Finnish band Diablo's fourth full-length effort Mimic47 opened in their own country at the #1 position, beating out several "mainstream" international artists with their brand of Machine Head-esque crunch and Finnish sense of melody. Never hearing the band for myself before that, I was intrigued as to who they were and was able to have guitarist Marko Utriainen fill in the blanks.
For those unfamiliar with the band, could you give us a brief history to
Well, the roots go back to a town called Kalajoki, which is in northern Finland. I met Rainer there when we were teenagers. It was 1987. I had just got a guitar as my 13th birthday present and wanted to play in a band. And the music had to be metal which I had started to listen to when I was 10. In a small town like Kalajoki there really weren't that many players, let alone players that were into metal. So it was inevitable that we formed a band together with Rainer. The name of the band was Armatage and at that time we played pretty fast trash metal. We recorded three demo tapes with our 4-tracker.
In the beginning of 90's we had to break up the band because we moved to southern Finland to start studies in different towns. I moved to Helsinki and Rainer to Tampere. However, it took less that a year to realise that we still want to play together. So I started to travel between Helsinki and Tampere every weekend. We found Timo Kemppainen to play drums and Aadolf Virtanen to bass. With that line-up we recorded two studio demos 'Aggressive Machinery' and 'To Where The Pain Is' under name Diablo Brothers. One of the songs on both of them were released on some compilation CDs but the record companies weren't still interested enough. Then we changed the name to Diablo and we did some serious thinking about how we should improve the song-writing. Then, the third self-financed release 'Princess' finally took us there. We signed a deal with Finnish Poko Records and released our debut 'Elegance In Black' in 2000. After the debut Heikki Malmberg replaced Timo Kemppainen in drums to form Diablo as it is also today. With that line-up we've now recorded three albums. Renaissance was released in 2002, Eternium in 2004 and the latest Mimic47 in 2006.
How did you decide on the name Diablo?
There was a gang called Diablo or something like that in an old American TV series Hill Street Blues. It was Rainer who came up with that idea.
In my review I compared you with Machine Head and Skinlab. Who would you
say are the band's biggest musican influences?
Well, Machine Head could be pretty close to us mostly due to the American guitar sound that we have. But I don't find many similarities between us and Skinlab. Personally, I can mention bands like Testament, Death, Slayer, Metallica, Meshuggah (Destroy Erase Improve album), Paradise Lost, Queensryche (Operation Mindcrime album) and Pantera to name a few that have really made an impact on me. When I was a bit younger I used to listen to music a lot. And it was mostly American bands that I liked. Nowadays I don't have much time to listen to music. I always try to sit down with my guitar when I have a suitable moment and do something on my own rather than to listen to what the other bands are doing and then copy their ideas.
How would you compare your past efforts to the sound of Mimic 47?
On our debut album Elegance in Black we had just found our way of making music. On that album there are five songs from our self-financed CD-EP Princess and five new songs, which were composed in hurry...Timo Kemppainen was on the drums at that time. He wasn't as technical as Heikki Malmberg is which restricted our song writing a bit. Then after Elegance in black Timo left the band and we found Heikki, a young and VERY talented drummer. That gave us more space in experiencing with more demanding ideas. The result was our second album Renaissance, which contains a bit more progressive stuff than we had on the debut. Renaissance went staright to #14 on the Finnish albums list and we got more gigs and audience in Finland. The third album Eternium was our break-through in Finland. On that album we put more effort on the song dynamics, song structures and also vocals. I guess that album is easier to approach than Renaissance. It went straight to #3 on the Finnish charts. Also, due to the positive critics and success in Finland, bigger record companies finally got interested in us and we signed a deal with Drakkar for central European release. Now, for the latest release Mimic47 we kind of continue on the same path but we intentionally wanted to expand the tempo scale a bit meaning that you find a couple of faster songs on it. Also, we've put even more emphasis on the song dynamics. In my opinion Rainer's voice has improved still a lot. Of course, due to the success of Eternium we had more time than ever in the studio to create a sound that is really crushing and heavy.
Is there anything significant about the title Mimic 47?
Rainer is responsible for the lyrics, so this would be more like a question to him. But as far as I've understood everything right the title song Mimic47 was inspired by what happened five years ago in Finland. There was a scandal in the cross-country skiing world championships in Lahti where almost all Finnish men skiers got caught from using some doping to improve their performance. It was considered as a national shame in the Finnish press. The song is about the feelings that the guys had to go through during that time.
Mimic 47 was the #1 selling disc in Finland the first week it was released,
did you expect such a big response?
Well, due to the success of our third album Eternium we were naturally expecting that at least the same would happen with Mimic47. We also did quite a lot of gigs in Finland after releasing Eternium and we thought that we got lots of new fans due to the touring. The title song Mimic47 was released as a single already in the end of November last year. It went straight to the top of the singles charts, which really surprised us. But after that success nothing less than the first place on the albums chart would have made us happy. It was great to see that all around the world Madonna's latest release was on the top of the chart except in Finland where Diablo was the first and Madonna second
I would imagine Mimic 47 gaining some strong US support. Do you have plans
to get the album licensed to reach American listeners?
To be honest, I don't have a clue what our local record company is doing for a release on your continent. Right now we are just too busy with our live shows here in Finland to really be able to focus on anything else than that. I would, of course, love to see that Diablo records would also be released in the US. I'm very much open for any suggestions. Help wanted on that front.
The cover of the album looks like a close-up of a bug, am I correct or
Yes, you've got it right. But I don't really know what species that actually is.
The single for "Mimic 47" has a cover of Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill".
What made you choose this song? Are the band fans of 80s music in general?
I guess Rainer is nowadays pretty much into 80's hard rock. Bands like Ratt and Def Leppard are on his playlist now...Weird enough? On our debut we did a cover of Abba's Dancing Queen. It was great fun so we wanted to try it again. But we didn't want to cover any metal song because it's so difficult to bring anything new by playing a metal song with metal sounds. So it had to be something totally different also this time. I've always liked the melody in "A view to a kill" a lot so I introduced the song to Rainer and he accepted it. It was kind of an easy task to play that song because we didn't have to change a lot. By the way, some of the fans have asked whether we would do a cover of one of Death's songs because we've played some Death's songs live every now and then. In my opinion, you really can't bring anything new to songs of such a great band like Death was by covering them.
Looking at your site, it appears touring tends to stick to Finland. Will
you be planning to expand your live domain to other European territories?
We would certainly want to play elsewhere as well. All the Finnish venues start to feel too familiar now after touring. Our aim has never been to play only in Finland. I guess we just have to wait for the right opportunity patiently. But I must say that we've been discussing with other Diablo guys about our situation quite a lot lately. It feels like we haven't had any luck during our career. We're like soldiers of misfortune in this metal universe. Everything that we've got is purely due to years of hard working. It seems that these things happen quite a lot more easily to other Finnish bands...
Who would you love to tour with, given the opportunity?
With Testament :)
What do all of you do outside of Diablo?
All of us except Heikki have regular day jobs because you really can't make enough money by playing only in Finland. Heikki is so ambitious with his drumming that he's rehearsing something like six hours every day. He also gives some private lessons to younger drummers. I would very much encourage you to listen to the drum work on the latest Diablo albums.
Thanks for the interview! Anything else you'd like to mention?
I hope we would be able to come to the US to give you a one hell of a live show! Hopefully in the near future...Thanks!