It’s fine. No, really, it’s fine. We can hear you humming ‘In The Shadows’. And that’s ok. Because it’s a song that’s everywhere – your past and present. And now it’s in your future too. So, promise you’ll read on to find out more. Because The Rasmus are a band that rise. They continue. No matter what comes their way…
Strolling through the sunny streets of Vienna, where his band have a show this evening, The Rasmus’ lead singer Lauri Ylönen is telling Devo’s Jo Wright how he’s been to hell and back. His smiling, open, positive demeanour, and the glorious backdrops are a direct contrast to the personal and professional storms he’s navigated.
‘I’ve never had a Plan B ‘he says. ‘I’ve always put the band first. Even when I was younger I quit school just to be able to write music. It was pretty radical at the time! I thought, ‘I can always go back to school, but this is a once in a lifetime chance I can take’. And it paid off! It was the right thing to do for me. But I’ve always had passion for other things too. I’ve always dreamt of being a chef, and a gardener – and an architect! I’ve built ten houses which I’ve designed. I even had a tv show in Finland called ‘Design By Lauri’. It’s important to have other interests.’
But The Rasmus is where the frontman’s heart is. ‘Nothing beats this though. It’s the best job and it takes you to the best places in the world – especially being on this tour. We’re so proud to have all this. We work hard. We’re walking in sunny Vienna today. Tonight, we have a crazy show coming up. It’s a beautiful life – I don’t take it for granted.’
As Lauri points out, all this was almost taken away from him. The Rasmus’ foundations were very much shaken when guitarist Pauli Rantasalmi left. ‘We had all kinds of difficulties within the band – and within the world. I had this, like, moment, when I was considering that this is the end and I really do have to become a gardener!
‘Sometimes in life things just don’t go right. I didn’t enjoy that time, but now I’ve got over it. We have a new incredible line-up in the band. Everything is better than it has been for decades. It’s a cliché but it’s true – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!’
It’s this sentiment that led to The Rasmus’ new record being titled ‘Rise’. ‘The album tells a story,’ Lauri explains. ‘It feels meaningful because we had all these difficulties and we still kept fighting, and then good things happened. It has a happy ending to the story.’
It was a hard-fought happy ending, however.
‘All these things had happened in the world – like Covid and the war in Ukraine. I was trying to have a baby with my partner, who had four miscarriages in a row. I got really depressed and really ill mentally. I’ve always been a positive person and I’ve always had the attitude of never giving up. But it was just too much. It finally broke me. But I healed, and things are much better now. I’m really happy.’
On the day Devo and Lauri chat, social media has been going (quite rightly) mad with the news that The Rasmus will release a collaboration with Kalush Orchestra of ‘In The Shadows’. Kalush Orchestra are, of course, Ukraine’s winning entry into this year’s Eurovision. ‘In The Shadows’ is, of course, The Rasmus’ monster hit of 2003, which was, is and always will be played everywhere.
‘It’s a big statement to do this song together,’ explains Lauri. ‘I’m excited. The song is almost twenty years old and now it has a totally new meaning.’ Absolutely. It’s chilling when Lauri recites the lyrics, ‘They say that I must learn to kill before I can feel safe/But I, I’d rather kill myself than turn into their slave.’ ‘It’s so great that now the song will have a new life, and I hope it gives people strength and encourages the Ukrainians – and everybody in the world.’
The Eurovision Song Contest can always be relied on to bring love and laughs into our homes and hearts, but for The Rasmus it represented something else. ‘It was a really good thing for us to do after all these difficult times,’ Lauri explains. ‘We had our new member Emppu join us last September, and right away we had the big challenge of Eurovision to overcome and conquer together. I think we’re always at our best when there’s some pressure and a deadline, and it was great to have it. Especially after Covid. We were going to play Eurovision – the biggest show in the world! It felt so good to have a full calendar all of a sudden.’
The band got to work on their entry on behalf of Finland, ‘Jezebel’, which as well as coming twenty-first in the competition, charting number four in the Finnish charts and sitting at number six in the running order of ‘Rise’, is also the highlight of the set on The Rasmus’ current tour.
Lauri told Devo, ‘I wasn’t so serious about winning the competition, but, of course, I wanted to be in the final! I wanted to play our song to 200 million people. That’s the biggest gig on the planet! It made us all very tight and a very strong team as our new line-up. That was the best thing we got out of it.
‘Now it’s history. We don’t really think about it anymore. It was a great thing to do, but we have a long history – almost thirty years,’ Lauri adds, philosophically. Eurovision is now part of this impressive past. ‘It’s a good memory,’ he smiles. And as for the future? ‘Rise’ has only just been released, but The Rasmus have already moved on to their next album.
‘I think the more you do, the more creative you become. That’s how I feel right now,’ Lauri says. ‘We don’t have any breaks! Well, we have had breaks for five years, and that feels so wrong.
‘Maybe it’s because of Covid? The war in Ukraine? All this craziness that’s happening! We just never know how long things will last. The song ‘Live And Never Die’ was the last one to be written and it’s just saying, ‘Live now! Go for it!’. I wanted to do that kind of over-positive song just for fun, because things have been so hard for all of us. It feels like a relief when that song comes on. And still, there’s the layer of melancholy that always comes with our music. Positivity and sadness – that’s the recipe of The Rasmus!
‘The album tells a story. There’s a nice hopeful beginning, then everything is taken away and there’s depression and dark clouds.’ But there is, of course, the title track. ‘’Rise’ was written for myself – to save my ass from going down the tubes!’ says Lauri. ‘It’s like a power anthem for me, but also for everyone else who’s had hard times. It brings hope. Music has got to be honest and true to your feelings.’
Playing live is a pleasure for this band partly because, as Lauri jokes, he has three children aged fourteen, four and one, so he comes on tour for a rest, and also because The Rasmus live all over the world themselves, so home is anywhere and everywhere. For the past ten years Lauri has mostly lived in America, although, of course, ‘My roots and my heart belong with Finland,’ he says.
With the British leg of their tour coming up (from October 30), you can go see The Rasmus: Live. And you should! The Rasmus: A band with one of the best-known singles of all time, a killer new album, and an uplifting attitude and perspective despite being weighed down with almost more than they could bear. All fronted by one of the most charismatic and friendly frontman Devo has ever had the pleasure to speak with.
The Rasmus: They Rise.
UK Tour Dates
Sun 30 – England Nottingham Rock City
Mon 31 – England Manchester O2 Ritz
Tue 01 – Scotland Glasgow Garage
Wed 02 – England Bristol O2 Academy
Thu 03 – England London O2 Forum Kentish Town