In a few days we will have the chance to watch for the first time ever in Greece Beast In Black, a phenomenon in metal nowadays, lead by Anton Kabanen and fronted by “our own” Yannis Papadopoulos. Yannis talks about his expectation for the first gigs ever in his country and knows what the Greeks want to see. His life has changed completely during the last years and he is now living in Finland, although after the end of the pandemic, rarely does he stay at home, as he is mostly on tour… that doesn’t mean that he has changed. He is an ordinary guy, one of us, enthusiastic and enjoyable, although he’d rather sing for 3 hours straight than… doing this interview! Interview: Yiannis Dolas After three records and 6 years with Beast In Black, you are playing with the band for the first time in Greece in front of a Greek audience. It sounds cliché and trite, but how do you feel about it? Are you more nervous than another band concert in another country?

Yannis Papadopoulos: Look, I’d lie if I told you that I have anxiety in some other country. What I feel is excitement. You can also call it stress. I want it to go down well and win the audience Greece. We’re a curious crowd, we’re a bit… “all or nothing”. That is, for a Greek to say that he is going to see a band, he must be head over heels in love with that band. Our culture is different. Finns will go to gigs on their free time. The same way we say “I’m going to a bar”. They will go to a concert. It is not so specific and so personal. I think that a concert is something personal for the Greek audience. Perhaps, it is also the money issue. They will keep their money for something specific and hardly spend it. This is important to me and apply some form of pressure to do well. That’s how I can answer you. It’s been more than a year since the release of “Dark Connection”, which in terms of style and aesthetics was a little different from the previous two. It was more futuristic, but also it was different sound wise. What do you think about it?

Yannis Papadopoulos: We had the blessing, but also the curse of working for a long time this time. I mean, normally I remember that the plans were for the album to be released in 2020. But, seeing the situation in 2020 we wouldn’t have gained had it released then. So, we used that time to work some more on the record and the mix. That was good and bad for sure, at least, for our own aesthetics, our own tastes, our own vision. But, in general maybe that has affected it and that’s why it’s so different. Because, I feel that the other two albums were somehow done with a more confident and quick formula, if I can put it that way. You can’t have a formula that will work for everything, but we didn’t mess with the foundation as much as we did on this record. So, this had different results. Now, as far as the futuristic content goes, the lyrics and stuff are mostly Anton’s part. He had completely taken over the songs. Certainly, Anton is the main composer, the mastermind of the band and he has chosen you, he had trusted your voice for the vision for his band. Would you like to contribute more, composing-wise and lyrically-wise to the band and the music of Beast In Black? Is this something you have discussed with him?

Yannis Papadopoulos: For the time being, the way I see it, it is something that’s so purely unique and his own and his inspiration seems endless. If I were to contribute something, musically or compositionally, I would do it in something of my own, maybe this will happen in the future. At the moment, I don’t have any creative inspiration regarding this part. And me as a person and apart from Beast In Black, I’m more into performing so to speak, more into singing and performing the songs. So, for now there is no internal pressure on myself. So, no such there were no such issues for Beast In Black either. So, in a way, that makes things easier as well. There is no “conflict of interest” or anything like that. Where you see a lot of arguments in bands, between the singer and the leader, or you’d see for example Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson arguing… it’s very common, but at the moment we don’t have that kind of tension, or disagreements. The thing is very easy in this respect. We all know that Anton does this, he does it with joy and it is easy for us to follow suit. However, we have our outlets for creativity, as well as the other guitarist, Kasperi (Heikkinen) has Merging Flare, which he has put aside for a while, since the schedule with Beast In Black is very full. Speaking of your heavy schedule and tours, we recently saw you go on stage with Nightwish as a guest. It’s not the first time this has happened, but tell me how special it is, to get on stage with such a big band and perform with them, even for those 5-6 minutes?

Giannis Papadopoulos: I don’t feel pressured for such things often. It’s second nature to me. It’s easier for me to sing to you right now than talk, somehow. I mean, if you tell me, “Yanni, wake up and go on stage,” I will! If you tell me “Yanni, sit down and let’s do an interview for 2 hours”, I’ll say “oh man you’re killing me now”! Hahaha! Really, the thing about Nightwish is that their audience is very fanatical, so that creates pressure. It’s hard to get out on stage and take time out of their show. It’s not as simple as, “oh, I’m going out with a big band and showing off.” I wish it was that simple. The idea was from their drummer (Ed Kai Hahto), because I had covered the track (SS it’s “Sahara”) on my YouTube channel as well, and he says “Yanni, this will fit in really well and we’ve put it back into the set now, three days ago, will you do us the favor to sing it with us?” I am doing you a favor? And so it happened. We did a sound check first and then we went out and played it. It was weird for me and of course I’m going to be uncomfortable, because it’s one thing to go out every night and play the same songs and be so comfortable and not even think about it, but it’s another thing all together to perform a song that I haven’t done so in say seven years. I am completely lost here! Singing-wise, as well as moving on stage! I didn’t know what to do… It was definitely a challenge for me. I didn’t even have time to plan it in my head, to think how I was going to say it, how I was going to move – I had no idea. I kind of improvised, which is not the easiest thing for me. But, we nailed it…that’s just the way it is sometimes. Given that Beast In Black, so far at least, release an album every two years, should we expect new work coming out this year? Have you started working on something, or not yet?

Yannis Papadopoulos: The truth is that we had a deadline for all three albums, but now there is nothing concrete. This can be good, but also bad. But, because last time Anton almost burned out his brain to finish the songs, mix and produce, now he’s taking his time, working without pressure… the other day I saw him taking his laptop back to his room, or even on the tour bus doing his thing, he was like a madman with headphones! He started writing on his own! So, I’m not worried, he’s dying to get a song out, but there’s no external pressure.

Now, from what I see 2023 will be full of tours, so I don’t see us having time to sit in the studio. If we write an album – we said it as a joke, but it can be done for real – we can do it on the bus. If we assume that – precisely because you don’t have much time, but you’re on tour – Nuclear Blast comes and says to you: “so guys, we’re not releasing an album yet, so make a best-of-EP with five tracks and let’s release it.” Which songs would you pick?

Yiannis Papadopoulos: Your idea is very good in the sense that an EP with new tracks could be released, but it would not make sense to release an EP with older material… I used it as an excuse to choose 5 songs for me…

Yiannis Papadopoulos: Oh, your question is very difficult! I wouldn’t pick the very obvious ones. I mean, I wouldn’t choose “Blind And Frozen”. I think we’ve all had too much of it. I would pick “Born Again”, that’s for sure. “Ghost In The Rain”… these two from the first album. Let me pick 6 tracks so I can have 2 from each record… Okay!

Yannis Papadopoulos: Well, from the second album I would choose “Repentless” and “Cry Out For A Hero”, to make it more heavy metal, and from the third, “Broken Survivors” and “Dark New World”. So, I would put songs that are not so well-known to give them a little more attention. I may be thinking of it in a very cult and purist mentality, but I think I’d prefer it that way rather than giving you the most popular ones, which have already become official video clips.

If I was going to do that, I might remix them, or use them in a different format. It’s been a long time since I remember you playing acoustic shows just with your guitar. Have you realized how much your life has changed over the years and what do you see for the future? Where can you get to? What are you thinking;

Yiannis Papadopoulos: Haha… I’m trying to realize it because there have been many changes too fast. And since I came here, I don’t have my family, my friends. I have new friends, life is different here… It has a different rhythm, a different lifestyle. For example in Greece, as I did those live acoustic you saw, I played music with my father in bars, restaurants, weddings… we are now talking about Greek music. I also played keyboards… we’re talking about 8 to 10 hours a night. Many times my father might go on somewhere else after I went to bed, because he is crazier than I am! I miss such things, which I don’t do anymore and sometimes I think about it. What was then a given in my life, now it’s gone. I have other things. I am trying to realize the change you are talking about. It’s never easy. Whenever I’m in Greece, I say to my father: “Dad, is there any work we can do together?” Not for the money, I care if we do it for just hanging out, the music, the fun. Some things I would love to have again in my life. The acoustic shows were a great situation that also kept me in good shape as well. Certainly, apart from your own life, the music industry has also changed in the last 10-20 years. Can anyone make a living from music as a member of Beast In Black today? And not only Beast In Black, think of all the bands that are not at the level of Nightwish, Maiden… especially in a period like now, after the pandemic, where all live shows, theaters, etc. were not working due to the corona virus…

Yannis Papadopoulos: That is true. In 2018 and 2019 we had 100 live shows a year. And suddenly in 2020 we had 3 live and in 21 none! That was a big blow, because we had just managed to make some money to live on, because you can’t go away for 100 days a year and keep a job. You can’t stay doing a job easily either. I didn’t go through that, I’ve never done a 9 to 5 ever in my life. So, corona virus came and kicked our ass and now that we are back it again I can tell you that in the ’80s if you were a band with a platinum record in Finland you could live in a villa. Now, you live in a 30 square meter apartment. This is what I can tell you about my own situation. For me, quantity is not everything. In a way you can live, but with the basics. Which is the level where you will play to 1,000 – 2,000 people in Europe, Germany, Czech Republic etc. So, it’s not easy at all anymore. Your message to the world, the Greek public, who will come, or is thinking of coming to see you…

Yannis Papadopoulos: The main thing is, guys, get tickets, because if tickets are not bought, neither the organizer nor the band can risk coming. If you sell 50 tickets for a 1000 people show… it won’t happen. As simple as that! And on the other hand, from an artistic point of view, it will be an awesome show with a lot of energy, a lot of singing and a lot of heavy metal. We will all have an amazing time and we will all remember it. This is for sure! I can tell you this with certainty and confidence.