“ETERNAL TEARS OF SORROW” Interview by Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela
So honored to have this chance to have a moment with You. How are You doing ?
Hello! We’re fine, thanks for asking. Summer is finally coming to Finland after the long, cold and dark winter. One might think we Finnish and Nordic metal musicians are very much into our winters as we tend to write songs about them… But the truth is opposite. I think most of us enjoy our summers but usually write songs about winters. Amorphis could have written a song called “Sunny Summer Day” but it wouldn’t have been as suitable as “Black Winter Day”.The Sun is inspiring even though not directly…
As always I´m curious.. Would You tell us a bit about the history of Eternal Tears of Sorrow?
It started a long time ago in a small Northern Finnish town called Pudasjärvi. Altti and I were classmates in comprehensive school and started making music together. Andromeda, formed in 1992, was the first real predecessor of EToS. During the next two years, it went through a couple of metamorphoses just to become Eternal Tears of Sorrow.
Ever since, we’ve had seven albums out. We’ve split up once, after our fourth album “A Virgin and a Whore” but reunited three years later. So, the monster called EToS became a bit bigger than we planned in the very beginning.
The 90s, by the way, those were the days… We had friends with whom we shared the rehearsal place. Their band was called Ancestor that was renamed to Kalmah in the late 90s. Some of their members have played with us, some of us have played with them. I suppose there wasn’t much to do in a small town like ours: just playing an instrument or doing sports.
How was Your journey from the start and how was the reception after couple of demos and Your debut “Sinner’s Serenade” after a few years of hard work ?
When you’re young and you’re getting your first positive reviews, you naturally feel astonished after reading and hearing the positive feedback. It means you’ve done something right. All the positive words keep you going and give you the energy to write more music.
I remember when I heard our music on the radio the first time. It’s a feeling you remember for the rest of your life. Moments like this are crucial for every musician and they must be cherished.
Even though our debut album sounds a bit primitive nowadays (that’s because it was recorded and mixed in five days, so there wasn’t any extra time to polish the album), it is a very important album to us. If nobody had liked the album, it would have been almost impossible to go on.
With Your second album “Vilda Mánnu” You had the contract with Spinefarm in Your pocket but also again time for lineup changes… A fresh start someone might say, but what is the truth “behind the scenes” ?
I’m very proud of “Vilda Mánnu”. It is the first album that sounded really good. There are great songs on it and the overall production is damn good, too, because for the first time, we had two whole weeks to record and mix the album.
As usually, the truth behind Olli leaving the band was quite simple: he was one of the three founders of this band but he also wanted to do something else instead after Vilda Mánnu. Altti and I basically had two choices: to go on as a duo or to have a real band around us. You know, there was a drum machine on our two first albums. We decided to hire three more members to our band, and we were fortunate to have very talented guys to play with us.
Olli wasn’t the only one who didn’t have enough time or energy for this band. If you’re a member of this band, you need to spend a lot of time for this band whenever the band needs you. You also need to feel the passion for our music.
So, when a member leaves this band, there aren’t usually any secrets behind the departure. It’s just that the member wants to do something else or just hasn’t time to spend with us.
You’ve had a number of those lineup changes throughout the years… How hard has it been to find talented musicians with the same musical visions and work together as a fully fueled and well oiled machine ?
Sometimes finding new members is fairly easy, and sometimes it’s very, very hard. I mean the most important things about new member are not just playing their instruments well and writing new songs. They need to fit in, so to say.
Even though this band is just a hobby for us, we still take it very seriously. But we also want to enjoy doing things together. So, when we recruit new members, they need to be both professionals and really nice guys.
Tell us a little about your songwriting process ? Where do you get all the ideas and what inspires you ?
The origin of the inspiration is still one of the great mysteries in life for me. If I were superstitious, I’d say it’s always divine intervention. But I’m agnostic, so my answer is: I really don’t know.
I suppose we are influenced by everything we hear, read and see, especially if we like it. Books, TV shows and movies are definitely great sources of inspiration when it comes to writing new lyrics. Game of Thrones is a fine example of incredible story lines and I suppose we were somewhat influenced by that TV show on Saivon Lapsi.
This year, we mainly concentrate on writing new songs, including new lyrics. I’ve been thinking we’ve never really had a good ghost story, so it would be a good time to write a ghost story. I don’t know where this idea has come from but it seems like a nice thing to try.
How would you describe your music and you who make the music have changed during these years… Or have you ?
We have changed as persons and as musicians, our style has changed during the years, and in general, metal music has changed quite a lot since we started.
I don’t think HOW we write songs hasn’t changed that much, even though we’ve had a handful of different songwriting methods during the years. About 50 % of the material for Chaotic Beauty was written at our rehearsal place, and 90 % of the material for A Virgin and a Whore was written that way as well.
On the other hand, when it comes to the songwriting process on the other albums, we’ve written most of the songs on them at our home studios. That is definitely the easiest way for us because we can still write songs together using the Internet. But the disadvantage of this online method is that it’s not as inspirational as being together in one room and writing songs together.
Our music has changed, too, obviously. It would be damn boring for everyone, especially us, if we sounded like the early albums. I don’t want to repeat myself, I mean I don’t like writing new songs that sound like old songs. That’s just boring for me. And I think the rest of the band thinks like me.
Where do You find the most loyal fans of ETOS ?
Japan has always been a special country to us, which is one reason why we wrote two songs (“Sakura No Rei” and “Sinister Rain”) for our fifth album. It’s weird we didn’t get to play in Japan until last summer. We met really dedicated fans there, as well as some fans who had seen us on our European tour with Nightwish that took place in 2000.
Then again, we have loyal and dedicated fans all around the world, which is nice because music is meant to unite people, not divide people.
Personally I suck in putting bands and music to different “genres”… How would You describe Your band and music Yourself ?
I agree with you, I don’t enjoy labelling any band either. If I labelled our music, I’d say “ok, we play X metal ” and implied “we don’t play Y metal”. But the thing about us is always trying to find new things, so we really could have a Y metal song on the next release.
On the other hand, if I said “we play diverse extreme metal”, I’d be wrong because the more I think about our music, the less I think it’s extreme. It’s not that I’d like our music to be more extreme… Actually I’d like it and I’d like our next release to be heavier and more extreme than our previous albums.
All I can say is that when we started in the early 90s, we were mainly influenced by two similar, yet separate genres: melodic death metal and doom/death metal. And since then, we’ve absorbed many other genres into our style.
During these years… What have been the most memorable, positive, rewarding moments and maybe tell us something “funny”, something that causes You to laugh afterwards ?
There have been many funny moments. But most of them have been funny just because things have been done or said at the right time in the right place. Or more like, at the worst possible time in the worst possible place.
Well, watching stupid but funny Dragonforce parody videos in a Japanese hotel late at night was hilarious. It was hilarious because we were so tired. They’re not as funny when watching them here at home during daytime…
What keeps You going on strong and kicking everyone’s asses ?
We still love playing old songs and writing new songs together. Music is the most important thing for us and that’s the way we want it to be.
What can we expect, see and hear in the near future… ?
At the beginning of this year, we had some very interesting plans for the last quarter of 2017. But we found out a bit later that we can’t do anything special right now, not this year. There are too many other things in every member’s life.
So, we’re dedicating the rest of the year for writing material as we still don’t have any new songs that are 100 % finished. We have already several half-finished songs but we are still not completely satisfied with them or the style they represent. We’d like these new songs to be even better than before. We also want them to sound fresh.
It’s funny and weird how the songwriting process is slow nowadays. You know, there were times that we could write 40 minutes for an album in just a few months. I suppose this happens to every band. Metallica released four albums in the 80s, between 1983 and 1989, and now it took eight years for them to write Hardwired to Self-Destruct.
I don’t know exactly why this happens to so many bands, including us… It must have something to do with the fact that the older you get, the more responsibilities you have in your life. It was easy to spend most of your free-time writing music and doing other things for the band when we were twenty or twenty-five.
In addition, the older we get, the higher we set the bar. By this, I mean every time we write new songs and record them, we want everything to sound better than the previous time. We don’t want to repeat ourselves, to we want to write and recording something new and even better.
So, it’s going to take a good while before we’ve got a nice bunch of new songs ready to be recorded. But they will be released, sooner or later!
Any last words (not literally) to people who are reading this, the Family of MHF, Your fans and Your soon to be fans ?
Thanks for the interview and stay metal! Expect us when you see us
A Virgin and a Whore (2001)
Saivon Lapsi (2013)
Altti Veteläinen – Vocals, Bass (1994-)
Jarmo Kylmänen – Clean vocals (2005-)
Jarmo Puolakanaho – Guitars (1994-)
Mika Lammassaari – Guitars (2009-)
Janne Tolsa – Keyboards (2005-)
Juho Raappana – Drums (2008-)
Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela/MHF Magazine