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Give flak'n'roll a chance!

LOITS is a metal band from Estonia (Estland) playing rock-oriented black metal. Heavy and yet catchy guitar riffs with that old school feel influenced by Motörhead and the likes as well as the 90’s era black metal onslaught, these musicians sought to create music close to their hearts and minds with salutations to their ancestors. These soldiers of metal have a unique outlook and sound for what is in essence: LOITS. For those of you who yet do not know the splendor of the band and its ideals, we now launch a salvo of questions at front man Lembetu about all things revolving around the mighty LOITS.

1.Tell us how LOITS was formed. Were all the members comrades and friends at that time? Do you feel any difference with the current line up of the band versus the original line up? What was the Estland scene like back then?

In the mid-90s, at the time when the idea of Loits was becoming a reality, the Estonian metal scene was in a rather poor condition. The mostly death- and thrash-metal oriented bands that had made waves before, had disbanded, and crowds were no longer in the habit of going to gigs. That was also the period of the first stirrings of the new and more viable pagan/black-metal scene — the starting ground of a new epoch in Estonian metal. Loits was a part of this new breath of life in the scene.

In the very beginning it used to be my personal pet project, but then, when I decided to relinquish my position in Estonia’s oldest pagan-metal band Tharaphita, I asked a few friends to help me out and thus we made Loits into areal band. That was back in 1999. Today, almost a decade later, Loits is still made up of my best friends, and the enthusiasm is by no means on the wane.

2.Were the lyrical topics familiar to you and the other members of the band or did you have to research the history?

Both. WWII touched upon the destinies of each and every Estonian, thus all of us still have the legacy of our great-grandparents in the form of their passed-on memories. You can read about the fates of some of these kindred folk from the commemorative cards included in the limited box set of “Must album”. Also, many of us have read extensively on the subject, as well as met with other people that once were in the thick and thin of the war, in order to get a more precise picture of what actually happened back then.

3.Are the musical influences similar among all the band members or is there one main driving force behind writing the music? I believe there are many musical influences or similarities in your songs on your early albums but while still having a fresh and fairly unique sound in the end result. Would you agree there is more experimentation with the music for the 3 rd album?

Loits has gradually become more and more experimental. We have been searching for our own face, continually developing and reforming it to better fit the band’s other aspects. The first experiments were made on the very first album. The more perceived changes in Loits took place during the recording of the series of 7’’ EP-s’ though. There you will find industrial noise (“Terasvanne”), as well as leanings towards avant-garde metal (“Metsavennad”), but mostly the rock’n’rollish style (“Tuleristsed”, “Furor Aesticus”) that led to the coining of the term flak’n’roll. Throughout the releases, different writers have been the main influence on the material. Of the eight tracks on “Ei kahetse midagi”, seven were written by me. “Vere kutse kohustab” is written in cooperation between me, Gates and M. Divine. The face of “Must album”, our saddest and most original release to date, was mostly shaped by M. Divine; he’s written five of the nine songs.

Regarding our personal tastes in music, we are people with very different backgrounds. Then again, we have many common favourites in very many different styles of music (folk, neo-folk, rock’n’roll, industrial, future pop, EBM, classical music, prog-rock and, of course, various styles of metal). All of this leaves an impression on the music of Loits and, possibly, even on our outward image.

4.What led to the decision to go in the direction of the songs for “Must Album” ? Although they are still historical, would you consider the latest album a departure from what people would expect from LOITS at this period in the life of the band?

In no way do I think “Must album” a diversion from the path chosen by Loits. This I could have said already about the album “Vere kutse kohustab”, that was also quite different from “Ei kahetse midagi”. Loits is in constant change. The search will definitely not cease with the putting together of the next album, either. Still, there is a distinctive quality, a certain flare of inherent being, if you will, to Loits. I’m sure most people familiar with the band will recognize any release by Loits while it’s still gathering speed on the spinning table of a record player.

As I already had a chance to say, “Must album” is mostly the brainchild of M. Divine, and the sheer, somthering weight of emotion present in both lyrics as well as the music stem directly from a difficult period in his personal life. All of the weltschmerz has been poured into a form appropriate to Loits, though.

5.When you are not playing in LOITS, what do you usually do on a typical day? Do you hang out with the other members of the band regularly?

Only a few months ago all my free time was dedicated to the record label Nailboard Records. These days, I’m concentrating on the things that, due to my dedication to Nailboard, were left undone for Loits. This was the reason for the creation of the new record label Flak’n’Roll Records. Also, I have again picked up the guitar. A big portion of the weekend is eaten up by gigging around with Metsatöll, as I usually help them out at their merchandise table.

There was a time when all of my free weekends were spent together with band members at a bar. I even used to drive a few hundred kilometers just for that every weekend, as everyone else lived in the capital Tallinn, while I had to come from Kadrina. Now all of us have personal lives and personal projects on the side. We get together much less frequently, but still often enough. I have connections outside of Loits with many people in the band. Most of us are active in the local “heavy music industry” in one way or another.

6.Tell us how the term “flak-n-roll” was created. Is it a complete meaning for the band or do you believe LOITS can go beyond that meaning and evolve past that point lyrically or musically going even more experimental than the songs crafted for “Must Album” ?

Flak’n’roll is a label that will probably stick with Loits for a long time, and is quite appropriate to the possibilities explored on “Must album”. Yes, it is slow, melancholy and at times rather avant-garde, but the rock’n’roll attitudes and war-themed lyrics common to Loits are still there. Especially close to the spirit of flak’n’roll, though, is the “Mustad laulud” EP available together with the limited version of “Must album”. It’s too early to say anything definite about the future, but musical experimentation will definitely continue for Loits, and also the slogan will remain with the band. Still, we might change its meaning within the context of our music.

The term was coined rather accidentally. Already since the first album it was clear that Loits does not fit under the stylistic label of simple black-metal; mostly because of the message, as we don’t have much to do with black magic, occultism or satanism. One fine day our friend Mart Kalvet (Taak, Herald) came up to switch the traditional style name “black” into similar-sounding “flak” (anti-air gun). This fit perfectly with Loits’s subject matter of war and history (as many young Estonian men served in the aide contingent of the German air force, where it was precisely flak guns that they used to keep the skies of our dear homeland clear). Our attitude and the choice of our musical stylings, in a pretty self-explanatory manner, were responsible for the addition of the “’n’roll”-part, and that’s how the new slogan was born.

7.Tell us about how you struck a deal with the infamous Ledo Takas Records in Lithuania? What lead you to part ways with that label and go to Nailboard Records for the “Must Album” ? What about your newly created Flak'n'Roll Records? Will it be a large label or just keep it for only Estland releases?

We recorded our first EP “Legion Estland” in a sure knowledge that it was to be a 7’’ EP, although we didn’t even have a label in mind that would release it. The first company we contacted was Ledo Takas Records. Tadas was a little bit unsure to start with, but consented to release the vinyl. Our cooperation continued; Tadas took us to our first European tour, and soon Loits’s full-length album “Vere kutse ohustab” was released under the aegis of Ledo Takas. We have very good relations with the company to this day, and Tadas is doing an excellent job as a label executive.

In the meantime, though, it happened that I was included into the creation of a new record label here in Estonia. Things started out with us searching distribution possibilities for “Vere kutse kohustab” in Estonia. The young label grew quickly, and as the next logical step, we decided to sign Loits — the reason being the need for better control over our own matters and better transparency of deals connected with the band. By now, I have left Nailboard Records and established Flak’n’Roll Records for the promotion of Loits’s material. At the very first, though, it was made purely for our own needs within Estonia, as we know the local market through and through. Future will show if the label will grow and become international or not. At the moment, this is not in our plans. We are still hoping to find a bit sturdier label as a companion abroad, and there is still interest in us. We are open to all offers, though.

It would be a sin to leave unmentioned the German label Eisenald Tonschmiede — a young, ambitious and fast-growing record company that has helped Loits a lot, as the records released by them are of high quality and luxurious design. Of Loits, they’ve released both the normal as well as the limited gatefold LP version our debut album “Ei kahetse midagi”, will soon release the normal and the limited version of the “Raiugem ruunideks” 7’’ EP; gatefold LP versions, the normal and the limited one, are also in the works for “Must album”.

8.How did LOITS get to play the Baltic Pagan Festival in 2007? Was that the biggest audience for you? What is it like for you during a LOITS live show? How are the metal fans in Estland? To which countries have you played?

You must mean the legendary Lithuanian festival of Kilkim Zaibu, when talking about the Baltic Pagan Festival, am I right? We’ve performed there several times. We have surprisingly many fans in Lithuania and visit the country regularly.

We’ve freshly back from the Lithuanian Mėnuo Juodaragis festival, and the feelings are elevated still. A crowd of almost four thousand gathered at the naturally beautiful spot, an island in the middle of a lake. Loits was received very well, and Von Thornstahl and Spiritual Front left an undying impression.

We have repeatedly performed in Latvia and Finland, also toured a big part of Europe together with Behexen, Horna and Salacious Gods, etc. It’s hard to say where the crowds have been biggest, though. The Estonian audience, of course, is closest to the hearts of Loits, as here the most people understand what we’re saying. The last Hard Rock Laager gig last summer might well have been one of the most powerful experiences on stage: a feeling of unity and enormous energy, with a crowd of around a thousand people roaring to sing along. This is something that nothing compares to.

To put the stage presence of Loits into a few words, then prepare to face a static but proud and vehement bunch on grenadiers, accompanied by precise rhythms and a massive wall of sound. You will be properly shaken and stirred, only to be crushed under an advancing tank. You have been forewarned!

9.The video for “Haavad uulitsal” is very epic and grand. How long did it take to film? Who came up with the concept for the video? How was it different than filming the video for “Kodu” ? It has been over a year since the release of the “Must Album”. How have the sales been for it? Has there been a lot of demand for the bonus limited edition mini-CD material to be re-released so many more people can hear those tracks ?

Making the video for “Kodu” was easy; we took a cameraman to the open-air museum at Rocca al Mare and shot most of the stuff without a proper storyline at some naturally beautiful locations, and had Villem Tarvas (who acted as a director and a cinematographer, as well as an editor) cut together a beautiful enough visual. What it took to put together the video for “Haavad uulitsal” is comparable to the making of a short movie. It seems that the song stuck in the head of Kessu, the author of the idea of the video, as well as the art director. Thus it happened that one night she saw the storyline of “Haavad uulitsal” in a dream. We took the idea to a director we knew, Liina Paakspuu; she liked it right away and that’s how things started rolling. We enlisted helping hands and assistants (altogether nearly 20 people) and got going. Preparations took a couple of months. Also, we needed to find 30 extras for the video and costume them appropriately. Also, decent equipment had to be amassed and logistics fine-tuned, as we were shooting rather far away from home. Also, it took some time to find a good time for the filming, as most of the people working on the project did most of it out of free will and without compensation. Thanks to thorough preperations, the actual shooting took no longer than three days. The post-production phase, though, took several more months. The teamwork was perfect and Loits were left veering at the sheer force of the realization at how lucky we are to have such cool and helpful friends.

By the way, the video for “Haavad uulitsal” also gave the ground for the kick-starting of other projects. At the moment, Liina (as the director) and Kessu (art director) are cooperating on their first full length movie for Estonian National Broadcasting company, entitled “Soovide puu” (“Wishing Tree”). Also, they’ve received offers for videos both from Estonia as from abroad. We’ll see where all of this might develop one day...

The sales of “Must album” here in Estonia have been pretty much what we expected. There were things that should have been solved differently, but isn’t it through mistakes that people are supposed to learn? The distribution abroad, though, is not what it should be. This is a field that we need to take some serious steps in, soon. At the moment we’re looking for licensing partners for the record.

There are no plans to re-release the “Mustad laulud” EP, disregarding the limited LP version of “Must album”, which will include, as an extra, the EP, to be released already this year by the German label Eisenald Tonschmiede. The limited version of “Must album” released by Nailboard Records is selling well and will not be available for much longer.

10.What are some of your favorite bands? Do you get to travel to Finland or other near-by countries to see many “big-name” metal bands? What do you think of legendary bands like Amorphis, Impaled Nazarene and Immortal? Do you like new technology in music playing and recording using digital media or prefer the classic analog sound of vinyl records?

My favourites frequent our country often enough. Just recently I managed to have signatures on all of my Slayer records, so I can’t complain. I’ve had several chances to perform together with either my current of past favourites: Dismember, Entombed, Enslaved, Moonspell, Anathema, Mustach, Cathedral, Spiritual Front, Von Thorntsahl, Bolt Thrower, Carpathian Forest, Negura Bunget and Untsakad, to name a few. The situation here can maybe not be compared to the frequency of foreign artists’ shows in Finland, but, to tell you the truth, I don’t have the stamina to cross the Finnish Gulf every single time when a favourite artist appears. Sometimes, though, I happen to witness an idol of mine in Latvia or Lithuania, instead.

Of Amorphis, I like the demo “Disment of Soul” and their first full-length “The Karelian Isthmus” the most. It’s original, melodic ugri-metal. That was the time when Finland still had a lot of good and interesting metal music to offer (Unholy, Thergothon, Sentenced, Absurdus, Beherit, Belial, Mordicus, etc.). The modern Amorhis is not for my tastes, like the majority of the modern Finnish heavy music. Impaled Nazarene’s managed to squeeze three albums in my personal hall of fame — “Tol Cormpt Norz Norz Norz”, “Suomi Finland Perkele” and “Pro Patria Finlandia”; my favourite song by them, though, is “I Am the Killer of Trolls”. I was enthralled by Immortal until the release of “Blizzard Beasts”; what followed was mostly much too humorous (not to say for a moment that the band was not viewed through the prism of joke already before). Then again, maybe I should give one more listen to the newer Immortal albums. One’s taste in music is liable to change with age.

Speaking of recording technology, I prefer a symbiosis of the new with the old. The end result is mostly dependent in the ingenuity of the people, and new technology widens the scope of possibilities. Also “Must album” is recorded with modern equipment, but utilizing old school attitudes.

Speaking of vinyl, my opinion is that thus far it is the best medium for music that man has thought of. Maybe future technology will somehow exceed the possibilities offered by vinyl, but at the moment, there is no better carrier for sound. These days, when pretty much anyone can release anything on CD, I consider an album truly released only after it’s out on vinyl.

11.Future plans for LOITS ?

This year, five years passed from the recording of the “Raiugem ruunideks” 7’’ EP. By the time you’re reading this, this vinyl should finally be available in a physical form. As it’s the last record in a trilogy of seven-inch-releases, there’s cause for celebration. Thus, Eisenwald Tonschmiede will, in addition to the “RR” vinyl, also release a luxurious box set of all three 7’’ vinyls, limited to 100 copies. You can count on this being sold previous to it leaving the pressing factory, so you better be ready if you don’t want to miss its release. The next thing out should be the vinyl version of the “Must album” album. As I already mentioned, this will be released in a limited version including the “Mustad laulud” EP and a voluminous inlay book. Our future plans also include the first official DVD with all video by Loits, the videos by the winners of the home video contest, and several extra features. Also, we’re looking for licensors to the CD versions of the albums “Must album” and “Ei kahetse midagi”. In the spring, though, we’d like to take our show on the road, burn some pavement and wreck some eardrums around Europe. Keep your trigger fingers crossed!

12.Hails and thanks very much Lembetu for the great words about your life, label and LOITS. Any final words ?

Thanks, Kevin, for the support. The rest — give flak’n’roll a chance!

Author: Kevin Nordavind
Zine: Funeral Empire 'Zine

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