Interview with drummer Miko Sipilä
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: March 3, 2021
Ranger, Finland's speed metal merchants, formed in 2008 (as Turbin in 2008-2009) and soon became well known among metal crowds worldwide, coinciding with a resurgence in the popularity of the speed metal genre in general. Their early demos and EPs, all released between 2009 and 2014, put them on the international underground metal map and a record deal with Spinefarm Records followed, along with many gig and touring opportunities. The band's frenzied metal mayhem was well defined by the time of their debut, Where Evil Dwells, released in March 2015 and their follow-up album, Speed & Violence, released in December 2016, continued the band's victory march.
However, it's not always a life of sweet-smelling roses and sometimes things get too bitter to be digested for many of us. Ranger's unfortunate destiny was to go through the eye of a storm emerging as a two-piece band featuring original drummer Miko Sipilä and vocalist/bassist Dimi Pontiac.
What happened, you may ask? Did some of them find Jesus Christ and become devoted churchgoers or did some of them perhaps become hip-hop/rap artists because that's a thing in Finland that can bring all kinds of opportunities to play bigger festivals, make you a (bland and useless) TV celebrity but first and foremost, make you "fokkin' kool" in the eyes of the masses. Uh, yeah, what-fuckin'-ever...!
To get some answers to these questions, the band's drummer Miko elaborated on what really happened. Read on...
Life's been tough for the past 11 months or so, hasn't it?
Miko: It does get a little boring staying at home all the time. However, healthcare workers for example do have things a bit harder; a shit load of work that needs to be done and instead of pay raises they receive empty gestures and handclaps. Not to mention people with illnesses or disabilities who feel the effects of the situation more severely.
STAYING SANE DURING INSANE TIMES
How have you coped with all the restrictions caused by Covid-19? Have you learned any new or unusual ways to live your life?
Miko: I study at the university and I have had to adjust to all the lectures being online. I used to despise online courses but now there's really no choice. It really affects the motivation to study when you sit alone in front of the computer instead of meeting actual people in class.
Music is the best way of keeping one sane and luckily, we use tape recorders. I would go insane if I had to stare at the same computer screen even when I'm making music! I don't think of music as an instrument of escapism but using analog recording equipment does feel like a welcome escape from the computer world.
As for Ranger, what happened after the band's second album, Speed & Violence?
Miko: Not surprisingly, Spinefarm dropped us after the second album. This was the only thing we agreed about with them in a long time. We were happy to get rid of them. The thing that most affected our activity was the lack of guitarists after Mikael and Ville quit the band after the "Speed & Violence" tour. We weren't fully inactive after that. We played shows every now and then with live guitarists. However, we couldn't get any new stuff made since all we did was practice old songs for our live set. Maybe we also subconsciously wanted a break after the hectic major label deal. After a while we decided it was time for us to grab the guitars and make use of multi-track recording.
THE DYNAMIC DUO—DIMI AND MIKO
You and Dimi (Pontiac, vocals and bass) have always been the core unit of Ranger, calling the shots since day one. Do you believe you have gone back to the original vision of the band on your new three-track demo, Insurgency, which you self-released in 2021?
Miko: That's true, Dimi and I have made most of our songs together (lyrics and music, respectively). I believe that now we have found each other, so to speak, as all the lyrics and music were written and arranged with both of us in the same room instead of me composing a piece and Dimi writing lyrics separately. When it comes to songwriting, our vision has become clearer if anything. It does also feel good to have all the strings in our own hands which makes the realization of our vision a lot easier.
SOME KIND OF MONSTER...?
I am quite certain that you both agree on many things when talking about the core values of the band's music. However, is there anything that has caused some conflict between the two of you when it's a question of the musical direction of the band, the visual side of things, what your gig riders should contain, etc.?
Miko: Dimi jokingly (?) calls us "James and Lars" but I disagree, having seen Some Kind of Monster...
Of course, we have had different opinions on things, but nothing comes to mind that would have escalated into a conflict. There have been many arguments in the band over the years regarding lot of stuff, but rarely between Dimi and me. We are pretty peaceful guys, really.
I am curious to know if you have ever had an argument with Dimi and what caused it, restricting it to band-related issues?
Miko: Now that you mention it, we did have a minor conflict on tour that could have escalated because of our lack of nutrition. We were in Scotland, hungover and hungry, and we couldn't agree on a restaurant. We managed to solve this by splitting up and going to different restaurants.
BACK TO THE ROOTS
To me, the new demo is clearly back to the very roots of Ranger's old-school speed metal sound. My guess is that this was your main goal while getting the demo recorded, correct?
Miko: I agree that the sound of the demo is similar to our early stuff, not a big surprise since it is recorded with the same equipment.
However, our main purpose was to show how Ranger sounds today. I think it is an honest document of our current situation. Ranger is me and Dimi playing guitar in front of a pile of ancient recording equipment.
Do you think regression was the keyword rather than progression when you went back to the drawing board and started thinking of how you'd like to bring this band back to the masses? I assume you didn't want to see the band as one of the most technical and hard-hitting speed metal bands but rather to stick to the band's old sound that you originally became known for, correct?
Miko: I see Insurgency as the most progressive Ranger release yet.
For instance, take our instrumentation when we were recording Speed and Violence. I jokingly said we were making a prog rock record (if it is possible to make a prog record in a bad way) since we had acoustic guitars and "even" a grand piano. I used to be a puritan when it comes to "authenticity" in recording. For example, I was fiercely against doubling rhythm guitars. This time we used a drum machine, synth, a home-made ring modulator and many other secrets. Now we approached the recording from a different viewpoint, as a piece of studio art.
The release of a demo tape after a major label deal was our way of saying, "Fuck you!" to the big record industry. I don't see that as a regressive thing. Major labels are a dying relic of the past that I want to disappear from the face of the earth. Bands can record music themselves and release it themselves or on small labels instead of having big professional studios sucking the life out the music and the record label capitalists sucking the blood out of the artists. The interests of small bands and big capital do not mix.
How well do you think you accomplished your goals on this new demo, both song- and sound-wise?
Miko: I am completely satisfied with the demo! Making it was a great experience, and it showed us the musical path we want to follow. I don't care if things sound muddy, for me the feel is more important.
Of course, I want to do things better and differently. I don't think you can ever be ready as a songwriter, engineer or musician.
LET'S GET SOME "TICO-TICO" IN
Obviously, you guys have some new stuff in the works, so would you mind telling us about it? Is it in line with the 2021 demo songs?
Miko: Yeah! We are working on new material and I would say that it is perfectly in line with the demo songs. We will continue on the same musical path and expand our repertoire further. I can give a hint by quoting the mighty Hurriganes; it will contain some "tico-tico".
What about doing a promotional video to boost the band's resurrection? Is that something that you have planned?
Miko: We did that one music video and let's say that I am not eager to do that again any time soon. Who knows, we might do some kind of stream sometime!
Have you set any goals for your next studio session, which will hopefully indicate the band's third full-length studio album?
Miko: Indeed, we are working on a full-length. Our aim is to write good songs and widen our instrumental, musical and lyrical palette. The main goal is to get it recorded this year.
Do you believe Ranger will continue as a two-piece band for the time being or do you have plans to find new members?
Miko: I am dying to get to play shows, but I am also really enjoying working together as a duo. If the right guitarist arrives, we are open! Whatever happens, happens, but we will be making music anyway.
The band played its first live gig on March 27, 2009, under the Turbin name. How well can you still remember that event? Which other bands shared the stage with you?
We had two songs ready and we were dying to do a show, so we entered this band contest "Ääni ja Vimma" hosted by the city of Helsinki youth department. We were late signing up and the designated heavy metal days were already full. To our horror we had to take a slot on the "glam rock" weekend! We shared the stage with some teenage hair metal bands, I think Santa Cruz played there too. The judges loved it, but we didn't make it to the next round. I still have their comment papers somewhere! I think it was Nalle Österman (longtime Finnish rock journalist—Luxi) who called us, "Sporty in a British way", whatever that means.
Back then the lineup was Dimi singing, me and Jaakko on guitars, Jokebi on bass and Ville on drums. I have some unreleased pictures of that gig. Check out the video, it is pretty good, actually!
"IF A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST..."
How hopeful are you regarding the band's "new coming", so to speak? Do you believe there's a fair chance that your old troops have waited for your grand return and that you'll possibly gain some new fans in the coming months if the stars align?
Miko: The response has been incredible. People have apparently been waiting. I want to make music that I believe the world is missing, and if other people dig it, that's fantastic. But music, heavy metal in particular, isn't a thing that exists in a vacuum. No, music is a social phenomenon that is deeply rooted in the material world. The whole precursor for band music is that there is more than one player. Western music is based on thousand-year-old scales that are rooted on ancient Pythagorean ideas of the harmony of the world. There is no music without people. There are no instruments, microphones, studio equipment or concerts without workers who produce them. I believe that music is made at concerts, studios, record presses, rehearsal places and parties alike. The community has an important role in making music. The canonized works of classical music that we hear today are the ones that were preserved. Who would preserve music no one was interested in? No one would release that record, no one would buy it so there's no way it can be preserved. If a tree falls in the forest, there is no sound. Music is made by the people listening and making it, so, of course, I hope as many people as possible hear our music. That is what keeps music alive!
What else do you think will be ahead of you in the future, lurking behind some corners? Are you aiming to make the band a full-time endeavor or keep it more or less a "hobby band," which won't include extensive tours and stuff?
Miko: I am happy with my life as a proletarian musician and there is no realistic way to make a living with this music. Of course, it would be great if I only played music all the time, but not with the current music production methods. I'd rather have my night's sleep.
However, to call Ranger a hobby band would undermine it. Dimi and I both have other musical projects going on, but once Ranger, always Ranger. Extensive tours and stuff—yes please!
Well, that's all I had in mind for this chat If you still have something in your mind that you'd like to add to this conversation, please be my guest. If not, I want to sincerely thank you for your time in getting this done and wish you nothing but the best with your future endeavors of the band. Let there be blood in the pit...!
Miko: Thank you Luxi! ¡Viva el metal guerrillero!
|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|
|Interview with guitarist Jaakko Hietakangas on January 29, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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