Interview: Battle Beast
I think it’s a good thing that we try to do new stuff with all the influences that we have had and not try too much to invent something new, but use the tools that you already have and maybe by doing new arrangements you can make a new style.
Rising stars of Power Metal, Battle Beast, had an excellent 2019 in which they made lots of new fans through their acclaimed album, No More Hollywood Endings. Prior to their London sell-out, late last Autumn, Nathan Lagden caught up with singer, Noora Louhimo, as she talked about her major influences, writing on the road, and how much they’d like to tour the UK more often. . .
E&D: You’re here for the promotion of your new album No More Hollywood Endings. What has the reaction been to the album since its release? How have the press and fans responded to it?
NL: Well, to be short, the album is selling the best we have ever seen and people are coming to the shows and I think that says a lot. And I feel like it’s been taken very well, because in Finland it was number one in the top list and in Germany I think we were number 11 and in the UK I think we were at number 16. All our albums have caused this fuss when we have released it; some people have always been like “What the hell are they doing” and some people are loving it, so it’s really good that we succeeded to make these strong emotions happen and that people are reacting to it. We want to do things this way where we are not doing things by being afraid of whether people like it or not, because if you don’t try new things then you don’t succeed to invent something new. We’re not here to invent the bicycle again, but I think it’s fun to try mixing different genres together and see how it works with Battle Beast; and for now it’s working pretty good.
ED: I was about to say, the album was really diverse and had a lot of different sounds in it. What was the creative process for that? Did you sit down and decide that that was what you were going to do or was it something that just came out as you were writing songs?
NL: It’s always been the case that we are in such a hurry all the time, so we have to write the songs when we are on the road and during our very little free time. This album was written by three different people: Janne, our keyboard player, Joona our lead guitarist and Eero our bass player. Janne and Eero did the songwriting by themselves, and in a band you have to respect the way that someone wants to write the music because usually it doesn’t work if there are six people trying to write one song; it’s not effective. You need everyone doing their own thing in peace. For example with Joona I did these demo sessions, and then when he had some kind of idea he sent me some recordings, I listened to it once and I made an improvisation of a melody that came up in my mind. So we had several of these kinds of songs, but also we had a lot of songs where he came with the melody already written; and my part has usually been that I bring my own ideas after the song is already written or is in the demo process.
ED: Is that the same with the lyrics as well, because you also touch on a large number of different themes throughout the album?
NL: Well, for example, Janne wants to do the lyrics for his songs by himself and he has a silent partner also doing the lyrics, and Eero has done his own lyrics too. Of course, if there is some words that are not fitting in my mouth for some reason, then I will make notes and say that maybe we should do this instead of that and compromise. But with Joona, I’ve done more co-writing and we are definitely going to do that in the future; as well as when I have my own ideas I really want to do them with co-writing, like when I have a melody idea and lyrics I want to take Janne to do some cool keyboard thing, and Joona to do some riffs, and then it’s there. I think we have a really good combination of different musicians with different styles, and also we know what we want to do in this band; everyone is agreeing on what the direction is and I know this will get even better.
ED: Is that your secret for how you’re able to release albums quite quickly even when you’re touring all the time, because you’re all on the same page and pulling in the same direction despite having all these different influences?
NL: Yeah of course, but it’s still not easy because we do have fights, because we have so many different people in the band and so many different ideas and opinions about what we should do. But now in this last year we have had this sense that we know what we want to do; but it’s still always a lot of work to create an album and to create songs because it’s hard to decide which ones are the best songs for the new album.
ED: You haven’t been to the UK all that often, so what’s the reaction like when you do get to come here; especially on a headline tour? Is it a place that you particularly look forward to?
NL: Yes, of course. I think we have been here five times before, or something like that, which is not so much. But it’s always been great, because last time we were here the venue was sold out and I believe that we have a very good fan base here and we are starting to get a bigger fan base all over the UK, meaning that we can actually tour; and I really wish that our agency will consider that they could have us touring here for two weeks or so. Because it always helps, and it’s the only way to get new fans and maintain those fans that you already have, by touring. People can listen to you on Spotify or on YouTube or whatever, but it’s not the same thing as when you see it live, because you know when you go to a show when you get this instant impact; so it’s very important to go and do the live shows.
ED: Do you take into account the reactions of particular songs when you’re choosing the set-list, or do you decide it based you like best or what you think translates best into the live setting?
NL: It comes from us always wanting to promote the new album, which is the first priority, but also we need to think about what the best songs are that we want to present; not only thinking about what fans want, because there are so many different thoughts on what they think is the best, so if we were to just listen to the fans it would be chaotic. So that’s why we consider it and take a few old hits, but more new stuff because we want to bring out the music that we have done lately, because that’s what really reflects what is going o in our heads. And also the set-list is built up partly by trying different places where you should put the songs and then saying “OK, this doesn’t work in that spot”, so it’s very important to think about the drama in the show and how you can lift up the crowd and then have some kind of dramatic spot in there. It shouldn’t be that we only do fast songs or slow songs because then it gets boring and I think it’s very important to have these different dynamics in the show.
ED: You’re a slightly newer member of the band than most of the others, so in the time that you’ve been there as Battle Beast have progressed, what would you say has been the biggest change in that time?
NL: Well, I have been in the band now for seven years and I think we have developed in a way that can be successful worldwide production wise and live-show wise and I think that we have developed our relationships with each other, and that’s very hard because we are touring all the time. But what people don’t know is that even though we are here all of the time together, you don’t actually get so many chances to build up that personal connection to each other, except on the stage. Because when see each other all the time 24/7, you also need your own personal time and the days are very full preparing for the shows.
ED: Talking to people like me, you mean?
NL: [laughs] Yeah, for example. But, I really love this band and I’m so happy that I was asked to be in this band because I found what I need to be doing. Because before Battle Beast I was in that phase in my life where I’d been trying every kind of genre of music in my hometown, and I was kind of depressed because I was like, “Am I going anywhere?” I didn’t know what I was going to do because I wanted to do more as a performer and a singer but I didn’t exactly know what it was. But when I was contacted by Battle Beast I knew exactly that this is what I have to be doing; even though I had never sang heavy metal before this.
ED: Did you grow up liking heavy metal and being into the genre?
NL: No, I started listening to heavy metal when I was 15 years old, but back then I didn’t really think I could sing heavy metal. I listened to Iron Maiden, Dio and Judas Priest, but I didn’t have the rasp back then; but it was after [listening to] Janis Joplin when I developed the rasp in my voice and realise that I could be a rock singer, and I had all these different sounds and tools for being a heavy metal singer. And then when I got in Battle Beast I knew that I could put all these different tools that I had from before into Battle Beast as well as the influences from Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio and Rob Halford; and here I am!
ED: There’s a lot of talk about whether heavy metal is dying or on the way out, but it feels to me as though this particular subgenre of old school heavy metal and power metal is having a bit of a resurgence. While you’re on tour is this something that you notice, or do you just do your thing and it washes over you?
NL: I don’t know, I feel that heavy metal is rising again and that’s a really good thing. But also, people are very slow to accept change, so when you do new stuff in heavy metal, people are like, “What is this shit?!” And then over time there starts to be people who really love that it has changed. And I think that there are more and more heavy metal bands who are coming up who combine all these old influences but do it in a new way; and I think that this is something that we do, because our music is not particular 80s’ music, but of course most of the band has these influences. like the bands that I’ve mentioned. and that affects the way that you are doing song writing. And I think it’s a good thing that we try to do new stuff with all the influences that we have had and not try too much to invent something new, but use the tools that you already have and maybe by doing new arrangements you can make a new style.