Amorphis 2004

Another find from the archives is Dan's interview with Esa Holopainen.

9/13/20049 min read

Conducted 9/12/2004 by Dan Barkasi

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Esa Holopainen, guitarist from the famed Amorphis. It was cool to get to talk to him about the recent happenings of the band, including the departure of vocalist Pasi Koskinen and their upcoming U.S. tour with Type O Negative. Enjoy!

Dan: Far From The Sun has been out for a good while now. What do you think took so long for it to have an official release date in the U.S.?

Esa (Amorphis): Yeah, we had problems. It was originally supposed to come out on Virgin, USA as well, but the whole release was delayed, and delayed for too long of a time, and of course then we had to think about trying to license it onto some other label. Which of course took some time as well. So, that’s pretty much the story behind it. We had to find another release, another license for it. When you negotiate about the options and all that, it usually takes a little bit of time. So, that’s it.

Dan: At least you guys finally got it released around here!

Esa: Yeah! Of course, it was pretty funny that it came out like a little over a year after the European release, which is not so normal! But it finally made it, anyway, which is the most important thing.

Dan: What was the reason for Pasi’s departure?

Esa: I think it was a lack of motivation. He felt that he kind of didn’t feel his ambitions of this band, and he wanted to move on and try something else. More heavy stuff. He has his own project bands, and wanted to continue with them. Of course, when you don’t feel so enthusiastic about it anymore, then sometimes it’s better to leave, and leave some space for others as well. I don’t know! laughs Maybe you should ask Pasi for more precise details, but what his explanation for it was that he has run out of his motivation for it.

Dan: Is there a chance of JP Leppäluoto is going to become the permanent singer of the band, or is he just going to be used for the tour?

Esa: Well, we’ll have to see about that! After the tour, of course. It’s been really cool with him. We’ve been rehearsing a lot with him and we’re putting a lot of effort out towards it and it sounds really good. We’ll have to see. It’s too early to think that way, you know? We’ll have to see how it works still to start working with someone we haven’t worked with before and stuff like that. So we’ll see about that. It might be him, it might be somebody else. We really have to think about it when we come back from the tour. Then we really have to start dealing out the new album and stuff like that.

Dan: It’s been a while since Amorphis has been to the U.S. Are you excited?

Esa: Yeah, yeah! Of course! The band was last here 3 years ago, something like that. So of course it’s great to finally make it all the way there. With the new release as well, so we’re really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a cool tour. It’s five, six weeks with Type O Negative, so we’re definitely waiting for it!

Dan: How’s the progress on the new material going?

Esa: It’s going fine! We have something like 15 songs ready already. Of course, when Pasi left, it changed the situation a little bit, because we have to think of it with a new singer and everything. We’re really happy with the new material. It’s a pretty wide scale of different types of songs and everything. So, we’ll have to see how it comes out, and at last we’ll start recording after the tour. It’s going to be interesting, for us as well, because the situation is different. It’s a new possibility for us as well, seeing that the band has always done something else comparative to the previous release. We’ve done a lot of lineup changes, of course the producer. Different flavors as well when you change members and everything. It’s going to be interesting, to put it mildly! laughs

Dan: In what ways do you think you guys have progressed from Am Universum to Far From The Sun?

Esa: I think it’s more, to my opinion, of a wider scale of different types of ideas and everything, which I do try to manage to write 10 different songs, instead of having the same ideas all the time. More rock songs, more like folk influenced songs, more like oriental type songs. Like, we had them on our previous albums like Tuonela, Elegy, and those things. But to me, I think it’s more interesting. It’s more of a wider scale and it’s more rough, as well. Am Universum was more of a produced album, in a way. This time when we decided to produce it ourselves, we wanted to have it more like band oriented, more rough sound to it. To sound more like a live band. Like, not like a studio release.

Dan: Which do you prefer more? Touring or working in the studio?

Esa: Touring, definitely! I think that the number one reason to make music is to tour and to play live and of course, you make albums so you can tour and play live. But working in the studio is nice as well. It’s hard work and you really have to put your mind to it and everything. It’s totally different from touring, definitely. But I prefer touring, of course!

Dan: Is there a specific lyrical theme to Far From The Sun?

Esa: Well, this is a question you should point to Pasi! I think it’s pretty much like stories from Pasi’s head, and what he’s feeling and stuff like that. Since I’m not the one who wrote those lyrics, I’m probably not the right person to answer it. It’s not a concept album at all. It’s ten different stories from Pasi’s mind. So, that’s the way I see it.

Dan: What are some of your biggest musical influences?

Esa: Well, there’s so many of them! When we started, we were really much into like, all the classic death metal stuff, like Morbid Angel, and Carcass, and Bolt Thrower, and bands like that. After that, we started to dig like, you know, progressive music. Like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, bands like that. Also the metal bands as well. So, it’s really hard to point out any specific influences because there’s so many, if you know what I mean.

Dan: If you weren’t a professional musician, what do you think you’d be doing now?

Esa: I don’t know. I probably would be an engineer and producing bands then. But I don’t know if that’s the right answer, because that’s being a professional musician as well! laughs So, I don’t know. It’s really hard to imagine, to do anything else, because it’s been what I’ve been doing for so many years.

Dan: Where do you see yourself a few years from now?

Esa: I don’t know. Maybe touring the States again with a new release!

Dan: Is there any particular meaning to the cover of Far From The Sun?

Esa: We just wanted a cover that is simple and that would have some similarities to something that we’ve done before, as well. The Am Universum cover was a bit strange. You really couldn’t tell what it is or anything. So we just wanted to have a more simple type of layout, which just looked good. Something that’s simple, that looked good. I don’t know if there is any kind of specific story about it. We just wanted to have a simple cover, that’s all.

Dan: Are there any special additions to the U.S. release of Far From The Sun? Like bonus tracks or anything like that?

Esa: Yeah, I think the U.S. release comes with 5 bonus tracks. I think an acoustic version of "Far From The Sun" and four totally unreleased tracks. Two songs is from B-side single songs from our Finnish releases.

Dan: What’s the best gig you’ve ever played?

Esa: It’s hard to say. There’s so many of them! We played in Moscow, Russia, and we played in Budapest, in Hungary, at a big festival. Those have been the latest really good shows we had. Especially, in Russia, like the people were totally crazy and into it and really fanatic. Which is cool, of course. So the Russian show was really good. I mean, any place where the crowd is into it, it’s good of course. So it’s hard to pick the best ones.

Dan: What do you think the set list is going to be like for the upcoming U.S. tour?

Esa: It’s going to be as we played the last few years, we played pretty much songs from every album. So we play one song from the first one as well. Of course it’s a support tour, so I think we’ve got like 50 minutes or something, so of course you have to drop many songs that you’d like to play, which is a bummer.

Dan: What do you think of the current state of metal music?

Esa: I think it’s pretty good, I guess. I haven’t been listening to metal music recently, so I don’t know if I can really tell! I think it’s okay. There’s a lot of bands around, lots of good bands. The fans are always there for it. I think it’s alive, and that’s the most important thing anyway, that you get to see bands playing and people are into it and everything. So I think it’s cool.

Dan: Is there a specific process that you abide by while writing new material?

Esa: Well, no. Somebody comes up with an idea, like a riff or a chorus or something like that, and we just jam it out. Of course, each person brings something new to it, and we try to just jam it out, you know? Normally first instrumentally, and then we start adding some vocals and see it how comes out. Of course there’s a certain kind of way that you work when you work with the same people. We always try to bring something new to the songs to keep it fresh. I hope not!

Dan: Are you into any sports?

Esa: Oh yeah! Ice hockey, soccer.

Dan: Did you watch any of the World Cup, for hockey?

Esa: Yeah! Finland played in the final!

Dan: Yeah! It’s a shame they lost. I was rooting for them.

Esa: Yeah, I watched the game and was of course really disappointed. I think it was pretty good that they actually made it all the way to the final. They beat the U.S. and all that.

Dan: Kipprusoff was amazing for the most part.

Esa: Yeah, he’s pretty good! I think there was one goal though that went in too easy in the finals, but sometimes that happens!

Dan: It’s a shame about the NHL strike, too.

Esa: Yeah, it is. But actually, for Finnish ice hockey, it’s pretty good.

Dan: Yeah, because a lot of the players from over here will play there.

Esa: Yeah, we’ve got all the best players right now that are going to play for the premier league in Finland, so it’s finally going to be more interesting!

Dan: Do you have a favorite Amorphis album?

Esa: It’s really hard to point out. There all so different from each other. I really like Elegy and Tuonela. The new one is pretty interesting, too. Like I said before, it’s hard to point out. I like a lot of good things about each one, that make them each good individually. I don’t know. Maybe Tuonela. It had the most progressive songs, with me being into progressive music a lot.

Dan: How do you keep yourself occupied on tour?

Esa: That’s a good question! Back in the old days when we started, we just kept ourselves busy drinking! laughs After a few years, you cannot do it anymore, if you want to really put a lot of effort to making the music and then touring.

Dan: Your liver can only take so much!

Esa: laughs Yeah! So, now, we play games. We play chess and everything. We might have a playstation in the bus or something like that. Listening to music and have conversations. So, pretty normal! If you can call it normal whenever you’re talking about us! laughs Pretty much just trying to kill some time. That’s the most boring part. There’s just so much waiting all the time. Waiting and waiting. You really have to kill the time, so now we’re thinking of buying a war strategy game. So you can move and shit like that. It’s a big card you put on the floor! So that’s our plan to kill time on the U.S. tour!

Dan: Do you have any favorite TV shows or movies?

Esa: Yeah, I think the TV series called Oz. You know, the one from the prison. They show all of those in Finland too and it’s really cool. That’s really good. And of course I like a lot of science fiction movies and stuff like that. I pretty much don’t care about the category that much, just as long as it’s a good story.

Dan: Who is the craziest member of the band?

Esa: It must be Santeri, our keyboard player. He tells all those crazy stories all the time. I think we’re all a little bit crazy in our own ways!

Dan: Do you guys pull any practical jokes on each other?

Esa: Yeah, of course! All the time! laughs But, not that many recently. Maybe we’re getting old and we’re not as funny anymore!

Dan: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Esa: Just stay tuned for the tour, and I hope to see you there soon!

Dan: Thanks, take care!

Esa: Thanks, you too!