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Riku Salminen (Solitaire)

Interview with Riku Salminen from Solitaire
by Grigoris Chronis at 26 October 2004, 7:13 PM

It's been a really long time since I last found my head banging round 'n' round with a release from the Speed/Thrash Metal sub-genre, like it happened with Solitaire's Extemely Flammable latest CD. It seems that a country like Finland has a lot more to offer (in higher quality, in my mere opininon)than the already established names of Stratovarius or Children Of Bodom. It may be cold up there but real Hot Metal is definitely running in this frenzy quintet's veins. Riku Salminen, co-founder and six-string axeman of this incredibly genuine band, found some spare time to notify (or warn) us of Solitaire's intentions…

Riku, hello from Greece and magazine! Congratulations for your newly released Extremely Flammable CD. I think it’s a terrifying release, 100% into pure Heavy/Speed/Thrash Metal!!! Sincerely, it’s been years since I last heard such a grind crushing album!!!

It’s great to hear you like it. And you’re right, Extremely Flammable is a total Speed Metal riot, a head banging, neck snapping and back cracking bastard of an album, nothing less and nothing more. Very bad for your health, but I still recommend it to everyone… haha…

So, should we start with some info about your new CD? First of all, I would like to ask who’s idea is this female (I think???) warrior depicted both in your new CD front cover and also in your previous work, Rising To The Challenge (2002). Is there some concept behind this figure? Who were the creator and the designer? Are we talking’ bout the female Eddie?

Well, her name is Sonya and yeah, she’s a bit like female Eddie, female Vic Rattlehead, Terminatrix, a chrome plated Sophia Loren or like many other movie- or Heavy Metal cover character. She was originally created by our guitarist Waaqqu, he used to draw these kinds of female figures at our rehearsal room, so I guess that’s where it started. For the album covers she was illustrated by Andreas Kladziwa for the Rising… album and for the new, Extremely Flammable the illustration was made by a friend of ours, Samuli Saari. The idea behind Sonya is, if you remember back in the 80’s when there were lots of these eddies, vics and other creatures on the album covers and on the other hand there were also these hot chicks in chains, leather and lingerie, so Sonya is a mixture of these both genres, an ironhard feminine package!

The Extremely Flammable CD was officially unleashed on August 30th. This means that you were recording in the middle of summer, when everyone’s on vacation! So, can you tell us some details about which studio did you use, who was the producer, how much time did the recordings last?

Actually we were recording in the middle of winter, in January / February 2004, so the album’s release took a bit longer than we expected. We would’ve wanted it to be out before summer, but the distributor didn’t have free spots for the release until late August. The album was produced by ourselves, we used the Sound Doctor Studios in Pori, Finland, where we also recorded the Rising… album and the studio owner Aki Peltonen did all the technical stuff for us, recording, mixing, engineering, etc… We started the recordings right after the New Year and it took about 2 weeks. I remember it was some 10 days of pure studio thrashing mayhem! After a small break we returned for the mixing and mastering and in February we got the works done.

A remarkable note I’m happy to confess is that all members of the band seem to have high-level musical skills, e.g. listening carefully to the guitar solos or noticing the rhythm-section chemistry in several fast parts of the songs. It seems that you invest much energy into - both individually and all-team-rehearsing – practice. Are you all self-taught or someone is studying music?

I think we’re all pretty much self-taught, actually I don’t think we understand shit about musical theory, well, maybe some, but mostly we don’t even care. It’s the meal itself that counts, not how you cook it. I got a small story for you – Back in the early 90’s in the local high school here, we had a music lesson and the teacher told some of the boys to get the hell out of the class, ’cause these guys were so lousy and unintrested in the lesson. One of these guys was Mika (our vocalist) and another one was me…! Haha! Well, so much for our musical skills…

But back to business – Yes, we rehearse a lot, both individually as well as with the band, especially before gigs and recording sessions. We’ve spent a lot of time and rehearsing for our team playing and with Waaqqu and me, for the guitar work also. It’s like some of the fastest songs, like Breaking Point or Speed Trap, which sound totally out of control, but in fact they’re the ones that have to be the most controlled, otherwise you can’t fit all ten thousand notes in every millisecond… And of course, it’s great to have credit for our musical abilities from you and we really appreciate it, ’cause many people just think we play too fast or can’t even play at all, but it’s their problem, not ours…

Which are the first reactions from the Metal fans and the Press? How proud do Solitaire feel for their new-born speed-child? Is there something you think went not OK and if you had the chance you would alter it?

The reactions have been a real split decision, actually. The fans who know what this stuff is about and also some press like it very much and then there’s some press that don’t like it at all… Hehe. It was basically the same situation with Rising… but I think it’s even more extreme now with the new album, you either love us or you hate us and nothing in between. We’re all very satisfied with the album, of course there’s always some things that could be better, but I don’t think I would alter anything even if could do it again.

Are there any tour plans in the instant future out of Finland, in support of the Extremely Flammable CD? I read you’re heading for Heavy Metal Maniacs festival in Hoorn, Holland on 30th October. That’s great! Which other bands are participating there? I remember reading once about US Gods Attacker headlining the show, plus cult NWOBHM band Elixir! It will surely be a HelluvaFestival!!!

Yeah, we play the Heavy Metal Maniacs festival in Holland with Elixir, Attacker, Metal Inquisitor from Germany and Conquestador, a Dutch band. After that we’ll have a couple of gigs here in Finland and hopefully we could do some foreign gigs or a small club tour next year. I can’t promise anything, ’cause it’s up to so many different things, but we’ll try it. It would be very important to get more gigs outside Finland, ’cause I think the underground Metal scene is much bigger elsewhere.

Should we expect Solitaire to attack us sometime in the near future? The band’s 80’s Speed/Thrash style of music is very popular in Greece and Solitaire will surely have a great time here! Really, what do you know about Greece or Greek Metal bands in general?

To be honest, I think I know a little more about Greece than Greek Metal bands… Sure, Greece is a home of the western civilization and I consider myself a civilized western, so I have to be a little bit Greek inside… Yeah, it would be great to come over and play in Greece some day. I think it’s not gonna happen in the instant future, but some day, maybe. Hey, if you know any cool Greek Metal festivals or rock clubs or places like that where we could play, I’d be happy to hear about them and we’ll consider every possible gig we could get. We’ve played in all kinds of clubs, bars, pubs, youth houses and dog houses, so we’re not afraid to squeeze ourselves even to the smaller stages.

Speaking’ about festivals, what do you remember from your performance in Germany’s Keep It True festival in 2003? I guess you enjoyed this crowd of wild Metalheads! What was the fans’ reaction, really, since then you had just one full length album in your career? How did you feel sharing the same stage with cult bands like Omen and Brocas Helm? Greece’s Bloodstained were in the billing also!

Yeah, it was great gig. I remember we were late for the show because of a flight cancellation, but once we got there we had a blast and a jolly good time. The fans’ reaction was really good, better than we would’ve expected, ’cause like you said, we only had one album out back then and we were basically the nobodies, so you couldn’t be sure how the fans would react, but it was really warm and wild.

Sharing the stage with Omen and Brocas Helm, it’s both great and weird, it was the same on last year’s Headbangers Open Air where we played with Trespass and Blitzkrieg. I enjoyed both those festivals very much and Omen, Brocas Helm, Trespass and Blitzkrieg, they all may be old farts but they still sound (and smell…!) real good. Unfortunately I missed the Bloodstained gig, ’cause we haven’t arrived to the venue yet, but luckily I got the Keep It True DVD, so I could check out some of their stuff.

Riku, is everything OK with Iron Glory records? Are you satisfied with their promotion and support? It’s 3 years now you’re under this label, you’ve already released two full-length CDs, do you think it’s time to start searching for another label, you have a contract for more releases or you’re anyway pleased with the work they’re doing and you don’t have something in mind for the time being?

It’s been all right up to now, but lately I heard they’re gonna quit, so I think we’re not gonna record another album for them and we’ll start looking for a new label in the future. All in all I’m satisfied for these 3 years with them, although I would like to get more promotion and support, ’cause you never have enough of those. But you have to remember that Iron Glory’s not a big company, so you really can’t expect a million dollar promotional campaign from a smaller label. In any case I think we’d started to look for a new record company after the release of …Flammable, but right now we’ll concentrate on promoting this new album and worry about record deals and stuff like that later.

Searching a little bit into Solitaire’s bio, I was pleased to see that there are 4 demo recordings from the band – an untitled demo (1997), The Dead End Investigations (1999), Locked In…Break Out! (2000) and Lead Into Temptation (2001) - prior to the release of the Rising To the Challenge debut CD. In our days, where the average Metal band can easily sign a contract with an average label sometimes without even writing a respectable demo recording, Solitaire seem to have a professional aspect for what musical level a band must come to in order to release quality Metal music, even if it takes 3,4, or even 5 years!

Well, it’s true for some part. But we started looking for a record deal since we released The Dead End Investigations demo in 1999 and it took over 2 years and 2 more demos to get something cracking. So it’s not always easy to get signed, especially for a band like us, ’cause our style is so uncompromising and some would even say non-commercial, so it was too hard to handle for most record companies, which usually look for something more mainstream and more easy to sell. That goes especially for the major labels, which really have nothing to do with music itself, but making easy cash as quickly as possible.

Really, are there any songs from these 4 demos included in your two Cds, either Extremely Flammable» or Rising To the Challenge?

Yeah, Rising To The Challenge was a kind of a best of compilation of those 4 demos, apart from the title track, which was a brand new one at the time, but that’s how we knew it was gonna be, to get the best stuff we had on the demos and record it properly for the first album. Extremely Flammable is all new stuff, we wrote all the songs after we got the debut done and there isn’t any demo leftovers on the new album, so it’s much more compact with the song material than the first one, which was written during our first 6 years, the demo period. And that’s how we like to keep it going, we already have some new riffs and ideas, so the next album will be again all new material and so on, and so on…

Surfing in your official site I saw that all band members are truly dedicated to 80’s Metal music! Waaqqu likes very much Kiss & Venom (both Gods, each one in his own genre), you seem to be fond of the whole N.W.O.B.H.M. movement (hope you like Cloven Hoof & Angelwitch, my all-time favorite UK bands) and Mikko surely adores Exciter (what a great guy!!!). Being – like me – somehow stuck to the 80’s Metal scene, how do you personally feel about our beloved music’s future with all these sub-genres and styles, some of them named Metal for a reason that can’t be understood?

Yeah, we’ve all lived the 80’s for the past 20 years now… haha. We all grew up in the 80’s and Heavy Metal of that time was really influental to us and it still is. Yeah, Angelwitch is cool, but I’m not so familiar with Cloven Hoof. My true N.W.O.B.H.M. favorites are Jaguar, Blitzkrieg, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Trespass and Samson. But like you said, I dig the whole movement because of the cool music and never-say-die & do-it-yourself attitude.

I think there’s too many sub-genres and styles nowadays, you really can’t tell which is which and most of the new stuff is definitely not Heavy Metal of any kind. I try to stay clean of all that current rubbish we see on Top 40, or stuff like that. What we’re doing with Solitaire, is that we’ll take Heavy Metal back to the original roots to get the original feeling that’s been lost for many, many years. You can call us sad bastards of old fashion, but we don’t give a shit, we just do what we like and we like what we do.

Do you like any of the new Metal bands in genres other than the classic Metal sound? Are you familiar with the music of some of your country’s most famous bands, e.g. Children Of Bodom or Amorphis or – most of all – Stratovarius? Are there any underground Finnish bands playing quality Metal you think you should mention their names?

If a Metal band doesn’t sound like a classic Metal band in at least some way, it’s not a Metal band at all. I mean, how can you call this detuned nu-Metal rap crap Metal? Or this current power Metal kindergarten melodies with keyboards on top, how can you call that Metal?! Yeah, I know Children Of Bodom, Amorphis and Stratovarious, but I don’t really like these bands, they’re just not my cup of tea (in other words: They suck…! Haha!), except some of the very early Strato-stuff which was in fact quite good. I like my Heavy Metal more traditional and straight forward. There are some cool Finnish underground Metal bands, like Hellbox (old school black Metal in style of Venom) or Wounds (death / thrash Metal) and some others, but the underground Metal community is still very small in Finland, but I think it’s getting better now and hopefully we can keep it going like that.

My all-time favorite band from Finland is Oz (especially the Fire In The Brain Metal masterpiece). Do you like them? Where they any famous in the 80’s in Finland? Also, Hanoi Rocks used to be a grand-star band, as I remember now…

Yeah, Oz is okay, but I like Hanoi Rocks even better! I can’t exactly remember, I think Oz did quite nice in the 80’s but they certainly weren’t the biggest ones, at least not in Finland. My Finnish favorites are Peer Gunt and Zero Nine and some of the Speed Metal stuff that emerged in the late 80’s, like Stone and Airdash.

Riku, since I guess your spare time is limited, we can stop somewhere here. Last words are gladly welcome from you!

Yeah, I’d like to thank all the readers and all True Metal Maniacs around the Globe and the friends and fans of Solitaire. Now’s your chance to get yourself the Extremely Flammable album and bang your heads off! Keep it hard, wet and heavy, ’cause more united we’re stronger. SPEED Metal TO THE EXTREME!!!



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