Sunday Morning Hangover Blues
CoC chats with Niilo Sevänen of Insomnium
by: Jackie Smit
Niilo Sevänen is admittedly not a man of many words, and with the effects of a particularly heavy Saturday night still weighing heavily on his ability to communicate, he politely apologises at the start of our discussion for sounding out of sorts. Where this scenario would normally be a colossal pain in the arse for an interviewer, in Niilo's case, Insomnium's latest effort has pretty much said all that can be said already. _Since the Day It All Came Down_ is the latest release by this Finnish quartet, and to claim that it will blow your hair back is one of the understatements of the century. A dazzling and emotional journey through several spectrums of music, it is one of those rare recordings that make you thankful you're able to hear. Yet, as effortlessly as scythes its way through your consciousness, it's an album that apparently very nearly didn't get made...

Niilo Sevänen: A lot of unexpected things happened while we were in the studio. First the computers didn't work, then for some reason a lot of the recording equipment stopped functioning properly. After that had been sorted out, our guitars were going strangely out of tune on a sort of sporadic random basis -- I don't know what we did, but that was certainly a problem. All sorts of little things which were really frustrating just kept mounting up and hampering the recording of the album, which eventually ended up taking several weeks over what we had planned. There were some points where it looked like the album would be delayed or even scrapped or like we'd have to move to another studio. But in the end, we're really happy with the result. Now that I think of it, even the mastering had to be done twice!

CoC: How close did you come to scrapping the work that you had done?

NS: Very nearly, but we pushed through. For a while though none of us could listen to any of the songs we had recorded because whenever we did we would be reminded of all the hassles. It definitely took some time before we could listen to the album at all.

CoC: Did you ever get an explanation as to the cause of the problem, or does it remain a mysterious set of unfortunate coincidences?

NS: There must have been some poltergeist loose in the place. <laughs> All I know is that there was supposed to be a lot of cool new equipment to help us record the album and none of it worked properly.

CoC: The new album is much heavier than your last _In the Halls of Waiting_ effort. Do you think that perhaps these problems and frustrations that you were experiencing during the recording process added to the album's eventual energy?

NS: I'm not sure -- it might be, but we also tried this time to create a heavier sound and to make the album much heavier.

CoC: Aside from the increased heaviness, it is also by your own admission much darker and more sombre. What was the reason for a move in this direction?

NS: I don't know what the exact reason was. These kinds of songs just sort of come to us, and now we're happy with the direction that we're moving in. Some of the songs on the first album were maybe a bit too happy sounding for me and that's why we deliberately tried to find a darker way of expressing ourselves. But as to the overall feel of the album, I'm still not sure why it ended up sounding the way it did.

CoC: What were your influences and inspirations in coming up with the songs?

NS: Myself and both our guitarists wrote the lyrics and we came up with the concept. What is the concept of the album? I don't really want to reveal that right now, because I want listeners to hear for themselves and make their own interpretations. It's a very tragic story and it deals with issues like coping with loss and losing loved ones. As to the details of the story, we'll leave that to the listeners to figure out for themselves.

CoC: Is it based on anything stemming from a personal frame of reference?

NS: No, not really. The story was thought up by me and [guitarist] Ville Vänni, and we basically cut up the story into pieces to fit every song. It was kind of like putting together a picture, in a way. As far as being based on a true story -- no, it's not.

CoC: Looking toward your musical background -- Insomnium have a lot of very diverse influences in their songs. Where do these all come from?

NS: As a teenager, I was listening to bands like Metallica, Slayer and Sepultura. Then I found bands like Opeth, Dark Tranquillity, Amorphis and At the Gates. As time passes by and you get older, obviously you start to listen to many other styles of music, but at its core I think that Insomnium is rooted in the Swedish and European style of melodic death metal.

CoC: Considering how technical some of your work is, did anyone in the band ever have any formal musical training?

NS: Our drummer, Marcus, has trained at a music school and our guitarist Ville played violin as a child. So both of them have a strong sense of theory and of musical history and things like that. As for myself and our other guitarist, we taught ourselves to play our instruments.

CoC: How did it happen that you decided to take up the bass?

NS: It was really a case of all the other instruments being taken. The first band that I joined already had two guitarists and a drummer, so all that was left was the bass and I was the lucky one who ended up playing it.

CoC: Your native country has played host to a big burst in activity as far as metal records are concerned, and when you look at the Finnish music charts, it's not uncommon to see a metal band in the top ten. Why do you think that Finland differs so much from most other countries?

NS: I suppose you could say that it's dark here all the time and all the people are really depressed. <laughs> Rock music in general is really popular here and playing in a band is generally considered to be "cool", so you have a lot of young kids who want to play in a band, which is where a lot of stuff gets started.

CoC: Any up and coming bands that we'll be hearing from soon?

NS: I think most people will have heard Swallow the Sun by now -- they're our friends and they're probably one of the best bands in Finland right now. There's also a band called The Arrival who did an album for a small Norweigian label. Other than that it's pretty boring, really. You have a lot of Spinefarm bands who in my opinion just all sound exactly the same. They're all power metal bands and I can't stand that stuff. We definitely have some interesting bands though, but out of everything I'd say that Swallow the Sun is the best thing going right now.

CoC: How about your own musical aspirations -- do you have any side-projects or anything like that going?

NS: Myself and Ville Vänni play in a band called Watch Me Fall and Ville actually played in that band before he came to Insomnium. Now I do the singing in the band. We have done one album for a small Finnish label, but it hasn't come out yet and I don't know what will happen. Maybe in the future we will do something else and try to get a proper deal for it, but I'm not sure yet.

CoC: So what are the plans for Insomnium over the course of the next few years?

NS: In the spring, we'll be touring all over Finland -- we'll do about twelve shows in total and play some summer festivals as well. But after that, I'm not sure. Candlelight Records has promised that they will try and arrange something for the autumn. It would be very nice to visit England, Germany and the States, but I can't say for sure whether that will happen or not. As far as music is concerned -- just basically experimenting, pushing the band in different directions and making the best music we can, really.

CoC: Any last words, Niilo?

NS: To all readers of Chronicles of Chaos: if you're into melodic and fierce music, check out our albums and visit our website.

Contact: http://www.insomnium.net

(article submitted 31/5/2004)


ALBUMS
2/14/2010 P Azevedo 8.5 Insomnium - Across the Dark
12/26/2006 P Azevedo 9.5 Insomnium - Above the Weeping World
4/19/2004 J Smit 10 Insomnium - Since the Day It All Came Down
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