I N T E R V I E W
Interview Tomi Joutsen (by phoner)
Hello Tomi how are you? Thanks for calling us back, we are auxportesdumetal.com, a French webzine, and this interview will be published in French and in English.
Thanks, that's good.
We will start with a few questions on yourself as you are the "new" singer of the band since 2004. Do you still consider yourself the "new guy" or do you feel home now?
I feel home now in a way, because we have been playing so many shows, and touring around, and we have done four albums with me, but still sometimes I feel like a new guy ... in the business. Because the other guys have been in a band for, like, twenty years or something, while Amorphis is my first real big band. So I still have some new experiences, something new stuff is coming almost everyday, it's good, it keeps me hungry you know...
What role do you play in the band, beside singing?
I have composed a couple of songs for Amorphis. We are lucky, we have six guys in the band and all of us can compose music. Of course there are major composers in the band but still we all can do something. I don't write any lyrics. We have at the moment a guy doing lyrics for us. He did lyrics for Silent Waters, Skyforger and for this album too.
You use a special microphone, can you explain why and how you got this built?
When I started singing I used this Shure "Elvis" microphone, you know this Elvis look microphone. And I don't know, it's cool when you are a singer that you can have something special. When you are playing guitar, you have lots of models you can use, so I wanted to have something special and a friend of mine, he is working in a factory, and he can do all kinds of stuff from metal so he was a big help and he made this microphone for me. It's a Shure microphone inside, but I don't remember the model.
You call yourself "Rasta-headed hippy" in the 20 Years documentary, your hair is actually quite amazing, I was wondering how long you have been growing it that way?
I think I've been growing it for twelve years or something, pretty long.
Isn’t it difficult on your voice to alternate the growling with the crystal clear parts? For sure the effect is awesome, and became the signature of Amorphis over time, but isn’t it hard on your throat?
Yes, yes it is, and especially when we are touring. It's really hard. I have been on tour in the US twice, and both times I lost my voice. I don't know what was the reason, maybe the air conditionner or maybe jet lag, or maybe wrong technique I don't know but I'm trying to be careful. Sometimes it's really easy, when you are relaxed and not sick, the voice comes really easy, but sometimes, you have to be really careful when you are touring. But still it's great to have a huge scale of voices you can use and I started my vocal carreer with Death Metal so it feels real natural for me to use growlings, but I also like clear stuff and I'm really happy I can be sensitive if I want.
What kind of music, metal or not, have you been listening recently?
Recently I have been listening to a lot of metal. I don't know, this is some kind of period or something, another teenage, [laughs]. Most of the CD I have been listening are Death Metal or GrindCore. I'm also open minded and I like for example PJ Harvey but most of the stuff these days was Death Metal.
Let talk a bit about Amorphis material of the last 2 years. The deluxe edition of Forging The Land of a Thousand Lake was a fantastic package, which made me discover Amorphis, actually. Was this a band decision or a label decision?
It was our first DVD and we wanted to make it really beautiful. We didn't want it to be another ripoff DVD. And it was a good time for us to release a DVD and we wanted to shoot it here in Finland because we knew the place to shoot it, it's a place called Oulu, it's a city in the north of Finland. It's a nice venue, we knew lots of people would come to see us, so it was perfect venue for us. It was also fun to look all these old tapes the guys had, from the first US tour, the old funny stuff. And I think the fans really liked this release because it's a not just a take-your-money-and-run release.
Is Finland the land of the thousands lakes?
Yes, there are thousands and thousands lakes and also forests. A lot of suicide also.
Finland is a very metal place, do you have an idea why?
I don't know. In Finland it wasn't like that fifteen years ago. Metal was really underground music then. But after some good bands like HIM, Sentenced, Amorphis [laughs], and Children Of Bodom, metal grew up in Finland. And nowadays it's a huge scene here. A lot of fans coming, all the time. So I think the reason is, just good bands.
The re-recording of songs from the first albums, on Magic & Mayhem – Tales From The Early Years, Was this an initiative from your side?
The whole idea came from Nucleat Blast. They wanted us to record this kind of CD and it sounded like a cool idea. Of course there is lots of people who didn't like this because they want to listen to classics, they want to listen to real material, of when it was composed and released in the early nineties. But for us it was a good opportunity to celebrate a long carreer, and for us it was quite easy to record because we had played these songs many times on stage, so we didn't have to push so much. Still the athmosphere is different, we don't have the same effects or the same amplifiers than they used then, so it sounds different.
In December, former musicians of Amorphis joined you on stage, how did this go?
It was fun, it was the first time that I had a chance to get friends with the old members. I had seen the guys a couple of times, but this time we had proper time to talk and have fun. Of course for the fans it was quite an exciting experience to see old members all together on the same stage. We played eight or nine shows like this here in Finland.
Former members seem to be still in good terms with Amorphis? Which is not always the case. And this is well shown on the DVD
Yes and some of them are still active in the music business. And sometimes when we are playing in music festival, we are seeing each other and are talking a lot. Hey you know, things happen in business but you can still be friend...
You are participating in a lot of festivals this summer, is this a good formula to express yourselves fully?
Yes we are playing a lot of rock and metal festivals around Europe and it's perfect timing for us. It's a good way to show that we have a new album out, and we can play a couple of new songs from it. Of course we will surely play also old stuf from the first albums, and if we have proper time, like an hour or so, we can play stuff from almost every album and this is what we want to do. Even if we only have forty five minutes, it's always fun. You just have to make a good show and please people.
What about after the summer? Any chances to see you in France? Do you think there is no public for Amorphis in France?
We played in France a couple of times, and to be honest it's a little bit difficult country for us [lol]. I don't know if the French people know Amorphis so well, but it would be nice to play there of course, it's a nice and beautiful country. In the past we had little crowd, I don't know two or three hundreds, something like that, and it was ok, that's not the reason why we are not coming there, but maybe it's a promoter thing, and they don't think we should come, I don't know. Anyway, we are making a european tour at the end of the year.
Do you manage to always get this enormous sound we hear on CD, on stage? Is this hard work during the balance?
Of course it depends on the venue. Sometimes you are playing in a shitty venue with very bad PA system, so it's impossible to get a good sound. But the sound guy has been touring with us for almost seven years now, he is a very talented guy
The New album The Beginning Of Times, will be your tenth studio album, can you tell us a bit about the process of recording this album?
The guys had composed music last summer. So we had some songs ready and we did a demo tape of it. Then before the last tour the guys recorded all the instruments here in Helsinki and I recorded all the vocals in January so it was quite a long time.
So this is a concept album? What is the theme of it this time?
Yes it's a concept album again and the theme is taken from the Kalevala book again. And this time there is one guy called Väinämöinen, and it's stories about him. This guy is the main character from the book. He is a wise man and a sailor and he is powerful and he is very famous here in Finland. The Kalevala book itself, is the national book of Finland, it's old stories and beliefs.
The lyrics of the last albums were written by Pekka Kainulainen. A finish poet. Is this the case again with the new album?
Yes. Pekka took inspiration from the book and made his own version of the stories. He is also an arts teacher and an artist. A performance artist, he does street acts, you know? He writes lyrics in Finnish and we have to translate it and when we are recording we have to fit the lyrics with the music so it's really hard work. But each song tells a little story about Väinämöinen.
Isn’t it frustrating, as a singer, to not write any lyrics?
I'm used to it, because I cannot write any lyrics. I can try but I cannot do quality lyrics so it's better if someone else does it.
You have worked the voice with Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot), can you tell us a bit more about this collaboration?
He was the producer for the vocals. The whole album was produced by the band but Marco was the producer for the vocals and it's the fourth album we do with him. And this time he also recorded all the vocals because we worked in his home studio, and it took fifteen days to record all the vocals. He is really talented and he is also really good in English and a really good singer
You had been pretty busy these last two years, was any material recorded during the tour?
No that's impossible ! Like I said all of us can write material, it's not just one guy composing music and this time Esa and Santelli were the main composers and also Tomi composed one song. So that's maybe one reason why we can release an album in one or two years.
Once again the cover artwork is superb, can you tell us how this was selected, and its meaning?
This was one idea and Travis Smith who did all the art work wanted to pick this one. You can see an egg. And in old beliefs and in Kalevala book, the world was created from pieces of 6 eggs which were broken into pieces. it's a cosmic egg, something like that. It comes from the Finnish mythology, like the lyrics.
Amorphis sound over years has evolved from Death Metal to a more amelodic, progressiv and folk metal, any chance to return to your original sound now?
I don't think so. For me it would be good or ok, but I think the other guys are not into this kind of metal anymore. Of course they listen to metal, sometimes but for me I'm very satisfied with this style because I can be very brutal if I want and I can be very sensitive if I want so it gives me lots of things to do as a vocalist.
You have always been singing in English, was Finnish not an option for you?
English just sounds better. It would be easy to do just one song in Finnish but I don't see any reason to do so. I don't know what will happen in the future but English is a better language for us in music.
Any plans to try an unplugged or accoustic set?
Some people have been asking for that. And some of the guys would like to do that. But I don't see any reason to do that. Because I think that we are an Heavy Metal band and we should play with amplifiers and stuff like that but yeah, I don't see it so interesting.
In your Amorphis carrer, is there anything you would do differently, if you could?
Of course the first years were really difficult for the guys because they made a bad deal with Relapse Records, so that's maybe one thing they regret. But still Relapse made really good promotion for the band and they got quite bit. So not so much regrets.
What that future like for Amorphis? Ready for another twenty years?
I don't know [laughs]. Seems totally crazy...
Ok thanks for your time Tomi, I’ll leave you with the conclusion…
I just hope people will listen to this album a few times because it's quite challenging in a way. But if you give it proper time you will like it ... or not [laughs]
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