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In A Transition State with the Almighty OZ

In A Transition State with the Almighty OZ

The story of the heavy metal collective known as OZ commenced exactly 40 years ago in the country of Finland, and throughout the years, the band has rocked the entire world with underground classics such as Heavy Metal Heroes, Fire In The Brain, and Roll The Dice After a state of slumber, OZ would unleash Burning Leather in 2011 on AFM Records, featuring new songs as well as re-recordings of older fan favorites.  And now in the year of 2017, OZ returns with a triumphant album of brand new heavy metal anthems entitled Transition State on AFM Records.

Highwire Daze Online recently caught up with drummer and founding member Mark Ruffneck to find out more about the past, present, and future epic adventures of OZ.  Topics include the formation of OZ 2017 and the making of Transition State, recollections of the early days of OZ, working with Black Mark Production and encounters with the legendary Quorthon of Bathory, favorite beer of choice, and a whole lot more!  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in OZ, and how long the band has been together.
Mark Ruffneck: I’m the Drummer of OZ and also the founding member of OZ. OZ started as a local cover band in a little village, Nakkila, Finland. I started OZ in 1977 (40 years ago) with the first bass player, Tauno Vajavaara R.I.P. (He had his funeral at the same day as Lemmy). We had been playing before OZ in some other local bands and we were always playing the same Beatles and Rolling Stone songs and we decided that we will only play some hard rock! Summer, Beer…then it’s quite easy to start a Hard Rock band. We had the same inspirations as all kids who start a rock band..;) Play music, be a star, get laid and just wanna be somebody. We listened to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Nazareth and Alice Cooper and thought: this is awesome music, let’s put a band together and play like those guys. During the years there have been several line-up changes and this latest line-up on ”Transition State” album has been together 2-3 years.

Where is the band based out of and what is your local metal scene like there?
Mark Ruffneck: I’ve been living in Stockholm, Sweden since ’83 and the rest of the band is living in OZ’s old home town Pori/Björneborg in Finland, so we can say that we went back to OZ’s roots with this new OZ line-up. The local metal scenes in both places are good and there are several bands playing different kinds of metal music. Especially Stockholm is the big city all big rock stars and rock bands visit when they are touring in Europe. So for me there’s some travelling from my home town to rehearsals in Pori/Björneborg in Finland, but at the same time our rehearsals are more focused, when we are not living in the same place.

Is there any overall story or concept behind the album title Transition State?
Mark Ruffneck: Oh yes, there is a story behind the album title ”Transition State”. When we started to record this new album we didn’t have any album name, but during this ”crazy” recording process I started to think about the name and got this idea that it should be a kind of which also informs the situation where the band was at the moment and then I came up with this name. And TRANSITION STATE as the name of the new album and the situation in which we were, and still are, was the solution for my idea. Why is the name coming from Quantum mechanics? Well, after the first break at 1991 I started to study Chemistry in University and also got Ph.D in Structural Biology and Biophysics, so for me it was a logical name for this situation in which we are, ”Transition State”; moving from one point to the next and there is no way to turn back. “Transition State”; we are heading to the future with new songs and a new line-up.

Select two songs from Transition State and what inspired the lyrics.
Mark Ruffneck: I asked Johnny Cross about this question and he has this to say:
1. Bone Crusher
Bone Crusher” was inspired by OZ’s former vocalist Ape De Martini, especially his intimidating stage presence. So I just kind of wrote a song about him and also about playing rock n’ roll and kicking ass!
2. Restless
Restless” is also a song about playing rock n’ roll and kicking ass, but even more it’s a song about OZ; about sticking around year after year against all odds and doing what we are meant to do and what we love. Being restless and always hungry for something more is what keeps us alive!

What could one expect from a live OZ show?
Mark Ruffneck: Loud and Proud OZ playing in 80’s style classic Heavy Rock. Smoke, Fire and Lightning. Some old, classic OZ songs together with new songs on the set list.

Has OZ ever played here in the States or plan to do so in future days?
Mark Ruffneck: Yes, we did a Club tour in USA east coast 2013 and if it’s possible we will play in USA at some point in the near future.

What do you think has kept you so passionate about OZ after all of this time and throughout many lineup changes?
Mark Ruffneck: People don’t know the fact that I started OZ 40 years ago with our first bass player Tani, (R.I.P. He had his funeral on the same day as Lemmy.) and now I’m the only founding member left. I have always been the driving force in OZ, making the band move on, but writing music hasn’t been my piece of cake. Well, I have been co-writer in some songs during the years, but right now OZ has two superb song writers (Guitar Players Johnny Cross and Juzzy Kangas), so there is no need for me to start doing that and there is so much other things to do, so I think that right now we have a good working flow in OZ. I also made my mind in early years that I will never play in any other band than OZ, so this was the reason I had to continue with OZ or stop playing drums for good. So, I think it’s good that this background is coming public, so that people will know why I and the new line-up are doing this the way we are. And this was also the reason for the name of the new album “Transition State”; we are heading to the future with new songs and a new line-up. Because of me and because my idea of OZ as a band was also accepted by the new line-up, we were able to find a new path for OZ and continue to do new music, which is the best thing that has happened for this band. Well, when I was younger (even I have been that) Heavy Metal was more attitude for life and especially when we moved from Finland to Stockholm, Sweden in ‘83. I fell in love with Heavy Rock music style and nowadays it’s more about the music that is important for me. I’m still in love with Heavy Rock music and that’s the reason why I still carry on with OZ

Do you still keep in touch with any of the former members of OZ?
Mark Ruffneck: No, I always focus on members, who are currently in the band, not on members who have left the band. OZ is like a hockey team, the first line is playing and that line-up is getting all the focus.

What was it like working with Black Mark Production and did you ever meet Quorthon of Bathory?
Mark Ruffneck: We signed contract with Börje ”BOSS” Forsberg directly and he did different license contracts with other companies around the world. So working with him when he started Black Mark Production was not different compared to doing other albums earlier with him, before Black Mark Production.

I met Quorthon (Thomas, Ace Forsberg) probably the first time when we were recording OZ’s first album in Decibel Studio, in Stockholm, Sweden. After the release of OZ’s first album, both Börje and Thomas visited Finland and OZ several times; Album Release party in Helsinki, and also some other shows around Finland. So I became a close friend for both Börje and Thomas and also the rest of Börje’s family. When I moved to Stockholm, we met at least once a week, so I got to know both of them really well. Those first years in Stockholm were really fun time for all of us.

When you look back at the early OZ releases such as Heavy Metal Heroes and Fire In The Brain, what do you think of them now?
Mark Ruffneck: Key moments: When I started the Band! We didn’t get any record contract in Finland in the early 80’s so we headed west to Stockholm and contacted several record companies there and soon after that we signed a contract with Börje Forsberg and his Tyfon Grammofon AB. Quite soon after that we recorded OZ’s first album in Decibel Studio in Stockholm, Sweden. So, we never had a record contract with any Finnish company. We are one of the pioneers in Finnish metal, but the main time we have been working and living in Stockholm, Sweden! And then we got together the second lineup and recorded the “Fire in the Brain” album. That album changed our lives radically! OZ became an international Metal Band, selling albums around the world (USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, Scandinavia and some other countries too) and we also moved from Finland to Stockholm, Sweden. But I hope that the most important achievements are hopefully still waiting in the future.

What is your favorite beer of choice and why?
Mark Ruffneck: I like lager beers; those are quite popular here in Sweden. I probably have no favorite beer, but if I had to choose only one beer, It would probably be Carlsberg from Denmark.

What’s up next for OZ?
Mark Ruffneck: Right now we are doing promoting work for the new album ”Transition State”. 2018 we will play on stage here in Europe during summer at some festivals. We are planning to start the recording for the new album soon and also make some videos, so we will be quite busy during the year 2018.

Any final words of wisdom?
Mark Ruffneck: Probably not words of wisdom, but anyway… I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal fans out there, and also welcome new fans into our fold. For more info, please check out our website: and keep on rocking.

OZ is:
Mark Ruffneck: Drums
Vince Kojvula: Lead Vocals
Peppi Peltola: Bass
Juzzy Kangas: Guitar
Johnny Cross: Guitar

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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