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The Rasmus Live 2012 / Volume II

39 gigs, 16 countries, thousands of kilometres, endless hours queueing, 112 minutes of pure The Rasmus on tour.
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What on earth does Lauri from The Rasmus think he’s doing?

When rock music turned just into business, Lauri Ylönen found stripping Amanda inside of him.

BY Reeta Niemonen
PHOTOGRAPHY Meri Björn
TRANSLATION Sohvi-Maari Hellsten
DIGITAL EDITION OF THE MAGAZINE

Lauri Ylönen“You’re the kind of anti-hero who is just sitting in a tree and keeping an eye on the world below.”

That’s how The Rasmus singer Lauri Ylönen was described by American producer Desmond Child at the time recordings were starting on the band’s 2008 album Black Roses. In the present, our anti-hero’s trainers are tapping an impatient combo against the pavement. It is hard to make out if he even cares that much for being interviewed.

At eight o’clock this morning he has picked up a much awaited postal delivery. The parcel contains a “cool thing from the eighties”, which turns out to be a keytar, a sort of keyboard-guitar hybrid. Ylönen has spent the whole day developing ideas for new songs on it.

In the course of a decade The Rasmus has achieved multinational success. At the same time, an unyielding machinery of timetables and forward planning has developed, and there haven’t been many opportunities to chill out at band practices. But now the singer is exited: recently he has felt like he has rediscovered that hands-on attitude from which it all started about two decades ago.

The Rasmus played their first gig at a school party when the band members were 14. Some of their friends could barely believe that the boys had really written the songs they performed. Most other basic practicing in the music room preferred to play Nirvana or Metallica covers.

Before The Rasmus, Ylönen was a drummer. It was his sister who suggested he should try singing instead; after all, the vocalist had the coolest job in the band, hands down. Ylönen wasn’t keen on the idea at first, because he thought his voice sounded dreadful on recordings. But in the end curiosity got the better of him.

The band spent the next couple of years playing at youth clubs and started winning fans with their funk-influenced sound.

“We used to be so psyched afterwards if we heard that there had been an audience of 63, when the gig before that we had had 52 people there”, Ylönen is reminiscing with a broad smile on his face.

The evenings gigs started to get in the way of school. Ylönen resolved this by quitting high school during his second year and began instead to leave home in the mornings for band practice.

The furious energy of The Rasmus was respected on the streets and the band had faith in their own concept. If an album was a flop, so what – they would just make another. The record company wasn’t as optimistic. The band was asked to start singing in Finnish, for example. In hindsight that just sounds completely absurd.

“I guess they just felt that was a way to make a bit more of a profit. But we had this vision that we had to go abroad. There just wasn’t a point in changing to Finnish”, Ylönen says.

Lauri Ylönen

In the early 2000s the band signed a deal with a Swedish record company. The new album Into was the concentrate of their confidence. The smash hit F-F-F-Falling was followed by another, which was In the Shadows from the 2003 album Dead Letter. After that it got quite hard to get the band to stay in Finland for more than very short times.

Ylönen doesn’t even really remember that much of those years.

“You just end up being in England today and in California tomorrow, just babbling something, and the whole time you’re on the move and just completely worn out.”

The largest audience that has ever enjoyed a The Rasmus gig gathered last August to Volgograd in Russia. The city was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the battle of Stalingrad. Standing on the stage, there was no end in sight to the swirling sea of 200 000 spectators.

Rasmusmania is at its most intense in Latin America. When the band tours there, fans are waiting for them at the airport with self-baked cakes, or sometimes they might turn over a tour bus when barging around enthusiastically. Ylönen thinks the popularity might be due to his band’s Slavic sounds, a spirit of “positive sadness” in the songs, or because of their lyrics that describe the Northern Lights, for example. They probably have an exotic feel to them so far away from their oint of origin.

On YouTube, the music videos of The Rasmus gather many comments in Spanish and Russian and even some in Japanese. You don’t really see Finns in the comment threads, except every now and then a fan pops up to boast in English how their first name is Rasmus.

Ylönen has stories about fans from abroad that have ended up following the band to Finland:

“Like, I used to listen to your music and came to visit Finland a couple of times and found a Finnish boyfriend. Those kinds of people you can become sort of familiar with, they come to the gigs and have learned Finnish.”

There is a dark side to international fame: the band has very little time to make actual music.

“Especially if an album has become a hit. Then we might have 14 interviews per day and still some meet & greet in the evening. We don’t even play anymore, all the time is spent on that kind of stuff.”

Lauri Ylönen

The lights in the room are dimmed. Lauri Ylönen is wearing feminine make up, a white wig and fishnet tights. He starts to strip and is spinning around a pole. This is Ylönen’s newest solo project. Some The Rasmus fans were horrified when the music video for the song She’s a Bomb was released last March. What on earth does Lauri from The Rasmus think he’s doing?

Ylönen shrugs. It’s not rare that members of prominent bands face criticism when embarking on a solo career.

“It’s just out of bounds. You aren’t supposed to change or to shatter an illusion you have created. Especially abroad they tend to think that I’m a really broody person.”

But now even Ylönen himself has grown annoyed of his broodings and doesn’t mind shattering that illusion.

“It’s actually fun to expose a more carefree part of yourself, in a twisted way. It’s really rewarding when you know that a solo career doesn’t come with the same kind of expectations as your other work.”

An angular glove puppet with lights for her eyes, called Amanda, is messing about on the video.

The collective’s album that comes out in 2014 is also named after her. ”There is a humorous feel to it, when Amanda goes and faints in a heap of cocaine at the set of Scarface”, Ylönen chuckles at his alter ego and her shenanigans.

Amanda has also attracted some of Lauri’s old mates who refuse to grow up. Together, they might leave for Los Angeles to improvise a music video in an open-top car. Everything is as weird and daft as it was in secondary school; the toys have just gotten a bit more expensive.

Yet Ylönen stresses that his primary career is with The Rasmus. He just happens to be in the lucky position where demand for the band is “even at its worst good enough”, which gives the vocalist peace to pursue other interests.

He doesn’t really know how long he has the energy to continue as a performing artist. Once a few decades have passed Ylönen would not mind seeing himself as a composer.

“It would be great to play a grand piano in front of a window and to look out to the sea. To make a different kind of song to Katy Perry.”

If it doesn’t work out he returns to high school, completes the necessary maths courses and tries to become an architect. Building plans are already seizing Ylönen’s thoughts away from music from time to time. He has for example designed the house for his family that is currently being built.

Lauri Ylönen

Ylönen’s solo ventures into electronica could give the impression of a thirty-something family man trying to avoid his responsibilities, but Amanda gives him the opportunity to recount the eagerness of his youth. The rock singer is on unfamiliar territory with this music genre. He has been forced to show humility and to learn everything from the beginning, as if fumbling in the dark.

“It’s that phenomenon you know from childhood, that it’s much more fun to build a city with your Legos than to play with that finished city.”

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A special thank to Reeta Niemonen and Meri Björn for giving their authorisation to the republishing of the article and the photos in this website.

05.02.2014 Finland Improbatur Original article
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