by Niklas Göransson
Mika Luttinen, frontman of Finnish metal pioneers Impaled Nazarene, opens up in a candid and retrospective personal conversation. He reminisces various touring lunacy, on-stage fisticuffs, and the abrupt end to their stint as career musicians.
– After “Suomi Finland Perkele” (1994) we were supposed to record a ten-inch called “Hamnasnas”. My brother Kimmo was the band’s drummer and main composer, and he wanted to move in a direction similar to PARADISE LOST and DANZIG. This was in direct conflict with my vision of IMPALED NAZARENE, which was what we did around “Ugra Karma” – fast, aggressive metal. Let me put this very nicely, when our ways parted…
Wasn’t there some form of studio scuffle?
– Yes, we were recording the mini-CD when there was a fight between my brother and our bass player, Taneli Jarva, who was also the SENTENCED singer. After they clashed we decided to go our separate ways. With Kimmo gone I told everyone that there was only one option; go back to the style we were known for, and discontinuing the softer and more melodic sound.
Kimmo Luttinen was replaced by former BELIAL vocalist and drummer Reima Kellokoski, who remains in the band to this day. ”Suomi Finland Perkele” is IMPALED NAZARENE’s most commercially successful album so it’s interesting to ponder what might have happened, had they explored the abandoned approach further.
– For sure it would have made us a much bigger name, but I don’t regret a thing because at the same time we have toured the world – done everything imaginable that musicians could do. And for a band like us, four drunken fucking idiot Finnish guys, I think we’ve done rather well.
He finds it doubtful that things would have turned out any better if the band had become more lucrative, pointing out that they would still have had that fight at some point.
– I wasn’t happy, my brother wanted to go in one direction and me in another. There would’ve been confrontation either way, so I’m glad it happened then. He went away and did the things he wanted to do and it allowed for us to get back on track, because for me – if your band is called IMPALED NAZARENE you’re not writing songs like “Blood is Thicker than Water” … which we still play of course, especially in Germany it’s very popular but I don’t understand it.
Mika shares an evidently painful recollection of checking out IMMORTAL’s “Battles in the North”, which came out a few months after “Suomi Finland Perkele”.
– And you know, they played this super extreme black metal while we were doing our…
He hums merrily while rocking back and forth, before snarling:
– … fucking melodic pop shit. I was listening to the IMMORTAL album and thinking, ’What the fuck are we doing? This is so wrong.’
Have you made peace with Kimmo since?
– Yes, of course – a long time ago. It was something like 2002 when I was living in Helsinki and he in Oulu. He phoned and told me ’I’m going to visit you’ … so he came to my place and said: We go to Tallinn, Estonia, and get drunk. ’Okay, let’s do it!’ It was over a weekend, and we spoke of every single detail we had on our minds.
The brothers aired all grievances and with their petty reasons for hating each other laid bare came the realisation that it was an idiotic feud.
– I don’t have any other siblings – he’s my only brother and neither of us are going to have children. We are the last in the bloodline of our family, why fight? Let’s make peace. After that it’s been very good, and one of the most important things to me was my brother showing up for the IMPALED NAZARENE twentieth anniversary show in 2010
This gig was later released as the live DVD “1990-2012”.
– It was a big deal for me, playing songs my brother had actually written. Also, Hervé from Osmose was there – it was a very special evening.
In the year 1995, IMPALED NAZARENE along with US band ABSU toured Europe with fellow Osmose Productions signees, Australia’s SADISTIK EXEKUTION, in an expedition that would grow into a modern metal myth.
– They call themselves mental metal – it’s the best description available for this band. On the first tour date we were in Paris, they didn’t have a toilet in the backstage so you had to go to the public restroom. I went to piss, and there was the vocalist of SADISTIK EXEKUTION. A fan came up, ’Rok, Rok – can you please sign this?’ … so what he does is take the poster, rips it to pieces and fucking eats it … no, I’m serious! Rok fucking ate the poster. I’m staring in disbelief, what the fuck – we are spending two weeks with this? It’s the craziest band we’ve ever toured with, it’s the craziest people I have ever met in my life.
I spoke to SAD-EX guitar player The Reverend Kriss Hades a while back, and he made special mention of the Finnish ’poofter painkillers’. Mika laughs riotously upon the mere mention.
– We were drinking and partying when suddenly the SADISTIK EXEKUTION guys started beating up their bass player, Dave Slave. Kriss broke his hand from punching him in the head; he had a broken bone, you could really see it – finger pointing in a different direction. ’I must play three shows with this hand’, he complained. I told him, ’I have some extra strong painkillers if you want, but they must be ingested anally.’
To quote Hades himself; ’I just thought he was being a pervert, because they’re pretty perverted. I said: You just want to get me to stick things up my ass, you poofter! Then we kept calling them poofters all the time, because they didn’t know what it meant.’
– I wish to point out here that I did not take any of these myself. The most important thing when touring is the medicine cabinet – you must prepare for all eventualities. I lived in Belgium back then and they don’t have public healthcare, everyone has their own personal doctor. So I went to mine and told him that I was going to be on the road for a few weeks, where anything can happen. And the doctor was like, ’What do you need?’
Any other fond recollections?
– One of the most memorable events was sitting in the bus lounge one morning, me and a few guys from ABSU having our morning beers. Rok comes, ’good morning’ – takes a half-litre cup, pulls his dick out and pisses it full – ‘cheers’. Then drinks his half-litre of piss and says, ‘Now I’m fine.’ We could only stare, didn’t know what to say. They were crazy.
In 1999, IMPALED NAZARENE became one of the very first bands from their wave of black metal to tour Oceania. Whilst playing in Australia Mika received a message from the colourful vocalist.
– One of the greatest things for me was when a friend of his came to the Sydney show; ‘Rok says that he’s fishing in the sea, he’s sorry but cannot come.’ He added that Rok liked our band because I am the one he enjoys drinking beer with. I don’t care how many black metal people say that we are a false and fucking stupid band – as long as I have acceptance of Rok from SADISTIK EXEKUTION, everyone else can fuck right off.
An in-depth interview with Rok himself can be found in the first issue of the Bardo Methodology publication. While researching my IMPALED NAZARENE article, I came across a comment by the promoter of the New Zealand leg of the tour, describing it as ’four days of everything that could go wrong going wrong. It included car crashes, police raids and problems with an ex-prison skinhead gang’. Needless to say, I’m curious if there’s any truth to this.
– All true. New Zealand consists of two islands, the first show was in the south and it was a fucking horrible nightmare. There were maybe thirteen people in the audience, and half of them were these nazi guys … Maori nazis, not white Nazis – sieg heiling and so on – and we were like, ’What the hell is this?’ Of course there was no security either. Their leader had a huge swastika tattooed on his forehead, and after a few songs his girlfriend came up and took all my stage beer.
The young lady then preceded to alternate between gulping down Mika’s refreshments, and spitting them on him.
– While trying to sing, I’m like … this is not very nice. I saw the guy just waiting for me to say something to her, so he could come beat me up. It continued that way and then we had this sudden break when the drummer’s bass drum skin broke. At the same time all the nazis were in the toilet taking a piss, so we looked at each other and said: Now we escape! We grabbed all our shit and ran up to the room … like, ‘Fuck!’
The gig took place in a motel, so the band was lodging in the same building. They fled upstairs and barricaded themselves in their rooms.
– The next day our tour manager goes; ’I didn’t want to tell you yesterday, but the leader who said he wanted to kill you – last week he was released from prison where he spent ten years for murder.’ I was like … get us the fuck out of this place.
Mika reports that their second and third dates went ahead without major disaster – but then came the North Island, fourth and last New Zealand gig.
– We were separated in two cars, the drummer and bass player travelling with the support band. Their driver knew the road, but ours was from the South Island and had never been up north. They went this way, we went that way and ended up in these fucking Lord of the Rings mountains. Because we were already late, our chauffeur started speeding along the mountain road. We were like, ’This guy is driving too fast!’
The road turned sharply to the right, but the vehicle unfortunately didn’t quite follow suit. Luckily, they crashed into the mountainside instead of tumbling down the one hundred meter drop into a lake.
– A sheep farmer saw the accident, he came with his tractor and asked if we were alright. ’No! We are not okay. We have to get to Auckland because we have a show there tonight.’ He told us to jump into the tractor and then drove us to his home.
With nowhere nearby to hire a replacement car came the realisation that they would never make the seventy kilometres in time for the concert.
– ’No problem’, said the farmer, ’I have a friend with a small-propeller air plane – let me phone him.’ So this fucking guy managed to get us a private flight.
They were taken to a small airfield, boarded the plane and made it to Auckland in time.
– Despite being covered in bruises, I said: We have a show to do, so let’s do the show! As we were playing, the police suddenly appeared and started checking everyone’s ID. It was an over-eighteen show and half the audience were like fifteen, so they started throwing all the people out.
Instead of the expected triumphant feeling from defying adversity, Mika instead found himself in the midst of the most anti-climactic gig he’s ever played. Not only having to perform half-crippled and shell-shocked, to add insult to injury he could only watch as half of the attendance was escorted out by the constabulary.
– This is unreal, give me a gun – I must shoot myself. This was New Zealand for us. We later heard how there was a big competition between local promoters, so another motherfucker had called the police to say that kids were being let into our show.
“Sadhu Satana” – I always thought this was a genius and most fitting title for an IMPALED NAZARENE song, did you come up with it?
– In a manner of speaking. Just before our first album (”Tol Cormpt Norz Norz Norz…”, 1992) came out, I was at a cash machine taking out money when this fucking Hare Krishna guy suddenly appeared and asked if I wanted to buy their book. I was like, ‘What the fuck is this shit?’ so I looked through the pages and saw all this weird language. I realised I could use this on our next album, so I bought the book and went home to show my brother.
The tome included a glossary with Finnish-Sanskrit translations of relevant terms.
– And I saw ’sadhu’, which means holy man – so, priest of Satan. We were like, ’Man, we are so going to use this!’ Also titles like “Kali Yuga” and “Ugra Karma” came from there, everything thanks to this book.
Alas, not everyone was equally enthusiastic over the theological appropriation.
– We were young, Osmose Productions were young, and so nobody was thinking about copyright. A French black metal fan converted to the Hindu religion, turned into a Hare Krishna – then went to their temple with our CD; ’Look what they have stolen.’
As a result, the US branch of Hare Krishna sued Osmose for 100 000 dollars.
– Fortunately, Hervé was very clever and hired the best legal counsel he could find – a woman working for Virgin Records in France. He phoned them and said, ‘I need your lawyer, we have a big problem!’ She managed to negotiate a settlement where Osmose paid 10 000 US dollars with the agreement that we use a different cover on the re-presses. Hare Krishna are not supposed to accept riches but they were happy enough to take the money. Not that I care – I was so relieved, fuck.
This is an excerpt from the full article, which is published in Bardo Methodology #2. The remaining feature is twice as long – it contains plenty of additional trivia and anecdotes, as well as discussions on why IMPALED NAZARENE are no longer a touring band and what this has meant for them.