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Interviews Ranger

Interview with guitarist Jaakko Hietakangas

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: January 29, 2014

Ranger, a Finnish Speed/Heavy Metal band started in 2009, sounds like they could have been formed in the early 80's, during the time when wild troops like Raven, Exciter, Griffin, Piledriver, Battleaxe, Agent Steel and others started making great noises. These four young Finnish speed merchants love their tapes and vinyl more than anything and, as a result, all of their releases (three demos, one 12-inch MLP and a forthcoming 2-track 7" EP, entitled Shock Skull) have only been released in those formats. Ranger's most devastating release, the Knights of Darkness MLP, released by Finland's Ektro Records, received praise in reviews from all over the world.

So, what's all the fuss surrounding Ranger? The Metal Crypt inquired about Ranger's comings and goings and one of the band's guitarists, Jaakko Hietakangas, eagerly provided some answers...

Luxi: So, how did you welcome 2014 and let 2013 go?

Jaakko: We had a ball at Ville Valavuo's (guitarist for Speedtrap) place. We had some brews, food and good times then enjoyed the Hurriganes 1974 Tavastia show. Last weekend we recorded a 7" entitled Shock Skull, and it will be melting your brain in the very near future. It's coming out through Ektro and Jussi will put out a quality release once again so.... PREPARE FOR A SHOCK!!!

Luxi: Ektro seems to be the right label to take care of Ranger's needs but I was wondering how much the guys in the band have to do to keep the ship on course when it comes to promotion or marketing Ranger? Do you worry about that or do you let Jussi (head of Ektro) deal with the headaches on the business side of Ranger?

Jaakko: We need to have the control over every visual and musical aspect of our work but promoting and marketing falls into the label's hands. Of course, we help him by being a hard working band that plays a lot of shows and puts 100% into everything we do. I enjoy the fact that we have the power over stuff like merchandise, so we only put out quality stuff that we'd love to own ourselves. There's an awesome bunch of people helping us; Ektro, of course, and Esa from Blow Up That Gramophone, who is doing killer work as our booking agent.

Luxi: You only started this Speed Metal act back in 2009 but have managed to do quite a few things, release wise, as Ranger. Could you give The Metal Crypt readers a brief history of Ranger? You originally started under a different moniker, Turbin, correct?

Jaakko: It was Dimi, Miko and I who originally had the idea of putting together a Heavy Metal band. Ville from Swallowed handled the drumming while I shared the guitar duties with Miko, and our old friend Jokebi played the bass. We wanted to make a real difference and put out quality Heavy Metal as it was supposed to be played. We grew tired of the dull and boring music that was labeled Heavy Metal but sounded nothing like it. We didn't have name at the time of our first show, so we used Turbin until we came up with Ranger. We've been the core trio from the second demo, Metal Gear, forward. Verneri stuck around through Combat Metal and Knights... and now Mikael has stepped in and I can tell, from the past few shows with him and doing the 7", this is the real deal Ranger and we are on our way to world domination.

Luxi: You sure are, no doubt. Talking about Turbin for a bit, you must have done a few songs under this moniker, so I was wondering if there are some songs from those times that you might consider adding them to Ranger's repertoire?

Jaakko: They are an important part of what we are as a band but we've evolved to something different. There are some killer riffs and leads that we could re-use in new stuff, and we did on the Shock Skull 7". We included one "classic" Turbin guitar lead on the B-side. It fitted perfectly on "Omen of Doom".

Luxi: There are four guys in Ranger who obviously have the same mindset. That must have helped you create your kick-ass, old school Metal. What are some of the things that influenced the guys in Ranger and who are your childhood heroes?

Jaakko: Each of us grew up under the influence of loud, electric guitar music. We all sought out new bands and fell deeper into the world of Rock and Metal. I had a massive crush on Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Hurriganes and bands like that really early on. When I was 10-11 years old I had a chance to raid my relative's record collection and borrowed some Discharge, Slayer, S.O.D., Sodom and such. I had no idea what to expect from those records but, looking at the covers, I knew it would be pure mayhem. That was a quick way to get hooked on Metal. I adore bands like Thin Lizzy, Blue Öyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest and my heroes are the ones that established the sound called Heavy Metal. As I look to my influences as a guitar player, I would say name like Gary Moore, Scott Gorham, Ace Frehley, Buck Dharma, Wayne Kramer, Tipton/Downing, Fast Eddie and so on...

Luxi: How did you evolve into the musician that loved his music as loud, fast and aggressive as possible, and would write stuff similar to bands like Exciter, early Agent Steel and early Slayer, rather than Deep Purple, BÖC and the like?

Jaakko: We yearn for speed and power. This is the music, in its purest form, which we always wanted to play. When we play together it always sounds like Ranger; Super-charged, over the top, skull-crushing Heavy Metal.

Luxi: Ever since Ranger started making demos in 2009 it seems like the band has been liked by old school Speed Metal merchants and Thrash bangers. You did everything in the old school way and a cassette release was the only format offered. I guess the motto "only cassette and vinyl are real" is Ranger's way. Will you continue to stick to these two formats until the day the world gets incinerated by WW III?

Jaakko: Well, vinyl is the format we like to enjoy our music on and doing our demos on tapes was just a logical start; tape-recorded music to tape as a release format. We just recently put the MLP on Bandcamp so it's available digitally now and we are putting it out on a compilation CD when we get the Shock Skull 7" ready, BUT the main priority will be the vinyl releases, always. Heavy Metal is eternal and should not be tied to a certain format. The maximum dose, you get at live shows.

Luxi. So true, mate. I remember receiving original demos in the mail and that was one of the coolest things you could ever experience. It made your day much more joyful, I can tell you. Did you get a taste of it when you were younger and, if you did, what was your biggest thrill of the tape trading days?

Jaakko: I'm 22 now so no; I didn't get a taste of the real tape-trading scene back in the day. I completely get how cool it must have been. I really dig working with tapes, though!

Luxi: Ranger's Knight of Darkness mini-LP, released in 2013, has created a big fuss around the band. It has received flattering comments and reviews from all over the world. What are your thoughts about that recording?

Jaakko: I'm completely happy with how it turned out; the recording, art, our performance and songs. Samu Salovaara (art & layout), Malakias (logo), Emma Grönqvist (photography), Tapsa and Saku (the recording engineers in the legendary Black Floyd's studio) all nailed their parts and we will continue to work with them in the future.

Luxi: Do you have dreams that you'd like to make real someday with your skilled team working behind the scenes for Ranger?

Jaakko: He-he... sure there's loads of ideas, man! We are actually living the dream; the thing is just to make them happen. You'll see when you get your hands on the new 7" and come see our live shows next summer. There are loads of cool shirts and so on, coming your way as well.

Luxi: Do you find it surprising how well Ranger has succeeded at re-creating and re-capturing the old school Metal spirit and vibe, to the point where people who don't know the history of the band might mistakenly assume Ranger is some long lost gem from the 80's?

Jaakko: We don't try to emulate a certain sound from a certain period of time. We create our sound to satisfy our own hunger for killer Heavy Metal. Loads of my own personal influences might be the same 70's heroes that were the inspiration for 80's youngsters to sound just a little bit meaner and faster. Our recording techniques might be the very same analog ones and we actually learn to play the stuff so it gets recorded correctly and we really listen to the mixes. We don't just stare Pro-tools audio files and fix our rhythm to get it "just right."

Luxi: Is there just any single recording out there that you adore so much that you would like to squeeze it in on one of Ranger's future releases?

Jaakko: Yeah, I'd like to use the "Heading Out to the Highway" guitar lead on a Ranger track. Ha-ha-ha...!! But no, we are not doing any covers in the near future, especially not in the studio. Ranger stands on its own and there is too much of our own killer stuff to be recorded and played live in 2014.

Luxi: As you said, Ranger visited the studio between January 3rd and 5th, 2014, to record a couple of new songs for your forthcoming 7" release. These songs are called "Shock Skull" and "Omen of Doom." What can you tell us more about these Ranger masterworks? Do you think that you managed to maintain the same intensity and ferocity that you incorporated into the songs on Knights of Darkness?

Jaakko: We might have pushed the intensity even higher. As a band, we like to challenge ourselves and the new songs must sound as good and preferably, even better than the older ones. Heads must bang and aggression must flow as we compile new stuff. Unworthy riffs, etc. will sink to the endless void and never be looked back upon.

Luxi: Do you see any limits to Ranger's intensity or aggression?

Jaakko: Absolutely not. Ranger has no boundaries.

Luxi. I know you have sworn, in the name of old school music, cassette and vinyl are your chosen formats but do you believe that Ranger fans might be able to get all of your demos, the mini-LP and perhaps even this forthcoming 7" of yours on one CD, someday? Or does that format suck so much that even the idea of releasing anything on CD gets an immediate rejection from the Ranger camp?

Jaakko: Yes, you hit the nail on the head! It's all coming, via Ektro, as a compilation CD, and hopefully on tape, which will include everything from the Metal Gear demo to the Shock Skull 7".

Luxi: Have you given any thought to this package's layouts or is it up to your label boss Jussi?

Jaakko: We've always worked the visual side with Samu and nothing will change with this release. I can't see Jussi doing a half-hearted release for us. You can check out the CDs that he's been putting out and see it for yourself. He puts out quality releases.

Luxi: Ranger is known for very intense live performances. How important is playing live? Do you think playing live is one of the most vital and important reasons for the existence of Ranger?

Jaakko: It's a huge part about what we are. Come to our show and join the METAL DAZE and you'll see what it's all about. We hope to see you, Luxi, stage diving next Friday as we hit the stage with Speedtrap and Forced Kill (I am too old for stage diving anymore. Don't want to lose my expensive dentures while doing so! - Luxi)

Luxi: You are also booked at Jalometalli festival in Oulu, Finland this year, where you will share the stage with such names as King Diamond, Dark Angel, Loudness, Speedtrap and so on. I would guess that festival appearance is going to be one of your highlights this year, do you agree?

Jaakko: We are playing shows/fests with Satan, Angel Witch, Holocaust, Pentagram, Metal Church, Forced Kill, Speedtrap and this Jalometalli line-up in 2014. How can you choose your highlight from such a company? We live for the next show and focus on getting it just right. No matter how big or small the stage is, Ranger always slays.

Luxi: While we are talking about "keeping the big wheel rolling," I am wondering if you are aiming to bring Ranger's live show outside of the borders of Finland or if you are happy enough with the current situation, playing gigs around Finland, at least?

Jaakko: We have already been booked to play the Keep it True fest in Germany and one show prior to that which we can't release just yet. After that we play here in Finland with Pentagram and Satan and then continue to Sweden and rock out with all the 'muskel rockers at Muskelrock. During the summer we will by busy with the Finnish summer festivals and hopefully doing something huge with our "United Forces" shows that we are doing with Foreseen later this year. The full-length will be out during 2014 as well so we we'll keep it busy in every way possible.

Luxi: Apparently you are also aiming to play outside of Europe someday, if things take a favorable turn in that direction for Ranger...

Jaakko: Totally man – Hopefully we'll do every continent in the near future.

Luxi: If Ranger got a chance to re-write the ending of one of the Mad Max movies, what kind of ending would you change and what would you add?

Jaakko: Mad Max 2 is a perfect action film and it's surely been a huge inspiration for all of us. Mad Max 3 could be replaced with a sequel called "Knights of Darkness." We are doing a Part 2 on the LP, so you can check the plot from there.

Luxi: Well, I guess that is pretty much all for this chat, so thank you Jaakko for taking the time to get this interview done for The Metal Crypt. Keep up the great work with Ranger in the future. I guess it's time for those famous last words, so...

Jaakko: Thank you Luxi, it was a pleasure! See you at the shows. Ranger will RAGE through 2014 like a storm. Check out Obnoxious Youth, Foreseen, Flight, Speedtrap and Forced Kill while you wait for the coming of SHOCK SKULL!!

Other information about Ranger on this site
Review: Knights of Darkness
Review: Shock Skull
Review: Skull Splitting Metal!
Review: Where Evil Dwells
Review: Where Evil Dwells
Review: Speed & Violence
Review: Ylös raunioista / Risen From The Ruins
Interview with drummer Miko Sipilä on March 3, 2021 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)

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