Jørn Lande is probably one of the most talented singers of our time. In the past year, he surprised us with several releases – not only with his own band, but also with some of his other projects, like Allen & Lande, Avantasia, Masterplan and others. We met the Norwegian at the Z7 in Pratteln, right before his Avantasia gig and talked with him about his return to Masterplan and his new album “Dio”, which is dedicated to Ronnie James Dio. It turned out to be a very emotional interview that reveals how close Jørn was to the late Dio.
Hello Jørn, it´s been awhile since our last interview, how have you been?
Same as usual, music, music, music and some live shows.
Let´s talk a little bit about your record “DIO”, which is a tribute to Ronnie James Dio. When did the idea for this album arise?
The sad passing of Ronnie James Dio took most of my time this summer and this spring and actually parts of last winter…cause you know I was a big fan and I met him, or we toured together when I was working with Yngwie Malmsteen, 10 years ago. So I started working on that record, which came out and I wrote the song “For Ronnie James” also and recorded that during the last year. And then of course when I got a call from Tony Iommi to do the concert in Victoria Park to raise money for the cancer fund, then I got kind of busy with that. I got also very grateful and stressed at the same time because it was a special kind of thing.
So it meant a lot for you to be part of this show?
Well, it was kind of unexpected, because I´ve been doing some stuff with Tony few years ago in Birmingham… did a couple of demos together, but nothing happened after that and then they started Heaven & Hell. I stayed in touch a little bit during the years after, you know, sending my albums and stuff every time when something new was coming out. But yeah, I didn´t expect it to happen and I was of course grateful because the timing of the release of the tribute Album “DIO” was something that the record company also wanted to do, regardless of the circumstances. I wanted to postpone everything for awhile but I couldn´t really do that much to change it. So it was in the middle of everything, it was kind of sensitive, it was a great thing for me to get the recognition from these guys, you know. That helped me a lot, because it was a lot of bad thing going on in the beginning. If I didn´t do that show, I am not sure if I would feel great right now even though it´s sincere and the whole thought and philosophy behind, for example “Song for Ronnie James” it´s all coming from the heart. It´s just because I wanted to recognize someone great, you know. Somebody like Ronnie James Dio. I mean too many people are busy with their own thing these days just trying to reinvent the wheel but they forget the good stuff and take it for granted. And nobody wants to admit where they took their influence from, they just invent all these strange names, or talk about something from Jazz or Country Music for example, something that is totally different from what they are doing. You know, when you tell them “I can hear, you listen to Richie Blackmore or something.” And guitarists would say “No, I never did, I never really liked it that much.” And then they mention some other names. That was my problem with the music business in general; I just was kind of frustrated about that. I thought that someone has to do something in the middle of everything to show that you are a product of the people that inspired you and then you take it from there and in the end you become your own artist but you should recognize the great ones that gave you the inspiration to begin.
How do you handle the positive but also negative reactions to your “DIO” record?
Well, in the beginning there where a lot of bad comments but I think also many positive. But there where some nasty ones. I didn´t read that many because I thought it destroys my focus. You know I am just a human being so I don´t like it when I read it. Also when I put something into it, gave myself away for it, then I take it personal (laughs) So I can´t help it, I don´t wanna do that but I do anyway. Especially with a song like “Song for Ronnie James” because that song was something that I really wanted to bring from inside and at the same time I wanted it to be his song. I didn´t wanted it to be a typical song to try to fit with what is politically correct in the business. I just wanted to do something really great, I guess that´s why the song is eight minutes long because Ronnie James Dio was an epic guy. He was a small man but a big, big guy. It´s not just the voice it´s the person. If there was ever somebody “holy” in the music business or in metal, Ronnie James Dio was the Jesus of Heavy Metal. He was so special, if you got to know him a little bit, I mean you don´t even have to know him well just, the person and character… he was just unique.
Why did you pick exactly these songs, which are on the album now?
I just like those songs and also think that Dio worked hard for many years and he never sold out really like many other artists did. Like I mentioned, he never tried to be politically correct that is also why I liked him. He worked hard and I don´t think that it´s right of an artist like myself in a similar category, style-wise, to record songs like “Holy Diver” or “Last in Line” or “Rainbow in the dark”, maybe one day, but he was working very hard to survive in this business. And it is not easy to find the balance between, following your vision and being an idealist. At the same time, you have to be somehow focused on the business, music industry and adapt somehow, that´s the only way. Or else you can not do it, that´s why I respect him in that way. That´s why I choose the other songs, I also thought that it would be cool to pick some of the songs I liked when I grew up and at the same time, they are songs that many people have forgotten about because people usually buy the compilations or they just pick out the most well-known songs. Songs like “Shame on the Night” are just so suddenly forgotten. And when you hear it again, accidently. You´re like ”Oh, that song I forgot about, that´s fucking great!” So I thought the same thing with some of the other songs there. “Push” is also such an example, I just wanted to show some songs of the old days and some of the modern times. Just to show how he developed. Also these songs are not that famous and I thought that was cool. Then you bring his legacy to the table. Right now, I am very happy that I choose not to do these other songs, which are his trademark. And I am very happy that I wrote “Song for Ronnie James”, it makes it clear for people that they feel, they can tell that this song is not just written for fun. Anyone who has a musical talent or understanding will feel the power of the song, the energy that is put in. This is not something you just write everyday.
Much has happened in your life, you are back in your old band Masterplan, what did you make to rejoin Masterplan? How is it to be back?
It´s not a big deal, it´s just that we agreed to do one album and that´s about it. We didn´t talk about what would happen later, touring or more albums. So nothing really. We just did that record. I think the album was good but so far we didn´t really discuss about how to do live shows. We talked about it earlier but the circumstances are not right. It´s all about teamwork and getting everything together. Sometimes the constellations don´t work together. (laughs) I think that is what is happening now, we are all friends and there is no problem, it´s just, I think we have a little different philosophy on what´s the right thing to do and also at the moment when I do for example this tour with Avantasia and with the Jorn Band then it´s some of the same venues, it´s some of the same people to work with. I think if Masterplan should do a tour, it should be something special and right now there is no team working to make sure that this would be a special event. You need to get the right promotion, the right focus, the right package maybe. Maybe a couple other bands playing before. I think it´s been a little bit low, the ambitions have been lower from the business in general, you know from booking agencies, from the record company. I think they don´t want to invest as much as they should. Sometimes that happens. For example what happens now with Avantasia is a great thing, I mean, many people could do a tour anywhere in the world. Just to make it happen, so that it is profitable and a good thing for your career. You just need people to work for you and really do. Anybody could put together a band and play but to sell thousand, two thousand tickets every show, that´s a different story. And I think that´s the problem with Masterplan. At the moment there is nothing that indicates that the band would get the right push.
Don´t you think that the people would show up again because you are back in the band? Cause I think, things have gone quiet on the Masterplan front because of the wrong singer.
I don´t know. It´s not just about that because there are many singers that are not the greatest but they still pull a lot of people. It´s also combinations about the business as well. If you have a good team that works for you with good planning and strategy, you could make things happen. I just think that´s what we don´t have with Masterplan right now. You know, the video should have been done before the album for “Time to be King” but it came after the album. I mean, it´s always good to have a video regardless of the timing but, you know what I mean, the whole strategy should be the opposite. It should be more in advance, just to be thinking ahead. So that´s what I feel about what happened to that album. If something was really planned in a better way with that album, we might have been on tour this year or next year but I just decided not to do it and I think, or me and Roland [Grapow, guitar] talked about it and we just decided it´s not worth it, the way things are. And also in my case I can go out and play the same venues with Jorn band. And I am not sure if there would be that much more people, maybe because it has been a long time since we last played together, for the new sensation again (laughs). It just should be a difference, somebody should make sure that it is promoted well, that it is a big happening that this band is back doing a new tour. Like I said the constellations don´t work together in that sense now. That´s why I decided that I just play with my own band, then I don´t have to rehearse and plan a big tour. I don´t see the point unless it´s maybe some different venues, some more massive push behind the whole thing. Like I said, creating a package maybe, to be able to do some bigger venues.
To make it also a little bit more attractive for you to play there.
Yeah, cause we are all established with different things. And I am established enough with my own band and I don´t have to do that much with that band to prepare. Cause we already played for years now. And we know each other and it´s easy because we have a team working, we have a booking agency, Live Nation. I rather go and play the songs I know (laughs) Rather then to fly out to Hamburg or somewhere else to start rehearsing songs I didn´t work on for years. And you know, make the same money, play the same level. I mean, I love to play with the guys, but we live in different countries now. Mike Terrana lives in Italy and he plays with Tarja and he is busy with other projects and has his drum clinics all over the place. It´s not easy for him to just say:”Yes, for two months I´m gonna say ´no´ to everything in my own life.” And then after that it´s over, so when he has a steady thing going with these other jobs. And I think Masterplan is a band that would do a longer tour and then having long breaks. It´s just difficult to find the time to do it.
You also need a good record company behind you, giving you support.
The record company is alright but it´s all about the priority. How much are you willing to invest in the band or in the tour. Most bands don´t get tour support at all and some bands do but very often the tour support is just not big enough. It helps out a little bit and the record company sells a little bit more. But the big picture is not worth it right now. But it was cool to do the album and you never know, maybe we do another one. But at the moment it is just good to rest for awhile.
You wrote all the lyrics to the new Masterplan record. I saw that you quite often use the words “Alone and Lonely”, could it be that you feel yourself lonely in a way, or have the lyrics nothing to do with yourself and you write about what you see on TV or in the newspapers?
If I identify with something, I get inspired and write about it, write something based on what I see or what I read. But I mean, life is lonely in general, we live and we die and we do it alone. I think loneliness is the biggest part of your life, in a way. It´s the most empty part but it´s also what colours your behaviour or your values, what makes you who you are. It gives you hope as well. When you long for something, you hope for something. I think we always deal with the question Life & Death and why things are like they are. I think I am just old school with thinking, growing up on the countryside, I love the trees, I love the mountains, if it´s raining afterwards I love the smell. I appreciate all these elements. And I guess when I put words to things, then loneliness is a part of that. Many people don´t think in an honest way about who they are on an existential level. They are too busy with creating something, constructed to fit the trend. And like you said you watch something and you just write about something you see, instead of identifying with it and actually channelling the real you. I am also very simple with words, I like that people can understand. I don´t like to use words that are complex or difficult to understand. Just because I wanna be original or just because I wanna do something that nobody else sang or wrote before. I mean why should I talk about other strange names or alternatives for the Devil, God, “our Saviour” (laughs) you could say a lot of things but I think it´s like Heaven & Hell, why should you look for all these strange words to explain a parallel universe to that just to be original. I think it´s more important that the people actually understand what I am singing instantly because then they know exactly what it is about. They don´t have to open a dictionary to find out what I mean. It is also challenging to write with simple words because the challenge then becomes bigger to make it interesting with simple words. It´s kind of difficult. And then when it sounds so simple then it is the melody that something is wrong with, because a great melody can have something very simple and make sense and become a strong and powerful message. But if the melody is bad the lyrics becomes ridiculous.
How does the co-operation work, when you do the Allen&Lande records? I read that you never met each other, is that true?
Well, once we met in America. But we never worked together physically in the studio. We just sent files and put the files on servers and send back the vocal files (laughs) And they downloaded it and put my vocals down on the tracks and the same with him.
You also have a new Allen & Lande record out — “The Showdown”, is there a plan that the two of you perform those songs once together on stage?
No, I guess Frontiers [Jorn´s record company] already asked me if I would like to do a DVD or something in the future but so far I think it´s better to put that project on hold. I think it´s enough with the trilogy, I think three records now should be enough for a Allen & Lande Box-Set or Compilation (laughs) Cause I mean you don´t need more of that. I mean, just one of those things in life that you don´t need more of (laughs) Three records, that´s enough.
Maybe in 15 years you say:”Let´s do another one!”
Could happen you never know but for the moment it´s enough. I mean it´s different when you do projects like that, other people are involved, songwriters, producers, and I am used to do everything myself. I mean that can also be a different outcome, which again is not bad, it depends on how you see it. You lose some and you gain something else.
New records with Masterplan, Jorn and Allen & Lande, shows with Avantasia… many things happened last year, what are your plans for 2011?
I am working on a Sweden Rock DVD from this summer, we filmed the show, kind of a spontaneous thing but it doesn´t sound too bad, I´m gonna mix everything, hopefully it´ll be out before summer, so that´s about that. And I´m thinking about doing another studio album late 2011 or early 2012 with Jorn. So that´s basically it. DVD first and then start writing again.
What about touring?
Well, there are individual shows coming up. Z7 already wants us back. Sometime this year we might play here again. Some shows in Sweden and some festivals probably. We get to know more about it after Christmas. They will be confirmed January, February. I think you will see soon dates popping up.
But an extended tour, we don´t have plans for that right now. It depends when you book Z7, we probably gonna add a couple of gigs more and suddenly you have a tour again. (laughs) It´s all about being ahead of time. Usually, it´s always too late and you think like “Oh Shit, gigs should have been promoted for six months!” and it is only for two or three. This time we try to sit back a little bit more and not stress with it. We also take more care about the venues, where you have a proper backstage and proper catering. We used to play everywhere from big to small stages, it is just that some of the small stages don´t have what you require. And the older you get… you just wanna change it. You wanna be more selective where you play and also you get to notice the weak spots in the business. Normally, when you get older you start to focus more on where you are and where you wanna go and the details become more important. When you where younger and you were not established you didn´t care either. You had time, you didn´t care about things in the same way. You´d be up all night and ending up at some house or apartment in some city (laughs) and the tourmanager would go crazy “Where the fuck is Jorn?” and you would almost miss the gig. (laughs) This means it´s just playing and Rock´n´Roll, women and party. And then it changed and you start to realize what life is about and try to change. And that is what we are doing today, we are trying to be more selective. Sometimes you can not be but the business is the way it is and you have to make a compromise.
Do you have some final words for the STALKER readers…
What I say usually. Thanks to everyone for buying the records and for following me for so many years. That´s all I can say. I am grateful for that. I mean, it´s the reason for doing this. There are not many other reasons, just for my inner balance but at the same time the balance would be totally messed up without somebody really giving me the feedbacks. That´s all I can say: I´ll be around for a while. (laughs)
Hopefully! Thank you very much for taking time to answer my questions.