Noumena interview (04/2007)
|With:||Antti Happanen [Vocals] & Hannu Savolainen [Bass]|
|Conducted by:||Chamelion (in person)|
Among the unstoppable waterfall of metal bands in Finland, at some point it is difficult to distinguish those really worthy of attention musicians from the other cheap mainstream. In this part of Scandinavia, after having lived there for a while, you really get spoiled for choice in metal. It just becomes one continuous cycle, one after another, another, another… And suddenly, when you are prepared just for another average act and a night out at another metal event, then it strikes out as if out of nowhere, shakes the ignorance off of you and you start paying attention. For me this smack on the head was Noumena.
When I heard Noumena's samples at Myspace, I kept refreshing the page just to hear the first medley track again and again. Then I discovered "Slain Memories", which remained on repeat for a few days continuously, I was as impressed as when I've just heard metal for the first time in my life! And I will not forgive myself if I will not learn more about the band and find everything what stands behind their great music.
- What's up, how's it going?
I've been fine, little tired, recovering from the flu, but I'm actually now happy with this album coming out and everything, so it's good.
- To the people who don't know Noumena so well, how would you describe it?
Like Amorphis… maybe we sound like Insomnium, those are more folk-oriented.
- Do you have a mission?
I think our mission is to make Finnish metal music. We don't want to sound like Amorphis or Insomnium, we just have the same influences from the Finnish folk. So it's not a surprise we all sound like each other [laughs]. It's a small country, so it's difficult to make folk music which doesn't sound like those bands.
- Have you already received some media response from the new album?
Yes. Two kinds of reviews, this 'not so original, not so good' and also this 'good'. I didn't expect that, because our older record was less original than this, I think that's the main difference, I think now we've really found our own space: this is the music WE want play. Maybe it's not our best record, but it's definitely a step into right direction.
- Which songs on the "Anatomy" do you think are the most representative of the Noumena sound?
If I start from the beginning, there is "The Burning" is more like Noumena-sound, it's more riff-based and not two lead guitars all the way. "Monument Of Pain" is more epic than folk. And "Fire And Water" is also very much like our new sound, but if you ask someone else in the band you'll get totally different answers! [laughs]
- What is "Anatomy Of Life?"
It's a little bit of sorrow mixed with joy and hope and death and everything, it's all in this album. It's all gloom and blood, there's also hope, but not too much.
- Are your lyrics personal or fictional?
I don't know if I'm allowed to say, because there are both… maybe 90% personal and others are fiction, I don't think Ville would want me to tell. We've spoken about this and I think it's better this way. Ville is not the kind of person who want to share those things. I always have to try and ask and get something out of him. I think it's better this way, so every listener can find out themselves.
- How do you write your songs?
Tuukka and Ville are the main composers. When we rehearse they come up with ideas and we all try to make them all match. Ville is such a strong person, he has his own mind and the song is almost ready in his head when we're rehearsing it. He's our little dictator.
- What about other characters in the band, what are they like?
Hannu is the organization of the band. And I am more like a spiritual leader…
[being just mentioned, the Noumena's organizational force arrives as if out of nowhere…]
Hannu: Sorry I'm late… [all laugh] Did Antti tell you I've a bad habit of not being on time… [excitedly checks out the recent Sue - free local entertainment paper, where there's an article and a CD review published on Noumena's new work] YES! 9 out of 10, it's better than last time, we got 8 out of 10.
Antti: …ok, and Ilkka is not so social outgoing person, he's just sitting behind the drums, not such happy guy. [to Hannu] And what about Tuukka? What's his social status?
Hannu: can I be honest? I think if we were really big, I think Tuukka would be the guy that takes all the groupies. He's a little bit …very social! He's the prettiest guy in Noumena…
Antti: I don't know about that!!!
Hannu: And Ville is very mysterious, he's the typical artist, introvert… he lives our music very much through emotion, well, we all do, but he's very devoted, because of course he's the writer of the biggest share of Noumena, but mysterious is the word. Not very social even with us, without alcohol especially. I always have to send him emails, he's not talking much otherwise. I think me and Ville are on opposite ends of the social scale, because I talk all the time, even if I shouldn't, but he's very quiet.
- Which of your songs are you the most proud of?
Hannu: "Fire And Water" I think it's the best song Noumena ever done. Ville composed it and written the lyrics, and he also says it's his best work so far. This is very difficult to say which is the best, but I think "Fire And Water" is really good. Of course as a bass player, I have to say that "Misanthropolis" is very good…
Antti: …because you can actually hear the bass! [all laugh]
- Do you have any videos planned?
Antti: do we?
Hannu: of course WE have a lot of plans and scripts, but Spinefarm isn't very eager to pay us a video, so we'll put our great plans on hold for the moment. In Finland there are no good channels for that. Insomnium has a very good video, it's quite low-budget, but it convinced the record label that they're good enough.
- Do you work or study on the side, because underground music by definition shouldn't bring in much income…
Antti: yes, both.
Hannu: I study contemporary history at the Helsinki University. Then I work part-time as an assistant at the parliament.
Antti: I study economics at the University of Jyväskylä and work…
Hannu: he has true 'manly' job…
Antti: I work in construction.
Hannu: Ville and Ilkka study also. Tuukka has done his exams and now he works in kindergarten, he loves both, metal music and children. Ville studies computer science.
Antti: Ilkka studies music management in Jyväskylä.
- Any funny incidents during the Noumena career?
Antti: [says in a very serious voice] nothing but funny incidents. I think we're the most unluckiest band in the whole universe after Enter My Silence and Spinal Tap.
Hannu: yeah, the whole Singapore thing and the whole Astia studio thing - we had to pay them the money that the Singapore label didn't pa us, 25000 Finnish marks, about 4000 euros… and after that we didn't have any record deal and no one wanted to publish the album.
Antti: but did we have any FUNNY incidents?
Hannu: I think to us recording the demo in 2001 was really funny.
Antti: I can't remember that…
Hannu: actually one funny thing was in Astia studio in 1999, remote area in Lappeenranta and Anssi Kippo told us that there's a competition with bands who are recording there that how many times the band can run around the building naked and it was November… and we did top result! It was 12 or 13 times! And Anssi made a video with comments: "Look audience, here we're making a metal record…"
- Do you believe in inspiration?
Hannu: I can feel when I'm inspired of something because I write so seldom…because it's so awful when you've deadlines and schedules when to have the work finished, that sometimes you just wish that 'oh god, would be so great to have an inspiration!'
Antti: I'm this kind of deadline-guy. When I've a deadline I know the day when I should have the lyrics done, because you need them when the studio comes
Hannu: believe it or not. Antti really has some words that he wrote, it's not any bullshit he's growling in the studio.
Antti: when we were recording "Anatomy" I woke up at 7am to start writing and I woke Ville before 10 and we went to the studio with what I've written and with Ville's help we've finished it.
- Do you have lot arguments in the band?
Antti: Before the gigs we've a lot of disagreements what songs to play, because nowadays we've quite a lot of good songs and too little set time. We've a principle that whoever wrote the song plays the lead in it and these days we've more Ville's songs than Tuukka's songs and we've to check that we've some Tuukka's song also and then now we've 2 quest vocalists also, so we've to make sure there's an even balance.
Hannu: there's so much hassle nowadays to make a good setlist.
- Imagine how it'll be in the future…
Hannu: more singers and more quest players,
Antti: yeah, violin, flute and bagpipes, recorders, maybe dancers… [all laugh]
- Where and how do you practice?
Hannu: we have a practice place in Ahtäri, it's a small town 330km from Helsinki, we're all from there. Even though neither of us have slept there since 1998, we still practice there, but I've some plans that maybe we should move somewhere south from there... it's a little bit difficult, we rehearse once in two months…not so often. When we've important things, tour or studio, of course we spent more time in Ahtäri, but it's difficult. So it's important that everyone practices at home. At least I can play bass at home, with Antti and Ilkka it must be harder, or I don't know… do you growl in the shower or something?
Antti: sometimes, yes…
Hannu: poor neighbors! Must be thinking there's something wrong with your pipes… [all laugh]
- What's the best show you've done so far?
Antti: in Germany or Austria. Not Vienna!
Hannu: it was quite a small place in Austria, somewhat same size as Semifinal. The club owner was really great! It was Easter Friday and he's done some food for us… the audience was good too, 200 metalheads. Spinefeast this year was good too, but of course too little set time. We've almost missed it, we had to rush and take a taxi to be there on time.
Antti: and that didn't help that we didn't have any sound check!
Hannu: it was really a growing experience that after every song there was a little bit louder audience response, and after 'Slain Memories" I really had a feeling that we should play more!
- Which bands have the most influence on Noumena?
Antti: Amorphis definitely, In Flames… when Ilkka and I decided to establish a new metal band in Ahtäri, those were definitely the most important names for us. Ville was also a bit skeptical with In Flames, since he composed most of the material, so we've to look what are Ville's influences and those are My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, the Gathering and so on… and Amorphis of course [laughs].
- Are you some kind of Amorphis fan?
Antti: old Amorphis fan, the latest record of them I have is "Elegy". Maybe I'll buy the new Amorphis record, but there's so much crap on it!
Hannu: Ville was hardcore Amorphis fan and he was very disappointed when they started to break through into Europe: "Now everyone is listening to them!" I think it was the time of "Elegy".
Antti: I think Edge Of Sanity is great influence, even bigger than just an influence, there are so many great songs! Those are the bands which we've listed as our influences in earlier interviews.
- Going back to your latest album, how do you think "Anatomy" is different or more advanced compared to "Absence"?
Hannu: I'm not sure about musical, but experience-wise, this album is a whole. It's not separate 11 songs, but a complete experience.
Antti: yes, and emotionally it is complete.
Hannu: Ville and Tuukka have composed more diverse material than before.
Antti: it is more dynamic. If you take, 'Through the Element" or "Monument of Pain", it sounds like Noumena, but it's hard to imagine that they're from the same album, but I think if you listen to it from beginning to the end - it works! The track order is really important.
- Is it a concept album?
Hannu: no it isn't. I think now, afterwards, it can be a concept, that the lyrics and things are quite important for everyone's life, that's the meaning of "Anatomy Of Life", not in physical perception, but in kind of emotional way.
Antti: of course, it's easier to say it is a concept.
Hannu: it's not a concept album in traditional meaning, so to say, it wasn't "Anatomy Of Life" from the beginning…
- Are you gonna have a tour?
Hannu: yeah, we're working on it. Today I really used my working time well by sending out promo-cds to European promoters… We don't have a booking office or anything, but we'll organize something in Finland. If all goes well, we'll head to Germany later on…
- How do see your future as musicians?
Hannu: some weeks ago I've really realized that I haven't practices bass or guitar really properly, but I hope to become a better musician…
Antti: and a human…
Hannu: and a human also! Now I'm ready to put everything into Noumena, but I don't consider myself so good bass-player, so I could have a bass-career outside of Noumena, so for me it's kind of a band-bound thing.
Antti: I'm not much of a musician either, I just growl or scream, but it would be nice to continue as much as this goes, maybe I want to get better as a singer and a human being…
Hannu: and as a recorder player…
Antti: and a recorder player! And as a accordion player too…(laughs)
Hannu: Because a couple of friends told me that a Bloodbath is looking for a new vocalist, and they asked why doesn't I Antti apply and I said that Antti most likely doesn't even know about it! What I'm trying to say is that I really consider Antti as a world-class growler, no doubt about that.
Antti: Ville once asked why didn't I apply for the new Amorphis singer back when they were looking and I really had no idea about it! I always miss those things…
- Do you have an idol or a role-model?
Antti: Derek from Spinaltub is my idol, it's a parody of a rock'n'roll band. There's a slogan that "there's a jazz in everything we play" and when I say this I mean that I make a lot of mistakes on stage, but it's just rock'n'roll, or metal in this case! You can't play any gig without mistakes…
Hannu: this kind of music is quite merciless, if you make mistakes, miss a note or whatever, everyone can hear it. If it would've been some hardcore trash-metal and one note wrong, no one realizes, but when you play guitar melodies in "Slain Memories" for example and make a mistake, everyone will hear! So you've to be quite skillful…
Antti: …and not so drunk. If I forget something, I just growl, but to me it doesn't happen often… If someone could point a place where I've forgotten something, I'll give them my beer!
- How do you manage to combine your regular life, work and so on, with the band? You all live quite far from one another…
Hannu: it's difficult and time-consuming, frustrating also… I think there aren't too many sides of being a musician. It pays good…
Antti: not really!
Hannu: I think it's hard to be a musician when you do it as a day-job, but it's hard to find time for that.
Antti: I many times wonder what a damn good band we could be if only we had a chance to practice every week, or every day, or every second day, I'm really envious of those bands whose members live all in the same city and they have this opportunity. You might think because of that we cannot put all our hearts into music, but I don't think it's the question about how much you love the music, that's always because of other lives, non-musical lives, it's always hard. We are not so young anymore, a lot of us have children, studies… It takes time, then the day-jobs…
- At what point of your career did you realize that it's going somewhere?
Hannu: when our drummer Ilkka called me, if we've read our emails, that there's an email from Sami Tenez from Spinefarm, that really was a great moment, it's been a long time when nothing good happened for us, no gigs, nothing and then this was just a great moment. We all had other bands in Ahtäri, but when Noumean started, this time we all really tried to aim high and when the Singapore deal happened, it was great…
Antti: …until it ended.
- What's your worst fear on stage?
Hannu: that I will have some kind of blackout, and realize I won't know what to play next. Especially when I start to think what to play next and how does this riff go, nowadays I practice at home, before every gig, I play the setlist throughout and so those blackouts don't happen so often, so I do some mistakes…
Antti: …even you make mistakes!
Hannu: although I'm perfect!
Antti: I've made a fool out of myself so many times already, that I don't think I have any fears on stage. Maybe the biggest fear is when you'd enjoy going on stage anymore, when it becomes routine or something, then it's a time to stop.
- Do you have any other additions than music?
Hannu: at least in my case. I'm listening to music the whole time… Alcohol to some extent too, and well, history for me and reading. I read a lot, I've read so many books in those two or three weeks…
Antti: and then he gets those symptoms if he doesn't read enough (laughs)
Hannu: right, and numbers for you. Numbers is his addiction.
Antti: Yes, I like numbers. And I like statistics and everything… Sudouku as well, kakurouku, you should try! It's even better than sudouku, it's harder!
Hannu: I've heard of a Finnish version of sudouku, I will deliver you some, so you could use your time well!
- What is the best hangover cure?
Antti: for me too.
Hannu: but maybe it's a compilation of bed and salt, some movie and good company. When we've hangover and we're together, it's great, me and Antti, it's always fun. We don't even need to say anything, we just look at each other and it's hilarious!
- Have you tried the famous sport Hevi-Karaoke?
Hannu: yes, but I've only been a kind of 'manager' to Antii…
Hannu: right! And what song did you do?
Antti: "Black Winter's Day" with Ville, he did the clean parts, but he couldn't do them, so he just screamed, it was so amusing…
Hannu: you weren't so sober though…
- If you were stuck on a deserted island with your fellow band members, whom would you eat first?
Antti: I think Hannu or Ville, they have the most flesh… for the food-reasons it'll be them, but for other reasons I think I would eat Ilkka first. Ilkka is so quiet that he wouldn't be so much company, so definitely Ilkka for me…
Hannu: if possible, I chose myself. Maybe when you are in such situation, you've to be quite cruel and rational, so I think I'll eat Ville first. It's better to eat him, before he slims down…
Antti: and if we'll eat Ville before we will eat you, so you'll have time to think what we'll eat next week or how will we get out of there…
- Oh God, I really didn't expect this kind of discussion out of such a simple question…
Hannu: it always happens, before we have a gig or rehearsal, all the time we have this kind of conversation…
Antti: we don't talk about music, so we discuss everything else… like if you had to eat one of your limbs, would it be your leg or…
- It's kind of psychological question…
Antti: did we pass?! (all laugh)
- So you obviously know each other very well, so here are a few more in-depth questions about your band members. What is the weirdest thing about Hannu?
Antti: he keeps everything so organized; I think he has files for everything, for life and death, heaven and hell, in his computer and the book shelf. Every bill is in alphabetical order!
Hannu: it's my way… I have most important bills I have paid, they're in a separate file, it's like an archive and every time Noumena guys are at my place, they laugh and ask if I have any new bills…
- What is the most annoying thing about Ilkka?
Hannu: he complains too much!
Antti: he wants to do everything against us, he has his own thoughts about everything and he's not so rational like us and we always disagree.
- What's the funniest thing about Ville?
Hannu: when he's drunk or has a hangover, he tells very good stories. When we were recording "Absence", he told us about a family living inside him, a doctor family, the doctor, his wife, child and a dog, he continued the story for a long time, every day. He's a good teller, when he talks…
Antti: he just gets nervous, but otherwise he talks…
- What's the most romantic thing about Antti?
Hannu: now I can be very cruel! (laughs) He's always buying panties for his girlfriend. And besides that, Antti's farts are very romantic, because he tries to kill us every now and then.
- What's the cutest thing about Tuukka?
Antti: he likes children very much, he's very good with them.
- What else musical would you like to accomplish?
Hannu: album that would be in Top 3 in Finnish charts and I think it's quite possible…
- If you'd win that Grammy, then what category would that be?
Antti: best female! Or Best R&B song… Is there any other category than R&B and country in Grammies? I don't know… Maybe best R&B act… Or maybe to be a number 1 in Turkey charts, but number 1 in any country would be very nice. Do you need to sing in that country's language?
Hannu: maybe we'll make a video then? A video in that country's language where we will be number 1!
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