DATE OF INTERVIEW:
13th November 2015
Bands that release consecutive albums in such quick succession often fall foul of filler and excess in their eagerness to present a new platter of music to the world. More often than not, they'd have been far wiser spending some time refining and filtering their ideas before hitting the studio, let alone prematurely unleashing a series of lacking songs upon their fans. So, it was with the utmost of both surprise and pleasure that Finland's Amberian Dawn delivered another strong addition to their discography in October this year, so soon after last year's critically acclaimed 'Magic Forest'. Their new work, 'Innuendo', is the band's second album of original material to feature vocalist Päivi "Capri" Virkkunen and continues where 'Magic Forest' left off, albeit with stylistic detours into lighter territory with a truly sublime, mid-album aria, and a couple of overtly pop-rock pieces that borrow, aesthetically, from a particular legendary Swedish pop quartet. Fresh off a European tour opening for Delain, keyboardist/guitarist Tuomas Seppälä, the man at the band's compositional helm, answered some questions for Metal Discovery on 'Innuendo' and just when UK fans might be able to expect the Finns back over on these shores...
METAL DISCOVERY: Congrats on the new album - you've certainly maintained the high bar set by 'Magic Forest' with another finely crafted set of songs, despite the quick turnaround time. Did you start composing for 'Innuendo' immediately after 'Magic Forest', and are you always bursting with creativity and new ideas for songs?
TUOMAS: Yes, basically I'm writing new music all the time and, right after ‘Magic Forest’, I continued composing new songs. There's a clear correlation between those 2 albums. I started to write more melodic and more vocal driven music on ‘Magic Forest’ and that same perspective to music is clearly hearable on ‘Innuendo’ too.
(Tuomas Seppälä on his poppier influences)
"It's no secret that I'm a big ABBA fan. Lately, I've felt that I'd like to express that side of me as composer more and more."
Amberian Dawn - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2015 Uncredited
Interview by Mark Holmes
Amberian Dawn Official Website:
AMBERIAN DAWN DISCOGRAPHY
River of Tuoni (2008)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview
Amberian Dawn Official Facebook:
The Clouds of Northland Thunder (2009)
End of Eden (2010)
Circus Black (2012)
Magic Forest (2014)
MD: You perform keyboards and guitar in the band, but do you also compose on both instruments? Are you swayed towards one more than the other when writing music?
TUOMAS: Most of my songs are based on improvisation. I just sit down and start to play guitar or keyboards. Usually, something usable comes up and I can then continue working with that new idea. This idea might be almost any kind of... melody, chord, chord pattern, drum loop... and then I start working with a song based on that idea. Also, very often, I start to hear new music inside my head. Then I need to get in my home studio very fast so that I'm able to write those songs down. Sometimes, I'm too late and those new songs get forgotten. It also happens, sometimes, that those forgotten ideas come in my mind again and, this time, the song might be changed a little bit.
MD: Your songwriting on 'Innuendo' is both stunning and sophisticated, but how does a Tuomas Seppälä composition come to fruition? Do you imagine all the layers and parts first, or do some songs develop by jamming out some basic ideas with the rest of the band?
TUOMAS: Most of the songs are based on improvisation and the first idea usually gets me going with rest of the song. The other way it's done is that when I hear the music inside my head, I can immediately go in my home studio and record a demo of the song. I record a demo of every song and I try to make it as final as possible. So, I make first versions of vocal lines, guitar riffs, bass line, drum track etc. I know how the song should sound like.
MD: The musicianship on the album is of a very high standard but never at the expense of each song. So are you always careful to balance out the technical abilities of band members with the quintessence and crux of the actual compositions?
TUOMAS: I always want to keep the music and the song as the primary thing and the technical shining on instruments is always secondary. It would be possible for me to write some songs which would be very progressive and full of instrumental shinery but, for me, AD is not about that. I want to concentrate on good songs and all instrumental things must be supporting that big picture.
MD: This is the second album of new material to feature Capri, and her vocals fit the core essence of Amberian Dawn so well, but would you say the different styles and tonality of her range has also allowed you to push your music in any new directions?
TUOMAS: I recruited Capri because she's able to do both classical voice and, also, more traditional rock/pop voice if needed. My latest songs, even during ‘Circus Black’ (‘Cold Kiss’, for example), really needed a different kind of singing and Capri was just a perfect match for my new musical direction. With Capri, I feel like reborn as composer; I can really make something new comparing with AD's old style. I'm not saying that the old style was worse (or better), it was just something that was part of that time. Now, in this time, I feel different. Everything might still change in the future and I might want to go back into more symphonic metal.
MD: I also get the impression that we, perhaps, have yet to hear the full extent of Capri’s range. Is this the case, and will you be trying to explore other areas of her voice on future music?
TUOMAS: I've been thinking about writing a song for Capri on which she could use more of her operatic voice. But I don't want force this to happen. It must come out naturally. We definitely haven't heard all about her amazing vocal capabilities yet.
MD: There's an incredibly beautiful aria on the album with 'Angelique'... the music has a discernible narrative quality and sounds like it'd fit well in some kind of classy musical. Are musicals an area of inspiration for you, and would you ever want to compose the music for one?
TUOMAS: It's true that ‘Angelique’ would be suitable for a musical. In fact, that's something I've been dreaming about lately... composing a musical. But I would need some experienced partner to join me because all I can do is just composing music. I would need a partner to build up the storyline and write the lyrics.
MD: 'Knock Knock Who's There?' reminds me of ABBA in terms of the melody structures, vocal phrasing and harmonies, plus general song structure, so has their music been an influence in your compositions and how you approach songwriting for the poppier tracks you write?
TUOMAS: It's no secret that I'm a big ABBA fan. Lately, I've felt that I'd like to express that side of me as composer more and more. It was just amazing to start recording those softer tracks of ‘Innuendo’ (‘Knock Knock...’ and ‘Court of Mirror Hall’). Basically, my songwriting process is the same on all songs, whether they are softer, power metal, doomish or any kind of songs. But, on those softer, almost pop-rock kind of songs, I need to put more effort on vocal lines and backing vocals.
MD: This song also sounds like it'd be well suited as an entry in the Eurovision Song Contest... (I know there's a stigma attached to the contest for some people so, to clarify, this is meant as a hundred per cent compliment, not an insult!) Would you ever want to represent Finland in the contest, should the opportunity arise?
TUOMAS: I think it's possible that AD (or me) would take part in the Eurovision Song Contest. I don't mind about the possible negative reaction from the metal scene. So, it's possible and usually some things just tend to happen if it's meant to happen… you know ;)
MD: The first track you released ahead of the album coming out was 'The Court of Mirror Hall', which also has a poppy/ABBA-esque vibe in parts. Why did you decide on this track as a taster of the new material, and were you worried that people might think you'd abandoned your heavier side?
TUOMAS: It's always difficult to pick up just one song, especially if the album is musically diverse. You really need to think about what song represents the album best. That's why I discussed this with our label and my band mates. I knew, of course, that this more pop-rock- oriented song might be surprising to some of our old fans but, at the same time, I knew that our true fans are familiar with my appreciation for ABBA and that's why they would understand; why I composed a song like this.
MD: Is the album's title supposed to be a nod towards Queen in any small way? Press materials seem to allude to such... or maybe that’s just Napalm making something out of nothing! And were you worried about naming the album 'Innuendo' when, obviously, such a well-known and highly regarded album already exists with this title, by a legendary band?
TUOMAS: The title was just something that came up. Sometimes, you just get a feeling about something and you cannot really explain it. It happened, also, here. That name felt right and I can't explain it, why. But I am still a big Queen fan and so are rest of the band.
MD: You recently toured mainland Europe with Delain and The Gentle Storm - how were the shows? Did you succeed in winning over the audiences and gain some new fans?
TUOMAS: The tour is over at this point. We had a good time there and I'm sure we gained a lot of new fans. A lot of people came to see us after our show and there were both old fans of ours and new ones too. Basically, touring is always fun.
MD: Amberian Dawn weren't included on the UK leg of the Delain tour, so were you not offered this run of shows too, or was it a matter of not being available to tour at that time?
TUOMAS: We were offered only those mainland EU shows and I don't know anything about those UK shows. We still would like to visit UK again and it might possible next year. Let's see ;)
MD: Can we expect some UK shows at some point in the near future?
TUOMAS: That's something we're working on with just now. Since we didn't visit UK with our previous tour, it's possible that we're going to do some headliner shows there next year. Nothing is settled yet, we're just seeking out for different kinds of options.
MD: Finally, what plans do you have next for Amberian Dawn, following the Delain tour? Maybe a headline tour? More composing? Plans for another new album next year?
TUOMAS: We're trying to arrange some shows in UK and in mainland Europe for next spring. Let's see if we can make it happen. I will anyways continue writing new music, like always. Time will tell what's going to happen next, maybe more shows or maybe a new album... I don't know yet.
MD: Thanks for your time and hope to see you over here in the UK at some point in the near future.
TUOMAS: Thank you.