Interview with Riku Salminen (Solitaire)

MER: Hello Riku, I want to thank you for taking this interview with Metal Express Radio and giving me the opportunity to talk with you about Solitaire, Metal and yourself. How is everything? How is the icy cold Finnish winter?

Riku: Hi there, Lior! It’s nice chatting with you. You know, this is the first time we’ve done an interview for a radio station or a webzine from Israel, which is really cool. We’re doing just fine here in Finland, we’ve survived another winter, it was quite freezing in January, but the spring has come now, the sun is shining and it’s been much warmer in the past couple of days.

MER: Predatress is the next hot thing regarding Solitaire and it’s content is pretty much in the same vein of your other releases. How do you feel about it? Do you think that this album outruns your previous ones? After the album’s release, are there any regrets about the contents on the album? Do you think that that there is something you missed?

Riku: I feel really great about the album, we worked really long and hard for it and we finally got it out last December. Yeah, I think it is our best one yet, the production is much better, the overall sound is fuller than it’s ever been before and this time we got more hooks and melody to the vocal lines and choruses. The only thing I regret is that it took way too long to put the album together. Rehearsing the new stuff took longer than it should have and the actual recordings also took longer than I ever would’ve thought. I kind of missed the straight forward go-for-it attitude when we were recording, ’cause the work was really slow and there was too much nit-picking in the studio. It was a really hard and stressful time for me and I think I burnt myself out pretty bad during the process. But I’m feeling much better now, the album is out and we have a great new line-up for Solitaire.

MER: Also on Predatress, you are appearing as the lead vocalist along with your guitar duty. Do you think that you have shown that Solitaire is better off as a foursome? Don’t you miss being just an axeman? Weren’t there any other vocalists in your area? Because while I reviewed you band’s history I saw that you had various vocalists.

Riku: Yeah, I think Solitaire is definitely better as a four-piece. Before recording the album we did over a dozen gigs in Finland with myself on vocals and some of the gigs were the absolute best we’ve ever played. The crowds were very much into it and they accepted me as the “new voice” in Solitaire, which was really cool. I really don’t miss being just a guitarist, I had some doubts about myself on how it would turn out, playing guitar and singing at the same time, but actually it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I rehearsed a lot by myself and I got the hang of it pretty quick. I never even considered trying to find another vocalist, ’cause I remember back in the early days when we were looking for a singer, it really was a tough job to find one and I didn’t want that anymore. I’ve written most of the lyrics and vocal lines by myself, so it was natural for me to take care of the vocals too. You know, it’s always difficult when you’re trying to teach your own vision to someone else, ’cause it’ll probably never turn out the way you meant originally.

MER: Do you think that after Predatress, Solitaire will turn to a different direction regarding themes? Have you thought about, maybe, darker themes, that will also maybe inspire a darker side of Solitaire?

Riku: There definitely is a dark side of Solitaire, but I don’t know if it’s gonna come out in our music, or if it does, I don’t know how. We’ve always been at our best doing the hard, fast and aggressive stuff with a lot of energy and feeling and I don’t see any reason why we should change that. Maybe in the future there will be a bit more of this or a bit more of that, but I must say I’m really happy with our musical direction now if there is some kind of a theme or if there isn’t.

MER: When I hear your material I can’t help but think about the 80’s era of Exciter, do you look at these Canadian speedsters as your main influence? Can you mention others?

Riku: We have some Exciter similarities, but I don’t consider them as our main influence. Solitaire has always been a mixture of traditional Heavy Metal and Speed ‘n’ Thrash of the 80’s. We’re influenced by a large variety of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal bands from Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motörhead to Slayer, Kreator and early works of Metallica plus many other great 80’s Heavy Metal artists too. We try to mix together a lot of different stuff and this way trying to create something new and original.

MER: Can you mention some of Solitaire’s greatest milestones along your career? Were there any events with some high profile artists or other recollections regarding this subject?

Riku: Signing our first record deal with Iron Glory Records in 2001 was definitely a big moment, as well as our first gig outside Finland ever, which was in Headbangers Open Air festival in Germany in 2003. Each of our 4 albums has been a major milestone, so we mustn’t forget the release of those. We’ve played with some brilliant bands during our foreign festival gigs, like Blitzkrieg, Omen and Attacker. Talking about a real high profile artist, we opened up for Nightwish at the local Eurastock festival in my hometown Eura in 1999, when Nightwish was just in the beginning stages of their international success, I think it was after their second album or something. Anyway, sometimes it’s nice to look back at what you’ve achieved, ’cause I believe we’ve gotten a hell of a lot further than we ever expected in 1995 when we first started the band.

MER: After Predatress Solitaire has lost two members, one of them was there since the band was formed in 1995, now you are the only surviving member. What happened?

Riku: Well, the last year or the last year and a half with the old line-up wasn’t easy. It became more and more obvious that Kalu and Mikko didn’t have enough time for Solitaire anymore. They had their day jobs, families and that kind of stuff which took most of their time and that’s also the main reason why our record making took so long with rehearsing and studio work. It was actually a bit of a miracle we even got the album done and during the time of rehearsing and recording I also was about to quit the band twice, ’cause I was so pissed off with the situation. Waaqqu was really worried about the future of the band too, so in the end we had no other choice but to start looking for new members for Solitaire and sack both Kalu and Mikko. It really was a leap in the dark, ’cause we had no idea how this would turn out, but if we’d tried to carry on with the old line-up, the whole band would have split up sooner or later. Yeah. But in the end it turned out just great when we got Lauri to play bass and Rippe to play drums for Solitaire, they’re much more like me and Waaqqu as people and Heavy Metal fans than the previous guys ever were!

We’ve made a good start, we’re rehearsing hard and breaking in the new line-up and hopefully we’ll get to play some gigs again soon. But right now we just have to be patient, ’cause it’s been a big change in the band and it takes some time to get all the pieces of the puzzle clicked together. It’s really great to be a part of Solitaire again and I feel much more relaxed, calm and happy in the band now.

MER: What can you tell me about yourself besides from being the leading man of Solitaire? What kind of a Metal subgenre is flowing through your veins? When had you and Heavy Metal gotten infused together?

Riku: Ever since I was a kid I’ve always liked my music hard with high tempo. It was in early 1986 when I discovered Twisted Sister and their album Come Out And Play was the first Hard Rock or Heavy Metal album I ever bought. I was about 10 years old at the time and even today at 33, Twisted Sister is still one of my favorite bands and Come Out And Play is probably my all time favorite album regarding it’s sentimental value.

Mostly I prefer the traditional Heavy Metal bands, like Maiden, Priest, Motörhead and so on, but I also like Speed ‘n’ Thrash, Hard Rock, Glam Rock, Punk, Hard Core, Death Metal… well, basically any old school and 80’s stuff there is! Music is pretty much my whole life, since I really don’t have any other hobbies, apart from watching sports, learning computer and net stuff and maybe a bit of photographing, so there really is not much to say about myself outside music, Heavy Metal and Solitaire.

MER: Finland is a country where Metal is a huge part of the mainstream unlike any Metal scene in the world, yet most of the Finnish Metalists are unlike what Solitaire represents. Most of the scene is rather Dark Metal than Old School. Aside from the cold weather, why do you think this Metal scene is like that?

Riku: I don’t know if it has anything to do with cold weather, but you’re right, the Finnish Metal scene is really mainstream and it’s been that way for the past 2 or 3 years. Some of these Finnish so called Metal bands have gained a big commercial success, but I think many of these bands aren’t really Metal at all. I think the term “Heavy Metal” has gone through a hell of an inflation in Finland, many bands are labelled Heavy Metal if they just have a dark, distorted guitar sound. If you ignore the guitar sound and only listen to the songs, I think they’re mostly just mediocre and radio friendly Pop Rock made to be as commercial as possible. I think many of these Finnish bands have gone way too far from the original Heavy Metal roots and we with Solitaire, we’d like to get it more back to basics, we want to bring the old blood and guts back to the music and keep the flag flying for aggressive Old School Speed Metal. But we do have an underground Metal scene here in Finland too, which is by far much more interesting than the mainstream one. It’s been great to witness the slow but steady rise of the Finnish Underground Metal during this past decade and also Solitaire has had the honor to be a part of it.

MER: What do you think of the Metal world today? Does Speed Metal have a place as a lone sub-genre, because almost every sub-genre in Metal today is using Speed Metal elements? Will Old School Metal survive the present and will it continue in the future?

Riku: I really don’t pay that much attention to what’s going on in the Metal world anymore, at least not the major bands. I think a lot of people are getting tired of the mainstream Metal stuff and they’re looking for something more extreme and radical from the Underground, so yeah, I think Old School and Speed Metal will survive in the future too. It has survived the past, for example, when we started with Solitaire in 1995, all Heavy Metal was really down at the time, but it still survived, although it wasn’t in the spotlight for many years. It just went a bit more underground for a while and I think the same will happen in the future too. Trends come and trends go, but Heavy Metal still lives on at least in the underground.

MER: What advice can you give to the young generation of Metalheads?

Riku: Just follow your own heart and instinct and not just some trends or mainstream. It’s so easy to get stuck on mainstream bands, ’cause they’re generally popular and if you don’t follow a trend, you’re an outcast. But so what? It takes a bit of character to turn your back on the mainstream, but it’s important to try to find something that’s right just for you. If you dig a bit deeper in the underground, you’ll find a lot of different kinds of Metal stuff that comes straight from the heart and which is not spoiled by major record labels with only the money in mind.

MER: Rick , I would like to thank you for this interview for Metal Express Radio. I wish you guys in Solitaire good luck with your new album and may you keep Thrashing us up for many years to come. It’s been a pleasure. Cheers to you and the guys.

Riku: OK, thank you very much, it was a pleasure for me too. It’s also nice you called me Rick, it reminds me of my 6th grade English teacher… haha! But all the best for you too with Metal Express Radio, keep on shattering the airwaves…! Cheers!


  • Lior Stein

    Lior was a reviewer, DJ and host for our Thrash Metal segment called Terror Zone, based out of Haifa, Israel. He attributes his love of Metal to his father, who got him into bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Boston, and Queen. When he was in junior high he got his first Iron Maiden CD, The Number Of The Beast. That's how he started his own collection of albums. Also, he's the guitarist, vocalist and founder of the Thrash Metal band Switchblade. Most of his musical influences come from Metal Church, Vicious Rumors, Overkill, and Annihilator.

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