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Black Light Discipline - Interview

Interview with: Janne Kankkunen
Conducted by: Ines

Black Light Discipline (using the acronym BLD) is a five piece ensemble coming from the land, which already has us a rich palette of metal bands: Finland. But, if Finland is known for ice and cold temperatures, BLD is the exact opposite: bringing fire and heat. The band has been on the scene since 2005 and with one EP and three full length releases, still has so much to show. But also, so much has already been shown. The band has established its own trademark sound by bringing out massively explosive version of industrial metal, which will captivate you with its catchiness in a glimpse of an eye. Janne Kankkunen, BLD's main creative force and synth player, took some time and talked to me about the band's formation and its path to the point, where BLD stands now. Incredibly kind and warm, he says he always has time when it comes to the band.

Ines: Hello Janne and thank you for doing this interview for Terra Relicta webzine. How are you today?
J.K.
: I'm good thanks. We've been throwing some gigs here in Finland after the album's release and on our last weekend's tour we stayed in Helsinki for one more day, to shoot our music video for the song "On Fire". We know this video will be really cool, so we are excited to see some material from it soon. Right now, at this moment, I am recovering from May Day's party.
Ines: Tell me please, as I somehow find your band’s name really fascinating: how did you come up with the name Black Light Discipline and what does it mean?
J.K.: That name originates from the lightning in our training room. It doesn't have any deeper meaning. It was just something we came up, when throwing ideas under the backlights.
Ines: I - and I assume our readers as well - want to get to know BLD a bit better. Can you tell us how the formation of the band took place?
J.K.: It was about nine years ago when I was invited to play keyboards to one band-project where Toni was singing. That project ended quite soon. During that time I asked Toni and our drummer Veikka if they would be willing to try out one song with me, which I had composed. It was a really electronic song. At first we were thinking that this band would not include real drumming at all and only feature some guitars here and there. That song started to sound really well, so we decided to push it further. Later, we noticed that we couldn't help our metal-influences from pushing into the songs, so we flushed the idea about an electro-band through the toilet and we invited our Antti, who plays the guitar and  Iiro, who played the bass, to join the band. Völe once forgot his electro-kit and replaced it with real drums. We did the first album, Empire, with this combination. After that Antti was replaced by Joonas and Iiro was replaced by Jani. Now this group is in really good shape and the chemistry in the band is just perfect.
Ines: Would you say your fan base consists more of metal heads or fans of electronic music?
J.K.:  More of metal heads, definitely!
Ines: Who is the main creative force behind the band? How does the song writing process work in BLD?
J.K.: I am the main songwriter. I compose the songs via synths and drum-machines mostly. After that I usually pitch the ideas to the band and start developing them further with our guitarist Joonas. Sometimes Toni and Joonas throw some song-ideas also. In most of the cases, we prepare the song so it’s ready to be recorded, all by ourselves. After that we start practising it together.
Ines: Were you in any band before BLD?
J.K.: I've had some band projects before, but only one which released a full length album. It was called Ancient Drive. It was more like gothic metal.
Ines: So how come you switched from gothic to industrial metal?
J.K.: Hmmm, honestly? I don't know.
Ines: Fair enough. Which bands would you state as an influence to your song writing and an overall influence on BLD's music?
J.K.: I would say I am mostly influenced by the bands I was listening when starting BLD. Bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, Depeche Mode, Ulver, The Sisters Of Mercy, Danzig, Samael and similar.
Ines: Your latest full length album, Death By A Thousand Cuts, came out this March and it's a really catchy, explosive album. When I was listening to your previous albums, especially in comparison to its predecessor, Against Each Other, I noticed, that with the new release you left behind some elements, such as growls and violin tunes. What was the reason for that slight change of direction?
J.K.: I must say that we didn't plan that at all. This third album of ours just came out naturally and we weren't thinking of those features. We didn’t plan, for example, to leave the growls out. Somehow the more melodic style of singing felt to fit with these songs better. We also used some female vocals on the previous albums, but this time we just wanted to emphasize Toni's vocals. There's actually some quite high singing on the background in many songs done by Toni, not by females! We were actually going to use violins in "Freaked", but the timetable became too tight for the recordings and so we decided to add some other elements to it. I think that the result is good like that and maybe not so obvious.
Ines: Well, as I said in the review, my favourite track is definitely “Freaked” and I love it as it is, so I'm glad you left that way! Who played the violin on Against Each Other though?
J.K.: It was Dmitry "Casper" Rhisko from Dominia. It’s a Russian based band. They are our good friends and we've thrown some gigs together in Finland and in Russia.
Ines: Dominia, never heard of that band before. What kind of genre are they playing?
J.K.: Melodic death metal with symphonic features.
Ines: I could've figure. I will definitely check this band out. I asked because, especially on “Serene”, I heard some similarities between that violin tune and what Pete Johansen did with The Sins Of Thy Beloved.
J.K.: Ah, OK, cool. Yeah, we gave that clip to Casper and just told him to go crazy and do whatever he’d like to do with it. There's also Dominia’s singer Anton Rosa on that track singing the growls. It was a great moment when we played that song live in Finland with them!
Ines: That’s impressive; I love the idea that you didn't put any limits on his performance!
J.K.: Yeah…. Artistic freedom! 
Ines: Seams like you've established some collaboration. Did any member of BLD perform with Dominia at any point?
J.K.: Yes, Toni was performing once with Dominia in St. Petersburg.
Ines: Cool. So any other bands you'd perhaps mention that deserve some more recognition, you've played with on live shows?
J.K.: Well, we have played many times with Turmion Kätilöt, which is something we appreciate a lot.
Ines: If we return to your recent release now: on Death By A Thousand Cuts you featured a song, "Syviin Vesiin", in your mother tongue - Finnish - for the first time. Any special reason for that?
J.K.: We wanted to surprise our fans. Also the Finnish just felt to fit the song perfectly. Toni made the lyrics in Spain, so maybe he was a bit homesick at that time.
Ines: How are you satisfied with the reviews and acceptance from the fans?
J.K.: I'm happy with the feedback. I think we finally managed to make an album that splits the opinions. Some reviewers have hated it and some have loved it. Feedback from fans has been only positive. But usually, people tend to give the positive feedback and keep the negative inside them, so you never know.
Ines: Well, you can't have it all and after all, it's just a matter of taste and opinion. You've got a new video in the coming, any words on what we can expect from it?
J.K.: Yeah it's coming out, hopefully, very soon. It's been edited right now. We've been really happy about our previous two official videos, which were done by Jesse Jokela's crew, and now this third video is also done by the same crew. We were amazed about the quality of the preparations and the things this crew did during the three days, when they filmed it. So we believe this video will turn out to be really cool and can't wait to see some material from it! The fire-element is used a lot in the video, which is quite expected since the song is titled “On Fire”. There's a house in flames, firemen and little kid lost in the fire. Stunning piece I believe!


Ines: Can't wait! I know this is still in process now and hasn't been released yet, but still, are you planning any other videos for any other songs?
J.K.: Not right now. If it was up to us, we'd make a video for every song from this album. But, because we are an independent band, we pay everything from our own pockets.
Ines: Interesting you mention that, because when we were uploading the review, we usually add a link to the record label, and couldn't find Raw Entertainment anywhere. So, that's like, "your" label?
J.K.: Yeah, Raw Entertainment is the label owned by our band members. It is used to release our albums; we don't release anything else with this label. So we don't feel like we need to advertise it or have a website for this company.
Ines: Ok, so you have no intent to sign any other bands?
J.K.: Nope, not at all.
Ines: Have you or your band mates ever thought of doing a side project or a solo project perhaps?
J.K.: I haven't, because this band keeps me busy. There have been some side projects done by other members. For example, Toni was singing some years in a band called The Closed.
Ines: After a successful release, can we expect a tour?
J.K.: Not right now. We have done some smaller tours in European countries, but now we are looking for possibilities to arrange something a bit more professional and for a longer period of time. At the moment we don't have anything planned. But we hope we find the right connections to be able to tour outside Finland.
Ines: From the countries you’ve already performed in live, which had the "wildest" crowd?
J.K.: It was Spain, absolutely! We had a lot of fun in there and the crowd was great! We got a feeling our music hit them real hard; we'd love to get some bigger gigs in that country.
Ines: And in contrast, the most passive audience?
J.K.: Hmm, I can’t tell. We appreciate any crowd, small or large. It's also OK not to jump around or head bang with the music. You can just sit back and enjoy too.
Ines: It's true. But I can't really imagine not being totally struck by your explosive energy. I see by the pics that you put on quite a show, using pyrotechnics for example.
J.K.: Yes that's true. Our shows are known to be really energetic, and we like it like that.
Ines: Have you ever been compared to Rammstein, as they are known for their bombastic live performances?
J.K.: Hmm, not by the live performances. I think we are quite different at the stage, more hyperactive.
Ines: Wow! You must be really wild then!
J.K.: Hehe.
Ines: Any particular country you'd like to visit and go on stage, which you haven't already?
J.K.: Any country would be great. Slovenia of course!
Ines: Well, of course! Any particular bands you'd like to tour with?
J.K.: You mean like bigger bands?
Ines: Yes, bigger bands that usually attract a massive crowd or any band that you personally really like.
J.K.: In Finland we like to tour with Fear Of Domination, Turmion Kätilöt and Proteus. As for bigger bands: I think that Nine Inch Nails' or Rammstein's fan-base would be great for us too.
Ines: I can imagine they'd love you. Some probably already do! Now if we go back to the core of BLD and your song writing, what inspires you the most when you're in the process of song writing?
J.K.: For me it feels that the creative process starts the best when something different, new and exciting is happening around me, or if I read about something interesting. And of course hangover is a really good state of mind for song writing
Ines: Really? Hangover?
J.K.: Yea, it works! It puts me in a creative state of mind.
Ines: Does Finnish liquor contain some sort of magic potion in it?
J.K.: He he, yea, they put a secret ingredient in it. But I can't tell you more, because then I'll have to kill you!
Ines: Well, no need to go there; just bring some with you when you come to Slovenia.
J.K.: OK, deal!
Ines: Has it ever occurred that when you brought an idea the band didn't like it at all?
J.K.: Yes, it has. But if it happens, it happens for a reason. Can't nail it every time.
Ines: If that occurs, do you work on the idea together or do you toss it and leave it?
J.K.: Sometimes I may mould it; sometimes I sleep over night and realize they were right.
Ines: Can you tell us a little bit about your musical background before the goth band and BLD?
J.K.: I was forced to piano lessons as a kid. I hated it, and finally maybe after a year I was able to change to sports. So I had a ten year break from playing any instrument. I started again when I bought my first synth when I was 17 years old. Then I was quickly asked to join Ancient Drive. So I've mostly learned to play on my own, but I've taken some piano lessons from time to time.
Ines: So which is your favourite BLD song or the song you're most proud of?
J.K.: At the moment it's maybe “Under The Knife”, probably because it’s a new song. But from previous albums I’d also say “Walls Inside Us” and “For All You Heavy-Hearted”. One from each album.
Ines: You also incorporated a cover of “Self Control”, originally by Laura Branigan, on Against Each Other. In my opinion, it’s a really great cover and goes with your sound very well: why did you choose this song to cover?
J.K.: We asked our fans to throw in some ideas for the cover on our Facebook profile. We got many suggestions, but it was actually the very first one of those suggestions that we picked, so it was “Self Control”. Funny thing about that: when "Self Control" was suggested to us, I first thought that it meant something like “control it yourself and don't ask your fans about it”. It took me two weeks or so, before I realized that it was a song name for the suggestion, ha ha.
Ines: Interesting, I like the idea of asking the fans about it and them being involved in your decisions. Do you plan to do any more covers in the future and is there maybe any particular song you'd like to cover?
J.K.: Yeah, we have some plans for the next cover, but I can't tell you it just yet.
Ines: Ok, maybe just a hint? Is it a widely known song? Because “Self Control” was an international hit song so I can't imagine anyone not knowing it.
J.K.: I think this song, which we are planning at the moment, is well known. But it's a much newer song than “Self Control”.
Ines: Can't wait! So it's not going to be “Rebel Yell” or “Enjoy The Silence” either I assume? I’m just thinking out loud here, because those two songs have had many covers.
J.K.: No, not either of them. That I can reveal already. It originates from different genre, maybe more pop, I might say. We'll of course twitch it to more “metallish” version.
Ines: Great, I love it when pop songs get an edgy cover! So Janne, we talked about BLD and your music career and so on, but tell me, what's rolling on your music player lately?
J.K.: Well to mention some: Pain, Turmion Kätilöt, Combichrist, Muse, Eisbrecher, Ulver, Samael, Pendulum…. There are many of them.
Ines: I definitely need to check this Turmion Kätilöt band, because you and I seem to have quite similar music taste, so I'm assuming I'll like it. And, for our readers to get to know you better: what do you do when you're not busy with BLD & music?
J.K.: Well, this thing isn’t giving me or any of us enough income, so we all have regular day jobs. I’m an entrepreneur on IT.
Ines: Do you have any pets?
J.K.: Nope.
Ines: No cats composing melodies on your piano at night?
J.K.: Yea, luckily not!
Ines: Do you hope BLD will become big enough so it will be your one and only source of steady income?
J.K.: Yes of course, that would be just perfect! But it's really difficult to get there. And it would need a lot of resources too.
Ines: I can imagine. How can we – fans- help? Do you have a web shop for your merchandise?
J.K.: Yes, we have a and online shop on our official website: http://www.bld.fi/shop/. But what we appreciate the most is, when our fans introduce our music to their friends, share our music or maybe ask radio stations to play it and local organisers to invite us to do live shows. So that is a way to help without spending any money!
Ines: We'll spread the word! Janne, at this point I'd like to thank you again so much for your time and cooperation. And also big thanks to Sabine, who somehow found me and sent me your promo! Famous last words?
J.K.: I’d just like to say thank you also very much, for taking your time to share our story. I think the rest has all been said during the interview!

(Photos copyright by Mihail Tretjakov, Ville Tuominen, Kristina Kaunisaho)

Black Light Discipline links: Official website, Facebook