TOMI JOUTSEN (Amorphis)
Interview: Ivana Sataić (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Amorphis, Finnish progressive metal band known for the specific fusion of metal music and Finnish national epic Kalevala has only few days ago released its 11th studio album „The Beginning Of Times“ and brought closer to fans Väinämöinen, the main Kalevala character.
Abut the album, the symbolism of the egg on the cover art, Väinämöinen and some future plans, on the occasion of the album release, for Venia-Mag we talked to (with the assistance of Nuclear Blast, thanks for help!) Amorphis’ singer Tomi Joutsen.
VENIA: Tell me something about your new album „The Beginning Of Times“, what’s the meaning behind it?
TOMI: It´s a pure Amorphis album, that´s for sure! You can find all the familiar elements that we are known, for example catchy and melancholic melodies, heavy riffs and dynamic vocals. There are lots of variety between the songs, but still you can recognize the traditional Amorphis sound and atmosphere. There are some new elements, that we haven´t tried before. Santeri updated his sound bank and keyboards plays a big role in this album in general. Tomi Koivusaari also studied how to play a lap steel guitar and added some interesting stuff there. You will definitely have to give some time for this album to get a picture, what we are trying to express. Lyrically this is again a concept album. This time we picked a man called Väinämöinen, the main character of Kalevala.
VENIA: How does the name of an album reflects to an album plot?
TOMI: The same guy who wrote the lyrics for Silent Waters and Skyforger albums (Pekka Kainulainen), wrote lyrics for this album too. There are not a certain plot on this album. There are just short poems based on legend of Väinämöinen. According Kalevala Väinämöinen was the first man on Earth. He has been on Earth from the beginning. He has a big role in the myth how the world was born and created. According Kalevala the world was born from the pieces of an broken eggs. That´s why we have an egg on the cover of the album.
VENIA: After centuries of occupation by Sweden and Russia it is obvious why is Kalevala, not only as National epic but also the source of Finnish romanticism, important to Finns and in that way also to Amorphis. But, after 11 albums what is always and again challenging for Amorphis to base lyrics and music groundwork on Kalevala?
TOMI: Kalevala has been sort of trademark for Amorphis for many years. Kalevala includes lots of interesting stories, beliefs and characters. Our music has always been influenced by folkmusic. These kind of old stories fits really well with our music. So it´s a great compilation. Sometimes when I´m listening our songs I feel that I´m listening somekind of soundtrack of these old poems.
VENIA: Can you compare the new album to your previous releases? What are advantages and disadvantages of the release in its relation to your earlier releases?
TOMI: This album is quite long one. There are 13 songs in limited digipack version and the running time is almost an hour. I think this is quite challenging album. There are lots of progressive elements and also several layers. You have to listen the album a couple of times to hear all the little details that we put there. There´s also little bit more growls than there was in previous 3 albums. So I think it´s also a little bit heavier in a way.
VENIA: As we consider Esa Holopainen as bands creative center, how does typical Amorphis song come to life?
TOMI: Most of the songs were composed at home. We are composing the basic ideas at home and then we do simple demos. Then we gather together and listen the ideas or we send demos via email. Actually we are not rehearsing the songs so much. Of course everyone knows the main arrangements, but the final ideas and the final versions comes up in studio. I think it´s a good way to keep things fresh. On the other hand using this kind of method brings also some stress to studio. Then you just have to give your best to avoid a total failure.
VENIA: How do you feel Amorphis has progressed over the years? Do you feel today you’re closer, or even achieved, what you originally set out for and what is the most challenging for Amorphis in the circle of natural development?
TOMI: Of course there has been lots of progress during 20 years career. This band has played hundreds of shows around the world. Of course you learn something by doing that. That kind of knowledge is not available from books or music schools. If you spend 20 years playing in a band and you keep your eyes and ears open, it gives you a lot of ideas you can use when you are composing a new material. The main goal is and has been to compose music that we like to play and listen. We are not trying to be a part of some particular music scene. One big challenge for any band is to keep all the members motivated. At this moment we definitely don´t have problems with motivation. To know what you want and how to do it is the key for satisfying results.
VENIA: Being in a big label such as Nuclear Blast is very important for a band. How much it actually helps to achieve great performances, great tours and fans?
TOMI: It´s been fun to work with NB. They release lots of stuff during a year, but I think we always have had a good promotion for our new releases. If you want to play shows abroad, you need also a good management. And that we sure have. Because of the internet you can nowadays easily spread your music around the world. But if you want to do this for living you also need a good label, a wide distribution and reliable management. It would be nice to have a couple of killer songs too.
VENIA: Recently you’ve played in Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Croatian fans who were present at the concert were delighted. Do you plan to come to play in Croatia, do you have any close feedback from Croatian fans, how much do you know about Croatia?
TOMI: At this moment we don´t have plans to come to Croatia. I´m the wrong man to give an answer why it is so. It´s always a pleasure to play a gig in a country you haven´t visited before. You don´t know what to expect. Mainly the response is very positive after all. I´m pretty sure it´s the same with Croatian fans. To be honest I don´t know so much about your country. But I hope that will change in a near future!
VENIA: Generally, where do you feel your main fan base/support tend to lie?
TOMI: I think Europe overall is at the moment the main territory for us. Of course Finland is also a very important. Metal music in general is quite big thing here. Germany is also one of the most important countries for us. We have fans all over the world, but for us it´s impossible to play in every country we would like to play. We did a short tour in 2009 with Children Of Bodom in South America and we are going to Japan and Taiwan with them next June. They are great guys and it´s always fun to tour and hang out with them. We have families and we are also doing this for a living. That´s why we have to keep things in realistic level when we are touring abroad. It´s nice to bring some money with you for your family after touring five weeks abroad.
VENIA: What are bands tour plan? Summer festivals?
TOMI: Amorphis will keep us really busy during this year. We are playing lots of festival shows during summer. After summer we are having a club tour here in Finland. Then we go to Russia to play 3 shows there. In November we are starting the first part of our European tour. The second part of European starts right after Christhmas and ends in 15th of January.