Temple Balls – Prepare For An AvalancheSunday, 12th November 2023
The Scandinavian heavy music scene has a plethora of great artists in a variety of styles – including a love for hook-laden melodic hard rock/metal. One of the many bands showcasing their talent in this genre is Finnish act Temple Balls – ascending up the ranks to garner interest with Frontiers Music. Their fourth and latest album Avalanche is another diverse, rockin’ outing, bringing to mind influences across the 80’s/90’s spectrum while engaging the audience in modern energy that hopefully will put this style back on the map from a cult-like appeal into an arena/stadium-wide phenomenon once again. We spoke to guitarist Niko Vuorela about the different recording approach to the new record, how Jona Tee is the producer glue for the band, taking care of themselves on the road now compared to the party hearty older ways of bands, his health issues and overcoming them, memories with Kiss, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, and Mötley Crüe, as well as what’s on the horizon for the group.
Dead Rhetoric: Avalanche is the fourth studio album for Temple Balls. What can you tell us about the songwriting and recording process this time around – and where do you see this record sitting in the catalog of work?
Niko Vuorela: The process compared to the previous album was way different. There was a different approach recording-wise at least due to health reasons, and we needed to record in different places. For example, with Pyromide, we recorded at Studio 57 and that’s how we’ve always done our albums, all together in one place with the gear that we have here. We went a bit different, Arde sang his vocals partially in Helsinki, and some in Stockholm at our producer’s studio. I recorded all the guitar parts from home, that was very different and an interesting approach since we’ve always done albums the same way. This time we were uncertain how this would turn out – luckily the result was amazing.
When it comes to the songwriting compared to Pyromide the previous album, this was more of a group effort this time. On the previous album, I brought a lot of songs to the table back then, recorded demos and showed them to the other guys. Everybody had their own input on the songs, which improved the final product. This time, it was more effortless in some ways, maybe because there was a little break due to these health reasons that forced us to have a little break. We got together and the ideas started to bounce around, we were hanging out together in Helsinki at our studio, it went super smoothly. It was comfortable, we managed to create one song per day. There were a lot of demo songs to work with, we were able to take these demos to their final form in such a short period of time. We are super happy and proud to release this album Avalanche.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover art develop this time around? Is it a collaborative process between the band and artist from initial concept to final completion – and do you believe cover art still has its importance in the current marketplace compared to the days of record releases from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s?
Vuorela: I think it has some sort of meaning for some people. There are old schoolers who prefer physical copies of albums. They look nice, you want to see the booklet with the lyrics and stuff. I think it’s a small portion of the listeners, but I still think it’s important to have great artwork that catches the eye besides the music. It was Jan Yrlund from Darkgrove Design, he has designed albums cover for huge names like Nightwish, HIM, I think even Manowar. It’s a cool resume.
The original idea we sent him in a text form that comes from us, he creates the visual part from our notes. That’s how we got the album cover. Right after we got back from the Pyromide recording sessions, we got back to immediately start work on the next album. The first song that we wrote was “Avalanche”, so it was a natural choice. It had the sound of being an album title, avalanche. It sounded like one possibility at least. Since the name is Avalanche, it was obvious that we needed a winter theme for the visual side of the album. It fits nicely to the previous one, the fiery Pyromide which had more of a red theme, and the red vinyl edition as well. Now we have blue, that goes well with the Avalanche theme.
Dead Rhetoric: How much of a challenge is the process in picking out the best singles/videos to deliver for each record? And does the band enjoy the art of making a high-quality video that engages the eyes/ears of the people, to hopefully fuel more promotion for the band in the long term?
Vuorela: We do like making cool videos. We are more musicians of course, but we do enjoy the process of creating stuff around our songs. Sometimes it’s difficult, because we are focused on every single track. We don’t want any fillers. All five members plus the producer Jona Tee, we make songs that we can all stand behind. There are always ten to eleven songs on all our albums, and we love them all so it’s hard to pick out favorites. That’s when Frontiers our label comes in – we talk about the single choices, and Frontiers will suggest their own vision of songs that should be singles. And in which order. Usually, we agree. If you have an album full of singles, you can’t go wrong. I think they helped us make the right choices.
Dead Rhetoric: As you said, you work with your producer Jona Tee – who is also a musician in his own right with H.E.A.T. – what qualities does he bring to the table to make for a better final product with Temple Balls and your records?
Vuorela: He’s the glue of the songs, in some sense. Since we have plenty of ideas and we bring all the ideas to the table, demo songs and everything. He knows which parts don’t belong to a song; we redo parts. He brings things to the table that are more objective with his ear – an outsider from the group who’s into the songs and tells us how he feels about them. Whatever he tries, it usually sounds awesome. We don’t have to negotiate too much. He knows what we are about, and he can really participate in the right vision properly.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think are some of the key trademarks that need to be present in an ideal Temple Balls composition?
Vuorela: Well, maybe energy could be something to mention. Even if we sometimes have darker lyrical themes, we still mix it inside an energetic rock song. We have very few ballads – there is one on the new album called “Stone Cold Bones”, a bit pop-ish but it’s cool. Energy is probably the key thing, that’s what we want to maintain. It’s how our live presence comes to life, rocking out doing what we do. We don’t really have any limits of what we can or what we can’t do. It comes naturally, I don’t think we have to think too much about things.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve had the opportunity to play across many touring packages and festival stages with acts like Sonata Arctica, Queen, Uriah Heep, and Deep Purple among others. What have been some of the key lessons learned or takeaways that you’ve applied to the live performances within Temple Balls?
Vuorela: Live things we have learned along the way. Well, I don’t know if there’s anything that has truly affected how we are on stage. Maybe those influences come from way back that made us originally grab a guitar and start playing rock and roll music. Seeing DVD’s, live concerts, everybody has their idols and maybe that had an impact on us. We have learned that the times are very different than those 80’s rock and roll, Mötley Crüe lifestyle. You have to behave, you have to stick to the schedules, you have to be on time. Be organized and do well, treat people nicely.
Dead Rhetoric: How has it felt being a part of Frontiers Records now for the latest two records after your deal with Ranka Kustannus earlier in your career? Do you believe they have the proper understanding and staff to push the band to new levels of popularity?
Vuorela: Yes, absolutely. After the switch from Ranka Kustannus to Frontiers, we immediately felt like we were at home, that this was the label for us. They are a great label, they understand us. They do things for us… since the first release from Frontiers, the video for “Thunder from the North”, we got 200,000 views on YouTube, it really helped the reach, that’s one of the hardest things to get to. It’s hard for bands to connect to their future fans, we are looking for the future fans to hear our music. Frontiers has an awesome channel and a great label for us due to those kinds of reasons.
Dead Rhetoric: How does the band feel about social media and using them? Is it a valuable tool for you to gain fans especially in terms of the active interaction with them?
Vuorela: Absolutely. It’s one of the most important avenues, maybe the most important tool nowadays. Everything is in social media. There are challenges as well, everything moves forward, and you have to catch up with technology, learn about new platforms and be good at social media marketing. That’s really not one of our strengths, for example. We post stuff, and let people know what’s going on for the upcoming shows and what’s going on within the band. We try to stay active on the channels. We have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok. We try to maintain all of them since we find them important.
Dead Rhetoric: How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success within Temple Balls? How did you end up pushing through?
Vuorela: No, I don’t really think there is anything like that. It’s been an ongoing train rolling forward all the time. It’s also something that comes naturally. We are all a bunch of kids who like to play rock and roll together. That’s what we’ve been doing, it keeps going forward. The stages might get bigger, the audience is getting bigger. Everything develops the way it’s supposed to, we are jamming as a group. It’s not that commercial of a thing.
Since I got this little health diagnosis that forced us to take a little break, nobody wanted to replace me. That was a mutual decision that we stick together as a group, we want to play together. And now we are getting back on the saddle, and Avalanche is the result of that.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think you learned most from the break that you took and your health?
Vuorela: The biggest thing I learned, it’s very important to take care of yourself. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past year to a year and a half. Taking as good care of myself as I possibly can. Trying to enjoy every day. You never know what you can lose. It sounds like a cliché, but health affects your everyday thinking – and you start to appreciate the little things a little more. Since you realize that life is fragile, it affects you in a very deep level of thinking. Health comes first – and that’s how we are doing things at the moment. If there are any issues, we deal with that first and then get back on the road.
Dead Rhetoric: What makes Finland such a fertile and active breeding ground for musicians when it comes to all types of hard rock and heavy metal?
Vuorela: (laughs). We always answer the same way to this question. It’s the winters! The sun rarely shines, it’s all dark and rainy. Maybe that influences most musicians. I don’t know if heavy metal is depressing, but the less joyful topics appear in the Finnish heavy metal scene.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of goals/ambitions do Temple Balls set on a short-term versus long-term basis? Are you hopeful to make the band a full-time career endeavor, or do you realize as musicians that you may have to balance regular jobs with these musical activities?
Vuorela: So far it is like that. It’s a struggle, working on the day jobs and getting the most out of the band. We are focused on the band as things mature, our aim is to make a living with this, with Temple Balls and the music. It’s tough because you have to be on tour, headline all the time, to make ends meet only with music. We are still here, and we are still working, it hasn’t slowed down too much.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to your guitar playing and your style, how has your style changed or improved from the beginning years to your outlook and technique currently?
Vuorela: Well, I think originally the first few years, from the first ten years I just wanted to be the fastest and most technical guitar player in the world. I tried to play as fast as I possibly could, learn songs that had these crazy guitar solos. I don’t know, going forward my tastes developed. I try nowadays to be more melodic and vibe with more feeling than speed to my guitar solos. I’d rather play more like Richie Sambora as far as guitar solos than Herman Li. Maybe that’s the biggest focal point on my guitar playing and how things have developed.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you say are three of your favorite metal/hard rock albums of all time- and what’s your favorite show attending in the audience as a fan?
Vuorela: Oh, the album thing is a hard one. My favorite band is Kiss, and my favorite concert memory would be seeing Kiss live in the front row in 2013, I think. I got Paul Stanley’s pick; he was so close to me. That stuck in my head. The same happened with Mötley Crüe, when that was supposed to be the final tour back in 2015, I think. I was close to the front row, and I got Nikki Sixx’s pick as well. I find those things cool and meaningful, these cool treasures I still have with me.
The albums – it’s a real hard question. It depends, lately my favorite album the past two weeks has been Bon Jovi – Keep the Faith. A great record. Maybe Skid Row’s first one. And something from Kiss – Love Gun.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the current state of the world that we live in? Where do you think the leaders need to put more time, energy, and effort into to make things better for the common people?
Vuorela: Woah – a hard question! (laughs). I am not much of a politician; I don’t know what to say to that. In Finland, most of the health services are too stuffed – it’s really hard to get the treatment that you need. Especially in the area where I live, the capital area. Maybe find alternatives that would work better, better health services, more effort in that.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the schedule for touring, festivals, and promotional activities for Temple Balls over the next twelve months or so?
Vuorela: There really aren’t any confirmed dates that I can talk about yet. There are upcoming gigs, the album tour starts in Finland in January, unless something comes up. We definitely plan to tour in Finland and in Europe as well, abroad.