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07. End Of Green
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08.
Anathema - The Optimist
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Random album

Amorphis - Interview


Interview with: Esa Holopainen
Conducted by: T.V.

Amorphis are a band that without doubt wrote a history of metal music with their albums like Tales From The Thousand Lakes (1994), Elegy (1996) and of course Eclipse (2006), which marked the beginning of a new era in the band‘s history as it was the first one with their recent vocalist Tomi Joutsen. In September this year the Finnish band released their highly anticipated 12th studio album named Under The Red Cloud through Nuclear Blast Records. The new offering by Amorphis shows the band maybe stronger than ever, is full of energy, dynamic, yet very melodic and melancholic, just like we are used to hear from Amorphis. Under The Red Cloud, an album that was also selected as album of the month September 2015 in our webmagazine (read a review over HERE), was produced by worldly-renowned Jens Bogren at his Fascination Street Studio in Örebro. Now the band just started their European tour as a support to mighty Finnish symphonic metallers Nightwish and will later continue the expansive tour as headliners. We did a phone interview with bands guitarist Esa Holopainen, who was kind enough to give us some deeper insight into their new creation, and as well answered to a couple of questions about more personal stuff. (p.s. This interview should be longer than it is, but because of some techical problems some Q/A weren't recorded)

T.V.: Hi Esa! First of all I must congratulate you for your stunning last album, Under The Red Cloud, and I wonder how do you feel about it?
Esa: Thank you! We really worked hard on this album and I think it's our best so far. Also fans and media seems to appreciate it as we got mostly very good reviews. It goes in the similar direction as our previous record, Circle, but it's still much different. We took a different compositional and recording process this time.
T.V.: How it was working in the studio with Jens Bogren. I think that he did a terrific job, there's kind of a new energetic vibe present in the songs?
Esa: Jens is a great producer and he did a magnificent job! He really pushed us. We woke up at 8am and worked until late afternoon, early evening every day. Jens made us playing more aggressive and we were working really hard, but I think it was worth it and of course a great experience. In the end I was really exhausted (laughs).
T.V.: You said that you took a different compositional and recording process than before? Album sounds a bit similar and in a way a continuation of Circle, but still you included many new and even old elements (Elegy album comes in mind) in there...
Esa: Yes, there are many elements similar to our Elegy album in there, it has kind of a similar dynamics, it's also very melodic, just like we wanted it. We took a different approach this time as most of the songs were already mostly finished before we entered the studio, we had still some ideas left for this and that, we had to make some arrangements, but... We felt kind of a special energy sorounding us...
T.V.: On the album there are some really special guests who contributed, like for example Chrigel Glanzmann from Eluveitie, who played flutes on a couple of songs, then female vocalist Aleah Stanbridge from Trees Of Eternity, and ex-Opeth drummer Martin Lopez. How did you got in contact with them and how are you satisfied with their contribution?
Esa: We are good friends with Martin who played before with Opeth and is now with Soen, who are a very good band. We were touring with Opeth years ago and so one thing lead to another. Similar story is with Chrigel as we played quite some shows together with Eluveitie. Aleah on the other side was suggested to us by the producer. She was recording some vocals at the same time in the same studio and yeah, she's an amazing singer and her contribution to the songs is amazing. Later on I went to listen to her band Trees Of Eternity and I must say that they are a fantastic band. It was a great honor to have such talented musicians appearing on the album. I think that each one of them put his/her personality and character in the very right spot.
T.V.: Yes, I must affirm you about Trees Of Eternity and I can't wait for their debut album to be released. Now, what about the lyrical content and inspiration. Is also this time mostly based on Kalevala - Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology? It seems that Pekka Kainulainen became kind of a shadow member of the band. Why did you took this decision that Pekka writes all the lyrics for you and how it's this collaboration working out in practice?
Esa: We trust Pekka and I think he's perfect for this job. We are good friends with him... He has become a sort of ghost member of the band, His lyrics aren’t forming a complete storyline, but they form a certain theme. Pekka describes things like natural phenomena, seasons and the human mind like we’ve done in the past with the Kalevala stories. They are attempts to gain advice from higher powers and I think it fits perfectly to our music.
T.V.: You selected the track "Sacrifice" for your first video and second single after "Death Of A King". Why you took this decision?
Esa: Actually "Sacrifice" was not selected by ourselves, but by the label. I think they made this decision because it's one of the catchiest tracks on the album, and yes, they thought it's quite a good representative track.
T.V.: And the video for "Sacrifice" was also our video of the week! So, I wonder had the idea for making such a video?
Esa: Oh great that you liked it! The idea for this video was born in the head of Tomi, he came up with this kind of a story and yeah, I think it turned out just great.


T.V.: Just btw... Why did Tomi cut his trademark long dreadlocks?
Esa: Ha ha ha, I think his hair-do started to rot... ha ha...
T.V.: One of my favorite tracks on the album is "The Four Wise Ones". I wonder which track out of Under The Red Cloud is your favorite?
Esa: Huh, that's difficult, I can't select only one track, but if I have to choose then I must say that "White Night" is a special one because of great female vocals, but I love very much also "Death Of A King" which has many interesting elements, like some oriental vibes in the beginning and is highly dynamic. I like also "The Four Wise Ones", which is one of the most aggressive tracks we did in quite some time.
T.V.: And what about the cover artwork for Under The Red Cloud? It's pretty much psychedelic and very different from what you've put on the front before... I believe that you are satisfied with it and I wonder who designed it?
Esa: It's done by Jean-Emmanuel Valnoir Simoulin. He's a French artist who worked before for Behemoth, Paradise Lost, Laibach,... His style is a bit more unusual,... he does a very symetrical art and this is what we were really searching for this album. We wanted to have on the front cover sort of elements from lyrics of songs on the album, to discover those while looking at it. We wanted a very symetric and symbolic cover as well. It's a bit psychedelic, yeah, and that's what I like about it, because it doesn't really look like a cover for a metal band, it doesn't have any dragons and knights. It could be like from some kind of a psychedelic prophet.
T.V.: This year marks Amorphis's 25th anniversary. Do you have any intention to release some kind of a special release, maybe a best of compilation, or maybe play some anniversary shows?
Esa: We haven't really planned anything special. I'm not a fan of "best of" compilations and in 2010 we released the album Magic & Mayhem - Tales From The Early Years, which is kind of best of compilation of our early material. But yeah, those songs were re-recorded, so it's not really a compilation in the proper sense. We played kind of anniversary shows when we celebrated 20 years since the release of our second album, Tales From The Thousand Lakes, last year and that was an awesome experience to go back to that old-school sound. Maybe we will do a similar thing for the album Elegy next year.
T.V.: That would be amazing! It seems like that Amorphis are constantly touring, so I wonder when do you find the time to compose and write new songs?
Esa: Yeah, it might seem that we are constantly touring, and yes we are doing a lot of shows, but still it does not take all of our time. In the summer last year, between the festival shows, we started to write music, then we did some short tours in autumn and at the same time we started rehearsing new songs. And there was not that much of touring in the beginning of this year when we started to record the album and arrange the music. We find the time,... and the good thing about Amorphis is that we have several composers in the band what turns out to be very helpful.
T.V.: That's good, I always wondered how you guys manage everything... Now, because I came from Slovenia, I have to ask you if you are planning to visit us in the near future? I saw you playing live here just once.
Esa: It would be nice to come, of course. I don't remember if we have a show with Nightwish scheduled in your country...
T.V.: No, the closest place to Slovenia is in Italy and Austria...
Esa: Oh, ok. Hopefully in the future. We will start our own tour in late 2015 or in the beginning of 2016 and I really hope we will be playing there.
T.V.: I believe that Amorphis are now still big enough that you guys can live just out the music you make, and you don't have to earn the money with other jobs?
Esa: We are full time musicians now and is the only thing that we do, so, even though many bands, also some well known names, have that kind of problems, especially with selling albums. You know, you have to work hard, it's not that easy to reach this status.
T.V.: And I think that it's pretty much different from when you started in early 90s, compared to this time. So, how do you feel the difference between those past years and today?
Esa: It's totally different. Now it's much easier to communicate, everybody can be reached through e-mails, text messages, or social media,... Also music is much easier to be done with help of computers. I remember well those days when we started, I lived with my parents and they bought me a fax machine, that I could be in contact with the record label. Back then you had to promote your music by sending copies of your demos and such things through the regular post-mail. It's really totally different now.
T.V.: You remained with Nuclear Blast Records through so many years, since the beginning to be exact, and it seems that you are feeling quite comfortable with them.
Esa: Yeah, we are very happy with the Nuclear Blast. They are one the few labels who know how to promote this kind of music. We have a very long relation with them and we know all the people who are working there. There are persons who we trust and is really nice working with them, they are real professionals in what they do.

T.V.: I agree with you, also towards the media they are cool. Now I'm curious if you prefer to play live on big festivals or in the smaller halls and clubs?
Esa: I really like both. Play on the festivals is great, you meet people of different kinds and from different times, you get together and party during the festival. When touring through club shows it's another picture, you go in then you go out with the same people, but the show itself is more intime and more I guess fun to play, there's much more of that intimate energy around.
T.V.: It's quite difficult in a way to describe and label you music. Some call it melodic metal, melancholic metal or rock, even death metal, heavy metal,... I've heard houndreds of different classifications. I know it's a stupid and silly question but how would you describe Amorphis's style?
Esa: We are a metal band and that's how I categorize us. I don't have any other way to express who we are. We have so many influences and so much is happening in our music, so I can say we play Amorphis music. It's impossible to label or categorize us by any of the so many sub-genres.
T.V.: I must agree with you on that one. Do you follow other bands, check out new albums from other bands and artists?
Esa: I do occasionally. But when I'm at home I usually listen to older music like are Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. In that regard I'm pretty boring, but still I find new interesting bands here and there.
T.V.: And which was the last album you bought?
Esa: I think it was Katatonia's new live-album, Sanctitude, that they released earlier this year.
T.V.: Oh, I like that one and Katatonia are one of my favorite bands... Please tell us who is Esa in his private life?
Esa: Ahh, I'm an easy family guy, trying to survive the game, he, he,... I don't go out that often, I rather stay with my family and give my free time to them, because I'm often away from all and it's good to be home when not touring.
T.V.: That's understandable. I would like to thank you very much for taking the time for this interview and the last famous words are all yours.
Esa: Well, thank you very much for the interview, it was very nice talking to you. I hope that your readers will get our new album and find something new in there. I think that it's an interesting album of which we are very proud. We are happy to see so many people reacting positively to it.

Amorphis links: Official website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

Live photos courtesy of Natalia Stupnikova

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