Insomnium: And Justice for All

The band has just returned to Finland from their tour with Amorphis and Swallow The Sun, ending it with a truly triumphant show at Helsinki´s Nosturi. Despite all exertions Insomnium-guitarist Ville Friman still found some strength to answer STALKER´s questions…

So how was the tour?
The tour was really successful and we really enjoyed touring with these two great bands! We knew guys from the Swallow the Sun already as we toured with them in USA few months ago but it was also great to discover that Amorphis guys were so down to earth as well. Most importantly the shows were really good and we got very good crowds even though we opened for every night. So, I´m sure we got quite a few new fans with this tour. Also, it was great to get to play Germany a bit more. We had been there previously only for three shows with Satyricon and those weren´t the best shows or crowds. But now the response was whole lot better. Hopefully we get a chance to tour with Amorphis and Swallow the Sun in the future as well, as we really got along so well. All in all, this was the best tour we ever had.

And how´s life?
I´m fine, tired, mainly working. I´m busy studying, I do my PhD at the university, so doing my research. Hopefully next year I´ll graduate, get my Doctor ready. I graduated in my Masters year and a half ago, I finished that and started on my PhD at the same time almost, so very busy with that. I´ve also done the teacher´s studies, kind of like Professor´s title and a job at the university, so I could teach Biology later on, that´s the backup plan anyway.

How´re things with the band then?
We´ve been trying to build up the new record, we´ve some material ready and some new riffs and ideas, but the problem is that we haven´t had a rehearsal place for over a year now, so we could only rehearse during the gigs. Good thing we´ve had so many gigs, so there is not even time to rehearse! And we´ve been playing pretty much the same set every time, so… But now we´ve a new rehearsal place…

Here in Jyväskylä?
No no, in Joensuu, we just got it. Two of us live there now, Ville and also our drummer, so… Nilo moved to Kuopio, going back to our roots, because before that Markus lived in Joensuu, Vanni and Nilo lived in Turku, and I´ve been here many years, but now it´ll be easier.

Also Aleksi (Munter, Swallow the Sun) lives here in Jyväskylä, so how much does he participate in the new album?
We have agreed that he will do and arrange and compose a little bit the keyboards, but me and Nilo will compose most of the melodies and stuff, we have some basic idea and Aleksi just knows how to make it better, but we aren´t sure… we´ve thought to increase the parts of keyboards more, but then you should have a keyboarder on stage or we should use some kinds of tapes, so… I don´t know, depends on the songs, what works best, synths or keyboards…

How come he isn´t a permanent member?
He´s very busy, and also if we had more parts for him to play… We know each other for so many years and he enjoys it as it is, not so much responsibilities, but still fun, so he can concentrate on Swallow the Sun.

He definitely enjoys! At On the Rocks once he wasn´t supposed to play, so he was watching you and played “air-keyboard”, headbanging, he almost ran on the stage to join you!
Yes yes! (laughs) He´s great! It´s very different than Swallow the Sun, it´s a good change.

How far along are you with the new material then?
Ah, it´s hard to say. Nilo hasn´t been writing so much lately, he got a one-year old son, so he´s busy most of the time organizing the basic life and both, him and the wife are trying to graduate from the university, so… And I´ve been busy and we´ve had some shows in-between, so really not so much time. But actually I have some riffs and stuff, it might be a mellower album… It´ll definitely be a good follow-up for the previous album, that´s for sure!

How do you write?
We write the songs, first the melodies and then the lyrics come. Some kind of foundation first, what will be the chorus and what´s the verse and so on, then the words, where it´ll go. And the lyrics bring the feeling to the songs. I and Nilo write the lyrics, although it´s different every time. With the last album, Nilo did the most. And Ville Vanni has done some lyrics for each album also, I did most of the music last time.

And no lyrics in Finnish, ever?
English sounds better and it´s also easier to break abroad, than with Finnish. More people can listen to us then. I think only Mokoma, if you know the band, made it with Finnish lyrics, but to me it sounds just lame (laughs). Because if you think in English, there are a lot more synonyms with similar meaning and more adjectives, more words, so you can picture things. In Finish it´s a lot more limited, it is not a rich language.

So you´re aiming for the masses…
Maybe some could be happy being a real underground with some 50 home-made demos, but it´s not for us. We want to be known, go abroad, play live – it´s fun! It´s also annoying being stressed at the studio, when recording, but playing shows and seeing places and meeting people, it´s fun! And I have abounded the idea that we´ll ever get paid for doing this, I didn´t believe in it and there was no chance, and we probably won´t get a living out of this, so we´ve to do something else, and keep music like a time-consuming hobby, but it gives you a lot back, so…

So which of your songs are you the most proud of?
We haven´t written the perfect song yet, every song has its own strengths and weaknesses, but I really like the last album´s “Last Statement”, because it was the last song to be finished and it was a lot of work and stress to really put it together. And when it was finished, I was very pleased that it was over. The overall feeling of this song, the lyrics and the melodies build up very well, especially towards the end. The technicality, the riffs are simple and acoustic parts, everything in it.

Then what are the lyrics about, what is behind this song?
This song was the second lyrics I wrote for this album, I went to this weird website, which is a collection of last statements from death penalty prisoners from USA, so actually the lyrics are taken directly from those people´s last words. It´s more poetic of course, but still it´s about that.

How did you even come to such theme?! Just randomly googling around, or something made you think about it?
I´ve read about it somewhere else and there was a link to it, then I went there and was like, curious, it made me think. In every person, if it´s a murderer or somebody´s daughter, or anyone, and you have your own children, and even though we sometimes make some horrible things and should get some penalty for it, we´re still all humans. I think it´s about forgiving in the end, because if someone kills your best friend, for example, is it still right to kill this person, the killer? It´s about this justice. And the song does not take any sides, but it´s more something to think about.

If you think about it, you can justify anything!
Yes, but it´s what you gain if you kill the murderer, and some 10 years long trial before that, all the investigations, dna samples and still have many people get accused wrong or false, racial prejudices or ethnic minorities… It´s a very interesting topic to write about and I got inspired by. Those are difficult questions without an answer, everyone has to make their own opinion.

Do you have more personal lyrics, something from your own experience?
There´s something, which hasn´t happened to myself, but if you write about love, fear or something like that, you should know what it feels like. So all the scenarios are maybe fictional, but it´s always about real emotions and there´s one bigger thing behind. And Nilo actually has written poetry “In The Groves of Death”, he translated his own verse into English, Nilo is the most literate one of us, he studied Cultural History, so… I read lots of books, but not so much history.

What has been the hardest period for Insomnium, because you´ve been together for a while now…
I think it was after recording of the second album, it was very long and difficult process, it didn´t turn out very well as we expected, and after that, nothing much happened, we had a few shows, but that´s it. We weren´t going forward and it was like depressing and it took us a while before the new songs, in a way I felt this second record wasn´t the best we could offer, and I was thinking that we have to do so much better and finally we got into the rehearsal place and started with the new songs, so… Maybe that was the hardest point. It´s like a lot of hard work you´ve to do before you´ll get some credit, it´s like this for most bands. We just have to do it long enough and not giving up too soon.

And not being dependent on this financially, it probably gives you more freedom in creativity too…
Of course, so we don´t have to make a record after record, because with time that´ll also show on the quality of the music. And you can hear it on very many examples, there are so many albums already in the world, why make more bad ones?!

But you´ve been touring quite a lot already, and I´ve hear some particularly interesting stories with Satyricon for example…
(laughs) yeah! They want to be like rockstars, and they think they´re so famous… We were laughing a lot on their expense, because we think it´s a bit embarrassing to act like that, doing your soundchecks too late, trying to seem professional, but you aren´t and nothing´s in order, they wouldn´t share the backstage, and they usually took two! And then they had Frost´s rehearsing kit, playing drums like two hours before the show, warming up and we didn´t have a backstage then, so we had to stay in the bus and there´s no electricity, so a dark cold bus, like ‘yeah, this is great´. Pretty small, but annoying things. And when you´re touring like 4-6 weeks together… They´re being difficult just for being difficult, no point, just for the image. But that what´s it like being the first supporting band. And Satyr´s complaining all the time, come on, be a real black metal man, not some fucking Cinderella!

How´s the inner relationships within your own band?
We´ve been together for so long, we know each other very well. Besides, we don´t spend this much time together, because everyone lives so far, so this helps… but we know what can piss everyone off, so…

Then more specifically, what´s the funniest thing about Nilo?
Nilo is…(laughs) the worst person in normal daily life, like getting himself new socks or making some food or something so technical… He can play the bass, but we´re joking all the time about it. His father is actually the same, although he´s a professional literature professor at the Joensuu university, but he can´t do any practical stuff and Nilo has inherited that. He´s really poor at that and we always point and laugh at them “you can´t do it, you can´t do that…”

What´s the cutest thing about Markus?
(laughs) I don´t know, he´s like the original bachelor, he´s very dirty person and is always ready, he actually got himself a woman now, so he´s saved.

What´s the most romantic thing about Ville?
There´s none! You can say that he´s been really romantic to very many women, you know what I mean (laughs)

What´s about Ville´s nickname ‘Godmisery´?
(laughs) we invented this nickname for him, he also used to work in criminal labs with corpses, as he´s a medical doctor, to find out what caused death. He was opening the bodies for investigations and then putting everything back afterwards. He´s done some 800 autopsies! Now he´s over it, he´s studying to be a surgeon. But actually we makeup nicknames for everyone, and we were just laughing about all the harsh nicks the black metal musicians have, so we invented some for us and actually Markus has the most, about 8 I think! Nilo is “Dead Symbol”, and I´m “Reapered” or “Satanus” and Markus is “Druid” or “Sniffing Druid” and on tour we´ve invented a new one for him “Necro-Sukram”, it´s like “Markus” only inverted, and add some “necro” in it so it´s more evil (laughs)

And although Aleksi isn´t the full member, but what can you say is the weirdest thing about him?
His hairs, he´s like an ape! The weirdest thing is that he used to be about 30kgs heavier, when he was younger, he was sitting in front of the computer the whole time, he was such a nerd! (laughs) Check his passport photo, he had the rectangular glasses… (laughs) I don´t think he´s ashamed of it, but it´s like you wouldn´t believe how he changed.

Then what´s the most annoying thing about you?
I´m a bit bossy and a control freak, and I like to tease people and sometimes I go too far, so many are ready to kick my ass!

Author: Marina Sidyakina, transl. K. Weber, photos: Insomnium

GastmitarbeiterInnen / guest contributions

Regular guest contributors e.g. Melanie Kircher, Tatjana Tattis Murschel, Grit Kabiersch, Marina Minkler, Jasmine Frey, Maria Levin, Elvira Visser, Nina Ratavaara, John Wisniewski