Amorphis has a long history of intense music that draws inspiration from Finnish folklore. In the season finale of Voices of Metal we talk with the guitarist, songwriter and founding member of Amorphis, Esa Holopainen.
Tell us about The Beginning of Times and the inspiration behind this album.
“The writing process for TBOT started already at spring 2010. Lyrical theme is based on Kalevala which tells old beliefs and traditions of Finnish people before any other religions took over. This album tells a story of one god like character (Vainamoinen) who was believed to be the creator of the world. He’s the most important character of Finnish poetry and mythology. Our lyrics has always been influenced by Kalevala and we have took lot of influences to our music from folk scene. At the beginning it was really a quite a soup try to mix metal and folk influences together but later on it has become really natural process.”
Your music is more melodic and takes a more Finnish folk tradition then many other metal bands – more emphasis on the singing, chord progressions and song structure then just raw speed and power – how do you and the band usually approach songwriting.
“We are more and more open minded for the music in general. It’s really good and healthy that metal scene today is not that limited anymore. When we started the band we received lot of critic that the fans don’t know in what category they should label us. I always thought that it’s a great thing. At least you know that you are doing something own.”
How has the bands approach to writing music changed in the last twenty years?
“I think it’s good to go back when we started this band. Everyone was really into the Death Metal scene at the end of 80′s and early 90′s. We were tape traders and I remember getting demos from another at that time underground bands like Dismember, Paradise Lost, Nihilst (Entomed) etc. All this was totally inspiring. The music and the own little scene what was operating underground. It was about kids that loved that music, some of us played, some had little magazines and some just were fans for the music. Later on some of the bands crew up and lot of labels started to come out (Relapse, Nuclear Blast, Century Media etc…). ”
“When we got signed for Relapse records at the beginning of 90′s. At that time we already started to like a lot of music from 70′s. I think it started digging bands like Sabbath, Doors, Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. We realized that at 70′s there were also a scene which was very much compared to the metal scene today and got hooked more and more into music of that era. Jethro Tull, Camel and some old Finnish prog stuff really inspired Amorphis. We were still totally into metal but it was pretty obvious that we wanted to bring some influences to our music from those bands.”
“Listening to music in general with open mind has been really inspiring. I don’t think basically anything when I start to write music. If you approach writing process with the attitude that you have to come up with something and you have to come up with a killer metal riffs, you can be sure that you come out nothing else than hundred times recycled stuff.”
What kind of gear are you currently using?
“I have Bogner Shiva 20th anniversary heads which I mainly use. I drive them through Bogner Ubershall cabs. I have several effects; HBE Psilocybe phaser, Eventide delays, Vox wah, Univibe by Voodoo Lab. Everything I control with Voodoo Labs Ground Control. I use ESP Eclipse model Custom guitars equipped with Seymour Duncan SH-5 and SH-1n pickups. This my absolutely fave pickup configuration. Custom pickup is totally aggressive when needed but also very versatile. I use lot of clean sounds so it’s necessary to have a perfect clean sound. ’59 on the neck does that. It has great bottom end range and articulates well every note. I love that the guitar challenges it’s player, that’s why I stick with passive world and I’m not using too high gained amplifiers.”
“We are currently touring with acoustic set-up as well. There I have two Tanglewood acoustic guitars equipped with Duncan’s magnetic soundhole pickups, driven through DTAR’s Mama Bear. I use DR’s 12-52 gauge strings with D-tuning.”
If you could play with any artist, who would it be?
“I would love to jam with Jimmy Page, Dave Gilmour and Tony Iommi. These guys are my mentors but at least I can jam with their records. Hahaha! Seriously I would love to tour with Opeth again. We toured in states years ago and had a blast. I would love to do that again.”
You’ve been around to many parts of the world, is there any particular region or country that you particular look forward to playing and why?
“There’s really no absolute fave part of the world. I hate wet late year europe tours, specially when you are stucked outside from town to some industrial area. I love places that are warm. One highlight was 70,000 tons of metal cruise that we did this year. We spent four days on boat and played two shows. We had a change to go diving with sting rays at Cayman Island. For Nordic guy like me this was absolutely mind blowing experience. I have used to freeze my ass off in piles of snow here in Finland.”
For guitar players who are just starting out like you did in early ‘90, is there any advice you can offer them?
“A cliche but also a fact – believe into yourself and try not copy too much others. To be noticed your own personality have to come out from your playing. You have to give lot of time to rehearsing and you should understand the basics of music, for that it’s good to have advice from teacher or these days you can get a good on-line lessons. Kids are eager to play fast arpeggios but I have noticed that within a couple notes you can achieve stronger emotions than with a couple hundred. The result comes from what happens surround you, guitar player is a team player. That’s good to remember.”
For more on Esa and Amorphis, check out the link below: