Battle Beast – Touring Hard and Driving FastThursday, 11th May 2017
Battle Beast most recently released their fourth album, Bringer of Pain, back in February. By that time, it was already known that the band would be taking their first trip across the Atlantic to join Sabaton on a spring tour. The album being well-received certainly heightened the anticipation for the voyage, alongside the notion that some fans have been waiting a few years at this point in hopes of seeing the act on North American soil.
Given the approval of Bringer of Pain among much of the DR staff, it was a bit of a no-brainer to chat with vocalist Noora Louhimo again when given the opportunity before the band’s set in Clifton Park, New York. Only a few days into the tour, but enough to already give Louhimo an impression of the journey to come. In addition to touring, we were able to continue chatting about the album now that it has been released, and elaborate a bit more on Janis Joplin’s role as an influence to her (among other things of course).
Dead Rhetoric: It’s your first US tour – you’ve only been a few days in at this point, but how are you enjoying it so far? Have you had time to check anything else out other than just going show to show?
Noora Louhimo: We have taken some walks around, just close by, and it’s been awesome. We haven’t had time for the tourist stuff. Seeing people around here, everybody’s been very sweet, friendly, and welcoming. Our merch has been selling very well – even better than expected for a support band. The reception so far has already been more than our expectations. It’s been very awesome. Even though there’s been a lot of people who haven’t seen or heard of us before, there has been a lot of winning over the crowd situations. I believe we will get a lot of new fans after this tour from the US.
Dead Rhetoric: I saw Battle Beast yesterday too, and it was unfortunate that you only got three songs, but I could tell that the crowd was definitely into it.
Louhimo: Yeah, I think that was kind of cool also, that we only had those three songs because then it left people very hungry, like “yeah, we wanted to hear more!” We wanted to [play more] as well, but on the other hand, the people are hungry and that’s a really good thing. Now they are expecting us to come back.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned the merch; the Bastard Son of Odin shirt is awesome. I’m guessing that has to be your #1 seller!
Louhimo: Yeah, it is the best-seller actually. In the European tour, it was the best-selling and it sold out all the time. It’s really cool that people like it.
Dead Rhetoric: Last time we talked, you had mentioned how Janis Joplin was an influence. Could you elaborate more about her influence on your singing?
Louhimo: Janis Joplin came into my life around the time that I was 19 years old and I started to go to these jam sessions in my hometown. It was a very small blues bar. I started getting into the world of jazz and blues and I was just going there and improvising. I was getting to know people and getting into this industry at that time. I found my first band, Admiral Octopus. That was when I heard about her [Joplin] for the first time. I had never used that kind of rasp that she has. I used to do a lot of soul and funk and gospel – using my strong voice but not raspy sounding. It was a whole new area.
I tried to find a teacher to learn how to do it in an economical way but I never did. I actually had to destroy my voice before I got it. I had to really crush my voice for a year. When I do something, I do it 100% and no less. That’s how I really crushed my voice, so that I could do the kind of things that Janis could do. But I actually found it through self-teaching. Of course, I went to a speech therapist and a doctor to get my voice better. Through making those mistakes and destroying my voice, I’ve found some great ways to do raspy sounds without destroying my voice. That’s what I am teaching nowadays, to other people.
Getting back to Janis Joplin, I used to sing her songs for a few years in that band [Admiral Octopus] but they split up and I started doing my own thing. I tried to find what I wanted to do as a singer. I’ve always been very hungry with singing. All I knew back then was that I had a huge passion for singing and I loved different kinds of music, and I loved to use my voice in as many ways as possible. So I tried everything. I did that for a couple of years and then Battle Beast found me on YouTube doing Janis Joplin. Before Battle Beast, I was in this singing competition. It was a local singing competition in a bar. I also sang Janis Joplin there.
Somehow I feel like whenever I’ve done Janis Joplin, something good happens. Because I have so much respect towards Janis Joplin and her spirit, I wanted to honor her. Now, after almost 9 years, I established my own Janis Joplin orchestra tribute in my hometown. That’s what I’m working on when I’m not doing Battle Beast. Now it’s so busy with Battle Beast! But I’ve got the orchestra ready and we did one show, and it was sold out. It was great! I think it’s going to have a future also.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of your stage show, you have your costume, so to speak. Does that help provide a larger-than-life aspect to the band?
Louhimo: Yes, that is something that is very important to me. When people come to our shows, it should feel bigger than life, and something that you can’t experience anywhere else. I’ve always loved theater and opera. I’m very happy that I can actually express myself in all the ways that I want in the same thing, except Janis Joplin of course [laughs]. I can do a lot of things that I love to do, like the make-up and design costumes and dress up, and that’s something that I really like, besides singing and performing.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you also speak about the band’s love of the manga Berserk?
Louhimo: We have always had three different themes in our songs: Berserk, fantasy, and real-life. We still have those. In the fantasy category, we have a new thing I created in the song “Bringer of Pain.” There’s a character called Bringer of Pain, who lives in their own world and tries to save it. I’m actually trying to write a story about it, because it’s something new that I really like. Berserk will still be around, because I, and the new guitar player Joona [Björkroth], really love that series. For example, “The Eclipse,” the bonus track is about Berserk. There are some really cool themes in the Berserk story.
Dead Rhetoric: You had Tomi [Joutsen] from Amorphis on “Lost in Wars.” How did that come about?
Louhimo: We needed a perfect voice for the strong, devil voice in that song. Tomi is such a versatile singer. I think he fits perfectly. He is one of my favorite male singers, and his presence on stage – I really like that. I actually suggested that we should do that song live [together] sometime.
Dead Rhetoric: I actually had my fingers crossed for that yesterday!
Louhimo: Yeah! I had recently heard that they would be playing that same festival [New England Metal and Hardcore Festival]. I think that at some point it may happen, because it would be really cool. But we still do the song. We have recorded the sound, so the sound guy does it – it isn’t the same, but it’s a song that I really love. With the theatrical aspect, it’s really good to have it on the set. But now that we only have 40-minutes, this tour we just tried to put the party on [laughs]!
Dead Rhetoric: So now that the album is out – are you satisfied with the response? I know before the release there was a little bit of anticipation/anxiety because it was the first release without Anton [Kabanen].
Louhimo: It was nerve-wracking, but I had this feeling…because I loved the album before it was released. I think it’s going to be something that people are not going to expect. As I said in some interviews, people are going to fly on their asses when they hear it. I’m so glad that we could prove to people that the essence and sound of Battle Beast doesn’t come from one person – it comes from a band and all the members.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you do on tour to keep your voice, or your mind, going steady?
Louhimo: I don’t think too much [laughs]. Just go with the flow! When I go on tour, I usually don’t even check out every town – I go with it and take it as it is. That’s what works best for me. I always warm-up and warm-down my voice. I try to do some jogging and exercise whenever it’s possible – keep it healthy. I never drink on tour, and I stopped smoking 6 months ago. It’s helped a lot! I used to be sick all the time, but I’ve been super healthy. I got a little throat infection during the last tour but it was gone in like 2 days. I’ve been really happy about the benefits that come from not smoking. My voice is much better and stronger without smoking too.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of winning people over on the road, if they haven’t heard of you before, and they just hear that you are a female-fronted band, do you think that after they hear you, they are a bit more surprised and more into the band? To be blunt about it, you sing with more balls than what people tend to assume when they hear a brief description.
Louhimo: I think so. I think we are unique, not just because of having a female singer, but because I do things that normally guys do. I have both the feminine and masculine side of me, and as a person I’m that way. So I feel like I can totally be myself, but also I have this alter-ego that comes out as a performer on stage. People are very surprised when they see us on stage – with how much energy we have. We all give 100% on stage. I don’t think it’s just about me, it’s about the whole band and the atmosphere we create.
Dead Rhetoric: Does that inner alter-ego come out easier because, like we talked about earlier, there’s the costume and everything you put on?
Louhimo: It totally helps. I kind of feel that it’s the kind of character that is in me, but I bring it out that way. It’s not a role – it is me, but [bigger]. I think that’s very important that people can see it. When you can hear and see the experience, it’s much better.
Dead Rhetoric: With Bringer of Pain, there’s a bit more variety. Do you think that’s because you recorded it as a band, as opposed to it being one person’s view of what the band should be?
Louhimo: I believe so. There are so many different ways of doing those songs. But we all have common influences, from the ‘80s for example. We like the same bands, and not just heavy metal bands. But Michael Jackson, or whatever. I think it’s so great that we can embrace that in our music and still make it as our own.
Dead Rhetoric: So what’s next after you wrap up this tour?
Louhimo: Summer festivals. Then we’ll have a northern European tour – Norway and Sweden. Then we go to Japan for a few shows. We have a German tour for a few weeks too. But I really hope to get back here [to the US] as soon as possible.
Dead Rhetoric: That is the thing with the US – it’s tough to gain a foothold for European bands without doing a few tours per album cycle.
Louhimo: I feel like, it’s only been 5 days now, but I haven’t felt like it’s so hard to tour the US. Of course, we have better conditions than many bands. Some are touring in their own vehicles and sleeping in them. We have it really nice living in the bus.