Interview

AMORPHIS (2015 - English Version) - Tomi Joutsen (Vocals)

Big day today! Two great Finnish bands are in town! Amorphis and Nightwish will hit the stage in a few hours and Tomi Joutsen agreed to answer some questions. Itís raining but I donít care, the bus is comfortable, the beer is good and Tomi is cool.


SBM : Hello Tomi how are you ?


Tomi Joutsen: Pretty fine thank you!

Weíre here to talk about AMORPHIS, about music etcÖ But before that I got a fashion question that Iím pretty sure everybody asks you: What happened to your hairs?

Oh I just got bored with them. I had those hairs for something like 15 years, it was a nice looking but I just wanted to do something else. (Laugh)

(Laugh) Yeah so nothing to do with a midlife crisisÖ

No itís just that I like doing some sports like jogging, running and stuff like this and when you have hairs like that, during summer itís a mess you know. (Laugh)
If you go to the lake to swim it takes like two hours to dry, but itís pretty comfortable now when youíre on tour.

My girlfriend thinks you were sexier before but sheís also ok with your new styleÖ

Yeah itís coolÖ And sometimes I was feeling like Iím not the person Iím looking for when Iím looking into the mirror because guys who have long dreads that like to smoke pot, they are ďhippiesĒ and I felt that Iím not that guy anymore. I donít smoke pot at allÖ

No drinking and no smoking? What an example! (Laugh)

Yeah... (Laugh)

Letís start the musical part of the interview now. Youíre back from Paris with Nightwish and Arch Enemy, how is the tour going so far?

Itís great! I didnít know what to expect when we started the tour. I thought when we started to play that only a couple of guys would come to see us. And all the venues have been packed and thatís great you know, and itís been a lot of people. Yesterday there were a thousand people; there were some sold-out shows, and of course itís a big challenge to be opener but still thereís a lot of fans and the feedbacks have been great.

Is it more difficult to open for bands like Nightwish? Itís like Iron Maiden, they have a strong fan base and these fans are sometime not really tolerant, they want their band and donít give a shit about openers.

Yeah it is (Laugh) but itís been cool to tour with them, we knew the guys before, weíre friends and itís really easy to tour with them, no ego bullshit or stuff like this, everything is really smooth. Itís been great, of course Nightwish is THE band on this tour, but at the same time we have a great opportunity to bring out our music and maybe get some new fans.

With ďUnder The Red CloudĒ you have the best argument to get some fans. Itís really diversified, more than the other albums. How have worked on this record?

Basically itís like that: Someone makes a demo at home and then he sends the songs to the other guys via email, we listen to it and then we gather at the rehearsing place and we start to play. Of course together we do a lot of arrangements and I have to work on the vocal lines but I think that the main idea, the melodies, the structure are already there, but we try to have a great democracy in the band: if someone has a great idea we can always try. Thatís the main way of working.
On this record we had this producer, Jens Bogren, and he wanted to hear all the demos before we started to work and then we picked some of the songs and we thought that these ones are the most important, thatís one reason of why you have so different songs on the album.

Which is your favorite one?

Of course I like ďThe Four Wise OnesĒ because itís very brutal and itís kind of a different song on the album and itís my favorite at the point.

So youíre more into death metal stuff than melodic ?

HumÖ I like melodic stuff but not in metal! (Laugh)

What do you listen if you donít listen to metal music?

I donít knowÖ I like some rock bands, some punk bands like Turbonegro, Eagles of death Metal of course! (Laugh) Queen of The Stone Age, Mastodon, Portishead, Massive Attack, Therapy !?, a lot of music from the nineties I think.
In metal I almost listen to death metal like old Swedish death metal, I like this Stockholm sounding in death metal, not the technical stuff, some grindcore. I try to be open minded but Iím not listening all kind of music you know (Laugh). I donít like technical stuff, if there are too many notes I donít understand it, I really like to keep things simple.

I like when you have a balance between technical skills and feelings. Feelings are the most important part.

Yeah.

On this record, Pekka wrote the lyrics again. On ďCircleĒ he started to take some distances with his main source of inspiration, Kalevala, and wrote more personal stuff. What has he done on this album?

Actually all the ideas come from Pekkaís head and heís really into myths and Kalevala of course, so yeah there are some reflections about Kalevala. Itís great to work with him because you never know what will come from his mind and he puts a lot of effort on his lyrics, heís not only doing this for money you know. Heís not a music guy so itís something totally different also for him, and I really respect this guy because every times he writes something itís interesting and beautiful and not too masculine, not like ďLetís Fight with sword and kill everybodyĒ (Laugh)
Itís more poetic stuff and beautiful emotions and a lot of things from nature or Finland and I think itís a great mixture with our music.

So youíre also close to your cultureÖ

Hum yeahÖ I think that itís important that Pekka is from Finland because we share the same Finnish mood, what is family in Finland, history and stuff. Itís easy to find yourself in the lyrics in a way.

Isnít it hard to work that way? I mean how do you work with him, does he have any idea of the kind of songs youíre composing?

No, no. I like the feeling of freedom; it would be stupid to say ďI want you to write something about my emotionsĒ becauseÖ Well he cannot know my emotions (Laugh). So itís better that he has free hands to write whatever he wants and as a singer I also have free hands to do whatever I want: if I want to growl, I growl, if I want to be dramatic or sensitive I can do it.
Itís not the easiest way to do because it takes a lot of time, itís a difficult way because he writes all the lyrics in Finnish and we have to translate and to put all these elements together and it takes a lot of time, itís really stressful. But I think itís a good way still.

Have you ever consider to record it also in Finnish, to keep the essence of the lyrics? Like Sabaton did with ďCarolus RexĒ.

Hum I donít know, it feels kind of weird you know. I donít say that weíll never do this but at this point no. I just think that it sounds better in English, thatís the reason.

Actually itís better for me too because I understand English and I donít speak a word of FinnishÖ

(Laugh) Yeah! Of course it would be nice to do one song just because it would be an exotic thing but it would sound weird for people from Finland too.

So why not!

Yeah why not, but itís not my cup of tea! (Laugh)

And isnít it frustrating to not write the lyrics? As a musician you express your feelings via music but itís also important to express it with words too. So have one of you maybe wanted to write a song on his own?

Of course it would be nice but I think that I canít write any lyrics, itís not my thing. I tried when I was younger and it reallyÖ sucked. (Laugh)
I think that the best thing to do to make a song is to compose everything, write lyrics and put all the emotions together; itís the one way, maybe the purest. But weíre a band and weíre composing stuff, weíre working as a team so itís a total different thing.

Well you canít be a hell of a singer and a hell of a writer! (Laugh)

(Laugh) Yeah of course, and I totally understand some fans that are really into lyrics because most of the people just like the melodies and the feelings, they donít understand the lyrics. Itís also ok, because music is more emotion than brain.

You are still a hell of a singer when it comes to growl. You always were. But records after records you have improve your clean singing. Have you worked with Marco this time?

Oh no no noÖ

OhÖ Definitely over?

Itís over because he is so busyÖ (Laugh)
It was really great to work with him because itís a great singer and a funny guy, so fast and talented. But heís so busy you know, itís impossible to find a good schedule with him.
Iím really happy if there are some developments in my singing, of course itís really easy to hear it by myself, I just try to do my best.

As I said youíve always been a great singer, but according to me, on the record, youíve come to a higher level.

Thank you man I really appreciateÖ

How do you practice your singing? At home or on tour.

I donít practice. Iíve started as a death metal growl when I was 17, we had some local bands, but I never studied music at all. I know some notes and chords with guitars but thatís it. Iím more a band guy who wants to go to the rehearsing place and play, thatís my thing, I donít rehearse at home.

As you play guitars, and drums, and sing for different bands, have you ever considered to make your own project?

Oh non itís not my thingÖ Iím more like a team player you know. I like to be with the guys and play. Iím not the kind of guy who wants to hang around in the living room, doing some demos and stuff, I think itís really boring. I like the smell of sweat, of fart and cigarettes and this kind of stuff.

Man stuff!

Yeah! I totally respect the guys who are doing all the music alone but itís not my thing. I used to play football when I was a kid, and being in a band is the same you know.

And the team is bigger on this record, you have Aleah Standbridge, Chrigel Glanzmann etcÖ How have you chosen them?

This idea came from our producer, he knew Aleah and Chrigel so it was easy to ask them and they just said yes of course. They did a great job on this album and itís a nice little spice on the music, I think itís nice to have some guests, itís more interesting in that way.

Totally, female vocals fit perfectly, on a song like ďWhite NightĒ thereís some poetry, you bring some brutality, and the two combine is just perfect.

Yeah itís one of my favorite one also.

Refrain is awesome.

Yeah itís sad that we canít play it on stage.

Because?

Because the female vocal part is so importantÖ

We donít you ask to Floor Jansen?

(Laugh) They are playing likeÖ two hours in the evening so I think thatís enough for her.
I donít know; letís seeÖ maybe in the future it would be nice to share the stage with Aleah.

Yeah or maybe on a date in Finland?

Yeah but she lives in Sweden soÖ

So when you play in Sweden!

(Laugh) But she lives in the middle in the forest.

Well go on a gig there, it would be cool!

Yeah maybe in the wood!

And have you considered inviting Marco on the album as guest vocalist?

Well it was fun when we did these albums with Marco, he did some backing vocals, and he has a really unique voice so you can immediately hear when he is singing (Laugh).
But why not. Itís always fun to listen when Marco is singing because I think heís always in a good shape when you hear him singing, itís brilliant.

Hoping for it on the next record! (Laugh)
Tell me, you turned 40 this year. Do you sometimes look behind you? If you could, would you change some things? In music or personally?


When I started to play drums, I think it would have been wise to go to some music school. Thatís the only thing I regret you know, it would be nice to understand something about the theory of music. Even if itís going ok without itÖ

You never took any lesson, even with a personal teacher?

NoÖ

Thatís all by yourself.

Yeah!

Like real men!

(Laugh) Yeah!
I took some lessons in singing a few years ago, and before the first US tour with Amorphis I took one lesson but after that I realized that it was a kind of endless path: if you really want to know how to sing, you really have to do it. You have to learn and to study it for ten years or something, and I donít have the time for that; I donít have the passion for that, I just love to sing.
As we said, our music is not too technical so I think I can express myself good enough and thatís the thing; I donít want to do acrobatic things with my voice you know. (Laugh)

Yep youíre doing a great job so far!

Oh thanks !

This year is also your tenth year with AMORPHIS; does the band want to do something for the occasion?

NoÖ I think weíve been quite busy all these years, we released some albums, we were touring all the time and we havenít had any vacations. Of course we have one month off, stuff like this, but I think everyone is very motivated; weíre doing it for living so itís a big part of our lives, itís not just a band, itís a family thing in a way.

And how do you see yourself in ten years? Still with AMORPHIS?

I would like to see myself still doing this; Iím trying to keep myself in a good shape, but you never know that could happen you know, weíre travelling a lot, some accident could happen you knowÖ

Come on donít say that, you gotta wish you luck!
As youíre travelling a lot, is it hard to council you private and professional life?


No itís quite easy because weíre not touring this much, the average is something like 90 shows per year, so I have a lot of days at home, I have kids and a wife and I donít feel guilty because I spend more time with them than the average guy in Finland. These guys work all day and they see their kids in the evenings whereas I see them 24/7 when Iím home so thatís a lot of time for kids.

And itís important for you to stay close to your family?

Yeah of course, thatís the most important thing in my life. But itís great that my wife understands what Iím doing, Iím been doing this all my life, I started as a teenager, it was my passion and itís still is.

Youíre doing this by passion and also for a living. Is it hard for a band like AMORPHIS to earn money and get comfortable?

Hum I think weíre lucky in a way, we have a good promoter and a manager, itís really important to make things work, itís not just the music itís also how you sale the band. I think weíre not rich people for sure but we can do it for a living, have a holiday and we have some spare money you know, so itís a perfect situation for me.
I think itís really important to keep active, releasing albums, touring, but itís also important to have some spare time to not put too much energy in the band because after a couple of years youíre burnt out.

About money and stuffÖ You released a beer recently; sadly I havenít tasted it yet. Lot of bands are now doing these kinds of things, alcohol, Iron Maiden is a good example; Nightwish did some jewelry and so on.
How do you stand about it?


For us itís not about money, itís more that we know people who want to do something with bands itís just like having fun you know, because for us the markets are so small that itís not about the money.
We did some barbecue sauce a couple of years ago. (Laugh)

(Laugh) Yeah I remember!

So they are just something special for the fans who want to have an Amorphis beer to drink.
But for Iron Maiden itís a huge business, for us itís just a couple of euros, itís not a big deal.
I can deal without those things, but if some people want to do it itís ok.

Ten years ago people would have said that youíre not hardcore guys, you sold your soul etcÖ Things have changed nowÖ

Yeah!

Well I think weíve reached the endÖ Thank you once again for your time Tomi. I leave you the final words if you want to say something or conclude.

Thank you! Iíd just like to thanks French fans; there are a lot of them. Tonight they areÖ Well I donít know the capacityÖ

Well tonight itís something like between 7000 or 9000Ö

Ok yeah thatís a lot!
Weíll be back in France next year and I hope some of the people who saw us here will come to our shows.

Actually youíre doing some smaller club on this tour, how do you live this experience?

I think itís great in a way, itís a little bit hard for me as a singer to do 9 shows in a raw, to have on day off and then 15 shows in a raw. Itís hard but itís great to see different places. Of course some of them are not for us because Nightwish is the headliner but itís good to be back in your own world, to play club shows and see the people very close to you, wearing Amorphis shirts, itís great.

What kind of venue do you prefer? Great stadiums or clubs?

I like them both even if I prefer small clubs, itís more intimate in a way and if I go to see a band Iíd like it to be in a club. The atmosphere is more intense and people are really packed, itís the rockín roll spirit (Laugh)
No offences but sometimes, in these big arenas thereís a lot of business guys that are not into music and they just want to go there and see the show because someone gave them a ticket as a gift. They come because they have to and thatís really boring.
But when you go in clubs, you know that everyoneís there for music and for the show.

Thatís true, thatís why I really hope to see you soon in a club!

Sure!

Have a nice afternoon and I wish you a great show! Kick our asses!

Thank you man! Enjoy!
 
Critique : SBM
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