Heavy band Teräsbetoni unfazed over stigma from Eurovision entry victory
For record companies, Eurovision is these days a talent contest
By Jussi Ahlroth
The “Tampere martial metal”, or “heroic metal” (the genres on offer are many) band Teräsbetoni - the name translates as “[Steel-]Reinforced Concrete” - is not ruffled by the thought that it might become adversely branded after winning the Finnish Eurovision Song Contest qualifiers at the weekend.
Not long ago, the Nightwish composer and keyboards player Tuomas Holopainen commented his relief that the band had not been chosen as the Finnish ESC entry in 2000 (they finished runners-up), as otherwise Nightwish might have been instantly pigeon-holed and branded, as - in his view - has unfortunately happened with Lordi, the Song contest winners in Athens in 2006.
“We’ve had two strong-selling albums. This is just one more channel for taking the music forward”, declares Teräsbetoni’s singer-bassist Jarkko Ahola.
“I don’t believe that this is going to erode our fans’ interest in the band. If it does, then we’ll withdraw into our shells for a bit and come back later.”
Ahola also suggests that “Mr. Lordi is very grateful for the attention the band has received, whether there is a label attached to it or not.”
Teräsbetoni are certainly not short of a following. The four-man outfit’s previous album Vaadimme metallia (“We Demand Metal”, June 2006) has sold gold, even if it did not quite match up to the platinum sales of the 2005 release Metallitotuus (“Metal Truth”).
If the record company know their onions in the marketing department, then this Eurovision win should ensure that the latest offering Myrskyntuoja (“Stormbringer”), scheduled for release later this month, should outdo both of them.
At least this is the view of Niko Nordström, the CEO of Warner Music Finland. He confirms that the ESC has now rather cleansed its earlier rank reputation.
“The general atttitude to the Eurovision Song Contest amongst the artists is pretty good right now.”
The Warner Music stable had Teräsbetoni, Jippu, and Cristal Snow representing them in the Finnish finals.
In the case of Jippu, their career has been taking off nicely well before the entry went in; Eurovision is merely seen as a means of marketing.
“These days the Eurovision Song Contest is an excellent forum for bands to move forwards both nationally and internationally. In the case of Teräsbetoni, the focus has hitherto mainly been on the domestic market”, says Nordström.
He argues that the victory by Lordi was a turning-point.
“There’s no doubt that it changed a lot of things. Winning now is seen as a greater opportunity than it once was.”
One of the other finalists on Saturday, Crumbland, are represented by the small indie label Terra. The company’s founder Jacob Ehrnrooth reported that they had no problems in responding to the invitation to compete from the Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE.
“We came to the conclusion that taking part would not hurt the band’s street-cred. The ESC is these days more of a talent contest than anything else.”
Crumbland’s bassist Antti Pylkkänen was decked out for the show in a T-shirt that read “Massive Publicity”. It was not just an inside joke, but also expresses what the band are primarily seeking from the competition.
“The effects are visible already”, says Ehrnrooth. More gigs have been booked and the band’s asking price has gone up - and all because of Eurovision.
After the show on Saturday night, the Teräsbetoni foursome showed up at the post-contest press conference in relaxed rock-star mode and clearly with a few drinks under their belt. The band members announced that in the post-Lordi era, Eurovision had become “above all a show contest, in which the actual numbers being played were of lesser importance”.
Amidst all the slapdash cool of Saturday night, the band promised to handle their press obligations in Belgrade with a bit more class and style.
“We'll certainly be very much more matter-of-fact over there. Now we’re just being idiots”, commented Ahola. The band also promised not to make any unguarded remarks on political or religious issues.
“We’d primed ourselves a fair bit beforehand. At least it was a different sort of press do”, recalled Ahola on the following morning. “We’re for the most part just a bunch who likes to have fun and to take the piss out of ourselves.”
The self-irony angle does raise the question of just how serious Teräsbetoni are about the testosterone-factor in their rather masculine heavy-metal format.
“The music, we’re serious about that and we do it as well as we possibly can, but in the lyrics department and our stage show there’s a dose of fun and self-parody. If we were up there as stiff as a poker, who’d be interested in that?”
The basic dramatic tension in the Teräsbetoni set-up is just this toing-and-froing across the line between serious and screwball. Equally, some of the band’s fanbase have their fists in the air for real, while others are just along for a laugh and the ride.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 3.3.2008
More on this subject:
Teräsbetoni take narrow win in Finnish Eurovision finals
COMMENT: What will Europe make of "Huh Hah"?
BACKGROUND: Finland’s entry will take part in the first semi-final on May 20th
Serbian organisation on schedule
Previously in HS International Edition:
Serbian ballad wins Eurovision Song Contest - Belgrade hosts in 2008 (14.5.2007)
Lordi and Hard Rock Hallelujah bring it home after more than 40 years (22.5.2006)
JUSSI AHLROTH / Helsingin Sanomat