„The Circle“ is the first album since „Far From The Sun“ not to be produced by Marko Hietala. Why did you go to Peter Tägtgren instead?
It would have been great to work with Marko with one more album, but we decided to try a full package producer this time. Marko was definitely an option this time too, but we wanted one man to take care of everything. To try how it would work. We just thought we need something else now for change. And I don't even know if he would have been available for this. Already with “The Beginning of Times” sessions we realized that we may have to find more producer options to work with vocal harmonies cause Marko has duties with Nightwish which will keep him extreme busy from time to time. When Nightwish was on active period it was always very difficult to find periods which suits for everybody's needs. I think Marko also has to spend some time with his family. Marko has Nightwish, Tarot, Christmas tour every year in Finland and family. We feel very privileged that we´ve had a chance to use him as a producer despite all his duties in his own bands. Everything is good and maybe someday we will work together again!
Later on we had very narrow selection who to ask for a producer. We had been thinking Peter for a long time. And I remember some years ago he was screaming in some festival booth drunk “I want to produce your next album…I´ll make the drum sounnddd sooo Biiigg...”. So back in the Amophis-office we were listing all these Rick Rubins, Trevor Hornes and Desmond Childs which were basically out of our league anyways. Then Peters name popped from someones mouth and we got excited, he's an old friend and musician too. We instantly called him and he showed the green light!
How was working with him? Where are the differences to Markos work?
Working with Peter was very easy, likewise with Marko too. Markos producing area was clearly vocals, that’s why we hired him for. Peter was there to take care of everything, so that is the biggest difference of all. With Peter there was of course some timing problems thus he was also touring at the same time and we had couple of shows out side Finland. But his very easy to work with, his a musician too so he knows that good vibes in the studio is more important than some stupid fight about a riff. He was all the time very patient and never lost it. I think he vey well understood what Esa and Tomi wants out of their guitarsounds too.
Did your way of songwriting change with the new producer too?
Not really, we pretty much made songs like always, in the home studios. Well maybe we had little bit more intensive demo sessions but Peter was not there to affect on the musical side. Anyways everybody thinks that recording sessions were more experimental than previously. I cant really say that much, cause I recorded my keyboards by myself. But generally Peter managed superbly especially with vocals. That was the area, we were really worried about because Marko had been around last 4 albums. But they turned out to be as good on “Circle” as on previous albums. And of course we dropped all the shitty songs from the album. (lacht) We did some extreme makeover things with our music in late nineties (For example “Elegy” vs. “Tuonela”), I don’t think we should be doing that drastic changes now, not yet at least. Otherwise people will get scared and throw the albums out off the window. Just like what happened us back then.
Once again you slightly changed your musical style – For me “The Circle” has even song Black-Metal-Riffing but at the same time some very melodic parts. Did you focus on that? Where differs “The Circle” from “The Beginning Of Time” in your opinion?
Music-wise we did not try to change everything. The songs were made the same way as we´ve always been doing it. Someone brings the demo to the rehearsals and so on. We did have some sort of a feeling to make this album harder than “The Beginning Of Times", but I think it was more like an general intuition. Now when I listen it mixed and mastered it's definitely heavier than previous, the keyboards are more in the background, lots of heavy guitars and ultra low bass. There is variation all over in the music, performing and production.
Another thing I noticed is the fact that you have only 9 tracks on the album, but these songs are longer than your usual stuff on the previous albums. Was this planned or did the longer tracks just happen?
It just happened cause we did do some editing for these songs too. Yeah maybe there is only 9 tracks, because the songs are pretty full of stuff and around 5 minutes each. We all think “The Beginning of Times” was little bit too long.
“The Circle” doesn't have the Kalevala as lyrical focus anymore. Can you tell me something about the lyrics Pekka Kainulainen has written this time? What are they about?
Pekka is a Kalevala specialist and very fast of producing material. Hes also true professional, he can some with a concept with in a short time. And hes flexible and open minded to change the concept or the poetry if needed. We discussed with each other that we could try something more modern now and Pekka came with a concept which happens in the present time (or somewhere in the modern times). We read it through and actually it sounded much more interesting as a starting point than just another concept about an old story or a classic Kalevala character once again.
I'm not quite sure which point the title dropped in, but in the story there is a full circle of the sun, meaning the story lasts for one day. “The Circle” is like a moon-circle. The concept is about a man in the present day, life is not going good, he´s kind of a small man trying to survive. In the story, the past – in Finland Kalevala mythology – appears to his life as a shaman to guide his way to the right track. Its definitely a survival story. Now when I think about that it’s a kind of stereotype of a Finnish man, only the shaman does not appear at all.
Pekka wrote: “The protagonist has been dealt a bad hand at birth. He’s always felt himself an outsider with strong potential to become marginalized. Through an accident, after a crisis, he finds a connection with his inner powers. A guide is sent to him, from another time and place. He gets a chance to take hold of his own life and change his destiny. From the past of Carelian Finland he finds his own spiritual tribe and the power to turn the course of his doomed life. This is a story of survival.””
Do you plan to leave the Kalevala out of the lyrics in the future and focus on other topics or did you just decide this for this record?
Nobody knows, we go album by album without planning the future too much. Probably we´ll stick with the Kalevala some way in the future.
You released “Hopeless Days” as a Single a couple of weeks before the album. Why did you choose this song?
I think the record label chose the song for the 1. single. But to be honest I think “Hopeless Days” is one of the best songs on the album. Maybe there we have some more radiofriendly stuff for radio and lots of airplay, but we still have those poppier songs in the basket. So maybe later. Never say never.
Will there be another single or perhaps a video before the release?
Yeah for sure, I think we´ll come up with 2 videos - “Hopeless Days” and “The Wanderer” for now. We also have this great studio-video out of “Nightbirds Songs” which will be included in the CD+DVD release. I don’t know if the videos will make it at the time of release but lets just hope so!
How is the Cover-Artwork of Tom Bates connected to the lyrical side of “The Circle”?
Tomi Joutsen wrote: "The mystic, androgynous person on the cover represents a spiritual guide. This character was sent from another time and place to help the album's protagonist find a new path for his life."
So in the cover there is the Shaman who pulls this Wanderer out from the ditch AND takes away the beer and the joint! (lacht)
Since 2006/7 you have a constant line-up and release an album every two years – can we expect the next record in 2015?
I certainly hope so. The only obstacle I see is massive touring or somebody getting triplets in family. But the band is in a good shape and hungry, so why the hell not!
When can we expect you on tour here in Germany?
We do summerfestivals like: Summerbreeze, Wacken and With Full Force. The european tour will hit Germany in the beginning of November and there will be at least 10 days for Germany.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! The last words to the Aschools.de-readers are yours!
Thank you all crazy German you out there! And please check out the new album “The Circle” – that is an order! - and if you like it see you in November! Pröst & Tschüss!!!