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27th November 2011
Twenty one years in existence and Finnish metallers Amorphis are still seemingly going from strength to strength, hitting the top spot in the Finnish album charts yet again and achieving their highest ever position in Germany at number 16 for new album 'The Beginning of Times'. Released at the end of May this year, they've once again sourced the 19th century Finnish text 'The Kalevala' for lyrical content and, musically, the band are at their most potent in what is a fourth album for the current lineup, the greatest number of consecutive full-length releases with the same personnel. On an unusually mild late-November evening, right at the end of a jaunt around Europe with Nahemah and Leprous in tow, Metal Discovery spent a most pleasant and entertaining half an hour chatting to the band's two guitarists and founding members, Tomi Koivusaari and Esa Holopainen, on their tour bus a couple of hours before they were due to hit the stage in London's Islington Academy...
METAL DISCOVERY: The first show ever in the UK was a couple of years ago but, since then, youíve been here every year. So nearly twenty years to make it over here, but can we expect Amorphis every year from now on?!
ESA: I hope so, I hope so! We never had any expectations whatsoever what itís like here and thereís actually a crowd for us here. Itís nice and England is a country we would love to do more shows.
(Tomi Koivusaari on touring life)
"...itís more like resting on tour than normal family life! I canít really try that at homeÖ sleeping all day and then ďwhereís my beer?Ē!"
Tomi and Esa on their tour bus, London, UK, 27th November 2011
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2011 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: You did the Underworld in London two years ago, then Bloodstock last year and three other shows over here in November?
ESA: Yeah, we played here, Glasgow and Manchester.
MD: Were those shows as good as the first one in the Underworld one; did they sell out too?
ESA: It was good. I donít remember if they sold out but they were really tiny places and very packed. But the venues were nothing compared to the Islington place hereÖ this is like a proper venue, if you could say! [laughs]
MD: So are there any other countries youíve never been to that youíd like to play in?
ESA: Australia and New Zealand. But those are the countries you go and play and have a holiday!
MD: Of course, itís a long way to go so you have to make the most of it! Is there a big crowd for Amorphis over there?
ESA: Weíve got requests to go over there but itís a matter of our agency and management, if they see itís worth going there, finance-wise. Usually, we go everywhere! [laughs]
MD: So you just wait and see where youíre booked and then go there.
ESA: Exactly, thatís how it is.
MD: Tonight is the final show of whatís been quite a long tour throughout November Ė has everything gone quite smoothly, without hitches?
TOMI: Itís been quite smooth, yeah. A little bit of illness.
ESA: Like the flu.
MD: Yeah, the time of year.
TOMI: Yeah, but itís been actually quite varied.
ESA: Yeah, especially we did a lot of shows in Baltic countries as well. We started from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, then dropped out of there to Poland and Romania. But it was really good.
MD: Can you pinpoint a best show of the tour?
ESA: Yesterday was really good in Paris. That was really, really nice; really packed.
TOMI: Yeah, normally I only remember a couple of days back!
MD: Is France always good for Amorphis then?
ESA: Yeah. And what else?... yeah, Spain was nice, Barcelona.
MD: So is that based just on the gig or your experience of the country too with a bit of sightseeing?
ESA: We usually try to do sightseeing, yeah. And, of course, like Portugal and Spain, theyíre still warmÖ and Iím surprised at London actually!
MD: Yeah, itís mild for the time of year. How has the touring setlist gone down; do you ever change it a little bit if you feel a particular song isnít going down as well live?
TOMI: We have changed it once, I think. Because we started from Finland before this tour, we played seventeen shows there, and that set was more like a Finnish set because we have played quite often there. So I donít know, we have a second leg of this tour in one month so weíll have to see if itís going to stay. Itís not easy to choose; we have ten albums.
MD: So you changed it slightly you said Ė was that a particular song that wasnít working so well?
ESA: Slightly, yeah, but not major changes. I think itís a matter of our taste and what fits the whole thing. I think we could come up with several sets which people would really like but I think itís because we try to come up with a perfect setlistÖ which is impossible! [laughs]
TOMI: I think the main problem is what we have to drop out because thereís a few songs almost everyone thinks have to be in the setlist but thereís no time.
MD: Do you have a sense of sadness when a tourís coming to an end or is it a bit of relief as well so you can get back home and get some rest?
ESA: Itís sort of relief because itís nice to go home and spend time with your family. Then again, itís nice to go on tour as well.
TOMI: On the other hand, itís more like resting on tour than normal family life! [laughs] I canít really try that at homeÖ sleeping all day and then ďwhereís my beer?Ē!
MD: So, obviously, youíre back out on the road the day after Christmas dayÖ
ESA: Yeah, the 24th is the day the kids open their presents. The 25th you wake up having a horrible hangoverÖ [laughs]Ö and the 26th you go on tour!
MD: Thatíll be quite another long run of shows around Europe after Christmas day, so are your families happy about you disappearing over the holiday seasonÖ so you can sleep and have some more beers?!
ESA: I think theyíve got used to it because this is what we do. Actually, we spend a lot of time at home. We do spend time at home when we are home. We are there all the time with the kids and everything. But when youíre away, you have families and wives to take care of the kidsÖ we have quite a few kids! [laughs]
MD: How many kids do you have between the whole band then? Whoís got the most kids?
ESA: Tomiís got three; other Tomiís got three; I have two; our drummer has twoÖ
TOMI: Ten.
ESA: Ten kids.
TOMI: We always tell them to rehearse to replace us!
MD: So do they ever go and see you when youíre playing in Finland then?
TOMI: Yeah, the Tuska festival is one because thatís near. The last Tuska show, I think there were ten kids there.
MD: Are all your kids fans of Amorphis?
ESA: They do like it, I think.
TOMI: My son does but my daughter doesnít!
ESA: Oh, okay! [laughs]
MD: What does she like; whatís her thing?
TOMI: She likes, actually, quite good music I thinkÖ Finnish female singers but more like rock than pop.
MD: Youíve got a show on New Yearís Eve in Switzerland I noticed in your schedule Ė is there going to be some sort of celebration then, or special show, because itís New Yearís Eve?
ESA: I donít know, we havenít thought about it.
TOMI: We will have two days off after that show!
MD: Wise! Did you tell your booking agent to keep two days free after New Yearís Even then?!
ESA: Yeah, yeah! I donít know, we havenít thought about it. Probably, we might do a couple of extra numbers and sell a shitload of merchandise! [laughs] The Swiss have got the money, soÖ