Amorphis - Interview


I guess Finnish Amorphis don't need introduction to anybody who is a heavy metal fan. But maybe you want to know what Elton John and Carcass have in common? For this, you should better read this interview I did via Skype with Amorphis bassist Olli-Pekka Laine. I had a very nice chat with him about their new album "Halo" and its process of creation. But not only this, I also discovered some youthful sins and got some other information that might be interesting for fans of Amorphis. Enjoy reading.

Michael

Hey Olli, how are you doing? You're going to release your new album "Halo" soon. When did you start the writing and recording process? I was pretty much surprised when I heard about the release.

I don't know that much about the writing process because personally I write all the time and it goes like that, but it comes to Esa (Holopainen –git.; M.) and Santeri (Kallio –keyb.; M.) who are the main songwriters of the Halo - album. I'm not that aware of their methods of writing. But I think Santeri usually makes the songs in a relatively short period of time like two or three months. Talking about Esa, I'm not so sure how it's going on with the writing process. We are writing separately at our homes so it's hard thing to say. But still when we do have ready songs we are going to the end and when Jens (Bogren; M) has made his song selections, he lets us know which songs he wants to be on the album. Then we start to rehearse them and that's not very time-consuming after all because we all know what to do, we have the demos, and we can just learn the songs by heart for one month or so. That's the pre-production process before getting into the studio. Of course, Jens is doing some changes to the songs which we are doing in the rehearsal spot already and we have songs ready for the session. The record session itself took one to two months, the basic session with producing bass, guitars and drums and some lead vocals and guitars. But I think Santeri worked at home so he had more time to do his things and the time when the pandemic was going on, we didn't have to finalize the album in one session so we could do some things after that as well. So altogether the recording took about six months, with starting to rehearse about seven months.

What would you say are the differences to the previous two albums?

There are some differences. If I compare it to the previous album The Queen Of Time, it's a little bit harsher and straight-down, a little bit more guitar-orientated and has more crunch vocals in cost of the clean vocals. That's the main difference. There aren't that many orchestrations and guest musicians and the keyboards are more in the background. But I don't know if the songs are different that much at the end of the day, it's more a matter of the production with these two albums. When it comes to Under The Red Cloud it was also a little bit more guitar orientated and it was the first album where the guys worked with Jens Bogren. I wasn't on the album personally, but I think it's a little bit more straight-forward album. Those are probably the main differences, but all were produced by the same producer so that there is some kind of signature sound on all three albums.

What are the lyrics dealing with? Is it all based on the Kalevala again? Maybe you can tell a little bit more about it.

No, not this time. We have this lyricist Pekka Kainulainen who is a friend of our vocalist Tomi Koivusaari. He is from Lohja, the same town where Tomi lives, and he is something like the town's greatest artist. He is making everything – poems, structures, paintings and whatever it comes to the art. He is some kind of multi-tasking artist in that town and Tomi knew him and asked if he would like to work with Amorphis somewhere in the early 2000s. First of all he started to write lyrics which were inspired by the Kalevala, that national book you were talking about. That was something we especially used throughout the 90s probably we were not able to write lyrics on our own at that time. At least lyrics as they should be. It was kind of an easy way for us but still it was a win-win situation because people and media started to get interested about it and this snowball-effect started from that point when it comes to Kalevala and our lyrics. But I think it was somewhere like four albums ago where Amorphis kind of abandoned Kalevala as an influence. Of course, the lyrics are still written in the same way with the same rhyming and the same meter as with the Kalevala but there are more Pekkas personal thoughts and ideas now. But of course, the lyrics are flirting with ancient things. Halo for example is about a loose theme like people gathering to Finland after the ice age and founding some small villages in the summer and you could relate it to the bubbles, we live in these days in the internet and the modern world.

I really like the cover. Does it represent day and night or is there another hidden meaning behind it? And how does it match with the title and the lyrics?

Yeah, that was something that was as well requested by Pekka. He told us that there should be some themes around life and death and the start and beginning, especially the new beginning which ended up being some kind of Ying-Yangish symbol on the cover together with water and fire on the other side to symbolize in some way the elements but still based on the new beginning which Halo represents as the name, at least for me. Halo is this ring from the sun reflected through ice crystals and it fits the album cover and the name pretty well, I think.

With "Halo" you're going to close the trilogy that you started with "Under The Red Cloud". Is there something on the other two albums that would have changed in retrospect?

Hm, that's kind of a kinky question. Personally, I wouldn't change anything, no. They are what they are and it's always a dangerous thing if you start to rewrite history in any way like I wouldn't like to redo any old songs for example. It's not gonna be the original thing. There are some weaknesses in every album, but they should be there. It's like a reason for giving it dynamics as well. If the music would be perfect, it would be quite boring as well (laughs).

In 1990 you started as a death metal band – how much does this kind of music still mean to you?

Well, personally it means quite a lot for me. I'm still a death metal fan and I'm still fond of the old albums. I'm listening to new death metal bands as well and I'm happy that we have some more death metal influences on Halo than before. I think with Circle the band started to go a little bit more to the harsher side of the back catalog. It's something we are coming from, and I think you should never abandon your roots because that's where you're coming from and you should stay loyal to that stuff. We have such a broad fan-base as well because we have fans from different periods of the band. The band has changed quite dramatically throughout the years so I wouldn't say that we need to please anyone but it's always good to acknowledge the fact that there are people who are still digging the old albums.

Do you have any death metal albums from the last years you would recommend?

Hm, now that there aren't album covers any more due to streaming services, I don't remember what I've been listening to. But there is a band from Texas called Frozen Soul, that's a great one I think and always when there is a new Autopsy album (laughs) and also when it comes to Carcass. "Torn Arteries" is a great one! And other lots of new good bands as well. It's a shame that I don't own those new albums because I tend to just forget about them when they're on YouTube and they're not audible on the table and you can blast them again. But still, I check the new bands every now and then from Spotify.

What are your biggest musical and lyrical influences besides death metal?

I listen to some progressive rock from the 70s, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and King Crimson albums. Also, Pink Floyd albums from the 70s I've listened to a million times but still it's fascinating because you can still find new interesting stuff from that time. Recently I've started to listen to old Genesis, Marillion and Greenslade. Basically, I'm listening to prog rock and jazz as well. Some John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock and some avant-garde jazz. It depends – also some Elton John (laughs) and whatever is good. Led Zeppelin and stuff like that, so mostly classic stuff.

If there is something you could change in the history of Amorphis, I mean you do exist for 31 years now, what would that be?

Hm, that is a dangerous area because if you make mistakes, you always learn something from that. If we didn't make some dramatical mistakes business-wise we probably wouldn't be here today. We had some bad choices when it came to the management, and we also didn't take live situations that seriously back in the 90s. That is something we could have made a little bit more professional with the live shows because we were just kids who got drunk before the show, had fun and mainly entertained ourselves during the concerts (laughs). But that happened and I wouldn't say that I would change it. It was something that you have to learn by yourself. Especially in Finland was a culture of never playing sober on stage. It was something very Finnish to do and luckily that has changed in Finland as well throughout the years. Now it's much more professional and the shows are a little bit better (laughs).

Haha, I have to confess that I never saw you live throughout all these years. Are you going on tour in the next few months?

We are going on tour in North America in the midst of April and we'll be there for about one month and after that we are starting the festival gigs in Finland and in Central Europe and then I don't know what's gonna happen in the next fall. The only thing I know is that we have planned to go touring there and I'm pretty sure that we're coming to Central Europe and Germany. Let's keep our fingers crossed that there are no new variations coming up!

Besides Amorphis, you also play in Barren Earth – do you have any news to tell about them?

Well, not that much. I'd say that we are on hiatus if you could say so. We haven't split-up at all, we are still talking to each other, and it wasn't that long ago when we speculated on doing something together again. So, you never know what's gonna happen because all of us are composing music all the time so there is a lot of stuff but as I said, you never know. It's gonna be busier for Amorphis, that's for sure but if there's gonna be some spare time at some point – who knows?

Do you have any last words to our readers?

Well, give Halo a chance. It's a good and rewarding album in my opinion and if you give a listen to it many times, it's getting better. I hope it's gonna stand the test of time and there are many new songs included on the live set on top of the old classics of course. See you on tour, we are coming to Germany, that's for sure. I don't know how many times but at least for one tour within a year. I hope that this pandemic will be over, at least it's gonna be a little bit weaker so we can go on tour at least. Let's see. Keep it up and never lose hope!

Alright Olli! Thank you very much for taking the time for that interview.

Thank you, Michael! It was a pleasure talking to you.

Entered: 2/24/2022 10:44:22 PM

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Discography


Halo Halo
Full-Length (2022)
Queen Of Time Queen Of Time
Full-Length (2018)
Under The Red Cloud Under The Red Cloud
Full-Length (2015)
Circle Circle
Full-Length (2013)
The Beginning Of Times The Beginning Of Times
Full-Length (2011)
Silver Bride Silver Bride
Single (2009)
Skyforger Skyforger
Full-Length (2009)
Silent Waters Silent Waters
Single (2007)
Silent Waters Silent Waters
Full-Length (2007)
Eclipse Eclipse
Full-Length (2006)
House Of Sleep House Of Sleep
Single (2006)
Far From The Sun Far From The Sun
Full-Length (2004)
Am Universum Am Universum
Full-Length (2001)
Tuonela Tuonela
Full-Length (1999)
Elegy Elegy
Full-Length (1996)
Black Winter Day Black Winter Day
EP (1994)
Tales From The Thousand Lakes Tales From The Thousand Lakes
Full-Length (1994)
The Karelian Isthmus The Karelian Isthmus
Full-Length (1992)

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