Lauri Ylönen looks back at the fame they had from their hit album – fans came even to the home address: “Hands were coming in through the mail box”.
The Rasmus’ Dead Letters album turns 15. Now Lauri Ylönen and Aki Hakala will go through the album track by track.
The Dead Letters album has sold more than a million copies world-wide.
The milestone is celebrated properly: in September, a fan edit of the album was released which the fans were able to vote songs for online. The fan edit contains also four rare bonus songs. The band will also play the whole album on their European tour.
IS met with Lauri Ylönen and Aki Hakala to look back at their album track by track.
– The album leaflet describes the album quite well. The idea is that each song is like a letter to someone. The letter may have also been written to yourself. Whether the letters are ever delivered, will remain to be seen. One cannot know that. It is left unknown, Lauri explains.
The overall image of the album is dark. The four previous albums – Peep, Playboys, Hell of a Tester and Into – were cheerful and vivacious rock even on the album covers.
– During the Dead Letters, something happened in the band. The sorrow came through and we fell in love with the melancholy, Lauri recalls.
– The previous album was pure joy and Lauri had white hair. Perhaps the change came with age, Aki thinks.
– At the time, we were worried about the future. We had given our everything to the band. Even though we were having fun, we were not successful outside of Finland yet. We were a bit lost. We knew we had more to give, but we didn’t know how to get it out, Lauri says.
In 1999, Aki, who sat on the drum chair, was in a similar situation.
– My friends were having children and I had decided to invest in the band. It was certainly pretty crazy. I was like a horse with those blinkers covering his eyes so he can’t see around him. Luckily, we had four guys and each of us had the same vision. That we wanted to invest in this.
– We didn’t have a back-up plan. We were young and we thought we’ll always survive, Lauri laughs now.
– But we had a clear vision, Aki agrees.
First Day Of My Life
Lauri: I had finished the demo with an acoustic guitar. It had a classical vibe to it. It was also the first time there was a bit of schlager mixed with the rock – a little bit of Abba in the chorus. But when we started rocking the song with guitars, it actually became quite interesting. We had our own term for it: positive sadness.
Aki: The song has some longing. We have started 98 percent of our gigs with this song.
In The Shadows
Lauri: This song is our key to the big success. It’s a unique song in a good way. Other people would say that nobody plays this kind of music, are you sure about this? The song has an annoying catchiness that sticks to your mind, which took us all around the world. It became our ticket to the big markets.
Lauri: At the same time, it’s a completely misunderstood song. It’s an anxious song. Behind the lyrics, there’s all kind of angst. It’s a hymn for young people who feel different. And then it’s played at some club in Ibiza and the people are partying to our anxiety. Well, at least we achieved something with it.
Lauri: We had a common friend, called Lilli. She drifted to a bad road, she used drugs and finally died of heroin. Lilli was a close friend to us. We were at the same time in the Oranssi ry (cultural activities for young people). It was a sad story, so I wanted to make a song out of it. When we were making the song in the studio, we wanted it to sound Finnish.
Aki: We had to create something Finnish, and Lauri said to the guy who was mixing it: put some northern lights into it.
Lauri: We contacted Lilli and told her to play northern lights.
In My Life
Lauri: This, if anything, is a power song. Not at all dark like In The Shadows. The lyrics say that you must take risks if you want to get somewhere in life. We had put our 100 percent into the band: we didn’t have friendships, no girlfriends and our everything was in the band. The song is about putting it all in.
Time To Burn
Lauri: This is a curious song. It’s a regular album track which didn’t get attention at the time, but now we’ve played it at every gig. It has a heavy Black Sabbath style riff which has a bogeyman feeling. It’s not trying too hard to impress. The lyrics are more anxious. They talk about the feeling when you have to give up your private life. People started recognizing us. There were situations when fans rang my doorbell and a hand came in through the letterbox. On the other hand, at the same time I was grateful for at least having any hands coming in through the letterbox.
Aki: We were teenage boys back then and it was that kind of teen fandom. I remember when we did an interview in the program called Jyrki, and afterwards I was walking home through the Esplanade Park. There were small girls screaming that they loved me. From across street, others were shouting: “Fucking fag!”. I went home and felt sad as I could only remember the bad words.
Lauri: I haven’t been an outcast but neither the most popular guy in the class. Whenever the band left me alone, I often got beaten. I was quite sensitive and dreamy back then, in an unreal state.
Lauri: This song is about a bad conscience. Neglecting old relationships. We spent 300 days of the year on tour, and relationships froze with many people. They didn’t understand, they thought our fame had gone to our heads.
Aki: We were not seen in graduation parties. We were not around. That was the price.
Lauri: It felt grim that success and the band isolated us from the rest of the world.
Not Like The Other Girls
Lauri: I had a friend whose sister’s friend was going through a bad time in her life. Her dad committed suicide and her mom was an alcoholic. There was terrible chaos in her life. She tried to be cheerful but she was broken inside. I thought I’d make her song, to cheer her up. It became this song, a power song for someone else.
The One I Love
Lauri: The song has a dark topic: alcoholism. It occurred to me that I was maybe sliding into it because I partied a lot in that time – now I’ve been without alcohol for 10 years. The topic made me nervous because it had been present in my family too. I was wondering what kind of darkness I was stepping into (writing about this topic), but I also wanted to go in there to see what happens.
Aki: We spent weekends in smaller towns and there were always new friends inviting us to party. At that point, we had been partying for a week already. Rough times.
Lauri: We thought we won’t be young forever. Alcohol is poisonous and creates so many problems in this country.
Back In The Picture
Lauri: The happiest song on the album. I wrote this on the roof of my parents’ house. It was where I liked to play my guitar there in Suutarila where I was living. It was a familiar place and it got me writing happy and positive music.
Aki: I claim that we’ve never played this song live.
Lauri: This is my personal favourite on the album. It’s an important moment live when I’m alone in front of the audience.
Aki: The other guys go to the backstage for a coffee break, to do social media and eat cheeses. By the way, once our drum technician brought me a cheese platter next to my drum kit. It was great to eat brie and play at the same time.
Original article published on www.is.fi, translation by Ina R.