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Tomi Koivusaari (Amorphis)

Interview with Tomi Koivusaari from Amorphis
by Daniel Fox at 27 August 2015, 2:20 PM

One of metal's hardest bands to classify or pigeonhole, AMORPHIS seem to improve with every record, and the 2015 release, titled "Under The Red Cloud", is no exception. Building on the new lyrical and musical direction they took with 2013's "Circle", the new motherload was recorded under renowned producer Jens Bogren whom, as Tomi discusses, in the following interview, pushed the band to new levels. Tomi also had quite a lot to say to Daniel about their heavier direction, the kind of influence Jens had on the new album, how AMORPHIS' creative process never manage to stagnate and the kinds of setlists we can expect on upcoming tours.

Greetings Tomi; Daniel from Metal Temple here. I would ask how you are, but with an album like “Under the Red Cloud” out I’d imagine you’re feeling pretty fantastic. Have you seen similar explosive positivity like you did with “Circle”?

Hi Daniel, and thanks! I feel very strong about it, I honestly think it is one of our best albums, I'm really happy with songs, production, and sound specially is better than ever before. It was also great to work with our producer Jens Bogren for the first time, he made us work like animals. Looking forward to hear what other people are thinking about it. I was excited as well when releasing Circle, but this time I feel even more confident. So far I've heard mostly positive feedback, which feels great of course.

The discography Amorphis almost seems to have ‘resurgences’ every now and then, in that you’re headed on a new trajectory. “Tuonela” and “Circle” come to mind, especially since you’ve now deviated from drawing from The Kalevala. What would you say the overarching theme of “Under The Red Cloud” is, in that case?

We ourselves are dividing our albums like that as well, we see 3 album cycles, sometimes 4 albums from the beginning, as Eclipse, Silent Waters, Skyforger and The Beginning of Times I count as one “wave”, but they all had same kind of theme, different character from Kalevala on each Album, then some new wave is always coming. It's been unintended of course but afterwards thinking it is very clear. I think Circle started it this time, and I think Under the Red Cloud continues with lot more diversity , arrangements, songs, sound and so on. I think we are going to heavier direction.

You’ve mentioned before that the producer for the new album, Jens Bogren, is unlike ever producer you’ve worked with before, in the way he pushes the band in the studio. Hell, I even saw that on the “making of” videos. Having just finished the album, do you feel that process is more rewarding as a band?

Yes, of course, I have to admit that I was enjoying the way Jens worked during the session, I knew that album's gonna sound great. It would be hard to go back to old methods after this session, I mean we gave everything we had to this, and making next record other way would feel like not doing it perfectly. We used to stress and worried by ourselves about everything in recording session, so it felt great to leave that thing to someone else, who we trusted 110%.

The first thing I thought after having finished the opening (and title) track, was that I feel damn proud to be a metalhead. Amorphis is often fan-dubbed as “melancholic metal” and you have also expressed preference towards such music, but I think a lot of the tracks on the new album are the most uplifting material I have heard from the band. Was it your intention to break the vibe a little?

It's great that it makes you feel like that! We started to check new material out pretty same way than before, everyone had some home-demo versions of their songs which we shared and then started to jam those songs at rehearsing place. Then Jens joined in, he travelled to Helsinki to do pre-production for one week, he already heard new songs from rehearsing tape we sent to him before. Jens wanted us to raise tempos for almost every songs, he actually had strict numbers already for each part. He called our own tempos as “old-men-tempos”, hah! It felt quite strange to try those songs like that at first, but then we got it, and I think he was absolutely right. So that might be one reason for uplifting feeling, which is refreshing. If you're listening to the Far From the Sun album, that's quite opposite, heh.

On “The Four Wise Ones” and “Dark Path” I’m hearing some fantastic contrast between growls from two obviously different vocalists. Is this you performing vocals again? Might we be hearing that on future Amorphis material?

That is Tomi Joutsen all the time, except some of those female singings by Aleah Stanbridge on album for few songs. Tomi J has taking huge steps during his time in Amorphis as a singer, his scale is getting wider all at the time. I did some backing vocals on those “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” anniversary gigs we had earlier this year, but I guess I don't need to sing on albums, as Tomi J is doing it better.

Amorphis has been pretty blessed with such a stable lineup over the years, keeping the same members since 2005. Oftentimes changes or stagnation in a band’s music can be correlated with how often they undergo line-up changes, yet we never seem to know which direction Amorphis will go with the next album! How are the ideas kept so fresh?

That's true, we didn't have any albums where we had exactly same members than album before, that was interesting time of course but also a bit chaotic. Now we all know how other guys are doing their things musically, so it is very inspiring just to play together. So far we haven't got any “writers-block” kind of things, we just love what we do, playing music. Music itself is inspiring.

I don’t know if this can be related to the above question, but I heard there were originally 22 tracks planned for the new album, and finally there are 10. Having said that, the album ‘feels’ finished, and in the best kind of way; why the massive cull, though?

Almost everyone in band composes stuff, some more and some less, so there's always like 20 songs at the beginning, this time there were 22 songs. Some songs are already being dropped in rehearsing place, mostly because they might be too different from other stuff. Some songs were dropped during pre-production so we recorded only 13 songs for actual album, to focus more concentration to smaller amount of songs. They all will be released in different formats, bonus-tracks, b-sides and so on. Songs which are being dropped we are never going back again. It wasn't easy choice to drop any songs, but we left those choices to Jens. Some songs might be your favourites, but when starting to record them, something strange can just happened and it's not anymore something you excepted it to be. That's randomness that I also like, it works opposite as well.

Recently you have been playing “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” in full but I imagine you will be playing some of the new album live, especially closer to the release date. Which tracks do you think will translate best into a live setting?

We had our last “Tales…” -gig done couple weeks ago, didn't play newer stuff than from '96 on those gigs. So first time we'll play new stuff live is after the album comes out. We haven't talked about which songs will be on live set, probably we're changing those as well as tour goes by. I guess there should be 5-6 songs and then some “best-of” stuff from earlier material, not to forget some rarities, in our headlining-gigs setlist. I think they all should work live just great though.

On a more personal note, as a guitarist, how did you decide that you prefer to play rhythm guitar? Are you a riff guy, as opposed to a solo guy? How did you get into metal music?

When we started with Amorphis we both, Esa and I were playing both, rhythm guitar and lead guitar. Then we realized that it is easier to me to play mostly rhythm guitar, as I was “singing” as well. So that's how it started to be that way. And good way I think, Esa is great with solos and melodies, my strength is in rhythmic things. I do have some project bands where I'm playing lead guitar most, that is very good contrast to Amorphis and it is fun. We don't have to even think with Esa who is playing what, because it is very obvious to us, as we've played together for 25 years.

In 2013 you played some shows in Australia for the first time. Are some future shows downunder looking likely? Perhaps even crossing the ditch to New Zealand?

We loved it! So I and we all are really hope that's going to happened, as we liked so much that tour and the country. Rest of the year we are already booked for Europe, but we'll see what's happening next year. New Zealand would be totally fine as well!

I wish to thank you for two things: your time, and for releasing my favourite Amorphis album, ever. Any last words you may wish to impart?

Thank you very much, that means a lot to hear it. Hopefully see you on tour and check out Under the red Cloud, thanks for supporting!


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