BLIND CHANNEL – Joel Hokka & Niko “Nc Enroe” Moilanen, Helsinki, 2018

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Blind Channel is back in action with their sophomore album, Blood Brothers, available as of April 20th, 2018. The follow-up to a band’s debut is a big deal, so we sat down with Joel Hokka (vocals, guitar) and Nike “Nc Enroe” Moilanen (vocals) to discuss their experiences since our first interview with them at South Park Festival back in 2016.

 

So, Blood Brothers is coming out on the 20th. To get the obvious out of the way, how do you feel?
Niko: Stressed.

Joel: Stressed. More than stressed.

Niko: Happy. We like the album, and we’re proud, and it’s nice to finally have it out. We’ve had it in our hands since Christmas, so it’s stressful times. Our tour starts next week and there’s a lot of promotional stuff going on.

Joel: We need to sell tickets and sell the album and everything like that. This is the first album where we’ll have a label in Europe, so we’re doing hardcore promotion there and we need to sell albums there as well.

Niko: It’s more work.

Joel: It’s a hell of a lot of work and pressure, but we chose this! [laughter]

Niko: I think we’re going to pull through.

I hear you guys are starting to get a good following in Germany now.
Niko: More or less, yeah. We’re definitely bigger than with the last album. Now we have a label in Europe, in Germany actually, so things are moving forward there. We like Germany. It’s warm and beer is cheap. It’s a place for us to go, definitely, and we want to go on tour there, but we can’t talk about that now.

I feel like Germany is a good country for you guys, because their pop and metal music scenes are both so big. 
Joel: We have one festival there. It’s a fucking big one.

Niko: Rockharz Festival, Leipzig. And like you said, [Germany] has a big pop scene and metal scene, and music is a bigger thing in Germany than it is, for example, in Finland. It’s a big business.

The first time we spoke to you guys was at South Park 2016, before Revolutions came out. Now you’re at the release of your second album. What’s different in the band mechanics now, and what have you learned in the past 2 years. 
Joel: Back in the day we were a real ‘boy band.’ Now we’re trying to be a boy band [laughs]. We’re not as young anymore. Let’s not be so pessimistic.

Niko: I think we’re still pretty young and we’ve got more initiative in our band. We have more and more labels and management and people we work with, but at the same time, there’s more initiative in us. Every day we wake up, we want to come up with things like, “What can I do for this band today?” It doesn’t need to be the label or management – what can I do. So I think right now we’re working harder than ever. Definitely – I can already say that for the third album – we’re always going to be working hard. We’ve grown that way.

Has anything happened in the last few years that you found really unexpected or unusual?
Joel: This upcoming summer, all the festivals. It was a surprise, because there are a hell of a lot of festivals. Like six or seven major festivals. That was a surprise, because I didn’t expect that to happen. Last summer was horrible. We didn’t have any festivals. Now we have festivals, so it’s a good one.

Niko: Also, we’re doing pop songs now. [laughter] That was something we didn’t expect, but our music went there and we liked it, so we thought, “Why not?”

Joel: And then we lost all our fans… [laughter]

That relates to my next question – what has the reaction to the new material been like so far, and how does it compare to the old material?
Niko: It’s been really good, I think, overall. It’s been really good, but we have surprised many of our fans, that the songs are so poppy. It’s been a surprise, but if they’re stressed out about us turning into some pop sensation band, that the album as a whole is pretty heavy stuff. The singles just happen to be those pop songs, because we like them.

Joel: There is one reason. There is the big radio station, YleX, and they like to play our songs, so when [the songs] are pop, [YleX] plays them. So we have money. [laughter]

Selling out already? [laughter]
Niko: Of course that’s not what we think when we make the songs.

Of course, it makes sense. The radio hits are for people who listen to the radio, and radio tends to always be tending to the pop crowds mostly. 
Niko: Yeah, maybe it’s not what we think when we’re writing the songs, but that’s definitely what we think when we’re picking the next single. You want your single to be heard as much as possible.

So you write the songs that you want to hear, but you pick the songs that suit the media.
Niko: Yeah!

Moving on then… Blood Brothers deals with a lot of subjects like loyalty, friendship, and betrayal. Did you guys intend for there to be a running theme on the album, or was that just the place that you were in when you were writing?
Niko: We had many demos. We had many names for the album and we were wondering what the album was. I think it was when we decided to do “Sharks Love Blood”… we picked it up as a single. And then there was the song “Like a Brother” and we checked out the themes and there were a lot of themes about friendship. That’s when I came up with Blood Brothers. It’s also nice because there is a boy band -vibe, but in a violent pop style. We probably had half of the songs from the album ready and I asked, “How about if we call this album Blood Brothers?” and everyone was like, “Let’s do that!” The other name that would have been fitting was Wolfpack, but that was a better name for the song than the album.

One of the more unusual genre mixes you guys did on this album was in “Like a Brother”, which uses stylistic autotune, followed by heavy music straight afterwards. So tell me a bit about that song.
Joel: It’s violent pop. That’s the violent pop thing. [laughter]

Niko: The first demo of that song had me rapping the verses. Just rap. We listened to it and it sounded like we hadn’t gone anywhere. It was like something from our Foreshadow EP or something from very early Revolutions. We had to do something new and experimental, and we thought, what could be more ‘gangsta’ – because there is a gangsta vibe in the song – than rapping? Then we thought, Post Malone is kinda good? And he uses autotune all the time, even though he’s a good singer. So we told our producer, “Turn the autotune on!” and it was just awesome! I can’t wait to do that live. It’s going to be amazing.

Is it safe to assume that “Scream” is about Chester Bennington [Linkin Park]?
Niko: Of course. It’s not a secret. Linkin Park and Chester were a huge deal for our band, and we made a cover of Linkin Park’s “Numb.” That was our tribute to the band that had inspired us.

Joel: And that was not enough.

Niko: We still felt like we had a lot to say, and then we had to do that song.

It has a very powerful and conclusive feel to it – I was actually surprised that there was another song on the album after it.
Niko: We thought about that but it was so depressing. [laughter] You have a bad vibe. The final song on the album, “IDFU”, is a statement. We got this big European label, the biggest indie label in Europe, and now we’re starting to have a lot of big agents and big bosses and all that, so it’s a statement that, when it comes to music, Blind Channel will do whatever the fuck we want. That’s what’s important about “IDFU.” We had so much fun with that song.

Are there any other interesting stories behind the songs, other than the ones we’ve just discussed?
Joel: “Giants.” That’s a great one. That’s my favorite. “Hurricane” and “Giants”, because when I wrote “Hurricane”, I wrote it like this is some pop artist’s song, not our song. Then we got drunk and had a house party, and I was like, “Oh, I’m so drunk, I made a song. You wanna hear it?” and they said, “Sure, let’s hear it!” I put it to play and they were like, “Oh, this is so great.” Then we had another pop song on the album.

Niko: It’s kind of a crossover. And “Giants” was the final song we wrote for the album.

Joel: Actually you wrote it on your own.

Niko: Pretty much. It’s gonna be a live banger. You’re gonna have to check it out. Well, you’ve heard the chorus, like [sings the tune]. That stuff. It’s a fun one.

It’s definitely one that I’m dying to hear live. 
Niko: It’s super theatrical as well. It starts so easily. It’s going to be a performance.

Considering you guys blend genres so much and you do it so well, were there any songs that were particularly hard to piece together, or did the whole thing come together naturally?
Joel: I think “Hurricane” was the first place where I had the guitars and it felt like, this is so poppy, what are we going to do? Also, “Out of Town” was like Bruno Mars…

Niko: “Hurricane” I don’t think was a problem, because it’s still heavier than “Out of Town”, for example. “Out of Town” was also pretty easy. Each song comes together in their individual way. “Trigger” was hard. We wrote… there were four or five different versions at some point. The only thing that we were sure we wanted to keep was the guitar riff. It was something Joonas [Porko, guitar] had done ages ago, like 5 years ago when we started. He was like, “Boys, I’ve got this riff!” and we were like, “Shut up, we’re doing music.” [laughter] He always wanted to show us the riff, and then now after 5 years of him playing it to us, we were like, “Hey, that’s a good riff, man!” Then we wanted to build from it. The boys did the first version, I made a version, then we did many versions together, and then it combined. It was a hard one to get together.

It’s a great album starter to get the energy up and it’s heavy, not too poppy.
Niko: It’s also continuing from… we had the riff, and then we knew the song was going to be called “Trigger”, because it continues from the Revolutions album – “Bullet (With Your Name on It)” – and now we’re going in with “Trigger.” I already know what we’ll have for the third album.

I had just assumed that was a coincidence.
Niko: It’s not. I love ongoing themes in things. It almost makes you feel like we planned it all. [laughter]

You guys did the cover of “Can’t Hold Us” between albums, but it’s not on the album? Are there any other covers you’re working on? 
Joel: Why it didn’t come on the album… I’m not sure.

Niko: Covers are good if we want to do a Japanese release or a deluxe edition. We can add the covers or acoustic versions or stuff like that. We like doing covers. We like doing them our own way. It’s just fun and the time between two albums is so long, so it’s nice to give the fans something. “We’re coming up with original music, but in the meantime, hold on to this!”

Regarding singles and albums, do you think it’s possible that the music industry might evolve to a place where albums cease to exist, as albums were formed because you had physical space to fill and that is no longer the case. Do you think it could change, so that bands just release a song or two every month or two, as they write them? Or do you think albums are here to stay?
Joel: I think it’s going to be EPs in the future. I think there are not going to be as many albums as today. There’s going to be EPs with four to five songs. That’s the future.

Niko: Huge bands who have a great impact on the whole industry… like One Republic for example, a huge band, Ryan Tedder, very influential in the whole business, and he’s already decided that One Republic won’t do albums or EPs. It’s just singles. In Finland, I think JVG also said that they would only do singles. They made an album secretly, but that was also a statement to say that they can do whatever they want. There’s always a reaction and then counter-reaction. I think maybe what’s going to happen next – and I’m not sure, this is just what I think – but albums are going to be very rare for some time, but then someone will make an album and everyone will say albums are cool again.

What are your plans from here on out? You’re doing your Finnish shows soon, and then what’s coming after that?
Niko: We have the Finnish tour, and then we have the festivals. Then we’d really like to go on tour abroad and we’re constantly planning. When you want to do a good tour outside Finland, it takes a lot of time to plan. And we don’t want to do a good tour, we want to do a great tour outside Finland. So it takes a lot of time to plan.

Joel: And money.

Niko: A lot of time, a lot of money, and everything else. I think that’s what we want to do and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not sure when, but as soon as possible hopefully.

Joel: Then we need to write new songs.

Niko: We’re always writing new songs, so that’s going on already.

My last question relates to that, a bit. What’s the next biggest goal you guys want to achieve?
Niko: The tour in Europe. Something like that. That would be the natural next step for us.

Joel: Some big tour outside Finland.

And which festivals will we be able to see you at this summer?
Joel: Rockharz Festival (Leipzig), Provinssi, QStock, Tuska Open Air, RockFest. There will be a couple more, but that’s pretty much the whole thing.

Well, thanks for taking the time to catch up with us!
Niko: See you again before the third album!

Photos: Jana Blomqvist

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