June 3, 2014 Interview – Ville Friman of Insomnium
Over the past decade a plethora of talented melodic death metal bands have risen to mainstream success from the confines of the Nordic region of Northern Europe. Leading the pack with an intriguing blend of death metal, melodic guitars, gothic, and doom elements is the Joensuu, Finland band Insomnium. Together now since 1997, the band has established themselves as a force of atmospheric metal worldwide after years of touring and pushing the envelope of their musicianship album after album. Now six albums deep into their career, with the current release of Shadows of the Dying Sun, Insomnium look to take their progression to the next level while still satisfying their dedicated fan base. Recently we say down with founding guitarist Ville Friman for a deeper look at the concept behind Insomnium’s sound, their latest album, touring North America, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been making music as Insomnium now for seventeen years. A lot has happened for the band since the debut album In The Halls of Awaiting (2002). With each album, the band’s style progresses and more fans become aware of the music. How would you describe the years gone by with Insomnium?
Ville Friman – It is a long time; I realize we have been doing this for a while and you are not getting younger, you are getting older. I think the progression has been slow. We have reached new things which we have not before. It is also getting a lot more demanding in time. It is not only a lot of touring, but a lot of promotion, and what it takes to be in a band and do it properly. It takes more time and more work. We are happy for everything we see today.
CrypticRock.com – That is true, as things become bigger it is more work, but it is all worth it in the end because you are playing music you love. The band’s sound takes influence from various forms of metal from melodic death to some gothic and symphonic metal elements. What has inspired Insomnium to craft the music you have over the past six studio albums?
Ville Friman – I am a musicaholic in a way. I like to find new bands all the time. I listen to music most of the day. I need my fix and need to find new bands. Depends more on my mood, the day, and situation on what kind of music I listen to. It all started with Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Guns N’ Roses. Then it was Swedish death metal and Finnish bands like Amorphis and Sentenced. That kind of gave the backbone of the music. Just good music, and you do not pigeonhole yourself; you do not worry too much if it is new age, indie, metal, or rock. As long as you find something of interest and it is done well, you can take inspiration and influence from good music. I also love listening to music and writing music, that is the biggest inspiration for me to do the music itself.
CrypticRock.com – It is important to take influence from different areas of music, if it is good music that is all that matters. One of the distinct elements of Insomnium’s songs is the electrifying guitar work. The guitar work often creates an atmosphere filled with brightness and darkness. How important is it for you as a songwriter to keep the music balanced when composing?
Ville Friman – I think it is really important. We have been working that way for a long time now. Bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden for example, they have really great guitar work. They have a lot of different styles there, they have clean guitars and acoustic guitars. I think those bands had a big influence on us. We want all the music to be diverse. It was clear after the first demo that we wanted to include clean guitars and acoustic guitars. We have been building on that and adding other influences. Let me say, I am not that very good of a guitar player, I actually suck. I try to be creative in guitar playing, try out different things, make it interesting, and layered. It is not always from one playing style, it a combination of many things. This becomes the Insomnium sound.
CrypticRock.com – Right, and you are little hard on yourself there. You are a very good guitar player. It is said that we are our own worst critics though.
Ville Friman – Yes exactly. You are never happy even if you were the best guitar player in the world. You always find flaws in your techniques. It is just how we are.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, you always strive to be better and that is what makes it interesting. The band made their first appearance in North America back in 2007 with Katatonia, Swallow The Sun, and Scar Symmetry. The band did not, in fact, return to the states until five years later with Epica. Judging by the success of the first tour in 2007, what caused the long gap of time before the band returned to play in North America?
Ville Friman – I think there was bad luck involved. There were a couple of offers, none of them worked out, and reasons beyond ourselves tours were cancelled. It was a combination of a lot of things and we were more focused on touring in Europe at the time. It was great to come back to North America at the end of 2012. It had always been fun when we had been there. We will definitely be back, and there will not be a five year gap this time.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. North American fans yearn to see the band live. Now the band released their sixth studio album Shadows Of the Dying Sun on April 25th in North America. What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
Ville Friman – We had one year’s time to do the whole thing. We started in the beginning of 2012. At first we had five or six demos and were sending them over through emails and getting the overall feel. I think it was less than eight tunes when we had our first rehearsal to play a festival in Finland. At the time we also decided to try releasing one song before the actual full-length. We tried out different studios for the mixing. We recorded and mixed in two or three different places in Sweden and Finland. We got the idea of the kind of production and how we could actually do everything, mixing and recording the full-length. In the end we were very rushed and we had release deadlines to make the release by the end of April. We put the songs together and everyone felt we had a good album in our hands. Everyone pushed 110% to make it happen in that time frame. It was a bit harder in that sense. After everything recorded, we instantly had to mix it. After that there was promotion and everything else involved. I feel like I have been making this album for six months. I feel it is nice to get out on the road now and enjoy the fruits of our work.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it was a long haul. Now you get to go out on the road and play it live.
Ville Friman – Yes, definitely. It will also be interesting to see how people react and how they dig the album. Whether they love it or hate it, it is nice to be out there. I think we have a good album in our hands so it will nice to see how it goes.
CrypticRock.com – It should be received well over the coming months. Now coming from Finland there are more metal bands in the country per say than any other country in the world. Mostly there is a lot of dark elements in music from Finland. Why do you think there are so many metal acts with such dark influence in Finland?
Ville Friman – That is a good question. I guess metal music has been more mainstream in Finland. It is pretty hard to tell what sets us apart. Norway has black metal bands which are extreme and dark as well. Sweden has the elements as well. Why we have so many bands in Finland? One of my theories is we have long winters, and it is not about the darkness, but you can’t actually go outside so you need to do something inside. A lot of people play an instrument in a band, that is one way to spend your time when you are young. I also think Finnish people, we are not the most talkative people; we do not express ourselves so well, especially if we have some personal problems or dark things in our head. It is not very natural for us to talk about it in a casual way. Of course we talk about it with our good friends. The music is an important avenue to express ourselves and an emotional side. Naturally, it is the bad feelings and dark topics which is hard to discuss with other people. So you focus that into your music a bit. It is a good thing and we have fun with it. It may be a weird combination of those things.
CrypticRock.com – Yes music is a healthy and positive outlet to express feelings. Finnish people are often very quiet and keep to themselves. CrypticRock.com covers music and horror films. We like to focus on all the genres. If you are a fan of horror films what are some of your favorite?
Ville Friman – I like all kinds of movies. I do not watch that many horror movies on a regular basis. I do like horror though, maybe not splatter and gore, but more psychological and suspense. I am a fan of classic Hitchcock stuff. I think one of the first horror fictions for me was when I saw Stanley Kubrick 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I remember crafting this crazy idea of being in space and no one could help you. The idea of solitude and isolation, it is really scary in a way. Not shocking scary, but scary that you are alone. Some of the new ones that have come out I have checked out. Ringu, I liked a lot. I really love Stanley Kubrick work. The Shining (1980) and A Clockwork Orange (1971). It is a bit old but it is always different. It is great to watch classic movies or something different once in a while. It is not so readymade, where you watch twenty minutes of the movie and you know how it actually ends. I like the unpredictability.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, Stanley Kubrick were excellent. There were many different elements in there which were difficult to figure out. It would be nice if more modern films would use those aspects. Perhaps more independent directors will make movies like this.
Ville Friman – Yes, there are a few independent films coming out all the time which I try to check out. I have friends which are more into that scene and they watch what is coming up in the underground and independent scene. There is a lot of good stuff coming out all the time. I truly think that movies are an art form as well and have a lot of ambition and are artistic without a commercial approach. Of course, you do not get that much exposure and money with that kind of artistic style, so you do not necessarily know about those movies.
Insomnium tour dates:
06/06/14(D) Rock Hard Festival with Obituary, Solstafir and others
06/27/14(FIN) Tuska Festival
06/27/14(D) Rock am Härtsfeldsee with Wasp, Arch Enemy, Kreator and others
07/10/14(D) Rockharz Festival with Amorphis, Children of Bodom, Soilwork and others…
07/11/14(FIN) Ilosaarirock Festival
08/14/14(D) Summerbreeze Open Air
08/08/14(FIN) Porispere Festival
08/09/14(FIN) Jalometalli Festival
09/18/14(FIN) Pakkahuone, Tampere (w/ Arch Enemy)
09/19/14(FIN) Circus, Tampere (w/ Arch Enemy)
Feature photograph credit Jussi Ratilainen