2016 Jørn Lande interview
Jørn Lande is a legend in Europe, and though less known in North America, his name is quickly becoming synonymous with metal fans as among the best vocalists in the world. He has been hailed by fans and critics as Europe’s answer to Dio. An accolade which humbles Lande, who released his own tribute album to Ronnie James Dio in 2010. Lande began making a name for himself with his early bands Vagabond and Ark which led him to a short-lived gig fronting Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and the release of his first solo album, Starfire, in 2000.
Lande went on to front German power metal quintet, Masterplan, which also featured Roland Grapow and Uli Kusch of Helloween. He released three studio album and two EPs with the band, and while Jørn admits to enjoying power metal, his own roots are founded in more traditional hard rock and classic metal. As such he formed his namesake band, Jorn, and continued to record his own music as well as occasional covers. Now, some 40 records into his iconic career, the Norwegian vocalist has returned with his eleventh Jorn studio album, Heavy Rock Radio.
This week, Metalholic caught up with Jørn as he celebrated his 48th birthday to chat about his recent recording and touring with Tobias Sammet and Avantasia, his 2015 concept album, Dracula – Swing of Death, as well as how he chose the songs for Heavy Rock Radio.
“I had 40-50 songs that I liked, that I still love, then I had to pick 12-15 for the record,” Lande shared. “I thought we are in a time now where you don’t have to pick one style all the time, you can actually create some variety, and people will actually accept it. They will take it as something more interesting than if you just do a record of say only songs like Kate Bush. It was about showing the variety of artists that influenced me.”
Variety abounds on Heavy Rock Radio which is Jorn’s third such tribute album, having released a record of covers in 2007 with Unlocking the Past, and Dio in 2010. With Heavy Rock Radio, Jorn continues to take chances, delivering songs both expected and surprising. Black Sabbath‘s “Die Young” and Iron Maiden‘s ‘The Final Frontier” are examples of the former, while John Farnham‘s “You’re the Voice” and a cover of the Kate Bush classic, “Running Up That Hill” showcase the latter.
“From Kate Bush I had three or four songs I wanted to do. I chose ‘Running Up That Hill’ basically because the song I wrote in 2006 for an album called The Duke, a song called ‘Blacksong’–that song was actually influenced by ‘Running Up That Hill’. We were fooling around with the arrangement for ‘Running Up That Hill’ and we ended up writing ‘Blacksong’ instead. It took a different turn. And now I chose ‘Running Up That Hill’ because of that, and because it fit the title of the record. Kate Bush is a very artistic person. She has a lot of very intricate songs with deep meanings.”
Jorn also took aim at several classic rock tunes like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, Deep Purple’s “Stormbringer”, The Eagles’ “Hotel California”, Queen’s “Killer Queen”, and Foreigner’s “Rev on the Red Line”. One of the album’s other surprises is a song Lande hails as a singularly one-of-a-kind track, a cover of Frida’s “I Know There’s Something Going On”–a song written by Russ Ballard and produced by Phil Collins.
“That song sounds almost like it was meant to be a heavy rock tune from the beginning. It sounds like Russ Ballard wrote the song with hard rock in mind. It feels a bit like when Phil Collins came into the picture, becoming the producer of Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s record, I just felt that they’re gonna try and do some kind of Genesis recipe here. I mean [Phil] played drums on the song, he did the same kind of approach with everything, both the playing and production, like he did with ‘Mama’ and ‘In the Air Tonight’. I think some of these songs were intended to be much more heavy. That’s what I felt always with that song. It’s a very good song. Very simple message. The cleverness with that song is it’s so simple, but yet so artistic.”
Lande’s vocal abilities are beyond measure. He could sing the instructions off a soup can label and make them sound epic, yet the explosively talented vocalist reveals that some of the songs on Heavy Rock Radio were not as easy as he had expected, including tackling Freddie Mercury’s flamboyant vocal style on “Killer Queen”, which was one of three songs he admits challenged him a bit.
“Songs like ‘Killer Queen’ for example, I thought I can do that not as feminine and with less back ups, like a more male sounding song. No offense against Freddie, it’s just that the way he sings it is a bit feminine on the original. Great feeling but more operatic. I just wanted to make it a bit more rock and roll, but still try to keep that original feel. That was actually a challenge because I thought it would be pretty easy, cause I wanted to do the same thing I did on the Dracula album when we wrote the song called ‘Swing of Death’ which has that kind of vibe. That ‘Killer Queen’ kind of vibe, you know, with a 20’s, 30’s feel to it. I thought I’d do the same thing. That would fit because it’s a bit Freddie Mercury-ish in a way, but it was actually really difficult to sing that song. In the end, I’m not sure if I’m 100% happy with the outcome, to be honest. Sometimes the original is the original and you have to realize when you write a song, you added something personal, something magical to what you did and you realize there probably won’t be many people who can do it after you. I think I realized that with ‘Killer Queen’. I’m still happy with the recording. It’s a great alternative to the original version. That’s how I see it. It’s cool to have an alternative version when you’ve heard the original over and over for years.”
Check out the full 50-minute interview with Jørn below as he talks at length and in detail about many of the songs on Heavy Rock Radio, how the music industry has changed, his fondness for Kiss, as well as his recent tour and recording with Avantasia. He also takes a few minutes to chat about last year’s brilliant concept record, Dracula-Swing of Death; how it came together, and much more.