Amoral interview

Last time Amoral visited Budapest in 2012 with Ensiferum and Profane Omen. Now they joined to Dark Tranquillity’s tour around Europe. That event was a great opportunity of listening to their latest album: Fallen leaves and Dead Sparrows during a live show. Before their Hungarian concert we could have a short interview with Ben Varon and Ari Koivunen.

GreenWitch: Hello guys, welcome back to Hungary again!

Ben Varon: Thanks, nice to be back here.

GreenWitch: Two years already passed you’ve visited Hungary with Ensiferum and Profane Omen. Can you say some words about this tour, please!
Ben Varon: It’s pretty short for us, first thing. Usually, we’ve done five or six-week tours. It’s only three weeks, so it’s almost over soon. It’s been going great. The Dark Tranquillity guys have been really cool for us. The crew is cool. We really like the guys in Acyl as well, our new friends here. It’s been going good. Good audiences, good response. We have a 50-minute show, so we have a proper playing time. Really good response.

GreenWitch: I mean the previous, one, sorry.

Ben Varon: The previous one was also great, because, you know, it was all Finnish bands which we know before, Profane Omen and Ensiferum, so it was easy. Everybody got along, all Finnish crew. It’s funny, ’cause last time everybody was Finnish, and this time, there’s nine different languages and nationalities in the bands. There’s French people, Hungarian people, Finnish, Swedish, Portuguese, German, Russian, Polish, and Italian on this tour, so it’s a huge ethnic mix this time around. But it’s fun, it’s good.

GreenWitch: Can you say some nice and funny memories of the previous tour, please? I’ve checked Profane Omen’s Facebook page and they shared a lot of strange pictures of the whole tour. Yo had some kind of trouble on the motorway in Slovenia.

Ari Koivunen: The trailer broke down, and we were riding behind it, and there were some sparks.

Ben Varon: I don’t remember that. What happened on the previous tour?

GreenWitch: I saw that you had dinner at Sir Lancelot Restaurant here in Hungary.

Ari Koivunen: Yeah, we went to eat at the medieval place.

Ben Varon: Was I there?

Ari Koivunen: Yeah, I think we were all there. He doesn’t remember shit from tours. I remember everything.

Ben Varon: I don’t even drink a lot and I have the worst memory. What medieval place? What are you talking about?

Ari Koivunen: You know, a medieval place. What I remember is, the food was good, but we got some margaritas, and they were awful. I couldn’t drink it. Yeah, I don’t know… It’s been two years, and we’re kind of in this tour right now, so…

Ben Varon: It’s hard to remember. The shows get mixed up in your head. Mostly, we just stay in backstage areas, so every day is pretty much the same for us, unfortunately.

GreenWitch: Did you like the Hungarian audience last time?

Ben Varon: Yeah, we just talked about it before. It’s one of the best places for us, for some reason. I don’t know why, but people seem to like Amoral here, so it’s always good to come back to Budapest.

GreenWitch: How do you like this tour? As I have seen you have quite busy tour.

Ben Varon: Yeah, we had two days off, but they were right in the beginning of the tour. Now we have all the rest of the days. Many shows in a row, but we prefer it.

GreenWitch: Isn’t it tiring for you?

Ari Koivunen: Not really. We get a good night’s sleep at the bus every day, so it’s all good.

Ben Varon: It’s not that hard. People always think that, oh, it must be hard to be on tour. But when you think about it, all we do is sit around, wait all day, sleep as long as we want…

Ari Koivunen: And there’s like two times in the day when there is a lot of, like, you got to be fast. But otherwise, it’s just waiting.

GreenWitch: You released your latest album Fallen Leaves and Dead Sparrows almost a year ago. Can you say some words about this album, please? 

Ben Varon: It’s over a year old now. For us, we’re still very proud of it. I think it’s the best thing we’ve done so far.

GreenWitch: Why do you feel that?

Ben Varon: It’s just the music, I think, the sound and the music, and the whole concept and artwork and everything. Just, really, we succeeded with it this time. I don’t know, I just feel that way. But I guess eveyrone always likes their latest one the most because it’s the precious one. Hm, what else? It’s a concept album, musically and lyrically. It’s a story with both a beginning and an end. You have to listen to it as a whole piece. It’s proper prog-rock with a lot of elements – everything from piano ballads to death metal parts to black metal riffs to symphonic epicness. I think it’s pretty cool.

GreenWitch: On this album Masi played on keyboards too. Can we expect his piano playing in the future too?

Ben Varon: Yes, definitely. That’s one thing we’ve been talking about, and we have some surprises coming up on the next album next year. I think people are going to really enjoy it, the next one. But yeah, Masi‘s gonna definitely be playing more keyboards in the future.

GreenWitch: And can he perform on the stage playing piano?

Ben Varon: No, just guitar. Because we’re opening up today, so only we only have such a small time to do our soundcheck and everything and also load all the gear. It’s just easier to build the setlist so there’s no piano parts in it, unfortunately. If we had our say, we’d have acoustic guitars and keyboards and ukeleles.

Ari Koivunen: Haha, yeah.

GreenWitch: Why did you ask Marco Hietala [Nightwish] for help with producing Ari’s vocals?

Ben Varon: He needed help. With the singing.

Ari Koivunen: Oh yeah!

Ben Varon: We wanted to try something new. We produced the album ourselves otherwise. We wanted at least one new element to see how it worked, and I think it worked great. Great thing to do. Marco was a great help.

Ari Koivunen: Yeah, Marco is a great guy. He’s one of my most-loved friends, just a great guy. It was really easy to be with him and do the recordings.

Ben Varon: Yeah, we spent the week at Marco‘s place, just a small home studio. Me and Ari went there for a week. I think the result is great.

GreenWitch: How did the audience receive your new album?

Ben Varon: Really good, actually, better than I expected. I expected some people to be kind of confused by the long songs – not really your four-minute, you know, normal rock song. There’s just so many parts to each song. But peope really liked it, and the reviews have been great, and hopefully today as well because so far the audience has been really good on this tour, they liked it.

Ari Koivunen: Not really party music, but still, people like it though.

Ben Varon: We don’t expect people to go crazy in the audience. It’s more music for you to listen to and enjoy.

Greenwitch: What are your favourite songs to play?

Ari Koivunen: I don’t know, maybe, I like On the Other Side Pt II, and also Prolong a Stay, If Not Here, Where?, and there’s a lot of good songs. I like them all.

Ben Varon: Prolong a Stay, maybe. I don’t know, like Ari says, it’s hard to choose one. We’re playing mostly new stuff on this tour, and just, it’s fun to play those songs.

GreenWitch: What kind of instructions did you give to Aki Siltala in connection with the cover of Fallen Leaves…? 

Ben Varon: Aki, well, we met up, I called him up like, ‘Hey, we have a new project for you, you should do our album cover.’ So we went for a beer, sat down, and just started to talk about the album. I told him about the story of the album and some of the elements I’d like to see on the cover, and then we started throwing ideas back and forth. We sat there for a couple of hours, and then we pretty much had the idea of what you see on the cover now. Yeah, it was a collaboration between me and Aki, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. He did a great job.

GreenWitch: Maybe it is going to be a quite early to ask, but can we expect some kind of continuing of the story of Fallen Leaves… on the next album?

Ben Varon: No, it’s not going to be the same story. Yeah, that story’s finished. But I think it’s otherwise gonna continue from where that left off musically. I’m kind of seeing this as the next step from Fallen Leaves, even though its gonna be a separate story. But there’s gonna be some big surprises on the album that peope are not gonna be expecting, and I think it might be a tad heavier, this next one, maybe. There might be a bit more riffs. We’ll see. It’s gonna be interesting, that’s for sure.

GreenWitch: Can we expect an Amoral live DVD in the future? Do you have some notions about this like place, setlist, etc.?

Ben Varon: I don’t know…

Ari Koivunen: I don’t think so.

Ben Varon: I love live DVDs from bands that I like, but they’re not really selling that much, and it’s very expensive to film one and produce. And everybody’s gonna be watching it on YouTube anyway, so what’s the point?

Ari Koivunen: So, for now, I think the best thing is to, like…we put the whole show from the Nosturi gig online. So we’re going to do something like that every once in awhile.

Ben Varon: But maybe, you know, a bonus DVD with an album. But an actual DVD release doesn’t seem to be making that much sense now in 2014.

GreenWitch: What are your best memories in connection with the band?

Ben Varon: Wow, there’s been many. We’ve been doing this for over 10 years, and we’ve been so many places. One of my favorites ones was, a couple of years ago, we played in Manilla, Philippines. That was the coolest stage we’ve ever played. It was like a Metallica stage with big ramps going into the audience. And that was something we’ve never done before, so that’s amazing, you know, running around.

Ari Koivunen: That, and Beijing after that.

Ben Varon: You know, the biggest audience we’ve ever played.

Ari Koivunen: And I have some funny memories before I even joined the band. I was just drinking with the guys at their rehearsal place and sleeping…

Ben Varon: Under the drumset.

Ari Koivunen: Yeah, haha.

Ben Varon: But then, that’s the beautiful thing about being in a band. It’s all the great memories you make and all the places and people you meet that you will never be able to otherwise, if you weren’t playing in a touring band. Like Japan for the first time, or the second time, for that matter…

Ari Koivunen: Yeah, Tokyo is one of my favorite, if not the favorite, city in the world. I just love Japan.
And Manilla was something totally different, and all of them, and yeah China, especially the Beijing Midi Festival gig, that was really awesome.

Ben Varon: But then it’s not just the shows, like, some of our favorite memories of the band are just sitting in the studio, like, we’re just finished recording the drums, so it’s me and Juffi there. The guys are still not there. And we’re like, we’re drinking beer after work and listening to the drum track, and just really vibing on it like, ‘Fuck, it sounds so good, I can’t wait to put the guitars on it.’ And it’s all good, playing music, everything about it is great.

GreenWitch: Do you think what are the biggest challenges in the life of the band?

Ben Varon: Well, not just our band, but with any band, it’s a challenge now business-wise because people are downloading albums. Nobody’s really buying the physical CD or vinyl; everybody’s just listening to it on Spotify or YouTube. So making any money out of it is getting to be really hard.

Ari Koivunen: If you don’t make any money, you can’t do any more music, pretty much.

Ben Varon: Well, you can, but it’s a hobby. Then you play for yourself, and it is what it is. But that’s one of the challenges definitely, too — see some income so we can continue doing this. And also, you know, long tours can get a bit stressful, being away from home a long time. But that’s a small price to pay for getting to experience places like this.

Can you say some plans for the future, please?

Ben Varon: The new album is next. We’re gonna take the rest of the year off. Ari has some shows. I think Masi has some shows. And we are continue practicing the new material that’s already almost written. And hopefully early next year, we’ll go to the studio and begin the new process of the album.

GreenWitch: Who writes the song?

Ben Varon: Me and Masi, and this time around, for some reason, me mostly. Fallen Leaves and Dead Sparrows, Masi was more involved, but now, I don’t know, he’s been out somewhere… Elsewhere… So I wrote most of these new songs.

GreenWitch: Maybe if someone comes up with some new ideas, for example Ari will it be refused?

Ben Varon: Well, it’s a good idea, but so far, Ari‘s been pretty quiet with his ideas.

Ari Koivunen: Yeah… I know I ain’t that good of a composer as these guys. ‘Cause I only play the guitars for some fun riffs or something, you know…

Ben Varon: But sometimes, you know, people surprise you, like Pexi. On the last album, he showed me an acoustic part, like, ‘Oh I have this if you want to use it for something,’ and it was perfect, and we used it for the beginning for If Not Here, Where? So that’s Pexi‘s first contribution to Amoral. It’s cool that it doesn’t have to be forced, everybody writes, not only I write. Everything can happen.

Ari Koivunen: I usually just like… We do the singing melodies together, and that’s my part, I guess.

GreenWitch: Thank you for your interview. See you on stage!

Ben Varon: Thank you.
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