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Interviews OZ

Interview with drummer Mark Ruffneck

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: December 21, 2023


Photos by Klaus Luukkonen

Finland's heavy metal stalwarts OZ have been pushing hard to keep the band's name alive in the scene for 5 decades, despite being disbanded from 1991 until regrouping in 2010. After collecting their forces together again, they have released three studio albums, changed their lineup (leaving drummer Mark Ruffneck as the only original member) and recently working hard on new songs for the band's ninth, as yet untitled, studio album. The band put out a new single on November 24, 2023, featuring two songs, "Undercover" and "Wicked Vices" that give an indication of what you can expect from these legendary Finns' next studio recording.

We contacted Mark Ruffneck to get some specific details on what's been brewing in the OZ camp in recent times. He gave us the following news...

How's life in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fall of 2023? All's well over there?

Mark: Thanks for asking. Right now, everything is OK here in royal Stockholm. Two months ago I got an infection in my leg and that illness took all my focus, but now it's gone and I'm back to normal again. Happy days here in royal Stockholm.

NEW SINGLE "UNDERCOVER"

On November 24, 2023, OZ's label Massacre Records, released a new single from the band, titled Undercover, which also contained another new OZ song, "Wicked Vices." What can you tell us about these new songs?

Mark: "Undercover" is guitar-driven heavy metal whereas "Wicked Vices" is more traditional heavy metal. I generally don't analyze OZ music in public, I leave that to others. Just listen to the music. A lot of analysis was done during the time the song was made so that's enough for me.

The lyrics in "Undercover" are about us all hiding our true faces, thinking, and playing the game of life where many things are secret. Right now, many people and groups are trying to get information about us and how we live our lives and use it against us. "Undercover" is a song describing the times we live in now.

The lyrics in "Wicked Vices" are about a secret group that does different things that aren't done in the light of day. The story isn't complete and allows listeners to use their imagination to fill in the gaps.

Both songs' lyrics are a combination of reality and fantasy, allowing listeners to use their own imaginations to get the stories they want.

Having only heard "Undercover," in my opinion, it follows basically the same musical formula of your previous album, Forced Commandments, in 2020. It oozes hard rock, but it's still very much a heavy metal song. Would you say that when the lineup of OZ changed in 2015, leaving you as the only original member, that had a lot to do with the new musical direction of the band, with both Johnny Cross and Juzzy Kangas becoming the main songwriters of OZ?

Mark: Bringing a new member into the band will always affect the overall sound. When you get new members who write both music and lyrics, it will, of course, affect the musical direction of the band.

OZ needs to give artistic freedom to all members, both new and old, to express their musical ideas and that's how we work. OZ music probably gets some new shades or colors, but it's generally classic heavy metal rooted in the '80s.

Juzzy wrote the music for the song "Undercover" and Johnny was responsible for the lyrics. Are they also the main song and lyric writers for all the new OZ material?

Mark: Yes, the new OZ music is written by Johnny and Juzzy and the lyrics are written by Johnny. Once the demo songs were ready, all OZ members were able to submit their views on the songs before we started working on demos. This is OZ's way to make new music right now. I think it works well, so why change the working concept?

NEW ALBUM IS BREWING

Does this brand-new single also give people a clue about the rest of the songs that will be featured on OZ's upcoming album?

Mark: This new single is part of OZ's musical journey, which is still continuing, and the new album will also be on that path.

What's the current situation with the band's new album? What's been done and what's still undone?

Mark: Most of the new album is rough mixed, but the final touches of mixing and mastering are still needed. The album title is known and the idea for the album cover is decided, but there is still some work to be done before the release date.

As you are the only original member of the band left, do you have the final say about the material on an OZ release, or is each of the current members on the same page regarding this matter?

Mark: Yes, I probably have "veto" power for various reasons, but I haven't used it and hopefully never will. I use a similar idea to control OZ that I used with my science projects. All members have the freedom to do their part as they wish, but at the same time we all show respect for each other and for OZ as a band.

You have been using Appendix Studio in Pori, Finland, to record your new album. What's so special about this studio? You recorded your previous album, Forced Commandments, there as well...

Mark: Well, if you have friends... ;o)

We like to be there, and logistical reasons also play into the choice of studio. And here is the main reason, if something works well, don't change it.

Videos are an essential part of getting a band promoted, so what kind of plans do you have regarding this aspect?

Mark: We have some plans to make a video and also to finish the album in the near future, but there are so many parameters that can change our planning, there is no need to set specific days for these releases.

TRUSTING MASSACRE RECORDS

Have you had any discussions with Massacre Records yet about when this new OZ album might see the light of day?

Mark: We released the Undercover/Wicked Vices vinyl single on November 24, 2023, so the new album will likely be released in 2024. I haven't talked to Massacre Records about the release schedule for the new OZ album, but the times after COVID are completely different compared to the times before the pandemic hit. The queue for vinyl pressing plants is really long, so producing vinyl records dictates the release schedule.

How has the band's cooperation been with Massacre Records? Are you still satisfied and happy with the ways they have been pushing OZ?

Mark: As I said before, the times after COVID are completely different compared to before. The Forced Commandments album was delayed one month in 2020 when COVID hit the earth and we are still affected by it and now we have other problems, like inflation and Russians attacking Ukraine. The Undercover/Wicked Vices vinyl single was delayed several times, due to various reasons prevailing in Europe. I think Massacre Records does everything as well as they can.

Would you say the staff of Massacre understands OZ isn't a band that needs to release a new album every 2-3 years or so, giving you more freedom to set your own timetables for band activities?

Mark: Massacre Records hasn't set any timetables for releasing OZ albums or singles and as I said before there is no need to plan too much. Both OZ and Massacre Records are interested in releasing new OZ music and will do so whenever possible. We have a good relationship with Massacre Records, and we hope it continues in the future.

REISSUES AND BOOTLEGS

Hellion Records from Brazil has been reissuing some of OZ's past releases in a slipcase format. Do these releases have OZ's official approval?

Mark: They contacted Black Mark Production and got master tapes from them. They also contacted me after that and told me that they plan to reissue old OZ albums in Brazil. I told them about my relationship with Black Mark Production (F***K that company!!!) and I also told them that they have done nothing wrong. We have a good relationship with Hellion Records. They also got a license from Massacre Records for the Forced Commandments release in Brazil in 2020.

What's your take on bootleg releases? Are you against them because bands don't make a dime, or do you see them as free promotion for the band (you know free promotion is good promotion)?

Mark: Bootleg releases! I am more than strongly against them! Someone who steals things (music or maybe cover art) from you and makes money off those things without giving you any money.

Free campaign?? It's not free, you should pay the royalties to the band. But we can't do anything about it. The music business has always been the monkey business and always will be.

What does OZ have on the table as far as some upcoming shows are concerned? Are you aiming to play at some festivals next year?

Mark: We don't have any festival shows booked yet for 2024, but we're trying to go out and play. Playing live shows is one of the fun reasons for playing in the band.

I guess that's all I have in mind for this chat, so thank you very much, Mark, for taking your time with this interview, and all the best to you and OZ with all of your future endeavors with the band. Any closing thoughts to wrap up this conversation?

Mark: Rock on, folkz and check the OZ homepage at www.ozofficial.com for more info about the band, new music, live shows, etc.

Cheriouz!! Mark Ruffneck (drummer and founding member of OZ)

Other information about OZ on this site
Review: Burning Leather
Review: Burning Leather
Review: Transition State
Review: Transition State
Review: Fire in the Brain
Review: Forced Commandments
Review: Forced Commandments
Review: Forced Commandments
Review: The OZ
Review: III Warning
Review: Roll the Dice
Review: ...Decibel Storm...
Interview with Mark Ruffneck (drums) on October 2, 2011 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with vocalist Ape De Martini and drummer Mark Ruffneck on September 19, 2012 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with drummer Mark Ruffneck on January 17, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with vocalist Ape De Martini, guitarists Juzzy and Johnny, bassist Peppi and drummer Mark Ruffneck on March 26, 2016 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with drummer Mark Ruffneck on December 13, 2017 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with drummer Mark Ruffneck on September 30, 2018 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
Interview with drummer Mark Ruffneck on March 22, 2020 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)




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