ZT INTERVIEW: BATTLE BEAST

Guitarist Anton Kabanen talks Battle Beast with power metal buff Ashley Naismith.

 

ZT: You are about to head off with Powerwolf in a few months for a tour all around Europe, stopping in the UK. Have you been over here before?

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AK: No, we have never been to the UK before. It will be our first time in September and we are very thrilled about it. It’s whole new ground for us, and I have no idea what the response will be; but I hope it will be a good one! There’s a lot of metalheads there, and we’re hoping for the best.

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ZT: You’re going to be playing right at the heart of Camden, in a venue called The Underworld. Have you heard much about this place?

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AK: Er, no. Actually, I hadn’t heard of it until this tour.

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ZT: It’s a dark, grimy, underground venue. The fans are pressed right up against the stage and it’s all very intense. Is that the kind of show you ilke playing?

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AK: I like playing anywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s a festival or a club. I just like to play for people, for fans. But, of course, I like to move a lot on stage and that’s a lot easier at festivals, but other than that it’s the same. We’re always there for the music.

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ZT: You have just released your sophomore album, ‘Battle Beast’. Having just come out of the studio, do you think it is as good as it could have been?

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AK: Well, we are happy with the album. It was self-produced, mainly by me, and our keyboardist was the co-producer. It was the first time we’d ever produced a whole album, and we mixed it ourselves too. We learned a lot in the process through trial and error. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but we are much happier with it than with the first one. On the first album, we had an outside producer, with whom we didn’t really see eye to eye with on what our band should sound like. Now, we had total control over everything. It’s a lot closer to the ‘real’ Battle Beast sound and we’re really happy with it. And, now that we have experience making albums, we know what to avoid when we start the third album, which will also be self produced.

 

 

ZT: One of the biggest things to have changed between ‘Steel’ and ‘Battle Beast’ is your singer. Nitte quit the band, and you found your new vocalist really quickly. How did you find Noora?

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AK: It was pure coincidence. At first, with Nitte left the band in the middle of recording, it was a big shock for everyone. The next day, I had already started to search for new singers. I was looking for about a month, and a friend of the band sent me some YouTube links with some singers. I saw Noora on one of YouTube’s suggested links. It said [Janice Joplin] cover, and I knew that Janis Joplin is a great singer. If this girl can sing Janis Joplin, she must be good. I listened. I was blown away, and I was really glad that I could find a singer in Finland with that kind of power in their voice, and with such a wide vocal range. It fits Battle Beast perfectly. I had a few male singers contact me, talking about joining Battle Beast. In the end, it was Noora that we chose and we are super happy that things turned around like this. Firstly, we thought it was the worst thing that could have happened, but it turned out that Noora is capable of singing all the old songs and all the new songs. There are no compromises in the songwriting, and she’s easier to work with. Everything became just a bit better in the band.

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ZT: You say that, and it means quite a lot. There are lots of bands out there who trade of their female members’ sex appeal rather than their talent. It seems that you looked everywhere for the best person for the job, and that was Noora.

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AK: Exactly. I really hate doing compromises when it comes to music and to art. I don’t want to take any of that shit. One example is the new album. It was self produced. Many people were against it, some of our friends too, but I told them: “we’re doing it ourselves”. I stood my ground and we managed to pull it off. In our opinion it was better for it. Same thing with the singer. The only thing that mattered is that the singer would be able to sing the songs. It’s hard for me to start explaining why it’s supposed to be like this, it’s so natural to just do music without compromises. I have never done it any other way, why should we change?

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ZT: When my Editor asked if I wanted to do this interview, I went to YouTube and found your song “Black Ninja”. The first thing I thought was “this is all the things I like from Nightwish, all of the things I like from Sonata Arctica, plus something else entirely”. I then look at your Nuclear Blast page and read that you’ve toured with both Nightwish and Sonata Arctica.

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AK: *laughs*

 

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ZT: Are you big fans of those bands?

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AK: I am now! Before the tours, I hadn’t listened to them much. Of course I knew of them, but I didn’t actually own their records. Because of these tours, I bought almost all of their records and started listening. All of the songs off the new album were actually written long before I did though. ‘Black Ninja’ for instance was actually written in 2008, or 2009, something like that. It’s a really old song. I have this personal song library where I have all of the songs I’ve written in the past. When we start making an album, I go through all the songs I have written during my life and I just pick some songs for the new album, then write some new ones to keep it fresh for myself. It would be boring, as a songwriter, to make albums consisiting only of old songs. ‘Black Ninja’ is just one example of that, it was an old song. I think, in Nightwish, Sonata, and Battle Beast… the thing we have in common is that we really have really strong melodic veins, there’s real feeling in them, and they aren’t too difficult technically. They’re really simple songs when you think about them.

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ZT: They’re songs written by inspired musicians, people who know what they’re doing and have the technical knowledge to translate their ideas into music properly.

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AK: Yeah, that’s pretty well put. After these tours, we got to know the Nightwish and Sonata guys, and I really saw it in them. They really believe in their music and they do it for the sake of music and their fans. There was no other reason. There was magic and love in their music and we were all really happy to be in that kind of company, where they are so sincere with what they do.

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ZT: Who came up with the concept for the Black Ninja video?

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AK: First of all, we didn’t even want Black Ninja to be the single song or the music video. It’s the record label, they normally suggest that this should be the video song and whatever. Basically, I’m happy with all the songs, but we would have chosen differently. The director had directed some Children of Bodom videos – ‘Everytime I Die’ is the Bodom video he has directed – over 10 years ago. It was mainly his vision. Of course, I told him things I wanted done: Black Ninja is a character in the fantasy world that I’m creating. It’s one of the good characters that fights against the machines and evil creatures in the world [which is dominated by machines]. The main character is the Lion Beast, who you can see on the cover, but Black Ninja is another good character. The video really doesn’t have anything to do with the story except there’s a ninja. But even the clothes of the ninja don’t look right. It turned out to be very different from what I thought. We didn’t actually have much time because the album release was already delayed by two or three months. Everything was delayed, so we couldn’t concentrate much on the video, it was just a job we had to do. It turned out to be quite okay. We’re happier with the video than with the first one at any rate.

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ZT: Tell me more about this Fantasy World. Is it what all of the songs are based on?

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AK: Well… I normally divide albums into three categories. There’s my fantasy world, there’s the Bezerk (which I’m a huge fan of) and an open category. I don’t think I’ll ever do a concept album because I always want to have the freedom to use other themes on albums. It gives more freedom to express yourself it you don’t stick to one concept or theme. But the fantasy world is about the adventures and events in a machine dominated world – metal planet – it doesn’t have a naem. The main character is the Beast. There’s a story about how the Beast became this monster – he was originally a man from another dimension – and so forth. It’s complicated, it’s too long to explain. It would take like two hours to explain everything. My approach on the first and seond album was to keep it simple and just make kick ass songs. No complex stories, I just wanted people to be able to enjoy the songs separately from the stories.

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ZT: Finally, before you come to the UK, is there anything you want to say to the fans?

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AK: A big thanks to all of you. We would be happy to see as many of you as possible in London in September. We hope to tour in the Uk ASAP after this support act, a headline show would be great. If you want us there, keep sending requests to promoters. Tell them “we want Battle Beast”, and we will come.

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