XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Mark Ruffneck: We released OZ’s 7th studio album Transition State on 20th of October last year and right now we are doing promotion work for this album. In 2018 we are trying to go out and play on stage as much as possible to present OZ’s new line-up and also support OZ’s new music. The first live show in Europe will be on 24th February in Murcia, Spain. It’s a one day Heavy Metal Festival headlined by OZ. We are also now working on a new music video and hope that it will be published at the end of February this year. So 2018 summer will be touring time for OZ and we also start to work with a new album during this year, so we will be busy in 2018.
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Mark Ruffneck: I started OZ in 1977 (40 years ago) with the first Bassplayer, Tauno Vajavaara R.I.P. (He had his funeral at the same day as Lemmy). 1991 OZ was taking a break from Metal Music stage, but was back in business 2011 with the new album “Burning Leather”. 2013 we were forced to put OZ on the hold for family reasons, but we were back in 2015 with a new line up and also now we present new music with this new line up by releasing a new album “Transition State”.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Mark Ruffneck: We had the same inspirations as all kids who start a rock band..;) Play music, be a star, get laid and just wanna be somebody. 40 years ago we listened to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Nazareth and Alice Cooper and thought: this is awesome music, let’s put a band together and play like those guys. In the beginning OZ was a cover band and now 40 years later here we are, the 7th OZ album “Transition State” released and we are still going strong. So, I can’t tell enough here how proud I’m of this new line-up, somehow we all were lucky to find each other at the right time. It’s easy to say it right now, but there have been dark times in the shadows when there was no light and no future, but in the end we were lucky and found the light switch.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Mark Ruffneck: Learning by doing.
Johnny Cross: Pretty much the same: listening to great rock bands and trying to figure out how they do what they do. I have no formal musical education.
Juzzy Kangas: I spent eleven years in local music academy.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Mark Ruffneck: We play 80’s classical Heavy Rock, but have new fresh tones on it. 20th Century Metal meets 21st Century “carbon fiber”. OZ “Transition State” album is a classical Heavy Rock album influenced by 80’s Heavy Rock, but has modern new fresh sound on it. When “Transition State” is compared to “Burning Leather”, released in 2011; probably “Transition State” is more mature album, because we are now older and maybe also wiser, but we haven’t compared those albums by ourselves. I think that kind of analysis is for other people to do; we just make music that we like to make.
OZ “Transition State” sounds fresh and powerful, but still has some old OZ roots on its music! So, check OZ “Transition State” album, and hopefully you will find something interesting there if you listen to Classical Heavy Rock or Heavy Metal. And at the end I’d like to say here that we are only storytellers and unpolitical and unreligious band.
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals? (Next 1 to 3 years.)
Mark Ruffneck: Go out and Play on stage. Get a new album ready. And the same dream as for every band in the world; Get rich and famous.
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals?
Mark Ruffneck: In a long-term we’d like to do the same as every band. Make new music, some new videos and tour around the world. Hopefully we got some luck along the way and can make a major part of our dreams true.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Mark Ruffneck: Both of those possibilities are cool. Making new music is really great thing to do with modern technology, but playing on stage is part of the total package in the music business and of course playing on stage in front of audience is the greatest thing that you can do as a musician and as a band. So, playing live on stage is the ultimate goal after every new album.
XS ROCK: What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Mark Ruffneck: The smooth combination of reality and science fiction.
Johnny Cross: Lyrically, they are just a combination of different kind of stories, just pure products of my imagination. Lot of the songs are about playing heavy metal, being in a band and chasing your dreams and just simply kicking ass. There are some darker and deeper themes covered in some of the songs (Whore of Babylon, Drag You to Hell, In a Shadow of a Shotgun), but they are just stories with no real connection to any real events, and as stated before, we are completely unpolitical and unreligious band.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road?
Mark Ruffneck: Well, on the road for recording our first album: We recorded that one in Stockholm in Decibel Studio. It was during winter and we entered Sweden from the north; by boat from Vasa, Finland to Umeå, Sweden. There were a lot of ice in the sea and we were afraid that we will not get to Sweden, but we made it. We were several hours late, but at last we found the camping place where we had rent some rooms and just after OZ, the Swedish Heavy Load drove there. So the first people that we met in Sweden were guys from Heavy Load. It was a Friday night and they had a show that evening in Umeå and we were playing at the same place in Saturday evening. Next day we played in Umeå; it was the first time we played in Sweden. That was a cool show… At the end of the show we used smoke bombs and the fire alarm in the Club went off, so there were Firefighters and Police and they had to empty the rock club. So, we started quite powerfully on our first trip to Sweden.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Mark Ruffneck: This happens in 90’s when touring in Estonia and back then Estonia was still part of CCCP. One guy asked me, if he can buy my drums and only thing he offered to give me was Vodka. Well, I kept my Drums, and we made no deal.
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Mark Ruffneck: No, I can’t say that they were that, but after some years they were able to accept that music is a part of my life and when I had some other work also outside the band, they could sleep their nights more easily.
Johnny Cross: Kind of the same thing. They were really skeptical about my career choice at first, but once they realized I was serious about music, they accepted my choice.
Juzzy Kangas: Can’t say that either,because my parents didn’t have to. They did tried to slow me down and remind that there’s also that school thing I have to also finish.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Mark Ruffneck: Still, Turn the Cross Upside Down, but hopefully some new songs get to the same level in the future and can be the mega booster for audience when we are playing live.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Mark Ruffneck: In the beginning OZ was a cover band. We listened to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Nazareth and Alice Cooper and thought: this is awesome music, let’s put a band together and play like those guys. The energy, sound and attitude of those bands were so great that playing Heavy Rock was just the only possibility, there were no other options. I think those bands had some influences on OZ music. Later on I also started to listen to Rainbow, Judas Priest and Accept, so all these early Heavy Rock bands have been some kind of influences, I think.
Johnny Cross: The band that really started it all for me was Guns n’ Roses. It was so raw and full of attitude and energy, unlike any other music I had heard before. Soon after that I really got into AC/DC and Judas Priest, and before I even realized I was listening to hundreds of rock and metal band from the 70’s and 80’s.
Juzzy Kangas: To me Yngwie Malmsteen is the biggest influence. The mix of the classic and rock music was new, fresh and unique.
Basically my main inspiration for music is in 70’s and 80’s kind hard rock and heavy metal bands.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Mark Ruffneck: There are a lot of great bands out there, but if I had to choose something, I would choose my old time favorites, Judas Priest and Accept. That would be a great happening for everybody, both for the audience and also for all bands on stage. There is also the second set up. We should have been on Combat (Ultimate Revenge For Disco) tour with Venom and Slayer in 1985, but we never got on that north American tour, so that bill would also be quite interesting to put together, before we all are gone with the wind.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Mark Ruffneck: In the old days, OZ “Fire in the Brain” album in 1983 was listed on top 3 or top 5 in many different magazines, and was released around the world (USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, Scandinavia and some other countries as well). My personal greatest accomplishment is when I get good responds from my band mates for my ideas and I know that is coming from the heart of the members and it is not any kind of bullshit, but I hope that the most important achievements are still waiting in the future.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Mark Ruffneck: I don’t know really. When we had a break in 1991 I started to study chemistry in Stockholm University and the later on I got my Ph.D from Structual Biology and Biophysics at Karoliska Institutet (The House of Nobel Price) and after that I was working as a Scientist several years, so there is not so much left what I like to do in the rest of my life. Well I have my plan for rest of my life when we stop playing with OZ and there is that day already written on the wall, but I will not say that day here. I can only say that there is still a lot of time left before we start to read from that wall. And the other plan is to solve some mathematical equations that I haven’t solved yet, but that is a different story.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Mark Ruffneck: Many times when we are playing on stage in different festival, we are using that backline what is on place there. We have that philosophy, go out and play! You need a reasonable gear to play, but the sound is on your fingers not on the gear that you are using. I nowadays use YAMAHA drums and different old, vintage symbals from Paiste, Zildjian, Sabian, Istanbul and Spizzichino Symbals and dw Bass Drum Pedals.
Juzzy Kangas. Since a kid I’ve used Marshall Amps. I’ve tried the other ones too, but always come back to basics. The most I like is the old models, from JTM-45 to JCM-800.My main amp, at the moment is YJM-100,which is basically the Super Lead-Model.
When it comes to guitars, I like Fender Stratocaster, with scalloped neck the most.
My opinion about overdrive pedals have changed many times, but now I use Carl Martin’s Plexi Tone, but I think it’s the endless search.
Reverb and delay I take from TC Electronic G-system.
Johnny Cross: I’m not so picky about the equipment I use, but I prefer using Marshall amps and Gibson Les Paul guitars, and lately I’ve been using Carl Martin’s distortion pedals.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Mark Ruffneck: I’ve been living in Stockholm, Sweden since ’83 and the rest of the band is living in OZ’s old home town in Pori/Björneborg in Finland, so we can say that we went back to OZ’s roots with this new OZ line-up. The local metal scenes in both places are good and there are several bands playing different kinds of metal music. Especially Stockholm is the big city all big rock stars and rock bands visit when they are touring in Europe. So for me there’s some travelling from my home town to rehearsals in Pori/Björneborg in Finland, but at the same time our rehearsals are more focused, when we are not living in the same place and I can get information about the local music scenes in both places.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Mark Ruffneck: I think the biggest surprise for the most of the people is that I’m having Ph.D in Structural Biology and Biophysics and I worked as a scientist some years ago.
XS ROCK: If someone had never heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
Mark Ruffneck: As I told earlier, We play 80’s classical Heavy Rock, but with new fresh tones on it. 20th Century Metal meets 21st Century “carbon fiber”.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Mark Ruffneck: I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal fans out there, and also welcome new fans into our fold. For more info, please check out our website: www.ozofficial.com and keep on rocking.
XS ROCK: Thanks again guys for taking the time to talk with us at XS Rock!