Interview with Amorphis
Circle and more
Congratulations with the new album Circle, it is really one of the best, or maybe the best so far!
What was your inspiration for this album? And is there a reason that it sounds darker then the previous albums?
We got little bit bored of the same way of doing albums. We wanted to have change. Of course with a long career you have to keep yourself hungry to try new things and challenge yourself. We needed to get more inspiration especially for the recording process, try out different things and come up with something not so normal. Maybe The Beginning Of Times was too sterile for us? It sounds maybe too soft comparing what does it sounds live.. With Circle we needed to get new directions for the recording process and the lyrical concept. Try out different things and come up with something not so normal for us. Now we used 7th person as a producer. And that’s been a while when we did like this last time, I think it was back in 2001 at Am Universum when we last time used producer (Simon Efemey). Even thought we had a producer with Circle we still had pretty big impact on the songs and how they turn out. And we did not try to musically-wise try to change everything. The songs were made at the same way they’ve always done. Musically-wise we did not try to change everything. The songs were made at the same way we’ve always been doing. Someone brings the demo to the rehearsals and so on. We did have some sort of a feeling to make this album harder and darker than The Beginning Of Times, but I think it was more like an general intuition. Now when I listen it when its mixed and mastered its definitely heavier than previous, the keyboards are more in the background, lots of heavy guitars and ultra low bass. There is a variation all over in the music, performing and production. Overall we wanted something different, maybe more experimental. Less vocal mass and choirs. I wanted to have more real pianos and real hammonds so I recorded them with authentic instruments, even some church-organs in big church. We were looking for more aggressive sound thus everybody thought the sound in previous album The Beginning of Times could have been more edgier.
Every album has its own theme. How do you come to a theme and how does it grow into an album?
So we thought now it was a time to make album with a producer outside the band. Also we discussed with each other that we could try something more modern now and our lyricist Pekka Kainulainen came with an concept which happen in the present time (or somewhere in the modern times). We read it through and actually it sounded much more interesting starting point than just another concept about an old story or classic Kalevala character once again.
On the new album, we hear more of the screams known from black metal. Does this has to do with the more darker sound of the album? And was it a conscious choice or a natural evolution?
It was Tomi Joutsens choice. Maybe Peter affected it little bit for example saying “Yeah go ahead, that’s cool man”. But in general I think Tomi wanted to experiment with his voice, to get more variation to his performance. For the rest of the band that was just a big very welcome surprise. Of course after the first shock reactions!
Unlike what we are used from Amorphis, this album does not start with a nice and peaceful intro but immediately with some aggressive guitar-riffs. Is that part of a new concept?
Not really. The reason there is no intro is mainly because we dropped the only song out which had a really long intro. That could have delivered the intro for the album, but nobody thought the song is good enough to make it to the CD. But maybe if I would have more time and motivation I could have make some base for intro and then everybody could play some acoustic instruments and percussion flutes etc. This time it did not happen and I personally think “The shades of Gray” launches the album perfectly without any intro. And to be honest we don’t really plan the albums nor the concept that deeply that we know before entering the studio if there gonna be intro or not.
From the press-info we know that somebody outside the band writes the lyrics. Why is it this way?
Tomi Joutsen knew our lyricist Pekka Kainulainen from the school days. Pekka is a famous Kalevala researcher, poet and painter from the area where they come. When we were looking for a concept for Silent Waters Tomi suggested maybe to work with him. We gave it a try and rest is history… Generally I think if you’re looking for a strong concept its better to have one person to write all the material. Tomi Joutsen does not want to do it and its kind of a risky that the person who writes a song comes with some lyrics for that particular song. Maybe someday it will be like that, but we´ve found this very easy and interesting way now. We can truly concentrate the music and arrangements which I think is the most important thing in heavy-metal music.
And how is the writing process then? Is it first music and then the lyrics are added, or the other way around?
It might be that first Pekka came with a collection of poems, or maybe we have music ready. This time we had the demos ready and then he delivered the poems. So he basically had heard the rough demos at the time of writing the lyrics.
The guitars of Amorphis are really characteristic, how is this own sound created?
I think Esa and Tomi both like bands like Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Kingston Wall, so maybe the sounds and directions they are looking for come from there. They also have very clear roles in a band, Esa plays melodies and Tomi concentrates on rhythmical background. I think that’s the magic there.
If one has to describe Amorphis, there would be two sides. The more aggressive melo-death and on the other side the more quiet prog. If you had to choose, which side of Amorphis do you prefer?
I absolutely love the old amorphis to be precise Tales from the thousand lakes. I like everything in it. Good songs, great atmosphere and simple arrangement. I also like the Tomi Joutsen times pretty much all the albums. Tuonela, Am Universum and Far from the sun I might listen when I need to hear something strange, sometimes I listen them especially drunk with friends in a tour bus. But the lyrics are little bit too psychedelic for me. I have to say maybe I´m just too bad in English language cause I need a fucking dictionary to get into songs. But if I exclude my bad English the music is very groovy and foxy!
The last song of the album is called A New Day and sounds lighter after the other songs. Is this, besides a good end of the album, a preview for the next album?
Nobody knows what lies ahead, so I have to answer no. It is a very mellow song with a good chorus. Sakaris saxophones and flutes also gets their share. One of highlights in Circle.
Most of the lyrics are written in English. Why do you choose English instead of Finnish?
On the contrary. Actually all the lyrics are written in Finnish. We use a translator for the recording sessions. But to answer your question I have to say we have a big market and lots of fans outside of Finland, why the hell to sing in Finnish. Its one of the most difficult language in the whole world. Maybe we can find more difficult shit somewhere from the deep jungles. I think it would be unfair for the fans even though we could get some points out of exoticness of that.
The beginning of Times was the last part in a trilogy about the Kalevala. How was the feeling afterwards?
I think The Beginning of Times was taken very well by press and our fans. Some people were saying its not as good as its predecessor (Skyforger), some were saying it is the best we´ve done so far. I would not put it to my “the best” album locker, but it still is a remarkable album at least the way we see it. But it could be heavier at least soundwise and we should have kept the track-listing in 10 to 11 songs.On the other hand I have nothing against that at all. The Beginning of Times opened lots of doors for us touringwise. And I´ve seen a lot of that album in the meet&greets and signing sessions, so maybe we have to be happy about the album.
This year Amorphis exists 21 years. How do you look back on more than two decades of Amorphis?
I respect and honor our long career, but I think its not going to be over soon. We have accomplished a lot, but still we feel very fresh and small as an artists and as musicians. We have excellent chemistry in the band and this has come our main job. I this your ambitions always starts to evolve after a lots of shows played and when you get older. It is surely fun to play primitive death metal for couple of albums and maybe that’s all you are capable of technical-wise. But after few years you start to improve as a player or a performer or your musical taste changes. Sometimes you just need to challenge yourself musical-wise to be happy in life. I see same kind of progression in Amorphis. I think it has something to do with growing older and doing something with passion. The fact that you don’t want to repeat yourself as an artist keeps the thing going.
You are an influence for a lot of bands nowadays. When you started, by who were you influenced?
I think the roots for our music comes from 70´s and 80´s prog, hard rock and heavy-metal. Bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind, Dio, Pink Floyd, Motörhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Wasp, Kiss just to name a few and so on. Also the trash scene was strong at our time. Metallica, Slayer, Megadeath, Morbid Angel, Napalm and even later bands like Faith no more have had strong influence for us. And who does not like marvelous Finnish prog bands like Wigwam, Pekka Pohjola, Tasavallan presidentti and Piirpauke? Legendary Finnish Kingston Wall was also everyone’s favorite in the early 90´s. That can surely be heard at least in Elegy and Tuonela, and propably all over after.
And is it still the same persons/bands that influence you and your music?
Of course the shit you dig at “crazy years”, between 12 and 25 are the ones you will stick with the rest of your life. The feelings do not go away. Well maybe if you like something horrible like Scooter, Enrique Iglesias or maybe Baseballs? But surely there has come new bands I like too; Porcupine Tree, Tool, Graveyard, some Muse tracks, Portico Quartet, Ozric Tentacles, Mastodon and lots of good stuff plus many many more…
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened during a Amorphis show?
I´m not sure how strange this is, but in the US somewhere umm maybe Cincinnati in a club between a highway and Indian souvenir shop there was a woman masturbating in a front row pretty much the whole show. She was in some sort of a ecstatic trance. We thought it was hilarious and it was hard to keep to faces blank about that. I’ve seen same kind of enthusiasm in a Woodstock or any documentary about 60s. That’s the story I will tell to my grandchildren from the rocking chair with a pipe in my mouth!
Thank you for your time! And as a final question: Would you like to say anything to the fans/readers?
Hello mighty Metal-beggars! Check out our new album “Circle” it is definitely worth of checking out. Some people say it’s a Metal masterpiece and album of the year 2013?! Make up your mind about that! See you on tour! Cheerious!