October 7, 2019 Interview – Jan Rechberger of Amorphis
Approaching their 30th anniversary of existence, Amorphis has established themselves as the premier metal band from Finland. Initially begun out of a love for grindcore and death metal, they have lived up to their name through the years, shifting styles and utilizing Folk, Progressive, and Doom elements in their music. Most recently releasing Queen of Time last year, it marked their thirteenth studio album, but also the first album since 1999’s Tuonela to feature returning original Bassist Olli-Pekka Laine; bringing all four original band members full circle for the first time since 1994’s Tales from the Thousand Lakes.
Yet another album that hit number 1 on the charts in their homeland of Finland, Amorphis now return to the USA in late 2019 for a new tour. The band’s first tour of the United States since their early 2018 run with Dark Tranquillity, it isn’t each year a tour featuring Finland’s Amorphis and the Netherlands’ own Anneke Van Giersbergen arrives on North American shores. Throw in Dutch Symphonic Metal band Delain to co-headline the whole shebang, and the second North American leg of Amorphis’ Queen of Time tour looks to be a rare treat for fans old and new. Kicking off on September 19th, with dates that run through October 21st, energetic Drummer and Co-Founder of Amorphis, Jan Rechberger sat down to chat everything about the Progressive Death Metal group.
Cryptic Rock – When you began this journey with Amorphis back in 1990, did you ever think that you would be touring the world with so much success 30 years later? Did you think you had begun something that would become your life’s work?
Jan Rechberger – Well, not exactly. When we started, we thought that even being 30-years-old would be a point where everything stops; that your life is boring and you get to have a family and a house and a dog, and two cars and a mortgage and shit like that. So you know, now when I’m 45, I think of the times when I was 30, when I was young, and now the band itself is 30-years-old, and it’s kind of weird. But obviously I’m very glad that we have got this far and here we are.
Cryptic Rock – Time sneaks up on us all, and goes by fast. After a long absence from touring the United States, Amorphis is now on its second run through for the Queen of Time album. They say that an artist is never truly satisfied with their finished work, but how happy are you with the album and its worldwide reception?
Jan Rechberger – Very happy. It came out really good and actually it came out way better than I ever expected, because we brought lots of new elements to that album, as well as on Under The Red Cloud (2015), but this album came out I think to even higher acclaim. We’re still very happy with it but still it’s always, as an artist, you want to go on and with Under The Red Cloud everybody was asking “how can you possibly top this album?” And we did, and we’re aiming to do that with the next one also – so let’s see how it goes. You never know but with both albums we had a strong feeling that they are very strong albums, but you know we didn’t expect it to be this highly received.
Cryptic Rock – The success is well-deserved, and you guys have been on such a great trend of late. One of the nicest elements on Queen of Time is the inclusion of choir accompaniment to some of the songs. You do not put it at the forefront the way a band such as Therion does, but it is just perfectly placed in songs and adds a very magical element to the overall sound. How did that idea come about and is it something you guys want to continue to include in the future?
Jan Rechberger – Well that was an element that our Producer Jens Bogren brought forth. You know at first we were kind of terrified, like “What the fuck are you talking about, we don’t want to sound like symphonic bands.” Even though I have nothing against Classical music and shit like that, and I’ve been growing up with that stuff with my family and everything, and I really respect that. But you know in some terms we will never be that kind of a band. But, if you throw it into the mix in a certain way… Jens said, “Guys, calm down, you know it’s going to be grand.” The way he introduced the choirs, and he had a very good arranger from Israel to handle all that, and so it was more cinematic, to my opinion, than simply a symphonic style.
Cryptic Rock – Those choir arrangements worked out really well. Due to these and other elements, it has always been difficult to classify Amorphis. One of the things that sets the band apart is an endless trove of melodies and breathtaking choruses that separate your songs from any others in the Melodic Death Metal world. How do you guys approach songwriting, and how do you seem never to run out of these melodies? Do you build the songs around those choruses?
Jan Rechberger – Well, you know it depends. Maybe the strength of having that much melody, power and quality, it’s perhaps because we have many composers in the band. And their approach is usually that someone will compose stuff, and they send it over as demos, and then everybody kind of bases their own ideas around that – then we just go through it in the studio. It’s a standard job for us. That’s the way that it’s done, you know, maybe some people have better sense to how music is made, I don’t know. It’s hard to say.
Cryptic Rock – Whatever the mysterious creative factor is, Amorphis definitely possesses it. What made you become a drummer? Who are your biggest influences and what made you know this is what you wanted to do with your life?
Jan Rechberger – I never considered myself as a drummer only. I basically considered myself a musician first and one who appreciates music in general; the music itself as a sort of religion. But as a drummer, I like Classic Rock drummers like Vinny Appice, Nicko McBrain, John Bonham, and Ian Paice. These individuals are my main influences.
Cryptic Rock – That’s awesome. So an argument can be made, a strong one, that Under the Red Cloud and Queen of Time contain some of the strongest material the band has ever produced. Do you guys feel like you are at a creative high? Do you think Jens Bogren, like you were saying before, has helped draw out your potential? Or are you guys just in a zone as a unit that you have never been in before?
Jan Rechberger – It is probably both, and of course I think bringing a producer to the pack kind of amplifies that unity. Obviously in the period of time of making the music with the producer it becomes a sort of member of the band, and you know there’s a certain kind of brotherhood going on and it really affects the result I think.
Cryptic Rock – The results are quite excellent. It has been really cool to see Anneke Van Giersbergen on stage with you; there was a natural chemistry between all of you. Are you open to composing music again with an outside guest, or might Amorphis just surprise fans and do something completely different?
Jan Rechberger – We’re open to all ideas. We don’t have an attitude that we cannot do something because it’s something particularly different or whatever. We can do what we want if it feels right. We don’t know what’s going to happen, and probably after a year from now we are going to do something new – so let’s see then.
Cryptic Rock – The prospect of new music is an exciting one, for sure. Stepping aside from music, last question for you: what are your favorite Horror or Science Fiction movies?
Jan Rechberger – Well, there’s so many. But the best Horror movie must be The Exorcist (1973) – this was scary shit. Science Fiction, I cannot really pick one. Maybe Star Wars (1977) and The Lord of The Rings (2001), but I consider that to be more a fantasy. I like everything that’s out of this world because this world is boring!