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Insomnium released the highly praised album “Winter’s Gate” last year with the experimental 40-minute track based on the short story written by vocalist/bassist Niilo Sevänen. After a Finnish tour with the album, they finally came to the “main land” Europe so we just had to be there to get to see that epic song live. We also got the chance to have a chat with guitarist Ville Friman about the album and some other stuff that is going on…


Nice to meet you! How are you?
Nice to meet you too! I’m good, I’m good… this is the third show and the earlier shows have been good, had big crowds. Yeah, it has been fun!

Yeah, usually I ask how the tour has been, but you’ve only at the start now…
(laughs) Yeah, it has only been a couple of days now, but so far so good!

I’ve talked to a few musicians already and they often say that in the beginning of a new tour they always need a bit of time to get into the groove. Was it like that for you too now?
Yeah, I guess now it took maybe just the first show, because we’ve played the Winter’s Gate already live in the Finland tour, so it comes together quite easily. Though we had about 2 months of break in which we didn’t play or rehearse or anything, so it’s always searching a bit in the starting phase. But it took only one show, so good…

Now your support bands (Barren Earth and Wolfheart, FYI) are also Finnish and sort of in the direction of the music that you play, is that how you came to get those along?
Yeah, we gathered some ideas for different bands and you end up with quite a list of potential support bands and then you start asking around who’s available and so forth… We did like one “all Finnish” tour in 2009 with Swallow the Sun and Omnium Gatherum and thought to maybe go for the same pattern and have an all Finnish line-up. And of course they’re good bands and all have a bit similar style while still being a bit different. I think the people that are coming for us, will also like the support bands and vice versa. So it’s like sharing the crowd a bit.

Yeah, I know some people that got really excited when they saw the all Finnish line-up with these 3 cool bands. Now, you’ve probably talked quite extensively about your album “Winter’s Gate” already and I’ve seen on several media that all the reviews are really great reviews and such. How does that feel for you guys?
Of course it’s great to get good reviews and that people like the song and so forth. We believe it’s a good song with a nice and interesting concept but you never really know, ’cause it’s a bit different as well. But we got better reviews than we expected, maybe we set the bar too low thinking that “ok, our fans will like this, but then maybe it’s a fan thing”. It seems like it’s been doing better than that and people like the song, so it’s been pretty rewarding actually.

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I’ve heard of quite a few new fans who weren’t really into you before that they really got into your music because the concept and the original take on making an album. And the fact that it’s actually a song of a full 40 minutes, in nowadays music culture it’s something almost unseen…
Yeah, that’s true! It’s more and more produced and thought about “what is the natural human attention span?”… So what kind of song we should make, like “how to make a hit song?”, there are some “recipes” for that. But yeah, it’s also probably kind of hard to market just one long song that takes a sort of progressive approach. But I think you can do that in the metal scene, because people are more open to that. You probably wouldn’t be able to do it and pull it off in pop music…

And you really easily attract people who are really big music fans because you just have to listen to it from start to finish…
Yeah (laughs) we had to like divide it into 7 parts or something like that for Spotify, iTunes,… But I don’t even know what are the parts, to which parts of the song it corresponds… ’cause it was like something: “ok… if it has to be like that…” So the record company just decided on that…

The response of your Facebook page on people commenting on it being divided on Spotify and such was hilarious! Something in the direction of “Yeah, Spotify just can’t handle the epicness that is our 40 minute song!”, I thought that was just the perfect answer!
(laughs) Yeah, indeed!

Now, you wrote that epic song of 40 minutes based on the short story. How did you guys tackle it to sort of work the other way around? Because I know that usually you first write the music and later the lyrics.
Yeah, it was actually not too much different from that. When we had the idea, I sort of had the music already without even having read the story. A lot of the music just came and was just music and we didn’t think about the story too much in the beginning. When we started to arrange it more then it was more like… there’s a sense of drama in the story so you try to feed that into your music as well. But actually some parts of my parts of the music are quite old already, but they never fitted before in our songs. I recorded those at home earlier and then were like “oh, that fits nice there” and then Niilo arranged the story into lyrics as well since it wouldn’t be good to just do the story straight like it is. So yeah, Niilo did a lot of work on translating the whole idea of the story into lyrics. Mainly the process to finish the song was a bit different in the sense that you have to keep the attention and keep kind of building up for 40 minutes. So you have kind of breaks in the song, sort of “songs” within the song. But yeah, it was a really interesting process, everyone took part… maybe the drummer wasn’t that much involved with the music itself besides his drum arrangements. Other than that, everybody else contributed a lot to the music and that resulted in a nice mix of ideas.

You definitely did a good job on that, because in my experience the “Winter’s Gate” song feels like watching a good movie: before you know it you’re already halfway. And I really think that you guys managed to make the story almost visual with your music, which is a pretty cool thing!
Yeah! That’s cool!

At the same time of the album release, you guys also released a hot sauce… how did that come to be?
(laughs) I think the idea came from the Mad Supply company that is running our web store selling merchandise and I think that they did that already for a few other Finnish bands. And they just came with the proposition and we were like “why the hell not?” (laughs) We do like spiciness in our food occasionally so we thought it might be an interesting idea, but it’s just branding different things and… yeah, we got the opportunity and we just went with it.

On the matter of branding and such: not too long ago there was a picture posted by Insomnium on Instagram about the “do-it-yourself Winter’s Gate stout”. What is going on there?
(laughs) Well, originally we were talking with a Finnish independent smaller brewery about making a “Winter’s Gate” beer at the same time of the release of the album. And they were really interested but then all their production lines were in use, so we couldn’t do that. But this is the idea now: the beer is actually made by me. It’s kind of a project with my friend, we’ve been trying out on making your own beer. And that was the first try-out for a stout. Because we had the idea of making the beer somewhere after the release and then I just made the label and put it online. I think I still have only like 3 bottles left now, so yeah… the only people that have tried it in addition to me are my neighbors (laughs) so it’s very rare… exclusive… and won’t be commercial. But hopefully maybe in the future we’ll have official beer as well.

If you do get there, please do contact us for our “Pick Your Poison” column in which we discuss how metal related beers actually taste and such!
Yeah, definitely! We’ll be in touch. I don’t know when or what, but it’s definitely going to happen some time in the future…

Something else now! I read online that you have a doctorate in evolutionary ecology which immediately caught my attention as a science teacher. So I was wondering: are you doing anything with that at the moment?
Yeah, that’s what I do for my “normal” daily job. I work at the university of York and I have a permanent position as a lector there. So I’m doing research, teaching students and supervising students as well, kind of running my own lab of people. And during the day on tours I keep working on some science stuff and keep answering mails and also supervising students, just to make sure that they’re actually at the lab and such. So yeah, very active still…

And that proves yet again that people who are into metal are smart people…
(laughs) Yeah!

So, besides the “Winter’s Gate” tour now, you have any nearby future plans already?
Well, we’re going to tour now most of this year. We want to come to Europe again, want to do some Summer festivals and then this Spring go to the more exotic places, like Asia and maybe Russia or Eastern Europe as well. So that’s the plan for now on touring. And then maybe start to come up with some new material as well, but when it feels right. We need a bit of time between and when we’re touring all our focus goes to the tour. But definitely we want to start writing material and music as well. ‘Cause Winter’s Gate was a quite easy one to write in the end and actually quite easy to record, just a pretty interesting project. It was something different, but it definitely didn’t exhaust our ideas entirely. So we’ll be ready to start doing something… make a bit more normal album next probably. Who knows? We haven’t really talked about it yet really or planned…

So you’re talking about possibly playing at some Summer festivals. Are you going to play the full Winter’s Gate there then or is it going to be more a setlist of your older stuff?
I guess it’ll depend on the festivals we’ll be playing at. We’ll be playing a couple of “Winter’s Gate exclusives” at some places and then play some more normal sets at other places… or maybe a combination of both… It kind of depends on the playing times as well, if you have one hour you can play Winter’s Gate and then play something else maybe on top of that. But when you have only half an hour that’s a bit difficult…

Yeah, ’cause you have to play it from start to finish…
(laughs) Indeed!

So, any last words for our readers still?
Well… thank you for the support. Please check out our album if you haven’t done that yet, come and see us live and if you like, follow us online. We’ll be doing more touring this year and maybe we come back to Belgium again as well, we’ll see how it goes.

Ok! Thank you!