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Riku (Solitaire)

Interview with Riku from Solitaire
by Grigoris Chronis at 10 February 2009, 7:16 PM

SOLITAIRE just unleashed another piece of molten Metal music to bang your head to; that simple. In a new label, with guitarist Riku taking care of the lead vocals too, we are informed 'bout what happened the last couple of years in the Finnish band's ranks and why Predatress does carry on the SOLITAIRE tradition of Heavy/Speed/Thrash Metal music with an in-your-face attitude. Riku is - again - a real gentleman.

Interview with: Riku from SOLITAIRE

Hi Riku, it was time for a new SOLITAIRE release. What's your impression now that the new album is released?

Hi, Grigoris! It's a terrific impression right now, I feel really great and also relieved, 'cause it was a tough job putting all this together, but we managed to do it. The album is out now, the response has been very good and the sales have started better than ever before with our previous albums.

Do you think you achieved sending the message you wanted via the new album, Predatress?

Well, I don't know if we have any message, apart from the music itself, so in that case I would say yes, we definitely got our point across this time. We got everything done just the way we wanted to, the sound, the songs, the cover, the whole lot and I'm really fuckin' proud of Predatress.

There are many changes regarding this new album. First of all, you're a quartet as of now. Singer Mika has parted ways with the band and you handle the lead vocals. Under what circumstances did this lineup change happen?

Back in late 2006 Mika told us he wanted to leave the band. I guess he was tired and frustrated after so many years with the band and not achieving any major success. There were also some personal reasons and stuff like that, we weren't fighting or anything but I think we both were pissed off with each other. We're not in contact with him anymore, but I'm sure he's doing alright.

Did you try to search for a new vocalist or it was an automatic idea you'd take care of the vocals too?

I never even considered searching for a new vocalist. I remember back in the early years when we were looking for a vocalist it really was hard to find one. I didn't want any of that bullshit anymore, so I told the guys I'm gonna do the vocals myself, 'cause I've written most of the songs, vocal lines and lyrics myself anyway, so I was confident it would be for the best and the guys felt the same way. It also made possible for the band to carry on almost right away, but if we would have started looking for another vocalist, it would have taken ages and we never would have got the Predatress album out by now.

How easy or difficult was to concentrate both on the vocals and guitars requirements while rehearsing and recording for Predatress?

It wasn't as hard as I always thought it would be. Back in the early years I always had the idea of having 2 guitarists, bass player, drummer and definitely a vocalist, 'cause I always thought I would never be able to play guitar and sing at the same time. But when I really started rehearsing vocals with guitar playing in December 2006 I got the hang of it pretty soon, so from that point on there actually weren't any bigger difficulties.

You know it'll be quite difficult doing this onstage, haha!

Well, I don't think so. We've played over a dozen gigs since the beginning of 2007 with me on vocals as well as on guitar and it's been going really well, no trouble at all.

Second change: you're in a new label now, Ektro Records. Are they a new label around? How did you come in contact with them?

Ektro Records has been around for many years and they have over 50 releases. It's an independent label which has released mainly alternative rock and more experimental stuff, so it's not exactly a Heavy Metal label at all. But Jussi Lehtisalo, who runs the label, is a big fan of SOLITAIRE, he's seen many of our gigs and he wanted to sign the band. For us it was a very good deal, 'cause we didn't get any interest from the normal Heavy Metal record companies.

Have you inked a deal for more than one albums?

No, it's just for this one. It's actually good, because I don't like these slave deals where you have to record certain amount of albums in a certain amount of time, it probably would affect the quality of the music.

Whatever happened to Iron Glory/Battle Cry records, by the way?

Well, I think you have to ask Andi Preisig about this one…I guess Battle Cry is still around, although I thought at some point Andi had quit the label. He wasn't too interested in releasing the new SOLITAIRE album and while on the other hand there was Jussi from Ektro Records raving about how fuckin' brilliant SOLITAIRE is, it wasn't a tough choice to figure out which record company we're gonna go with. But I think it's OK now with Andi, as a matter of fact, I just heard he's handling some of the new album's distribution in Germany.

The cover artwork is huge, but it does not feature the SOLITAIRE mascot for the first time in an official release. Or it does, haha?

Yes, it does. Sonya Solitaire has come to life on the cover of Predatress, the fuckin' bitch is real and not just some cartoon character she has been before. We wanted to do something different with the album cover this time and we decided to have a cover photography instead of a cover illustration. We did it all by ourselves, the band and the record company, and we had a blast doing the photo shoot for the cover. It also was a tough job to put it all together, but it came out really cool and it's the best album cover we've ever had.

SOLITAIRE does carry on the same style in Predatress. Fast songs, a Speed/Thrash/Heavy Metal typhoon with Rock'n' Roll attitude. Did you ever considered you should focus to something more modern so as to attract the interest of a wider amount of today's Metal fans?

No, we like the way we are and the way we play and write songs. If we'd try something modern or something like that, it would be really awkward and wouldn't feel right. We've all grown up in the 80's and the music from that era is something special to us, so we pay our respect and tribute to those good old times and keep the flag flying for old school Heavy Metal and Speed 'n' Thrash.

Are you satisfied from the new album's production? Tell us a little bit regarding the rehearsing/recording period for Predatress.

Yeah, I'm really satisfied with the production, the sound is fuller and heavier than it's ever been before, although it's still very raw and distinct. We made no compromises, we got the sound we wanted and this is how SOLITAIRE is supposed to sound like. The rehearsing and song writing period for Predatress actually started right after when we got the previous album Invasion Metropolis done, which was in Spring 2006.

We started putting new songs together bit by bit, we played gigs and rehearsed the new stuff and eventually in February 2008 we started the recordings. We used the Base X Studio, which was actually a temporary studio we put up in our rehearsal room, so it was like being at home recording the album. The recordings took for about 4 months, which is totally crazy for band like us, we never thought it would take so long and in summer 2008 we went to Sound Doctor Studios in Pori, Finland  and mixed it with our old friend Aki Peltonen. Jussi from Ektro Records and a friend of his, Tuomas Laurila, helped us with the final mastering of the album and finally we got the whole fuckin' thing done and the album was released a couple of weeks before last Christmas.

So, you had any obstacles while preparing the new CD?

Yeah, there were a few things that didn't go as smoothly as we planned. First of all, like I said, it took too long, the whole procedure. Rehearsing the new songs took longer than it should have, so we had to postpone the start of the recordings. And when we finally got to recording the new stuff, it also took longer than it should have and it was a bit difficult to get the studio dates we wanted at Sound Doctor for the mixing, 'cause Aki had many other projects in his studio too.

It was all down to the fact that Kalu and Mikko didn't have enough time for the band anymore, it became more and more obvious during the last year, or a year and a half. They had their dayjobs and families, which took most of their time. Me and Waaqqu got really worried about it and in the end we had no other choice but to start looking for a new drummer and a new bass player. Otherwise SOLITAIRE would have ceased to exist, that's for sure. I burned myself out pretty bad during the recordings, but I'm doing much better now when we got the album out. Also, I think we already have a new bass player and a new drummer for SOLITAIRE, which would be extra fuckin' great if it works out, but that's another story, I'll tell you about it when we'll get all the pieces in the puzzle put together.

Really, why don't you negotiate for a vinyl release of the new album plus the rest of your discography? SOLITAIRE's music is proper for a vinyl release, you know that, plus many of the band's fans are old-school metallers that buy vinyl anyway.

Yeah, many people have asked for a SOLITAIRE vinyl release. We've talked about it with the record company, but so far the expenses for the vinyl release have been too high. But we're definitely working on it and there's a good chance to have the Predatress album on vinyl some day. About the early albums, we're not gonna re-release those anymore, not on vinyl and not on CD, we like to keep them as they are right now, the collector's items.

Haven't you witnessed also that more and more releases are now pressed on vinyl, too? Does this symbolize some short of decadence of the CD sound or it mainly has to do with ongoing reduced sales due to illegal downloads etc?

Yeah, vinyl has made a big comeback during the last 10 years or so. I think it symbolizes people's desire for something solid. You know, the old school Rock and Heavy Metal fans want the releases as actual albums with big cover artwork and great photography and not just some mp3-files in the internet where you can download them to your computer or an iPod or a cellphone. That's a load of fuckin' bollocks, that's nothing real, that's not solid. A vinyl is a solid piece of record, which you can hold on to and which you can listen to and look at the cover and read the lyrics at the same time. It's real. There's also the nostalgia factor in vinyl, of course, which many old school fans definitely relate to.

Riku, Predatress is the fourth full-length release for SOLITAIRE in six/seven years. You seem to work hard for the band. How difficult is this, bearing in mind you try to have a normal job/life every day? Is your hunger for Metal music alone the big motive?

Well, our first album came out in 2002 and so far we have released a new album every two years. Actually I don't have a job or a normal every day life, everything I do is always some way connected to SOLITAIRE, it's an obsession and a compulsion to me and that's what keeps me going. Although I hardly ever make any plans too far ahead, I always try to figure out the next step, what will I do next, what's next with the band and so on and that's how we've been rolling on for over 13 years now, since the band's formation in November 1995. Yeah, I'm still very hungry for this kind of music and very motivated. I can't make any promises, but it sure would be fuckin' cool if we can carry on the same way and have a new SOLITAIRE album out again in 2010.

Have you lined up any dates in support of the new album? Also, preparations for summer festivals have begun, are you looking forward to perform in any European Metal fest?

No, we don't have any gigs scheduled at this point, because we still have have a lot of work getting the new lineup together. But hopefully we'll get it solved soon so we could play some gigs again. Of course, it would be great to play at some European Metal festival like we've done before in Germany, Holland, Estonia and Luxembourg. But right now we'll have to be patient and see how things develop.

Riku, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer to our questions regarding SOLITAIRE and your brand new CD, Predatress.

Thank you very much, this was a pleasure. All my best regards to our fans and Metal Temple readers, keep it hot for us and we'll keep it hard for you. Cheers!

The new upcoming SOLITAIRE website:


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