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17th February 2009
Finnish modern metallers Diablo have been causing a stir in their home country for some years now. Originally formed in 1995, they released fifth album, 'Icaros', in the middle of last year which reached number two in the national Finnish charts. Previous full-length effort, 'Mimic47', made it to the number one spot, so success in their native land is undeniable although, at present, they remain largely unheard of in the UK. However, that is set to change as being handpicked by fellow countrymen Children of Bodom as opening act on their current European tour will allow Diablo's music to be heard by large, new audiences outside of Finland. I arranged to meet up with the band for an interview before show time in Nottingham Rock City, just over midway through the tour, to learn more about Finland's best kept metal secret since Bodom's early days circa-'Something Wild'. Having already spoken to Aleksi, their appointed tour manager, earlier in the day, he suggests 6pm would perhaps be the best time to meet as it should be post-soundcheck. Sure enough, I ring him again at that time and we meet by Rock City's backstage doors - after a brief chat he leads me into the venue, introduces me to Rainer Nygård, Diablo's guitarist/vocalist frontman, before we retire to a quiet corner to commence the interview...
METAL DISCOVERY: I read on your website that you had to cancel a show in Austria recently because Heikki had a fever - is everyone in the band in good health now?
RAINER NYGÅRD: Yes, he’s okay now, but we had to cancel that gig because he got a forty degrees fever. He was dying of something, “ahhh, I can’t play today”!
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(Rainer Nygård on his humble attitude towards Diablo's huge success in their home country)
"...ten years ago I couldn’t even imagine a band who sings in English with those crunchy vocals and so on, I couldn’t even think that, okay, some day we will be in the top one position in the Finnish charts."
Rainer backstage at Rock City, Nottingham, 17th February 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: Did you have a show the night after that - did you do that one?
MD: Was he still feverish when you did the show the night after?
RN: Yeah, a little bit of fever, but the show must go on!
RN: [laughs] Yeah, that’s rock ‘n’ roll! I got flu when we arrived in Berlin a couple of weeks ago when we started the tour. I got a sore throat and had to take pills, that kind of stuff. When the first day came, I rested a whole day then after that I was okay. But this is the longest tour we have ever done.
MD: Seriously?
RN: Yeah. We’ve toured in Finland for years, but not this big or for long periods.
MD: And this tour’s the first time you’ve played in the UK?
RN: Yeah, that’s true.
MD: Have you ever been offered the UK before?
RN: No, even as a tourist! [laughs] This is my first time!
MD: How have the UK audiences responded to your music so far?
RN: Pretty well, I think, because the guitar tech of Cannibal Corpse said “this is a pretty good audience for you in Glasgow”. But so far, so good. I’ve been liking the audiences.
MD: How did you get on the tour? I think I read that Children of Bodom handpicked you to come on tour with them as you're friends with them?
RN: Yeah, I have known Jaska since 1997 or 1998 and we have played at the same festivals in Finland so, of course, we know the guys. But we have a few other things going on in the last Autumn with two Swedish bands - they went down for us, and then I just put a text message to Alexi and asked “do you have anything for us?”. The day after he called back and “fuck, this is a great idea, come along!” [laughs] It’s a simple as that, yeah!
MD: And you didn’t have to think about it too long?
RN: No, no, no. You don’t have these kind of opportunities very often because Bodom’s quite a big band now.
MD: Definitely. I understand you’re sharing a tour bus with Cannibal Corpse - how have you all been getting along?
RN: Very well. Very well, yeah. The first day in Berlin was some kind of etiquette…but the second night we thought maybe we should take a bottle of vodka with them and meet each other, and travel freely, and that’s about it, yeah.
MD: Alex just said that you Finns like to drink a bit!
RN: Yeah! Ohhhh…[laughs]
MD: Much drinking then on the tour bus?
RN: Our bass player has been drunk every evening after the show! But I have to take care of my voice so I cannot do that.
MD: Do you ever play practical jokes on bands you tour with, maybe on last nights of tours, or…?
RN: No, no, we don’t dare…
MD: ...with Cannibal Corpse!
RN: No, we don’t want to cause any harm to anybody in this organisation Yeah, to be polite.
MD: After this tour when your band is better known outside of Finland, do you have plans to update your website with an English version? It seems to be ninety nine per cent Finnish at the moment.
RN: Yeah, that’s true, but the main information in English is our MySpace site, and we try to keep it that way - our normal website is in Finnish and our MySpace is in English.
MD: That’s fair enough! The new album ‘Icaros’ is absolutely amazing…
RN: Thanks.
MD: …from start to finish, and it reached number two on the national Finnish charts?
RN: Yeah, that’s true.
MD: Were you disappointed not to get the number one spot because I gather ‘Mimic47’, the album before, got to number one?….Did you have any expectations to get to number one again?
RN: Yeah, of course we had some expectation where we’re for sure we’re in the top three but number two, we can handle that, yeah!
MD: It’s still pretty good!
RN: Yeah, it’s still pretty good because ten years ago I couldn’t even imagine a band who sings in English with those crunchy vocals and so on, I couldn’t even think that, okay, some day we will be in the top one position in the Finnish charts. At that time I think that it’s impossible.
MD: Who beat you to number one?
RN: It was Von Hertzen Brothers - some kind of a progressive, pretty boys, and la, la, la, la….and shit, really, because they are too pretty! [laughs] I know for that band that if those guys had beer bellies and so on they would never reach number one!
MD: Of course! I gather Marko writes most of the music for your band?
RN: Yeah.
MD: There are some fairly technical parts, mainly for the verses of the songs, verging on Meshuggah kind of rhythms occasionally - are there ever any parts you think “oh my god, I’ve got to sing over this and play”?
RN: No, never when we are composing songs and make the arrangements for the lyrics, I don’t think about that, but then after the recording sessions I take my guitar and like “ohhhh, what the fuck?!!” [laughs] But if you work hard enough you will get it. And that’s true because I have been a guitar player and doing vocal stuff all my life. Every time it’s always hard to start practicing but for those new songs in the live set, like six songs, I spent something like one hundred and fifteen hours.
MD: In four-four I guess it’s okay, but when you get the weird time signatures it must be harder for the rhythm of the vocals.
RN: Yeah, yeah, but it’s possible to learn if you work really hard.
MD: Out of interest, what’s the sound bite at the end of the album?
RN: The sound is er…I don’t know how you say it…but in Finland, in radio news, we have sea weather announcements. So it’s a sea weather announcement and there’s some kind of inside joke behind that but it’s too hard to tell you, because it’s connected to the one very famous Finnish actor who is the voice over there but, bahh, it’s…
MD: Too long a story!
RN: Too long a story, yeah!
MD: That’s fair enough. I gather from the credits that you co-produced the album with Samu Oittinen…
RN: Samu Oittinen, yeah.
MD: What can you tell me about Samu because I think the production and mix are fantastic, because you can hear everything with clarity and it’s got a very heavy, resonant sound as well.
RN: Yeah, we have worked with Samu since we made our first demo tapes - over ten years ago now. For every record, he buys some new technical stuff for the studio and so on. So he’s a great guy; family friends now.
RN: Yeah, sure, we had to cancel only one.
MD: Rock ‘n’ roll!