Scott of Shockwave Magazine had the chance to speak with Joona Björkroth, the guitarist for Battle Beast about the recent release, Bringer of Pain, their future plans for United States touring, and how their new lineup is working out. Check out what we talked about.
Scott Langevin of Shockwave Magazine: Good Morning Joona, How are you?
Joona Björkroth: Good Morning, Hyvää huomenta. In Finnish.
Scott: Wow, how do you say that?
Joona: Hyvää huomenta.
Hyvää huomenta, I butchered that. I don’t know any Finnish.
Well, who does? Only Finnish people know Finnish.
How’s the tour going with Sabaton?
The tour has been absolutely fantastic. We’ve had super crowds. The mesh is really good between the bands. The crowds have been big and we’ve sold tons of merch. We’re actually not paying to be here, and this is the first time we are here, so its a very big success for Battle Beast.
Nice! That is awesome. You’re from Helsinki, correct?
Yes, and Noora is from Tampere. 150KM North, like 100 miles.
What’s the weather like in Finland? Compare that to what you’ve seen here in the United States?
Compared to the United States, Finland is approximately the size of Texas. Its very far up north, for instance further north than Edmonton in Canada. Its cold, rainy, and dark. Most of the area is very dark, but the summers can be very beautiful because the sun is up all the time. It’s very cold nature, very harsh nature, but not too harsh because of the Gulf Stream that warms it up a bit. If we had no Gulf Stream from the Atlantic Ocean, we’d have an Ice Age.
That’s fascinating. I’ve always wanted to travel there. There are quite a few bands from Finland that have been a great impact here in the United States: Children of Bodom, Nightwish, Lordi, HIM. Have you found any influence from any of these bands?
Oh yes! I can say that anyone from Finland that grew up with metal is into those bands. They are all an influence indirectly or directly. I’m a huge fan of Children of Bodom myself, but of course Battle Beast is a different genre. They’re faster and we play more of the heavy metal and rock stuff. But of course in the solos, I have some that resembles Alexi Laiho’s playing because I love the guy. Nightwish of course, some people have compared our new album to Nightwish songs because they have some orchestral elements too, and a female vocalist too, so its pretty simple to draw parallels like that.
You toured with Nightwish after your first album, Steel.
The similarities you mentioned because of the female vocalists, is that something you drew inspiration from? I know you were around a few years before touring together.
I don’t think so, because Noora sounds like Blackie Lawless with more balls, to be frank. Nightwish has always had more of an opera style of singing. Of course there are some parts that resemble it, when I want Noora to do intricate stuff it sounds like it, but when she does her rock thing its different. Very hard question, of course everything you see and hear around you when you’re on tour, doing 25 shows, will affect you somehow. And in 2012, that show with Nightwish was absolutely insane, and the album was very good.
Agreed. With your new album, Bringer of Pain, when you hit the studio, what did you want to do differently than your previous records?
I think everything was done differently. Frankly, because they had their guitarist go and I came in as guitarist. It had been a dictatorship before, which didn’t work out at all. So now, everyone has their chance to do songs, had their chance to do their own part, because we made 20 songs. We needed 13 for the album and we just did it with a vote, so it was very democratic and of course there were clashes and conflicts of interests there. Like, I want this there, or I want this to go like this, and then maybe was hard at times, but the album turned out pretty good. It sold much more than all the other albums. Its great in a way that the band can work as a band, and not just have a writer. I think for the future, that’s a very good thing. Otherwise, everyone else feels like they shouldn’t be there.
Absolutely, I agree 100%. I think my favorite track is probably the first single, “King For a Day.” With the electronics and arena rock feel to it, I don’t know what it is, but I feel like I’m entering this huge epic fight scene in a movie. Was that your intention where you just wanted to suck in the listener?
Well, “King For a Day” was a song written by my brother. He wanted to do something different. It had to have this very groovy vibe to it, and then I play the guitars, and we changed in a few times. It turned out to be super super duper cool, and then the lyrics are about this evil politician, and they are not about Trump. Trump was not elected when this song was written, but like politics in general, its a very common theme in rock music. That’s what we wanted to do, something real. And actually we got lots of thanks for that.
When you’re playing live, now on your tour with Sabaton, what’s your favorite song to play from the new record?
My favorite song to play live off of that album by far, is “Bringer of Pain.” It’s fast and the solo is cool. Then of course I actually like to play them all. We played eight songs off of this album, not on this tour, but on our own tour, so we basically played the whole album, but not a few songs. They’re actually very playable songs too, so they’re cool to perform.
Are there any differences between your live show and the recorded album, as much so that you wouldn’t be able to play something live?
I don’t know, the setlist is always changing a bit, and people talk about what they want to hear, and of course always play the popular songs, because that is also what the crowds want, not the super fan who know every song. They always want to ask for different songs. Then, when we’re doing new crowds, we need to go with the popular ones. So, for me I can play every song of course from the new album, and why not? But, we’ve decided that some songs are bonus tracks or something, there are no words, just playing. Short, some distortion, so we squeeze them in for the 20 minutes. That’s usually how it goes, and then when you stick to something, and when you do like 70 shows, you don’t want to change the songs because you actually perform them well. Many bands do it, and always change songs, but it’s stupid to do. If you are very good at performing a certain song, then you always don’t realize that you’re playing it. Its better to perform it, I guess you just know it so well.
I see that you’ve put out an album basically every two years, do you plan to stay with that pace?
Now that you actually have a great lineup.
We will keep that pace, that is the plan.
Very good, that’s great to hear. You only have a few dates left on this US tour, and you’re headed back home, any other plans for more worldwide touring and hitting the States again?
Yes. There are plans, and they are already in motion. It will be next year. I can’t tell you any details before it is confirmed, I mean, it’s confirmed, but it’s not out yet. We are doing festivals this summer, but not in the US. If someone is on Holiday from the US, please come to a big festival where there is Battle Beast on the poster.
Awesome! Which ones are you on?
Grasspop in Belgium, Summer Breeze, Baltic Open-Air, there are many more, but I don’t remember.
Thank You, It was a pleasure speaking to you.
Yes, Of course. I hope it helped.
Absolutely, Unfortunately I won’t be seeing you on the final few dates, you’re just a bit too far from me.
Maybe next year!
I’ll be there. Thank you again and be safe on the road.
Yes, thank you. Take care.
Check out the Battle Beast website for tour dates and merch.