Blind Channel: Take a shot for the new-generation pop
Blind Channel, which combines metal, rap and pop hooks, will represent Finland at the Eurovision Song Contest in May. The band is often referred to as ’nu metal’, but ’nu generation’ might be more accurate.
The performance starts with middle fingers in the air. That’s followed by a heavy but melodic chorus, a rap interlude and a slower section featuring keyboards and scratching. The lyrics refer to living in a “pitch black paradise” and the “27 Club” of artists who died young.
Blind Channel, based in the northern city of Oulu, took this recipe to an overwhelming victory in Finland’s annual Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (UMK or New Music Contest) in February. That earned them a ticket to Rotterdam, where they will represent Finland at the Eurovision Song Contest in May.
Hard guitar rock has brought both success and failure for Finland at Eurovision in the past. Lordi resoundingly won the event in 2006, but in 2008 Teräsbetoni only placed 22nd, and in 2015 Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät didn’t make it into the final.
We figured that the UMK could be a really good thing in this situation. – Aleksi Kaunisvesi (Blind Channel)
Aleksi Kaunisvesi aka Alex Mattson, who handles Blind Channel’s samples and percussion, says that none of the band members have really paid much attention to Eurovision in the past.
“Lordi’s victory was memorable though, because we were young guys then and just starting to play music. It was a big deal.”
The decision to take part in the Eurovision qualifying competition came out a corona-era stalemate. Blind Channel had just released their third album, "Violent Pop" (2020), and booked the rest of the year full of concerts and festivals. Then everything was cancelled.
“We figured that the UMK could be a really good thing in this situation. We could get to make music and keep ourselves busy,” Mattson says.
Now they are busy. Blind Channel has started getting ready for Eurovision, including fine-tuning their performance of the song Dark Side.
“We realised after UMK that we probably had the least amount of stage sets or show elements of any of the contestants. It was good to see that our energy came through, and was strong enough in that situation. But now we’re thinking big about the show side of it, and want to offer something special at Eurovision,” says Mattson.
New generation music
Blind Channel has spurred talk of a revival of nu metal, a hybrid genre that had its heyday around the turn of the millennium. However the group differs in many ways from those that hit it big in the early 2000s, above all in how a metal band is defined.
The guys in Blind Channel are aged 23-27, so for them nu metal is not a return to lost youth but their contemporary soundtrack.
And Blind Channel does not even try to be faithful to any particular scene. The group combines rock, rap, metal, electronic elements and pop hooks, and poses in its promo pictures with the confidence of a boy band. Their mission is clear: the conquest of the pop world.
“Pop isn’t a dirty word for us. We all have different musical backgrounds, but we’re all into heavier music and pop. And we’re all good at them. International popularity is our ultimate goal, and we’re all putting everything we have into reaching that,” Mattson says.
Pop isn’t a dirty word for us. We all have different musical backgrounds, but we’re all into heavier music and pop. – Aleksi Kaunisvesi (Blind Channel)
In many ways, Blind Channel is a product of its time. The band members talk a lot about the importance of hard work in gaining success, and unlike some in the older generations of Finnish bands, they seem to have good self-esteem to push them toward their goal.
Therefore taking part in Eurovision seems logical. The band members don’t stress out about the possible stigma attached to the glitzy contest.
“We’re not afraid of any kind of label, and we don’t really even think about that. We have good, clear long-term plans. Eurovision is just one point along that path.”
It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Pop)
Blind Channel didn’t appear out of nowhere when they hit the stage at UMK. The group has been together since 2013, when two music high school students, Joel Hokka (vocals, guitar) and Joonas Porko (guitar) decided to start a band mixing together metal, pop hooks and rap. They recruited Olli Matela (basso) and Tommi Lalli (drums) from groups they’d played with previously, and found rapper/singer Niko Vilhelm Moilanen at a party where he impressed the others by rapping over a record by nu metal veterans Linkin Park.
Just a year after Blind Channel got together, they won the Wacken Metal Battle competition, earning them a gig at the massive Wacken Open Air festival in Germany. Since then the group has played more than 200 shows in dozens of countries and released three studio albums.
Blind Channel’s newest member, electronic music composer and producer Alex Mattson, joined last year. Singer-guitarist Hokka had noticed him in 2016, when Mattson released his debut single UFO feat. Solamay.
Electronic elements have brought so much more into this (...) I’ve also learned how to scratch, because that fits into this sound – Aleksi Kaunisvesi (Blind Channel)
“It might have been some remix idea that Joel first contacted me about. But we quickly dropped that when we figured out that we had exactly the same musical interests,” Mattson recalls.
“We started hanging out and making music together until last year, when the guys said ‘shouldn’t you just join the band already, since you’re here all the time anyway?’”
Mattson doesn’t think that his joining Blind Channel has changed the band’s sound radically.
“But it’s cool to see that electronic elements have brought so much more into this. In the studio we develop the electronic elements live, and then I double on percussion. I’ve also learned how to scratch, because that fits into this sound.”
Blind Channel’s future plans stretch far beyond Eurovision to full-time work as musicians and foreign gigs as soon the coronavirus situation allows.
“We’ve decided that it’s going to happen, so we believe it’s going to happen,” says Mattson.