Welcome to Heavy Metal Wanaka Radio (H.M.W.R) #1.
See below for my transcript of my interview with Anton Kabanen from Finnish Metallers, Beast in Black (ex-Battle Beast), talking all about the bands new album “From Hell with Love” (out now!) & how Japanese Manga / Anime ‘Berserk’ heavily influences the band.
Go here for post on skullsofwrath.com: https://www.skullsofwrath.com/2019/06/skulls-of-wrath-presents-heavy-metal.html
BEAST IN BLACK- From Hell with Love
DEVIN TOWNSEND- Genesis
DEATH ANGEL- The Pack
FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE- Sugar
BATTLE BEAST- Black Ninja
BEAST IN BLACK- Beast in Black
VADER- Grand Deceiver
BELZEBUBS- Cathedrals of Mourning
AMON AMARTH- Crack the Sky
SWAMP DWELLER- Eighty Twenty (New Zealand band)
Extracted audio segment of my interview with Anton Kabanen- mastermind of Finnish metallers, Beast in Black (ex-Battle Beast).
For ‘Beast in Black’ Anton recruited talent from Wardrum, Wisdom, U.D.O & Thunderstone, to help bring his high energy, Scandinavian-pop heavy metal to life. They recently released their excellent followup record, “From Hell with Love” & have sold out tour dates around Europe in support of it.
Dale: (edited out) [How’s it going?]
Anton Kabanen: All very fine thank you.
We’re doing preparations for the upcoming headline tour, and lots of other things since the release of the album is next week. There’s a lot of promotional stuff. Getting ready for rehearsals, you know basic stuff. So busy time, but it’s a good thing.
D: I saw you finished up a tour with Nightwish at the end of last year & as you mentioned you have your own headlining tour coming up at the end of February. Have you managed to have a bit of down time, or are you still hard at it behind the scenes?
A.K: Well, after the Nightwish tour, I had a few days off for Christmas with the family, but that about it. Most of the time, it’s always working on stuff. No rest for the wicked, they say.
D: Speaking of the history with the music, my first impressions of your work was back in 2012 with your debut album that really caught my attention. What struck me was that the sound you produced on the album, as a band, was fully formed-such that if someone had said this debut where actually a 2nd or 3rd album, hypothetically, then I would’ve believed it, which leads me to the question of your musical back ground- I was wondering whether you had spent years crafting this Beast in Black sound to perfection, or were you a hired gun in the music business or something?
A.K: When it comes to making music, it’s always a very personal & solitary thing. I don’t really think about too much of anything else, you gotta be in your own bubble, so to speak, when you create something. It’s hard to analyse your own past and things you’ve done, like your work, because you always see differently than the people who hear it after you.
I’ve heard all the songs so many times in the studio while mixing and while writing, so I always feel like whatever I’ve done I just wat to leave it in the past for the people and I want to go forward like at the time to make something new and not to look back too much, because life’s too short and there’s so much writing that I personally want to do, so I don’t want to waste the time.
But with BEAST IN BLACK, it’s been great that everything is being going pretty well, not just the music and I mean the business side as well. Success wise, it’s going in the right direction and I think it’s a result of many things apart from the songs right now.
Of course, the songs have to always be good and that’s the core thing, but every step after that- building a band and improving , it comes as a team work and you gotta have the right team for it. That is ultimately responsible for your success and we have a great band chemistry, great management, a record label, booking agencies and I’m happy with these people. I can still continue writing what comes from the heart and what is in my opinion, good music. People seem to like it, I don’t know if it’s improved or not- like songwriting, because it’s hard to say it myself. It’s a matter of taste what people like So, far it’s good. I don’t what else to say.
D: You’ve got “From Hell with Love” [OUT NOW] & the debut ‘Berserker”, that seemed fairly relentless, in it’s own way, it packed a lot of punch, for fans of your style, of the music especially with the singing & guitar etc, was fantastic, basically a pick & mix we loved; with this one, with the singles we’ve heard so far, there;s a more retro-feel about them… it’s sort of 80’s vibe going on. Is that basically what you’re aiming for on this record- a bit of retro, fun in the 80’s feel?
A.K: Actually, there was no aim to make specifically 80’s, it came up naturally.
Well, first of all, I have always been a fan of 80’s & 90’s music. I grew up with that stuff, so I don’t really aim to do that type of stuff- it just happens and when we were choosing the songs for the album it’s all about, again, the intuition, what you feel about the songs. What song you like, what song you think should be on the next album & what song could be skipped and in the end when you have done the selection process you end up with these certain songs.
When you have finally recorded and done that mix and you realise, “well this sounds pretty 80’s”, the whole entirety. But that wasn’t the goal , actually. It’s just like we treat every song as an individual and just, also, try to keep in mind the entirety is at least our opinion, enough interesting if there’s enough different tempo songs, different keys, different interpretations vocal-wise, different guitar riffs, different keyboard riffs.
We just like to have variety there. That also didn’t mean that we were thinking about what is it gonna be- 80’s or what, we wre just thinking it’s in a bit different way but, yeah, if definitely is very strongly 80’s influenced. Everyone can hear it, we also- obviously, but like I said it was just a natural process.
Nothing was like, we didn’t agree that, “Okay lets make a cheesy 80’s record”, that never was the issue & never will be, because you have to just do what feels natural.
D: You talked a lot about working with the band, by the sounds of things you got a high level of input into the band, certainly creatively, are you more of a mastermind over much of things going on? I know you’re heavily involved with the lyrics, is that more your field more, or is it more of an umbrella covering everything.
A.K: Well, I tend to write everything- music & lyrics but this was the first album, actually, in my personal career that I co-wrote five lyrics with a friend of mine and he wrote one lyric entirely on his own and the rest are mine.
So, it was nice help, his name is Paolo Ribaldini, Italian guy who lives here in Helsinki, Finland, in the city where I live. We’re both fans of ‘Berserk”, Manga & anime. It was nice to work, especially on those songs when you have someone who shares the interest towards the same thing then it kind of helps you to work on that field, on those lyrics and I’m happy with the result and he is happy and it worked out fine.
So, I’d definitely consider working with him again in the future as well, for example.
D: Your music video is out now, what you might call a proper music video, you had ‘Blind and Frozen”, now “Sweet True Lies” for the new record, I was wondering if it was the same actress, because different costume etc, but it could be the same, but I had a funny thought that your music videos could cover the same kind of woman, but through different ages of dealing with heartbreak and love issues etc?
A.K: No, that is interesting thing that you said, but actually no, it’s a different actress, but nice idea- maybe we could do it someday, to create this story for one character who travels, is in different times, but no it’s not the case with these videos, at least.
We just wanted to do something different with the second video, we didn’t want to repeat, we didn’t want to do ‘Blind and Frozen” #2, not the music video, nor the song wise. The song felt like, at least a natural choice for first single because, we thought for the bigger audience, for the public, what kind of song would be good for that, and that kind of felt like, “sweet true lies” felt like that.
It’s also obviously, very 80’s that’s why the music video had to be as well, supporting that theme- 80’s theme, and we made it totally 80’s style and different actors & actresses, and all that, but same production team, same director, production manager, cameraman and we like to work with that team, it’s nice to work with them every time.
D: I’m fully engaged with your music as a fan, and what you’re putting out, but I don’t have a background of the source material, with Berserk, and the anime side of things, so I was wondering if in your experience, with other fans, if you’ve seen a deeper appreciation of what you’re together, with actual fans of the manga?
A.K: The whole thing with the ‘Berserk’ managa/ Anime thing is it started already for me in 2006 when a friend of mine, good childhood friend of mine, introduced the anime to me, and ever since I’ve been writing songs based on that. Even the 3 first “Battle Beast” album had songs from Berserk and also now both Beast in Black albums.
With time I’ve noticed that those songs have reached a lot of this Berserk community / fans.
When we released the second single, from second album, From Hell with Love”, the “Die by the Blade” lyric video – it right away reached so many Berserk fans over the world and that’s a great thing.
It’s already part of Beast in Black, it’s very crucial part of Beast in Black, actually, even the bands name “Beast in Black” is mainly inspired by the manga character, two characters actually- the Black Swordsman, and his inner demon, which is Beast of Darkness, so I was thinking about this. The Black Swordsman plus Beast of Darknessm well what can you get, well: Beast in Black, obviously. That’s how the name was born.
It’s very fascinating story, the characters are very fascinating because they’re very human, the author was not afraid to show the best and the worst of them.
In good and bad you can see their human-like features, it makes them very alive and you start to see through their eyes and that’s how you can relate to them, that’s how I get inspired by that and that’s why I still write about that.
D: Do you get the other guys in the band, either watching or reading some Berserk, to give an understanding or foundation of what you’re dealing with?
A.K: They know the manga and anime, by the name but they don’t the story for Yannis our singer.
He has read, I think, a few books, two or three or four, and he’s watched the anime but I wouldn’t say that the other guys are really into this, at least apart from me and Yannis, the rest of the guys don’t really share the interest towards Berserker at all.
But, it’s totally fine, I’ll never force-feed this to anyone, that’s actually why that friend of mine, Paolo Ribaldini, was nice to work with on the lyrics, because he actually has read all the books. I just recommended him once, “Hey have you checked out ‘Berserk” because I write songs about them, would you be interested in writing lyrics”, and he checked out the anime and all the books, and he relaxed very much as well.
The thing is, he also has a past with anime, he grew up watching certain animes- so he knows more or less from that anime culture and shares his interest towards that, for example, Fist of the North Star is also an anime on which one song is based on this album.
It is the opening track, ‘Cry out for a Hero”, and ‘Fist of the North Star’ original title, Hokutonoken(??), and my friend, Paolo Ribaldini, has watched all of those animes before I even knew him, before we knew each other, then we just talked one day, “Hey, we both love that series”, so if you want to work on something you gotta fine a person who genuinely shares his interest towards something.
Like I said, there’s no point in telling the band members, “okay so we have half of the songs of the album are about this, so you have to know the story perfectly.”
I don’t think it should go like that, it would be unnatural. Everyone has their own things, what they like and we’re all fine with that.