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Forget MTV. Last year, Lordi, a Finnish group whose members costume themselves as literal monsters of rock, got exposure on a slew of cable-news channels after winning the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest — the de facto World Cup of tunesmithing, which has been around for more than half a century. Not that all of the coverage was flattering. On MSNBC, for instance, Countdown host Keith Olbermann played the triumph as a joke during his defiantly daffy "Oddball" segment. Still, Olbermann did acknowledge that the "guy singing has got more talent in one rotting corpse finger than that Taylor what's-his-face has in his entire body."
The vocalist in question is Mr. Lordi, and he admits that the band's Eurovision odyssey was bizarre even by his standards. When the Lordi song "Hard Rock Hallelujah" (included on the Arockalypse CD) was chosen as Finland's official Eurovision entry, controversy erupted. Finnish leaders were asked to veto the selection, but according to Mr. Lordi, "They said there was nothing they could do [because] it's a fucking song contest!"
Once at the composing battle site, Mr. Lordi says, the group's music was criticized in some quarters as too heavy. He insists such condemnation was also experienced by ABBA, whose pop tidbit "Waterloo" won in 1974. "They were considered too rock and too hard and too brutal for Eurovision," he claims. "Of course, it sounds funny now, but back then it was different."
Things soon changed for Lordi, too. After winning, "we became national heroes," Mr. Lordi says. "From a national shame to national heroes in one night. And suddenly, all the whiners and all the people who were against us were the first ones to put on a Lordi T-shirt and say, 'Yay! Yay! We won!'" At a victory celebration marking Lordi's return to Finland, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen chatted up the musical fiends and even flashed devil horns when posing with the band. No American politico in his right (or right-wing) mind would sit for such a shot, but it made perfect sense to Mr. Lordi. "Finland was a country that had the most last positions in the whole competition," he says. "So when we won, of course the prime minister wanted to have a picture with us. It was good for him."
Now Lordi wants to rule another land — this one — but doing so won't be easy. The group remains little known among the hard-rock masses in the U.S., and when he's asked if he's making any money from appearing on the main stage at Ozzfest, Mr. Lordi offers a genial laugh.
When Keith Olbermann hears about that, he's gonna be pissed.
Visit our blogs for more of our interview with Mr. Lordi.