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Across The Dark

INSOMNIUM - General Interview

Rapidly becoming one of the biggest players in the European metal world, Finland’s Insomnium invoked huge waves of approval for their 2006 album Above The Weeping World. Since then, they’ve played countless shows on both sides of the Atlantic and now, finally, they’re back with their fourth studio album, the incredible Across The Dark. We spoke to guitarist and founder member Ville Friman about the new record and the past, present and future of Insomnium…

So, what’s been happening since the release of Above The Weeping World?

“I think we toured a lot this time. A lot more than previously. We did the Satyricon tour first. It was six weeks long and our first European tour and it was really excellent. Then we did a lot of touring in Finland. After that, in 2007, we did an American tour with Katatonia, Scar Symmetry and Swallow The Sun and after that we went around Europe again with Amorphis and Swallow The Sun. So basically we were pretty busy from the release of the album in 2006, in the autumn, and then in 2008 we decided to have a pause from playing shows and we decided then to concentrate on working on songs for a new album. That’s basically what we did last year. We also have other projects and our professions and personal lives, so we dedicated all our spare time to rehearsing and writing songs so that we could make the new album and release it in 2009. It was quite hectic in other ways, but we didn’t tour a lot last year. I think it was a wise decision to concentrate on new songs.”

Were you surprised or inspired by the incredibly positive reaction that you received for Above The Weeping World?

“Actually, I felt some pressure this time because the last album got such great reviews and people were really excited about it. So the new album had to be really good, a better album than Above The Weeping World. I got a bit stressed about it, worrying whether we could come up with better songs this time round. That’s the main reason we wanted to have time to work on the songs and rehearse. It was inspiring. We had two songs kind of ready at the beginning of 2008 and one of those songs was finally ready at the end of that year, so it was worthwhile spending time to get the feel right and to reflect on what would make the songs better. It was an inspiring time for us. Now it will be really nice to get out there and play shows again, because we’ve had this break from touring.”

Was there anything that you wanted to do differently on the new album?

“Yeah, it’s hard to compare one album to another. It’s a natural continuation from Above The Weeping World, but we did want to try more clean vocals. It really divides people, doesn’t it? When we didn’t have any clean vocals people were nagging us about it, saying that we should have some. I’m pretty sure that now that we have some clean vocals that people will be complaining that it doesn’t work! But that was one thing that we wanted to try out. I think this album is a bit more epic and atmospheric. The songs turned out to be pretty long and we put toned down the aggression and focused more on heaviness and the doom vibe. It came pretty naturally, so it wasn’t like we really tried to change the sound. Every time we wrote a song, it inspired the next one, if you know what I mean.”

Touring must have influenced your writing to some degree…

“I think it had an influence in the sense that on Above The Weeping World we were really focused on making an album where all the songs could be played live, so we didn’t have any synths or any of that stuff. We could play it with just the four of us. This was also important on the new album. We don’t need any extra stuff to play these songs live. The songs work well, so I think that’s what you realise when you see which songs hit the audience well when you play live. If the songs work in a more simplified way, that’s better for us. It makes it easier when we’re in the studio too. We don’t have to rely on adding extra instruments when we make an album.”

The last album had some very strong lyrical themes. Is there an overall concept behind the new record?

“I think the lyrical theme is a bit more diverse on this album. I don’t think there is a straight theme, it’s more about the realities of life. As you get older, it’s not black and white anymore and it’s all about a combination of good and bad times. I made more lyrics this time. I wanted to write lyrics for my own songs. There’s some similarity with the old lyrics, but it’s not just about love gone bad. It’s hard to describe, but I suppose it’s about life in general. There’s no one story that covers the whole album, or maybe there is and I haven’t discovered it yet!”

Which song do you think defines the new album best?

“This album is its own entity, from the way it feels to how long it is to the way the songs connect. Maybe the second and third songs? I don’t know. There’s some great atmospheric stuff. Some of the songs are melodic death metal but we’ve also gone into this atmospheric area too. I guess the first four songs capture everything that’s happening on the album. They show the diversity. I can’t just pick one of them! ‘Against The Stream’, the fifth song, has that Gothenburg vibe. I had that riff ready when we did the last album. It’s really good to play live. I just thought it needed to be faster and to have that Gothenburg beat in it. We’re mixing the old with the new on this album.”

Now that everybody has a Facebook page and a MySpace site, have you been taking the opportunity to communicate with the band’s growing fan base?

“I used to communicate more previously, to be honest! Now we’re getting more and more emails and comments on MySpace and sometimes it’s too much when you’re working and you don’t have the time and energy to answer everything. We do try to be an interactive band and reply to messages online. It’s always been good after shows, because we put all our gear away and then go out and talk with the audience. It was particularly good in America because everybody bought us drinks! That was pretty useful! We could get drunk for free and it was really nice to meet people. We were really surprised by the audiences in the US, because they were really enthusiastic and many of them had been waiting to see us for a long time. It was great to go and have chat with people. People were so friendly. You have this view that America is full of rednecks, but that wasn’t what we experienced. People were cool.”#

With such a strong album in the can, are you excited about the future?

“I don’t really think about that so much. I’ll be really pleased if we can tour like we did after releasing the last album. What I’d like to do is more European summer festivals, because we haven’t done many of those in the past, but now we have a European booking agent so we’ll get some festivals in the future. We’re playing at Bloodstock in the UK this autumn, so it’s looking good so far. I hope we can keep up the same amount of touring and if we get more popular then that’s a bonus for us. You never can tell what’s going to happen.”

Metal is so huge in Finland…is it becoming even more popular at the moment?

“I think it has reached this high level of popularity and it wasn’t that popular when I was young. When I was a kid, if you had long hair people would be spitting at you in the street and shit like that! Ha ha ha! Now it’s a good thing that people like it so much. They’ll say ‘Oh, you’re in a rock band! That’s great!’ It’s kind of fashionable to be into rock, I guess. Metal has laid its foundation in Finland. There’s a lot of bands playing and a lot of bands are really good. It’s a good time.”

Looking into the future, where do you think Insomnium will go next?

“I think we’ll be touring and then writing new songs. After this album, I feel inspired again and I have my writing face on! We want to tour in Europe and USA too, play more festivals and promote this album. But I’m already writing new riffs and making new music. It’s hard to say the next album will take to write. It might be two or three years, because touring takes time away from writing. I’ll take my laptop and some basic recording devices on tour so we can use our time more wisely instead of drinking all the time! We’ll continue working like that.”

But you haven’t stopped drinking, surely?

“Oh, no. We drink all the time! Right now, we’re about to rehearse but we didn’t bother setting up the equipment, we just went and got beer instead. Ha ha ha! That’s really important. This can’t be like work. We work all the time so playing in the band is our free time and our holidays! We have to work hard, but we should be having a good time at the same time. It’s natural to get drunk with your friends and then play some metal too!”

the hard side of life
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