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Interview with Insomnium | «I'm sure the fans all around the world when they hear the album and read the lyrics they can see this tradition and what this melancholy is»



Hello Niilo, how are you today?

Niilo Sevänen: I'm very good thank you. Busy times preparing for the first show which is one week from now in Helsinki


Oh, I see! So with a band like your's I could ask a million questions but I'll just stick to the recent ones!

Niilo Sevänen: Alright! I'm ready for everything.




 How is the feedback for your latest album so far?

Niilo Sevänen: Pretty good so far. Our fans seem to like the songs and the whole album it's nice to see that people find their favorite songs and all of them show up there so it's a strong albyum. The reviews are being really good. Everything looks pretty good right now and our Finnish tour is sold out alredy so we are looking forward to play live and see how the new songs work in a live situation.


So what was the inspiration for 'Heart like a Grave'?

Niilo Sevänen: Well, for the lyrics we thought we could use inspiration from these old Finnish melancholic songs that everybody knows here, our parents, our grandparents even older people. The Finnish music in general is very sad, sorrowful and you can find really heartbreaking stories in there. We are all get that from really young, from mother's milk really this melancholic music. We wanted to use that as inspiration. You can find some old tales or themes from this old songs on this album.


It's in your DNA as we say here.

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah, in every country there is a saying. It's a really Finnish thing and we try to open it up for other people and explain this mentality and why we like this sad music. I'm sure it's hard to understand if you haven't lived in Finland. The most popular song in Finland is this really sad story about a little girl who finds a sparrow in the snow who's freezing to death and she realises that it's the soul of her little brother who died last year., so really really sad song but people like to sing it on Christmas. That tells something about people. But on the other hand for many times in a row we have been voted the happiest nations in the world, so we have this tendency for sad music but also we seem to be doing ok, so it's a funny combination.



This album is supposed to lead the listener to this stories?

Niilo Sevänen: Im sure the fans all around the world when they hear the album and read the lyrics they can see this tradition and what this melancholy is. That's why we wanted the videos to be very Finnish too and we shot them in a national park, the landscape is very known in Finland, when you see it you know where it is. We wanted to make everything very Finnish, all the pictures in the booklet, the videos, the lyrics in the booklet come together to tell the story. I'm sure if people in greece by listening to the album can get an idea about what these strange people think about up there in the north.


Do you always have a concept in your mind when you write an album?

Niilo Sevänen: Not always. Of course, Winter's Gate was very much a concept album. It was this old story I had written and we used it. But before that, with Shadows of the Dying Sun and One for Sorrow there wasn't much of a concept, just a collection of stories and of course all the lyrics they share the same kind of melancholic stories. We play this kind of music,we have this very sad atmosphere but its what we love and what makes us happy. It's not always a concept. Actually, our second album was kind of concept album so I guess we have 3 concept albums and the rest are a collection of songs.


About Winter's Gate, this album was a lot faster and more brutal i'd say. Why did you choose not to keep the same style this time?

Niilo Sevänen: When we start writing music there is no grand plan of what we should do, or change something. Of course Winter's Gate was a special thing and we decided to make a really long song but that was it. It was the same thing now, we only decided to make a more traditional album with lot's of songs and we started making music. There are many songs that are atmospheric with a movie soundtrack feeling, especially the last half of the album. All the music comes from the heart, we don't try to please anyone else, we never do what the record company wants, or what the fans would want, or what the trend is now, we never think about that. We just do the kind of music we love ourselves.



So, Winter's Gate was a story you wrote in the past. So, the music came first and then the lyrics, right? So have you ever considered to do the opposite?

Niilo Sevänen: Winter's Gate was a success, everything worked, people like it a lot. It gave us more confidence to do more of what we want. The story came first, and then we tried to write music that would suit the atmosphere and the mood of the story, and when there was some kind of structure I wrote the lyrics based on the story of course. When I write lyrics I want to know how many syllables and words I can put there, so you need music first, that's how it works for Insomnium.


So, let's go back to the new album. Do you have a favorite song? And why?

Niilo Sevänen: I'd say some of the longest are my favorites like "Pale Morning Star". It has the same kind of atmosphere like 'Winter's Gate', even though it's only 9 minutes, but it's the longest in the album. Also the final track, "Karelia" which is instrumental I like a lot, it's really sorrowful atmospheric. It's hard to tell really, I think there are 10 really good songs in there, one reason the album is one hour long is that we didn't want to leave anything out, and so far Insomnium fans have been really happy and I think it was a good choice to make an album as long as this one.


Is there a story behing Pale Morning Star?

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah, it is isnpired by this Finnish poet, Saima Harmaja who died pretty young in the 30's. She was this kind of suffering poet who wrote really dark and melancholic poems. The kind of stuff that really suits Insomnium well. The person who tells the story, his loved one has died and he can only see her in his dreams and visit her when he sleeps, so that's the idea. There is another song, 'The Offering', which is isnpired by her poems. In this case, the narrator is offering himself to death so that his son who is very ill can survive.



These are my two favorites songs, the most emotional!

Niilo Sevänen: Thank you!


So, how do you feel when you release an album? Has it changed through the years now that you have 8 albums?

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah it has. You get used to it, you'll do the promo, and then the reviews will come and the first shows and then you go on tour. It's kind of a normal thing for us, we've been doing it for a long time. It's a good feeling of course, you spend so much time in the studio and before with the songs, you can't tell anymore it they are good, you are too close. So,when other people hear the album it' a great feeling when they like it. So, this album seems to be good, people like it a lot so it's all good for us.


With your experience through these years., you still have doubts about your songs?

Niilo Sevänen: I'm sure most creative people are like that, musicians, writers, artists. Some days you think you are a genius, the next day you are like 'Oh this is shit, I am shit, it's horrible' (laughs) it's like ups and downs, that's the process. When you've done it long enough, you know it's coming you don't take it seriously, you'll sleep over it and tomorrow it will be gone. On the other hand, it's good to be critical towards your own work because that's how you make sure that staff that comes out at the end is good staff. The bar must be set high.



That's what makes an artist at the end. 

Niilo Sevänen: Exactly.


So, about the videos you released. Is there one story behind these videos and what is the message?

Niilo Sevänen: The two videos have the same characters so yeah there is one story. I don't know who came with the idea of having one story but we all agreed to it. In the first video you see the band playing and the characters, it's like an introduction but in the 2nd one 'Heart like a Grave' you can see what happens to the characters, not so much the band playing. They are not similar songs, one is fast and kind of rock song, the other more of a ballad, but they tell the same story about this man living with his old mother and next door is their neighbour, a woman and a little kid. Well, people can watch the video and see what happens (laughs)


Do you have a certain way when it comes to writing a song? Does it come naturally or you just know the recipe?

Niilo Sevänen: It's a difficult question. You just sit alone with your guitar or keyboards or in front of the computer and try to produce good stuff. There's always self-doubt, but if you put in the hours then eventually you'll have good melodies, good riffs and in the end good songs. There is no surefire recipy that will guaranty you'll write a good song. Sometimes it takes long time and sometimes it can come out really quickly, but you can't force it. That's why I think it's a good thing to take a lot of time to write a new album. We don't tour at the same time we write music. You need the time and freedom to try ideas and built slowly. Of course other guys are faster, other guys take their time. I think I'm pretty slow but I spend time with those ideas, evolving them and trying new things and then slowly but surely songs will come out.



That's what I and all of us like about you. I think you write from your soul. How do you manage that? How hard is it to keep doing that in the music industry?

Niilo Sevänen: Well, thank you.. Honestly, that is the key why we are here. We gained many fans, we can play all around the world. Yes, it comes from the soul, I'm sure people can sense it, that these guys are doing what they love, pouring their hearts and souls into the music. The key is to do what you love and be true to yourself. Don't think too much about what people would like to hear, or how to be succesful and make money. When you are doing art, let it come from the heart. Then it can actually touch people.


I can see from other people too, that you touch people's souls with your music. How does that make you feel when you know that people can relate, and is it painful too to you?

Niilo Sevänen: I enjoy the process very much. I can spend the time making music and writing the lyrics to the stories, that's what I love. So basically we do it for ourselves. If it touches other people and you get this kind of feedback it feels great. We hear a lot of stories about how our music helped people get through some difficult times and that's the best kind of compliment you can get. That your music saved or helped people, that's amazing. What music can do! I'm grateful and proud of what has happened.


So, what other passions do you have besides music?

Niilo Sevänen: Writing, that was even before I started making music. As a young boy I read a lot of stories and I wanted to be a writer myself. I still have that dream, but I'm so busy with music and Insomnium that at the moment I have very little time to write. Maybe at some point I can make something happen, like in tours, try to finish writing a book. Maybe! If I was a billionaire and I didn't have to do anything in life, i'd still want to do that. Music and writing.



Jani Liimatainen has officially joined the band as a member now. How did this came up?

Niilo Sevänen: For some years he helped with the tours, he has been playing with us for 4 years now. Last year, we decided to ask him to become the 3rd guitarist. Ville Friman wants to stay in the band, he wants to write music but he really can't tour so for everyone else it would be good to have a stable band to do the tours. So Jani was the only candidate, we asked him and he was ready to jump in. So that's how we have 3 guitarists in the band and 4 guys who write music and it works nicely so far.


This was his album as a member. How was it during bthe recording?

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah. Jani had already a big part in this album. He is a really good songwriter. He quickly adapted to what Insomnium is about, what kind of melodies and songs we need. So the stuff he's been writing in this album is just, Insomnium. So i'm sure that people who listen to this album without checking who wrote the songs, they won't know which part is Jani's. In that way we were lucky. It was the same thing when Markus Vanhala joined tha band, so even though our guitarists change a bit we still sound the same. That's pretty rare and strange but it's wonderful. So I think the situation in the band is the best in many many years.


Do you think that you can offer more when you play with 3 guitarists?

Niilo Sevänen: Well, we cannot play some shows with 3 guitarists. For the Finnish shows next week, Ville can come so we'll have 3 guitarists. But in the european tour we'll only have 2. With our music it's easy to find something to play for everyone, I feel we could have a 4th guitarist and still give him something to play (laughs). I'm sure it will be different with 5 guys on stage but it will be exciting for sure.



Last year you came to Greece for some shows. What was it like?

Niilo Sevänen: It was good. We had been waiting for a long of time to come. We knew we had a lot of fans and luckilly last year we finally had this Eastern European tour so we could come to Greece and the shows were great, especially in Athens. I'm sure we'll return now with every new album. We hope to come and have some time to explore the cities.


Is there anything you'd like to add yourself?

Niilo Sevänen: We really want to come back sooner or later either in a european tour or just fly there and play some shows. We want the fans to know that we'll come back many times.


A message to the Greek fans?
Niilo Sevänen: Thank you very much for the support all these years. We are sorry it took us so long to come there, but we;ll be back soon.



Thank you very much, we wish you the best in the future and hope to see you soon.

Niilo Sevänen: Thank you very much too.






Chris Mouskos, Eleni Ktisti


Black Velvet Radio

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