Beast In Black


Anton Kabanen has every reason to be proud, happy and relieved! The debut album by Beast in Black is in stores after more than two years of preparation. And trust us…this is one of the best albums of 2017. We meet Anton at a pub in the center of Helsinki for a very interesting and revealing interview. The Beast (in Black) is back! Interview: Sakis Nikas Anton, it’s been two years in the making and finally the debut Beast in Black album is out. How do you feel about it? BeastInBlack02

Anton Kabanen: It’s very liberating. Even when the first single (“Blind and Frozen”) was out…all the pain and suffering that I experience throughout this whole period was instantly gone and it was all worth it. I was finally out of my emotional jail! It’s a great feeling. It was also a great timing that the W.A.S.P. tour came along…

Anton Kabanen: Yeah, the timing was perfect. When I saw that W.A.S.P. was doing a European tour, I said to my manager that we should work things out and make sure to be the support act. Luckily, everything went according to the plan and we couldn’t hope for a better start for Beast in Black. We have a great team working with us. (Ed, the interview took place before the start of the tour and obviously before Beast In Black left. Read more here). Is it the same team that you had with Battle Beast?

Anton Kabanen: Not really…in Battle Beast there was one manager with whom I don’t have any contact with anymore. Now I am working with people that I know from the past but this is the first time that we are really working together. It is more official this time. Also, it’s a good thing that the label is still the same and all things are familiar in that aspect, too. At the moment everything seems to be effective in all levels. I think that I was the slowest one in writing and producing the album. I thought about that and I believe that the basic reason for that was the fact that we didn’t have a deadline. I am a person who needs deadlines and in the future I will make sure to have always a specific deadline for a record release or something important like that. Do you work better under pressure?

Anton Kabanen: Yeah but at the same time when I know that there is a specific deadline I can organize my everyday life in a better or more productive way. Let’s get back to the album. Did you use any old songs from the past or all of them are brand new?

Anton Kabanen: Yeah, there are a couple of old ones. Like for example, in the digipack edition of the album there is one song called “Go To Hell” which I had written –at least most of it- in 2009. The lyrics were written in 2015…as a matter of fact, we played that song on our first show in 2015. Yeah, I remember that…it’s on YouTube.

Anton Kabanen: Right. How come you didn’t use that song on a Battle Beast record?

Anton Kabanen: Well, it’s simple….I have hundreds of unreleased songs. When I am in the process of recording an album, I narrow the list down to 30-40 songs and then I ask the other band members of their opinion…which 10-12 songs would be better for the album. You know…I have a huge songwriting library that I know for a fact that I will never be able to record all the songs that I have written. Even the choosing of a song can be really difficult because after a month you might change your mind. Usually the songwriting itself, it’s pretty fast…the music is written very fast but I always leave the lyrics for later on. That’s the way I am used to work but it’s also a pain in the ass because I am not the greatest lyricist in the world. It’s not my strongest point…I can do the job but I know that there are others who can do a far better job than me.

BeastInBlack01 Why you didn’t ask Yiannis (Papadopoulos) to write lyrics for some songs on the album?

Anton Kabanen: Actually, I did ask him. He wrote lyrics for one song but I thought that they were too generic. He wrote them during his flight to Finland so maybe that had something to do with it (laughs). For this record, Yiannis didn’t feel like he wanted to write lyrics and that was OK. Also, our bass player tried to write a few lyrics but again something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t satisfied of my own lyrics either…that’s why I kept making different versions of the same song to see which lyrics fit better. I am now working with a good friend of mine who helps me with the lyrics and maybe these will end up in the next Beast in Black record. I want to minimize my participation in the writing of the lyrics because it takes too much time for me. I am far better in writing the music, planning the direction of the band, thinking of a storyline for a video clip…stuff like that. Speaking of storylines, did you have the idea for the first video “Blind and Frozen”?BeastInBlack04

Anton Kabanen: Yes, that was mine. You know…you can divide the album in two sections. There are five songs about Berzerker (The Manga character) and the other five come from my personal experiences. You know of course that there are a lot of fans out there who believe that the second single “Beast in Black” refers to Battle Beast, right? The lyrics can be interpreted in that way…

Anton Kabanen: I know…but it’s really about the Manga character. But this song is also full of metaphors that one can easily relate them to my own life. I usually don’t read comments on Facebook but I read something like 10 comments and I noticed that there were a few guys who believed that it was about Battle Beast. So, I know what you mean. Would you say that you made a fresh start in February of 2015?

Anton Kabanen: I started thinking about leaving Battle Beast in 2014. The problems began in February or March of 2014. It was a really difficult time when we were doing the “Unholy Savior” album and I started thinking that probably this road is gonna end for me really soon…I already knew that I will leave Battle Beast during that period. Were there personal problems or musical differences?

Anton Kabanen: All kind of problems in all levels. The beginning of the end was when we started talking about who’s gonna own the band name. That’s another thing I wanted to ask you about…why you didn’t trademark the band name in the very beginning.

Anton Kabanen: That’s a very good question. I was 17 or 18 in 2006 when I came up with the name “Battle Beast” before the official formation of the band. It wasn’t my first thought as a young and excited musician. I didn’t think the business side of the whole thing, at all. I was 100% focused on music and nothing else mattered. So, it was really very easy for someone to trademark and own the name in all these years. But to get back to your question, when the problems appeared, I started thinking what I should do…I even thought of playing some other style of music because I write all kinds of stuff…orchestral music, synth-pop music without any guitars etc. So, the last gig with Battle Beast was in Amsterdam on the 15th of February 2015. How did it end in Amsterdam?

Anton Kabanen: First of all, I wanted to say that I never wanted to let go of the band name. I was kinda forced out. As for Amsterdam…it was an ugly story. Basically, the other guys ditched me there and that was it. I was already isolated by the other members throughout the tour….we didn’t speak at all. In the beginning I tried to reconnect with them by saying “hi”, “that was a great show” but it didn’t work out. Not even with Juuso (Soinio) and Pyry (Vikki)…? After all you were friends from high school with both of them…

Anton Kabanen: No…not even with them. I’ve known Juuso before school…when I was 5 or 6. Now we don’t have any contact but the years are not always the best indicator of a great friendship. It’s just time…you can become great friends with someone even if you know him only for a few months. It depends on the circumstances. When the worst times hit you then you will know who your real friends are. That’s how it goes.

BattleBeast Back again to “Berserker”. From my perspective, it’s like the “fourth” Battle Beast record as it continues in the path that you paved with “Unholy Savior”. What’s your opinion?

Anton Kabanen: You said it perfectly….I feel the same way. I always wanted to continue in the same style like “Unholy Savior” or Battle Beast in general. That’s why I decided to give a name to the band that is connected to my past. Again, though, the main inspiration comes from the Manga character…there is “The Black Swordsman” who has a thirst for vengeance and hatred that are manifested through The Beast of Darkness. So, as a fan of “Berserk” and since I’ve been writing many songs from that Manga comic, I decided to incorporate them into the band name and of course keep a link to my past with the “Beast” word. Even though the band itself is totally new I also believe that it’s like the fourth Battle Beast record. It feels fresh and more honest in that perspective…we get along really well with the new members. The vision of Beast in Black is to make great music.BeastInBlack06 Was there ever any thought of using a female vocalist?

Anton Kabanen: Yeah, of course. Both with Battle Beast and Beast in Black, I didn’t really care if the singer would be a woman or a man as long as it fit within the boundaries of my vision and the singing skills were good. It just happened that Yiannis was the best. It was also a good thing that he didn’t live that far…on the other side of the planet or something. I never auditioned Yiannis. He just sent me some covers of Battle Beast songs that he had done and I was blown away. Nowadays it’s really difficult to have a singer in a band who is unique and Yiannis is undoubtedly unique. I am very fortunate to have him in the band. In Battle Beast we had Noora who could sing powerfully and with a raspy voice. That was unique for a woman. Now in Beast in Black we have Yiannis who can easily possess the skills of both a male and female vocalist. That is also unique and that’s also something that many people didn’t expect from me. Maybe, they expected with the first single something more powerful and someone with a screaming voice. Yiannis can do all those things but not only that. Was it easy to find the other guys in the band?

Anton Kabanen: Not really…they were all friends of mine. I first met Kasperi (Heikkinen) in 2010 and to tell you the truth I didn’t really like him in the beginning (laughs). (laughs) Why?

Anton Kabanen: Well, he didn’t smile at all and he had some very strong opinions that didn’t leave room for any other point of view. I thought that he was not approachable at all. But three years later, when Battle Beast supported U.D.O., I met him again and talked for a couple of hours and changed completely my opinion about him. We had lots in common actually. So, when the time came, Kasperi was the first guitarist that I asked to join the band. He agreed although he stated that his priority would be U.D.O. but at some point that journey with U.D.O. also ended for him and focused entirely on Beast in Black. As for others…I met the bass player, Mate Molnar, in 2013 while we were on tour and became immediately friends. And I met Sammi Hanninen because Battle Beast shared the same rehearsal space with his previous band. Your first gig as a band was in 2015 as a support act of Nightwish. That must have been something, right?

Anton Kabanen: Yeah, it was great….we played our first gig in front of 7.000 people or something (laughs)! It was crazy. I remember that we played two Beast in Black songs: “End of the World” and “Go To Hell”. You signed a deal with Nuclear Blast. Were there any other offers on the table?

Anton Kabanen: Not really. The idea was to complete, first of all, everything regarding the album. Recording, mixing, mastering. We sent the material to Nuclear Blast…they were asking me for a long time to send them something but I didn’t want to send them something that it was incomplete. I wanted everything to sound perfect. I was feeling uncomfortable in sending them unfinished material. You can make an impact only once so if you send a demo with mediocre sound then everything can fall apart. I wanted to be 100% sure especially with a label like Nuclear Blast. Which are the three songs that represent the essence of the album?

Anton Kabanen: That’s a hard question…OK…“Beast in Black”, “Blind and Frozen” and “Born Again”. Anton, I know that it is premature and you are doing a fresh start but…let me rephrase that…what’s your favorite band?

Anton Kabanen: Judas Priest. Excellent! Do you prefer them with Halford or Ripper behind the mic?

Anton Kabanen: Of course with Halford. Why’s that?BeastInBlack05

Anton Kabanen: His voice has more character although I have to say that Ripper’s vice when it comes to live shows is more in control. Ripper is a great singer and I love him but it…how shall I put it…?…it lacks character.

Anton Kabanen: Yeah. It lacks character. How do you feel about nostalgia? Don’t worry, I’m getting there with my question…

Anton Kabanen: (laughs) Nostalgia…first of all, I am a very nostalgic and melancholic person myself. I listen to old songs all the time. All my emotional buttons are pushed every time I listen to a favorite, old song. So, although premature, do you ever see yourself back in Battle Beast?

Anton Kabanen: I don’t think so…to be honest. I know that the fans can also be nostalgic but right now I don’t see it happening. You know…people grow up and they become mellow in time. How about yourself?

Anton Kabanen: I never forget something bad that happened in my life. It may sound harsh but…“never forget, never forgive” suits me fine.