Photo by Jussi Ratilainen
Interview with guitarist and vocalist Ville Friman | By Julia Neuman
With unmistakable lead guitars and contrasting gritty vocals, Insomnium have shaped a character that sets them apart from the melodic death metal pack. Guitarist/vocalist Ville Friman thrives on maintaining that character. Now, with Shadows of the Dying Sun released, Insomnium finally have the production that elevates their already signature sound.
What does this record mean to Insomnium? How does it fit in the band’s artistic trajectory?
I think it’s a natural continuation from what we’ve done before. We didn’t think about going and reinventing the wheel or anything drastic. We keep on doing what we’ve been doing, but do everything slightly better, try to improve in all aspects of what we’ve been doing so far. All of us are happy with it, it’s a good album, good songs. Marcus [Hirvonen] the new guitar player was also writing a couple of songs and bringing in his own influences and playing styles, so that made it different. It establishes our sound even more and builds up our uniqueness.
The record really showcases Insomnium’s sound. It has a very expansive, pristine production. Tell me about how this was achieved.
That was the one thing we tried to succeed better at. We did it similar as we did previously, but we tried out a couple of new guys last summer and recorded one song and tried out different places for mixing. We found a good recipe, so we recorded the album back in Finland in our friend’s own studio, and we were able to use quite a good selection of different amps. He’s a musician himself and has a good ear for arrangement and production, so he was helping us a lot in the studio and had good ideas. Recording-wise everything went really well. Then we decided to use Fascination Street Studios, which is in Sweden and run by Jens Bogren and his colleagues. There was a young guy called André Alvinzi who did the mix. Then we decided to master it all the way back in Finland with Svante Forsbäck. Really we used a collection of people.
“While We Sleep” is just classic Insomnium. Since you’re the primary songwriter in the band, can you tell me how a song like this comes together?
A year ago we recorded one new song, the purpose of that was to release it before the actual album to get a single out. That purpose came out to be ephemeral, but I was [initially] writing one kind of hit that became “While We Sleep” later. So it was a bit more complex in the beginning, and in the end it wasn’t enough [of a] “hit.” I guess it was better to let it rest for awhile. I didn’t do anything with it for a couple months and then started working with it again. I was able to see it in a new light and make it a bit better, and come up with the clean vocal lines.
In what kind of environment do you most enjoy writing music?
Basically wherever, you just need to have time for yourself and a clear head. Coming up with melodies, you can do that in five minutes after dinner. Sometimes you just get the idea and something else comes out of that. But then you have to have time to put these pieces together and make them into songs. So that’s crude work, you sit in front of the computer and make your demos to make the ideas actually fly. For that, you just need time. We’re working in our day jobs, so it takes place late in the night when we have time for ourselves to concentrate on our music.
On a similar note, I saw that you wrote a few blog entries about the production process. You talked about some of the problems you have finding time to do things, and I think many modern bands struggle with this. What do you do to manage your stress levels and time?
You can try to change your perspective. Try to multitask. That’s what I do, I try to take care of the band business while I’m at work. I was working twelve hours and just came back home and now I’m starting interviews! You work like mad. The most difficult part of the band is to just go on tour. People just leave their jobs, it’s a cruel world in that sense. It’s really hard to combine. Music takes a lot out of you and this industry takes a lot out of you, but it doesn’t give you that much financially. Bands are struggling for that because they love to do this, but there’s not an easy way out. A lot of people are also quitting, because financially it’s so unfeasible. If you have children or family you need to take of, you can’t live your rock ‘n’ roll dream forever, so you have to be realistic. I guess you just have to sleep less, work more! [Laughs]