Rock & Metal in my Blood meets Finnish heavy metal act Battle Beast, who are going to leave for a tour including England and Germany. As already reviewed on our webzine, their recently released namesake album has earned a convincing response from both critique and audience, so we're going to find out some of its secrets and stories with the band's lead guitarist, main composer and arranger Anton, and the bassist Eero.

R&MimB: Let's start from the album Battle Beast. It is no doubt a pretty straightforward album, how was it conceived?
BB: Anton: I composed all the songs, the lyrics and plan the arrangements at home, and everything was ready when we entered the recording studio. Everybody knew 'what they had to do'. Actually, as it happened with the previous album Steel, I had much more material than what ended up in the set-list, I have tons of songs which I'll probably never put on the albums. This is a good problem for me, but still a problem! It was tough to choose the songs I considered as the best ones for Battle Beast.

R&MimB: Lyrics and music are appreciably simple, did you ever have the temptation of 'complicating' things? It happens a lot in nowadays heavy metal bands...
BB: A: I never think of what 'I should do'... I try not to put my music in a box, or in a genre categorization. I think the simplicity is the key of Battle Beast music, and I don't feel compelled to complicating things just because it is a recurring thing nowadays, or beacuse somebody tells me I should do it. Let's say that we have no fear of showing the more straightforward side of metal. Of course, there's nothing bad in making more complex things, but it doesn't suit this band. The next release, though, will probably be a bit more musically elaborated, and certainly more personal from the lyrical point of view.

R&MimB: What lies behind the lyrical choices?
BB: A: Let's make it clear: this is not a concept album! I've been already asked it, and of course there's a common thread made of science fiction futuristic culture, cyberpunk and so on, but there's no coherent story. I don't believe, at least in this moment, that a concept album would be the right thing for us. In general, our lyrics include three categories: some tell events of my personal life, which of course are not plainly revealed, but contain hints and references; a second category is based on the 'Berserk' Japanese manga and animated series, of which I've been a thorough fan since 2006; the third group is very wide and more free, the topics can vary quite a lot.

R&MimB: I can say that "Rain Man" is rather different from the other numbers of the album, and is lyrically more mysterious. What does it refer to?
BB: A: You're right, it refers to a specific process which happened in my life, and has nothing to do with the namesake movie masterpiece starring Cruise and Hoffmann! Up to now, this particular topic hasn't been developed further, but I can promise more is coming on the next release...

R&MimB: The 'Metal Battle' at the Wacken Open Air 2010 is generally considered to be the springboard of your career: could you tell us more about how this happened?
BB: E: It's pretty funny that everybody thinks more or less the same about this,you're certainly not the first who asks about the 'Metal Battle'! In fact, I didn't even know how the whole thing worked, I was just told by Anton that we had a gig and that was it. In the semifinal round in Finland, if I have to speak honestly, we played really badly, it was probably one of or worst performances so far! The competition, at least in its Finnish stages, was really badly organized... The prize for victory was supposed to be a contract with SPV Records, a German label, but at the time of the final in Wacken the label had bankrupted or something like that, so it was converted into gear and performance equipment.
A: 'Metal Battle' was actually no boost for the band in terms of discographic contract: Nuclear Blast contacted us without any relation to the Wacken contest! Of course, this event was very healthy for us, it gave us the chance to play in front of a monstrous audience for our standard at that time... That was really good, but whoever thinks that our current label signed us because of the contest is plainly wrong.

R&MimB: You've been having a front-woman in the band since your debut album, Steel: first was Nitte, and the came Noora. Was it an aforeplanned, having a girl behind the mike stand, or did it come by chance?z
BB: A: It was a total surprise for us, I didn't have any preferences in choosing a male or female vocalist, all I wanted from him or her was being able to perform the song and give them the right kick! I put an add on Muusikoiden (a very famous musicians' advertisement website in Finland), and Nitte contacted me. She sent me some material, I thought she had a rock'n'roll attitude and voice timbre, so she joined us. When she left the band, we were again completely open-minded... It didn't really matter to us whether we had a guy singing this time, and actually we received quite many proposals from male vocalists, since we already had an album released. An ex booking agent of our, though, sent me some links of a female singer from Tampere, I thought she wasn't who we were looking for but the sidebar of YouTube suggested me more videos and I became curious about one of them. There was this girl (Noora) performing a number by Janis Joplin, it struck me and I got in touch wth her!

R&MimB: Which bands had a major influence on the music of Battle Beast? One would probably daresay Dio, Judas Priest, and so on...
BB: A: I actually never listened to Dio's records! Everybody is really shocked when I say so, but I can swear this is nothing but truth... I've been told so many times, that of course I checked myself this resemblance, and I was really surprised. Another supposed influence I am often asked is Sabaton, but I don't know their music very well, although they are a really good band for sure! I wrote so many songs when I was 15-16 years old, and didn't know any of the bands who are usually mentioned as probably inspiring Battle Beast. It's funny that, some years ago, I heard a song by Scorpions on the radio and thought "Hey, the STOLE my song!!!" (laughs). I think it is normal in musical genres, there are some patterns or chord progression which express so well and powerfully some feelings or ideas or emotions, that having them widely used by musicians is almost unavoidable! But still, I don't want my music to be put into a box and labelled as 'same as Dio, or Priest, or Scorpions'... I write my music the way I feel it is right, and then of course everybody is a melting pot of influences and music we listened to in our lives. I think this cannot and shouldn't be avoided, it's simply how things work.

R&MimB: Metal traces its origins back to 40 years ago, but it still counts on a lot of passionate fans. How would you explain its long lasting influence as a sub-culture, and what lies ahead for this musical genre?
BB: E: I think its secret has been to avoid mainstream and develop into many different subgenres. I can't really say anything about the future of metal, but I think it has one of the most faithful audiences: that's how it can survive! Maybe metalheads are not a huge audience compared to pop acts like Katy Perry and so on, but they are really committed. They come to see the live shows, buy the merchandise, and usually buy the albums. Katy Perry fills a stadium, but how many of those 'fans' actually buy the albums?!

R&MimB: Putting two guitars and a keyboard together often results in a difficult task. How do you manage this arrangement?
BB: A: I have no method for this. For example, I wrote "Iron Hand" with a simple bass riff on a metronome, found it was catchy and imagined it played by a brass ensemble! A typical combination, though, is having the keyboard palying triads or chords and pile them up with the power-chords played by guitars. This way the to guitars can express their fullness of sound in the distortion, and the chords' structure are nevertheless clear thanks to the keyboard.

R&MimB: Do you have any kind of institutional training, or are you self-taught?
BB: A: I had my own bands since the beginning of my musical experience, that has to be clear. I never played covers. Although I have attended a music academy in Helsinki for three years, I'm basically self-taught. I was a really bad student! I went home, never practiced what the teachers required from me, or styles like jazz which I don't get along well with... I'm not saying other genres than metal are bad, I simply wasn't interested into jazz or r&b and so on. And schools are not a bad thing in themselves, but of course at some point you don't have to cling to what they teach. Too many people do things 'by the boko' and suffocate their instict and creativity: it's a common thought that - if you follow the indication given by the teachers or the schools - you'll write or perform good music. This is false! You have to find you own way to things, it's hard but it's the best! A school and good teachers can help you finding what you're looking for, but you can't expect them to give you the answers... In my case, the answers I was looking for were not within the school at all.

R&MimB: Is there any band you'd particularly like to perform with?
BB: A: Well, any band who want to bring us on tour! Ahahah! Aside from jokes, we'd gladly share the stage with whomever could offer a good show and get along well with us. Our next tour as a supporting act will be with Udo Dirkschneider's band (former singer in Accept), and this makes me really happy: Accept are one of my favorites bands ever, and Udo as a solo artist as well!

R&MimB: Are there already fixed plans in the career of Battle Beast?
BB: A: We want to be a touring band, that's for sure. Battle Beast are not made for studio recording only... It wold be great to release a couple of albums more, and have the possibility of a world tour as main act after that!

R&MimB: You came to Italy as a supporting band to Sonata Arctica... How did you like the Italian audience?
BB: E: They're absolutey great! I remember we came to the stage just in order to pick our stuff, instruments and so on, and people began cheering and applauding to us, even though most of them were there for Sonata Arctica. I'm not even sure how many people knew there was a supporting act!!! But nevertheless, they went really crazy for us and it was a so good surprise... In Italy, people show their emotions and involvement much more than other countries. We still remember them due to that, and it means a lot when a band meets so many and so different audiences in a tour. Of course, in the end everybody is a metal fan and there are no 'favorite children' when it comes to that, but the Italian audience gave us a special feeling, without any doubt!

So, thanks to everybody who came there and made us feel so welcome! Many greetings from Battle Beast to Rock & Metal in my Blood, and see you at our next Italian show!

Paolo Valhalla Ribaldini