Interview With Mark Ruffneck Of Oz

Oz was formed in the town of Nakkila, Finland, the history goes way back to the 70’s the band is giving heavy metal ever since and storming the world with pure awesomeness.

In 2020 they yet again stormed the world with Forced Commandments.

It was my pleasure to have the iconic Mark Ruffneck, the founding member of the band and the drummer. Check out the below interview with Mark.

Greetings from Metalheads Forever Magazine Mark, how are you today?

Mark Ruffneck:  I’m Just Fine, Thank You for asking.  I hope that You are also OK.

Forced Commandments, Your last album came out in May 2020, It’s nearing two years, Would you liked to share a bit about the songwriting and production of this album?

Mark Ruffneck:  We used a fairly similar system that we used when we recorded the “Transition State” album, released in 2017. Johnny and Juzzy (Guitar Players) made many demo songs and from these demo songs we (everyone in the band) chosed the songs that would be on the new album. We listened to all the demo songs and sent files between each other, made some corrections if necessary and finally the songs were ready for recording. Like I said before, Johnny and Juzzy wrote the songs and Johnny wrote the lyrics. Internet and technological development! What an amazing world we live in right now! Contacting people around the world is so easy and also makes it possible for OZ to work with the new music, even though we live far apart. Everything is much easier now compared to the time in the 80’s.

First I recorded my drums and then bass, guitars and more guitars. After that it was time for Lead vocals, background vocals, more guitars, special effects and everything else that was needed. Recording of different tracks was done in different places and everyone recorded their tracks as they liked to do it. All tracks to Lars and the mixing time, a lot of control and more control. And finally, the mixed album was mastered by Mike Lind and the job was done! I run OZ in a similar way as a scientific research group, everyone has great freedom to do their own part of the work as they wish, but we always show great respect for each other and the band.

During this time everything was easier to handle, but at the same time we run the entire production at a higher level than before. So we were able to get started with the recording work on this album really well prepared and that’s why we were able to keep the key idea alive: Quality before quantity!

When we recorded albums in the 80’s, we always worked in good studios, but it was still a problem to get the sound we were looking for. We worked in the 80’s under pressure due to the short recording time in the studio. Nowadays, it is much easier to create new music without pressure depending on the studio time. Of course you have to work a lot now too, but you can focus on other issues now compared to the 80’s.

Was there any concept that was put behind this album?

Mark Ruffneck:  When we worked on the album “Forced Commandments”, Quality before quantity was the main idea. Before the recordings, I spoke with Lars Chriss, OZ Sound Wizard and Mike Lind, Mastering Monster, to get information on how to record all the necessary tracks. So we did more pre-recording work during this time. I also talked to other members of OZ about how we need to work to get the best possible results with this new album. We all in the band agreed that we should have more “dark style” for the songs and lyrics and there could also be more songs from “The Other Side”. I think “Forced Commandments” meets everyone’s expectations of 100%.

When you worked on the project that pushed you to your limits and in the end succeeded with a good product, you feel the satisfaction and also the “group feeling” becomes higher. The first album with this lineup was “Transition State” and the second “Forced Commandments” is probably more mature album compared to the “Transition State” album.

20th Century Metal meets 21st Century “carbon fiber”. OZ 2020 sounds fresh and powerful, but still has some old OZ roots in its music! This is only possible when you have created several albums and been in the studio for a long time. We know what we want and we know how to do it, to get what we want. How we technically do it in the studio are the secrets we have within the band.

Tracklisting:

  1. Goin’ Down
  2. Prison Of Time
  3. Switchblade Alley
  4. Revival
  5. The Ritual
  6. Spiders
  7. Long And Lonely Road
  8. Liar
  9. Diving Into Darkness (Bonus)
  10. Break Out (Bonus)
  11. Kingdom Of War (Bonus)

Touring was a big question as Covid hit worldwide, were you able to tour in and around Finland in support of Forced Commandments?

Mark Ruffneck:  No, Finland, Sweden and even Europe were closing down at the beginning of 2020 and there were no opportunities to do any kind of supporting tour for “Forced Commandments ” album in Finland, in Sweden or anywhere in Europe either.

We’re in a pretty fun situation in the future, because we’ll probably be ready with the new album before we play on stage next time. By then, we will have more than 20 new songs to choose for the OZ song list on stage.

Oz history of Heavy Metal goes way back to 1977, how do you feel about the success and the road that you have travelled?

Mark Ruffneck:  A long and winding road, but there have also been many fine events over the years.

We started OZ as a coverband in Finland. One summer evening I drank beer with Tani, the first bass player of OZ and we got a good idea! Let’s start a band together and we only play Heavy Rock. So during that time OZ was born, but it took more time before we got the first line-up together, but in the end we got it. We were a cover band and played Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, BTO, Alice Cooper songs on stage and we were happy with that. When we got that fantastic idea, we also defined our band goals. We will somehow to get the similar sound system and even the light system that “Big Bands” in Finland had at that time. OZ should look good and sound good. Later on we had Finland’s largest PA and Light system owned by the band. We also sang in English and played loud, so we didn’t have all the lucky stars on our side. We were young guys and lived in our dream, so we did not care much about the future. But in the future we made an album together and after that I have made several more albums, moved to another country, toured in many countries and I’m still Alive and Breathing! Yes, it has been a life I couldn’t think of at that time, when I drank beer with Tani (OZ’s first bassist) one summer evening in Nakkila, a small village in Finland. We did pioneering work in Finland for Heavy Metal and when we moved to Stockholm we did the same thing there. We were part of the pioneering group for Heavy Metal, in both Finland and Sweden.

Are you planning to go into Studio anytime sooner?

Mark Ruffneck:  We have started working on the new album, so new OZ music will be released as soon as possible, but the time when it will be released is not in our hands. We will release OZ music on vinyl and right now it is a long queue to the vinyl press factories. So we will be on the queue like the other bands and when the time is right the new OZ album will be released. We hope that it will be released in 2022, but as the situation is now, no one can say right now when the release date is. We will not release OZ music in other media before the vinyl release, so there we will be, on the queue to vinyl press factories.

Being the only founding member of the band, how do you feel about When it started and where you are now?

Mark Ruffneck:  As I told before I started OZ with Tani, OZ’s first bassist and he died a few years ago, so I’m the only founding member still alive. We started OZ as a cover band and now we are working on the 9th album by OZ, so there has been quite a lot of progress over the years. I could never imagine this journey when we started this band in the late 70’s. When we started the band we were young boys and we just liked to be something and now I can thank the fantastic idea to start the band, because this band has guided my life in many ways and I have had that kind of experience over the years that it isn’t possible to buy for money.

Do you call Oz a Finnish band or a Swedish band as it has reformed again in Sweden?

Mark Ruffneck:  That’s a tough question! OZ started as a local coverband in Nakkila, Finland. After a few years we started writing our own music, but we didn’t get a record contract with any Finnish record company. So we went west to Stockholm, Sweden and signed a record contract with Tyfon Grammofon AB and released the first OZ album in 1982. We released the second album “Fire in the Brain” in 1983 and shortly after we moved to Stockholm and I live still here in Stockholm. So we were originally a Finnish band, but we moved to Stockholm quite quickly and we did pioneering work for Heavy Metal in both Finland and Sweden in the 1980s. For me, the answer to the question of whether OZ is a Finnish or Swedish band! OZ is Finnish/Swedish, because I have lived in both countries, I have both passports and we have had members from both countries over the years.

There might have been a whole lotta great moments that has happened to you, Is there a few moments would you like to share with us?

Mark Ruffneck:  Yes, there are many amazing moments and stories to tell. Some of the stories may be public and some of them will never be told. One awesome moment from the early days! When we recorded the first OZ album in Stockholm, we didn’t drive directly to Stockholm. We first played a gig in northern Sweden, Umeå, on the way down to Stockholm. We used smoke bombs at the end of the first show of OZ in Sweden and the fire alarm started ringing and both the police and fire department entered the concert hall. They forced all the people out of the house, but there was no fire anywhere. It was a cold winter time, so people weren’t so happy to be outside, but luckily there was no riot anyway. Just earlier, the same day, we met the Swedish band Heavy Load. They were actually the first people we met when we entered Sweden. We had no knowledge of Heavy Load at that time when we spoke to them. We asked if they knew the place where we played in the evening and they told OZ that they have played there only the day before.

The other fun moment from the past! When we recorded the “Roll the Dice” album in 1990, we did it in the SkyTrack studio in West Berlin. We drove through DDR to West Berlin, which was in the middle of DDR. When we were in the studio and recording the “Roll the Dice” album, West Germany and DDR joined together to form Germany. So we got stamps from DDR Custom Office on our passports, but when we drove back home there was no DDR anymore.

Heavy Metal has been gone through a lot of changes, and thanks for giving pure Heavy Metal for decades, Oz has been so amazing since the start, How do you feel about the music you created?

Mark Ruffneck:  We have made OZ music as we have wanted from the beginning and somehow we have kept the musical line of OZ quite similar even we have had changes in line up.  We are OZ and we are doing music for OZ and we hope that people like it.  We don’t compared OZ to other bands or like to put any labels on OZ or OZ music. We leave that to other people to do. I just can tell that we started to play music, when there was just Heavy Rock and bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, BTO and Alice Cooper. If you like to call it Heavy Metal, Heavy Rock or something else, be my quest. As I said before, we know what we want to do and I keep OZ on the right track. The new members of OZ are great musicians and songwriters, so that is the one reason why we can create that music that we do. We also had the great crew of people outside of OZ, who worked with OZ to make “Forced Commandments” album and they should be mentioned here: Mika Borgersen for recording in the studio, Lars Chriss for Mixing, Mike Lind for mastering and Andre for the cover work. So over the years we have assembled a fantastic team for working with OZ metal music and everyone have done a great job and we all are really pleased with the result, the “Forced Commandments” album.

Finally what would be the message for the fans around the World?

Mark Ruffneck:  Rock On and Stay Safe. Check OZ “Forced Commandments” album, maybe there can be something You like. I want also to thank all our loyal fans out there and also welcome new fans to our group. More information is available on our website: www.ozofficial.com

Thanks a lot!

Oz The Band

Mark Ruffneck – Drums & Percussion
Peppi Peltola – Bass & Vocals
Vince Koivula – Vocals & Melody Bank
Juzzy Kangas – Guitars & Vocals
Johnny Cross – Guitars & Vocals

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