“It maybe makes your life a little bit more interesting”

Or simply: Meeting Oppu (Olli-Pekka Laine, Amorphis)

A black winter night in Berlin, I had the opportunity to speak with Olli-Pekka “Oppu” Laine from Amorphis. They toured Europe co-headlining with Eluveitie supported by Dark Tranquillity and Nailed To Obscurity. The European tour was to promote their latest album “Halo” (February 2022) but not squeezed into the months between album release and the festival season 2022.   Due to the recent uncertainties of touring in general, this seemed a sound plan. It is a very long time ago since we met, the world has been put upside-down twice and so there was a lot to catch up how he has been. Thus, it comes as no surprise that our conversation became rather a portrait than an interview.

A Warm Welcome

After meeting Miiro Varjus, the tour manager, he walks me through the intestines of the New World, passing Nailed To Obscurity just taking their dinner. We arrive at his office just before Olli-Pekka does. Miiro whom we might also know from The True Cult Club, works on a desk next to the cosy couch on which Oppu and I sit. His throat is sore and he looks tired as a cold is taking a round through the tour bus: “It is as it is. But as long as we can manage to play the shows it’s alright”, he comments.

The he asks me: “I think it was last time in Frankfurt when we …” Shaking my head I hesitate to say anything, as I am not certain to what he refers. Then I recall our interview on their tour in 2017: “You mean, speaking properly? Ah yes, that was in Frankfurt 2017. Seems like a life time ago.” – “Yeah, that’s right”, he replies thoughtful.

A lot has changed for you ever since. If I remember correctly you gave up your day job when you joined Amorphis again.” – “Yeah”, he says stretching the syllable, “but when covid hit, I returned to my job and I am still like hanging in between.

I think quite many musicians needed to return to their day jobs because of that. – “Yeah, three guys out of six went to work when covid started. So, but this has changed within one year, of course.”

The Paradox Impact of The Virus

“It was pretty fruitful time for us in a way”

The pandemic hit us all, of course. The impact on musicians making their living from their bands was different than on those with day jobs in parallel. Yet the impact is not limited to economic matters, so I wonder: “How have Amorphis been otherwise affected? I mean routines might have been broken by the need to take on day jobs, for example.”  

“Well, of course we broke with being on tour after it was unclear if we can do it like for four years. Because there was such predictions like that it could last for five to six years. But fortunately, it was over much quicker. Anyhow, we were kind of fortunate because when covid started, our touring cycle for “Queen Of Time” just ended. So we were about to start to record a new album, start pre-production, and we had just plenty of time to work on the new album. It was pretty fruitful time for us in a way. So, we were really lucky and also in Finland the restrictions weren’t that strict. So we were able to do some festival shows and also some club shows for 30th anniversary and of course we did couple of virtual shows, too”, he says laughing and adds: “which wasn’t that pleasant – the experience for me at least.”

“It was kind of boring”

It must be weird to play just for a camera. I mean it is a different setting than shooting a video, right?” – “Yeah, yeah,” he wrinkles his forehead briefly and comments with a blink: “It was kind of boring. But everybody did it and we just followed the mass in that. But hey, well” Oppu’s voice switches from kind of low and sort of melancholic to bright and more optimistic: Halo” was released on February and the restrictions started to go away last spring. So the time was perfect for us.” His voices lowers to more thoughtful again: “Of course, you never know what happens next. We are aware of that. It’s good to be aware of the fact that the world is so unpredictable. So that you cannot rely on one thing in your life and so on.”

“On the Dark Waters” from the latest album “Halo

Carving the unpredictable to the stone?

We stick to this topic, as it matters to us all, musicians or not. There is no more relying on any plan for example in the matter of touring. “We have lost faith in what we plan”, I finish my own thoughts.

“Yeah, I don’t know if it’s a good thing or even better not to be able to carve your plans to the stones”, Olli-Pekka replies in a thoughtful tone. “It maybe makes your life a little bit more interesting”, he concludes with a sigh. “Unpredictable. You never know what’s around the corner.”

“We did not need to do it in a rush”

“Did this affect Amorphis’ creative process in any way? Like you might have more time for the “Halo” album?”  – “Hm.” – “Perhaps more jamming or something. I think with the previous albums you had sort of a rush being bound in the quick cycle of touring and producing.” – “Yah.” –

“You were always like in-between the touring.” – “Yeah. Well”, Oppu begins: “But the process itself it was like well scheduled. So it was pretty strictly done. We had around one month for preproduction, and maybe a couple of months for recordings; little bit more than with “Queen Of Time”. But of course, Jens [Bogren] had more time for mixing, and we did some overdubs almost like half a year after when we’ve begun recording actually. In a way, we had little bit more freedom for that album, yeah. We did not need to do it in a rush like we did “Queen Of Time”, because we did not know the exact date for the release of the album when we recorded it. Like I said, we’ve had time. With the previous album, we already booked the shows and so on; and needed to nail the release date. But this time it wasn’t necessary or even possible. So yeah, it gave us some freedom. But still, we did it pretty quickly over all. For example my parts were done in four days.”

We sit in a bubble of silence, which is funny enough with all the ‘busy bees’ all around us. There is Miiro working not three meters from us, and quite a busy running in the hallway. Nailed To Obscurity are about to open the program, not to speak of Huxeley’s New World being located in the loudly beating heart of Berlin Neukölln.

“That’s pretty quick” – “Yeah, just like with “Queen Of Time” album. For me, it didn’t affect that much, personally. But generally the process was a little bit longer.

 “… or is there any kind of a demand for new music generally?”

“I heard from other musicians that especially in the first weeks and months of the pandemic, they were entirely cut off from their creative energy. Facing an entirely unpredictable and new type of distressing situation blocked them. It was different than being sad, grieving or frustrated by what were ordinary things ever before.”  

“Yeah, it definitively happened to us as well. Because it was like an uncertain situation that doesn’t make any sense or is there any kind of a demand for new music generally? So, It effects your creativity of course. But it was just like a short period, say, like two months or something. I don’t know. I don’t know, it probably depends on people … what it the certain frame of the artistic output or whatever. But because we are probably composing all the time, not only when the album is coming about, or so, ever so. Whenever there is some melody in the mind, or you come up with a riff you put it down. And even though it would be three years or so until next recordings.” He sighs and takes a deep breath. “It’s kind of hard to say because, nowadays, I personally don’t play guitar that much.”

All but lazy

“But you’re still writing music, don’t you?” – “Yeah, little bit. Little bit, yah, yah. Not that much as I used to but anyhow. I heard it as well that it happened to people.”

This comes as a big surprise to me. Oppu has written so many songs for all his bands it seemed so very important. “So how come you’re not writing that much music anymore?” – “Ah, I do but …pfff”

“It seemed so important earlier.”  Clearing his throat, he asks me to repeat my question and I repeat:  “It seemed so important to you earlier.” –  “Yeah, that’s right. But ahm, I probably just don’t have time at the moment because I am doing two jobs. So maybe, maybe in the future it’s gonna be more of that. Just currently a little bit lazier.” – Hardly adequate to speak of lazy while doing two full-time jobs, but it leave it at this moment although there is so much more to speak of when it comes to his composing activities.

A new label in a fragile moment

Tours plans in general were changed over so often in the past years that they have become kind of fluid. Amorphis make hardly an exception to it. Additionally in this time, Amorphis changed their label, from Nuclear Blast to Atomic Fire. At the moment of this switch, their tour plans changed once more: Previously a tour supporting Nightwish was scheduled (again as in 2015 already). Instead followed the co-headlininig tour with Eluveitie, ongoing just when we met. On a broader scope, the pandemic revealed how genuinely fragile the entire event and music industry is to certain impacts. This makes it quite a risky move to sign to a literally new label just then. “What reasons did you guys have to do so?”

“Well, I am not too much into business side too much for myself. But I think Nuclear Blast was sold to some bigger label or whatever and we did the deal with Atomic Fire in order to make a release as Nuclear Blast artists for one album which was “Queen Of Time”. And then it would change to something else. We didn’t know even anything about Atomic Fire back then. We only knew that the label would divide from Nuclear Blast after the first album of the contract and change its name to something else. So, we were aware of that. Practically, we didn’t change label. We just made a contract with original owner of Nuclear Blast who sold Nuclear Blast and formed his new record label.”

Adjusting to the new times

“So mostly the name changed but not much more.”

“Yah, yah, yah. Some things else, yeah. But basically it’s the same label. Same people working there. So that’s the story behind as far as I know.” He laughs again. “It’s kind of complicated thing but it happens nowadays. These small labels like Spinefarm, Centure Media, and then Nuclear Blast, like doing this kind of things, like selling their back catalogue to some bigger label. Kind of a skip of working as … what do you call it? Sister label? Or whatever.”“Some sort of branch?” – “Yeah.” – “Somehow still connected but not really the same?” – “ Yeah.”


The Amorphis Biography – A picture of the moment

The official Amorphis biography by Markus Laakso was published in a Finnish and shortly after a German issue. The author has been a friend of the band for many years and interviewed former as well as current band members. He provides personal and authentic insights into the band’s history. This was in 2016 but only in late 2022, an English issue was published. I know that especially fans in the USA were waiting for it. The content of biography ends approximately 2015. By then, Oppu was not even in the band. He was among the four founding band members though but left Amorphis in 2000 and rejoined after Niklas Etelävuori left in 2017.

No additional chapter

“Doesn’t feel like one chapter is missing? So much has happened since its original was published.” —  “Not actually”, Oppu explains. “It’s like … we were requested that maybe we could change maybe something in the book for these new issues. But it is a picture of the moment at the time. So it is better to keep it that way, and maybe, I don’t know, maybe there will be another book someday. It’s better to leave it a bit open in that sense. I don’t know. Maybe, it would have been like a rewriting this story in a way because there would have been the book with two different versions. It wouldn’t have made any sense and been unfair to Finnish people as well. It’s better this way, I think.”

“Still, if you had to add one chapter, exactly one, which story would you add from your perspective of the past years?” – “What do you mean?” he asks in reply.

The very exciting moment in 2017

“If there could be only one story that took place at some point in between the first issue and now, which would it be?”

“That’s a good question. Well, it’s been almost six years now and it feels like really a short period. Lots of things happened. Of course, it was exciting to be in the band again, and the first couple of years were like a crazy thing.”

A memory pops up in my mind: On Tuska 2017 right in the middle of the crowd, Oppu suddenly appeared walking towards me. Tuska is not only the biggest summer metal festival in Finland but also it sort of a class-reunion for more than the Helsinki-based musicians. It was his first Tuska since he joined Amorphis again.  Obviously, Oppu was very happy as if he could hover little above the ground carried by his deep confidence of the magical moment. It showed what it meant to him being back in the band founded by a bunch of teenaged friends. “I remember when I ran into you amidst the Tuska crowd in 2017 and how deeply happy you were.”— “Yeah”, he replies while his thoughts linger on the actual question and the low tone of his voice suggests, he is thinking of something less pleasant.

Many a tales yet untold

“But it’s still going on”, he goes on, picking up the thought of the pandemic. “Maybe it’s the covid thing that effects on the excitement on this moment as well. Also it is totally different from the 90’s for example. We all have different kind of attitude, and it’s much more professional and not just partying on and on and on and all. Yeah.” He inhales sharply. “It’s really hard to come up with any period of these six years. Of course, summer festivals are always fun, and in a certain way. The covid period was totally its own chapter, and it felt actually pretty good to have some rest. Must have been the same with the guys who have been doing this for thirty years plus. So yeah, I don’t know …”

“Privilege of Evil” – The untimely release

“You dropped a perfect keyword for my next question which is the 1990’s. I think it was yesterday, the 29th anniversary of releasing “Privilege of Evil”.

Oh yeah, yeah. 29 years. Yeah, that’s right. It was released then, yeah. But we recorded it earlier. 1990. We actually didn’t wanted it to be released at the time when it was released. Because we got kind of over that kind of genre by then. We were already rehearsing songs for “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” and it was totally kind of different ball game comparing to “Privilege of Evil”. It felt like a demo-ish release for us. We thought it would probably damage our ahm”, he pauses to laugh for a moment, “reputation at the moment because we wanted to be more advanced band instead of “Privilege Of Evil”. Of course, there is two sides in every story; and I respect that period of time in our career as well.”

His speaking quickens remarkably at this point. It is interesting to mind such a detail. In parallel and underneath the ongoing conversation, intensive thinking is going on. This is an authentic telling in contrast to in-advance prepared information as for example in interviews promoting a new release.

“I rate it to the same level as our latest album “Halo”

“I rate it to the same level as our latest album “Halo”. So, I am totally standing behind it. It’s not about that. We were totally different kind of band at the moment. We just not wanted to put something out that was not us.”

“Like a chapter being closed already?” – “Yah, yah, yah, we just like wanted to move forward and people told ‘oh,  t h a t  is their new album’ or whatever; and we were already writing little bit more ambitious music.” He laughs shortly, “So it wasn’t like our idea to put it out, but yeah, I think it’s still solid release. It should have been out before “Karelian Isthmus” in my opinion.”

A video from the old days. Check out the biography to read how it came to be and why you can watch it at all. Yet “Into Hiding” has remained on Amorphis setlist’s nearly ever after. 


Beyond Amorphis

“Of course, I have to ask about your other bands. There are some of them. I noticed in the past few years there has been activity with Kiljuvelka70” – “Yah, yah, yah”, confirms smiling.

“And of course, what about Barren Earth?” A long sigh is followed by: “It’s hard to say because, especially now that covid is over, everyone of us is busy with like main bands. I think Swallow The Sun released a new album recently, and Kreator as well and …”

And Jón [Aldarà] has his new band as well”, I mention. “Yeah, Iotunn, it’s kind of active band. I don’t know about Moonsorrow. They aren’t that active at the moment.” – “I think they’re planning at least a new album.” – “Yeaahh, but they’ve been planning it for a while, what three years?” His smile grows into a laughing again. Me too. One will have heared about this ‘new Moonsorrow album’ time and again for years. Already, it might be more myth than anything actually coming to be.

Kasper again

Then he goes on: “And Rytmihäiriö, Janne’s [Pertillä] band, is also composing new stuff for the next album. So it’s like: I have been in contact with the guys and the people are asking about it pretty much actually about Barren Earth; and I been telling that whenever the time is right, I am sure it will happen but not at the moment, I think. But we’ve been naturally talking about it, and last summer we talked with Kasper [Mårtenson]. Well, I talked to him that people been talking about Barren Earth, so why not to do something; and he was like: ‘alright, let’s do it’. So, he is ready as well.”

Sorry to interrupt here. But Kasper is not just anybody. This is one more story of yet another old friendship – as all of Barren Earth is in a way. Kasper was the first keyboarder of Amorphis in the very early years. Even before that, Kasper and Oppu had a band together. Kasper composed legendary songs such as “Black Winter Night”. The songs he wrote for Barren Earth are just as epic like “Set Alight”. He left the bands, but it seems none can or wants do without the other in the end. But now, let’s go on listening to Oppu:

“But it is not like we would do tours or so. Maybe some hand full of festival shows or something but maybe just them to entertain ourselves.”

I think that was the main goal of the band. To have something that is really fun for all who have joined it.” I admit, saying this felt entirely wrong. It is a surrender to the circumstances. When Barren Earth began and even after Oppu re-joined Amorphis the attitude was different (as you can for example read from my interview with Marko Tarvonen taken in June 2018). Life, however, moves on and so Oppu confirms: “Yeah. Yeah!”

“we have had a really good time as long as it lasted”

“But not making it really big, big enterprise?”  “Yeah. It would have been impossible with that line up or whatsoever. Yeah, we have had a really good time as long as it lasted. But maybe it’s better this way because yeah … It took pretty much energy as well. Although we did some pretty decent albums. Yeah! But it was kind of exhausting in a way, too, for me at least.” We laugh again. As Finns tend to talk their achievements small, ‘pretty decent’ would rather translate to ‘f*cking great’ here. For those who are not familiar with Barren Earth’s details: Oppu wrote the by far most of the songs (of the four albums), and used to the pushing hand in any other way, too. Unlike for most of the other band member, it was his main band for many years.

One of Kasper Mårtenson’s epic songs.

Writing music or rather a jigsaw puzzle

As I seem to have one more minute, I feel the need to return to the composing topic. It has not only been so important to him but even more diverse in its results. Oppu has played in and written music for several flavours of death metal bands from old-school  to progressive, for stoner as well as hardcore bands. “How do you make up your mind to when writing a song to which band it goes? I mean you have written for Amorphis, Barren Earth, Kiljuvelka-70, Mannhai and whatnot. When you compose how do you know where it goes?”

“Well, usually I don’t. I am also not composing a song. It’s very rarely. I just come up with melody or a riff or something and then I put it to the bank, which is like a hard drive of my computer or whatever. So whenever there is possibility or spare time, or I get bored or something, I just go to computer and start to combine those riffs. And I don’t think about any certain band or whatever. Or maybe with Kiljuvelka it’s that way?! Then it’s just like Punk or Hardcore.” He laughs. “But with stoner rock riffs, or with progressive rock riffs, or with death metal riffs, they all end up to Barren Earth or Amorphis or Mannhai, for example. So, it has pretty much to do with arrangements. How you arrange songs. It always relies on which band is playing the song.”

“Or maybe with Kiljuvelka it’s that way. Then it’s just like Punk or Hardcore”

This triggers a lot of images and sounds flickering wildly through my mind; images of his bands playing songs of one of the other bands and how this could sound like. “This should be really interesting, seeing one of your bands playing songs from another of your bands.” – “Yeah, yeah. It would be possible, I think. Because for example Amorphis is so … it’s stretching into different directions. It’s actually the production which more solid in a way. There’s lots of variation in a band. Let’s put it that way.”

Kiljuvelka-70: “Punainen Kortti Rasismille” — and then maybe at times he is playing guitar

Thank you

“Thank you very much for having me.”

“Hei, thank you. Thank you, Katja.“

Before the interview and still in the moment we met, I was uncertain how it would be to meet him again. As after the interview I got my things packed and grabbed my coat, however, our conversation continued on rather private matters. I was surprised once more. He seemed to remember my health issues despite his own difficulties in the past years and the long time since met. In the end, it was the same dear person and the same friendly and warm atmosphere in which we used to speak.

Time may have changed his priorities when it comes to writing music or towards Barren Earth. But it has neither changed his genuine interest in the people he meets along the road, nor certainly his high esteem of his old friendships be it in Amorphis or his other projects. That is, how and who he is, Olli-Pekka Laine.  



Follow Olli-Pekka Laine on IG and/or FB or check out his bands:

Amorphis   *   Barren Earth   *   Kiljuvelka-70   *   Mannhai

Check out our reviews of the Amorphis Eluveitie co-headlining tour, too: Berlin and Wiesbaden

All photos by Muumi-Katja

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