We recently covered the excellent upcoming album by Amoral, Fallen Leaves And Dead Sparrows – you can read our review here. We caught up with the band’s guitarist Ben for a chat, read what happened below.
Could you introduce yourself and tell me a little about the band?
I’m Ben Varon, guitarist, songwriter and founding member of Amoral, a Finnish band playing it’s patent-pending brand of Classic Rock Of The 21st Century. We started Amoral with drummer Juhana Karlsson in our teens, I think we started jamming together in late 1997 when we were maybe 14 years old. Let our talents slowly develop, and begun making demos and playing shows after the millennium. Our first 3 albums were what you’d describe as technical death metal, after which we had a change of singers, got Ari Koivunen onboard and went into a much more melodic direction. Our new album Fallen Leaves & Dead Sparrows is our 3rd with this “Amoral mk II” lineup.
You’re currently getting ready to release the aforementioned – could you tell me about the writing and recording process of it?
We tried something new for us with the writing process this time around: whereas before we always “just wrote songs”, with no pre-thoughts on the albums direction, this time we decided early on to focus on what we thought were the strong points on our previous album Beneath, which were the long, epic, moody, prog-sounding songs. Not only did we in the band enjoy those the most, but the fans seemed to agree. So we decided to put the “hard rock” to the side for now and focus on the “prog”.
The recording was a long but rewarding process. We’ve done our few previous albums from start to finish at Sound Supreme Studios with our trusted engineer/produced Janne Saksa, but with this one we only did the drums there. We then continued to do the guitars, bass and a little keyboards at home, and me and Ari went to Kuopio to record the vocals with Nightwish singer/bassist Marco Hietala, who produced the vocals on this album and did a hell of a job. Once everything was in the can, we gave it back to Janne Saksa to mix. Production duties for the whole album were on my shoulders with this one, but as a control freak I enjoyed the challenge.
Were there any tracks that were more of a challenge to complete than others?
Actually we were really well prepared before the start of the recording, as we were intimidated by the aspect of “doing it alone”, so it actually felt like a lot of the recording went smoother than before. But still, for whatever reason we always seem to write material that is way beyond our comfort zone, especially in the guitar department. So getting everything down on tape tight and precise is never too easy.
I really liked the vocals on See This Through in particular. What was it like having Marco Hietala involved with working on the vocals on the album this time round?
Marco was great. Even though we had the vocal melodies all thought out before traveling to Marco’s home studio in Kuopio, he really knew how to get the best performance out of Ari, and had a bunch of excellent suggestions for harmonies.
Which track is your favourite or the one you’re most proud of?
I think Prolong a Stay, the third song, is my favorite. It’s the one song that almost wrote itself, it came to me very fast in just a few days, from start to finnish, which is very rare with Amoral songs, usually they take ages to develop and finalize. Also, Ari’s performance on this song gives me chills, he really nailed the mood I was looking for with the melodies and the lyrics.
Are there any interesting stories from the studio?
Not really! No partying, nothing crazy, just straight-up honest work. We had some technical difficulties here and there with the equipment, but I don’t think they were all that interesting.
How would you describe your shows to someone who hasn’t seen you live yet?
We try to nail the songs live as well as we possibly can, which is not an easy task. But we do work our asses off practicing for our live shows, to be able to pull it off and not just be standing still while doing so. So to anyone coming to see us live: be prepared to be impressed!
What’s your favourite thing about playing live?
I love everything about it: the immediate feedback from the audience, the interaction with them, the interaction with the other guys in the band, the “do or die” mentality of the moment, the sheer volume… And to combine this with tour life, traveling, seeing new people, new places… It’s the best thing in the world.
If you could play a show anywhere, where would you choose?
There’s so many places we still haven’t played that we’re dying to go to. We’ve only done one show in the whole of US up until now, so a full-lenght US tour would be awesome. Also, We’re yet to play South America, Australia, New Zealand…
If you could collaborate or work with any musician or artist, who would you choose?
I’d love to give Danny Elfman a new song of ours to put his arrangements on top of!
And finally – if Amoral could put their name to a product, what would it be?
A pinball machine! I’m a huge fan of pinball, and have the Guns N’ Roses pinball machine at home. I’ve often fantasized about designing an Amoral one, that would be beyond awesome!