This evening (24th October) I had the pleasure of sitting down with Yannis Papadopoulos lead singer with Finnish heavy mental band, Beast in Black, just before they went on stage in the Academy, Dublin. The band are touring their new album, From Hell With Love, hitting the road with Glory Hammer.
Welcome to Ireland Yanice and ‘Céad míle failte’, (Irish for 100,000 welcomes). It’s been a rocky road getting here to Ireland today… what happened?
“Thank you, appreciated! It’s an interesting one because it’s actually a very tough schedule and on some occasions we can be understaffed. Some people only knew this morning that we had to take a ferry and we didn’t organise our schedule properly; when to get the bus or where to go after we get the ferry. But you know these are kind of small details because in the end you find the energy and the adrenaline that you need to do the show.”
So you have a one-hour set then to do tonight give or take a bit
“A little bit less than an hour yeah. “
Tell me, what has happened to Anton, (he can’t go on stage tonight)?
“He’s having a tough schedule on the tour. When you packed up after the gig, sometimes you are outside in the cold and your body is all sweat from after the show, your body is totally empty and depleted. Then you have to pack all your stuff back together to take it back to the van and it’s really easy for the weather to just hit you and make you sick. He has a very sensitive immune system so it didn’t take that much to bring him down. Now he is in very bad shape – he has an ear infection and his throat is really sore and he’s having a very hard time even talking. So doing a show then all of that packing and unpacking again, staying sweaty and getting cold again – that will make him worse so we don’t want him to wind up in hospital.
Hopefully he will get over this quickly. Anton may to be watching from back stage tonight, wrapped up in a blanket!
“I hope too. I think he got a hotel and will catch up on at least 20 hours sleep. At least, that’s what I would do. We have a headline tour coming up too and the set is much harder and it’s also just our fans coming so we really have to focus on that”
You have the headline tour and you have your US tour as well coming up
“Yeah that’s correct. I think it’s in September.”
You have recently been to Russia for the first time. How did that go – how were you received there?
“That was nice yeah. Before we went, I was hearing things about what was it going to be like; be careful how you go on the streets and stuff like that but whatever I heard was totally untrue. The promoters were totally professional; staff and everybody at the venue; and the staff were taking care of things and there was nothing jeopardised or going wrong. Everything went really smooth from beginning to the end of the trip, including hotels, days off and I really couldn’t complain about it, quite the contrary. It was a very nice experience and the crowd – that was more than expected, not just in quantity but also in quality. They were really warm and enthusiastic about the event, which was great and we are really looking forward to going back there.
Your voice is absolutely phenomenal and your range as well. Does it make it a lot easier when you’re writing music because you know your voice would be able to handle it?
“You know that Anton in a way is takes advantage of it, example, ‘yeah, he is able to do it’ especially on the first album he was kind of going easy on me… switching the chord and changing things… saying just go for it…record these changes that were happening… lets do it! I said you’re crazy so that was my initial reaction! I think he got used to me for the second album so he wrote even more melodies according to my style and range and it was so much easier to track the album. We have our own code of communication at that point and we both knew what we were talking about. It went ten times smoother and that’s good for the person understand so many things even when he is not the lead singer and we have really good communication
Was there a big difference in the writing of first your new album From Hell With love or a different process involved after having time to get used to each other?
“Mainly, not so much of a difference. The process is like this. Anton comes up with a song, not just a part of it – it’s a whole thing. I don’t know how people software like that you know, two hours and the whole song is ready, every instrument, every volume automation. So after that he records the real instruments whatever is needed to keyboards and stuff like that. Then comes the drum tracking, bass tracking and then the lead vocals. That’s the only part where there is real interaction because I go by his studio and we record the vocals together. For better or for worse the vocals are display so to speak because I’m at the front and it’s quite important to have a common vision of how it is supposed to sound – their interpretation and stuff like that. So that’s how we interact and where the most collaboration takes place in the vocal part and it’s getting there.
Your album ‘From Hell With Love’ – does that tell a complete story from start to finish or is each song separate?
“There is a theme going on with Beast in Black and maybe you can tell from the album covers as well. There is a berserk concept, which is an anime and Anton is kind of imbued into that story and he lives through it – it has affected his childhood and adulthood. So usually five or six songs on the albums are drawn from that. The rest are general life inspirations and general stories or messages, things like that most people could relate to it could be a love story, a tragedy or a disappointment but also things happen in the songs a lot. The good part is that most people can relate and they can interpret the song according to their own life experiences. So far, there has not been a whole concept album.”
Do you contribute to the song writing and lyrics as well, putting your own stamp on it?
“I wouldn’t say so not really, because the whole song is entirely Anton’s creation. There may be small details as I said I am the only one affecting in the song writing in that small part. For example there were a couple of choruses or verses that had a less beat or in Die by the Blade where I said let’s do a double chorus. Those small changes I feel them or perform it, because I get it as a listener. We trust our intuition and those ideas were right. We have a common sense of musicality in many aspects. At least in that point is working. Small changes like that, harmonies added or changed, notes that nobody is going to notice. With the second album, he started trusting my opinion and my perception of music so to speak. If it sounds right to him, he doesn’t have any ego rant so we just go with it because it’s not something radical that can make a whole song change, not yet at least.
You clearly know what you’re doing blind and frozen had over 17 million views on YouTube and almost 10 million plays on Spotify.
“I’m not sure if those numbers declare that. We do know what we‘re doing but there are songs that had millions of views and they knew what they were doing that’s why they have those views. Maybe they are not in the music aspect but I will put them in the entertainment spectrum. You know what I mean – it’s not really music or a song that I will play with my daughter if I had a daughter or that I will play to my girlfriend. She would be like ‘what the hell is this, is this music?’- you know what I mean. It‘s a different thing, a different industry a bit off-topic to mention but yes those numbers are great for us. They helped the band evolve and become known to the world. We hope we know what we’re doing – that’s for you to decide!
Well it is getting you to the US!
“Yes that trip is quite a thing for us!”
You had an absolutely insane festival season this year. Do you find festivals completely different to an indoor gig?
“Absolutely yes not only on stage but on the off stage experience as well. Imagine when you play a festival – there are so many names and usually greater names and sometimes you get to be backstage stage with these people. For me it’s like a pantheon of musicians, the immortals my idols, hanging out with legends and that’s a big privilege. That’s about it off stage experience. When you have a different crowd and it’s not a dedicated crowd so to speak. Maybe half of them came to see somebody else at the festival or something you were totally unrelated to. But we got into it and maybe the crowd are louder at the second to last song because maybe at the first song people are wondering what is going on or who are these guys. It depends on the crowd and how genre based the crowd are. That’s the difference with the club whether it’s 5000 or 500 people or if it’s a headline show for example that is a huge difference and because they probably know all of your songs, sing along, and they have a different kind of energy and participation. They are part of the show for me and quality beats quantity.
You have had headline tours of your own so could this tour would Glory Hammer be termed a joint headliner, maybe a level playing field here. How is the touring going with Glory Hammer?
“It’s a very entertaining experience! The guys are just as jolly as the music really it’s a blast to be around them! They are all great guys. For example last night there was an after party but we only had half an hour to spend there but we did karaoke of one song together like a duet. It’s really easy from the first days to hang around with these guys…and are privileged to have everything on stage for you and the support that you need. These guys are really easy going and there is really no problem making it easier for us. Basically, what the support band needs. The same tour could be 10 times harder for us if we had some a**** headliner. That’s definitely not the case here.
How do you find the evening then. Do you party Hard or are you too tired?
“I haven’t partied at all. That half an hour last night of the maximum I could do has the bus had to leave after the show. The strain after singing a whole show it’s not just diaphragm or your throat – it’s your whole body when you sing. After one cider I go to my bank because I am knocked out, read some stupid stuff on my phone and that’s it for the night. “
Is it different then at festivals?
“Yes because festivals are apart you know usually two or three days in a row between them. There is usually enough time to recover even if you do party hard after them. Sometimes you play earlier and are not so tired, maybe the set is not long, or you are on earlier in the day. The [festival] experience gives it all for you as a fan and a performer because you can go and watch so many other great bands hang out with them and maybe party. I really love that experience.”
You have a new album ‘From Hell With Love’. What is the story behind it or the inspiration?
“This is something that Anton could answer because I can’t give the reply to that. For me it could be a matter of opinion. According to the initial inspiration as far as I know and from what the cover and the title is about, it was initiated by those contrasts in the colour scheme as well on the cover. Hell has a negative connotation whereas love has a positive connotation. And sometimes these things can collide or combine to the other world.
What does it mean to you to sing the songs from the album? Do you ever feel that you have to sing certain songs even though you don’t want to?
“There is no song I don’t want to say thank goodness. There are a couple of songs I love and at the moment there is one song on a bad day that will really energise me every time and that’s ‘Cry Out for a Hero’. It’s a good thing it’s the first song on the set and even if I‘m worn out or not feeling it. I go on stage and I hear the guys playing it and it’s it starts off right away with the high notes, all my sweet spots for my range and all of those things come together and gives me the pump that I need before I go on stage. It works at home; it works for the gig; it works when I listen to it I get that drive from that song so that’s my current favourite. It may change with the seasons depending!
What can fans expect from you this evening as we’ve never seen you in Ireland before? They will be disappointed that Anton isn’t playing of course
“They are going to see a very interesting and unique show. I know it’s incomplete in a way and it’s less than they would get but at the same time, they are going to hear different solos from Kasperi for example and they are going to hear me sing parts that I have never sung live. Its alternative so to speak but they are still going to get their money’s worth.
I’ve seen the fans queuing down the street this evening in the pouring rain waiting to hear you so I think you will enjoy the experience of Irish fans. We are the best in the world!
“I‘m looking forward to seeing that proven!”
What are you most looking forward to next year, aside from touring the US tour as we already talked about that.
“That’s a really good question. We did our first tour in 2017 and basically after that it has been a similar schedule on a loop - rehearse in January then our first few gigs in February; then go to Japan in May; then summer festivals; gigs in September and then loop, next year the same thing again. It’s been about 100 gigs in 2018 and the same this year so we have we have pushed the pedal quite hard. The idea will be to have a small rest, some time at home because that’s how you get more excited to come back. I’m not talking about a years break – maybe two or three months in a row because we’ve only got that time before sporadically. Last year was quite traumatic for me last year health wise because every two tours I was sick and there was a lot of catching up in life, change my rhythms and my schedule. But I think I’m getting smarter wiser and getting the hang of it.”
Yannis, thank you so much for talking with me. I am really looking forward to hearing you tonight. I have been blasting out your albums in the car on the way here today! Please send my best wishes to Anton tonight and I hope he gets better soon.
Interview by Fiona D for metalplanetmusic