Eurovision was a big moment for Blind Channel, the sextet from Oulu secured 6th place and cemented themselves in a line of successful rock and metal bands to have graced the Eurovision sphere. The rollercoaster did not stop there as they signed with Century Media, performed sold-out shows across Finland and are now planning on their first major European tour with many shows looking set to sell-out also.
Aptly dubbed 'Finnkin Park' (even though their 'Violent Pop' sound brings together a variety of rock and metal genres), Blind Channel released a music video for their latest single 'Balboa' (released back in August), echoing the core story of the Rocky films i.e. getting up and taking the fight head-on.
Blind Channel's Joel Hokka spoke to Global Metal Apocalypse about their journey since that evening in Rotterdam and how one of Finland's most successful musicians Lauri Ylönen (The Rasmus) came in touch with Joel about doing a special cover of 'Dark Side'.
Blind Channel gained overnight international success after the Eurovision 2021 finals, talk us through the emotions on that night. Additionally, what was it like signing with Century Media?
“Yep it happened pretty quickly with 'Dark Side' & the whole ESC thing. To be honest we didn’t expect that kind of success at all. We were thinking that if we hit the finals it’s already a win for us, and then we ended up in 6th place. But the real victory happened the day after when we saw that 'Dark Side' was #62 on the international Spotify global charts. I think we’ve been hyped up since that night until the last live shows of the summer ended last month. Century Media feels a great home for us. We want to be a massive alternative music outcome and CM / Sony has a great platform for us to be who we are without selling our souls!“
Your achievements have given bands not only in Oulu, but other Finnish cities too, hope that they can break out internationally. Thinking back to when you first started out, did you ever imagine you would be where you are at now?
“We always wanted to make it big internationally. There was no other choice. We were always looking up to Finnish exports like HIM, Children Of Bodom etc, and we thought if those guys can make it so can we! So yeah, we were pretty sure since the start!“
You released your new single / video 'Balboa' last month, first impressions are that the song is to do with the 'Rocky' film franchise, is this true? Either way what was the inspiration for 'Balboa'?
“Balboa is an anthem for the underdogs. It’s simply about getting up again and again. That’s how we’ve felt with our career for past 8 years. And yes, Rocky is the ultimate example of an underdog!“
Assuming 'Balboa' will be included on your forthcoming album (due out 2022), how far are you in the album creation process? When will the next single drop? Will this album be the darkest you've ever done?
“The album is right now in the hands of Dan Lancaster who will be mixing the whole thing next month. After that it will mastered in the US. The next single… hmmm…. maybe soon. The album itself will be the purest Blind Channel ever. We’ve gone through a lot while writing & recording this so there’s a LOT of stories to tell. Of course there’s always the darkness in our music. We come from the North. It’s in our DNA.“
Will the new album be released on vinyl? Will there be special, limited editions released? Maybe a mini-documentary of the band's rise from humble origins to international success?
“There will be many different forms of physical album. Vinyl's for sure for example! We’ve already documented a lot of stuff during 2021 but of course there’s a lot of things still to show for people so let’s see. Hopefully!“
Now you did a live duet with Lauri Ylönen (The Rasmus) on the song 'Dark Side', tell us how that came about? Could we see Blind Channel tour with The Rasmus in times to come?
“Lauri called me (Joel) and told me about the idea. I was blown away ‘cause Lauri is one of my childhood idols from early 2000’s and I really love The Rasmus. I really hope we can tour together ASAP! Maybe next year?“
Speaking of tours, you recently finished a string of dates across Finland, talk us through the logistics and emotions. Your next tour in early-2022 will be with Eskimo Callboy and fellow Finns One Morning Left; assuming you will be playing songs from the new album?
“The shows in Finland have been incredible. Thousands of people every night, pure insane adrenaline all the time. We played over 16 shows and had the best times of our life. The tour with Eskimo Callboy is something we really look forward to now. We will be playing brand new songs but also classics. Our set will be around 40 minutes per night so we need to be smart with the choices when it comes to songs!“
Regarding next year, are you looking to secure slots at festivals across Europe? Could we see Blind Channel at Download or Bloodstock in the UK?
“We’d LOVE to play some big European festivals but right now we don’t know about them yet. Only thing we know for now is that there will be MASSIVE festival slots in Finland for sure but Download, Rock Am Ring, Bloodstock, Reading etc. is always good for us!“
What plans do you have for the year ahead and into 2022 other than your tour supporting Eskimo Callboy?
“Album 4. Hell a lot of touring in EU / FIN (Hopefully US as well), new videos, cool TV things and tons of empty white wine bottles!“
Do you have any greetings and thanks that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?.
“Greetings if you read this whole interview! We really respect that a lot, and also thank you for all the support. Without you (the people and the medias) we’d be nothing. See you at the shows!!“
The fact that metal music is a global phenomenon has been established since the turn of the millennium and as such is no longer a secret, this is a music genre that has traversed the world across all factions and even to this day, more and more bands are forming and scenes being established, leaving lasting legacies not only just in the metal community, but in their own national community also.
The challenges metal music poses vary from country to region and seeking resolutions have not always been easy, but the spirit of devotion to arguably the world's most connected genre lives on and so will the people behind it.
Yet ironically where it is no surprise that metal exists in every corner of the globe, the fact that new scene discoveries are so fascinatingly exciting just underpins the gravity of why global metal music is a treasure to behold.
Enter Toxic Roulette, the first metal band coming from Yemen. The band spoke exclusively to Global Metal Apocalypse about their origins, the possible emergence of a Yemeni metal scene; the challenges that will come / are coming with it and how they are perceived by the Yemeni people.
For some bands it was relatively easy to establish a scene, for some it was the choice between life and death. For Toxic Roulette, their emergence was thanks to meeting in a talent competition, and that they discovered metal music through various means as they go on to explain:-
"Heavy metal came to Yemen mainly because of the people who lived abroad, they came back with guitars and metal CDs, and the second reason is the internet. There was a small talent show and we gathered from different places. Some of the talents had similar taste of music and we thought why not make a metal band. It was a pure coincidence."
Much like when Morocco went through a period of censoring metal music, jailing metalheads and labelling it as Satanic music, Yemen could enforce a similar if not the same method of constraining a harmless 'threat to cultural norms'. For now it seems that metalheads in Yemen are wanting the music to remain ironically underground and not gain a wider national interest, maybe the values presented in Sharia law outweigh the freedom of playing metal music and so would rather keep it hidden in secrecy until open dialogue is established – look at Creative Waste playing their first open air concert in Saudi Arabia for example....
“The general perception of heavy metal in Yemen is very bad, they think it’s only related to Satanic rituals. But at the same time the majority of people are yet still to know more about it. Heavy metal in Yemen is still not well known enough, and the authorities are not well informed about it, but if more people follow heavy metal, then the authorities will ban it 100%.”
This view then begs the question of what the bandmembers families think of metal music, naturally it's expected for family members to be supportive of what their relatives undertake within reason (no prizes for coming up with any suggestions of what is not appropriate). Also, as the band mentioned earlier, the importation of metal CD's were a fundamental resource in building up a metal community in Yemen, they go on to explain who they got into first:
“We got into heavy metal after listening to great bands like Metallica, AC/DC and Megadeth. Also, we loved the sound of electric guitars. Our parents thought it sounds loud and doesn't make sense, but they too love guitar solos.”
Forming a band and releasing music is one thing, forming a band with no pre-existing scene and then looking to release music is an entirely different challenge in itself. For Toxic Roulette, the latter applies as they go on to explain they are only doing covers for the time being, with 2022 aiming to be the band's first time creating original material:
“We are still yet to release a demo. We mainly play covers of famous metal songs, but hopefully we can release a demo next year.”
We look forward to the first ever metal release to come out of Yemen, but like the rest of the world this is not the biggest challenge being faced... in 2019 a then-unknown pathogen emerged out of Wuhan, China which later came to be called 'COVID-19', plaguing the world in a battle and race against time to suppress this lethal killer. Since then vaccine developments have been heralded as major step in attempting to limit the long-term damage of the disease, however a whole host of countries (chiefly those of the Third World) are yet again being left behind by the First World. It is no secret that Yemen has suffered years of famine and poverty and still continues to suffer, to coin a phrase it's like 'kicking a man whilst he is down'. So how has the country dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and what limitations have been posed?
“COVID-19 didn’t have much effect in people's lives in Yemen, since the authorities didn’t do much to protect the people. We are not under a lockdown.”
As mentioned earlier Toxic Roulette are the first metal band from Yemen, so with no pre-existing scene the challenges are exceptionally difficult - let alone not performing outside of Yemen. One such challenge is equipment sourcing and so they have to rely on travellers to carry out favours for them:
“Obtaining good equipment is always a challenge in Yemen. We rely mostly on people who come from abroad to provide us with good instruments.”
Since 2019 air travel has been at an all-time low and as such many destinations were off-limits or strongly advised travelling to, but under normal circumstances the band recommends visiting the historic sites Yemen has to offer including old Sanaa (Bab Al Yemen).
Naturally the global metal community is a tight-knit one and it's considered the norm to herald any major achievements by bands from the lesser known metal scenes. Of course it's great hearing bands like Ghost getting a GRAMMY award, but what about Orphaned Land (Israel) and Khalas (Palestine) touring together? Considering their two nations are against one another, that milestone is something that should be celebrated more than winning an award no?
The MENA (Middle East-North Africa) metal scenes have come a long way and are making sensational progress in establishing themselves, it's inevitable that more and more entities within the Western music industry will pay more attention to bands from this region... it's got to happen, there is so much talent being overlooked just because the next Swedish export so happens to be the next Amon Amarth per se, Europe is no longer the big boy on planet metal and it's about time we accepted that.
“We think that heavy metal has made great progress in the MENA region despite all of the obstacles and challenges. We have seen many great metal bands from Jordan and Egypt get noticed.”
And so where does Toxic Roulette go now as we head towards the end of 2021 and welcome in 2022?
“Our plan for next year is to make original heavy metal music.”