Amorphis interview (07/2008)
|With:||Esa Holopainen (guitars), Tomi Joutsen (vocals)|
|Conducted by:||Ivor (in person)|
Conducted in person at Hard Rock Laager 2008 festival in Vana-Vigala, Estonia, on 28th June 2008.
After inquiring from the organizers, Draconic to be precise, multiple times about the interview I was finally told that it's indeed possible to chat with Amorphis guys. I was called in right before Metsatöll started, the last act before Amorphis on the main stage. I was taken to the VIP area to the left of the stage and we decided to talk in the band's van to find a bit of quiet. Luckily, Metsatöll delayed for about 15 minutes, so I had a great chat with two friendly and laid-back guys – Esa and Tomi. Recorder in one, paper with scribbled questions in the other hand I gave the interview a go... and I wasn't the first one to ask a question...
Esa: How's the festival been doing?
Uh, so far? It's a bit wet today.
Other than that it's pretty cool. Not as big as other European festivals but seems to be cool!
Esa: Yeah, but it's nice. The location is nice.
Ah, where shall I start? Well, your album has been out for about a year. What are the reactions so far and how has it been received in different parts of the world?
Esa: Really nice! It's been good response. Pretty much the same what we got with "Eclipse" and this time the album is a bit more varying. So, I don't know if it takes a bit more time to get used to with the album. But it's been good, nice response.
This album hit gold in Finland. At Metal Storm we have Awards where users can vote for the best albums, and your album won in Heavy Metal category.
Esa: That's nice to hear!
Tomi: Oh, really?
Yeah, we were ourselves very pleased with that great choice. But how does success feel to you and what has success changed?
Tomi: I think it was time for the guys to get gold album because of what they have done so many years in this scene, played for so many years. So, I was really happy for them. For me it was of course one goal, in a way, but it's not so big a deal for me. Of course it's good to have, that you know that people like your band and stuff like that. But it's not the most important thing. I guess it was a really big thing for the whole band because they had made a really long and nice career.
You have been in the band for three years now, right?
Tomi: Yeah. Something like that.
You have released two albums. What is the biggest change that you brought about to this band?
Tomi: I don't know. Maybe one thing is that I wanted to use growls, again. Because I really like that kind of music and I've done it many years. So, it was quite natural thing for me and I was really pleased that I had an opportunity to use growls again. I don't know... I guess I'm a little bit younger than the other guys, so maybe I brought some kind of energy or something like that.
Esa: I think the main thing what Tomi brought was, as he said, the new energy, or the old energy back to ourselves. Guess we really, I don't know, got bored with everything but when Tomi joined the band we really started to open our ears and eyes again to our music. We started to rehearse some of the old songs, wanted to take some old songs for the set-list, with growling vocals. And it was actually pretty fun, everybody liked to play again the old songs. That was like, you know, finding the old spirit again and we started to think about the themes and ideas for the new songs that quite naturally became more heavier and a bit more, I think, oriented to our old music.
You said about choosing songs. How do you choose songs for a concert or a festival?
Esa: It becomes harder and harder every year, you know, when you release more and more albums. Especially if you play an average festival show you play like an hour. Tonight we play a bit more. But it's really hard if you have to choose, like, 11 or 12 songs and you have this many albums. We want to play something from each album, so it becomes quite tricky. We try to avoid repeating ourselves too much, so we try to change set-lists occasionally. There are some of the songs which we obviously play every show but on the other hand we try to change some of the songs. That's good but still it's hard if you have to pick few songs from this many albums.
When you release an album generally you make a tour to promote it, right? How do you cope with crowds that expect you to play really old stuff? When you try to promote you try to play as many new songs as possible, right?
Tomi: Actually we don't play so much.
Esa: No, we don't play that much.
Tomi: Yeah, maybe we have, if we are playing, like, one hour and a half, we have maybe three songs from latest album and then we play like three songs from "Tales..." album and...
So, basically you don't have the problem of that kind?
Tomi: No, no.
Esa: No, as I said we try to play something from every album. We try to play fair, songs from "Elegy" or "Tales..." or "Eclipse" or "Silent Waters."
Which do you like to play more, a small gig for, let's say 100, maybe 200 people, or a big festival for a couple of thousands?
Esa: I think a good club is the best. If you can play in a club which brings a thousand people perhaps – it's a good size – then you can push for the visual side of the band as well, have good lights and have a good show. Too small clubs – I think for 100 or 200 people – that gets too intense, you can't really focus on any visual side.
Tomi: Yeah, and many times the stage is also small, it's really difficult to move at, do the good show.
Esa: But good club, one thousand people, that's really nice. I think we prefer that more than playing in big festivals.
Tomi: And if you play in club it's always dark. If you play festival like Wacken you play in the middle of the day, it's like Sun is shining and stuff like that.
I saw you last year playing at Ankkarock in Finland. You were pretty much in the middle of the day. How often do you headline festivals and how big are those festivals generally?
Esa: The ones we headline are usually not that big, I think. Well, this is pretty typical what we do if we headline a festival. Then we have good festivals that we do like packages where you can bring quite good amount of people and you have shared bills with few bands. Then of course the problem is when you do big festivals with a lot of different kinds of music. At the end of the day you end up in the daytime, like 3 or 4 o'clock and then you suffer with sunlight. It doesn't bother us but on the other hand it makes you feel like, you know, you can't really get everything from yourself when you know the Sun is shining and it's not dark.
Tomi: Yeah, maybe in many cases it's better to play 10 o'clock in the evening than 1 o'clock in the night because people have seen 12 bands or something like that and they are really drunk and they are maybe a bit tired. Stuff like that. So, sometimes it's better to play a little bit earlier.
Does it bother you when people that come to the festival they maybe don't come exactly for you. They stand aside, in the back, drink beer, talk much. Does it bother you?
Esa: No, not really. Because on the other hand for us as well the whole festival is like the happening when you meet friends. For the bands it's the same thing. You go out for festivals, you meet other bands. It's like a happening where you meet bands and people that you don't meet in the other seasons and Summer is quite the time that brings all the people together.
Tomi: And good example is when we played at Tavastia and it was packed. And all the audience were only standing and listening to music. There wasn't any headbanging, there wasn't any moshpit and stuff like that but they really enjoyed the show. So, I guess our audiences they really are into music and they really want to listen to music.
You have a tour coming up in America. In which way does American tour differ from European tour?
Esa: I think it's always like a challenge when you go to America. You never know what to expect there. And it's like... America is following up European music a lot and it's very different scene there.
Tomi: Lots of bands.
Esa: Lot of bands, yeah. And then you have very nice venues in the bigger cities... When you go to play in the suburbs... You never know what you are going to achieve. There can be like 1,500 people or there can be like 150 people. You never know.
Yeah, many bands say that it is a challenge to go to America and to score like 200 people is maybe a good show.
Esa: Yeah, and those are the evenings you start to think does it make it worth...
Tomi: It's like Tuesday evening and you're playing...
Tomi: ... for little crowd.
Yeah, probably that does matter which day of the week.
Tomi: Yeah, and it's our job, we try to be professional and have a good show.
What has been your longest show?
Esa: Longest show? I remember when – this is the old days, we released "Elegy," I think – we played lot of songs. I think... (Long pause.) I think it's like 1 hour and 45 minutes, almost 2 hours. Something like this. That's too long. (Laughs.)
But what's the shortest?
Esa: Shortest one... I don't know, you know, sometimes band suffer, they are booked on the festivals, ordered or scheduled very weird. You can go on stage but you can play like four songs. That bad never happened to us but when you have a short festival then every band has to cut songs, I think these make the shows quite short. At the end of the day you play like for half an hour or something, 20-25 minutes. That's something what's really annoying, you know. Especially if you travel somewhere.... far. And then you know...
Tomi: And it's almost impossible to make a good set.
Esa: Yeah-yeah, that's impossible!
Definitely! What are your general touring emotions? I mean, have you had any bad experiences with touring?
Esa: Ah, you usually pretty much forget all the bad things. But... There are conditions, I think, we wouldn't do tours any more. Like the first American tour we did which supported Entombed in 1994 and we were travelling with this kind of van (think something along the lines of Renault Traffic) for seven weeks and really unsure about where we're going to sleep. That was really rough but we were so young at that time that it really didn't matter.
Esa: Yeah-yeah, it was adventure. Nobody knew what to expect and that you could have a tour-bus with bunks where you could sleep, you know, that was luxury, we didn't think about it. But I think those are the conditions we wouldn't go for.
OK, let's get back to "Silent Waters" album. You said in one interview that you didn't really like the "Silent Waters" video because it showed too much of your face.
Tomi: Yeah! (Laughs.) That's true!
Has your opinion changed?
Tomi: No! Not at all. I really hope we are going to make a better video in the future.
How was the video received?
Tomi: I don't know, actually, I haven't read so many things about it. But it wasn't the original plan to do. The original plan was to shoot a video on the lake but the weather was so bad that we had to go inside and make other...
Esa: ... compromise...
Tomi: Yeah! I think, in a way it's a really beautiful video, beautiful pictures and people...
Esa: Beautiful face! (Laughs.)
Tomi: Beautiful moustache! (Laughs.) But I don't like the video.
Do you have any plans for a new video?
Esa: Ah, not really, no. We have a plan, again, for a live DVD we try to film at some point. I don't know if it's going to happen this year still. So, that's likely going to be the next thing.
So, there's nothing definite for a DVD yet?
Esa: No, no actual date. I think the schedule is to release it sometime next year.
Do you have any idea where you will be filming it?
Esa: We had one idea to do it in Finland in one really nice venue but we changed the plan. So... (Laughs.) We aren't going to do it.
Tomi: And we tried to record one show, I guess it was in Germany when we toured in Europe...
Tomi: ... but something happened again. (Laughs.) It was some kind of technical problem.
Esa: Yeah, something happened...
Tomi: ... as always.
So, I gather you would like to record a show not a festival, right?
Esa: Proper show.
Tomi: With good lights and stuff like that.
What would be the best thing you offered with this DVD for crowds?
Esa: I think a lot of songs from every album. I think there's a lot of people who like the old albums and a lot of people who like the new stuff. So, something from every album and probably add some old stuff as bonus tracks, old videos, something like this.
Tomi: And I really hope there's going to be some stuff from backstage and from tour-buses. Because I know the guys have really interesting material from the past. (Both laugh.) And I think that's the most interesting thing on DVDs. (Laughs.)
When you are travelling... how many are of you in a bus at the same time?
Tomi: If we are touring alone it's like maybe 10 or 12 or something like that.
OK, 12 people. It's bound to result in lots of humour and humorous situations.
Tomi: Of course.
What are the best jokes?
Esa: You know, jokes... In the old days we had a lot of this crazy thing, you know, going naked, like playing sauna in the tour-bus, drinking absinthe and always crazy. (Laughs.)
Tomi: That's always funny in the USA because the people from America they totally don't understand...
Esa: ... getting naked... (Laughs.)
Tomi: ... getting naked. It's not funny if you ask them. (Laughs.)
Yeah! Brits probably do understand.
Tomi: I guess they are more afraid of nudity than violence. (Laughs.)
Esa: They are afraid that they become gay if they get naked. (Laughs.)
Tomi: Yeah! (Laughs.)
Your big inspiration for albums has been Kalevala. Why Kalevala?
Esa: I don't know if it started by an accident but it started when we went to Sweden to record our first album. We had some ideas for using some folk melodies for our Death Metal back then. It was weird and nice idea which seemed to work quite well. Then we came up with the idea of using some of the stories of Kalevala because the folk melody lines and lyrical themes are very well connected. So, that's how basically it started. Since then we've been developing the idea and the themes a lot. We had a point when we released "Am Universum" album, "Far From the Sun" the lyrics where pretty much all made by Pasi, our old singer. But he's always been very much influenced by the old poetry. But then when Tomi came to the band we really wanted to bring real Kalevala themes back to the music.
Will it be your future direction as well?
Esa: I think so, yes. At least for the next album.
Do you have anything definite for the next album?
Esa: Theme-wise some ideas but probably it will be sort of a concept thing, to tell one story. But that's an idea we've been thinking about. Some good ideas. There's quite a lot of music that we have written already, we haven't started to rehearse the actual songs yet, we've been exchanging quite a lot of mp3 files between each other to see how songs are probably going to look like. The crazy plan is to go to studio at the end of this year, start the recordings.
And when do you want to release it, after the DVD or before?
Esa: I don't know yet. That's something what we've been thinking as well. It depends pretty much on Nuclear Blast, how they want to do it. For us I think it's the same. Of course, when you record an album, when you have mixed the album it would be nice to release it quite soon after that. It always takes a few months for record companies to prepare the release. But for the bands it's really frustrating to start waiting, when you finish the album recordings and then wait for half a year for the release.
How's your experience with Nuclear Blast?
Esa: Great! It's a nice label 'cause we've known them for so many years. They used to licence all our albums over the Europe. There are a lot of people we've known for many many years. So, we pretty much know how they work. Good friends and reliable label, very nice.
OK, I'll try to wrap it up now. What is the thing that you'd like to see when you play a show?
Esa: Usually, you know, when you go to new places you want to see quite a lot of the town and of the country where you go. That's a good way on the tours to spend your time, to have a look at the culture and where you are and what's happening. Instead of lying on the bus.
Do you have enough time to actually check the environment?
Esa: Some places, yes. But unfortunately some of the locations, like this, if we had gotten here in the morning I don't know if we would have gone there. (Gestures uphill.) But if you go... Like today, we had a good time to check out Tallinn. Very nice!
Tomi: And of course if you go to play in new places like this it's really fun to see how the people react to your music. We don't know. I don't know how people react to our music. Actually I guess there will be some fans because we are headlining this festival. So, I guess there are some fans of Amorphis. (Laughs.)
Yeah, definitely! Where would you like to play? A place where you have not yet played.
Tomi: I guess Australia and Iceland.
Esa: Yeah! Australia, New Zealand.
But a specific place? Like, a church maybe, or a castle?
Esa: Perhaps igloo. (Laughs.) We've played in the castle in Germany, they have these old castles.
Tomi: I guess it would be nice to play in swimming hall because we love sauna and we like swimming. (Both laugh.) It would be nice to play like acoustic song in swimming hall, so we can play naked and go to sauna with a few beers.
And who's in the pool? People or you?
Tomi: (Laughs.) I guess all of us in the end.
Esa: Well, we can play in the pool and they watch us, I don't know. (Laughs.)
Tomi: Actually we played in an old circus when we were touring in Russia, like half a year ago or something like that. It was quite exotic thing. It was a circus hall from the '60s or something, really old place. You could SMELL the elephant when you entered the stage. (Laughs.) So, it was quite exotic experience.
OK, any last words for Metal Storm readers?
Esa: Thanks a lot for supporting us and choosing our album as best one.
Tomi: Yeah! Always really good!
Esa: That gives good feelings to us.
Tomi: Yes, because there are always so many good albums. It's really good to hear that we are number one! Thanks!
Sincere thanks to Esa and Tomi for the chat, to Draconic and the manager for arranging the time and especially for bringing the band over to Estonia.
Posted on 08.07.2008 by
I shoot people.
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