After a greatest hits album in 2016 and a live release last year, the Finnish band Amorphis return with a new studio album, Queen Of Time. Guitarist Tomi Koivusaari talks about the album, the return of a former member, touring, the importance of videos and other topics.
Chad Bowar: What led to the return of bassist Olli-Pekka Laine?
Tomi Koivusaari: When Niclas decided to leave the band, we tried to think bass players we know, but none felt like the right one. We didn’t want any session player who would make this just a job, but neither any stranger who we don’t knew before. So the only one who really came to our mind was Olli-Pekka. We have been in contact and friends all these years and only he felt right for us. We didn’t know beforehand if he was interested in coming back, so at first we asked him to replace Niclas for the tour. I’m glad he came back.
After a 17 year absence, how long did it take to re-integrate him into the band?
Like five minutes. (laughs) From the first song we started to jam in our rehearsing place it felt like there was not 17 years between. Also mentally it felt the same.
Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Queen Of Time?
After the Under the Red Cloud album we did something like 230 gigs plus the travelling dates for two years. Once in awhile we had some time at home, which wasn’t too much, and everyone recorded ideas to demos at home studios. So at some point we booked the studio so we had a deadline which we needed to get things happening. So I think during the last tour in Europe we started to share all ideas between the band and starting to get familiar with new songs. After the tour we had one day off before we gathered at the rehearsing place and started to check new stuff. So basically the songwriting process was quite similar than last 10 years or so.
What led you to work with Jens Bogren again on this album?
After recording of last album we felt like it would be hard to do the next one without Jens, as his ambition and strictness was so powerful that anything less would feel like not making it perfectly. This time we already knew how it would be to work with Jens so it was little easier, as we could count on him even more. When working with an album Jens is like the seventh member of the band. He brings an outsider’s view to our songs even if he is more inside the songs than any one of us. We haven’t thought about the next album yet, but I don’t see any reason for not doing it with Jens again.
Does working with an orchestra and choir making for a more challenging recording process?
Not to us, really. We didn’t think of those arrangements when we were writing, rehearsing and recording the songs. I bet Jens was, but we just focused on what we are doing as a band. Orchestral arrangements didn’t have any effect on our parts anyway, as most of the orchestral parts were there already played with keyboards.
So Jens wanted to replace some keyboard stuff with real instruments and human voices, and it worked great.
How did Anneke van Giersbergen’s guest appearance come about, and what did it add to the album?
We have known Anneke quite a long time, since the ’90s I guess. We met her at festivals and so on. A couple years ago we asked her to join as a guest at our special gig in Helsinki, and she did. That time we started to talk about if she could sing on our next album. Anneke is just great as a singer and also as a person.
You did a video for “Wrong Direction.” How important are videos these days?
Hard to say. I still think it is important to make videos. That way there can be more interest from people who didn’t know the band before, I guess. I think it is just one part of promotion of an album, but also making some new views to the song. Of course nowadays when actual records aren’t selling that good anymore than before Spotify etc, the money you can put into video is less. Bands at our level and lower cannot make the great productions that we would like to, but still if we can find the right person to direct them those can still be very good.
How much attention do you pay to reviews?
When we are making new songs we are not thinking of what other people think about our stuff at all. But when everything is ready, album mixed and so on of course it is interesting to hear what others are thinking about it. So if the review is well written and reasoned it’s good. If not, and I can feel that reviewer didn’t pay too much attention to what he is doing, I don’t pay that much attention. But yeah, basically I read every one of them which comes my way.
You have a North American tour this fall. How does the band’s level of awareness/popularity here compare to the rest of the world?
I think it is little bit smaller compared to, for example, Europe. But we haven’t toured there lately as well, so that of course must have some effect. Last year we did a 7 week tour in North America just to see how things are to us there nowadays. It turned out very good so that gave us a reason to start touring there more from now on. Looking forward very much to the upcoming tour. We have a great package of bands so I think and hope it’s gonna be great!
What are your most and least favorite things about touring in the U.S.?
Most favorite is that it is a huge country so every city can be so different, and it doesn’t feel like having the same day over and over again. People we have met have been great and friendly, so has been the audience at gigs. Some cities I love to hang out in. Lots of legendary venues and places overall. Least is maybe long distances and food. (laughs)
Were you satisfied with the response to last year’s live album?
I must admit that I don’t know that much the response that it got. Have been so busy with touring I didn’t pay too much attention to it. It was a special gig in Helsinki with a lot of acoustic stuff and guests, so in that way it sure was little bit different gig than usual. The gig itself was great, our home city, sold out tent, lot of friends in the audience and on stage, summer night.
What is the status of the new Aborrence EP? Can you give us a preview?
We have recorded a four song EP, which should be out in August by Svart Records. We recorded it with Jan Rechberger (Amorphis drummer) in one weekend and we are pretty happy about the results. All four songs are new, first ones we have done in 28 years! It’s pretty old school death metal with a twist I would say, and I guess those who know Abhorrence would not be disappointed. Lyrics are about Cthulhu, and title of EP will be Megalohydrothalassophobic. The title relates to the fear of massive objects underwater, which ultimately means of course Cthulhu.
As you look back on Amorphis’ catalog, are there any albums you think were overlooked or underrated at the time, but in retrospect have held up really well?
Hard to say. I think every album has had it’s place, to us at least. There are some things we just had to try and because of that we are here now where we are. Even harder to say if some albums are underrated or not. I think when Tuonela came out we felt like that, but at same time we of course were aware that it is a quite different album from Elegy, and it might be hard to accept by our fans. I still think it is great album, and it is milestone of that age we were at the time.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Currently I’ve been listening lot of older classics, but looking very much forward to upcoming Tool and Ghost albums.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Thank you for this interview. Hopefully we’ll see lots of people at the upcoming tour! And buy our album, or even listen to it!
(interview published May 17, 2018)