INTERVIEW WITH TEMPLE BALLS BASSIST JIMI VÄLIKANGAS
Date: May 3, 2021
Photos: Courtesy of Temple Balls; First photo by Kristian Heat Reuter from Reuter Music & Photography
FINNISH ROCKERS TEMPLE BALLS CONSIST OF LEAD VOCALIST ARDE TERONEN, GUITARISTS JIRI PAAVONAHO AND NIKO VUORELA, BASSIST JIMI VÄLIKANGAS AND DRUMMER ANTTI HISSA. THE GROUP JUST RELEASED ITS THIRD STUDIO ALBUM ‘PYROMIDE’ VIA FRONTIERS MUSIC SRL ON APRIL 16, 2021. TEMPLE BALLS’ PREVIOUS ALBUM ‘UNTAMED’ FINISHED AT #5 ON THE SLEAZE ROXX’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2019. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH VÄLIKANGAS TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ONE OF THE BEST “NEW” UPCOMING BANDS — TEMPLE BALLS.
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your new album ‘Pyromide’ and thank you for doing that live stream album release listening party the other day. I got a chance to listen to the album and it’s really good on a first listen! How did you come up with the idea for the live stream album release listening party and how do you think that it went?
Jimi Välikangas: Thank you! We really wanted to do a real album release show, but the current situation didn’t let us to do so obviously. We felt we needed to do something and playing ‘Pyromide’ from top to bottom with our fans felt like the best option under these circumstances. It went just as good as you can imagine when there are five musicians trying to sound smart [laughs]! Overall, it was a nice way to drop the new album out given the current circumstances.
Sleaze Roxx: Temple Balls mentioned during the album release show that you thought that your new album ‘Pyromide’ is a cross between your first two records. Was this a conscious decision or just how it came out?
Jimi Välikangas: That’s right! We always do what feels right at the moment. We’re not trying to push our stuff consciously to some direction. We just create music that we think can be released under the name ’Temple Balls’.
Sleaze Roxx: How long did it take you to create ‘Pyromide” from start to finish and did the Covid restrictions have an impact in that regard?
Jimi Välikangas: We started writing this one right away after the release of ‘Untamed.’ We worked with the songs for more or less two years. The oldest ideas are actually from the writing process of ‘Untamed.’ The Covid situation kind of gave us extra time. If you have to stay at home, it’s easy to grab your guitar and start to spit out blazing hot riffs. This album felt extra nice to make. When we started putting ‘Pyromide’ together, we were full of energy and in super tight playing mode after the two European tours and shitload of shows.
Sleaze Roxx: I understand that Jona Tee played keyboards and provided some backing vocals on the first album ‘Traded Dreams.’ How did Jona end up producing the second album and what has he added to the band as a producer?
Jimi Välikangas: Tobias Lindell, who produced our debut album, told us that he knows a guy from Sweden who could add a few keyboard tracks to the album. Jona played keys and those tracks sounded perfect. With ‘Untamed’, we wanted to try something new and we bounced ideas about producers. I remembered Jona and after a short visit on Google, I realized that he has produced stuff already. Our manager contacted Jona and he was on board right away. Soon, he was in Finland and we understood that we’ve found a real musical genius and a guy with big heart full of rock n’ roll. Jona has pushed us over our limits. He’s a man full of ideas, but he never forces them too much to us. He’s the guy who polishes the chrome in the end, so to speak.
Sleaze Roxx: I believe that Jona is based in Sweden so how did that work for the recording of your new album, which I assume took place in Finland?
Jimi Välikangas: We did a few pre-production sessions at first — one in Sweden and one in Finland. Also this time, Niko and Jona and I did a few video call sessions which was new to us. When the actual recordings started, Jona took a flight to Finland and we headed to the country side for a three-week session. We all lived in the studio so there wasn’t that many contacts with other people, if any.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your favorite tracks off ‘Pyromide’ and why?
Jimi Välikangas: All of them [laughs]. We always release the stuff we like and if other people like it too, that’s great! At the moment, I like “Thunder From The North”, “What Is Dead Never Dies” and “Heart of A Warrior.” Then again, tomorrow I might name totally different songs [laughs].
Temple Balls‘ “Thunder From The North” video (from Pyromide album):
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] While I am sure that you were hoping that the release date of your new album would coincide with the end of Covid 19, the reality is that the virus is still a huge problem and now there are multiple variants as well. Were there any concerns or discussions about delaying the release of ‘Pyromide’ due to the ongoing Covid 19 issues?
Jimi Välikangas: That’s what we hoped for sure. We had a few discussions about delaying the release, but to be honest, no one knows how long it’s going to take to get rid of this shit. We can’t let this Covid situation stop heavy metal, so all we can do for now is to release new music.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s back up a bit. When and how did the band first form?
Jimi Välikangas: We formed this band as teenagers back in 2009. We played in the same school orchestra and Antti was so fucking bad at playing the triangle that we thought that he would make a good rock n’ roll drummer. Our first own song came out in a kind of a weird way, I tried to play “Hell Bent For Leather” by Judas Priest and fucked it up so badly, it eventually formed into a new song. We started playing every show we were able to get and spam all the people in the industry with endless amount of e-mails. After a few line-up changes and a management deal, the band found its current form and things started to get more serious. We got shows outside of Finland in good company and got new deals. Now the ball is rolling and growing, so to speak.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you guys come up with your band name Temple Balls?
Jimi Välikangas: I took the name from Andy McCoy’s autobiography ’Sheriff McCoy’ when I was a kid. Back then, I thought it sounds cool and I still do. Many people are saying that it’s a bad name, but fuck ’em! In rock n’ roll, you can be whomever you want and call yourself whatever you like and that makes it invincible compared to other genres, right?
Sleaze Roxx: Right! I was surprised to find out that Temple Balls recorded its debut album in Thailand. How did that come about and how was that experience like?
Jimi Välikangas: The idea about recording an album in Thailand came from Tobias Lindell, who produced our debut. Tobias lives in Thailand these days, so he tossed this idea to our management. Recording in Thailand was like a dream come true. We had a world class studio, a pool, beer and even our own driver and chef. We went to see places around there after the recording days, and to be honest, Thailand is kind of a great place to party!
Sleaze Roxx: Why haven’t you returned to Thailand to record your subsequent albums?
Jimi Välikangas: We’ve done our last two albums in the Finnish countryside in Studio 57 and there’s something magical in that place. Every time we enter the studio, it feels like coming home. Recording in Thailand was awesome, but now we’re working with Jona, so we don’t have a particular reason to record in Thailand.
Sleaze Roxx: Every Temple Balls album has a cover with some sort of temple theme on it. I think it’s a really cool idea. What has been the inspiration for or idea behind each of your album covers?
Jimi Välikangas: When it comes to album covers, our inspiration comes from bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, etc. We really love classic heavy metal album art work and we always want to use a real artist instead of promo pictures or something like that. The temple will always be on our album covers, but in the future, we might see it in many different kinds of environments. We’ve used the same artist on all of our album artworks. Jan Yrlund from Darkgrove Design always nails it. So basically, the inspiration behind our album covers is art.
Temple Balls‘ “T.O.T.C.” video (from Pyromide album):
Sleaze Roxx: What is something about each band member that people might not necessarily know?
Jimi Välikangas: I don’t know if my answers are interesting, but here you go! Arde has played bass on Shiraz Lane and he loves snakes. Jiri is a car maniac. He loves fast and loud cars. Jimi and Antti are passionate fly fishing dudes. Niko idolizes Paul Stanley so much that his chest hair started to grow extra much.
Sleaze Roxx: I don’t know about that last one [laughs]. I find that usually in a band, each member takes on additional responsibilities such as one might be in charge of the tour bookings, one might be in charge of social media, etc. How does it work within your band?
Jimi Välikangas: In our band, we all do everything. Arde is the most natural with social media things, so he mostly takes care of those things. We are lucky in that sense that we don’t have to book our tours by ourselves. Our booking agency takes care of that. We usually use democracy in our band when we have to decide something. It’s a good way to avoid unnecessary fighting. So we haven’t shared any kind of roles. Maybe we have those more unconsciously.
Sleaze Roxx: You had the chance to tour for six weeks in I believe late 2019 with Sonata Arctica. What did you learn from that tour?
Jimi Välikangas: We learned how the real professionals tour. Everyone in the Sonata crew was very nice to us and we had all the same rights that Sonata had on this tour. If you’re good enough, you don’t have to push your opening acts down. It was an awesome trip with nice people, also one more dream came true. We also learned that Europe is full of good tasting beer and heavy metal fans.
Sleaze Roxx: You also did a tour with Shiraz Lane and Block Buster throughout Europe in early 2020 just before the Covid pandemic shut most countries down. How was that tour and how was it different from the Sonata Arctica one?
Jimi Välikangas: Both those bands are our friends, so it was really nice tour as well. Full of bad jokes, having fun and jamming together backstage. Also three hungry bands full of fire.
Sleaze Roxx: After listening to your album a couple of days ago, I am surprised that you haven’t released some of the more commercial tracks like your Bon Jovi sounding one as singles. How do you guys come up with which singles to release?
Jimi Välikangas: When you work with an album for two years, it’s hard to hear the whole package anymore. We couldn’t say which songs to choose, so we asked what Frontiers think and they recommended those songs. We decided to choose those, because we stand behind every song on the album.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your plans to promote your album taken into consideration the ongoing Covid 19 restrictions?
Jimi Välikangas: To be honest, I don’t know. I guess we try to be more active on social media and stuff, but heavy metal belongs on the stage. We write new stuff and hope that this shit is over as soon as possible.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question! What are your top three albums of all-time and why?
Jimi Välikangas: It’s impossible to name my all-time top three, but I can name three killer albums that have had some kind of affection to our band — Iron Maiden’s ‘Somewhere In Time’, Skid Row’s ‘Slave To The Grind’ and Hanoi Rocks’ ‘Back To Mystery City.’
Temple Balls‘ “What Is Dead Never Dies” lyric video (from Pyromide album):