Amorphis Guitarist Esa Discusses Their New Album "Skyforger"
Long running Finnish metallers Amorphis are set to release their upcoming album "Skyforger" on May 29th in Europe and later this summer in North America. The album is currently streaming in it's entirety at the band's MySpace page. Amorphis guitarist Esa Holopainen, who has been with the band since its inception in 1990, spoke with me about the new album and the band's plans for an upcoming DVD release.
xFiruath: What first got you started in music and how long have you been involved in the metal scene?
Esa: Oh my God, with Amorphis next year it’s going to be our 20th anniversary. So 20 years with Amorphis and before that several years with another band. Quite a few years to see what has happened, the early 90’s and now 2000. One of the things that’s happened is that the whole scene is very different from how we first started. We started in the days when the tape cassette was the normal form and there was no internet you know. You just shared your demos and tape cassettes with the record labels. I remember when I was in contact with our record label Relapse in the early days I used to send them faxes, which was great in the early days. A lot of things have happened since the early years and a lot of bands have come and gone.
xFiruath: So you’ve been with Amorphis almost 20 years now. What’s it like working with a band that long? Do you guys still get along at all?
Esa: Yes, we get along. There’s been several lineup changes within this band during the years. It’s still great fun to go out and play and write music. That’s the main thing and that keeps us going.
xFiruath: I’m going to imagine that with all the tours you guys have done there’s probably been a good deal of drinking going on. What’s your personal best hangover remedy?
Esa: Just try to sleep. Don’t start with another drink in the morning. That just leads to destruction. Yeah, you know, if you get a chance to sleep that’s the best way to get rid of it.
xFiruath: Tell me about the new album “Skyforger.” Where did you guys record at and what is the album about?
Esa: Well it’s about the old Finnish traditions, as with the earlier albums as well. It tells the story of the old blacksmith gods. This blacksmith god sort of creator in the old times people used to believe that he was a person who forged the sky and forged the earth. That’s where the lyrics are. We recorded the album in Finland, here in Helsinki. It was very, very nice recording session.
xFiruath: The last that I heard the release was set for May 29th in Europe but no firm release date in North America yet. Do you know when we can expect that in the U.S.?
Esa: I think so. It should be sometime in June I guess, early June. That’s what I heard. I don’t know the exact date but it should be out quite near the European release. That’s like next week here.
xFiruath: Do you guys have any plans in the works for a special edition or a DVD or anything?
Esa: Yes, we’re working on that. We’ve been scheduling a DVD release for many years and it looks like it’s finally going to happen. We sort of have it scheduled for early next year, which is when the DVD is going to come out. We’ll try to record a few shows within the next half year and we have a lot of material from the earlier days. A lot of old VHS cassettes with a lot of old shit.
xFiruath: I saw that you did a music video for the song “Silver Bride.” Where was that recorded at?
Esa: Here in Helsinki and some parts in Stockholm, Sweden. It really serves the song. It was recorded inside a cottage that was going to collapse, so that was really nice.
xFiruath: Obviously your band has gone through a lot of changes. “Tales From the Thousand Lakes” sounded a lot different from “Am Universum” which sounded a lot different from “Silent Waters.” Where does “Skyforger” fall on that scale?
Esa: We sort of found our style with the last three albums and I think the main reason is because we’ve been together know with the same lineup for three albums. That of course affects our final result. To be honest there hasn’t been that much need to try any radical changes within our music. I remember “Tales From the Thousand Lakes” was really a radical album for us in the way that, sure it had a lot of death metal influences, but that was the first album we really took more melodies and different influences. The same thing with “Am Universum.” Some people were kind of wondering what the hell we were doing because it was so mellow at some points and very different from what we did before. But you know there were some interesting influences at that time. “Am Universum” for us is really a remarkable album because there are a lot of things we didn’t try before. That was the album we really wanted to do and it included the music we really wanted to show at that time. “Eclipse,” “Silent Waters,” and now “Skyforger,” I guess they are really influenced by our roots, the earlier days of Amorphis. There hasn’t been any need to start the search for new directions in our music. I guess the last three albums are like the best of Amorphis.
xFiruath: Is there any particular era of your music that you enjoy playing the most?
Esa: There are things in every era. I really the songs like “Alone,” and “The Way.” Then there’s the earlier stuff like “Black Winter Day” is a nice song to play still. “The Castaway” from “Tales From the Thousand Lakes” and “Better Unborn” from “Elegy.” Those are the songs which are still nice to play even though we have been playing them for years. It’s still fun to see people’s reactions when we’re on stage.
xFiruath: Do you have any upcoming festivals or tours?
Esa: In the States I think it probably doesn’t go until next year because know we’re booked for the whole summer festivals here in Finland and in Europe. We’ll probably do a couple of shows in South America if they can still get us into Mexico. But then we start a tour here in Europe. We’ll probably go to Australia for a couple of shows and then next year I really wish that we can schedule a tour for North America.
xFiruath: You guys have new promotion going now where you’re having fans send in photos for your website. Have you seen any of those yet and how is that going?
Esa: Yeah the fan art, you know I just looked at it like 15 minutes ago for the first time. It’s nice, I especially liked the Amorphis tattoo one guy had took. That’s really impressive. It’s great seeing all that stuff that people come up with but sometimes it’s a bit scary to see some of the drawings people have done. It’s kind of like, well it’s really nice but it looks very different from what we are really all about. You just have to be diplomatic and polite.
xFiruath: I’ve got a question about another band you guys have played with. You did a tour with Samael last year, which happens to be one of my favorite bands. Do you have any tour stories with them and are you a fan of their music?
Esa: Yes I really do like their music. The band has been around for years like Amorphis. They were really nice to tour with, really nice people. There wasn’t anything that special I can remember but they were great to party with and hang around with. Their bass player, we’ve been working with him before because he also works as a lighting technician for bands. Now I think he’s working with Carcass as well. Great band and I really do like their music, I wish we could do another tour with them in the future.
xFiruath: Which band haven’t you played with yet that you’d still like to get the chance to?
Esa: I’d like to do a tour with Porcupine Tree, that’s a great band. I think it would be a match for our music. They are a bit more progressive and mellow but I think it would be a nice band to tour with.
xFiruath: What bands are you personally listening to most these days?
Esa: I usually listen to the old stuff. When it comes to listening to music I’m pretty boring. I usually always put on the old classics like Slayer and Led Zeppelin. Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. I do like old death metal classics as well like the old Carcass and “Altars of Madness” by Morbid Angel. I really still like those albums. As I mentioned Porcupine Tree, I like them a lot. There’s a Polish band called Riverside, I don’t know if you’ve heard of them. It’s a great band. We played in a festival in Atlanta and Riverside was there. I heard them for the first time there and I really was surprised by them. I bought their albums and now I’m a big fan of them.
xFiruath: You had mentioned earlier that the metal scene has done a lot of changing over the years since it first started. What do you think about where it’s at today?
Esa: Where it is today, I think it’s somewhere where you can’t really control what’s going on anymore. It’s not just that you release an album or that you are on some record label. In the earlier days there were a bunch of labels that were just releasing albums but now people are releasing albums even if they don’t have record labels. They release albums on the internet and they don’t have a physical album anymore. So it has really gone far with that. I try to stay up with what’s going on but I really can’t, it’s too difficult. Metal music has grown so much. There are so many more sub-scenes going on. You’ve got death metal bands and then you’ve got whatever metal bands. In a way I think it’s good but for the new bands it must be a nightmare to try to come up and prove that you are something special. It has grown a lot that’s for sure.
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