on stage, and some people were so shocked, they had to leave the show. And they were saying to me, “You’re a horrible person.” I was like, “Wait a minute. This is an Alice Cooper tribute show. He’s already done this in the ’70s. Don’t you fucking get it?” They thought I was an evil person for doing it. And I was like, “I’m acting out what he already did in the ’70s. Don’t you understand?” They didn’t understand. “Laughs”

Turning 30 in NYC, 1993. (Jay Lewis archive)

THE SOLO ALBUMS AND WORKING WITH GRAHAM BONNET, AND JOE LYNN TURNER

As you said, you returned to Finland in 1998. At first, you worked briefly with bands like Colme Cowboyta and The Neropats before joining “that Finnish rock band” you spent the next sixteen years. In 2006 you kind of went back to your rock roots with your first solo album, “Manhattan Files.” Tell us something more about that one?

I wrote most of the songs on that album while still living in New York. And I recorded almost everything in my studio. I also did a couple of songs with the real drummer, maybe three songs in total. Jani Viitanen composed a few songs with me, but mostly those songs were written when I was still living in New York. That’s why its album is called “Manhattan Files.” I decided to put the album out because then I played in a band that played a lot of big gigs in Finland. And I wanted to sell my CDs at those gigs. You know, if there had been a big record company behind this record, it would have been number one on the Finnish list for at least two weeks, based on how many copies it sold on the gigs.

Did it cause any trouble for you when you were selling your CDs on those gigs?

No, not at all. Everybody in the band always thought I should be more active. And when I did it, they said nothing. They didn’t say any good or bad. [laughter]

Later, in the same year, you put a live band together and played shows with the legendary Graham Bonnet. I think it was Daffy who put that thing together.

Jay and Graham Bonnet. Live at Vantaa 2008. Photo by Marko Syrjala

It was Daffy, mostly.

I remember that you did several shows with Graham and later on Graham and Joe Lynn Turner under the “Back to Rainbow” -name. I remember seeing you playing in Club Tavastia, Pakkahuone, Virgin Oil, On the Rocks, and some outdoor festivals. It was a big thing here in Finland then.

Probably it was, yeah. It was amazing to play those Rainbow tunes, that old stuff that you used to listen to as a teenager. And I now had the chance to play all those songs with those iconic rock singers. It felt a bit unreal thing in the beginning. I was so nervous the first time that I think I fucked up ”Eyes of the World” because I was so nervous [laughter]. It’s not an easy song to play, by the way. But after that first gig, I kind of relaxed, and everything started to go smoother. But yeah, I couldn’t believe it was true. And I was thinking like, “Oh, there he is. The guy I always listened to already when I was like 15.” But then, when Joe Lynn Turner also came in, it was a totally different thing. They always had that friendly competition against each other, and Joe always won. Somehow, he was just more of a– Graham was more laid back. And he wasn’t really interested in competing with Joe. Joe is a real star, completely. He’s always fucking amazing, and his voice never breaks or anything. Graham often had some problems because he lives in a totally different climate area in Los Angeles. And he also suffered from jetlag a lot. It was sometimes horrible. But I remember it was the same thing when I came from New York to Finland. I was always sleeping for days after that. And everybody’s like, “Is he sick?” And I’m like, “Don’t you understand? It’s jet lag. You can’t help it.”

Daffy also told me at the time that the band had plans to do gigs outside of Finland with that package, but it never materialized. For example, one year, you were trying to get to play at Sweden Rock.

Yeah. I think we did, yeah. But nothing came out of that.

And you also had plans to “expand” the band lineup, if I remember correctly?

Yeah. We tried to get Ronnie James Dio to tour with us too. But Wendy Dio said,” No.” She decided everything, and that was it.

At some point, Graham told me in an interview that he would record some original music with you guys, but it didn’t happen either?

Yes. Graham came to my place. At this point, I have to mention my second solo album,” Beat the Elite,” because of Graham. There are two songs, ”Heaven is Coming Down” and ”Bring on the Night,” and Graham was supposed to sing those songs. He came to my apartment in Tampere City. And I played ”Heaven is Coming Down” for him. He listened to it very intently and said, “Yeah, this song is ready. I don’t have to change anything.” He didn’t want to change lyrics or melodies, anything. He was like, “Let’s do it.” But he didn’t come back to Finland after that. I think Daffy was trying to negotiate somehow that he would sing those two songs at his home in L.A., but it never came to fruition, so to speak. But he liked the songs, and that’s why I released them on my next album. It was exactly the same band, but I was singing.

Speaking about” Beat the Elite,” I think it’s a brilliant hard rock album. I can hear a lot of influences on that album, like Whitesnake and Rainbow. But the opening song, “All I Need,” sounds like Van Halen, including the guitar solo.

Do you know who plays the solo on that song? It’s Markku Petander! “Laughs.”

It’s a very ”Van Halenish” song, including the drum sound and everything on it.

Yeah, it is. Because we now talk about it, I start to remember. It really is a Van Halen type of song.

It’s been 12 years since “Beat the Elite” was released.

Yeah, it was in 2009.

Do you have any plans to release more albums like that?

Oh, sure. I have many songs, but there is no– I don’t have any way to release them through right now, but that might change soon. I do songs all the time, and I make a lot of different types of songs. For example, I’m a big fan of Survivor. And when Jimi Jamison died, I was devastated because I think he was one of the best singers in the world. And I released– did you know that I released a single dedicated to Jimi Jamison?

That I didn’t know?

Before you leave, we have to listen to it. It’s called ”The Distance,” and it sounds very much like Survivor.

“Back to Rainbow” -tour in 2008. Jay is the second on the left. Photo by Marko Syrjala

THE RETURN OF OZ AND BURNING LEATHER 

It was pretty surprising to hear about the reformation of Oz in 2010. Obviously, you had now sorted out the past problems with Mark Ruffneck?

A lot of time had passed by. And also, people change when getting older and become more mellow. Yeah, Mark called me. I remember the moment very well because we were at the Himos Juhannus festival with my Finnish band.  He called me one hour before the show, and I went to the toilet because I didn’t want anybody else to hear. And we spoke. He was like testing what I was going to say. It’s like, “How about we do something, like make another album, maybe do the old ones once again that were badly mixed?” I’m like, “Yeah.” I was into it, and we started discussing more and more. We finally started thinking about who was going to play in the band.  I suggested first Markku Petander and then Costello, and it’s like a novel idea. They both agreed. And then we went to Park Studios in Stockholm.  We had practiced at home by ourselves, but nothing else. That’s the first time we played, and we had a good time, and it sounded great.

I don’t think Nicke Anderson was there yet, then – it was just us. I’m not sure, though. Maybe he was. I can’t remember. We played a couple of songs, “Seasons in the Darkness” and something else, probably “Dominator.” Then we started to set up the recording time. We went back in the studio – or did Costello play it? I don’t remember now – maybe he did something at home as well. I can’t remember the details of that too much. But then we did the video for “Dominator.” When we continued making the album, Markku Petander broke his leg. He had to go home. And then Costello couldn’t come to the studio in Stockholm because he had so many gigs with Popeda. We lost two guitar players almost simultaneously, and I’m like, “Not again.” So Petander played everything in his home studio in Parkano. I did some rhythm guitar work at Park Studios and, of course, did the vocals with Nicke. That’s how we got it ready. Then one of the Swedish guitar players, Michel Santunione, came later. He did the solo for “Enter Stadium,” and that’s the only thing anybody else played like outsiders on the album. Of course, Nicke Andersson did some drums for the “Show Must Go On,” I think, some extra drums, some fills, or something. So the album was ready, and we were waiting for Sweden Rock -festival.

Nicke Anderson is a very visible guy in the Swedish rock scene. Among many others, he plays or has played with Entombed, The Hellacopters, Lucifer, and Death Breath. Was it Mark Ruffneck’s idea to have Nicke work with Oz in the first place, or how did this happen?

We had this guy called Jukka Rohkea, a sort of a managing guy, not professionally, but he was helping us out.  He suggested Nicke Anderson for us. I don’t remember where he came from. He knew him that I know.  Nicke didn’t understand why we wanted him either. [laughter] He said that in an interview, but it was effortless to get along with him, for me. I had heard stories that he was a dictator in the studio. That’s not true, not for us anyway.

About those new songs on the album, at which point did you write them f.ex “Dominator” and the other ones?

That was after we spoke with Mark.

Which label released the “Burning Leather” album? Was it AFM?

I was AFM, yeah. Udo’s label. But they lost interest quickly, and they realized it. CDs don’t sell anymore.

When you started playing gigs, it was obvious that Costello and Markku Petander could not be part of the lineup. Obviously, it must have been Mark Ruffneck who had asked the Swedish guys to play the live gigs with you?

Yeah. I don’t remember how that happened, really, but I suppose we just met at a rehearsal place and started playing. They already knew the songs, so it went very smoothly. I had a stunt bass player, Johannes, who was supposed to be always sitting in for the gigs when I couldn’t do those.

I think it was also obvious that you could not do that Oz -thing full time.

No, no way. I had 100 gigs a year with my main band then.

 

So what kind of deal did you have with the band then?

We had no deals. We did what we had to do. I mean, we did some big festivals other than Sweden Rock like Skogsröjet Festival. And then we went to Germany as well a couple of times.

Was it Keep It True or?

Keep It True was one of them. Another one was really small, and then there was a bigger one. I remember that Anvil was playing there too.

Oz played at a few Finnish festivals that summer, such as Jalometalli in Oulu, and if I remember correctly, then there was also one show in a smaller indoor festival in Helsinki?

That’s right. But as for the festival in Helsinki, I wasn’t there anymore.

When you had to leave the band, how was the reaction this time? No fist anymore.

No, I had told Mark earlier; “Remember that at one point, I’m going to have to leave this thing, and you continue it.” And I felt I owed it to the drummer and the singer because I had left earlier without telling them. So I wanted to help to get it going again. And it’s still going, by the way. [laughter]

Have you heard the albums that Oz has put out later on?

Yeah, I’ve heard it. It’s good, but it doesn’t have the same character anymore.

I was going to ask, does it feel any strange to see the Oz lineup with the new guys, and only Mark remains from the old lineup?

They can do what they want.

OZ live at Jalometalli -festival 2009. Photo by Arto Lehtinen

OZ live at Jalometalli -festival 2009. Photo by Arto Lehtinen

EVER AGAIN ?! 

Is the Oz thing completely over for you, or is it possible that you could still do something with the band, for example, in honor of some important anniversary of the band?

I don’t know. I haven’t spoken about that. It seems to me that I don’t have any interest. I could visit, maybe, do one song or something. We haven’t spoken about that at all. But Mark and I are on good terms now.

And Ape De Martini?

I think he’s never going to sing again. He’s totally out of music stuff because he’s a family man, and that’s what matters to him more. So, that’s why he’s not involved anymore.

 

 

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