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About a month and a half ago, I sent some questions over to Amorphis guitarist Tomi Koivusaari. The interview, originally meant to be a phone interview, addresses various things about Circle, their latest full-length album. Unfortuantely, when the answers came back, I was just bouncing back from the third hard drive failure, and shortly after my fourth. They may be a bit delayed, but here’s the interview.


First of all, how’s everything going on your end?

Tomi:
Very well, thanks. Seems that album is getting good response everywhere now when it is released. We had record-releasing show here in Helsinki where we played whole album from beginning to end, and it worked out great! Now we are just waiting for summer-festivals and touring to start.

Circle was released back in mid-April. What has the fan reception been like? Hopefully it’s been positive.

Tomi:
It’s been great so far. Album hit different countries charts very well, in Finland it went straight to no 1 at official charts. Real feedback we’ll get when we start touring decently.

This album does seem a bit different compared to Skyforger and The Beginning of Times. Was there a specific goal in mind when you and the others were writing the material?

Tomi:
We started to think before recording this album that maybe we should change the process of making album this time, as last 4 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 keeping ourselves inspirated. So we wanted one same guy to record, produce and mix the album, someone who would be aware as us what’s going on on process and so on. Also we went to countryside all of us to record, mainly because we wanted peaceful place, that nobody is hurrying home or anything but staying at same place 24h for week or so. That’s how we did our 4 very first albums back in the days. Recording all separated felt too clinic way to do it this time. Working with Peter Tägttren was great, we’ve known him for ages, he’s cool guy and had great ideas and made great sound for the record. We didn’t have specific goal at the beginning, just maybe wanted to do a bit darker and heavier sound this time.

I don’t have the lyrics, but given how the songs seem to progress in and out of darker terrain, I can’t help but wonder if there is some kind of concept to the release. Is there something going on with the tracks of Circle, or is it just a coincidence due to the placement of the songs?

Tomi:
We were thinking quite much track-listing, the order of songs and didn’t want any songs which felt like fillers or which had too different mood to this album, but make more compact package with good flow. Lyrically this time we didn’t use Kalevala, Pekka Kainulainen made own story, although it moves in quite same mood than Kalevala-world. Album is thematic, story is about protagonist who has been dealt a bad hand at birth. He’s always felt himself an outsider with strong potential to become marginalized. Through an accident, after a crisis, he finds a connection with his inner powers. A guide is sent to him, from another time and place. He gets a chance to take hold of his own life and change his destiny. From the past of Carelian Finland he finds his own spiritual tribe and the power to turn the course of his doomed life. It is a story of survival.

You guys issued a music video for Hopeless Days among a few lyric videos. I assume the label chose all of these, but what input did you have in any of this, such as using Patric Ullaeus as the video’s director, or perhaps the artwork to the lyric videos?

Tomi:
Well artwork for lyric-videos came from art of our album-cover, and they were done by our company yes. I guess it is today’s marketing to leak few songs before releasing to youtube. We will do together 2 videos with Patric, we will shoot another one “The Wanderer” next week. We wanted that “Hopeless Days” video would be more like animated, without us performing in it. At least we don’t have to watch our faces, heh.

I also noticed that Amorphis has a couple bonus songs out there on alternate versions. “Dead Man’s Dream,” “My Future,” “His Story,” “Illusion,” and “New Song.” Why did these end up as bonus songs to special editions or import versions, and not just part of the original album? Please explain.

Tomi:
We wanted to put to actual album only those 9 songs, which we think represent the album best. So those 5 bonuses are dropped because we didn’t want them to be on album.

What are your thoughts on doing something like this? I know it’s been around for a while, but do you look at this as the die-hard fans kind of being alienated in a way and forced to spend more money to get these songs? Or, do you think that there might be a special EP or compilation released at some point that collects these tracks money-strapped fans such as myself might be able to acquire?

Tomi:
No, other way would have been to not-releasing those at all, which would have been fine as well. Not because they are not that good or anything but we are normally recording few songs more that then we have opportunity to choose later on which work best, you’ll never know beforehand which songs are going to turn the best or worst. But I like it someway that those dropped songs will be on some special editions if someone’s interested. But I’m not excited to make and EP out of those, there is still reason why we have dropped those. If all 14 songs would fit perfectly togeteher, we would put them all to an actual album, it’s not about marketing and selling more special-editions for us.

Speaking of various versions, I’ve always been curious on the differences between digital and physical. Has there been a larger number of purchases through, say, iTunes than there has been on CD or the vinyl pressings?

Tomi:
I still haven’t get that information, but I believe physical versions still going stronger in our case. Of course if you live somewhere where it’s not easy to find physical version from store it might be easiest way to download the album. I prefer physical version myself, I guess I’ve downloaded only one album from iTunes so far, and it doesn’t feel like you have the album really. But today’s youth might have different opinion for it.

The digipack also comes with a “The Making Of” DVD for Circle. How did the concept of a making of featurette come about, and how did it work out for the band? Was it more of a problem, did it get in the way inside or outside the studio, or was it just something fun that didn’t hinder you at all?

Tomi:
Well we have known Denis for ages, who where at studio with his videocamera, so it didn’t feel that disruptive after all. Of course when tape is rolling none of us can’t behave normally, at least I can’t, so funniest things happened when tape wasn’t rolling. But I think Denis did a good job, although there could be more actual working at studio, not to mention the evenings after workday.. I don’t know hol long there should be someone videotaping you from day to day before you wouldn’t notice it anymore and start behaving “normally”.

Were there actually any problems in the studio this time around, or any interesting stories you would like to mention?

Tomi:
We didn’t have any problems, we had good time and it was great to work with our longtime friend Peter Tägtgren. We shared pretty much same expectations how the album should sound etc. Peter stayed for 5 weeks in Finland and worked really hard with this, we’ll see how soon he’s able to do the same again in future!

Amorphis recently did a signing session on the 25th of April. How did that go for you guys? Anything or meet anyone interesting during the session? Any tales worth telling?

Tomi:
Well that was in record-store at ceneter of Helsinki, it’s very common that bands are having that kinda session there when album is released. Nothing spectacular happened there, just signing and chatting with our fans. It’s also very common to have signing sessions for example festivals, so we’re quite used to that. It good way to meet our fans face to face.

How about touring? I don’t see any dates on your Facebook, will you be hitting the road at some point? If so, is there a chance of a tour through North America sometime this year? Please explain.

Tomi:
At first we will do summer-festivals all over Europe, then at fall we’re gonna tour massively at Europe, Japan, China, Australia, South-America, Russia, confirmed shows we will add to our official page www.amorphis.net. There has been some unconfirmed plans to maybe tour at North-America next spring, but as said nothing’s confirmed, I guess it counts how the new album will be received over there. But I would love, it’s been too long since we toured there properly last time!

Is there anything else you would like to mention before I let you go?

Tomi:
Hopefully see you over there soon, buy the new album, at least we are very satisfied with it.

Hey thanks again for your time. I really appreciate it, and hope all goes well for you all with Circles. Take care!

Tomi:
Hey thanks to you, take care!

Amorphis: Circle
Amorphis
Interview conducted thanks to Nuclear Blast Records.