"Hair-Metal is dead. Long Live Hair-Metal!", may exclaim some people, thinking back to the times when the illustrious genre still had some glitz’n’glam to shed on the ears of its followers.
However, hair-metal is anything but dead. Lately, it has experienced a surprising revival with bands like Steel Panther, Vains of Jenna and Crashdiet, that have taken the world by storm, in an attempt to resurrect the genre.
Despite the fact that the aforementioned acts cultivate the essentials of hair-metal, they’ve somehow managed to corrupt it by inserting some uncharacteristic punk, goth and indie influences, which subvert the true core of this music – its merry craziness, derived from the credo "sex, drugs and rock’n’roll".
All this before Reckless Love came into being. These sexy Finns have reinvented hair-metal, giving the King what rightfully belonged to him: the merriness, the aggressiveness and, ultimately, the soul.
The band was formed in 2001 by Olli Herman (vocals), Pepe (guitar), Hessu Maxx (drums and percussion) and Jalle Verne (bass guitar). So far, the guys have released two records: the eponymous "Reckless Love" (2010) and their latest work, "Animal Attraction", born in November 2011.
We contacted the dudes and managed to get an exclusive interview with the ever-so-merry Pepe, the guitarist, who delighted us with his thoughts on rock, sex, plagiarism and why it’s not good to whine on stage.
Your new album, „Animal Attraction”, seems to invent a new brand of glam-metal, with influences ranging from Heart to Finn-Rock. Would you say you managed to better define your musical identity on this second album?
With the first album I think we really hit a nerve in the music community and managed to define ourselves right off the bat. We were very conscious of coming from the left field in the sense that we didn’t want to sound like anything, and I mean anything, that is going on in contemporary rock. This style or brand, or what you want to call it, that we mastered, is luckily the very thing that comes most naturally to us and from us: Feel Good Merry Metal. So we took that built-in quality of ours, cherished it and polished it to the maximum and fired away. Luckily, the timing was perfect and people really got into it! With the second album we wanted to keep the initial aspect of our style, but pump it up with musical super hormones, caressing the extremes! On „Animal Attraction”, the tough is even tougher, the soft is softer, the dance beat keeps you up all night and the smell of cheese infects the whole neighborhood!
Do critics still accuse you of plagiarism after this record?
Surprisingly, no! Of course I haven’t read all the reviews out there, but I haven’t seen or heard any accusations. With the first album it became quite hilarious at one point; people were hearing all kinds of things in our songs. But I can assure you it was all part of the big plan. We built a time machine to take you to the days when rockâ’nâ’roll was still about having fun!
The sonic infrastructure of your songs is basic: big choruses, a strong succession of riffs, catchy percussion. Yet they sound fresh & new. How do you preserve your originality?
Great question, and here’s an honest answer: I have no idea (laughs)!
In a previous interview, you stated that you can’t understand why some people would get up on stage just to whine, yet Finnish rock (HIM, The Rasmus, The 69 Eyes, Sara etc) is essentially melancholy. Do you consider yourselves the exception, the freaks amongst freaks?
Yeah well, the bands you mentioned are all well known outside Finland, but if you come and take a sniff of things inside Finland, suddenly it becomes Funland. There are tons of positive bands over here and all of the popular artists have always had plenty of humor in their music; best examples of this are Popeda, Juice Leskinen, Eppu Normaali and Leevi and the Leavings. These all sing in Finnish so that is why you probably have never heard of them.
"Young N Crazy" is a statement song that resurrects the master-principles of rock’n’roll: drinking, sex, freedom, a balls to the walls view on life. Do you think rock has lost some of its power (to move people, to impress, to encourage, to annoy) across the years?
While, allegedly, nothing is shocking anymore, I still think rock n roll has some genuine power! But, in my opinion, many bands these days have lost the plot as to what makes a great rock n roll band. I mean, there are so many bands with a style and image so calculatingly shocking and/or provocative that the music itself is pushed from primary to secondary value. It all comes down to the vast amount of bands trying to shine and stand out in the crowd. But they try to do it with pictures, not music. A great band is made of great songs! And great songs still do, like you said, move people, impress people, encourage people, and even annoy people, like we’ve come to realize. Bottom line: Image is secondary, music is everything!
You came up with the definition "merry metal" for your genre – a quirky combination between 80s hair/glam-metal, hard-rock and the good ol’ Scandinavian "catchyness". Why do you think some people don’t get you and call you fake musicians?
There was a period in the rock music world when good ol’ hair metal became a mockery. And I agree with the punks that some of the late 80’s hair bands were just tragicomic and rueful. But to call all "hair metal" a joke is just arrogant and ignorant. Some folks even say the 80’s were the worst era in music. I quote Mr. T and pity the fool who thinks that! Anyway, the grunge revolution times are far behind us and there is a new generation of kids who can judge for themselves, and it seems todayâ’s youth is all about Merry Metal! But to anyone calling us fake, I say you’re all welcome to see a show. On tour we’ve converted tons of reckless skeptics into believers!
In your songs, you speak freely about sex and women. Some of them have a slightly misogynistic undertone (Born to Break Your Heart), while others are sentimental, sexy ballads (Fantasy). How do these two attitudes fit together in this fascinating puzzle that is your music?
Olli writes all of the lyrics, but on his behalf I can say that he usually writes things about his life. And it’s not all just about himself, it could be what he’s observed in other people. In some lyrics, he could be telling you the story form his or another personâ’s perspective. I mean, while the "narrator" could be in first person, it’s not necessarily Olli himself all the time. That’s how you get the broader mix of attitudes and they all fit together perfectly in the grand concept of life!
You guys are obviously very good-looking but you express your masculinity in a very unconventional way, that goes a bit beyond the "recipe" of hair metal: perfectly styled hair, make-up, a lot of feminine paraphernalia. What do you think about the label "metrosexual metal"?
Ha,ha,ha! Never heard that one before , but sex in a metro sounds good to me!
Many Finnish bands have vocalists that embrace their feminine side wholeheartedly (Ville Valo, Jyrki 69, Lauri Ylonen, Olli).
Is it something in the culture that makes it easier for Finnish men to be open-minded?
It’s probably the exact opposite. The common man in Finland is traditionally quite the rough geezer. These are the guys who wrestle bears in the forest and hunt food for their family with their bare hands! Seriously though, I do think Finnish people, in general, are pretty open-minded and polite to each other. It’s not like in the 80s anymore when the dudes from Hanoi Rocks didn’t even want to live here because of the narrow-minded rednecks badmouthing them all the time!
Please send a message to your Romanian fans who can’t wait to see you here (hopefully you’ll come soon).
Hello to all of our Romanian fans. We hope to see you very soon and can’t wait to get there! Rock on and thank you very much!
Special thanks to Pepe and Satu Snellman for making this interview happen.