DATE OF INTERVIEW:
10th October 2009
ESA HOLOPAINEN; NICLAS ETELÄVUORI
METAL DISCOVERY: The ‘Kalevala’…am I pronouncing that right?
EH: Yeah, that’s correct.
(Niclas Etelävuori on the bizarre gift he received from a Japanese fan)
"...it was kind of sushi covered with chocolate! That was very strange, and I didn’t eat so many sweets so I gave them to a friend and “maybe you’d like this”, then I got a phonecall - “what the hell is this shit you tried to feed me?!” "
Niclas Etelävuori & Esa Holopainen in their tour bus outside the Underworld, London, UK, 10th October 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview and Photography by Mark Holmes
Official Amorphis Website:
Official Amorphis MySpace:
The Karelian Isthmus (1993)
Thanks to Adam Sagir at The Noise Cartel for arranging the interview
Tales From The Thousand Lakes (1994)
Far from the Sun (2003)
Am Universum (2001)
Silent Waters (2007)
MD: I’ve read that it’s regarded as one of the greatest Finnish folklore texts, and you’ve used it again on ‘Skyforger’…how do you use that in your lyrics? Do you use it as a metaphor for more modern ideas, or do you use it more literally?
EH: Well, we have an outside guy called Pekka Kainulainen, he’s a good friend of Tomi’s - the singer Tomi - he sort of came up with the concept. Then Tomi started to pick up lyrics for the songs and so we sort of had a theme and story for the whole album based on ‘Kalevala’, of course. So this is how we worked. The last three albums…on each album we’ve had one particular story out from ‘Kalevala’.
MD: I’ve heard it’s a really big text as well so you’ve got more scope to keep on going back to it and using other parts…
EH & NE: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: Is it really big?
EH: It’s like a bible! [laughs]
MD: Like the size of a Dickens novel or something?!
NE: It’s heavy!
MD: When you’ve used it as a text on your albums, I’ve read you base the lyrics on English translations rather than the original Finnish language version. Would you say that fits the music better using the English language rather than Finnish?
EH: Well, it fits, and since we started the band it was obvious that we are going to be an English singing band, so that’s one of the reasons. It’s still, you know, you can give a better idea to people what the lyrics are about, and even Finnish people can understand it better when the lyrics are in English.
MD: Oh really?
EH: Yes, because the original form of the ‘Kalevala’ language is written in old Finnish language, which even for Finns is hard to understand.
MD: You’ve only done one Finnish language song to date, a track you did for a movie, a cover of an old Finnish pop song or something…
NE: Yeah, ‘Kuusamo’.
MD: Have you ever considered writing any more lyrics in Finnish, or will you always stick with the English?
NE: No, not really. I don’t know, we’ve got this far like this and, now, people can understand what we sing about. If we do it in Finnish then that goes.
MD: I’ve always found it funny that a band like Finntroll sing in Swedish! That must confuse Finnish people!
EH: Well, they’re confusing us! [laughs]
MD: With such an extensive back catalogue of material with all your albums, do you find it difficult to come up with a touring setlist to please everybody in terms of people in the band and the fans? I read on your forum recently…somebody’s posted your setlist from this tour already and somebody’s said “ah, they’re only playing four songs from the new album, I want to hear more songs from the new album”…I’m sure other people are happier with older stuff, and…
EH: Yeah, it’s so stupid…
NE: It changes all the time so I don’t know if we’re ever gonna get a setlist that we can use the next day!
EH: The funniest thing is the person who moans most there is our webmaster! [laughs] But she’s got a person who goes to every show we do and, you know, it’s quite obvious we can’t play a different set at every show! [laughs] But, you know, on this tour…we played a lot of shows this Summer in Finland only and changed the setlist, but you got to understand that if you go to a show often it might be the same, but like here we’ve never played before, you know. But there are some interesting surprises we’ve got for the setlist.
NE: In Finland, where we play more, then we can maybe concentrate more on newer stuff but, then, when you come to territories we don’t play that much, then we make everything…
MD: …a more fan-pleasing setlist.
EH: Yeah, yeah.
MD: You’ve been around for nearly twenty years now - how’s the whole touring experience now compared to the early days?
EH: Well, it’s no more van tours. We spoke half an hour ago about this…we did a lot of touring with a van, that’s how we started. But, overall, I think a lot of things have changed. Metal is more popular these days than ever before and we’re happy, you know. We’ve been together twenty years and it’s a long career as a band, and the future looks quite nice. We have a great singer, and…
NE: We’ve done a lot of shows now, the last six months, but there’s no problems in the bus or there’s nobody really that kind of person that would pick on anyone or anything.
EH: Yeah, and you can…and these days it’s easier to motivate yourself on tour. It’s not like a thing what you wait that’s going to happen; it’s more like a way of life.
MD: So you’ve got the fun aspect in it these days? Was it a worse period with your old singer, like you said you had problems with him being unmotivated?
EH: Well, yeah, problems that are not meant to be mentioned in this interview, but the other problems as well. The basic thing is if you see that someone is not motivated in the band, it’s horrible for the rest of the guys as well. It’s really hard to motivate yourself to rehearse and to think about the future, especially if it’s the singer who’s not interested enough! [laughs]
MD: What’s the worst luck or most embarrassing thing that’s happened to a band member on tour?
NE: Hmmm…I don’t know…he did a lot of embarrassing things! [laughs]
EH: [laughs] Yeah, we could write a book about this!
MD: Every band seems to have had some sort of bad Spinal Tap moment on tour…what’s yours?
EH: He was like Ozzy Osbourne…Finnish Ozzy Osbourne! Shitted in his pants…several times! [laughs] Passed out in the middle of the audience! [laughs] But, you know, he’s a lovely guy and…good memories! [laughs] That’s only a very few examples! [laughs]
MD: What’s the weirdest gift a fan has ever given you?
NE: I got one from Japan. I got this chocolate that had fish inside!
MD: Real fish?!
NE: Yeah, it was kind of sushi covered with chocolate! That was very strange, and I didn’t eat so many sweets so I gave them to a friend and “maybe you’d like this”, then I got a phonecall - “what the hell is this shit you tried to feed me?!” [laughs]
MD: That’s quite weird! Finally, do you think much about the future of Amorphis and do you hope to carry on for another twenty years, or do you concentrate more on the here and now with just touring and whatever?
EH: Yeah, it’s…
NE: …keeping the wheels rolling.
EH: Yeah, next year will be the twentieth anniversary so it will be a DVD release, an interesting compilation idea we had in mind. Then, probably in another year we’ll start to think about the next album. Hopefully, a tour here in the UK will happen because that’s something what we’ve all been talking about to do…like a real tour here. I don’t know how much it will make sense, but it looks like…it’s a sold out show tonight.
MD: Yeah, there’s obviously a market for you here. Any plans for a big twentieth anniversary show in Finland maybe?
NE: Yeah, well next year is the official year, so…when we go home from the European tour we have, in Finland, I think twelve or fourteen shows so something like this.
EH: Yeah, it’s all our agent that, you know…because the compilation and DVD’s coming out, that you can sell as much as you want! [laughs] You know, we can go anywhere.
MD: Well, thank you very much.
EH: Thank you, that was nice.
NE: Yeah, thank you.