I recently had the opportunity to interview one of my all-time favourite musicians in the melo-death scene. With his band Omnium Gatherum having now released their new record Grey Heavens (review here), the majority of the interview is focused on that.
Huge thanks to Arne at Lifeforce for organising this and Markus for his time.
It’s been a year exactly since I last spoke to you. I spoke to you when you were on your little UK run.
Ah yes! I remember that well, it was a small pub and a small venue but it was a good day there.
Now, you’re currently gearing up to release the new Omnium Gatherum album. What’s the response been like to the songs you’ve released so far?
It’s been really awesome and I’m not bullshitting! The reviews we’ve had so far have been amazing and it’s been the best-received album so far. I just noticed today that we’re featured as album of the month in the issues of German speaking Metal Hammer that got published today. So old pessimistic me is very happy!
In comparison to the last album, how different would you say the new album is musically?
Well, we had the main idea to do a more kickass and in your face album but with the Omnium Gatherum trademarks still there. The songs overall are tighter and more aggressive but they still have the melodic elements and the ingredients that make an Omnium Gatherum album.
Would I be correct in saying that you working with Dan Swano on this album?
Yes, we did work with him on this album. It’s always really easy to work with him and I’m a big fan of edge of sanity so it’s an honour to work with the guy.
Off topic slightly, but you recently went to Dubai and did 70,000 Tons of Metal with your other band Insomnium.
Both of those were really awesome. I was there in Dubai for one and a half weeks as a holiday and also to play there with the guys. It was nice to visit there as Finland has some pretty fucked up weather in January so it was nice to avoid it for a bit. It was also my first time in the Far East so it was nice to have some time there and the show was insane. There was like 500 people there and they were moshing and having some crazy stage diving. There’s a really good metal scene there, which was not what I was expecting.
And then the 70,000 Tons of Metal tour was good fun as well. We had some fun on the beaches in Miami and the cruise was really great as well. Our good friends in Moonspell, Children of Bodom, Paradise Lost and Epica were there so it was one big party. Our playing times sucked though! We played two shows on the boat, one was at 3:45am and the other was 4am so we finished the set at 5am and had breakfast afterwards! There were people there though so it was good. I’d personally have preferred to sleep at 5am and not play a metal gig but hey, it was good.
Back on topic now, you’ve got the little European run with Amorphis coming up. Are you excited for that?
Yeah, I’m really excited for that. It was just confirmed and Amorphis was one of those bands that caused Omnium Gatherum to form. They were the biggest melodic death metal band in Finland in the mid-nineties and they have been a huge influence to us. So we’re staying in Europe after our own little headlining tour and are continuing on with them 2 weeks later. No rest for the wicked as they say!
What would you say are your most memorable moments on the tours you’ve been on?
That’s a hard one! I think it’s always the first times that are the coolest ones. Our first gig outside Finland was a memorable one, it was in Estonia, which is not really far away, but it was good. The first festival was a real moment to remember as well, first proper European tour, first proper American tour and first time in Japan. Those are the moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life. When you’ve played in the same city several times, it just becomes like a machine. You know everywhere there and it’s not that amazing. But, you know the crowds there and the shows are nearly always good.
The first long tour we did was in the UK actually. 10 years ago, in 2006 we did a two week run headlining throughout the entire UK. It was in small venues and was really punk rock. We started at the top headlining and now we are supporting! But of course where we support now, we play slightly bigger venues.
I’ve noticed a couple of bands that are doing slightly longer UK runs now. Do you think you’d do another run like you have done previously?
I’d definately like to! The UK is a really good market for us and the places are really cool. I’d prefer to tour there in the summertime so it doesn’t rain! But I live in Finland so I’m kind of used to the rain.
You’re sometimes very lucky if you get a day in Glasgow where it’s not raining!
That’s true actually! It almost reminds me of Aberdeen. I’ve only been there once but when I was there it had a really wet climate. I’d love to play Edinburgh, I’ve never been there and everyone that’s played there has said it’s a really nice place. I’m surprised that people aren’t playing Edinburgh as much as they used to.
At the same as doing these tours, It’s also heavy metal tourism for us as well. We try to get the most out of the time we are there but often we only get to see the hotel rooms!
Now, who would you pick if you were to play with any band in the world?
That’s always a tough question but I’d probably say Iron Maiden. I was really into them when I was a kid so it’d be awesome to tour with them. I’ve seen Iron Maiden with some pretty weird support bands. I once saw them with My Dying Bride in Finland. That was a little bit of an odd lineup but I was happy. Also, Dark tranquility as they are really good friends of ours and we always have good fun to tour with them.
What advice would you give to a new band that is just emerging on the scene?
Don’t do it! Everything is going downhill. But if you are going to do it you need to be persistent. I’ve noticed that bands of youngsters don’t really have a long-term range. We’ve been going for 20 years now and we are eventually getting somewhere. We only started doing it for the music and because we enjoyed the music and never for the fame or the money. We don’t give a fuck about wanting to be a big band, and we only want to be honest to ourselves and do the music we love in the good company of our fans.
In Finland we have like a sort of reality tv shows like X-Factor and Voice of Finland. I personally don’t like that as you didn’t come from anywhere, you were just skyrocketed to stardom. It just seems a bit fake and they don’t last very long. If Michael Jackson and Prince were starting now, I’m sure they would have done a DIY approach. I’m happy to work in the metal scene as we are still honest to ourselves and labels still care about their bands.
Do you still think labels are still needed in this day and age?
I personally think so. Of course you can do it yourself these days with all the streaming stuff but I’m an old school guy and want to focus on the music. I personally think it’s better to focus on the music and put out a better album rather have to worry about the promotion of the band. And also, there’s only 24 hours in a day. I remember Frank Zappa tried to live a 6 day week. He did like 30 hour days and just slept 6 times in a week. He was a progressive guy but it never really took off.
Markus, it’s been an absolute pleasure to chat to you and hopefully see on a UK run soon!
Thanks man! Hopefully we’ll be back later on this year so I look forward to meeting you again!