We had a nice talk with Finnish guitarist Esa Holopainen (Amorphis), just while the new Silver Lake the self-titled debut album was going to be released through Nuclear Blast.
When did you first start thinking about a solo album? Just when Nino Laurenne called you, or it was something that was in your mind before?
It’s something that has been in the back of my head for quite a long time… sometimes. I was coming back with the idea, sometimes I was forgetting it, and I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years… previously I was very busy with Amorphis. It was like a distant dream that one day was nice to do a project, but when Nino called me last year, last spring, it was the real kick for me to start working with this idea, because all the shows got cancelled and I had time and I didn’t have to rush… and I said, I can start slowly and see where I’m going with the material… that was pretty much the starting point.
Perfect timing, so!
You added a lot of artists with you (Jonas Renkse, Einar Solberg, Anneke Van Giersbergen, etc., etc…), what do you think they add in the final result and how did you select them? Some of them are friends.
Most of them are fiends, my good friends, we’ve toured together or met somewhere in another way during the years, but I pretty much selected them just because I really respect the mind of these people… they are not only friends, but are vocalists I really truly respect and I’m a big fan of their own music… and I really hope that they also like my songs… I hope so… at least, they told me so…but you never know… I think they like the songs… at least for me it’s the way I would like them to be heard… and I think these songs are pretty good.
Not only for this record but also for Amorphis and in your music career, which are your inspirations in music, to compose and to play?
It really varies. Usually I don’t listen to much music when I start to write or get inspired. I get inspired by playing instruments… usually I come up with some musical themes or melody lines and I start to work with layers based on that… sometimes even playing electric drums can be inspiring to come up with a song… not that much… of course it’s a subliminal effect what you have when you’re listening for example to music from your headphones, wherever you are, and when you start to write, it influences you… but it’s really hard to pick if there’s anything particular.
Like I’ve told many times, I’m inspired by the nature for example, and for me a great way to get inspired is to go to walk into the forest or into the nature recharging batteries: then, when you go back home, you start to play your work and your songs and you realize that you really feel relaxed… that’s what I call probably a great way to get inspired
Usually relaxing is also the key! And Do you think there’s a big difference when you compose for Amorphis or for your solo tracks?
Yes, there’s quite a difference of course, Amorphis sessions are usually very secured and we got a couple of song writers for Amorphis, so it helps to come up with a more versatile music and if I write for Amorphis I usually think at the bigger picture of the whole band… two guitars and especially how Tomi is going to sing… in which range he’s going to sing and I think about the key I’m going to write and when you’re doing you song writing work you give the songs to the producer and the band and you start working on what will become the Amorphis album.
In this case, I worked… I was, you know, responsible to myself in everything and I was working by myself according to these vocalists and each song was its own little task and I want further, song by song, thinking about the element that are in there and I pretty much had to record all the guitars, I recorded all the bases, demo bases, keyboards, drums for the musicians; so it was a lot more work but also much more freedom on working with the songs, as I could take a lot of musical elements I could not use in Amorphis tracks.
A huge experience! Looking back to the past, when did you really started to approach music… How did it happen?
Basically, if I look back at my career, I think it started pretty much like it started for all the other musicians or bands… you meet friends who share the same musical needs, then you form a band; that was pretty much what happened to me. I met friends with whom I started to play and I was into guitar playing, so obviously I ended up playing guitar in a band… that was pretty much the beginning of my musical career and how it happened… then we formed Amorphis in 1990 and I’m still playing with the same guys!
Do you think we will also have to expect concerts? I know it’s difficult to say now. And which of the songs would you really like to play live?
I would love to play the album as a whole, cause I think there’s a strong musical connection in between the tracks… I don’t think how realistic it would be getting all the musicians and all the vocalists to play a couple of shows together… it would be great but I don’t know… I already got some requests by promoters but it’s still too early to say when we go back to the normal life again… and maybe at that point all the singers will be going on tour with their own bands or projects, so… but it’s a sort of a distant dream I will have to realise at some point.
Yes! Would be wonderful! Coming back to tour life, that we hope is coming back very very soon, can you tell us something particular happening? Or what you miss most about life on tour?
I guess at this point I miss everything, even spending time in the airport it’s going to be great fun…travelin… I didn’t like that, but now I think I’m going to like that as well… I miss everything that comes with a tour… of course, playing shows and being with your bandmates and seeing the audience… that is something that you really miss and you know when you do these live-streams… it’s ok, but you can’t really compare it with real live experiences… That’s something that I probably miss the most.. the connection with the audience and the band…
Maybe live-streams are a way to stay close to the fans, but it’s completely different…
We’ve done a couple of live streams and it’s ok, I think with a good production you can come up with nice things, but for the musicians it feels a little bit like shooting a music video or something like that…
Yes! Good point! And if you were speaking to a new band starting now, which would be your suggestion… (let’s forget for a moment the pandemia)?
Really had to tell… but I think, you know, you just have to be honest with yourself and with your music and to play with the people who you enjoy your time with and, you know, not to end to be original but just write and play the music you feel good about… and I think that’s the best guide and when you’re honest for yourself and for your music I think you can show it to other people as well, and they can rely on that… and another advice… try to get as much shows as you can because playing live shows is probably the best way to promote the band.
Speaking about the future, do you have in mind any specific festival you would really like to be there or bands you want to share the same stage with… or other dreams?
When the tours will start again – that’s what I’m waiting the most – I don’t mind with which band… with Amorphis we’ve shared the stage with a lot of other bands and we made great friendships with people… so, you know, I would be just happy to go on tour and to play… of course the bigger festivals are always great because you meet friends and festivals usually are great… not just for the bands, but for the audience as well… and you meet people who you probably met one year ago in another festival, so it’s something that I really really miss.
Yes! We hope we go back to normality soon! Something seems to move now… so we hope so!
I got my first shot of the vaccine yesterday!… I’m still alive and no extra noise in my head!
We’re looking forward to the publication of the album here in Italy. Any other messages you want to say to your Italian fans?
Yes! My album comes out on the 28th of May and also Amorphis’ new live album is coming out too, around the same time, so a lot of things are happening. Silver Lake album is really different and it’s a nice musical journey that I hope that people will experience and go into… beside that, I wish that we get rid of the pandemic… and to Italians I can say I get inspired by your food culture and I’m baking pizzas now. I try to make the real neapolitan pizzas… not with pineapple!
Noooo Please, no pineapple!!! I hope we can see you on tour ASAP and, in the meantime, we will enjoy the albums, yours and Amorphis one! Thank you so much!
Line-up “Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen“
Esa Holopainen: lead guitar, guitars
Jonas Renkse: vocals in “Sentiment” e “Apprentice”
Håkan Hemlin: vocals in “Storm”
Einar Solberg: vocals in “Ray Of Light”
Vesa-Matti “Vesku” Loiri: vocals in “Alkusointu”
Tomi Joutsen: vocals in “In Her Solitude”
Björn “Speed” Strid: vocals in “Promising Sun”
Anneke Van Giersbergen: vocals in “Fading Moon”