Towards Asia with Bob Malmström
The journey to Asia continues. This time I talked with Carolus Aminoff from Bob Malmström to hear about their experiences of touring Asia and try to discover why Finnish metal is so popular in these countries. Bob Malmström is a Swedish-singing band that plays hardcore metal with a flavour of money and wealth and everything that pisses everyone off, since 2010. The band toured China twice, in 2014 and 2015.
The Metal Phenomenon: Where in Asia did you play and when?
Carolus Aminoff: We have done two tours in China. The first one was 3,5 weeks long and contained 15 gigs and the second one was two weeks long and it contained 10 shows. There are a few cities that we played during both tours but mostly the route was totally different the second time.
TMP: How did that come about?
CA: Well, the second time happened because of the first time. And everything that lead to the first tour is still a bit of a blur, as quite many things went down. Originally, it started like that: A Finnish band with some people we knew it asked us to join them to China for a tour. They had a Chinese guitar player and he had contacts in the east. They had been there for a few shows the year before and the promoters asked them to come back and bring some more Finnish bands over. They asked us and another band we knew. We thought it would be a 4-5 show tour. The original schedule we got has more like 20 gigs. We were surprised but we decided to do it. Flights were booked and the tour was announced and we got a lot of media attention in Finland because of it. And then, a bit more than a month before the tour, things got weird. All of a sudden we were told that we were supposed to pay for stuff that were agreed to be complimentary, like acommodations and stuff. Then the Finnish band who was behind the whole trip split up and we didn't hear from them again. Then later we got some emails that were written through Google translate where they asked if we are coming. So we went :D
TMP: How did you prepare for it?
CA: Other than having a few rehearsals and getting visas, nothing special.
TMP: Can you tell me about the experience?
CA: The people were really really friendly and almost too helpful. It was almost embarrassing when people that were 30cm shorter than us insisted on carrying our heavy luggage and we walked with our hands in our pockets. The shows were usually really really good since the Chinese people don't drink too much alcohol and they didn't need booze to be wild at the gigs. Sometimes the venues were waaay too big for a band like us, but it didn't matter so much since everyone was always in the front and throwing their fists in the air instead of standing by the mixing board with their hands in their pockets. The venues were quite typical bars and clubs with a stage and the gear was surprisingly good. That was perhaps our biggest fear since we obviously couldn't bring our entire backline.
Between the cities we traveled usually by train and then mostly with a night train. We were lucky enough to have tour personnel with us that helped us in every way. Otherwise we would have been screwed immediately. We got really used to the system with the train and carrying our huge bags in and out of them.
TMP: How did you experience the metal scene there?
CA: We didn't see much of a scene there. The people at the shows usually didn't look that metal. We saw some band shirts here and there but it was not a common sight. And we saw ONE record store in Beijing. We also didn't have that many support bands. Some people told us that it is hard for bands to play there since it is super hard to find a rehearsal space. That's why the bands we had opening for us had soundchecks that lasted forever.
TMP: How does the scene and playing a show there differ from Finland/Europe?
CA: Well, it is completely night and day compared to Finland since metal is so present everywhere here. Many of the cities where we played had hardly ever seen a metal band or western people. So the joy in their eyes was something we've never seen anywhere else.
TMP: What was your best experience there?
CA: I think all four of us would agree that the food was the best we have ever eaten. And the peoples friendliness and hospitality. And out of our top 10 gigs ever, you can guarantee that there are quite a few Chinese gigs!
Bob Malmström (Photo by Niko Mönkkönen)
TMP: What was the most difficult thing to deal with?
CA: When you are from Finland you are used to that everything goes as agreed in the gigging scene and people are quite punctual. Over there, the tour schedule changed all the time. A gig could be both cancelled and booked in short notice. That could sometimes be a bit frustrating, not knowing what's next.
TMP: What was the most surprising thing?
CA: Well, to pick a thing from the previous answer, how they could put up a gig on 24h notice and get shitloads of people to come. Imagine that happening anywhere else? I don't think so. We were supposed to have a show in Lanzhou but the promoter had just vanished, so our tour manager thought that we shouldn't take a risk and travel several hundreds of kilometers if there wasn't a show, so they set up one in a town much closer. It was a Sunday and we thought that who the hell is gonna come to the show. No one can know about this show. We were dead wrong. The locals had shared the shit of the event and through the normal jungle drum, they managed to fill the place. It was also a nightclub so it was not a tiny place. THAT, was a surprise.
TMP: Why do you think Finnish metal bands are liked so much in Asia?
CA: Hmm, tough to say. It has a lot to do with our personalities. Because most Finnish musicians are really good and friendly and fun people. And there is a contrast between looking mean and singing about death, and offstage being all hugs and kisses. We don't take each other too seriously.
TMP: What is the craziest story you still tell today about this trip?
CA: Haha. Somebody might kill me if I told you too much but let's just say that not everyone's stomach could handle the spicy food as well as the others and there was not always a place do "dispose" your food from your bowels.
Another quite interesting moment was when one of our tour managers took us to this GIGANTIC nightclub in Zhengzhou on a day off. It was in the middle of the week and it was packed. You had to go through a body scan and there were security guards with bullet proof vests everywhere. The place was really fancy and three times more expensive than a nightclub in Finland. Our tour manager said that she's buying but noticed that she forgot her credit card at the hotel. She immediately rushed out and left us waiting in the VIP section. And that was not a place where you just hung out, you needed to bring in the cash. She was away for around 30 minutes and it felt like 3 hours. We were probably a minute away from being kicked out to the curb.
TMP: What does the future hold ?
CA: 2018 is a bit calmer year since we used a lot of time and energy late last year for our first ever tour in Brazil. We're doing a few shows in Finland and in Poland during the spring and early summer. Due to certain members family responsibilities we're taking it a bit easier gigwise but that isn't preventing the new material from being made all the time. More adventures and surely more new material from late 2018 forward
Also, go to China to a town called Wuhan and try their dry spicy noodles. You will never want to eat anything else anymore after that.