» Anton Kabanen - Beast In Black
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Interview conducted March 4 2018
Interview published March 12 2018

The former Battle Beast songwriter and guitarist as well as founder of the band, Anton Kabanen, who in fact got the boot from that very same unit a couple of years ago, played in Stockholm with his new outfit Beast In Black and Metal Covenant was given some time with him in the afternoon a few hours before the band's performance.

Tobbe: What will an Anton Kabanen record always have?

Anton: Heavy metal. Solid heavy metal. That's the red line that we always will keep with this band. Unless we all decide to go jazz, if we'd all agree on that, but I don't think that's gonna happen.

Tobbe: About the band's first record, Berserker [Out November 3rd 2017], can you describe the level of excitement if you maybe compare it to the first Battle Beast record? [Steel, 2011]

Anton: Let's put it this way: After the album is finished I am not that much excited as I am relieved, like "It's done! Finally." and right after that I'm thinking already about the next album. The biggest excitement actually happens during the songwriting process, like when I compose songs and write lyrics.

That's the best part, while working on the album and when it's done you kind of know it so well, everything about it, so it doesn't really give you that much after you have heard the songs, like, thousands of times. But of course we are all super happy about it, because, first of all we of course like it, but we didn't expect this kind of feedback and response from the people and how it took off when we released the first single.

Tobbe: And besides being a heavy metal album, do you have any, like, grand plan when you're starting the songwriting process?

Anton: No, I never calculate. I just write songs throughout the year, like year after year. Usually 40-50 songs per year or something, just because that's how I like to spend my free time also. There's always some ideas and I write them down and sometimes it's just a riff or a half song or sometimes even a full song and when the time comes to make an album I just wanna make sure with the band that it's versatile enough, so it's not too repetitive.

Different songs, with different tempos, different keys, different type of singing and also learning the voice of the singer. That's very important, since with Yannis [Papadopoulos] we've now recorded only one album and it showed us a lot about his voice as well, which has affected my songwriting. It's all like this big organic process, you know.

Tobbe: So was it hard to adjust to a male singer from a female singer?

Anton: No, not at all, because when I was looking for a singer I knew what I wanted to hear. Basically, it means that the range has to be wide enough, so there's no limitations melody-wise. And the second thing is that the pronunciation of English and the overall technique are good. Those were the main things. Yannis is great with those things and he's getting better all the time. Even on this tour, we've talked with him that some of the live stuff sounds even better than on the record. And that's very good; when you can pull it off live even better than on the record.

Tobbe: For someone who hasn't listened to your past work in Battle Beast, can you give me a good reason to why that someone should listen to the Beast In Black record now before listening to the Battle Beast records?

Anton: Well, from my perspective as a songwriter, I feel there are some things that are better on Berserker and of course I wanna offer the best one for people, to make as good first impression as possible. But on the other hand, artists always… Like, it belongs to a certain period of time and those albums are great where they are.

The second album of Battle Beast [Self titled, 2013] is also an album I like still to this day, even though I hear some things I would do probably differently. But there's no point to, like, change it. It's just an image of the past and people have different tastes in music and art and everything, so. But it's an interesting question anyway.

Tobbe: Those 3 albums will always be part of your legacy.

Anton: Yeah, and we'll play those songs live when we have a longer setlist. To me it's all equal. Like, you know, you don't choose who's your favorite child. So it doesn't matter to me really that much.

Tobbe: Can you feel somewhere deep within that the Beast In Black record is Battle Beast's 4th record?

Anton: Yeah, of course. That's also the reason why I named this band Beast In Black. I wanted it to have a clear connection to the past, because I felt I hadn't really said everything that I want with this beast thing, this character, which I came up with in 2005 or 2006. And that's how it started to evolve and I still feel like it's evolving and there's a lot of things going on in my mind which I wanna still do.

The other reason why this new band is called Beast In Black is because it has a connection also to this Japanese manga, Berserk. There's a character, Guts, The Black Swordsman, and his, like, inner spiritual animal is Beast Of Darkness. The Black Swordsman / Beast Of Darkness and I was thinking, like "Hey - Beast In Black.". And that's why I can continue, like having the connections with the past and also make a clear reference to that manga, because almost half of the songs on this album are about that manga. 5 songs to be precise.

Tobbe: In the beginning, what made you start with precisely that character?

Anton: Well, there's a story behind it. It was a very good friend of mine, from my childhood, who introduced that manga to me. He told me like "Check this out!". It was actually animate first. I think it was from '97, the original animate, the first season. I checked it out and I was hooked right away and there was no turning back. It was just the depth of the whole story and the characters. It's the characters that make it actually so deep, so to speak. They are very human and the topics they deal with are very human. And to this day I feel exactly as inspired as I used to do, like, 12 years ago when I first read it.

Tobbe: You where young then and as you're getting older, let's say in 25 years, will you still be as inspired by that character? Because life changes, you know.

Anton: I don't see a reason why I wouldn't be, because good art like that manga is timeless. It always touches you, no matter your age, if it's done properly and if it's really something honest and true that you can relate to. And also, when I write songs about that I somehow can relate to the lyrics. Even though they are based on the Berserk manga, something in my own life can also relate to that story. That's why I probably also like writing about it, because it's easy to relate to that stuff.

Tobbe: Beast In Black is an international band, even if most guys are from Finland, and what might be difficult by having members from different countries?

Anton: The rehearsals, of course. We have to organize everything carefully before we do something, like promo pictures, music videos, rehearsals, if there's a gig or tour coming up, like all the logistics and everything, lots of flights back and forth for the guys. Well yeah, it's a Finnish based band, but with a Greek singer and a Hungarian bass player [Máté Molnár].

Tobbe: No shadow should fall on your Greek singer, but have you run out of good singers in Finland nowadays?

Anton: No, no. Actually there are a lot of good singers, in Finland and in the whole world, but it's just: when you have a chance, you know, you take it. And chances are always entwined to a certain time and at that time it was the best choice, in my opinion, to ask this guy to join the band. I think it was very much the right choice. It's been a very good journey so far and I hope it stays that way. It's a different feel also on tour with this new band compared to Battle Beast and there's more of this genuine camaraderie. But I cannot put the blame on anyone actually in the past, because we were all younger, totally newbies, and sometimes life goes like this, you know. You learn through mistakes.

Tobbe: How were you able to gather all these fine musicians to your band?

Anton: Well, Yannis, I found him on YouTube. I think it was in 2014 and then we kept in touch through social media and stuff. Kasperi [Heikkinen, guitar] was an old friend of mine. So was Máté, the bass player. Kasperi, I mean, I toured with him in 2010. He toured with his band and I was in Battle Beast. We supported Blaze Bayley in Finland for a few shows; that's how I first met him. But I didn't really stay in touch with him; we just knew of each other, but, like, 3 years after that we started to talk more when we toured together again when Kasperi was already in U.D.O.. And Máté, we also met on tour. His band, Wisdom, and Battle Beast supported Powerwolf and that's how me met. He seemed like a nice guy and we talked a lot.

Tobbe: And your drummers? Sami [Hänninen] recently quit the band.

Anton: He was also a friend of the band, of Battle Beast. He was the technician for Battle Beast for the first tour outside Finland and some other shows as well. That's how I know him, like, an old friend. And Atte [Palokangas], our new drummer: I had this other friend, also a drummer, and he recommended a few drummers and Atte was on that list and I just went through the list and Atte happened to be available for the W.A.S.P. tour. He was, like, the perfect choice. We played only 4 shows, but after that we did the Beyond The Black tour for 9 shows in Germany and after that tour we felt like "Okay, this is the guy. Definitely.". It feels right and now he is an official member.

Tobbe: So what really happened on that W.A.S.P. tour, as you finished before it was over?

Anton: Very simple, like, you know, Blackie Lawless happened. You know the reputation of the guy probably. There are many stories around that. I don't wanna talk shit about him and to be honest I still like W.A.S.P. and even wear W.A.S.P. shirts after what happened. [Laughs] And listen to their music and stuff. It's just: A good way, and a bad way, and a W.A.S.P. way to deal with things.

Tobbe: How do you look at Beast In Black in maybe like, let's say, 5 years?

Anton: Well, maybe this sounds boring, but I just hope for pretty basic things: That we all can live off music, like everyone in this band, so the financial situation would be, like, secured, you know. But personally I just wish that in 5 years we have released as many albums as possible. My biggest passion is still writing music.

Like, if I would have to choose between, like, touring or being in the studio, like for the rest of my life, I would choose the studio, for sure. Anyway, I hope to be very productive with this band and that in 5 years we have lots of great music out already, which people keep listening to, and that we can do headline tours everywhere.

Tobbe: About living off your music: In what way do you look at streaming services and stuff like that? Because that's not generating too much money and record sales did generate more money.

Anton: Yeah. It's a big issue, because Google and YouTube don't pay the publishing companies the money that they should pay so the publishing company can pay the artists their royalties. It's interesting what way it will go. Will there ever be, like, a fair way, from Google and YouTube, to treat the author of the songs? I know about some figures from big bands and they're shocking to me. How can it be that artists with gazillions of views and stuff like that don't really have that much income? So, the money is somewhere, but it's not moving and there has to be a change.

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