Hi Anton, glad to see you back in the game with your new band Beast In Black. How is life for you at the moment?
Hello, and thanks. It's nice to be back. Life is good and very busy with lots of work around the band!
Now before we go to the new Beast In Black album, let’s get the Battle Beast questions over with first. When you stepped out of Battle Beast in early 2015, the band refused to comment on the situation. How did you experience this time personally? After all, you left behind a band in which you poured heart and soul for ten years.
There was a lot of stress about the future because I knew that I had to start everything from the start, so to say. But as long as I have the passion for music I'm ready to face the challenges to be able to do what I love the most. Lots of work had to be done and many people to thank for everything they've done to help me and the Beast dudes on this journey.
The official statement was that the split was due to among others “musical disagreements”. Now this is of course a statement given for many line-up changes in bands. Now I heard both your new record and the latest Battle Beast album ‘Bringer Of Pain’, this explanation begins to hold water. Is it safe to say that you wanted to continue playing uncompromising heavy metal, while the others wanted to pursue a more mainstream sound?
Yeah, I always wanted to keep it heavy metal and to stay true to myself. Art is not a matter of 'can' but 'must'. But the main reasons which lead to my departure from Battle Beast were the fight for the ownership of the band's name and logo, and the fact that they tried to change myself into who I am not. I am who I am and that's it. We all are who we are. A person can't get out of his/her skin. So musical disagreements weren't really the main reason.
It did not take you long to assemble a new band though. And you are not the only one in this band who has already left traces in the musical landscape. Can you tell something more about your fellow band members from Beast in Black and how the whole group came together?
I found some of Yannis' vocal cover videos on YouTube and I was really impressed. Afterwards I contacted him on Facebook, we started chatting and kept in touch. We met face to face for the first time in 2015 and shortly after I asked if he would be interested in joining this new project that I was getting started with. I met Mate on a tour in 2013 when his band Wisdom and BB were supporting Powerwolf in Europe. We got along well and then in 2015 he was looking for a new guitar player for his band and I needed a bass player so we decided to help each other out. I joined his band and he joined my new band. Kasperi was a familiar face to me since 2010 when his band Merging Flare and BB did a small tour together. But it wasn't until a few years later that we really started talking and eventually became buddies. So when the time came to start a new band he was the first guitar player I asked to join and he agreed. I got to know Sami when his old band Brymir and my old band were practicing in the same rehearsal room and he was also helping BB as the band's technician on the first tours we did back then. After he had heard the news about my departure from BB he contacted me, we arranged a meeting and after that he was in the band.
For the first album you immediately got signed with Nuclear Blast no less, also the label of your former band. Nuclear Blast is not typically the label that signs on new bands, even if they have successful musicians in their fold. How did you manage to pull this contract off? I’m sure Nuclear Blast did not just sign you for your name or the name of any others in the band.
That's more than true. Absolutely nothing was certain for us. We just did our best and hoped for the best. We were blown away and extremely happy when NB decided to take us in. Of course I had contacts to Nuclear Blast because of my past and they actually kept asking me for demos but to be honest I'm the kind of person who is very reluctant to send out material that's not finished. So they heard the album only when it was ready and when the music video and the promo pictures were done as well. You have only one chance to make the first impression so better make it as good as it can be.
The new album ‘Berserker’ is done and ready to be released now. It turned out to be a killer album, very much in the Battle beast style. Also striking are the words in the opening song, “The beast is back, the beast in black”. The beast is you and you are back in the game?
Haha, well, that whole song has a double meaning all the way, so it is connected to my life too. But it's mainly about the character in the Japanese manga 'Berserk', whose name is Guts, or the Black Swordsman, if you will. And thanks for the compliment, I'm glad you think the album is a killer!
The combination between the voice of Yannis and your voice is a killing one, and especially in the mid-tempo songs like ‘Blood Of A Lion’ it really works perfect. Does working with a male vocalist provide you with new opportunities and new ground that you could not explore with Battle Beast?
Thanks! Yeah, it does. Yannis is a great and a kind guy with tons of talent who understands music very well and he always gives a hundred percent in the studio and live. His voice is rich in colours and range, for example in ‘Blind And Frozen’ many people were confused and mislead to believe that the verses of that song were recorded by a female singer. With Yannis there is the opportunity to write some melodies from a considerable lower vocal register as well. Anyway, that said, I want to add that I do consider Nitte and Noora both superb and unique singers. Just different.
Who is Zodd The Immortal? Can you tell us a bit more about the character and this highlight song about him?
Zodd The Immortal also known as Nosferatu Zodd, is an apostle, a powerful demon in the Berserk manga series who travels from battlefield to battlefield and seeks to fight the strongest opponents. The song is also about Zodd telling the prophecy of doom, the eclipse, that awaits Guts.
So… ‘Crazy, Mad, Insane’. Your personal Gloryhammer moment with Beast In Black?
I don't know about that, haha. I'm a big fan of 80's synthpop, italo disco and such, and in general we enjoy listening to the 80's music in this band. In other words, it's quite natural for these influences to be heard on the outcome. And I must add that when I wrote ‘Touch In The Night’ and saw that people also liked it I thought why not do something like that again.
The album comes with the typical artwork by mr. Roman Ismailov, who also did Battle Beast artwork. Why did you chose for such a similar style?
You know, there's always the thing of author's pride and to use that Beast character was my idea to start with. Roman is a very close friend of mine and with his talent we took the Beast into visible reality already years ago. If I remember correctly the first time he drew a version of the Beast was in 2008. And I've been more of an adviser to Roman since I can't really draw at all myself. I trust in him and give him pretty much freedom in the works we do. And just to clarify it, Roman did the first BB album cover, not the 2nd nor the 3rd. BIB's debut album's cover artwork is actually based on a draft which Roman made for Battle Beast in 2010. Boy I'm glad he finally finished it after seven years, haha!
You got yourself on a bill with W.A.S.P. Regardless of how that ended, not bad for a band that just released its first album! Do you think you will purely promote your own music, or also give the crowds something recognisable in the form of some Battle Beast classic. This is, after all, just as much your music as Beast In Black.
Yes indeed the tour with W.A.S.P. didn't last very long since they were causing us more than enough problems. But anyway... When we have a longer set list then some Battle Beast songs will be included in it surely. But for shorter sets it's going to be strictly Beast In Black material.
Anything up the horizon already now that this European trek with W.A.S.P. was cut short?
We're going to tour Germany between the 7th and the 17th of December supporting Beyond The Black and Kobra And The Lotus. For now we can say that 2018 is actually turning out to be a very busy year for us. We'll tell more about it a bit later! And naturally when we're not on the road we're working on the next album and other future plans.
Okay, I think that’s all I had in store for you. Anything you would still like to mention to the Dutch audience?
We look forward to come and play a great Beast In Black show in Netherlands! Until then, take care and thanks for reading this interview. Bye!