BLIND CHANNEL – Niko & Joel, South Park 2016

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The violent pop revolution has begun and leading the charge are Finland’s own Blind Channel! These energetic young guys from Oulu aren’t just sweeping the nation and wiping the floor with the competition in the local music contests, but they’ve conquered the Baltics as well. After their recent tour opening for Simple Plan, we got a chance to speak with them at South Park -festivaali in Tampere to discuss their victories, their music, and the future. Even though they’ve only had a few short years behind them, these guys had plenty of great stories to share!

 

To start with, congratulations on your very solid start in the music business. You guys have already won the 2014 Wacken Metal Battle and YleX’s “Stage haltuun” [Taking the Stage] – how does it all feel?
Niko: It feels really great, winning those competitions. I think it helped our career really much.

What was it like being at Wacken? Had either of you ever been there before?
Niko: No, I think none of us had been.

Joel: It was a dream come true for 10-year-old boys, being on the big stage with tons of people. It was crazy all the time.

Niko: Yeah, both Wacken and the Sziget Festival in Hungary, we thought it was a taste of something that we’re aiming for.

You’ve also done a couple of shows with Machinae Supremacy and Simple Plan – what were those experiences like?
Niko: Those were really great – most recently Simple Plan, but also Enter Shikari in Helsinki. It’s been really great. It’s also a huge opportunity to perform to a wider audience.

Joel: A few more fans.

I can see you guys going hand-in-hand with Simple Plan, because your styles fit together nicely, but what was it like at a Machinae Supremacy show, considering they’ve got their own SID-metal genre? Was the crowd into it or were they a bit confused?
Niko: It’s definitely a different scene, and I think with Simple Plan, Enter Shikari, and Machinae Supremacy… the audience wasn’t that into us [at Machinae Supremacy’s show] compared to Enter Shikari’s audience or Simple Plan’s audience. It was a bit different but I think it was cool too.

You’ve been playing quite a few shows lately – have there been any crazy mishaps, Spinal Tap moments, or band pranks?
Niko: There have been too many [laughter]. Actually, at every show we have played there has been something happening, like “oh shit!” It’s kind of dirty. I don’t know how much I can tell you. Let’s just say that when something’s happening, it usually has something to do with Joel or Joonas. The guitarists are the ones who make the stories.

Do you remember when and where your first gig as Blind Channel was, and what it was like?
Joel: October 2013. We were playing a headlining show in our hometown with all of our friends in the audience.

Niko: It was called 45 Special. It’s actually a great story. It wasn’t supposed to be a headlining show. We were supposed to be supporting an Estonian band called Defrage, but the same day in the evening, they called us that their bass player had been drunk driving into the wall of a police station [laughter] and he was in jail. They were like, “I don’t think we can perform tonight.” We were like, “Okay, we’ll be headliners.” Then we got this other Oulu band called Facelift to support us and we were the headliners, so it was kind of lucky! We were like, “First gig ever and we’ll be the supporting act!” and all of a sudden we’re headliner. It just got crazy!

Do you think your live performance has changed much since then, and if so, how?
Niko: I think we are more confident. We do this crazy jumping and running around, and when we did that in the beginning we were out of control, but now I think we’re in control of those actions.

You’re doing it on purpose.
Niko: Yeah! We’re doing it on purpose. Because, when we went on stage, it was like we’d go there and then when we’d come back from the stage, we’re like, “What have we done?” We’d have to think back to what happened [laughs].

Go look on YouTube.
Niko: Yeah! Just like that. Now I think we’re confident and we can live in the moment and see what we’re doing on stage. I think it’s a bit more professional than in the beginning. But when we watched Simple Plan perform, we saw that we can get much more professional in the future [laughter]. Like in 20 years, but I think we’re getting there.

In another interview, I think Joel said that you guys prefer to build your success on your own, so competitions like “Uuden musiikin kilpailu” wouldn’t work for bands like you. However, since then you’ve done a few different competitions and contests and you’ve done really, really well in them – do you have any further comments on the original statement?
Joel: I can say that I was wrong. Actually, the main reason for our success right now is those competitions, so I was stupid.

Niko: It was in the beginning, but I remember we all thought that competitions are not our thing, but in the Wacken Metal Battle competition, it was all metal bands. One of our friends said, “You should go,” and we said, “We’re a violent pop band.” “I’m a rapper. Everyone’s going to laugh at us!” but then it was like… social pressure? [laughs] We were like, “We have to do this!” It turns out that’s why we won the competition. Then in the other Taking the Stage (Stage haltuun) competition, we really didn’t even know that we were participating. Our guitarist, Joonas, secretly put us in the competition [laughter]. Then came the audience voting and we were like, “Oh fuck, we’re in the voting and we cannot lose!”

Joel: Yeah, we cannot lose!

Niko: Since we’re in a competition, we cannot lose this, so we had to go all the way and it turned out quite well. We have never really been like, “Let’s go to competitions and we’ll become a big band!” That’s not the way we think.

Joel: Yeah.

2016.06.11 01 Joel Hokka, Niko Moilanen (Blind Channel)So this is your first time playing at South Park -festivaali – how do you like the festival?
Niko: I think it’s a really cool festival. Kind of like the weather [laughs]. The weather is like, the sun is shining and it’s raining…

Joel: I think this is a metal or rock festival, so we are kind of weird a band here because we’re playing pop stuff.

Niko: And I’m rapping! But I actually like it when I’m in the middle of a rock festival and I start rapping. There are a few – like two people – who are like, “Cool!” and the other ones are like, “What the fuuuck?” [laughter], but I think that’s kind of nice.

How did you [Joel] and Tuomas [Thomas Grove, Ember Falls] get the idea to guest star in each other’s hit singles on stage?
Joel: We were drunk after the On the Rocks show in Helsinki and I got the idea and then I actually forgot it, and then I got a Facebook message from Tuomas and he was like, “Hey, do you remember this?” and I was like, “… I don’t remember, but let’s do it!” Two days after that we made it, so it was really cool.

Niko: Yeah, it was kind of a quick decision, but we talked about… what was it?

Joel: The mini-tour in Finland.

Niko: It was us, Ember Falls, and Black Crows Break the Silence, and we were on tour and there were got into the featuring thing.

Have you been watching any of the other bands here, and if so, who has impressed you the most?
Joel: I’m waiting for Bullet for My Valentine. I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager. It’s really cool to see the band playing live.

Niko: I have to comment that, when I said that I’m going to an interview, I was told that I have to say, “Arion is the best band in the fucking world!”

I saw Lassi Vääränen [Arion] earlier – did he tell you to say that?
Niko: Yeah, they’re our label mates and they’re great guys! But Shiraz Lane played after us on the same stage. I really like Shiraz Lane. They are such great guys, they’re good friends of ours. It might just be the moment, but I really like the singer, Hannes [Kett]. I think he’s such a talented singer. And I really like Shiraz Lane. I think they’re an amazing band and have a bright future ahead of them.

2016.06.11 05 Joel Hokka (Blind Channel)Let’s talk music now! How did the band form and how do you all know each other?
Niko: It’s weird for this to come from me, but I was the last person to join the band. We’ve all been in the same school.

Joel: High school in Oulu.

Niko: A music high school in Oulu, where we are from. But we didn’t know each other when we were there. Olli is in the same class or same age group as Joel and Joonas, and they had a history of rivalry, competing with each other and were in different musical projects all the time, competing with each other, but what I understand is that they got over that rivalry and they put up a band together, and then Joel and Joonas started this band and Olli and Tommi, our bass player and our drummer, came from [Joel’s] past bands. You’ve known them from other music…

Joel: Yeah, I know them, and then you came in from the party.

Niko: I was the last to join the posse. Our drummer, Tommi, and our guitarist, Joonas, crashed a high school party I was attending. They literally crashed there. They were like, “WHAT’S UP EVERYONE!” and we were like, “Holy shit, somebody get those guys out!” We were drunk and partying and then they put an Enter Shikari song on the radio and I was like, “Holy shit, this is good, I love Enter Shikari too!” and they were like, “We’re putting up a band!”

Joel: So here we are!

Niko: They said, “You should come to our practice,” and I was like, “Well, one practice. I’ll come there and check this thing out.” That’s how it started!

So how did you come up with the name, Blind Channel?
Joel: We had many ideas, and it was the best idea. We had a rule that the band name had to sound like the band’s music, so I think Blind Channel sounds like our music.

Niko: Yeah, we wanted something organic and something mechanic – “blind” and “channel,” and we had many names. It was me who came up with the Blind Channel idea-

Joel: Yeah.

Niko: -but the crazy thing is that we had a long list of names and I don’t think we had even decided. We thought, “Blind Channel sounds kind of cool,” and 2 minutes after that we had a Facebook page called Blind Channel [laughs]. It was a spontaneous decision. I think it’s cool and it kind of describes our music. There are also some deeper controversial meanings, like nowadays everyone’s spending so much time staring at blind channels, so it’s kind of self-ironic, giving something real to stare at, the blind channel. Something like that.

How did your musical style become “violent pop” and how did you come up with that term?
Joel: Niko was the one who came up with that term.

Niko: What was it? We had to describe our music in an interview outside of Finland. The first abroad interviews we had. They were like, “Describe your music,” and it just came out, “Violent pop,” and then Joel did the hashtag thing. The first song we released was called “Save Me” and then we released the song called “More than You.” When it was released, Joel put on a hashtag.

Joel: #violentpoprevolution

Niko: I think many people were into the violent pop thing, and the violent pop revolution make me like, “Holy shit, this could be a thing!” It’s not just a random interview line like, “Our music is like violent pop,” but it’s a thing. We’ve been living up to that.

I like that you essentially made up your own genre. It helps you stand out from the masses.
Niko: It’s self-powering also. It’s like, [we’re] going to decide what violent pop sounds like. We can do really heavy songs and really poppy songs and it’s violent pop!

Do you have any themes that you’re interested lyrically, or messages you’d like to share with the world?
Niko: From the beginning, it’s been human struggle. We don’t write a lot of really happy songs [laughter]. Then I think, it’d also be great to be political and controversial about real things. I think that’s great about what Shiraz Lane is doing. Something like that, but I guess we have to figure out our own way to do that. Right now they’re very personal. I mostly write the lyrics, but I would never release lyrics that weren’t approved by the others. But, human struggle.

Joel: Emotions.

Niko: Dark emotions that everyone goes through. That’s kind of a theme we’ve had so far.

What’s been your biggest challenge as a band so far at this point? Or have you really had any?
Joel: I can’t say anything, because everything has gone like a movie. We’ve had some small struggles but everything has gone step-after-step and now…

Niko: Yeah, there haven’t been any really big challenges. I think, like every band, we’ve had good times and bad times and things go up and down-

Joel: What are the bad times? Tell me!

Niko: Not really bad times, but there are times when a lot of things are happening and there are times when you just have to wait and work hard. But they’re not really ‘bad’ times. I think a real challenge was the competition for YleX radio station! Blind Channel’s new single, “Darker than Black,” or Shiraz Lane’s “Wake Up” – which one is going to the radio playlist. That was a challenge! It was super exciting!

Joel: That was really crazy. We needed all our friends to vote for us.

Niko: Fortunately we had a lot of friends to do that.

Joel: We won!

Niko: It was just a day or two, but it was a challenge!

Joel: We didn’t sleep.

Niko: It was super exciting.

You’ve got an upcoming debut album in the works, and from what I’ve heard all of the songs are finished. Do you actually have a release date or an estimated release date at this point?
Niko: We don’t have a date, but we can say next fall, before the end of the year.

You’ve had Jonas Olssen on board as producer – what was it like working with him?
Joel: He’s a crazy musical genius.

Niko: He’s a super professional, very talented guy, and I think we learned a lot from him and we really hope to work with him in the future. He’s an amazing guy. He’s funny and when you’re working on an album in the studio, you do long days, like 12 hours, but with him it feels like 2 hours, so I think he’s really good at his job.

And you’ve also had Jens Bogren, who has worked with some seriously legendary bands (Opeth, Katatonia, Amorphis) – how did you get in touch with him and get him mixing your album?
Joel: It was Joonas who booked him.

Niko: We never actually met Jens. We just sent emails to Joonas and Joonas sent them to Jens. But we were super excited when we heard Jens Bogren was on board!

How would you describe the album to someone who’s never heard you guys? What would you say about it?
Niko: It’s fucking amazing! [laughter]

Joel: Very revolutionary.

Niko: Yeah, I think that’s what we’re trying to be. Revolutionary. And there are multiple different genres mixed together, like violent pop. There are easy songs, but also hard and heavy songs. I think there’s a theme that goes through the album, so you can hear Blind Channel in every song. I think we did fine with the album.

2016.06.11 02 Joel Hokka, Niko Moilanen (Blind Channel)To close up, here are a couple of random questions: First off, what’s the last band you’ve listened to?
Niko: Twenty-One Pilots!

Joel: This is very bad – Simple Plan. I started to listen to them after the tour because I can’t get over it. I’m dreaming about the shows all the time.

What’s the last album you bought?
Joel: I don’t remember.

Niko: We’re living in Spotify times!

What would be the ultimate festival line-up for you? Who would you like to see in a festival?
Niko: I already answered this today! My two favorite bands, Twenty One Pilots and Enter Shikari, who we supported. They are my all-time favorite bands. And Justin Bieber of course!

Joel: Metallica, Bring Me the Horizon, and Blink 182 [laughs]. Something like that.

Niko: I can’t believe neither of us said Linkin Park.

Joel: Nah, we saw it already.

Niko: We saw Linkin Park around a year ago.

Have you guys had any really unusual fan encounters?
Niko: We have really great fans who are traveling with us. At this point, there is a posse that travels with us. Every gig we play, we see them in the front row. That’s just amazing. That’s a sign that you did something right.

Joel: We got this poster with pictures from our shows.

Niko: They had made us a poster. Like a fan thing. It was really great.

Last question then – apart from the release of your album, what are you guys most excited about in the next year or so?
Joel: I would like to be on tour in Europe, supporting bigger bands and playing festivals outside Finland. That’s my dream, to get outside of this little country.

Niko: This experience touring with Simple Plan was too amazing, but something like that. I think when the album comes out next fall, it’s going to be a game-changer for us.

Joel: We hope!

Niko: Yeah. I think we’re really going to do that. We’ve always been aiming for abroad, outside Finland, but I think now we’re doing it even more when the album comes out, so I can’t wait to tour. Not only in Europe, but in Asia. Holy shit, let’s go to the States! Wherever!

Joel: Outside Finland.

I think you guys will do really well in Japan.
Niko: Oh, Japan would be…

Joel: I’d love that.

That’s all of my questions. Do you have any last comments to anyone who might be reading this?
Niko: Rock on! The album’s coming out next fall!

Joel: Rock on and see you on tour!

Thanks guys, and best of luck with everything that’s coming up!

Text: Amy Wiseman | Photos: Lene L.

 

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