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Amoral (II)
Interview mit Niko & Ben [Amoral], 26.06.2015, Helsinki/Tuska Open Air



Etwas mehr als ein halbes Jahr ist es her, dass ich mit Amoral während ihrer Deutschland-Tour in Köln sprach. Seitdem hat sich einiges getan: Zum einen haben die Finnen fleißig an ihrem neuen melodischen Metal-Album gewerkelt, zum anderen ist der ursprüngliche Sänger Niko Kalliojärvi wieder der Band beigetreten. Zwei gute Gründe, um die Herren erneut zum Gespräch zu bitten. Ich traf Gitarrist Ben Varon und den „neuen alten“ Sänger Niko während des diesjährigen Tuska-Open-Air-Metal-Festivals in Helsinki und sprach mit den beiden über das frische Line-up, die nächste Platte und den ersten vollen Live-Auftritt als sechsköpfige Band.


How did you celebrate midsummer last weekend?

Niko: Actually I was practicing the whole weekend. The guys wrote some stupid riffs that needed a lot of practicing. Well, not stupid, but awesome riffs, of course…

Be careful what you say! [laughter]

Niko: Yeah!

Ben: Actually it was a funny midsummer. Usually I don’t even try to organize any rehearsals at that time, because everybody is always somewhere. But this Juhannus everybody was here in Helsinki. So we practiced on the weekend. We had a lot of practice to do before this first show tomorrow, because it’s been seven or eight months since our last gig. We’ve been in the studio and recording all the time, but haven’t been rehearsing as a band for ages. So it was a good thing that everybody was in Helsinki during midsummer and we got some work done.

The biggest news concerning Amoral in these days is that you, Niko, rejoined the band after seven years. How did this come about?

Niko: It just felt like a good idea at that time. [laughter]

Why?

Ben: There were a lot of small different reasons which came together in this one dude. Niko has been playing with us every now and then during those last years…

I remember that he shared the stage with you last year at Tuska Festival…

Ben: That was one of the bigger things. He joined for a few songs, I mean, celebrating with us the first album by a big medley of the songs. It’s always been a good time. And we’ve never been like NOT in good terms. He just wanted to do something else for a while which we totally understand, ‘cos this band tends to be a bit time consuming. My opinion is: If you can’t give 100 percent, it’s better to step out of the way instead of holding everybody back. But yeah, the shows with Niko have always been fun. That was one thing. Then again his voice is part of the old Amoral sound and I thought it would be really cool to get that familiar element back. But still it’s gonna be a band where most of the new songs will be with clean vocals, ‘cos we wanna keep everything pretty melodic. But with Niko being such a good guitar player now as well, this enables us to do crazy guitar things. For example there will be a three guitars battle on the new album. It’s louder than a usual guitar battle, isn’t it?

Niko: Yeah! [laughter]

Ben: And a big thing for Masi is being able to concentrate more on keyboards especially, but other instruments as well. He’s playing everything from the Kazoo to…I don’t know what on this new album. And he will be playing a lot more keyboards live as well, while Niko’s filling in his guitar parts. So it’s hard to find a bad side concerning the rejoining, it’s all good so far. Well, there is actually one bad thing: With one more guy in the band it is more expensive to travel.



Niko: And I’m getting like 90 percent of the money that we earn. I wouldn’t have joined if I don’t get like almost everything. It’s not so bad for the rest. They still get 10 percent. [laughter]

How did you actually react, Niko, when Ben asked you to rejoin the band? Did you directly say “yes” or did you have to think about it for a while?

Niko: The idea sounded very, very exciting and tempting, but I kept cool and said “Let me think about it overnight” or something.

Ben: Well, he thought about it for a while…

Niko: Ja, for a week or so. In my mind – like instantly after the call – I wanted to do it, but then I thought about if this gonna work out. Will I have time for it? It’s a fun idea, but does it make sense? Well, actually I instantly thought that it does make sense. So I was ready to go from the first time we talked about it, but I just wanted to make sure that it is a good thing to do.

When you left the band seven years ago and Ari became the new vocalist, there have been strong reactions by the fans – positive and negative ones. How did the fans react this time when you rejoined the band?

Niko: I’m not aware of all the reactions. Of course when the news came out for the first time, everybody was like “woooowww”. Maybe two percent out of hundred were like “Ähh, what is this? Weird!”.

Ben: I’m sure that some Ari fans who never were into the growling parts even though also Ari did it, they just love the melodic aspect of Amoral which I totally get. But they’ve been pretty quiet about it. I think they respect us enough to know that we’re doing what we feel is necessary for the band. Amoral will still be melodic, but a bit more aggressive.

So you’re not completely going back to the roots?

Ben: No, no. We’re just having one of the old elements from the early albums back. The music is much closer to “Fallen Leaves & Dead Sparrows” than to “Decrowing”.

What’s the current state of the new album?

Niko: Actually it’s almost done. Today we even talked about some finished songs, if we should add something or if we feel good with the first versions. But all in all, the album is pretty much done. I took over the growling parts in there and Ben already mentioned those guitar battles…

What have been the challenges so far in the recording process of the new album?

Niko: Everything has gone very smoothly actually. We just wanted to make sure that everything is right from the beginning. Otherwise, if you forget something, you would work for three days and in the end you realize that it was for nothing. But that was not a challenge. We just had to be careful.

Ben: I think the biggest challenge for me was – since I am involved from the very first day of the recording till the last day – that I’ve been sitting in my basements in my home studio since February. I am not that patient. I don’t understand how people can work on an album for a year or more. I like to do it in a compact time. I don’t wanna rush everything, but in my head I am already working on songs for the next album after this new one. Being in the cellar for four months now…well, it takes a bit more time when you do it by yourself. You have to handle everybody’s schedule. Of course all of my stuff I’ve been doing at night. So after one of the other guys left the recording room, I was sitting there from 10pm to 3am working on my guitars leads still.

And when do you sleep?

Ben: Well, it’s better now since most of the album is already done. But that’s maybe the hardest part: just staying focused and excited about the project from beginning to end. The longer it takes, the harder it is to stay focused. But it all changes once we’re hearing the mixes, because then you finally hear how the album should sound.

What about an external producer?


Ben: I’m mainly producing the album as I did the last one as well. Whenever we’ve been working with producer Janne Saksa – or last time we did the vocals with Marco Hietala –, I’ve been studying them and looking what they’re doing: How are they producing? How can I realize what they are doing? Well, I think I am now ready to produce an album by myself, because I already have the songs in my head and how they should sound. Even when we had producers like Janne Saksa or Marco Hietala it was more like them helping to get the best out of the guys during the recording, but the songs never really changed much. So now we wanted to do it by ourselves. And Masi is the co-producer and really helping me out by doing the arrangements for the orchestral parts. He is such a multi-instrumentalist. He is playing a lot of instruments on the album: keyboards, guitar, different flutes, percussions…so it’s gonna be cool!

But as there are two vocalists in the band now – who is taking care of the lyrics?

Ben: For this album it was me. But there are no strict rules, so we will see what’s gonna happen next time. This time Nico was just so busy with finishing school and the album of his other band, so it was easier that I do the lyrics. And I already had the concept in my head. But who knows? Maybe he gets inspired next time?



Is there any certain topic on the new album?

Niko: It’s a concept.

Ben: Yeah, it’s another concept album. This time I wanted to take a basic idea and just create little stories around that idea. The time and space kinda move around, so it’s not that easy to see what it is all about. But since we don’t have the album title and cover artwork to show you yet, I think it’s not too wise to talk about the lyrics in detail. It’s just again about something what I heard and saw and I let my imagination kinda run with it. So the lyrics are based on reality…

When is the album’s release date?

Ben: It hasn’t been set yet, but we’re aiming for January or February 2016.

Tomorrow you’ll have your very first complete show as a six piece here in Helsinki. What can we expect from that gig?

Ben: It’s gonna be interesting. I’m kinda nervous about it, because we haven’t played for so long. Since late last year we haven’t been on stage at all. Then again there is now one more member who is also playing guitar and Masi had to learn parts for the keyboards…

Niko: Lots of action! You know, now with this line-up we gonna change some instruments even on the fly during a song, so there is a lot of stuff to watch from the audience if you’re not in the moshpit. [laughs]

Well, usually not…

Ben: That is actually one of the things that I liked about the whole idea: People change their instruments. Niko might grab the guitar during one song and in the next song he might not be playing at all. And then again for the following song Masi takes over the keyboards and leaves the guitar down. Things are constantly happening on stage within the instrumentation which you don’t see a lot within metal bands. There are bands who have three guitar players, but they are just guitar players.

Will you also perform one or two new songs tomorrow?

Ben: Ja, we gonna do one new song.

Niko: It is one of the longer ones…

Ben: They are all long.

Niko: That’s a standard in Amoral.

Ben: That’s why we don’t wanna play too many new songs, because there are only a handful of songs on every new album in these days. Instead of playing half of the new album six months before it’s even out and people getting bored by the songs or checking them out in crappy Youtube quality, we just play one song for giving a little taste of what’s coming in six months.

Will you enjoy the remaining Tuska Festival after your show?


Ben: On Sunday hopefully, ‘cos today we’re sitting inside except for Lamb Of God. Tomorrow we won’t even be here as we’re having the soundcheck and getting ready for the show. But Sunday is a day off, so we will come down here and see some bands.

Will you join, Niko?

Niko: Ja, ja!

Which bands would you like to see?

Niko: Opeth, but I actually haven’t checked out the whole Tuska line-up yet. I only know that Lamb Of God is playing today. [laughs] So we will watch their gig and do a couple of more interviews after that. But I wanna see Opeth for sure. And when is Alice Cooper playing? Would like to see him as well…



Interview & Fotos: Lea S.
Website Band: www.amoralweb.com


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