Interview with Ville Lamminaho (guitar) and Hannu Savolainen (bass) by Silence
Hello! How are you doing?
Ville Lamminaho: I´m doing just fine, thank you.
Hannu Savolainen: Hi! Somewhat busy times, but doing ok.
Okay, first of all congratulations to your new album, I really like it a lot. Can you tell me a bit about the reactions towards it so far?
V: Thank you, it is nice to hear that you liked the album. The reactions towards the album have been mostly positive and encouraging. I'm particularly happy about the fact that many people have said that this is a leap towards our own direction.
Your previous album "Absence" was quite successful and got mostly really good reviews. Did you feel any pressure when writing new material for "Anatomy Of Life"?
V: Well, you always need to feel a certain pressure. You always need to try to top your previous doings. Otherwise it just doesn't make sense. However, the songs came out quite easily.
What's most important for you when writing new songs? How is the whole songwriting process like in the band?
V: For me, the most important thing is inspiration, and a possibility to forget the world for a while and just sit down in peace and write the song. I'm a very fast songwriter: once I get the inspiration, the song is basically finished in a few hours.
The whole songwriting process is quite simple in the band. Usually me, Tuukka or Hannu write a song, make a demo version and send it to the others to listen to it. If the song seems to be good enough, we will rehearse it, maybe alter the arrangement a bit, and then it is basically done. Actually this is the only possible way for us, since we all are studying or working quite far away from each other, and we don't have too much time to spend on training together.
Do you have any favorite songs on the new album? If so, which?
V: Well, in my opinion "Misanthropolis", "Burden of Solacement", "The Burning", "Monument of Pain", "Through the Element" and "Fire and Water" are excellent songs, but if I'd have to pick one or two, I'd probably choose "Monument of Pain" or "Fire and Water".
And generally speaking? If you had to pick one or two songs for someone who has never heard about you, which would describe your music best?
V: Well, the opening track "Misanthropolis" would probably describe our music best, which is one of the reasons we picked it as the first track. It has a solid rhythm, contrasts, variable vocals and beautiful guitar melodies.
Who created the artwork for the new album and why did you decide to have a painting whereas lots of artworks are created digitally nowadays?
V: The artist is called Simo Ripatti and the album cover is actually a remake of one of his earlier works. Actually you answered the other question yourself. One of the main reasons why we wanted a painting was because the majority of album covers are so called "digital art" today. When you look at one digitally created album cover, it may look wonderful, but after you've seen a hundred covers based on basically the same technique, it just doesn't seem special anymore. Of course, there are some who master digital art and are able to separate themselves from the masses, but you really can't go wrong with an actual painting.
What was the recording of the album like? Were there any special moments you can remember and like to tell us?
H: The recording went down quite easily this time and there were no major set-backs or anything like that. Because we used the same studio as in “Absence” it was easier for us to just go there and start the recordings. I think the atmosphere was a bit more relaxed than on “Absence”. Recording-wise we worked on our material as we have always worked. Except this time the drums were recorded with Ilkka playing the drums listening to our demoguitars which Ville and Tuukka had made before entering the studio. On “Absence” we were all in the studio playing together with Ilkka and the drums were also recorded on those takes. As for the rest of the recordings we proceeded the “normal” way. I delivered the basslines in about a day and then Tuukka and Ville recorded the guitar parts for over a week or so. Then it was time for Antti to do his growls and after that we finished all the other vocal parts. As I said, there were no major set-backs in the studio and if we had some difficulties nailing some things to the tape or something just didn´t sound as we would´ve liked it to sound we would just figure out the best way to find the overall best sounding result. And I think that we are happy with the outcome of the album.
There were some special moments during this studio session, but I think the best way to find out what it´s like to record an album with this bunch of guys you really should check out our studio diary for “Anatomy of Life” which will give you a good glimpse at what the album recordings are all about. (Studio Diary)
Are there any bands that influence you musically? When you started out as a band, did you already know into which direction your music would go one day?
V: When we first started playing together we just wanted to play melodic metal of some sort. I don´t think there was a one single band that would stand out as a bigger influence than another, but of course when you play melodic metal you draw some of your influences from all the Swedish pioneers of melodic death metal and some of the Finnish bands as well. When we started playing I think we had a little narrower range of influences than we have today. Today we all draw our influences from all kinds of music genres and not just metal music and I think that can be heard in our music in some way.
Also, when I first listened to "Absence" the first band that came into my mind was Fall of the Leafe when looking for similarities in terms of melodies. Is it just a coincidence or would you consider them as an influence as well?
V: I have to confess that I hadn't heard any Fall of the Leafe songs or albums before Volvere came out, so I'd say it is just a coincidence. Of course, bands that have inspired us might also have inspired them, which often leads to certain similarities.
This leads me to the next question - guest vocalists. You have the same two guest vocalists (Tuomas Tuominen & Hanna Leinonen) as on "Absence". How did you come up with these guest vocalists and how was it working with them?
H: Hanna has been working with us since the first demo tape in 1998. She has sung on every Noumena record – be it demo or official release. She also comes from Ähtäri, our childhood hometown. Hanna really has a great voice, which has become a quite important part of our current sound. While rehearsing for the Absence session in 2004, we decided to find a male singer for the clean parts of our forthcoming Absence album. That time I was listening Fall of the Leafe's Volvere album and one night it just crossed my mind: Tuomas Tuominen would be a fresh and talented choice for the clean vocals. The rest of the guys greeted my idea with enthusiasm and Tuomas answered "yes". He is a nice person and it's great working with him. I think co-working has been a delightful experience for both sides.
How important are lyrics for you? Who writes them and what are they usually about?
H: In my opinion the music comes first and the lyrics follow. Of course it is important that themes are in line with the music. Antti, Ville and I write the texts and naturally we have high standards lyrics-wise, too. Lyrics are often introspective, short stories or moments, but there are texts dealing with a wider perspective also. For instance pain of losing someone, misanthropy, critics towards religion and bleak periods in history are themes our lyrics are about.
Why did you pick Noumena as a band name? Does the meaning of the word "things in themselves" have any further connection to your music?
H: Well, I guess it was the best option which we came across back in 1998. Ilkka – and maybe most of us – was interested in philosophy and that's how we chose the name. I don't think Noumena as a name represents anything mind-blowing to us. It's quite esoteric though and a good name because of that.
How important is the internet presence/promotion for you compared to the traditional printed promotion? I know that you also use your own forum a lot. Is it important to communicate and get direct feedback from fans this way?
H: There are benefits on both of the medias. Advertising in printed media reaches a lot of people, and it's important to advertise in music magazines. The internet on the other hand offers more interaction with our fans. We try to keep our website simple and elegant, offer official information and also something extra. Ville is responsible for our web pages and in my opinion he has done his job with style. The forum gives us a good possibility to communicate with our fans and tell some background information about our doings. For example there's this 'Food and Drink' -section in our forum where the band members and fans can share good recipes. Some of those recipes are worth trying out, especially "Real drink" -recipes… And because we are aware of ongoing trends, we have a Myspace profile, too.
What do you think about the current situation of the metal scene in Finland? How well are the chances for new bands to have success in this rather big number of high-quality bands?
H: As you mentioned, Finland is quite bloated with metal bands of good quality. It has two sides, on the one hand it's challenging to stick out from the crowd. And besides, Finland is a rather small country, so only certain number of bands can be "on top" at the same time. On the other hand, popularity of heavier music has increased the interest of people and approval, metal music has moved towards the mainstream, so to speak. These things open doors for many bands. But the most important thing is to create your own style and stick to it. I believe a band can become popular (at least in the scale of its genre) if it has quality songs, it is only a question of time.
Do you have any words of advice for starting bands? And where do you see possible risks in the career of a musician?
H: Things have changed a lot in almost ten years, but some things remain. Set-backs do happen in some form or another, so it's good to prepare for them and when those occur, to get over it. For most bands little steps are necessary to advance in music "business" – if one wants to be a part of it. Losing one's passion and love towards music is the biggest risk. This industry can make you concentrate on the wrong issues…
Do you see your music rather as an hobby or as a job? And what's the best part of being a musician?
V: Well, I practically don't get any money from it, so I'd say that it is a dear hobby. In my opinion, it's good that way.
H: I don't know about the best part, but it's really nice to meet new, great people and see different places. It prevents getting isolated.
If you had the chance to change anything in the music industry you don't like, what would it be?
H: There are quite many things which annoy me, but maybe I would get rid of radio station playlists. Even though metal is popular in Finland, radio stations are full of crappy pop, rock and r'n'b. The same shitty songs spin hour after hour because of those playlists. Does a radio journalist need creativity in his/her work nowadays? I don't think so.
What are your plans for the next months and the future of Noumena in general?
H: We'll have a couple of gigs in Finland this spring and in the beginning of June we will head for our second European tour. Man, that's going to be so nice! I hope we will play at least in Germany, Austria and Holland. So, we have to rehearse a little bit for this tour. Later this year we will hopefully have more gigs, write new material and drink beer.
Thanks for the interview and good luck for the future!
H: Thanks to the readers and everyone at Finnish Metal webzine! Hope to see you at our gigs during forthcoming months! Horns up!