Amorphis are currently on tour supporting their latest album Under the Red Cloud (you can read Moshville’s review here) and I was lucky enough to catch up with bass player Niclas Etelävuori just before their show in Glasgow (you can read the review of the Glasgow show here).
It was a real pleasure to interview Niclas and I asked him about the tour, the new album, artwork, his gear and many other subjects.
Martin: Hi, this is Martin from Moshville Times and I’m here with Niclas Etelävuori from Amorphis. You’ve just started the UK leg of your tour. How has it been going and how has the reaction been to the new material from Under the Red Cloud when you’ve been playing it live?
Niclas: Well it’s been fantastic actually. After we came with Nightwish here we probably got a bunch of new fans and so when we play the new songs here they seem like people know them even better than the old ones.
Martin: That’s good yeah.
Niclas: Which is really nice…(laughs)
Martin: There are lots of great tracks on your last album but do you have a personal favourite and did it make it into the live set?
Niclas: Well it keeps changing, the personal favourite, but I don’t know. “Bad Blood” was one that was there from the start that we’ve been playing live and “Dark Path” seems to go very well live now. We didn’t play that at first, when we played earlier in the tour, but we just took it to the set now.
Martin: It’s quite unusual to have a band where the lyrics are written by someone who isn’t actually in the band. In this case Pekka Kainulainen who wrote the lyrics on the new album obviously. How did you become involved with him and how does the song writing process work in that case?
Niclas: It kind of works a similar way that when we used Kalevala stories but we kinda felt like we’d dealt with the Kalevala enough so we needed something else. Tomi still wanted to keep that kind of vibe in the lyrics and Pekka Kainulainen has been doing a lot of interpretations of Kalevala in his poetry and he writes them in Finnish for him and then they get translated and then they have to be fitted into the bars of the song. It’s a very complicated process.
Martin: Does that usually work out quite well or do you have to, sort of, shoehorn it in and add extra lyrics and things?
Niclas: Yeah sometimes you have to, yeah, give and take.
Martin: I think I read somewhere that Pekka isn’t really a fan of metal. Does he listen to the tracks you’ve done that include his lyrics and what does he make of the final work?
Niclas: Well he’s been happy every time we’ve met him but he’s an old man you know. I don’t know, he’s never said anything bad about it (laughs).
Martin: Your producer this time around was Jens Bogren who according to previous interviews I’ve seen seemed to work you guys pretty hard, starting your day very early in the morning. Were you happy with this way of working or for the next album would you prefer to get up at a more civilised hour?
Niclas: Well if I could choose I’d could wake up a bit earlier but I still would prefer to work with him because he’s a great guy. He really knows what he’s doing. I don’t mind waking up also when we are recording we are focused on working and so why not you get more done.
Martin: Yeah if you’re happy with the end result then it’s worth it I guess.
Martin: You have a few guests on the album such as Chrigel Glanzmann from Eluveitie, Aleah Stanbridge from Trees Of Eternity, and ex-Opeth drummer Martin Lopez. How did these collaborations come about and why did you feel the need to have guests on the album?
Niclas: Well actually Eluveitie Chrigel he came through Jens (Bogren) I think. There was synth parts that Santeri (Kallio) had written but with a flute sound and we thought it’d be better to get a real flute. Aleah she was friends of Jens, and living near the studio, we had another female vocalist that couldn’t make it and she was in the neighborhood and she was very good. Martin Lopez, we’d been touring with Opeth a long time ago. Their first tour they played with us in the U.S. We’ve known him for years and he lives in Stockholm and I called him and said “Hey can you do percussions”. I know he’s been playing them since he was five years old so I know he’s good at this.
Martin: You’ve always been a band that tends to shy away from what some might think of as a typical metal album cover i.e. evil, metal, darkness and swords etc… The cover of the new album is no exception. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Niclas: Yeah it was quite a process too. Valnoir (Mortasonge) who did the cover, and we had seen he had done like Watain and stuff like this, and we were like ok what’s going to happen, but he came up with these things. When we were recording he was sending stuff back and forth, and while we were recording he was listening. It was almost done in the same time as the recording.
Martin: Did you have much input into his final work?
Niclas: Well there was some, there was some different motif’s in the center first, and that was changed a couple of times and then he came up with this.
Martin: I noticed there is the image of the snake. Does that have a significance in the album?
Niclas: I think the original idea had the Kings with the swords behind their backs somehow and shaking hands. This kind of symbolised the brotherhood and evil.
Martin: Under the Red Cloud was released last September, so it’s maybe a bit early, but have you started working on any new material?
Niclas: Not yet. No.
Martin: I really enjoyed Katatonia’s latest album Sanctitude which was an acoustic live set. I know you guys did some acoustic songs when you played Wacken back in 2013. Would you ever consider doing a full acoustic album either a live or a studio album?
Niclas: Well we haven’t really thought about it but maybe if we do it live then why not record it as well. So that would be an option. We are going to do another one. We’re going to do one again in September/August in Helsinki, it’s a kind of celebration week, and there’s going to be some special guests and stuff. We did one in Tokyo and it’s very rare.
Martin: Yeah I’d quite like to see that. Amorphis celebrated it’s 25th anniversary last year. When the band initially started did anyone think it would last 25 years?
Niclas: I don’t know if anyone thought it would last a year (laughs).
Martin: If you met a young band now who were in the same position you yourselves were in about 25 years ago, what advice would you give them?
Niclas: You have to be very determined.
Martin: Do you think it’s easier now or do you think it’s harder?
Niclas: I think it gets harder all the time and you know we’re more dependent on touring too, and all the bands are touring so there’s so much shows going on that it’s very hard…
Martin: Maybe you can’t rely on CD sales as much anymore?
Niclas: No, not really no.
Martin: You play bass in the band, I was wondering if you could tell us a bit about your gear that you use when you play live?
Niclas: Basically we are all playing with in-ear monitors so we don’t have any amps on stage at all. The guitarist has the Kempers (Kemper amp). I use an old Samsung DI box that I think I got in ’98 or something like this, then I have this Swedish DPW design MÖG four band distortion pedal and a Wah (pedal). That’s pretty much it. Basses I use 4-strings I have ESP precision style and 5-string I have a sunburst jazz style.
Martin: Is it pretty much the same set-up when you’re in the studio, or is it different when you play live?
Niclas: It’s pretty much the same, yeah. In the studio we maybe have more channels but you know…
Martin: It looks like you guys are going to spend a lot of time on the tour bus in the next few months. What do you do to keep yourselves sane?
Niclas: Sleep as much as possible (laughs).
Martin: Do you watch movies and things, do you have hobbies, or do you actually write music when you’re on the bus?
Niclas: No there’s too many on this bus you know. I try to leave the brain at home but it depends, nowadays there’s so much technology you can play with anyway as long the internet is working.
Martin: What’s next on the horizon for Amorphis after your current tour?
Niclas: After this tour we go home for three weeks or something like this, then we go to South America and central America, and then the summer festivals, and then I don’t know yet (laughs) what’s after.
Martin: Well thanks very much for your time and we’re really looking forward to seeing you tonight.
Niclas: Thank you.