Hot off the Press

Niilo Sevänen of Insomnium

by Justin DelPrince
– Columnist —

Joining Dark Tranquillity on their recent North American tour is fellow Melodic Death Metal band Insomnium, from Finland, whose sixth album, Shadows of a Dying Sun, was released in 2014.

Hardrock Haven had the opportunity to speak with bassist/vocalist Niilo Sevänen from Insomnium at their recent tour stop in Cleveland, Ohio.

Niilo Sevänen of Insomnium

Hardrock Haven: You’re on tour with Dark Tranquillity. How is the tour going so far?

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah, it’s been a very good tour. I think this is the tenth show now in a row. It’s been even better than what we expected. Very good audiences, every night. Good shows. We’ve had a lot of fun, all the time. It’s very… very nice to tour with the Dark Tranquillity guys. We know them before and they’re awesome guys. We’ve had good fun so far.

Hardrock Haven: And this is your first U.S. tour since 2011, is that correct?

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah.

Hardrock Haven: And speaking of Dark Tranquillity, you recorded the song “Weather the Storm” with Mikael from Dark Tranquillity a few years ago. Have you played it on this tour or do you have any plans to?

Niilo Sevänen: Not yet. I think we’ll reserve it for some very special occasion, but we can’t do it every night because it would require Mikael to come on stage with us and we can’t do it all the time.

Hardrock Haven: I understand. You’re touring now in support of the album Shadows of the Dying Sun, which came out in April of last year. This was your first album with guitarist Markus Vanhala who is also in Omnium Gatherum. In listening to the album it seems like he fit in very well right from the start and he wrote some songs with you that just flow in with the album. How was your impression of working with a new member for the first time?

Niilo Sevänen: Well basically, he’s been in the band now about three years, but this is the first album we did together. So of course, we knew him before, and he’s our good friend since many years so it was pretty easy to take him to the band and he was kind of an obvious choice. Our previous guitarist left so it’s been a pretty easy transition, but, uh, of course, when we started composing the album, it was a new situation for everyone. Of course the dynamics change when you change one member so… I think all in all it went pretty smoothly and he immediately found the… his kind of Insomnium vibe when he started making songs for Insomnium. So they sound more like Insomnium than Omnium Gatherum for example. So I think he pretty well found the right style right away and it’s been a smooth ride with him. He’s a super nice guy and an awesome guitarist. So, it’s a good asset.

Hardrock Haven: Definitely, I saw him last year with Omnium Gatherum.

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah.

Hardrock Haven: It was with Dark Tranquillity so they must really like touring with him. I’m sure the fact that you toured with him for a long time before recording helped.

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah.

Hardrock Haven: After working with the same producer for a few records… I think you had the same producer three albums in a row, you worked with a new producer this time (Teemu Aalto). Was there something you were looking to change?

Niilo Sevänen: Well we wanted to try something else. We were not, like, totally satisfied with the sound on the previous album, so we wanted to try something new and uh, Markus had worked with Teemu Aalto, the new producer, with Omnium Gatherum, so… and we also knew him also beforehand, and we wanted to try it. And it was very good, all in all. I think one of the best studio sessions I’ve had. And Teemu is an excellent producer, a great sound engineer. So he brought a lot of vision to the arrangements and… it was a very creative process recording with him. Like, for example, doing the vocals or the bass lines, he… all the time he makes suggestions. “Should we try this? Should we try this?” And those were very good ideas. So it was fruitful to work with him.

Hardrock Haven: So when choosing a producer, you’re kind of looking for someone help be a guide and help in developing your songs without… not to say he’s writing them for you.

Niilo Sevänen: No no, but it helps that you have a, like, an outside opinion of things. As somebody you can trust. If the guy says that, you might want to listen to him. So it helps a lot. Of course, the main job is just to record it, have a good atmosphere in the studio, so those are the main qualities we are looking for in a producer. Teeumu is an excellent guy.

Hardrock Haven: I’ve noticed with your band there’s kind of an atmospheric feel in addition to being very heavy. Where does that atmospheric influence come from? Some of the not-so-fast songs, they kind of remind me of a movie, where it’s setting the tone.

Niilo Sevänen: It’s very hard to say where it comes from. This is basically the kind of music we’ve always done and we want to do so, we want there to be a lot of contrasts and heavy parts and easier parts. After the soft parts, the heavy parts strike even harder. I think it’s more effective than playing sixty minutes playing like this. [imitates playing violently]

Hardrock Haven: Is there anything in particular you like to do when you’re in America?

Niilo Sevänen: Of course, it’s kind of exotic coming here from Europe. We’ve toured Europe a lot and this is the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. So it feels already different to come here, and… it’s nice to see new cities, of course, New York, Los Angeles, places like that, obviously. We’ve enjoyed it a lot in the USA, Canada as well.

Hardrock Haven: And after this tour, I know you have jobs back at home, but does the band have anything lined up for the rest of the year?

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah, actually quite a lot of touring coming. So the European tour in March, with Ensiferum, and Omnium Gatherum as well so Markus has to play two times every night. We’ll probably go to Asia in May, the summer festivals, and hopefully we come back to the US next autumn. Let’s see about that, but we’re kind of working on it right now.

Hardrock Haven: Sounds more like a full-time band…

Niilo Sevänen: Yeah … it’s becoming like that all of the time. And… we’ve steadily gone forward all the time and we reach a new level and reach new fans so it might be realistic to do the full time thing… soon. Let’s see. Interesting times.

Hardrock Haven: Yeah, that would be great. Well, anything you’d like to say for Insomnium fans out there.

Niilo Sevänen: Come to see our shows when we are in a city nearby. And we guarantee a good show every night. See you guys.

Hardrock Haven: Thank you very much.

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