Amorphis decided to visit us for a second time in two years and since Rockpages.gr doesn’t lose such an opportunity, invaded into the backstage of Gagarin 205, on the 14th of December 2003 and interrogated the axe man and main composer of the Finnish. Esa Holopainen turned to be a nice guy and being in good mood he talked to us about everything.
Interrogators: Andy Pappos and George Anasontzis
Rockpages.gr: Esa, how is the tour going?
Esa: Pretty well.
Rockpages.gr: The last stop of the tour is Greece. Are there going to be any special surprises tonight?
Esa: We’ll play something from the first album as well so I think it’s gonna be a nice surprise.
Rockpages.gr: That’s good… any memories from the tour? Do you remember any strange incident, something funny?
Esa: Nothing particular I can remember now. Oh, we had a good time touring with Paradise Lost, so we…
Rockpages.gr: And there was a show canceled in London, I think.
Esa: Ja, ja, ja ! (ed. The guy is in double happiness, I don’t know why…)
Rockpages.gr: In this tour you had a replacement in drums due to Jan Richenbaker’s personal problems. Atte Sarkinia is going to be the new drummer of Amorphis, or you will wait for Jan’s return?
Esa: Jan is here, so he’s okay and he will continue touring with us
Rockpages.gr: That’s good. It’s the second time you are coming here, so you have a general idea of the Greek audience. What’s your favorite audience so far? Don’t say the Greek, cause I’ll take it as a compliment.
Esa: Favorite audience… I think… the Greek is very good. We have good response here. Mexico has been very good for us. And … Germans have been alright but I think the more south you go people are more in the music, they are more passionate…
Rockpages.gr: The Mediterranean temper… You know, the temper, Greece, Italy, Spain…
Esa: Jaaa, hahaha, good people! (ed. what a guy)
Rockpages.gr: Most fans are thinking of touring with a rock’n’roll band is a great party. What’s the truth? Is there any free time left and how are you spending it?
Esa: When we are touring there is quite a lot free time left cause the most time goes for waiting… So then you have to be aware not to start drinking too much, otherwise the whole situation turns out as a big party.
Rockpages.gr: Are you married?
Esa: Not yet! Hahaha. I’m close… Quite close.
Rockpages.gr: I’m asking you cause the next question is about the feelings you have being on a tour and your family is a few thousand miles away…
Esa: I have a little boy at home so it’s definitely a reason I miss home. And it’s a feeling that I hadn’t before. You know it’s quite different than before to have the little guy waiting for you while you are touring all over the world…It’s something that changes you as a man.
Rockpages.gr: Do you ever take him on tour?
Esa: I haven’t taken him yet…
Rockpages.gr: How old is he?
Esa: Ummm, very small… A few months! Hahaha.
Rockpages.gr: In your country, Finland, you have big success. Are you facing problems like walking in the streets disguised only to avoid the fans hunting you for autographs etc?
Esa: It depends. Usually we can be quite alone. People ask for autographs or to take pictures, but it’s OK with the fans.
Rockpages.gr: What was the weirdest autograph you have been asked to sign?
Esa: You know… breasts…Hahaha
Rockpages.gr: Recently I heard from some people that if someone wants to have a good time in an Amorphis live he has to drink some beers and smoke weed. Any comment?
Esa: Hahaha (he liked the question), yes quite a bit, it helps the mind. I don’t smoke that much. A couple of days before I did… Haha…
Rockpages.gr: And vodka is a good thing…
Esa: Yeees, I like vodka!
Rockpages.gr: OK, next question. The thing that I like in you as a band is that whereas the most fans consider of you as an atmospheric metal band, you don’t follow the clichés. I mean you have a 70’s feeling and a touch of Hawkwind in your music. Hawkwind are a great band, aren’t they?
Esa: Ja, ja. ja definitely. Definitely one of the biggest.
Rockpages.gr: And what are your main influences as a musician?
Esa: There’s a lot. From Slayer to Pink Floyd…Hawkwind…Led Zeppelin.
Rockpages.gr: And you listen to all of these on private?
Rockpages.gr: And you listen only rock’n’roll, or there are any other kinds of music that you like?
Esa: It depends. Sometimes I listen, when I’m in the moody feeling, to more old stuff, more old stuff, more atmospheric…
Rockpages.gr: I mean artists like Nick Cave, Portishead…
Esa: Ja, ja I like Nick Cave a lot… And Porcupine Tree…
Rockpages.gr: Porcupine Tree are a great band. Did you like their last album?
Esa: Ummm, ja the Lightbulb….Sun… No! in Absentia you mean.
Rockpages.gr: Yes, that one. Many people are saying that it’s their best album so far… Do you agree. I don’t like it so much.
Esa: Yes, you’re right. Signify and Stupid Dream maybe they are their best albums.
Rockpages.gr: Mmm, not Stupid Dream. It’s very commercial I think…
Esa: Ja, hahaha ( good lad, everything it’s funny for him ).
Rockpages.gr: OK… You have released Far From The Sun. Where there any negative reactions from the fans? How is the album going in the market?
Esa: I think it’s going alright…
Rockpages.gr: Also you have changed record company. After many years in Relapse you have gone to Virgin. Recording for a major label like Virgin has some positives and negatives. You have 2 CD singles from the new album, so Virgin is taking care of you, I think.
Esa: Ah, they are takin’ care of us in some countries… better than some others.
Rockpages.gr: You know, the CD singles are distributed here, that’s why I’m asking. These kind of releases are a bit difficult to have a general distribution in Greece. So I thought recording for Virgin it’s better than Relapse.
Esa: It is, it is, but the problem with the big labels is that they don’t push your release, it’s pretty hard to put their attention in you… But I think in Greece they have done a much better work than in most European countries.
Rockpages.gr: Are you feeling that when you were in Relapse, you were something like the leaders of the village and now in Virgin you are lost in the city?
Esa: It’s that the way how it usually works… I can’t say which is better to me. Being one of the priority bands in an independent label or not a priority band in a universal label. It’s something that you have to choose… And after so many years in an independent label we decided to move on…
Rockpages.gr: You had problems with Relapse?
Esa: Mmm… Ja, bigger or smaller, but I think we always got through the problems with them…
Rockpages.gr: After 2 records with Simon Efemey working in the console, the production of Far From The Sun was done by the band. Did you have any special vision that any person outside the band couldn’t understand?
Esa: Well, I think that when we started to record Far From The Sun, we realized that it is definitely an album that we wanted to do by ourselves and produce by ourselves and we did not have a record company to support us…
Rockpages.gr: You didn’t want to have any problems with Virgin, like that they were trying to tell you how to make the album?
Esa: No, no, one of the things we wanted to make sure before we sign was to have the artistic freedom to make whatever we want.
Rockpages.gr: Most of your lyrics are influenced by your national saga, Kalevala. Is Kalevala so important for you and have you ever thought that people may blame you as nationalists?… Of course, you had also the antinazi symbol in My Kantele EP.
Esa: We did that because when we had released Tales From The Thousand Lakes, the album was on the top list of the Finnish skinheads magazine and we wanted to make our statement that we are not Nazis.
Rockpages.gr: There are many skinheads in Finland, as I know…
Esa: Yes there are, but it’s not so bad as it used to be. I think the problem was bigger ten years ago…
Rockpages.gr: Many of your music influences are oriental. How can this match with a northern based lyrical subject?
Esa: Mmm… Taking oriental influences has becοme from progressive bands. We really like a band called Kingston Wall. It doesn’t exist any more…
Rockpages.gr: You had done a cover of them in And I hear you call, right?
Esa: That’s right!… They were a Finnish band and they had oriental elements in their music.
Rockpages.gr: And now a strange question. If there is a music compass, I think that you represent the three sides. North is for the lyrics, Kalevala, west is for the Rock’n’roll elements, the main trunk of your music, and east for the oriental influences. Where is the south? Are you planning for any southern influences like African percussion in the near future?
Esa: Actually we have that! African percussions… The drummer plays percussion too. Ok, not the traditional ones…
Rockpages.gr: I’m asking you because I consider of you as an open minded band.
Esa: Perhaps… Good idea.
Rockpages.gr: In your discography you have 3 covers (Levitation by Hawkwind, Light my fire by The Doors and I hear you call by Kingston Wall). Are there going to be any other covers in the near future? Which song would you like personally to record?
Esa: Mmmmm… Hard to say… We had been talking for a long time, for many many years, for the possibility to record Pink Floyd’s One of these days…It would be nice to do that.
Rockpages.gr: Is there any artist, dead or alive, that would you like to work with?
Rockpages.gr: Who is your favorite artist?
Esa: I would like to have David Gilmour produce one album for us… Gilmour has done some great things as a producer…
Rockpages.gr: Recently I have read in an interview of Murder Squad that you Finnish people are always drunk and carry a knife. Being drunk is good, but carrying a knife is weird. And Finland is a country with low criminality as I know. Is it a tradition? Are you carrying a knife now?
Esa: It’s not actually true. But it’s used to be that way some years ago. Finnish people used to carry knifes.
Rockpages.gr: I guess not to protect their lives but as a part of their clothing, isn’t it?
Rockpages.gr: So you are not going to stab us tonight?
Esa: No, no hahahaha!
Rockpages.gr: A new album in mind?
Esa: In mind, yes. Hopefully within next year we will be in the studio… We will see. It depends from the tour also…
Rockpages.gr: Last words and a wish for the tonight show, please.
Esa: Thanks for the interview and we will see what is going to happen.