Interview with Mark Ruffneck (drums)
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 2, 2011
Band reunions are a part of today's world. Reunions tend to come and go – and as it's been seen and experienced before, only real band reunions will stand strong that are actually meant to stand strong.
Originally hailing from Nakkila, Finland – and later relocating in Stockholm, Sweden, true Heavy Metal heroes OZ have collected their troops again in 2010, after almost 20 years of absence. OZ was basically known for the band's highly praised second album, "Fire in the Brain", that without any arguments has kept its position as the band's finest work to date for years among the OZ fans worldwide – really introducing the band at its most mature and catchiest form and showing what OZ was truly all about. OZ's brand-new song, "Dominator", basically continues from the same footsteps where they left off in 1983, proving OZ has had a tremendous fire burning inside them to return back to the original roots music-wise, to reach something back again for the sound of the band that they sort of lost after releasing the "Turn the Cross Upside Down" EP in 1984 (well, this is just a matter of opinion, but the majority of OZ fans see it this way anyway).
Mark Ruffneck is the original drummer of OZ, and he wanted to tell briefly to the readers of The Metal Crypt about all things that made their reunion possible in the first place – plus, in addition to that, giving a short glance to the past times of the band that included a contribution of Mr. Quorthon of Bathory fame for OZ's classic "Fire in the Brain" album as well. Read on...
Luxi: When did the first sparks appear about putting OZ back together after 20 years of absence?
Mark: At a Midsummer Party 2009 while being sponsored by Carlsberg (ha ha) and Nokia ("Connecting People").
Luxi: Were any of you worried at all whether the OZ reunion wouldn't have turned out the way you hoped for in the first place?
Mark: No, there was no hesitation or defeatism involved in the initial stages. We had no clue of what to expect.
Luxi: What were the main reasons for OZ, to relocate the band from Finland to Stockholm, Sweden back in the day – not so many months after OZ's most known second album, "Fire in the Brain", was released?
Mark: We already had a record contract with a Swedish record company, and also Stockholm is a much more happening place.
Luxi: OZ's forthcoming sixth studio album is now called "Burning Leather" – and the original, sort of ‘working title' for it was "Greatezt Blitz". What made you to change the album title for it eventually? Do you believe the title "Burning Leather" better represent the content of that forthcoming record than "Greatezt Blitz", which at least made me at first, sort of misleadingly think of some collection of old OZ songs only?
Mark: We decided that "Greatezt Blitz" was misleading, and settled for "Burning Leather".
Luxi: As it's been announced already, "Burning Leather" will contain both new OZ songs as well as re-recordings of some old OZ classics. Why did you end up choosing this type of solution regarding the material on "Burning Leather" – I mean, combining both new OZ songs with the re-recordings of old OZ songs?
Mark: We wanted to combine the mystique of the 80's with the relevance of the 2000's.
Luxi: So, how many completely new OZ songs – and how many re-recordings of the old OZ classic songs will "Burning Leather" contain all in all precisely?
Mark: We have total 11 songs, 5 new and 6 old for the world, except for Japan. They will get 2 bonus tracks (1 new, 1 old).
Luxi: How would you describe OZ's new songs on "Burning Leather" with a few words? Can we – the OZ fans expect a straightforward and raw Heavy Metal without any compromises, the one and only OZ style that might even hark back to the glorious times of your most appreciated record that undoubtedly is "Fire in the Brain"?
Mark: 20th Century Metal meets 21st Century "carbon fiber".
Luxi: Nicke Anderson (ex-Entombed, ex-The Hellacopters) worked as a co-producer for "Burning Leather". How did you meet the guy in the first place, and are you happy with his input of spinning knobs for this forthcoming OZ record production-wise?
Mark: We met at Park Studio, Stockholm for the first time, through mutual friends. Yes! He did us proud. He was a fan in the 80's and he actually wanted to preserve that feeling.
Luxi: Some people still mistakenly consider OZ as a Swedish band, probably due to the fact OZ relocated from Finland to Sweden for almost 30 years ago. I couldn't help noticing that you have also used the Finnish national flag in your brand-new "Dominator" video. By using the flag in that video, did you sort of want to remind people of the fact, OZ is originally a Finnish Metal band instead of Swedish?
Mark: The producer (Amir Chamdin) had never seen any Finnish band doing anything like this before. So he actually came up with the idea, and at that point the line-up was 100% Finnish.
Luxi: About the "Dominator" video, it was directed by Amir Chamdin who is known as a member of Swedish Hip Hop band called Infinite Mass, and has also directed videos for The Cardigans, The Hellacopters, among others. How did you get to know him? Was he recommended by some of your friends to you, and is there also Amir's signature in the script of the actual video – I mean, all those things that can be seen in that particular video?
Mark: We came into contact with Amir through the same friends that introduced us to Nicke Andersson. Amir actually wanted to make a Heavy Metal video, 80's style, and we gave him "carte blanche" to do it his way.
Luxi: OZ did a video for a song "Hey You" in the beginning of the band's career. Now when you watch the video after so many years, what kind of thoughts does this video bring to your mind?
Mark: We haven't seen the footage since then, so memory is slightly cloudy of said events. But HEY! You have to start somewhere...
Luxi: When OZ was still located in Finland in the early 80's, I am rather curious to know how much did you keep in touch with some other Finnish Hard Rock and/or Metal bands back then – I mean, with bands like Riff Raff, Zero Nine, Sarcofagus and perhaps with a few other bands as well? I don't mean solely playing gigs together with some of these bands, but also doing some closer cooperation probably with some of them?
Mark: No, we didn't have any professional relations with the other Finnish bands back then. Just drinking at festivals – and that's all.
Luxi: Without any doubts, the most known OZ album ever must be your second 1983 album, titled "Fire in the Brain", which has always been amazingly appreciated for years already by the worldwide Heavy Metal community. The album contains a bunch of such classic OZ songs – basically following one after another, "Search Lights", "Black Candles", Gambler", "Fire In The Brain" and so on; it's full of true so-called ‘ace stuff' if you just ask from any OZ fan. Can you, however, tell by your own words what made this album so superior – and just somehow so strong song-wise, compared to the rest of OZ's catalogue of releases?
Mark: We had a completely new artistic line-up, with fresh ideas that kept it simple and to the point. So there was no "overproduction" of any kind.
Luxi: Is it true that the hand, holding a plastic skull, is actually that of the mastermind behind Bathory, Quorthon – and he was the one who designed the front covers both for the "Fire in the Brain" album as well as "Turn the Cross Upside Down" EP? What's the story there how OZ met Quorthon for the first time? How did your cooperation start with him in the first place?
Mark: Yes, it's true that the hand belongs to Quorthon, but he was not the mastermind behind the artwork. The ideas were collectively spawned by the band. We met through his father, who is a record company executive. And that was way before Bathory.
Luxi: Was it actually an intentional move from OZ to take a more satanic and occult image for the band when the band recorded the "Turn the Cross Upside Down" EP back in 1984? Did Quorthon possibly have anything to do with this, directing OZ toward more occult and satanic themes at that time?
Mark: No, we have never been a Black Metal band, and the idea for the song was completely ironical. It was made as a "diss-take" on the Black Metal scene that was evolving at the time. Quorthon hadn't even learned how to play the guitar yet. So there is no way that he could have had any type of influence on us. He was just a kid back then.
Luxi: Talking about playing live a bit, OZ's also visited the Jalometalli Festival this August, which is located in Oulu, Finland. It was OZ's first live appearance in your original home country for ages, so could you tell what kind of experience it was overall for you?
Mark: Yes, it was very rewarding to play on our "home turf" Finland after so many years in exile. And "the icing on the cake" was that the festival was so brilliantly organized, and the audience was phenomenal.
Luxi: Since OZ was put together again in 2010, you have already played in a few festivals around in Europe (Swedenrock, Swordbrothers, etc.) this year. I bet the response has been pretty darn good toward OZ whenever you guys have climbed on stages at those festivals, correct?
Mark: Yes, we have been extremely well received everywhere. And especially the Swordbrothers Festival turned into a virtual "Metal-sauna".
Luxi: What kind of gigging plans does OZ have for 2012? Could it be possible that OZ might do an extensive tour somewhere around the globe, covering even more than just one continent tour-wise?
Mark: The album will be released worldwide on the 18th of November. Depending on the response of the new album, we will be working hard at extending our touring schedule. It's gonna be lots of hard work for sure!
Luxi: I wanna sincerely thank you for this interesting interview and wish you all the best for OZ in the future. If there's still something you'd like to say either to the readers of The Metal Crypt or OZ fans all around the world, then just go ahead and use your last words wisely...
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal fans out there, and also welcome new fans into our fold. For more info, please check out our website: www.ozofficial.com
Cheerz, Mark Ruffneck (drummer of OZ)
|Other information about OZ on this site|
|Review: Burning Leather|
|Review: Burning Leather|
|Review: Transition State|
|Interview with vocalist Ape De Martini and drummer Mark Ruffneck on September 19, 2012 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with drummer Mark Ruffneck on January 17, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Interview with vocalist Ape De Martini, guitarists Juzzy and Johnny, bassist Peppi and drummer Mark Ruffneck on March 26, 2016 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Video: Hey You|
|Video: Burning Leather (Live)|
|Video: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (Live)|
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