Interview: Jani Liimatainen of Insomnium

Prior to their performance in Manchester the other day, we had the opportunity to chat with the newest member of Finnish melodeath titans Insomnium. Amongst other things, we discussed the tour so far, the latest album and what he enjoys doing outside of music.

(c) Ya Cheng

This is the fourth day on the tour now. How have the shows been so far?

It’s been surprisingly good. We had 700 people at our show in London yesterday which I thought was pretty amazing! The crowds have been great and people have been going crazy with circle pits and walls of death in songs which I wouldn’t expect. It seems like people enjoy it and it’s been lots of fun for us as well.

This is your first time with Insomnium in the UK. How has it been?

This band is so easy to work with so it’s nice to go anywhere with them. They’re very professional and nice outgoing guys. It’s very easy as we’re friends as well. It’s been place to see a bit more of the UK as I’ve only played London and Bloodstock previously.

Is Ville playing with you on this tour?

He’s coming to the show tonight but not playing. He’s been quite busy with his day job so has not been able to join us on this tour.

How do you feel the response has been to the latest album?

It’s been a great response. Both the fans and the critics seem to be liking it and we got nominated for this Finnish grammy which was really nice. The reception has been phenomenally good in a live setting as well.

What equipment are you using on this run?

I’m endorsed by ESP so I’m playing those guitars. Both Markus and I use the same amplifiers and Axe FX live. We’re using the Axe FX for the PA and then use the EVH heads as power amps to have monitoring on the stage. That way we get something resembling a guitar sound on stage!

What’s the setlist like tonight?

We’re not playing any of Winter’s Gate as it doesn’t really work splitting it into bits. We tried that on one run a few years ago and it just didn’t really work. We decided that if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do the whole thing. It’s going to be out of the setlist for a bit now and might only come back for special events. Aside from that, our setlist is pretty balanced and has songs from most of the other albums. With having eight albums, it can be difficult to pick the songs but I think we got it right on this run.

On the topic of Winter’s Gate, there was a special performance a few years ago with an orchestra. Do you think that might happen again?

I wasn’t officially in the band when that happened, but I was playing the acoustic parts on acoustic guitar which was an amazing experience. Now that you bring it up, we might do something like that to bring it back. It sounded so huge with the entire orchestra so it’d be cool to do it again.

You’ve been doing a lot of touring outside of Insomnium this past year as well. Does it get difficult to schedule everything?

It’s a pretty balanced schedule to be honest. Insomnium is my priority now and I fit in other things around that. This band tours so heavily that it can get difficult to fit other things around it, but I’m still able to. Last year I filled in in Omnium Gatherum so it’s kind of a small circle!  I’ll be filling in on the Scandinavian tour as well, but not the american run as that would be stupid! Last year I was working on two albums at the same time which resulted in some long days.

On the topic of that second album, Songs The Night Sings, how was that received?

It’s been doing surprisingly well actually. It’s sad that we don’t really get the opportunity to play that many shows, but we’ll be doing two festivals in Finland this year. We went to Japan and played Sweden Rock recently as well, but it’s only been a handful of shows. We only have so much time on our hands though, as much as I’d love to play more shows with that project.

What do you enjoy doing outside of music?

I try to go running and keep active. When you’re on the road, it’s so hard to do anything else aside from playing the music. You don’t sleep very well and eat like crap on the road so I try and keep myself active. I used to play golf a bit, but I’ve not had time for that recently. I mainly just try to take it easy when I’m home which is not that often! I don’t listen to music when I go running, I prefer to listen to spoken word and podcasts. I work in music and just hear so much of it that I want a break from it when not doing it.

What do you want to see less of in the music industry?

That’s a good question. I want to see less of these artist that come out of nowhere or from a TV show. I’d like to see less of that and more genuine artists paying their dues, rehearsing and writing their own music and going the long way. Instead of paying their way in, they should work hard. Usually, that way you’ve paid your dues and are going to make it. If you don’t then you’re not going to make it.

What’s your pre-show ritual?

About an hour before the show, I take my guitar and have one drink. I then play some basic scales and routines that focus on difficult parts. I try and play stuff that’s musical and helps me to warm up. It’s important to stretch as well and warm up the picking hand as Insomnium has a lot of fast picking. I don’t really do any vocal warmups as the music is below my normal range of singing. I’m more of a high tenor singer so don’t really do a lot of low stuff. It’s actually quite fun to do the singing.

What has Insomnium got lined up for the next year?

It’s touring, touring and more touring. After this run, we do a one off show in Dubai and then we do a run of Finnish dates. We’re then doing a 5 week run in America after that and then it’ll be summer festivals. We had to tell our booking agent to slow down on the bookings as otherwise we’ll end up as four single guys with no band due to so many events. That’s the nature of the industry though. You hopefully get a rest at some point!

Tea or coffee?

Coffee every time. The Finns drink the most coffee per capita in the world. I have to have my coffee in the morning to wake up and function.

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