To some they are only a little insignificant part of the Finnish Gothic Metal scene that arose in the shadow of Ville Valo's success at the beginning of the new Millenium. To others -who kept an eye on their progression more carefully - they are one of Finland's best kept secrets when it comes to Melodic Rock/Metal music. However, Entwine, hailing from Lahti is nowadays Finland's probably most American-sounding Rock band and thus, quite an interesting phenomenon in many ways. Theoretically they have had all the ingredients for major success since their early days: Some of the catchiest songs ever written in the Gothic Metal genre, one of the best vocalists of the Nordic countries and a great energy live on stage. Still, they remained an insider-tip until today. Seven years after Entwine's first European tour, including a great gig at the Summer Breeze festival, the band seems to be stuck in Finnish villages and gets more attention for its recent gig cancellations than for the latest album, "Painstained". Good reason to ask Entwine's guitarist and mastermind Tom Mikkola a few questions what's the situation like within a band that seems to be out of luck...
Your current album "Painstained" was released at the end of January this year. Almost eight months have passed since then and you certainly have a more objective perspective on the album than shortly after its finalization. How do you feel about "Painstained" these days – what are its strengths and weaknesses in your opinion?
After we finished recording "Painstained" I was really skeptical about the material we wrote. Now that few months have passed I've actually started liking it more and I think that the album shows again how much we have progressed as a band. "Painstained" contains some of the heaviest stuff we've ever written but at the same time you can find really mellow atmospheres, so there are contrasts between and even within the songs which is a good thing. But there are also some negative aspects. I feel we ended up recording those songs too quickly and we didn't give them enough time to evolve, if you know what I mean. Usually when you play songs for a while they start to live their own lives and then you know they all are set. This time all was done in a hurry which wasn't an optimal situation for us. And as a guitarist what bothers me is the guitar sound. It's not what I was hoping for, but all in all, I feel great about "Painstained".
Looking back at the time the album was released, I remember how amazed I was by the album in comparison to "Fatal Design"(2006). "Painstained" sounded familiar and fresh and new at the same time to me. With time I actually realized that the album is pretty much lacking dynamics since most of the songs follow the same formula. The only tune that really stands out atmospheric-wise is "Say Goodbye", otherwise you rely on Goth-flavored Modern Rock/Metal songs all the time. Have you lost your interest in more introverted, softer songs totally?
We don't really think about that so much. Nowadays the style of our music is heavier and more Rock orientated than before but if we have a good idea for a softer song we'll do it. You know, it all happens naturally.
A thing that made me like "Painstained" much more than "Fatal Design" is the keyboards being used more often. How did that actually happen? After your keyboardist Riitta having left the band I didn't expect that all, even though she didn't write any songs.
I would say that keyboards are and always will be the essential part of our sound. It doesn't matter whether we have a keyboardist or not. It's true that Riitta never participated in songwriting even though our older albums are quite keyboard-orientated. It may feel surprising but you can find even more keys from our latest albums ("Fatal Design" included) than ever before. They just play a bit different kind of role nowadays.
I remember pretty well how excited I was when I got to see you guys live at the Summer Breeze Festival in Germany back in 2002. It was after the "Time Of Despair" tour and I felt that there is a bright future ahead for this band. Seven years after that I see a band that constantly releases good albums but didn't get to play bigger festival gigs outside Finland since then (except for Estonia once). What is your explanation for this phenomenon of not getting visibly further on the live front?
Well, maybe we need a bit of good luck or something...or no one is interested.
Unfortunately you had to cancel quite a lot gigs recently which rounds this picture of a band out of luck up. The image I mostly get when it comes to Entwine gig cancellations is connected to your singer Mika having problems with his throat. I bet many listeners worry about his voice and health in general whenever such a situation occurs. Have you ever talked about that within the band, how to "shelter" your singers voice better when being on tour?
All those cancellations have been really embarrassing for the band and we have talked about that many times. We are aware of the fact that if this keeps going on it may harm our reputation as a band. We really don't want that to happen and we wish from the bottom of our hearts that Mika will get better as soon as possible. And what comes to "sheltering" his voice, I allow myself to be a little sarcastic. The best way would be: no smoking, less drinking, enough sleep and maybe some singing lessons to improve his technique. It's really up to him.
Whenever Entwine releases a new album I think to myself: "Now the break-through should finally happen" - and so far, I couldn't really sense a progress promotion-wise. Even after "Painstained" there was no massive touring happening, simply gigs in Finland and one in Moscow so far. Do you still sometimes think of a commercial break-through as band or have you accepted your fate as one of Europe's metal underground's best kept secrets?
When we first started playing, I never imagined we would get this far. Even though our albums aren't selling platinum we are pretty satisfied what we have accomplished. There are thousands of bands who never get a chance to make records, we have done six so far. We have also played in thirteen different countries and we have had a privilege to meet fans and other interesting people. I would say that's something, it's awesome. Of course I wouldn't mind if there was more success...it's a dream.
I suppose you won't deny that you're musically connected to the Finnish Goth Rock/Metal scene, but a thing that has made you outstanding since "DiEversity" (2004) is the incorporation of Nu Metal/American Rock elements. Do you deliberately draw inspiration from the U.S. Rock scene or does it happen subconsciously? How much do you personally care about the Metal/rock scene around you, as Entwine's main song writer?
I think it happens subconsciously because 90% of the music I listen comes from USA but I don't write anything intentionally. It's better if all ideas come up naturally.
How is the interpersonal chemistry within the band nowadays? It's an open secret that Mika and Aksu had problems with each other during the first years of Mika being the singer. Nowadays you're living in different cities – can you give our readers an impression of what band-gatherings/ rehearsals are like? Who talks the most? Who's the joke teller? And who brings the beers?
Jaani is the only one who lives in a different city so he doesn't have that much effect towards the band. If all of us lived in different cities it would be really difficult to arrange anything around Entwine because we all have our own things going on, jobs, studies, families and stuff like that. All in all we get along pretty well but of course there are sometimes some arguments and fighting. Nothing serious though, normal life. The most talkative guys are Joni and Mika, but when we get a few beers we all scream and shout, especially Aksu who is our master of party. Nothing special is going on in our rehearsals. Normally when we start writing new songs there's only three of us rehearsing ,the so-called backbone of Entwine which is me, Aksu and Joni. That's because Jaani lives in a different city and he's not always present. Then we do some demos and introduce the ideas for Mika. When we are rehearsing for a tour we make a set list and play through it all together.
To what extent does image play a role for Entwine? Do you guys talk about what the next promo pics should look like and which optical approach is suitable for the band at particular period? I'm asking cause your band's look changed pretty much from the Goth-like beginnings, over the mineworkers outfit at "Fatal Design" times and to the a bit glamorous Rock style pictures of "Painstained".
No, nothing like that. We are comfortable just being who we really are. We wear same clothes in those pictures that we are wearing all the time. For example there wasn't any mineworkers-outfit. We were wearing our normal clothes and it wasn't up to us what the photographer did to those images afterwards.
Looking back at the last decade – how satisfied are you with Entwine's progress on a musical, a personal and a success-oriented level?
As I said before, it's been great.
What annoys you most when it comes to being the guitarist of Entwine – both from within the band and concerning the fans and the media?
Well, Entwine is too many times referred to HIM no matter what kind of music we write. I bet even if we were playing Black Metal the media would say "this sounds like HIM". In my opinion, it's not justified and that kind of comparison doesn't do any good for us.
If you had to pick the ultimate Entwine-song to show people what the band stands for in 2009 – which would you choose and why?
I don't know, maybe that one which is going to be our next single.
After talking about the past and the current situation, let's throw a glance at the future together. It's actually indirectly linked to Entwine, but quite a current and future-related issue: Does the end of Mika's work with Shamrain have any impact on Entwine's schedules?
There's no impact whatsoever.
Entwine's latest songs should work live like hell and whenever I saw you guys live I enjoyed quite an energetic rock show. During the last years I heard from several people who listen to your music that they would really enjoy a live album or even a DVD. With six albums and an EP, you certainly have enough songs to choose from. Is anything planned like a live-release?
No, there aren't any plans for a live release at the moment.
To round this interview up: Which of Entwine's albums so far are you most proud of and why?
"Fatal Design" is my favorite album, because the whole project was really great. It was fun working with Janne Joutsenniemi and he really pushed us to go further and I think he managed to capture the best performance from all of us. Most of the songs on that album are pretty much the best we have done so far.
If you have anything to add, feel free to do so in here! Thanks a lot for this interview, Tomppa. And good luck with Entwine in the future!
We have started to write new material and I can say it sounds really promising. We haven't booked any studio yet but the recordings will start next spring. I hope we could come to Germany sometime next year...until then, take it easy!
Hendrik Behnisch - 01.11.2009
Photo: Terhi Ylimäinen
Last Updated (Tuesday, 03 November 2009 14:44)
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