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Interviews Brainthrash

Interview with vocalist Kami Launonen

Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen

Date online: January 25, 2020

Interview photos used with permission from Kami Launonen, Mikael Rutonen, Jere Kortelainen and Olga Davydova

Brainthrash, as the name may suggest, is a Thrash Metal band formed in 2005 in Finland that has been making a name for itself over the past few years. Musically, the band members surely adore the Bay Area sound if their very promising debut album, Brain Rangers, is any indication. Early Exodus, early Metallica and especially Vio-lence have undoubtedly left their mark on the brains of these Finns, there's just no question about that.

Since the release of their debut album in June 2017, Brainthrash have kept a relatively low profile, doing a few gigs here and there plus preparing songs for their follow-up outing. There are some good things brewing and The Metal Crypt decided to check in with vocalist Kami Launonen once again to find out what they have been up recently.

Some may see Kami as a bit cynical, speaking his mind about how he sees many things and giving his honest and sincere points of view on many topics.

The stage is set for Kami, so here we go!

Luxi: So, what did Santa bring you for X-mas 2019? Did you do anything special for New Year?

Kami: Not too much of a Christmas person, so nothing special happened to me during the winter solstice. Actually, I spent most of the holidays working! I wrote a couple of new riffs. The change of the "calendar year" is not a big thing, either. I'm pretty much the same person I was a week ago.

Luxi: Brainthrash's debut album, Brain Rangers, was released in June 2017 and received some flattering feedback from both the media and the fans. How satisfied are you with your debut in the beginning of 2020 now that you have more perspective and distance from it? Looking back, is there anything on the record you could have done a bit differently?

Kami: First of all, we are thankful for ALL the feedback, not just the positive! Sometimes negative reviews are the most useful. Still, I think we got treated pretty well. Lots of 7/10, 8/10 and 4/5 reviews. If you consider 10/10 Thrash Metal albums to be Kill 'Em All and Reign in Blood-level, rating Brain Rangers 10/10 would simply be lying. Then again, the next album is another story!

It's hard to be neutral about Brain Rangers. I think we did a good job with the production and technically. If I got to change it now, I'd drop off one or two songs to make it a tighter package. However, "post-speculating" is useless. We did the absolute best we could at the time.

For us, the importance of the release was mostly psychological. Some bands get frustrated if they're unable to release their two or three-year-old songs right away. For us it took 12 (fukken) years! Now the "table is empty", so to speak. I like this situation!

Luxi: How would you sum up the years between 2017 and 2019 for Brainthrash? Do you think those two years were successful for the band or is there something that still bugs you that didn't happen the way you originally (and secretly) wished for?

Kami: It depends on the comparison. For a "normal" band with a record deal and no school/job obligations, it would a pathetic performance. However, for Brainthrash it was probably the best of all times.

We had three releases (album, single and music video), solidified our line-up and did close to 10 live shows. Of course, more shows would've been nice, but on the other hand, if you play live rarely, the significance of the event is bigger.

Luxi: You undoubtedly have a bunch of new songs ready for your second full-length outing. Would you mind telling us something about this new material? Do these new songs continue with the same Thrash Metal legacy that was present on your debut or do you have a couple of new and unexpected twists and turns this time?

Kami: Yes and no. Some of the stuff is very dark and twisted, even technical. One of the songs sounds like (old) Coroner. On the other hand, one of them is old-school speed metal in the vein of old Whiplash and Exciter (?). I cannot promise you will like it, but what I can promise is this; our second album is going to be something different!

Luxi: In February 2019, the band released a teaser video for the song, "La Jetée", a frenzied and very riff-driven Thrash Metal song the harnesses the true Bay Area style (damn, those riffs... Vio-lence?). How much extra exposure did you receive by putting that video out? Releasing videos is a very good way to promote your band these days...

Kami: It is hard to say since we didn't have a "plan", but I don't think it hurt, either.

We had this new song and didn't know what to do with it. With luck we found a gifted director (Niikka Makkonen) and a nice visual concept. I think Niikka did an excellent job with the budget (0e) he had to work with. We love the result. If somebody finds Brainthrash through the video, it makes us ultra-happy

Luxi: Can you tell us what is this song is about and where did you get the idea for shooting the video in some sort of abandoned mine (the section where the full band is present)?

Kami: It's all about sci-fi movies! The song is named after a French classic from 1962 and the lyrics are sort of a remake of 12 Monkeys (1995), which is one of the best movies ever made. We wanted the video look like a Tarkovski-esque post-nuclear war sci-fi movie and the abandoned mine in Outokumpu (near our hometown Kuopio) served as a perfect setting.

Luxi: You are about the only Thrash Metal band in Finland currently that plays a Bay Area type of Thrash. Do you see this as an advantage or a challenge for the band?

Kami: I don't really think about that. I just try to make music as good as possible.

Luxi: In 2018 the drummer's seat was taken by a guy named Vili Härkönen (also in Nibiru Ordeal). What did he bring to the band, besides his obvious skills at handling the drum batteries in the band? Do you see the band working nowadays as a unit? Have things gotten easier for the band on any level over the past few months now you have a new drummer in your ranks?

Kami: He's an excellent, skilled and musical drummer, but most importantly, he's a great team player. We get along well and the chemistry in the band has never been better.

Luxi: Playing gigs is, without a doubt, one of the things that keep a band going. How does 2020 look for the band so far gigging-wise? Also, without a shadow of doubt, getting slots for festivals is an important way to get as much recognition as possible. You just never know when there will be some label guy in the audience who might be impressed by your live performance. As you guys already have one album done, do you think you can use it as a sort of "promotional kit" for getting some festivals gigs?

Kami: We're constantly trying to shape up in that department, haha! Earlier we didn't have any masterplan. If somebody asked us to play, we said yes. Unless we were short a drummer or guitarist (almost always).

However, 2020 is going to be a year with some sort of a "strategy" for live bookings, promotion, live videos, releases, etc. Let's see how that works out!

There's really no place on earth (and especially other planets) we wouldn't play. If someone calls me from Wembley stadium, I'll take the gig. Still, there is a limit in how many shows per year we can do, at least for now. One per month (approx.) would be a good pace at this point. Follow us on Facebook and stay informed on Brainthrash live stuff!

Luxi: You mentioned to me that you met the guys of Vio-lence at the Alcatraz Festival in Belgium last year. What kind of "eye-opening" experience was it for you to see the level a Thrash Metal band can actually reach, like in Vio-lence's case?

Kami: Well, not that big in a sense that it was a festival built for extreme metal music. But to experience Vio-Lence live was something I just couldn't afford to miss in this lifetime. In 2001—when they previously reunited—I had just learned about the band and blasted Eternal Nightmare eight hours a day! Sadly, the USA was too far away for me back then. For 18 years I secretly (and publicly) waited and hoped for another reunion. When the news came, I couldn't believe my ears; a reunion and a show in EUROPE! "That's it. I'm traveling to Belgium with horse and carriage if necessary". Since I rarely go to see any live shows these days, it made the trip extra special. The whole experience was kind of a pilgrimage and search for the holy grail.

Also, we were lucky enough to catch the whole band in front of a kebab place the next night. As expected, the guys were funny and down-to-earth. I've never met any of my "idols" before, so it was weird. I found myself taking pictures, Japanese tourist-style, and acting like an 11-year-old girl after a Spice Girls concert. Being a grown man and all... Oh well.

Luxi: Speaking of Vio-lence, you have also chosen to play their song "Officer Nice" live from time to time. You are known as a big fan of the band, so I suppose it was a no-brainer for you guys to pick up this semi-legendary Vio-lence tune?

Kami: Yes. No-brainer.

Luxi: I assume people have paid attention to your unique stage persona; the peaked cap, sunglasses and denim vest covered by tons of band patches. Some have referred you to The Village People, Boy George, and stuff like that, but with a Metal twist. Did you want to do something different with your stage persona compared to other "ordinary" Thrash Metal musicians, especially in a live situation?

Kami: I love The Village People! But then again, I love Rob Halford, too. Let's just say that at least one of those might have had something to do with my style choice ;)

Luxi: In a bigger and wider picture, what do you hope the band can accomplish in 2020? What's on the wish/to-do list of the band?

Kami: We really don't have "big" goals, like a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame membership or a million albums sold. If we get a full-length studio album recorded and somebody wants to release it, that's enough for 2020.

Still, I'm pretty happy just to be able to play and record the music that I love. No record sales, media reviews or money can ever compete with that.

Luxi: What things have you learned about becoming successful and staying true to your roots as part of your band? Work your ass off for your dreams and never take things for granted, eh?

Kami: I never became successful in any way, so can't tell you about that, haha!

Kidding aside, as a band member I've learned a lot and still have learning to do. Some people say they got lucky with their band members. I don't quite buy that. Forming a good band is more skill (set of skills, actually) than luck, because before "success" (whatever that means), you need the band to function as a team and unit.

Being in a serious band is like being in a domestic relationship with five different people. It's the everyday stuff that matters; carrying your gear into the rehearsal place at 05:00 a.m. in -20 weather, waiting five hours in a hallway (which is the band's backstage reality for every band other than Bon Jovi) and then doing a show for 10 people in some hell-hole. You really need to survive that first. Then again, if you truly love what you do and have a good team, it's not that bad. You might even get paid to play some day!

So, granddaddy's advice to young musicians; make sure you like the guys you play with. Everything good comes out of that!

Luxi: Well, I think I got it all covered for this interview. Thank you, Kami, for taking your time with my questions and all the best to you and your band in the future. I will leave the last commentary for you now, so just go ahead if you have anything else in your mind...

Kami: "I'm too old for this shit." —Roger Murtaugh

Other information about Brainthrash on this site
Review: Brain Rangers
Interview with vocalist Kami Launonen on February 1, 2013 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)

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