“The cops caught me on a stolen snowmobile”: 13 Questions with Blind Channel’s Joel Hokka

Blind Channel man Joel faces K!’s 13 Questions, and tells tales of grand theft snowmobile, rancid fish, and his short, terrifying career as a taxi driver…

“The cops caught me on a stolen snowmobile”: 13 Questions with Blind Channel’s Joel Hokka
Nick Ruskell
Stu Garneys

Being in one of the biggest bands in his homeland, Joel Hokka is bound to have some funny stories. But even life on the road as one half of Blind Channel's vocal attack doesn't compare to the mischief it's possible to get into as a kid in the far north of Finland.

As he and his band prepare to hit the UK in support of their recent Exit Emotions album, we got to know him a bit better via the finely-tuned interrogation technique that is Kerrang!'s 13 Questions...

1What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?

“Surströmming – the Swedish fish in a can. It’s disgusting. I was forced to eat that at a house party when I was 18 years old. We used to cross the border to Sweden to buy Snus, because it was illegal in Finland, and we got this fish at the same time, because you have to try that once in your life. We got drunk at this party, and had a bet to see who ate it, which I lost. I opened the can, and the smell… it's worse than any kind of shit there is in this world. It almost made me vomit. I held my nose and took a bite, and it was absolutely disgusting.”

2Have you ever been arrested?

“No, but when I was 15 years old I got caught by the police when I was driving a snowmobile in Lapland. I took the keys from my dad without him knowing. I didn't even have a license to drive it. I went to this big field of ice near our house and just drove it so fucking fast. But I had bad luck – in Lapland there are sometimes cops on snowmobiles, and they busted me traveling at, like, 100 kilometres per hour, which is super-illegal on ice. They didn’t arrest me, but they took me home to my dad to deal with.”

3What’s the furthest Blind Channel have ever travelled for the least reward?

“This is hard, because I don’t want anyone to feel bad, but we did a show in Bulgaria with Bullet For My Valentine in what was called an arena, but the reality was that it was an outdoor stage in the middle of nowhere. It was raining like hell, and there were, like, 500 people there. We travelled for 18 hours and it took three flights to go there. The show was great, but the stage was so fucking slippery that we were almost falling over all the time. After that, we had to travel straight to a show in Spain with Slipknot, which was two flights, then 10 hours in a minibus. I’m not complaining, but that show was a lot of travelling!”

4Who’s the biggest hero you’ve ever met?

Oli Sykes, at Knotfest 2022 in Finland. It was a pretty funny accident – I went to bathroom, I went to wash my hands and I saw a very familiar guy, who I realised was him! I was super starstruck. I said, ‘Dude, I fucking love your band!’ and asked for a photo, and he was super, super humble and nice. I was so fucking happy after that. I was shaking with happiness.”

5What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?

“I have a scar on my shoulder. I’m a big fan of extreme sports, and last summer my brother and I were riding downhill bikes. I’m pretty good, I can do all the jumps on a route, but there was this one jump that has this wooden landing, which was too hard for me. I fell off over the front of the bike and ended up on the ground. I stood up, and I felt that my whole shoulder was dislocated. This guy came up and showed me how to put it back, but I had a lot of pain in my shoulder. So I went to doctor and they took MRIs and X-rays, and they were like, ‘You need to get surgery ASAP.’ We had a USA tour coming up, so I couldn’t get the surgery ’til after, so I was so careful onstage. I got the surgery and now it’s fixed, and now I have a scar, and an adrenaline molecule tattoo next to it.”

6What’s the weirdest show you’ve ever played?

“It was in the UK in 2016, we played in this small theatre, almost what you’d have for a puppet show. It was a showcase in Camden. We played at noon, super early in the day, and there was, like, 15 people. It was the smallest fucking stage you can imagine, it was three metres by two metres. I think that it wasn't even built for playing concerts, but somehow we made it work.”

7What was your best subject at school?

“Art. When I was really young I would draw a lot of Marvel stuff, like Venom, Spider-Man, comic characters. I had a lot of visions in my head, and I wanted to create a new superhero of my own, or supervillain, which was more my thing. I guess art and music are similar, they stimulate the same part of your brain, but when I fell into metal I stopped that, I picked up a guitar and wanted to be the next Alexi Laiho [Children Of Bodom]. In school, though, I hated music class because they teach you how to play piano or flute. I didn't want to be part of that; I wanted to have the chaos and to rebel!”

8What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve ever bought?

“Two years ago I bought downhill bike. I think was four grand, and I had to get it delivered from the USA. My brother was like, ‘You need to get this, this is the pro model.’ It was the time where we got our first big pay cheques, so I felt like it’d be nice. After the injury, I got rid of the bike. I don't want to do it anymore. I don't want to hurt myself. I'm too old and I have too many shows to play.”

9What’s the biggest surprise luxury you’ve ever had on the road?

“At many festivals in Finland, they’ll have three backstage dressing room cabins for us, and cars to take us everywhere. They have this feeling that we are national heroes because we've been outside the Finland and we've been touring everywhere. So there's been moments when we go to the Finish festivals and everyone wants photos with us and asking, ‘What do you need? Are there any drinks or food we want?’ We’re always like, ‘Chill out. We're all good. We can go with the beer and with the wine and Red Bulls. Nothing special.’ We don’t need that – we’re humble boys from northern Finland.”

10What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

“I was a taxi driver 10 years ago. I was just out of high school and needed to make some money to pay the rent. My dad’s friend had a taxi, and my dad paid for the course so I could get the license. The last trip that I did was that taking this guy half an hour away from the centre of Oulu. He started saying things like, ‘I have this knife. I have this gun in my house. I'm super-dangerous.’ He was just drunk and he was trying to make me feel a little scared, but I was peeing my fucking pants! I called my dad and said, ‘This is it, I'm never going to do any proper job again.’ I realised after that, I need to make sure my band is going to be the biggest rock band ever because I don't want to go into that place anymore. Shout out to all the taxi drivers and Uber drivers – you're doing God's job.”

11Have you ever been in a fight?

“When I was a kid, we used to play ice hockey outside. We had this little fight with a rival team. It was more snowballs, we weren’t punching anyone in the face. But that was when I was 11 years old, never as an adult. I’ve seen fights and they’re fucking scary.”

12What’s the first concert you ever went to?

Iron Maiden and Avenged Sevenfold in Finland in 2008. It blew my mind. Avenged Sevenfold made a really big impact on me – they had make-up and they were playing the guitar solos next to each other, and M. Shadows was a super-good vocalist, and The Rev was still playing drums. It was amazing. It was a really big influence on me, for sure.”

13What was the last lie you told?

“About a month ago I needed to see someone or go into some party. I was exhausted from the album preparation and getting ready for touring and stuff, and I said I was a little sick. So I faked an illness. I would have loved to go, but I was just exhausted. The guys who had the party, they're gonna read this interview and be like, ‘You motherfucker!’ But maybe they understand. Sorry, guys!”

Blind Channel tour the UK from March 29

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