Interview Under Fire spoke with frontman Tomi Joutsen of Finnish melancholic progressive metallers AMORPHIS prior to the band's October 16 concert at Trees in Dallas, Texas. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On learning more about the meaning behind the band's lyrics that are often inspired by their native Finland:
Tomi: "It's not easy because who is doing the lyrics for us, he [lyricist Pekka Kainulainen] takes always lots of inspiration from all beliefs and stuff like this. Nowadays, the lyrics are not taken straight from stories and stuff like this. It's more like an inspiration. He takes lots of things, of course, from his own personal life and the history of his health. I come from Finland and it's really easy to understand all the themes and all the stories of what he's bringing out. I think for you, for example, it might be a little bit different to follow the lyrics because they are a little bit Finnish, so to speak. I don't know how to describe it."
On why it's important to him that heavy metal music "stays underground":
Tomi: "I'm just a member of the band — I'm not the whole band and that's only my personal opinion — but I think the music, or, underground music, there's a danger, if you know what I mean. [Laughs] The things are not black and white. Of course, there are great bands in the mainstream, also. So it doesn't matter if you have sold one million or just [one album]. It could be great, but when you get to a sort of level, everything starts to be a little bit too… how do you say it? Safe, in a way. And, if you have really lots of albums, you already have your own style and it's really hard to give any surprises to fans because the formula is already done. But I listen to all kinds of music, not only underground music. But, of course, there is more some kind of rebel feeling in the underground."
On 1999's "Tuonela", an album that saw AMORPHIS drift into more progressive and atmospheric rock territory:
Tomi: "I wasn't in the band at that moment, but as a fan, I really loved the first two albums, 'The Karelian Isthmus' and 'Tales [From The Thousand Lakes]'. 'Tuonela' was okay, but I didn't love the progressive style that much, to be honest. [Death metal] that's my stuff. Of course, the later albums are also great. I think they really had to do those albums. They felt that way during that part of their career and they really loved that kind of music. If you're honest, you have to create that kind of music that you really love. It was really a brave thing to do because it would have been really easy just to release albums that sounded like 'Elegy' or something like this, that had this death metal element there. But instead, they did this progressive stuff and really sentimental, sensitive stuff. It was like a red light for some fans, of course. If you look at the whole career [of AMORPHIS], I think it was really important the band took a big risk, a musical risk at that time. Now we can do almost every kind of music. We can do progressive and we can do death metal stuff and everything, and all that still sounds quite natural for us as a band."
AMORPHIS's latest studio album, "Queen Of Time", was released in May 2018 via Nuclear Blast. The follow-up to 2015's "Under The Red Cloud" includes the use of real strings, flutes, orchestral arrangements and even choirs. In addition, this is the first time that people are able to hear Kainulainen on the album, as he contributes a speech in Finnish.