Tomi Joutsen – Vocals
Esa Holopainen – Guitar
Tomi Koivusaari – Guitar
Santeri Kallio – Keyboards
Jan Rechberger – Drums
Niclas Etelävuori – Bass
Single Bullet Theory
Beyond The Embrace
Joe's On Weed Street
Interviewer: Karma E. Omowale
Photos: Erika Kristen Watt
"I think there are a lot of bands that give up after a certain point, when things get rough and they don't see much development. I think that's stupid because the point is you are suppose to be writing music for yourself..."
For the past 15 years Amorphis has been morbidly depressing souls with their eclectic mix of death and experimental-esque metal. Seeing Finland has produced a plethora of amazing bands such as Sentenced, Kalmah, Children of Bodom, etc, this band is inarguably one of their finest exports. After under going some lineup and stylistic changes, the band morphed from a once predominately death metal vocally latent style, once fronted by now guitarist, Tomi Koivusarri, to the cleaner vocal styling of recently departed Pasi Koskinen. Now at the helm is Tomi Joutsen who looks to have found a permanent home with Amorphis whom has a remarkably similar vocal style to that of Koskinen. Joutsen's presence has seemingly invigorated this steadfast band. I caught up with guitarist, Esa Holopainen, one of the band's founding members, during their spring 2005 headlining tour. Esa discusses his disappointment in not being able to tour with Type O Negative, the immediate future of the band, what's in their CD player and more...
Karma: First off, I must thank you for doing the interview.
Esa: Yup! [Smiles]
Karma: Congrats on headlining!
Esa: Thank you.
Karma: Happy to see you guys here considering you would have been here earlier had Type O Negative not been forced to cancel the tour last winter. It must have been rather disappointing.
Esa: Yeah, it was.
Karma: How has this tour been going so far?
Esa: Pretty good. We're almost half way through it. We started from the West Coast and heading now to the East Coast. Yeah, there are new territories where we haven't played before like Florida. We're going to Canada, they've always been nice to us. Yeah, it's been good so far! [Smiles] We're happy, it's great to be touring the States instead of boring Germany! [Laughs]
Karma: Well, it's awesome to have you guys here, finally! [Smiles]
Esa: Thank you! [Smiles]
Karma: So as far as Pasi's [Koskinen] departure is concerned…
Karma: How did Tomi [Joutsen] come to join Amorphis?
Esa: Really, I think Pasi left the band late summer [of 2004] We did one show with him in Hungary and after that came this Type O Negative tour; he informed [us] that he can't do it [anymore] because of his family obligations. Yeah, we talked more and it was obvious his choice was definitely that he was not able to tour anymore. So that's he came to leave the band. He's probably happy because he still has another project going on [Mannhai] in Finland.
We found Tomi...it took quite a lot of time as we looked over a lot of demos of different singers and a lot of people as well but Tomi came by word of mouth. My friend's, friend's, friend knew him [smiles] and we liked his voice. It works well as we were getting ready to go on tour. It's scary, it's good that we knew him before the tour started [laughs] because we knew him, we didn't want to go on tour with a strange guy. [We both laugh]
Karma: What was the motivating factor in incorporating lyrics from [the Finnish poem book], The Kalevala on Tales of Thousand Lakes.
Esa: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah! It was just an interesting idea because we were using pop melodies in our music and this pop book is very much connected into the music. It's about old Finnish traditions and we decided it was a good idea to take topics from there for Tales. We used another poem book for Elegy and furthermore, Pasi started writing lyrics based on, inspired by those traditional books.
Karma: That was for Kantele, correct?
Esa: Right, yes!
Karma: Your style has changed drastically from days of Privilege of Evil/Tales of Thousand Lakes to Far From The Sun.
Esa: Yes, yes.
Karma: Will you go into the direction of Kantele to Far From The Sun going forward or would you ever consider going back to the style of Tales?
Esa: I don't see ever going back to anything that extreme. We would probably used a little more gruffer vocals because Tomi [Koivusaari] is good with that among with clean vocals of course. Music wise, I think we are quite stable now with a lot of melodies… We'll see, we'll see what's going to happen. We will be writing quite of a lot of new stuff. It will be quite interesting.
Karma: Then the decision to change the logos during the transition was done to reflect the change in your sound as well.
Esa: Yeah, back when we released Elegy, we changed the logo as well. We wanted a clearer logo. We didn't want to get stuck with the old, death metal logo that really stands behind nothing. [Laughs] When Pasi came to the band, we had more clear vocals and I think that song structures were more like…real songs. So yeah, it was like a new day for us.
Karma: So how does your typical writing process go?
Esa: People bring songs and ideas to the rehearsal when we decide to rehearse as a band and arrange the songs together, so that's how it goes.
Karma: Were you satisfied with the way Far From The Sun turned out?
Esa: Yes, we are! Afterwards I think it would have been nice to do with Tomi. [Pointing to Tomi Joutsen whom was sitting on the couch]
Karma: Really? Why is that?
Esa: Hmmm, because, I don't know. It was a good album with good songs but in some way you can hear the lack of motivation in Pasi's voice, at least we do! I don't know if people really recognize it but we hear it very well. It took quite a lot of time to come up with the vocals for that album as well. It's probably something we would do differently, it would be nice, like previews of all of those again. I don't know, we're happy with the album and stand behind it. There good songs!
Karma: Yes they are! Well as far as future plans are concerned, are you going to tour more then release a new album or…
Esa: Probably for this tour, we spent more time writing new songs and we have worked more with arranging vocals for new songs, lyrics…which has been tough. We tried to record the album during the summer because Far From the Sun was released in Europe a year before it was released here.
Karma: Right, in 2003.
Esa: Yeah, we'll have a new album coming very soon, your way. We're happy with the way the U.S. version came out because we put all of the tracks we had left over and put them on as bonus tracks so…Only 1/3 of the stuff was new… [Laughs]
Karma: Who are some of your biggest influences now?
Esa: Actually some old stuff, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, [Jimi] Hendrix, Led Zeppelin. We do listen to metal as well.
Karma: So who are you listening to right now that is in the genre?
Esa: Right now we have a lot of CDs on the bus, A Perfect Circle, Tool, Monster Magnet.
Karma: Whom would you see like to get more exposure from Finland?
Esa: There are so many metal bands from Finland…Nightwish and H.I.M. There's a good rock band called Flaming Sideburst but they are really good. I think they're one band that should tour more.
Karma: Speaking of touring, whose name would you like to see on a marquee along side of yours?
Esa: Hummm, [smiles] realistically, the Type O tour would have been nice but Peter [Steele] got sense and it really wouldn't have made sense to tour without them. I don't really know it would be with some big metal band [pauses] Metallica maybe.
Karma: What are some major difference between your audiences in Europe as oppose to your fans in the States?
Esa: Probably the mosh pit that people [do].
Esa: Here, yeah. It's something you don't see in Europe that much…I don't know if there's really that much of difference.
Karma: What's the most important lesson learned in the Industry?
Esa: Lesson, hummm… not to trust people that much. [Laughs]
Karma: [Laughs] Okay.
Esa: Because people promise you too [many] things, business wise and not to expect too much. You've got to be quite patient, it [can] take years and years before anything happens.
I think there are a lot of bands that give up after a certain point when things get rough and they don't see much development. I think that's stupid because the point is you are suppose to be writing music for yourself and see how things will progress from there.
Karma: Here's a Speed Round of Questions.
Karma: What's your mantra, a statement that sums up how you lead your life?
Esa: I just lead my life day by day. I don't put much expectations on it.
Karma: Spiritual or religious?
Karma: The one musician that has made the most impact on your life?
Esa: I've always like Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd. I've always like his playing style.
Karma: Favorite color?
Esa: When I was kid it was blue, probably blue.
Karma: Top 5 favorite movies.
Esa: Godfather, what else is good, there are so many good movies… I live mafia movies! [Laughs] Goodfellas…
Karma: So then what was the last movie you watched?
Esa: Oh, we watched a little bit of the Italian Job, the new version.
Karma: Do you swear?
Esa: In Finnish, quite a lot! [We all laugh]
Karma: What's your favorite curse word?
Karma: Okay, that's Alexi Laiho's [Children of Bodom's singer] favorite curse word too.
Esa: [Laughs] Yeah, it means fuck…but worse.
Karma: What's your first self purchased CD?
Esa: Oh, I don't remember because I used to buy vinyl some Deep Purple, Purple Haze…Perfect Strangers from Deep Purple.
Karma: Favorite instrument to hear?
Esa: Saxophone is nice, when it well played.
Karma: Live or dead: If you could interview anyone, whom would you choose?
Esa: George Bush.
Karma: Favorite household chore?
Karma: First job?
Esa: Cleaner, it was bad! [Laughs]
Karma: Favorite food?
Esa: As in general?
Esa: I like Mexican food, but I don't know after this tour if I like it anymore. [We all laugh] But I like it though.
Karma: Favorite drink?
Esa: Red wine.
Karma: If you could commission a band to do an Amorphis cover tune, who would do it and which song would they do?
Esa: Humm, humm! It would be nice to hear Black Sabbath do something like "Black Winter Day"
Karma: Oh, wow! Now that would be awesome and interesting to say the very least. Do you think he could get those growls in the right way?
Esa: Oh, I don't think so! [We laugh hysterically]
Esa: Ahh, kiittääs! [Smiles] Thank you!
I'd like to thank the band's tour manager, Brian Griffin, for making this interview a possibility.