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Ville Laihiala & Sami Lopakka (Sentenced)

Interview with Ville Laihiala & Sami Lopakka from Sentenced
by Panagiotis Koutsompogeras at 13 June 2005, 5:10 PM

Sentenced is one of the brightest (actually darkest) Finnish Heavy Metal / Heavy Rock bands of the past decade and their work was always marked by dignity, emotional depth, providing soul purification and catharsis to the listener! Since then many rivers of time have flown into the sea of immortality and the winds of Lord Time brought significant changes to their musical approach and style. The saddest thing from all this is that Sentenced have finally and unfortunately found their way towards their musical grave. After having a couple of Heinekens with Ville Laihiala  (Vocals) and Sami Lopakka  (Guitar) they revealed to us a lot of magnificent stuff about their past and their new album, The Funeral Album. They proved to be very open minded and open hearted people! Before you enter this interview remember, my friend, what H.P. Lovecraft once wrote: …Not dead which eternal lies, yet with stranger aeons even death may die!!! Enjoy this interview!

Panagiotis: First of all I’d like to express our delight to be here right now, interviewing Sentenced as we’ve been fans of the band throughout its entire course in time; from its early steps and up to now.  Speaking of now, your new album, The Funeral Album - which is very nice in my opinion -  I think it’s much harder than its predecessors and probably this was done on purpose by you; so you must have had a really good time in the studio while you were performing all the songs during the recording. Isn’t that true?

Ville: Ah, I would rather say that the good times were after everything was done, because it was more or less - mentally - the hardest one to do because we knew it would be the last album, so during the whole recording and writing process I personally would not call it that much as a fun time. More or less it was stressing times before we finally finished the album. For example, this happened more here \[on this album] but I don’t mean that we did not have any fun at all in the studio, it was like a kind of mixture of feelings to do this album. But I guess the fun and enjoyment of playing can be heard through the music and even though it was a hard process to record you can clearly hear the hard mental moments we had.

Panagiotis: So what you’re saying is that you had a good mix of emotion, on one hand you were very happy because you had very nice songs, very nice ideas which had to be recorded - and on the other hand you knew that this CD would finally bring Sentenced to the grave.

Ville: Yeah, exactly, it is a mixture of emotions.

Panagiotis: Yeah, actually I was talking to my boss Orpheus - you know, he runs the magazine - and he called me and went OK I have the new Sentenced album. So I grabbed the CD and then read that this is the final Sentenced album! I was really shocked, I did not expect the end to come that fast.

Orpheus: My question is why are you finishing it now? Why are you ending the whole thing? I mean everybody will be wondering why.

Ville: It is quite hard to give you a specific answer!

Orpheus: I know. Have you decided inside your minds to take different musical directions and do other stuff?

Ville: No, it has nothing to do with our music. More or less throughout our entire career we always wanted to take a step further and the amount of sacrifices we had to make grew more and more. Also our personal lives started to grow because some of us got married and have children.

Panagiotis: Are you married?

Ville: Yes and I have 2 children.

Panagiotis: Congratulations!

Ville: Thanks! So, that is already a big sacrifice and personally - to me - being in between the band life and the family life was too much at the time.

Panagiotis: You mean combining these things together?

Ville: Yeah, I mean it has nothing to do with the music but with all the other stuff - living in the bus and so on.

Orpheus: So what you are saying is that you are quitting music?

Ville: No! I am saying it for the third time! It has nothing to do with the music!

Orpheus: But you are talking about touring and being on the bus can be a personal problem in relation to your personal life when you have a family.

Ville: Yeah! Touring-wise I am quitting.

Orpheus: Ok. This is more specific.

Sami: The future things on that issue will be at least on a smaller scale.

Orpheus: So you would rather produce albums as musicians in whatever bands you will be and tour less?

Sami: Yes, less, at this level. It is going to be easier for us that way.

Panagiotis: We would like to wish you all the best, OK? Even though it makes us feel a bit disappointed, on the other hand there was a song in the Down album called Keep My Grave Open \[All Laugh]… which might mean that even after death has come there is a hope for resurrection and life carries on. I mean that what we consider to be dead sometimes is not and it is going to live again! Isn’t it so?

Ville: No! It will not live again! \[All Laugh] I mean the way we will live, will be through our albums. They won’t ever disappear.

Panagiotis: Ok, but won’t you ever appear under the name Sentenced again?

Orpheus: What are you going to do? Maybe solo bands?

Panagiotis: What about Poison Black \[Ville’s project]? About your Love Infernal video clip…

Ville: Ha! You know something? It sucks! \[Laughs]

Panagiotis: Oh no! It’s a nice song and a nice video too. It’s that point in the song where the solo should come in and I say to my self Come on, this guy \[Ville] won’t play a thing! and then you do that tapping thing! I found it very nice and it added so much to the song!

Ville: Ok and what is the question? \[Laughs]

Panagiotis: It was not a question. It was just a statement and I wanted to ask if you have any plans after Sentenced. I mean are you going to be devoted to Poison Black or something else you have in mind?

Ville: The second Poison Black album was already recorded 8 months ago. So, it just needs some more work to be done before it will be released but it will be released at the beginning of October. So, to me, playing music and touring will continue for 2006 but if you asked me a question if there would be a third Poison Black album I would say no.

Orpheus: So what are you going to do?

Ville: I am interested in producing and recording albums because I produced the first Poison Black  CD and I am also producing the forthcoming album. So, I am more interested in learning more about production and stuff like that. Maybe I will continue making music, maybe in this way  - professionally -  but there will always be a therapy, meaning I will go to some place and play with a band.

Panagiotis: Do you think that you will miss any stuff? Touring, rehearsals and so on?

Sami: Not the tour. But live shows are always special. Special moments where we share the intensity of a live show with the audience. But touring is not just that. It’s a pile of shit of more… other things. But I don’t think we will miss that very much. We never felt being so much a part of that Rock ’N Roll culture. We did not see any glory in that because we were always in just for the music. You know, it is not about wearing sun glasses and stuff like that because it does not make you a special person anyway.

Panagiotis: I noticed the vocals in your last album were very mature. I mean they always were mature but since this is your last record it seems that you knew it is your final moments and you did your best. The guitar lines were also very carefully designed and composed! There are also so many well played solos which date back to the Amok or Down era of the band - I wanted to emphasize on that! I think this was done on purpose, isn’t that right?

Sami: We always give our best when we record but especially at this last time everyone recognized that this was the last chance to record so it was a very emotional and exhausting period. But on the whole it purified us. I agree that Mika \[lead guitars] did a fantastic job with the solos and reached new places.

Panagiotis: So you mostly focused on the rhythm guitar…

Sami: Yeah, I do not solo that much.

Panagiotis: You know we have a cover band with some friends of mine in Greece and sometimes we play Mourn (from Frozen). Even people who do not listen to Metal music really like this song! And of course when they ask as Is this your song? we say Of course!.

Sami: \[All Laugh] So you get all the credit!

Panagiotis: You know, I personally got into your music with the Amok album and it is a very nice experience for us to have you here with us and to be drinking beer with you! So, I think that the majority of your lyrical approach in the entire era of Sentenced mostly focused on stuff like depression, love, losing someone so close to you. Do you think that if someone goes through depression he or she will find his/her way towards the light?

Ville: Yeah! You have to hit the bottom before you rise up again!

Sami: We have had response from people who were going through hard times.

Panagiotis: You mean they had a catharsis in the end.

Sami: Yes, exactly! Our music and the fact that we had dragged ourselves out of a sea of misery had finally helped and purified those people. It is a very nice thing to hear that even if we are so dark and negative sometimes, we help people find some answers to their problems.

Panagiotis: But I think that in your everyday life you are happy, you drink beer and do stuff like that. I don’t think depression follows you in every aspect of your life.

Ville: I do not think it follows us any more than other people that have problems in their lives and we are lucky enough to have this way to get rid of those feelings through music. I would not say that we are happy, happy people but simply happy people. \[Laughs]

Orpheus: What is the most extraordinary kind of music you have ever played apart from Sentenced?

Ville: I used to play punk and classical guitar - and I really persisted on that for one whole summer!

Orpheus: You never tried to sing any Power Metal stuff for example, like Gamma Ray or Helloween?

Ville: No because that music did not appeal to me.

Orpheus: What music did appeal to you when you were 18 years old?

Sami: When we started I was 14 years old and I was into bands like Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax… far away from stuff like Madonna. I immediately got into that music and I liked the idea of giving aggression through the music.

Ville: The first band that I really paid attention to was KISS and the album Destroyer. Then I had a couple of beers, went to my local record shop and bought the Ride The Lightning album by Metallica.

Panagiotis: It must have been a very nice experience!

\[Ville suddenly yells after a phone call!]Yeah! The Finnish team I support in hokey won the championship!!!

Orpheus: Well done!

Ville: Thank you!

Orpheus: People might think that you were decapitating us or something! \[All Laugh while more beer arrives] So, cheers and all the best to ya! How do you say Cheers in Finnish?

Ville: Kippis!

Orfeas & Panagiotis: Yeah, kippis then!

Ville & Sami: Kippis! Or… Keep pissed! \[All Laugh]

Panagiotis: We noticed that the artwork - the cover - was performed by Vesa Ranta (drums). Could you tell us more about his projects? Does he have any other special projects apart from music? Does he make any exhibitions?

Ville: He is like a photographer. He takes many pictures and he is a very creative guy in that way and he has an artistic approach. Also, if you are talking about Sentenced he gives his own musical perspective.

Sami: He did all the artwork for the Cold White Light album and also for this one. I think he did a fantastic job capturing the finality of the goal by creating different images for different songs. I think he is not only taking photographs for this or that or for newspapers but he also has this artistic side in him. He has also put out some of his own exhibitions with pictures and stuff like that.

Panagiotis: We know that you always have an instrumental song in every one of your albums - like the Golden Stream of Lapland in Amok, then Mourn and so on. In The Funeral Album there is a song called Karu. Is there some special meaning for this word? Is it Finnish?

Ville: It is Finnish and it is quite hard to explain. I have been trying to explain it to myself too! \[All Laugh]

Panagiotis: Does it mean Big Boobs or something? \[All Laugh Even Harder]

Ville: Ha! No! It is about a barren field that has rocks here and there and looks so obsolete.

Orpheus: So, It’s like a wasteland or something.

Sami: Yeah! The song itself had existed from even before the Crimson album. We just hadn’t found the right place for it. But for this one it really works out very well. It is a really calm song and it calms everything down. It serves the whole atmosphere of what was before and what will be after.

Panagiotis: I think it gets you to the point of what is about to follow. The last song, The End Of The Road, has a simple sound at the end of it and it’s like saying OK we are in the grave now. Goodbye!. It was very nice!

Ville & Sami: \[Lots of Laughter!] Yeah it is very nice to be in the grave!

Orpheus: Your final live appearance will be in Oulu, your home town, right?

Sami: Yes. It will not be a festival; it will be an indoor show dedicated just to Sentenced. We will have many days to prepare for it and finally, there will be a live DVD from it.

Orpheus: If your fans from around the world want to go there, how will they know how to book tickets and how to get there?

Sami: I am expecting it to be sold out quickly.

Orpheus: Will there be any info on your website?

Ville: Yes Well Done Agency (sic) in Finland. That is where they will find tickets.

Sami: There is a place called Theatreia which can hold around 3000 people. There will be a very special show with every sense of the word. Since not everybody can go there we will issue a DVD so everyone can see what the final moments will be. We had never released a live album before so now is a great chance.

Panagiotis: Have you ever thought about calling back some of your previous members in order to participate in the show just for the sake of it?

Ville: Maybe, we just do not wanna talk about what is going to happen! \[Laughs] It is going to be a surprise for everyone attending the show! Maybe we will just appear naked for 2 hours! \[All Laugh]

Orpheus: So what is your opinion about the Internet?

Ville: I use it in a way to get information or if I need something from it, but if you’re refer to downloading or porn…

Orpheus: Yeah I mean MP3s, people downloading your albums…

Ville: The new album is already on the Internet. There is a lot of shit but also many good stuff on the Internet. I try to be away from the shit except from the porn. \[All Laugh]

Sami: He likes shit! Sex on the shit! \[Laughs]

Panagiotis: Or sex with animals. Preferably with hens and chickens!

Ville: Oh no! Their pussy is so small! Or a hamster! \[All Laugh]

Orpheus: OK, apart from hamsters and chickens what is your relationship with other bands from Finland like Apocalyptica or Nightwish, business-wise or personal-wise?

Ville: It is more like on a personal level.

Orpheus: I think you’re friends with Apocalyptica, right?

Ville: Not that much. But we know the bands because we tour together with them at many festivals. We have beer together; we’re not in war with them. For a small country like Finland it is a big scene throughout the world! (sic)

Orpheus: OK, a bad memory flashback now. Last year I saw you backstage at the Athens Open Air Festival. It’s a bad memory an it was a bad experience \[meaning the festival]. How badly do you remember that?

Ville: We don’t really think about it.

Orpheus: Have you ever come across something like that elsewhere in the world?

Ville: The worst case that ever happened to me was when I had a really bad diarrhea \[Laughs]. I was sitting on a toilet for half an hour and there was brown water coming out of my ass. \[All Laugh]

Sami: Show-wise something worse happened! We were touring America to do a headlining show and we finally played for 15 minutes.

Orpheus: Really?

Sami: Yeah, it was at the New Jersey Metal Meltdown and it really was a meltdown of expectations! We were supposed to be headliners but we finally played only 4 songs! There was someone stupid enough playing with fire and finally lit himself up!

Panagiotis: Was he roasted?

Ville: He did not die but there was police everywhere so the show was fucked up! Soon after we were going to play the fifth song they pulled out the electricity and everything stopped!

Orpheus: That must have sucked!

Sami: Yeah, we traveled 17 hours to play just for 15 minutes! We calculated that we traveled one hour for each minute we played on stage!

Panagiotis: So now that the journey is almost over apart from your new album which other one would you consider as your personal favorite moment? Which one really touches your heart and your emotions?

Sami: That is impossible to answer! \[Laughs] Every album is unique and special in its own way! Every time is a new beginning since we are constantly changing. We really do not feel like putting them into any special order. Maybe in 5 years from now some albums may mean more but not now since we are putting the band to the grave!

Panagiotis: In the past you have already released a best of album. Do you have any plans for making any compilation album?

Ville: To us this band will end with this last album and I think the label will release a compilation album but I don’t give a fuck!

Orpheus: This always seems to happen when a renowned band ends its career.

Ville: Yeah but to us I put more effort into scratching my balls because compilation albums do not have anything new to offer and I am not even going to think about it.

Sami: They just want to make money. So, the message is Don’t buy it! If you already have all the albums you do not have to buy it.

Orpheus & Panagiotis: So, would you like to leave a message for your fans? This is your funeral answer!

Ville: Fuck you! \[Laughs] There have been hundreds and hundreds of messages on our website, which is really overwhelming and great to see that this band means so much to so many people. There are messages from people that are sad or angry or thankful that this thing is ending. This makes it even harder for us to go through with this decision plus all the other reasons - but maybe what we want to do is thank them and anyone who is capable of joining us in our last shows.

We hope to see them there - even though this sounds like a cliché. But even though we are ending this band, it is not a situation to mourn about but it is time to see it in a more joyful way. Eventually everyone will see this is still the end of a band and not the end of the world!

Orpheus & Panagiotis: Thanks a lot!

Ville & Sami: Thank you!


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