Interview By Kimmo Tattari / November 2014
Leather Rebels is a Priest coverband from Tampere, Finland. Steel Mill met the guys when they were prepairing for their show at the Biker’s Party at Motorcafe Suviranta.
Welcome to the Steel Mill! Please introduce yourselves to our readers.
Hi, I’m Marko Niemi and I play bass in this band.
I’m Ville Aatsinki, drums. I’ve been with Leather Rebels for about 6 months… oh, wait a minute, it’s actually almost a year now.
Paavo Härkönen, vocals. Maybe it’s an interesting fact that, although I’ve been in bands before,
Leather Rebels is the first band where I’m singing. We’ve played only 4 gigs so far, so I can’t really say I’m that experienced as a vocalist yet.
Lassi Tiainen, guitar, been in this band for 6 months.
Marko: …and Anssi Salonen is the other guitarist. He’s on his way here, but I can introduce him. Anssi has been in the band from the start, like me and Paavo. So, the drummer and the guitarist are different from the original lineup.
Do you have any other musical experience than Leather Rebels?
Marko: This whole thing started from the other band I have with Anssi, Evil-Lyn. Then Paavo asked us if we were interested in playing Judas Priest. So we took all the guys from Evil-Lyn and started a Judas Priest cover band.
Paavo: Yes, Anssi and I had talked about starting a Priest cover band for years…
Marko: It was quite easy to start this band, because we already had everything we needed, all the instruments and stuff. We also had a place to rehearse. Later on, there’s been a couple of changes in the lineup, but nothing too challenging so far..
Why Judas Priest?
Ville: Because Priest is just so hard!
Paavo: For me, Judas Priest is definitely number one, my favourite band. It was fascinating to notice that my vocal range suits Priest’s music quite well. If I try to sing Iron Maiden, for example, it won’t work at all, but Priest is a different thing. So things couldn’t be better!
I was about to ask that. How much effort does it take to sing like the Metal God?
Paavo: Of course, the vocals are challenging, and I’ve done some really hard work with the songs.
Marko: It’s funny how the vocal performance depends on the day, really. There are days when certains songs just don’t take off, while some other songs work nicely.
What are your favourite Judas Priest albums and songs?
Marko: Painkiller is my favourite album, and maybe Leather Rebel is the best song.
Ville: That’s a hard question, I have to think for a minute…
Lassi: My favourite is Painkiller, but Reckless from Turbo might be the best song.
Yeah, that’s kind of a hidden gem, as far as I know, Priest has never played that live…
Ville: Yes, but we have! Unfortunately, it’s not in the setlist today, but we have played it before.
Anssi: I like Defenders of the Faith album, and my favourite track is either Hell Patrol or Rock Hard Ride Free.
Ville: The best album is Screaming for Vengeance …or Painkiller. And I have to agree with Lassi on Reckless. When I tried to learn Reckless, pick out some drum parts and fills etc, a few times I noticed in the middle of the song that I had just sort of wandered off, gone with the feeling… so I had to start over… and it happened again and again…
Paavo: The best album is Painkiller, and the best song right now is, also, Reckless. That has changed many times during the years. Hell Patrol was the first song that really got me into Judas Priest. Reckless came pretty late, somehow I hadn’t been listening to that album that much.
Marko: We played Reckless this summer in Denmark, and the audience just didn’t recognise it at all. Of course, the diehard fans know it, but it seems to be quite unknown for the rest of the lot.
What do you think about the new Priest album Redeemer of Souls, which just peaked number one in the Finnish chart?
Anssi: I like it a lot! I would have even considered releasing two separate albums with that material. The songs on the bonus disc are probably the best ones. I would have included them in the actual album.
Marko: It’s been playing a lot in my car this summer!
Paavo: For me it was a bit disappointing. It’s not a bad album, that’s not what I mean, but, rating it on the ”Priest scale”, it is a bit of a let-down…
Ville: Yeah, Priest has set their own level so high! If you take any Priest album, for example from the 80s, you just cannot be without comparing them and the new material…
Lassi: I was a bit disappointed, as well, but that’s, again, on the Priest scale. For me, Angel of Retribution is the best release of the newer ones.
So what about the stuff from the 70s? We have only been talking about the newer material so far…
Ville: In the 70s, Priest had the best drum parts!
Paavo: We’ve got Beyond the Realms of Death in our setlist. We’re not going to play it today, but what else do we have? Hell Bent for Leather.
Marko: …and Green Manalishi, a cover’s cover.
You mentioned earlier that you played a gig in Denmark, how was that?
Marko: Anssi and I have some friends over there. We once met a few Danish guys in Greece, and they told they had this festival in Denmark. Our other band played there in the Metal Magic Festival two years ago, and now they asked Leather Rebels to come over and play.
How was the gig, did the Danes enjoy it?
Marko: I reckon they did. And it wasn’t just the Danes, there were people from all over Europe.
Paavo: It was a great experience. Loads of people singing along with the band. We played quite late in the evening, so the audience had had a chance to down a few beers before we took the stage…
Ville: …and at that point I’d been awake for at least 24 hours. It was great!
What about the other gigs?
Marko: Like I mentioned earlier, we’ve only done four gigs so far, which is not that many…
Paavo: Leather Rebels has existed for two and a half years now, so, with respect to that, it, indeed, isn’t that many…
Marko: Yes, but now we have got active again, so there’ll be more shows coming. I’ve sent a few enquiries around…
How much work does it take to have a gig booked?
Marko: In most cases, the contacts come through friends, but if we want to play outside Helsinki or Tampere, it’s a bit challenging. Basically, it means contacting clubs and promoters and asking if someone’s willing to have us play.
Paavo: It would, probably, be easier, if we played metal hits from various 80s’ bands, but we have decided to focus on Priest only. This complicates things a bit…
Have your ever thought about expanding your repertoire?
Ville: Like throwing in some Bon Jovi you mean?
Paavo: We haven’t ever even talked about that. Personally, I think we should be just as we are, a Judas Priest coverband.
Marko: It’s a question of pride, really. In fact, I’m not even interested in playing in a coverband, but if it’s a band that plays Judas Priest exclusively, then that’s a different thing.
Speaking about coverbands, what makes you different from all other Priest coverbands, or is the idea just to sound as authentic as possible?
Ville: I can say that, for what I’ve heard, we are the most precise copy. We do the things with piety, and I believe we are quite close to the original.
Marko: Yes, we are quite serious about it. If any of us plays some part differently compared to the original Priest records, he gets instant feedback from us others: hey, you can’t do it like that, play it the way it should be played…
Paavo: On our way here, I talked to the guys about Cromesteel, an Italian Priest coverband that I spotted on YouTube a couple of days ago. Those guys are really awesome, and they ’ve made some great music videos, too. The best Judas Priest coverband I’ve heard of so far!
Marko: So we are not going to Italy then!
How about the guitar solos? Do you have strict rules on who plays Tipton’s and who plays K.K.’s parts?
Anssi: No, not really. Lassi takes the most challening ones, while I prefer the slow bendings from the 70s.
Lassi: Yes, that’s a thing we’re not so conservative about. There are solos and parts which are more important to Anssi than to me, and vice versa. So we make decicions on that basis.
Ok, in the end, I thought we could change roles for a while. Now it’s your chance to ask K.K.Downing something!
Why did Judas Priest decide to drop Heart of the Lion from Turbo? It’s a great song, we have played it on our gigs, but nobody seems to recognise it…
K.K. Downing answers:
Hi there! Can’t remember too much really, except that we probably didn’t think the idea was particularly strong at the time. Also we never finished it, but I must say Racer X did a great job with the song.
All the best to Leather Rebels from me! – K.K.