Interview with Noora Louhimo — “My best advice is, don’t try to be anything else than who you are.”

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While Noora Louhimo is best known for being the vocalist for BATTLE BEAST, this year she blew everyone’s mind by releasing her debut solo album under the NOORA LOUHIMO EXPERIENCE name. We had the opportunity to talk to her about the project and its songs earlier this year, but the interview got lost in the ether for a few months, so we went up to Tampere on October 27th, 2021, to chat with her before NOEX‘s first live-audience show. Here is the interview from October, plus a few of the choice moments from our earlier interview as well!

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, as I know you’re very busy. How does it feel to finally get to do some live shows after postponing a few times?

I’m super excited, especially now that it feels and seems like the pandemic is… we are getting over it. Today’s show is going to be at full capacity and finally, I get to show people what all my experiences are about.

Is this your first actual live performance [with an audience] with NOEX?

Yeah, this is actually our first-ever “own” live show. Last summer we played at Nummirock, doing a 1-hour show. But today, it’s gonna be the full show.

Incredible. For the people who are going to come check out your show in December, what will we be looking forward to?

We’ll be getting the whole orchestra, like tonight, with the brass and the backing vocalists and stuff like that. We definitely have put some effort in to make this a big show for everyone and as enjoyable as possible. The way that I’m thinking about this is like, people have been waiting for so long to get to a live show. So why not do it with full power? So I’m definitely very excited about both of these shows.

You’ve got this show today and then you’ve got the next one in Helsinki in December [today]. Do you have any more on top of that in other cities?

No, because I can’t duplicate myself. [laughs] We are going to start doing a BATTLE BEAST tour in December also, so it’s gonna be very hectic. Also, I’m in Raskasta Joulua this year, so it’s a full month of working on nice stuff during December.

Yeah, when we talked earlier this year, it seemed like you were very busy and it sounds like you really haven’t eased up since then.

Yeah, it’s been very hectic and I’m that kind of person that I really don’t… [laughs] have vacations. I tried to get better at it, relaxing, but for me, a couple of days relaxing is enough and then I’m like, “okay, what’s next?” [laughs]

Talking about the music, this whole album was really interesting to me. We were just re-watching the music video for Eternal Wheel of Time and Space and having a lot of fun with that. It feels very much like the, “welcome to the show” song and the music video is so weird and funny and psychedelic… so how did that song get written and was it written to be the “big song” or how did it happen?

Well, actually, “Eternal Wheel of Time and Space” happened when we were having a demo session at the JaBa Studios in Hankasalmi, where we also did most of the whole album. Why there? Samuli, my producer and the second songwriter is from there; it’s his childhood home, where the studio is. So we were there and our drummer, Juuso Raatikainen, was also there and at the end of the day, we were just hanging out in the studio and talking about the whole NOORA LOUHIMO EXPERIENCE and the songs. Then Samuli says that he has this draft of a song that he thinks that might be a good match with the whole NOORA LOUHIMO EXPERIENCE. And then he played it and my head exploded. [laughs] It was like, okay, this is the song that the NOORA LOUHIMO EXPERIENCE is all about. So originally, it was written by Samuli.

Then we started arranging it. At the same session, I was asking Juuso, what name would you give for this song and he was immediately, “eternal wheel of time and space.” So actually, our drummer came up with the name. And then the lyrics were a little bit trickier. I had a really clear vision of what I want it to be about. It is about life, but it’s also life on the road. So I got this chorus in my head right away and some jibberish for the verses, but then I was in this kind of locked situation that I didn’t know how to create or how to make the lyrics in the verses. So I called my brother [Pekka Louhimo] and asked his help, because he’s been helping me with the whole album, with the songs. So he helped me put my mind together, so to say, so most of the lyrics are made by me, but also my brother helped a lot. The actual melody came up very easily. Like it was these moments when it just comes out the way it should be. So that was the easiest part for me.

So how did then the rest of the album play out? I know that the last song was a rather an old song of yours that you’ve recorded years and years and years ago. So were there any other old songs?

Yeah, “Relax” is actually the first single ever that was custom made for me, as a result of winning a singing competition in Henry’s Pub here in Tampere. So it was my first real studio experience and also the first single that was released, and it was made by Riitis, and yeah, I felt like this is the perfect bonus track for the album because it takes people 10 years back in my life, what happened, where I started my career as a singer. People can also hear that we didn’t re-record anything. We just remixed it. So it was like me 10 years ago singing there and what’s cool was that it’s something that I wanted to show people because the whole idea of this album is to show people the different sides of me as a singer and as a person. I feel that we accomplished showing this diversity of me as a singer and songwriter. I’m really pleased, even though there has been some criticism of, you know, it sounds more like a band-band than a solo album, but the whole idea is like, when I started to think about what I wanted to do, that I would put in as many good friends of mine who are musicians, and of course we have to serve the songs. But definitely in the future, we will have more, maybe… songs that do not include so many instruments, but more different moods and vibes.

Makes sense. I’m always kind of interested in the order in which songs are compiled and this is a very diverse album. So how do you decide which song comes after the big first song and how you’re going to wrap it up?

It takes a bit a bit of time. You have to listen to the songs and I’m very much the kind of person who goes by feeling, so I didn’t think of anything tactical or anything like that. Even when we were doing the songs, it was like, I just want to do this out of pleasure and passion and love towards music, and nothing else. Also, when I started to put together the order of the songs, there has to be some kind of story coming. The first priority for me was actually the dynamics, that I wanted to start the trip in a cool way and then that it will peak somewhere. And then at some point in the story, kind of in the corner, it’s like it’s calming down. Also, my wish for the last song was that it must be something epic and must be grand. [In “Coda”] there are only instruments and singing was also as a nice instrument in the song and not with the words, because it was very important for me, because I’ve always loved the PINK FLOYD song, “The Great Gig in the Sky.”

It’s funny, because I was just going to say that there’s very much a “Great Gig in the Sky” vibe in that song.

Yeah, because that was the inspiration for that song. And that was also Samuli who wrote the song, but I arranged the vocals and also we arranged together the parts and how it would go, but yeah, Samuli is my man. I don’t have to tell him anything specific. I’m just I told him I wanted it to be my “Great Gig in the Sky” grand finalé, all the instruments should swim in during the song and then build up a lot and then just, you know, fade away… and that was the short version.

I love that. It sounds like you have a lot of people that you work with that are really in tune with you, because you mentioned this about your brother as well, that he knows what you’re thinking and you tell him what you want, and it just appears.

[laughs] Well, it takes a little bit more than that, but anyways, I really have a good team here. I really love this way of working, that I have my closest friends with me. Also, my brother has done all the visual design and graphics. I’ve got some crazy ideas and then he makes them even crazier. [laughs]

Do you have a message that you want to spread with your art? Peace and love, or anything like that?

[laughs] Yeah, well of course I have several messages. Like I told about the cover art, it’s kind of visualizing what I want to give people, but also in different songs I hope that they will resonate in people, that there are songs that are about my love life and then there are songs about my will to take the power in my own hands and not to be… there are situations where you are told to do certain things. Then for example, in “Valkyrie” – the lyrics are, by the way, written my my brother – but the lyrics are about my life, because it represents the idea that if someone says that you can’t do something or you have to do something that you don’t want to do, “Valkyries” is saying like, “Fuck them all, I’m gonna do whatever I want to do!” There are different messages and different moods and different stories in each song. I really hope when people listen, that they listen to the whole album, because it will tell about my life and who I am.

We talked before about the album art and “the mothership,” and I thought that was really cool. It’s so feminine/feminist and just slightly graphic, but not too weird, and I find it so fascinating. Then there’s the wormhole in the center and the infinity sign. How much direction did you give Pekka to design it? Or did you just say, “mothership” / “wormhole”?

Well, actually, my first idea was that I would take a photo of myself [laughs] with my legs open. [laughter] I was talking about this because I want a woman giving birth or something symbolizing the process of… There are many meanings, but maybe the two most important meanings of that mothership is like giving birth to life, to music, to creativity. Then also when you go into the Eternal Wheel of Time and Space wormhole, you can go anywhere in any dimension.

I also wanted to make cover art that is kind of brave, that it’s not too mild. I wanted to make people think and talk about it, like, what is this? And you know, offer some wake-up questions. It’s definitely intentionally [feminist].

I’ve never thought about that that way, but you’re right. Making art is certainly giving a part of yourself away and the creative process is very similar to having a child.

Yeah, it’s not like it’s so easy. [laughs] Sometimes you really have to struggle with yourself to get the whole thing out. Then after the release, I was actually feeling a little bit depressed, because I felt this kind of stress and hectic pressure and all this stuff for a year in a row. Then when it was released, it was like… now it has been born and is out there, and I felt relieved, but I also had that kind of postpartum depression women have after labor. I felt so empty. I was like, what am I supposed to do now? Of course, I have so many things to do still and we are preparing new music videos, so I don’t really lack for things to do. So it was a struggle, but I was also the happiest when we were doing some of the songs and designing visual parts.

Incredible! I also love the diversity on the album that like there’s just these influences of rock, of country, of disco, of jazz, blues… there’s just so much in there. So do you find it hard to like make a cohesive sound? I ask because the album still sounds very cohesive, despite all these different genre influences.

Well, the idea was that [the album has] the same songwriters, like Samuli, and then also the guitar sounds and sounds overall, they will tie the whole thing together. I also had to pick out songs that actually fit, because we have made some other songs in the style of ’90s and stuff like that, but they wouldn’t fit in the concept of what we are doing now. But you never know [for the future].

I understood that this album was at least partially crowdfunded, is that right?

Yes, partially. This whole album was funded by the pre-orders coming from fans and friends and family. It was very important to me to do it this way, so I could actually involve the fans and the close people of mine in this project in that way. It has been great to see that people want to support me as an individual, not just as a heavy metal singer, but as a person and as an artist. So it was very important to me to make this album independently. Even though I released the digital album, it also goes through a label called Ranka Kustannus. That was actually a last minute thing and the reason for doing it was that, for example, Spotify and Apple Music have an arrangement with record labels, so you can’t get your music played as an independent artist on the official Spotify lists, so it was one of those “of course I have to do that” things. But the physical albums are still distributed by Kapanen Productions, where I have my official NOORA LOUHIMO EXPERIENCE store and you can buy the physical CD or vinyl and all the merchandise from there. That is the most direct way to support me financially.

You mentioned in October that you’re writing a story to go with this album. Can you tell me a bit more about it?

Well, the songs are not about the story, they are like soundtracks for the story. The songs are actually about my own life. I don’t know where it originally started to come to me, that I have this huge need to do a story about some sci-fi/fantasy stuff. I think it’s because I really love sci-fi and fantasy movies and books and stuff like that. Since I was a little kid, I’ve always dreamed about making a book and I’ve been writing short stories and stuff like that, but never a book. My brother is also a passionate writer, so we decided to combine our forces here too. It’s really fun. I won’t tell anything yet because we’re still developing the story, but the whole idea for the stories is that this band – of course, if you have seen the music video – they end up going through this eternal wheel of time and space gate. Then they go on an unbelievable adventure, and in the story, we will deal with real-world topics or things that have happened throughout history, but in a science-fiction/fantasy story. It’s also things that have happened in my life, so it’s kind of a mixture of different things. The thing that is intriguing, I think, is that I’m very interested to see what people will think has been happening in my life and what is just a fantasy story. So you will never know what’s actually happened, necessarily.

Well, I love fantasty/sci-fi, so I’m really looking forward to whenever that becomes a thing.

To answer your question, is it going to only be this album or what, I’ve been thinking that this album will be the first part of it. We’ll see what happens with the next album, but for starters, I have this idea that it will continue on the next album and the next after that.

I love that your ideas are more than just a few songs. A lot of budding artists are too scared or whatnot, to just get out there and do their thing. Do you have any advice for those people?

Well, my tip is, don’t try to polish it too much. You have to just put it out there and don’t give a shit about what people are gonna think about it, because it’s your child. So if you are like, “I like this and I just want to show it off”… that’s the way I think of my own music, that I love all the songs and I’m really proud that we got this whole album together and more is coming and I just wish everyone who wants to do something with their lives and they have some dreams, just make them come true, because you don’t know if we just live once.

I’ve heard a few comments online of people saying that, “Gosh, this album was so good, she should quit BATTLE BEAST and start a solo career.” With that much support for this music, are you still very much dedicated to BATTLE BEAST?

[laughs] I’m very dedicated to BATTLE BEAST and I also have a solo career, so I’m not quitting anything. I’m just adding. Before BATTLE BEAST, I already had a solo career, so it’s not something new, but most people know me from BATTLE BEAST. I wanted to show people what I have been doing before BATTLE BEAST. Before I started to sing heavy metal, it was something totally different. This album will show people all the ingredients that I put into BATTLE BEAST.

Before BATTLE BEAST, I didn’t sing heavy metal at all [laughs]. So in BATTLE BEAST, when I when I was asked to join the band, I started to create my own style to sing heavy metal from the influence of my idols in heavy metal, but also outside heavy metal, like how to form a big voice like Whitney Houston or a raspy sound like Janis Joplin, for example. I love Bruce Dickinson and his stage presence, so I wanted to add that influence also to my own.

I feel like I’m a combination of different influences and, like every artist, they have their own idols and things that they want to rehearse and take as an influence. But because you are you, no one is ever really a copy of another person, so when you do these things but you have had different influences, then it becomes your own thing. What I also teach – because I also teach singing and performing – when I teach my students, [I encourage them] to find their own kind of artistic style, be your own thing. It’s actually pretty easy, because you already have it, but you have to realize that you don’t have to be anything else than what you already are. I want to help people to be their own best selves.

That’s the thing that I’m trying to teach myself. I get all these pressures like, should I be looking like this or that, or should I be sounding like this or that. There are people also who hate me because of my voice, because of my looks. The thing that I realized was that if I would try to please everyone in this world, I would be… air [laughter]. I would be ashes, I would be nothing, I couldn’t do anything because it would destroy me and it will destroy people.

That would destroy art.

[laughs] I feel like this is very dramatically said, but there are a lot of people who do everything to please society and please everyone else, and then they are struggling with themselves all the time. So I think the best way out of that struggling is to try to find yourself and do the best you can, and that is totally enough in this world.

That’s actually a really great segue, because you mentioned during your stream that you’ve been very insecure, that you were bullied. Now here you are, now easily considered one of the best vocalists and performers in Finland, if not the world right now. You’ve been doing guest slots in a lot of bands like AMARANTHE and ARION. That’s a pretty badass comeback from the troubles of youth. [laughter] Do you have any words for the bullies or for anyone who’s getting bullied right now? Or even just anyone who’s insecure, without the bullying?

My word isn’t the law, but I’ve learned that everyone in this world is insecure in some way, but many people know how to hide it in different ways. Also, what I learned later on was that the people who were bullying me, they were actually very insecure. The reason why I was bullied was that I had something that they didn’t have, and they wanted to have it. So usually there is nothing wrong with you when you are bullied. The people who bully, they have some kind of jealousy or some kind of pain. I know that some of the bullies had domestic violence in their own childhood. That’s why they were putting all the pain of that onto someone else, because it was so traumatic. So we need to remember that everyone has their own history and traumas.

I’m still not over everything and I have my insecurities still, so it’s kind of a never-ending story. You have to learn how to cope with it, hopefully in a healthy way. For example, I get criticized a lot and bullied a lot, for example, in media. So how I kind of deal with that is to turn that into a mental fuel, I get fueled by it, and then I’m like, “hey, let’s see how this goes.” I don’t want to prove anything… but sometimes I do. If someone says that you can’t do this, I’m like, well…

Watch me!

[laughs] Let’s see! So maybe my best advice is, don’t try to be anything else than who you are and concentrate on the people who are loyal to you and who are actually worthy of your attention, your loved ones. All the people who try to put you down, the reason usually is that they know how good you are. Everyone who tries to put you down, they feel small themselves.

It’s great to have role models to show people that it’s not black-and-white, you don’t just “get over it,” but at the same time, see that there are some insecure people and they’ve learned to manage it.

[laughs] It has become one of my tasks in life, I will always be on the good side. I will always… if I see anyone bullied, I’m there, I’m helping, I really want to… if there is something unjust happening, I can’t stand it. So if someone feels like they are being bullied and stuff like that, you should not be afraid to talk about it, because there are people like me, for example, who will be on your side.

I’ve been hearing so many stories this year, personal and public, about bullying – channels ridiculing artists, the toxic YouTube comments section, and even bands mocking each other and putting one another down, doing power-plays. Have you noticed things like that within the industry too?

Yes, definitely, and that is so sick. This kind of social media bullying, they don’t really understand the reality of the consequences of what can happen. Some young people have already committed suicide because of this. It’s a very, very serious thing. I always get furious when I hear about that kind of behavior, because there are serious consequences. I remember when I joined BATTLE BEAST, I got bullied a lot on YouTube and other social media sites, talking about how ugly and everything I am, so it was very, very traumatizing for me deal with that, that people are so, so evil. In the end though, when I received that super negative bullying – I was, of course, very traumatized and I was very sad – but I never questioned if I was doing wrong. I was like, fuck them, fuck them, I’m gonna do this and I’m going to show these assholes what I’m worth. I don’t know if there some kind of law against someone violating you verbally in social media, but if there isn’t, there should be, because verbal violence can be as damaging as someone is hitting you into the ground.

I absolutely agree and thank you for saying so! I should wrap this up so you can get ready, so is there anything else you’ve got planned to let people know about for this year?

We’ve got BATTLE BEAST shows coming up and there is also the new BATTLE BEAST sixth album coming. We have already released the first singles and there are more to come before January 21st, when the sixth BATTLE BEAST “Circus of Doom” album is coming out. So I’m really excited about that. Also, we just got announced the North American tour that we’re having next year after the European tour, so we’ve got 10 weeks of touring next year and I’m really, really excited about that.

Well that’s all for my questions. Thank you for your time and thank you for speaking up! I hope we’ll be able to see you live soon.

Thank you!

Photos by Anna Brödel