Finally a new chapter for guitarist and composer Anton Kabanen has been turned and so far the book seems pretty compelling. Beast in Black has taken form, with a kick-ass lineup and catchy songs, The Beast is lurking in the shadows to make its first appearance again end of October, as a support act for W.A.S.P. Moreover, the band is about to release their debut album “Berserker” on November 3rd, through Nuclear Blast.
Thursday 5th October. My appointment to have a chat with Anton Kabanen and Kasperi Heikkinen to talk more about Beast in Black. An interesting opportunity, to find out even more about “Berserker”. As it seems, I am quite nervous for the interview, as some days before I had a nightmare about being too late for it, which caused me to get followed by The Beast. Luckily I arrive earlier than the scheduled time and never get to know if dreams actually do come true, but it doesn’t take away that The Beast is back!
We had the opportunity to talk to Anton and Kasperi about the band, their upcoming album and their upcoming tour.
First of all guys, thank you so much for making time for us! Some weeks ago I had a pretty interesting interview with Roman Ismailov who designed your album cover, so I’m pretty stoked to find out even more about the band and the upcoming album! Now this is your debut album. Can you tell us a bit more about how you got the ball rolling, where did you find the band members?
Anton Most of the band members were my old friends from the past, except for Yannis. He was the new face in the band. The first time I came across Yannis was on YouTube. We kept in touch through Facebook, were chatting and so on. The first time I met him face-to-face was in 2015. I asked him then if he wants to be part of this new project that I was working on at the time. It still didn’t have a name back then. But he was interested in it and that’s how he jumped into the project.
And well, Kasperi and I met in 2010 for the first time. We didn’t really talk or hang out that much until some years later. Then we met again on tour in 2013 and we started talking. We met up in Helsinki a couple of times and later on became buddies. He was the first one that I asked to join the band and he agreed and here we are now.
I met the bass player, Mate on tour in 2013 and we became friends there. After that, we kept in touch also now and then, not that often but anyway, in 2015 he was looking for a guitar player for his band Wisdom and I was putting up this new band. I needed a bass player. So I helped him out and joined his band as a guitar player and he helped me out by joining Beast in Black as a bass player.
The drummer Sami was helping Battle Beast out on their first tours as a technician and such and he played in another band that shared the rehearsal space with Battle Beast many many years ago. At some point he just wrote me in 2015, that if I want a drummer, it would be cool to play in the same band and that’s how Beast in Black got its members.
You are an international band. You come from different parts around Europe. Does that limit you in any way when it comes to rehearsing?
Anton Well, it always requires some extra effort to organize things. Of course it limits us in some sense. So far we’ve done 3 gigs and before those we rehearsed for one week or something like that. Everyone comes to the rehearsals prepared, they have done their homework and then we just play together to make it tighter. And it seems like so far it has worked out. This is how we are also going to prepare for the upcoming tour. Everyone is coming here to Helsinki for a week, or a bit less than a week. We’re just gonna play the songs through and discuss and so on.
You mentioned that you come together for rehearsing. How about recording the album? How did that proceed? Did the rest join you in Helsinki?
Anton No, the studio is on the country side, so not even in Helsinki. All the parts were recorded with some breaks in between everyone’s parts and the bass player recorded his parts in Hungary in his small home studio. He just sent me the files, that’s the modern way nowadays (laughter), exchanging files and uploading them to WeTransfer. The actual album recordings started in summer 2016 or fall 2016. Before that we did some demo recordings and things like that. It took quite a while. The mixing process was also quite long, it was done by Tero Kinnunen and me and Emil Pohjalainen also did some assisting.
You mentioned you have had a total of three shows so far. I was surprised to find out that you already have had some shows! How on earth did you manage to be the support band for both Nightwish and Sabaton and even play a show at Tuska Festival 2016 when you just started up the project and basically had no album ready? Did someone call you and were you just like “Hell Yeah!”?
Anton For all of those shows, the one with Nightwish, the one with Sabaton and the one at Tuska Festival, I just received an email if I wanted to play there. And, like you said, I was like “Hell yeah!” (laughter) But we didn’t have an album out, so we basically played older songs from Battle Beast. We did have two new songs, which are both on the album, or well the first versions of those songs.
When I checked the set list for those gigs the new songs are “End of the World” and “Go To Hell”, you mentioned both of them are on the album, but “Go To Hell” is not on the normal version of the album?
Anton “Go To Hell” is on the album, it’s on the digipack version of the album as an extra.
Of course fans already knew the Battle Beast songs. But what do you think their reactions were when you played the new songs during those gigs?
Anton Not much thinking was going on in my head when I played those songs. I just tried to enjoy the gig with the band. Especially the Tuska gig. Even though there were some interesting technical difficulties (laughter), I think that was still a good and kick-ass show with a good vibe and I really enjoy to be with these guys and play those songs and so far the feedback has been good for every show!
At the end of October you will start your tour as a support act for W.A.S.P. Obviously, you are quite excited about that. What can people expect when they go see a show?
Anton Well they can expect, a great show, a great heavy metal show, you know, relentless heavy metal. We show no mercy. We’re gonna kick ass every night! No, but it’s gonna be good. It feels even better that it’s not just some band we are gonna support. It’s one of the bands that has also influenced Beast in Black’s music, one of the main influences, at least for me as a song writer. W.A.S.P. is one of my favorite bands and it’s great when you gonna tour with someone who you’ve admired for years! Let’s hope that everything will go good! Of course it’s gonna be hard and such, but we gotta start somewhere.
It’s our first tour, so there is many things going on at the moment. The preparations are driving me nuts, luckily the bass player Mate is helping me with organizing things. Apart from that we are really anticipating the day it’s actually gonna start. The day that all the organizing will be behind us and the time that we can just focus on playing music and being with the band. We will just try to enjoy it and get as much as possible out of that one month we spend together for the first time crammed in a tour van (laughter)!
The cool thing is also that we get to meet fans, hopefully as many fans as possible, because I think during those shows, the right crowd will be there for us. Like I said W.A.S.P. and Beast In Black are both similar, the basis for those bands is traditional heavy metal, so that’s naturally the perfect crowd for us as well. It will be nice!
I noticed that unfortunately there are no dates yet scheduled for a tour in Finland. Are you planning to have a tour in Finland? I think most people were hoping for a release party of the album in Helsinki.
Anton I think that the earliest that we will be able to do some shows in Finland, will be next year. Our management and booking agents are working on some dates and weeks in Finland. We will confirm and update the tour section on our web page, so meanwhile stay tuned for that!
Now we have covered quite much about the band and the upcoming tour. But we have yet to discuss the most important part, the new album. Can you tell us a bit more about the creative process behind “Berserker”?
Anton Basically, every album that I’ve composed in my career is a product of different materials, coming from different times. I basically write music non-stop, for later use, so naturally there’s a lot of songs.
When I start preparing an album, it’s a lot of listening, all the old material, but also writing new songs, and there are hundreds of ideas of finished songs. In the end I end up having about 30 songs, which could be potential songs for the album. Then I listen with the band to these songs and try to squeeze it into 10 songs that would be for the album.
For “Berserker” when we agreed about which songs will go on the album, we agreed about let’s say 70% of the songs. Most of the songs were the same choices for us.
And the ones that didn’t make it to “Berserker” will be heard on future albums…
Anton Yeah, something like that.
The theme behind “Berserker” is based on the anime/manga “Berserk”, which has different storylines, is there one specific story you drew inspiration from?
Anton Well, if we’re allowed to talk about the themes of the album overall, the songs that are based about Berserk are not in any specific chronological order, it’s random. This song is about that person in the book, This song is about that event in the book. It’s not a concept album, that has this arch of drama, it’s pure random.
But still there are like five songs of “Berserk” on the album, if we include the bonus tracks as well. The rest of the songs are personal stuff, personal thoughts and experiences that have happened and personal like fictional stories maybe, that are kinda mixed with reality.
About a month ago you released the first single of the album “Blind and Frozen”. The song has been stuck in my head for quite a while, at one point almost driving me crazy. It is just so catchy. Is there any specific reason you chose this song as a first single?
Anton Oh that’s really nice to hear… I guess (laughter)! I think it’s because the band members, close friends, family, manager, basically everyone thought that “Blind and Frozen” would be the best choice for the first single.
It’s better to let others choose than me, because I’m kind of blind to my own songs. I can’t hear the songs like others do. They hear it more fresh and they can give more objective opinions about what song gives the best first impression and that’s how it turned out to be.
Kasperi Choosing “Blind and Frozen” was a clever choice, because it gives a lasting impression. It’s poppy. It’s catchy. When you listen to the vocal performance by Yannis, there are some unusual things that not a lot of people would expect, so they will definitely remember that, because he sounds like a girl in the beginning (laughter), and that’s like a good thing! At least it’s not a lukewarm reception that you get from people, so you know it’s going to be a lasting impression and that’s a great thing. People will remember you when they hear your very first song and they are curious to hear more. It makes them wonder about that if the first song is like that, how will the rest of the album turn out to be. It was a good choice.
I remember that when I first heard the song, I was working on some things and had no time to check out the music video. When my friend was talking about the male vocalist, I was confused. I was like “What guy? It’s a girl?” Is this something you knew beforehand by watching his YouTube channel and is there a specific reason that he is singing like this on “Blind and Frozen”?
Anton There is a reason that he sings like that on “Blind and Frozen”. Basically he recorded a Nightwish cover of the song “Sahara” at some point, maybe two years ago. He sent me the song before he uploaded the video. So I never saw the video, only listened to the MP3. My reaction was like “Great job, great cover, but who is that girl singing?” His reply was: “What girl? That’s me?” (laughter).
And that basically gave me an idea. This guy, if he can pull that kind of stuff off, we could like actualize his skills in our music, you know. Luckily there was a perfect spot for that in the sound in “Blind and Frozen”. The lyrics and the song is about lost love and the first verse is very tender. The parts fell into the right places.
It was luck in a way though, it wasn’t planned originally to have the verses sang like that. I knew it’s gonna be something not so full-on metal, but I never expected that it’s gonna be that soft and even at times misleading for the listener.
Some of the other songs of the album, remind me a bit of the material on “Steel”. Were some of the songs written during that period of time?
Anton You know, the songs on every album are from different periods of time. On “Berserk” the oldest song is from 2009. It’s the bonus track “Go To Hell”. I remember we had rehearsals with Battle Beast, in Lahti and during the rehearsal I came up with this riff. After that I wrote “Go To Hell”. The song never got recorded until now, because it has a good place on this album.
So it’s hard to say exactly when those songs were written and it doesn’t even matter that much, because every time it’s a process of scanning the catalogue and just trying to make a good wholeness of the album. Basically, even if some song is written let’s say 10 years ago, probably nowadays I would make some changes or corrections to the song or we as a band, together, you never know what the future holds.
Songs are like a playground, in fact writing music is like a playground, you know, the whole experience with music is also a lot of fun! As long as you still know what you’re doing, because if you totally don’t have a clue, then it usually doesn’t lead to a good end result.
Is “Berserker” a theme that will stay in the future albums or are there any other ideas, stories or inspirations?
Anton There’s tons of inspiration from other sources, but Berserk is kinda the thing that will stay. This Beast, is kinda the thing so to speak, personally this is the fourth Beast album. This album kinda continues the story and the themes from the last ones.
Roman is a very close friend of mine and he also shares the passion of that series. We created the visual material together, well he draws, I don’t even know how to draw a Simpsons character, I suck at that (laughter). I tell him some ideas. He is so creative and he has tons of ideas and puts them down, draws them, sends them to me.
We talk about art, stories, Berserk and everything. It became kind of mine and Roman’s thing. Since the beginning. Even before Battle Beast’s album. He did the first album cover for Battle Beast’s demo, so to me it feels like he’s a crucial part to the project and he will hopefully stay a crucial part of this in the future as well and in this team.
During the interview with Roman, he mentioned that you have some future plans for the character “The Beast”. Are you developing “The Beast” into something what “Eddie” is to Iron Maiden?
Anton Yeah, who knows. We might have to discuss it with the band, especially for the live shows, if we are gonna do something interesting or weird. Or if we are going to have something like a strong theme on the stage during the shows or something. That’s something we that we are gonna decide together, or at least discuss. But I don’t think it’s gonna happen any time soon that we’re gonna have this lion demon on stage walking by or something (laughter).
Maybe in some years…
Anton Well for me it’s a funny thing that Roman mentioned – also in the new trailer – that there was a storyline behind The Beast that we created together. It’s true. Back in 2006, I originally wrote a part of a short story and I showed it to him. I explained it to him and we kind of took it from there. He started giving his own ideas for the story. He created different characters. I don’t really know anymore what we were talking about just now (laughter), but at least The Beast is important!
We have covered quite much already and talked about the most important things. Can you maybe tell us what your future plans and ambitions for Beast in Black are? What are your goals for the coming 5 years or so?
Anton Well, maybe it sounds kind of boring. But just to play lots of shows, make great albums with the band and just keep growing into a big band.
Kasperi: World domination.
Anton (laughter) And also that, of course.
Sounds like a great plan! But we have come now to the end of this interview, thanks Anton and Kasperi for making the time for Tuonela Magazine! Before we wrap this up, is there anything you still would like to share with our readers?
Anton Thanks to all the readers who read this, greetings to you! Hope to see everyone at our shows, eventually we will play in Helsinki and in Finland and remember to buy the album when it comes out on 3 November! So thanks!
Kasperi Buy the album! Check it out! Come to the shows! Heavy metal! That’s about it in a nutshell, sums it up pretty much.