Interview: Anton Kabanen (Beast In Black)

Interview: Anton Kabanen (Beast In Black)

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Music can be endlessly divided for genres and sub-genres, there will always be arguing about techniques, “true/fake” and all this stuff. But in the end there is only one decisive criterion: is this music cause emotions or not. So the bad music is not that one that you don’t like, it’s the one that makes you indifferent. Beast In Black, Anton Kabanen’s second project is in my playlist for two years. Recently before the band released their second album From Hell With Love I talked to Anton about new LP, tours, 80s music and how to start things over again.

You said that you had less time for production for a new album. 

Yeah

Why so?

First of all we didn’t expect anything from the first album, we just did our best. But it turned out to be very successful. It maintained that the year 2018 was very busy because of that. Lots of gigs and tours. Also there was this hype around the band, so I wanted to use the momentum while people are interested in Beast In Black so much at this time. We knew that we have to release this album quite soon because, you know, not to lose the momentum. And since it was many festival gigs: almost every week we played at festivals. We had to record the album between weekends, so basically all the week there was studio work, at least for me most of the time. It was barely ready before the last tour of 2018, so we had this night with support tour which started in November and the album’s master files were ready couple of days before the tour. It was very tense situation and time, but luckily we made it barely on time.

Great! As I know, you used some of your old material in Berserker. From Hell With Love is also based on your old ideas, or there are brand new songs in an album?

Most of them were written already at the time of the debut album or before, if I remember correctly. Some of them were written before the actual recordings. For example, the title track “From Hell With Love” it was spontaneously born because I was just trying out my recording equipment and I improvised this guitar riff. Then I thought: “Oh, well, it sounds pretty nice”. So I started to write verses around this guitar riff and drum beat. And then at some point Kasperi came, listen to that and he said: “This is definitely album material”. So I thought: “Ok, I gonna write it into a full song then”. So I did and that was one of the newest songs, the title song. But, for example, “True Believer” was already written before the debut album. We were thinking of having “True Believer” on Berserker, but we chose “Crazy, Mad, Insane” instead. So it always like a puzzle when it comes to album making: songs from here, from there, new, old, semi-old. It’s always like that because there is so much material from the past.

When you write your music and lyrics, do you already have a vision, you already see how the song will sound live?

Yeah, usually it’s pretty clear for me how that if I have written a song or if I have it only in my head, I already can imagine how it sounds. I use the “Guitar Pro 4” software for writing songs. It’s already 15 years old, not that sophisticated, very simple and I really adore it because it’s fast. But it’s just clear, nonetheless, no matter if I write it in “Guitar Pro” or keep it in my mind, the idea. And that’s what makes it easy when it comes to songwriting, when you know already in your mind what you want to hear. It makes the form factor. I think that quality will remain good if you know what you do. Sometimes you can experiment with keyboard sounds, that’s what I do quite a lot in a production phase, when the album made. There are usually keyboards parts written, but then I try different sounds because there are so many different sounds available for certain keyboard riffs and so on, you know.

If we’re talking about keyboards and electronic samples: you used them a lot in Berserker and you continue to use them in From Hell With Love. In your opinion, what is the role of electronic samples in metal nowadays?

Well, I never think about it that way. I think that whatever the song needs, you should write it, no matter what. It can be some acoustic instrument, some folk, native instruments – you got to listen what the song needs. I try not to limit myself or Beast In Black by thinking like what is the role or should there be a certain amount of keyboards in a metal album, or not. I want to add: I think that Heavy Metal, to me, it means freedom. Musical freedom. I mean you can write something very mellow, slow and soft; you can write something aggressive, loud, fast and bombastic as possible and everything in between. I think that Heavy Metal is the only genre where you can do it and the listeners will understand or accept it, nonetheless. But if you try to do something very radical in different genres, let’s say, classical music or pop music, it will alienate some fans. Maybe it will draw some metal fans then instead, but… For example, can you imagine Britney Spears having double kick drum Power Metal song on her album? I can’t.

It will be funny

Yeah, exactly. And in metal band you can do it. You can have Power Metal song, classic Heavy Metal song, even Death Metal elements like growl vocals. We have those in Berserker. In “Zodd The Immortal” there is a part where Yannis doing growl vocals as a spice, not all the time. But that’s just an example that you can do anything. That’s why Heavy Metal is great. I think that role of keyboard is just like role of any other instrument. You just have to listen to what the song needs basically, like I said.

With this, Metal music is changing and developing nowadays. From time to time we can hear something new. Nevertheless, people still listen to 80s metal, and surprisingly there are many young fans that were born in, let’s say, late 90s or even 2000. Obviously, they also like bands with 80s sounds. How do you think, why do this happen?

I have an answer, at least my opinion. If you listen to radio nowadays, there are many hits from 80s, they still playing them. And there’s a reason for that: they stood the test of time. Why they stood the test of time? It’s because they certain musical. There are musical things, musical elements that speaks to people, moves people regardless of what decade it is. There is something timeless in this music. Whenever you write something using those elements – it can be chord progression combined to certain understanding of melody, use of beats, drumbeats, instrumentation – it’s all about just combining those certain elements which will always appeal to people, regardless of decade. And I think in 80s it just happened to be that they started to use those elements, the most. Melody-wise, rhythm-wise, chord progression-wise, and at some point, you know, things come and go, things change, but in the end it’s still those things which are timeless, they will remain. The proof of that is exactly those evergreen hits. That’s just one example, which just still playing in the radio from 80s to these days.

Great! Let’s get back to the band: where Beast In Black ends as a band and starts as your own project, or contrariwise?

To me it’s always personal, I’m with my full heart, 100%. And every other here as well. I think we all here 100%, the whole band, five men are equally here. Of course to me it’s personal, because I write the songs and most of the lyrics, but everybody always do their jobs like professionals, with full heart, and we enjoy our company together. I can’t really say where it ends and the other starts. It’s hard to draw the line, it’s all way or no way! That’s how I see it, I try to not divide it. It’s basically my life and all of us are dedicate our lives for Beast In Black, for certain extend. Maybe I dedicate the most because… Let’s put it this way: my biggest passion is music, writing music. And even if it wasn’t Beast In Black, I was still do composing. But luckily there’s Beast In Black and there are people who share the passion for running a band, living a life with the band. Even though not everybody writing songs here. But when everybody understand their role in a band and take care of “duties”, support each other – that’s how it should be. Once again I say that it’s hard to say where one thing starts and one thing ends.

You had a line-up change. Can you call the nowadays line-up “stable”?

Yeah, Atte joined the band. I think, it was late 2017 when I actually gave him a call after we discussed with other members does everybody agree that we should ask Atte to join us as a permanent member. Everyone agreed immediately, and when I called Atte, it took one second to him to say “Yes, I want to join”. Since that it’s been a full steady line-up. The reason for this is Sami – we still have a good contact with him, and he came to few Beast in Black shows last year, so there is no drama, anything. But he just couldn’t give 100% for the band, those were even his own words, so luckily now we have Atte, who doesn’t compromise at all. He can give 100%, and everyone happy this way. He is a great person, great drummer and great showman. He gives very entertaining show on stage, he’s not just playing, but really pulling up the show there.

Hope one day I will have an opportunity to see you live. Soon you’ll go to your first headline tour. What’s your expectation from it?

Well, we expect to have good time. The biggest work is always before the tour: the preparation, the rehearsals, figuring out the business side, how to pay the costs and all that stuff. But when the tour actually starts, it’s more like… Not a vacation, but it’s a work that does not feel like work. It’s such a great thing to enjoy what we do every day. We are great team – the crew, the band members, everyone. We are really looking forward to entertain people, we hope to see smiling faces from the stage. That’s what we expect.

You still an international band. How do you rehears, at least before the tour?

We just book one place. There’s one big place near Helsinki where we play for one week. We usually have one week rehearsals. Mate, our bass player is from Budapest, Hungary, so we’re definitely international band. Then in rehearsals we plan the choreographies, speeches, like, everything. We try to do real playthrough, like real show, how we would be on stage. So, it usually takes one week and that’s about it. We actually have our rehearsals coming up, they start in a bit over that one week from this interview (01.02.2019). And they gonna be the only rehearsals for the whole year, so we definitely have to prepare in advance at home as well. Everybody learn their own parts: Yannis learns his vocals, I learn my vocal and guitar parts, Kasperi learns his guitar parts, Mate learns the bass, Atte practicing his drum parts at his rehearsal place where he lives – he lives like few hundred kilometers from Helsinki. Then we just gather together in Helsinki for this one week and try to use the time effectively, not to lose any hour.

You told a lot about your love to manga, especially “Berserk”, of course. Beside this, what other sources of inspiration do you have?

Oh, well, it might sound like cliché, but anything can be inspiration. Inspiration is always… Things that trigger feelings. It can be a movie, an event in your life, some memory or distant memory from the past, good memory or bad. Some hopes for the future or some fictional stories that comes up in your head or some animes, cartoons, books, comic books or anything, like I said. And that’s great when you can put it all out through music, at least that’s what I’m trying to do. But on this album it’s definitely like two categories: one half of the songs is based on “Berserk” and there are five songs which are exactly about “Berserk”. One song is about “Fist Of The North Star” – it’s the opening track “Cry Out For A Hero” and the rest of the songs are more personal stuff: personal emotions, statements and experiences.

What kind of music do you listen?

I used to listen a lot of traditional Heavy Metal like Judas Priest, Manowar, Black Sabbath (the Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath), W.A.S.P., Accept, but I don’t listen to it that much anymore nowadays – not because I don’t like it, I love it still. But I listened to it so much that I wanted something else. Nowadays I don’t listen to Metal, I listen to Synth-Pop, game soundtracks from Nintendo, Sega and PC games from early and middle 90’s and some obscure stuff that many have not even heard of. There’s something that appeals to me in those old soundtracks. Movie soundtracks, of course, acoustic music like Blackmore’s Night. What else… Some Retro Synth-Wave – on YouTube I sometimes check out some artists from this genre. And Italo-Disco – I love this stuff.

Can you name three last songs that you put in your playlist?

Hm… I think, yesterday I listened to Den Harrow “Catch The Fox”, some KOTO, it was an album, actually, that called From The Dawn Of Time but I think my favorite song from it is “Acknowledge”. Both of them, actually, are Italo-Disco.

Great! Let’s get back four years earlier: was it hard to you to make everything from the start?

Of course it was difficult, it was very challenging, but I never saw any alternatives. I knew that music is what I wanna do, and I decided… I still feel there is much more I want to say with this type of metal, what I write. So that’s why I came up with Beast In Black and I still continue with The Beast thing. That was kind of personal thing when I came up with The Beast, and actually I even wrote the story for The Beast character. Actually I have not released this story anywhere, in book or anything like that. Maybe someday in the future I will rewrite it, refine it and try to make it more professional. Apart from that I also wanted to make a clear connection to my passion – the manga “Berserk”. That’s why the name is Beast In Black, because there are two characters. Well, actually it’s one character, The Black Sword’s Man that has its inner demon, some creature that he calls “Beast Of Darkness” so that’s how I came up with the name Beast In Black, combining The Black Sword’s Man and Beast Of Darkness. The name was there and luckily it was quite easy to find the members for the band, since most of them were already my old friends, who I knew from some years ago. But Yannis was the newest guy. We first wrote to each other in 2014, I think, then I met him face-to-face in 2015 when I was in my last tour with Battle Beast, when we were in Greece, in his hometown Thessaloniki. We talked and I told him about my idea, what I have and my plan, what I wanna do next time. I asked if he is interested to join me. He was, and that’s how we started. After that tour I was focused on taking a one step at a time to build this new band, and here we are now! It was hard, of course, because you never know how it is gonna turn, but like I said there were no alternatives. Life is too short for Plan B, so I knew I have to do this.

Thank you very much for the answer! And the last one: despite you had a good start as a “new band”, you don’t rest on your laurels but still working hard. Beast In Black in, let’s say, five years: how do you see it?

Hopefully we have released five or six albums by that time and played couple of worldwide tours.  And everyone can earn their living 100% from this band. That’s what I hope to see in few years.

Anton, thank you very much for the interview and from me personally thank you for putting smile on my face every day with your music!

That’s perfect! The world needs more smiling, people need more smiles in their life and I’m happy if we can do this for our fans.

Photos taken from Beast In Black official facebook page.

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