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Octoploid- interview met Olli-Pekka Laine (bass, keyboards, backing vocals)

Olli-Pekka Laine: “I think it is a little bit weird that bands have to be under some label always. You have to name what kind of music is playing. Very often it is not possible. For me it is just music and that’s it”

Het nieuwe Reigning Phoenix Music label tekent om de haverklap erg interessante nieuwe bands. Octoploid is echt een nieuw opgerichte band, maar wel met de crème de la crème uit de Finse metalen geschiedenis. Dit is de soloband van Olli-Pekka Laine, beter bekend als bassist van Amorphis, maar ook actief in het prachtige Barren Earth en in Mannhai. Het debuutalbum ‘Beyond The Aeons’ is nu verkrijgbaar en is een ware revelatie van de veelzijdigheid van de muzikant, want het is moeilijk om er een toereikend genre op te plakken. Laat ons het dan maar ‘classic death prog’ noemen, zoals bezieler Olli-Pekka ons vertelde tijdens ons interessante gesprek over de band en ‘Beyond The Aeons’.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 8 juli 2024 

How are you doing at the moment?
I am doing pretty well. I am keeping myself busy with these interviews. It is good to finally do some press for the album. It is one and a half month before the release, it is about time to spread the word a little bit and tomorrow I will have a pre-listening session in Helsinki with Finnish reporters. It is exciting to do that, because going there in front of Finnish reporters, it is like going to the wolf’s nest, but maybe I can do it (chuckles).

How did this new band Octoploid in 2022 come into being?
I had lots of songs in my drawer and I thought: ‘what am I going to do with it?’ and I have to admit that I have been thinking about putting out a solo album for many years already. I thought this might be the moment, because if I am not doing it now, it’s never going to happen and fortunately I was able to find really talented musicians like Mikko Pietinen on drums and Peter Salonen on guitars. He is a really talented young guitar player from Lahti in Finland and also Kim Rantala and Kasper Mårtenson on keyboards, both are Amorphis members. What connect those human beings, they are not exactly metal musicians. They are like rock musicians and play folk as well and progressive rock primary and it was the idea in the first place to try to find non metal musicians for this project and that is how it started to build up. Mikko, the drummer, he is having a studio nearby here. We just started to play there together and put down the basic tracks of the demos which actually ended up being on the album as well. That is the long story put short. About the vocalists: I probably was willing to have a permanent vocalist on the album, but then, since I could not find anyone, I thought okay, I will use different vocalists who are on my list. I actually got all of them except one who did not have time to record. Instead I asked Petri Eskelinen who is a friend of mine and he has been singing in a band called Rapture back in the days. Nowadays he is the singer in Feastem which is a kind of grindcore/hardcore band. That is how it all came together, little by little. It was a huge project, but bit by bit we made it.

Congratulations, because you already have a busy life with Amorphis, Barren Earth and Mannhai… these are all bands with a slightly different style…
Mannhai is stoner rock, but Barren Earth is a little bit the same as Octoploid and Amorphis. The business was very busy with Amorphis, because we were touring very much and in between those tours, we recorded the Octoploid album. Yeah it was hectic, but a fruitful session. I love it.

Mikko Kotamäki is announced as the main singer on the info sheet…
Well yeah, in the case we are going to do live shows, Mikko will be probably there, because he has time, he is keen to do it and he is a great vocalist. He is able to do all those songs. It is better to have one vocalist live than five or ten (chuckles). But it is not certain yet that we will be touring. If we will tour, where we will tour and with who, but we have spoken about it and I think we can do some gigs at least. So hopefully the record goes well and we will find a good agent in Europe and in Finland as well. It might be next year, but probably we can make it.

Why did you choose for the name Octoploid?
Well, it is a long story. It is like a creature with eight chromosomes and there are eight songs on the album, also during the sessions and also there are eight members in the band at the time when this issue came up. So it refers to that number and of course it is a good name. It could be a stoner rock band or it could be a progressive rock band, maybe even a death metal band. Basically I did not want a typical death metal name or a genre and of course it does not harm that the name has my initials OPL in the middle of it. It gives a signal that it is my solo band (laugh).

Was there a certain reason why you called the album ‘Beyond The Aeons’, because it sounds a bit spacey or soaring…
Yes it is spacey and the theme is spacey. It actually comes from a song called ‘Shattered Wings’ which has a name taken from Finnish folklore in it, it is basically a person who is thinking more than speaking. It means that your thoughts are somewhere else than here in the present time and I have been accused myself of being a distant person’ sometimes. It is a good name, it sounds good and it looks good, so I wanted to use it as album title.

What are you inspired by when writing lyrics? Something special?
Of course we have a long history with Kalevala, so it is easy to come up with those kind of lyrics, but personally I am reading a lot of H.P. Lovecraft, William Blake and Nietzsche. It is a mixture of all those, the influences. I try to read some poetry and then I take one of two good phrases and start from there to bring in some personal issues that make sense. When it is more personal, it is easier to sing. For me the most important thing is how the lyrics sound like, even more important than the content of the lyrics, because it has to serve the music somehow. If you can have both of them, make them sound good and have a great content, maybe that is a good combination.

In the info sheet they call your music ‘classic death prog’ or ‘seventies death metal’, that is funny…
Yes, it was ‘seventies death metal’, but the new term is classic death prog, but it is difficult to say, because I would not call this death metal, I would not call this melodic death metal. It is some sort of metal, of course, but still there are lots of influences from prog rock bands and really psychedelic alternative bands from the nineties. Still there is a death metal basis and there are growling vocals, so I don’t know what to call it. Maybe you can tell me what it is? (laughs)

A good mixture of everything… 
Yeah I think it is a little bit weird that bands have to be under some label always. You have to name what kind of music is playing. Very often it is not possible. For me it is just music and that’s it.

It already sounds very impressive with clean guitar sounds in the beginning of ‘Dawns In Nothingness’….
Yes, it is an acoustic guitar. I played it double with one plugged in guitar. It is based on Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti westerns songs. It had to be some kind of Italian mafia restaurant melody, but that is how it was done. It was half computer and half of it was played by myself on acoustic guitar.

You appear to be a multi-instrumentalist, we did not know that until now…
Well, it took some time before I could play guitar, but at least I can do something.

And the keyboards you do partly as well, although there are two other guys helping you with keyboards…
Yeah because there was not time enough to record the keyboards with the keyboard players, so I used some of the keyboards that I played myself at the demos. Of course I enhanced them a little bit, but I had to leave them on the album because the other guys could not pull them off. I play a little bit keyboards. Actually I started to play keyboards when I was a kid, six years or something, but it never got anywhere and then I started to play bass and that kind of stuck. I can do some parts on keyboards, but I will never be brilliant on it, but I can do something.

Photo credit: Päivi Leino - L-R: Mikko Pietinen (drums, percussion), Olli-Pekka Laine (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), Peter Salonen (guitars)

At the moment there is only a video clip for ‘Human Amoral’ and in it, your clothes have a kind of seventies feel… funny…
Yeah we thought about doing a kind of retro video for a starter and it did not mean to be totally hippie and vintage, but still it ended up like that. We just wanted to do things a little bit over the top, because it is possible to do with Octoploid. We have some film elements to the clip. It was filmed in front of a green screen and Pete Voutilainen who is the director, he added those psychedelic things. It was a really interesting and exciting process. We are actually doing another video with him. A lyric video for ‘Dawns In Nothingness’ will come on line this Friday, but there will be another video with band members later. So there is something to look forward to.

Besides the growls there are a lot of choirs and background vocals and clean chants. Was it all done by the band?
For ‘Dawns In Nothingness’ I sang the monk vocals by myself and I also did some choruses in ‘Coast Of The Drowned Sailors’, but most of the time it is done by the vocalists and the band.

Didn’t you consider singing on the album?
I love to do backing vocals, but I would not say lead vocals.

Tomi Joutsen is also present in ‘Human Amoral’, but he looks different in the video as well…
Yeah we thought we should use something else than in Amorphis, because this is a totally different thing and I suggested him to use bandana because I am using bandana in Amorphis, so he is using it there and we made a choice of the clothes we had with us. That was it. Funny!

The album is mixed by Petri Majuri, which is not a common name for me. How did you end up with him?
Yeah Petri is an old blues guy. He is still playing blues guitar in a band called Mountaineri and he has been playing in Havana Black, which was a really big band in Finland during the eighties. That is another thing: I did not want the album to be mixed by any metal producer, I just wanted it to be like a more crossroad producer. I knew Petri and I called him and he gave me an offer which I could not refuse money-wise. We mixed the album in a fancy studio with him and I think he did a great job really and he also mixed Barren Earth’s ‘One Lonely Tower’ album, so that’s where I knew him from.

That is probably the reason why Jón Aldará is singing one track on Octoploid’s album, you also play in Barren Earth…
Yes, it was the last song we recorded for the album and I think he did a great job. He recorded it in Faeroe Islands, so he sent me the files. It was very quick, he probably sang one day and two vocal tracks on it. That was it.

It is announced that this song ‘ A Dusk Of Vex’ happens to be a radio edit. Does it mean that it is a longer track originally? Is there a longer version to be found somewhere?
Yes, it will be longer on vinyl and I think on CD as well. The edit is because digital streaming platforms are not allowing longer songs than five minutes and this is just under five minutes. The actual version is maybe two minutes longer with a guitar solo at the end and something in the middle as well. Yeah that is the reason, because probably there is this clean vocals verse, harmony riffs they wanted it to be a single track. That is the reason why it is edited.

Did you use kantele on the album?
Not on this album and I actually cannot play kantele. It has five strings. It is not that hard to play actually, it is just that I did not play it recently. You play two strings a time. I played it in school last, but not after that anymore.

Why did you actually go away from Amorphis so long, seventeen years of absence?
Well, there are many reasons behind that question, because it was not the best time for Amorphis. Money-wise it were really hard times and the band started to slip away from my musical taste and I felt that I wasn’t in the band with my full heart. It was kind of a difficult time for metal music in general and it started to be impossible to live from the band, because we made some really bad business decisions with the band and we did not get that much money so that we could live from at that time. So I thought: ‘maybe I just have to figure out something else’, because I did not want to stay in a band which I am not in with full heart. That is probably the reason. It was a really hard decision I have to say. Amorphis is really important to me. They are my brothers and I actually did not want to go, but I did not have any other options then. I am really happy that they gave me another chance and welcomed me back some years ago.

So, at the moment there are no proper plans for playing live with Octoploid?
We have thought about it, but we did not have made any decisions about it, because the album is not out yet. Not many promoters know about Octoploid, probably everybody wants to see how the album will be received by the media and the audience. If it is a success of course we will tour next year when Amorphis is having a break.

What are the plans for the near future for your other bands Amorphis, Barren Earth and Mannhai?
No there are no other plans. We can play shows here and there, but we are not planning to record albums or whatsoever because simply there is no time for doing it. Not in Amorphis or in Octoploid. Jani, the singer from Mannhai is now in Xysma I think and Barren Earth goes off stairs things as well. The drummer Marko is working in a warehouse and Sami is busy with Kreator and Jon is releasing a new album with Hamferð – he already did – and Mikko is busy with Swallow The Sun, so I cannot see anything happening in near future with those bands. Barren Earth is not split up, but we are not that active at the moment.

Last question: maybe some words about the artwork…
It is made by Orion Landau. He is a guy from Portland, Oregon. Here you see the vinyl (shows it) Great stuff!  I came across him, because he has done artwork for the band YOB. That is a good band and I liked it very much. I wanted to use this artist as well. I just wrote him through Instagram and he agreed to do it. That was the story behind it and after he did the album cover, I also sent him some Octoploid music (laughs). So he did not hear it before. If he had heard the music, he would have made it more metal, which I did not like and want at this time, so…

Thank you for this introduction of the band Octoploid!
Thank you for your time! Come and say hi when we are on tour.