May 18, 2018 Interview – Olli-Pekka Laine of Amorphis
It is a tried and true adage that many things in life come back around in a cyclical fashion. This is especially true for Amorphis, those progressive death metal titans from Helsinki, Finland. Over a career spanning three decades, there are bound to be personnel shifts. When Olli-Pekka Laine, the founding bass guitarist, left the fold to pursue other paths and other dreams, who could have guessed that nearly 20 years later circumstances would return him to the band that he helped launch.
Recently, we caught up to the talented Finn, to discuss his return to Amorphis, brand new stunning studio album Queen of Time, due for release May 18th, 2018, as well as a few other interesting tidbits and details which fans will want to know.
CrypticRock.com – Looking back at your career, you helped form and create Amorphis back in 1990. A decade or so later, you helped conceive the albums of the mighty Progressive Metal band Barren Earth? Did you ever imagine, back when you started, that you would be a huge part of two successful bands in your homeland?
Olli-Pekka Laine – No, it started as a hobby before Amorphis started to take off. We had no intention to try and get any success. We just wanted to play music that we liked. It was 100% of being a fan of Death Metal and Prog Rock music, any kind of music. Any music we made we would have liked to listen to ourselves. Any success came as a by-product of the music we made. Of course we dreamed of being Rock-n-Roll stars as a teenager, but it was so far away, especially in Finland because there were no successful bands from there back in the day. It was a very distant dream. My son plays guitar nowadays but I don’t know, the world has changed so much. I guess it’s much harder to come up with a successful Rock band these days. Everything seems to be done in the Metal genre, so it’s hard to come up with original band ideas, to break through. Also there is much more opportunities, at least in Finland nowadays, so I would request my son to stay in school and go to a real job.
CrypticRock.com – One would imagine the allure of being in a touring band would be tempting, but a huge risk indeed. When you got the call to rejoin Amorphis, did it catch you by surprise, and how did you feel coming back into the fold? Did it feel like coming home?
Olli-Pekka Laine – It felt like coming home, but of course I felt horrified at first, because I realized it was going to completely change my life. During these 20 years between, I’ve worked with various other bands, studied for 3 different degrees, and I had a permanent job for the state of Finland. I also realized that I have to abandon a lot of it, stay out of the job, and start to tour with the band. Now I’m 45 years old already, so it’s kind of, well it is what I want to do with my life, but how long can I do it? It was alluring to say yes, and so far it has been great fun, and nostalgic, this past year. It has been a really warm-hearted welcome from the fans and the band.
CrypticRock.com – You were certainly a huge part of the band’s seminal albums. Are you looking at going forward balancing Barren Earth and Amorphis, and have you talked about being the permanent bass player?
Olli-Pekka Laine – I’m the permanent bass player. Now, since I have to leave my day job, Amorphis will be my top priority. That is the primary financial source for me, and I have a family to raise and loans from the bank to pay. I have to base my gigs on that. It’s been pretty hard to tour with Barren Earth because of other responsibilities of the band members. It’s been a pain in the ass, and it’s one of the things that made the decision even harder. Because Barren Earth cannot arrange tours and I like to play gigs, and the music of Amorphis is not that far from Barren Earth’s music, Amorphis will be the priority from now on. We are trying to find space in our schedules to do some gigs with Barren Earth.
CrypticRock.com – Fans will appreciate your hard work, as both bands have produced some amazing music. You were there for the conception and recording of Queen of Time. It is such a different album for you guys, but it moves the band forward and is truly a work of art. Can you tell me what it was like creating with your old friends again? Was the old magic there, and what did you personally bring to the development of this album?
Olli-Pekka Laine – The magic was there already, soon as we started to rehearse for the upcoming gigs. I played one or two shows, seven or ten years ago during the anniversary tour, and at all times it is there. When it comes to the album, we started recording it around two months after the last gig of the Under the Red Cloud tour, and we started to rehearse very shortly after that last show.
The songs are made by Esa and my input is that we as a band help arrange them as they are on the album. It was kind of a demanding job as well, because those rough demos are made at home and we needed to tweak them to be Amorphis songs, in a way. In that way it’s like we did things together. I didn’t write the music for the album, but maybe that will be different next time. We were touring the whole summer prior and I was working. Festival gigs on the weekend and then I went to work on Monday and there was no time to write music.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds quite demanding, to juggle those two careers. Queen of Time is the second Amorphis album produced by the famed Jens Bogren. Were you familiar with the man prior to the recording of the new album?
Olli-Pekka Laine – I wasn’t familiar with him but I knew what he has done. I knew he recorded Under The Red Cloud (2015), and Sami (Yli-Sirnio, Barren Earth guitarist) from Kreator had been working with him, so I knew what he was all about. I was afraid, can I pull it off, because he is quite a demanding producer. It was a useless fear because I tend to play many notes on the chords, and he kind of told me to play even more, which is totally opposite of what I expected. I thought he would simplify things more, but that wasn’t the case. He let me play how I wanted. Of course I was there for three days playing my bass parts, and it was tough, 15 hour days, but the session itself was really well organized. We track the drums in Stockholm, all together, and then we tracked the demo tracks during the same time, with Snoopy (Jan Rechberger) on the drums. We went there one by one doing our own performances. He’s a great guy, Jens, and really brilliant to work with.
CrypticRock.com – What a relief it must be to work with a producer who can bring the best out of a band. Two-thousand and thirteen’s Circle was a greatly enjoyable album, but as far as production goes, Peter Tägtgren had a completely different style as opposed to Bogren. Amorphis seems to fit into Bogren’s vision a bit better, do you think?
Olli-Pekka Laine – Yeah, I like Circle as well. It was a good experiment for them getting back to the Extreme Metal roots on that album. Then, trying out Jens, who is a great fan of growling vocals and loud guitars, he always prefers the harder option of the songs. For example, he switched from clean vocals to growling vocals, which is kind of nice because he knows where we come from. I don’t know if its intentional to lead Amorphis a little more to the ’90s sound, but that is how I see it.
CrypticRock.com – Well the results speak for themselves. Who were your major personal musical inspirations? Who made you want to pick up an instrument and want to learn to play it?
Olli-Pekka Laine – As a kid I was really impressed with KISS, Mötley Crüe, and AC/DC, those basic Rock bands. Those were the bands I really started to rehearse, I practiced songs from. There is a couple of Finnish artists who inspired me in the first place to listen to music, to want to play bass guitar actually. I have a really musical background from my family because my father was a music journalist and we went to many jazz festivals. We played jazz music at home. That’s where it comes from. I think the ’70s/’80s Rock bands were the nail in the coffin for my career.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting to hear where it all stemmed from. Last question for you, CrypticRock also covers Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites?
Olli-Pekka Laine – Most of what I like is from the ’70s and ’80s like The Omen (1976), The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and The Shining (1980). Those are the movies which should be watched from crappy VHS cassettes to get the mood. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, the necromantic films, snuff films, and Braindead, aka Dead Alive (1992), too. I prefer the classic films. I think The Omen is my favorite.
Watching Horror movies these days, it’s hard to come up with new stuff. The Conjuring (2013) was quite good, but I haven’t been able to really watch any good ones lately. I watched the It (2017) movie. It was good entertainment. The new trend of making movies that resemble the ‘70s era, I like.