Tomi Koivusaari (Amorphis) interviewed

The consensus seems to be “Amorphis is back.” Was process to create Circle any different from previous albums? The energy is palatable.Tomi Koivusaari: We started to think before recording this album that maybe we should change the process of making album this time, as the last four albums we did at same studio with almost same crew all the time. We needed change, not only to have something new to our sound, but to keep ourselves inspired. So, we went to the countryside to record, mainly because we wanted a peaceful place where nobody is hurrying home or anything, but staying at same place for 24 hours for week or so. That’s how we did our four very first albums back in the day. Recording all separated felt too clinical this time. Recording in middle of nowhere with nature was at the same time very inspiring and let us concentrate on music. I think it created a sort of atmosphere. We’ve been working hard and intensive in the last years, so I don’t know about the “Amorphis is back” thing. Sound-wise probably, yes. This is our heaviest album since ‘90s!

Did Peter Tägtgren coming on board as producer and mixer have any effect on the outcome of the music? Maybe more in presentation than composition.
Tomi Koivusaari: Peter didn’t intervene on the arrangements or composition that much. I think his biggest effort was producing vocals and [his] sound policy. And how to record, for example, guitars, re-amping and stuff. So, he definitely brought heaviness with him. We have known Peter for decades. The first time we got to know him was when we toured together and shared a tour bus with Hypocrisy back in ‘94-‘95. We have seen him once in a while on tours, festivals, and so on. Many times, he also suggested that he could produce/mix our record. This time we needed a change as well, and when we started to think about producer, Peter was one of our first ideas. It was definitely the right choice. It was relaxed to work with him, and results sound awesome. We are sharing the same experiences from the scene, and we can respect him as producer, as I think he respects our ideas and ways to work. We had good fun together. He contributed his knowledge about guitar sounds and overall heavier sounds. We were looking for a heavier and darker sound for this album, and we’ve got it.

The guitars are more upfront in the mix. Was that intentional?
Tomi Koivusaari: That maybe wasn’t our goal when we started. I think one thing is that now we really got great sounding and heavy guitars on tape, so that brings them up naturally anyway. We were little bit confused at first when we heard the first mixes, because, as you said, the guitars were much louder than we excepted and keyboards were more in the background, but after a while it started to sound great. Basically, because it was damned heavy! That is Peter’s way to mix. It’s different from our previous albums, but that’s what we were looking for. A change.

There’s a fair bit of the Elegy vibe on Circle. Did you go back and listen to or take elements from Elegy?
Tomi Koivusaari: No, we are focusing more forward than looking backward. But naturally everything we’ve done is affecting what we do today. Elegy is one of my personal favorites from our back catalog, so I wouldn’t mind if there were some similarities.

Then again, it’s pretty dark. Was that a pre-planned thing or did the darker material come naturally?
Tomi Koivusaari: I think we had some kind of vision that these songs need to sound dark and heavy. But when we were composing the songs it wasn’t on purpose, as that is happening very naturally without any thinking of which direction we should go. Maybe we’ve had dark times in our lives lately. Anyway, I don’t like happy music. It should be dark and melancholic. That gives me more personally. It’s almost meditative.

The material seems to split down the middle of the album. Right at “Hopeless Days.” Was the sequencing meant to bisect the album into traditional Amorphis and “newer” Amorphis?
Tomi Koivusaari: Not really. When we were thinking about the track listing, we, as usual, were imagining the album in an old-school way. Like on vinyl, having an A-side and B-side. Then, we just tried to put the songs to an order that would give it a good flow and would stay interesting. I think it’s a good order, as there are new elements coming through each song. We recorded 14 songs, so we dropped five songs from the album. We wanted it to be more compact and racy. Those “leftovers” will be bonuses on different formats.

The folk elements on “Mission” and “Narrowpath” are pronounced. Guess you’ll never escape the folk music influence, right?
Tomi Koivusaari: I feel those elements have become a big part of our sound. Those folky melodies are sort of timeless, and we can arrange and mix those with whatever we feel like. We used to listen quite a lot folk music from different countries—ethnic and oriental stuff, too—when we formed the band, so those things are quite deep in our spines when we are creating music.

The intermission on “Nightbird’s Song” is pretty magical. How does the flute piece play into the song’s more death metal attributes?
Tomi Koivusaari: Perfectly, in my opinion. I like big contrasts in a song. After the flute, the heavier parts sound even more heavy. Also, it goes nicely with the lyrics and story of that song.

Did the lack of Kalevala material affect how the music matched Pekka Kainulainen’s lyrics?
Tomi Koivusaari: It started to feel that we’d need some kind of break from methods of the last four albums. On The Beginning…, the story was about Väinämöinen, probably biggest character from Kalevala, so we figured out that would be hard to top. Anyway, some of the same stories have been circling around in our albums, so it felt cool to try something else. The story itself could be taken from Kalevala though, the atmosphere and style. Pekka wanted to hear our new stuff from the demo when he started to work with the lyrics, so probably he got some inspiration out of that. We’ve been working with Pekka for the last three albums, so it was easy to continue with him. None of us are too excited about writing lyrics.

Tomi Joutsen said the album represents “integrity.” What did he mean by that?
Tomi Koivusaari: In the story the main character is sort of an outcast, and he is finding himself and his identity from his own roots and tradition. So, it is kind of a survival story.

Circle is your eleventh album. What do you make of Amorphis lasting this long? I’m sure your teenage selves would’ve never imagined making albums in 2013.
Tomi Koivusaari: [Laughs] You’re right! When we formed the band we were about 17-years old, and at that age even 25-years old felt very old. If someone would’ve told me back then that we’d still be together after 23 years I would’ve laughed. But hey, if someone would’ve told us that bands like Iron Maiden, WASP, Accept, Saxon, etc. would as well exist in 2013, I wouldn’t have imagined that either. We are still doing this because we just love this, making music, touring… having few beers at work. [Laughs] This is our full-time thing, so we can just concentrate on doing this. Time will tell how long. At least, we don’t need diapers on stage!

Do you have plans for a U.S. tour?
Tomi Koivusaari: There have been some plans and discussion about that, but nothing’s confirmed yet. I’d love to, as it’s been a long time since we last time did a proper tour over there. It’s not going to happen this year, as after the summer festivals we are fully booked to tour Europe, Japan, South America, Australia, Russia, and Finland. But it could happen early next year. Let’s hope. It all really matters how the response to Circle album will be there. So, buy the record and we’ll be there!

** Amorphis’ new album, Circle, is out April 30th on Nuclear Blast Records. Pre-orders are available HERE. And, why not get the Tales of Hall of Fame induction issue [dB #72] since you’re in a festive free-my-wallet mood? Click HERE.

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