You could say that there would be no Silver Lake project without the need for silver linings.
Undisputed guitar-hero Esa Holopainen was among countless artists the world over who's best laid plans were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Designs for a worldwide 30th anniversary tour for his mothership of 30 years, Amorphis, were dashed as travel restrictions were implemented and quarantining became the new-normal in the first quarter of 2020.
So what do you do when time seems to stand still? You get to work.
Holopainen took that challenge to heart, setting forth recruiting a who's who of the music world for Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen, a genre-bending record that includes guest vocalists Anneke van Giersbergen, Björn "Speed" Strid (Soilwork), Einar Solberg (Leprous) and Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), among others.
Ahead of the release of Silver Lake on May 28th through Nuclear Blast, Holopainen caught up with Metal Injection to talk his eclectic new project, three decades and the upcoming new album of Amorphis, his seminal guitar gods and his final conversations with the late, great Alexi Laiho.
On His Early thoughts of Silver Lake
I guess it's been somewhere in the back of my head, a dream of sorts of doing a project where I would have many guests with me. But I think this whole thing started little by little. And the first three songs I was working with, I wasn't really sure in which direction I'm going and with the material.
My producer Nino told me that he really likes the songs, but you should have a singer for them. It's no use to start to do instrumental material. So I just started to check out who I know and who I really like and respect and who would fit for the songs I had. And that's how the whole thing started.
I thought that Jonas from Katatonia would be perfect for an acoustic track and Einar from Leprous, absolutely perfect for a more poppier song. And I asked those guys, what do you think? Are you available? Would you be interested in collaborating with me? I sent the songs over for them, and they all felt that the songs were good enough that they could work with.
I'm sure that all the singers would have said if they wouldn't be that good working with the songs. So I was really happy that they liked the songs and that sort of gave me more self-confidence to work with more material. It was like a snowball effect. The whole project started to grow more and more during the process.
On Different Genres & Styles on Silver Lake
The music that I have on the Silver Lake album pretty much describes what influences me as a musician and what kind of music I listen to in my free time. But on the other hand I definitely didn't want to do a project or a solo album which would sound like Amorphis because there wouldn't be any point in doing such an album. And when I write such a song, heavier, so to speak, or more Amorphis type of songs, I naturally write them for Amorphis.
But this was a great experience to really explore myself and search myself. I just didn't have any limits whatsoever when it came to writing music. If I felt like doing a song with just keyboards I was free to do that and go from there and see where the whole thing was going to get me. A totally different kind of musical journey.
Somebody asked me the questions where I would categorize or put the album. I really don't have any answer. I think there's also a lot of inspiration that comes from nature that inspires me, sort of landscapes that I try to paint throughout my music. Very artistic. That's a nonsense answer. But yeah, that's pretty much how I see it. It's super hard to even try to label it anywhere. Well, it's released by Nuclear Blast so obviously it will go for people who listen to metal music. But there's so many different elements from different music genres that I can't really categorize it. It's a metal album, but it's not.
On the Possibility of Performing Silver Lake Live
Perhaps someday. I've been asked if I would be interested in taking Silver Lake live, and it is a tempting idea. I would definitely love to do it, but logistically it's pretty hard. And it's a task for promoters to try to get everybody, because all the vocalists … they are people that work on a different area of music. So of course it will be super difficult to get all these vocalists in the same place.
But I think it might be doable on some festivals nearby where the vocalists are there with their main bands. I think that sort of thing could be doable. But I would love to do at least a couple or one show with everybody. That would be amazing.
On 30 Years of Amorphis
It's amazing. And 30 years, even for human beings, it's a long time. I remember the early days like yesterday when we were kids and we started and now we are elders. And I just wonder where all the time went. But it's been amazing years if you look back at all the tours and all the albums we made together.
When Amorphis was ten and spent our 10th anniversary year, I thought then that we are super old and this band is super old, but now it's the 30th anniversary. So it is quite a long time we've been together.
You know, I enjoy these times much more than I enjoyed some years in our history. We have grown up as human beings and touring and making an album and scheduling things is very different now then how it was in the early days. I think things and how we see them only get better the older we get.
On Chemistry & Brotherhood in Amorphis
We have come to the point of our lives that we don't really spend that much time (together as a band) when we are home. Everybody has got their own families. There were times when we were younger or after the tour, we went to a bar together and we were literally spending all the time together. When you're on tour you're 24/7 with the other guys. And absolutely they are my other family and my brothers.
It is quite a challenge when you are together that long, especially on the tour bus where it's like 10 to 15 people and everybody needs their own space. You really need to have good chemistry there so that you don't end up in fights or whatever. But that's one of the greatest things about Amorphis. It's great fun to go out with the guys and I totally enjoy every moment with them.
On Touring Plans & New Amorphis Record
I kind of missed the last year because we really had a lot of great plans when it comes to touring and all the anniversary shows. The North American tour with Entombed A.D. unfortunately got canceled and a lot of great things would have been planned, but it is what it is.
I think the next thing at the moment is we are recording the next Amorphis album. That comes out early 2022. So our view is already there. And hopefully we can start touring next year and start to promote the new album then. But it's a big shame that we missed all the 30th anniversary shows and so on. I don't know if there's any chance to do any shows this year. There might be some little festivals in Finland we could do, but overseas I think it's going to be 22 unil we do anything.
On His Influential Guitar Gods
I always loved all these melodic players. David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler. Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, the best metal duo ever. I think they were super melodic and they still are super melodic, but they were really the first metal guitar players that brought the great harmonies, two guitar harmonies into metal music.
Of course I admire players like Yngwie Malmsteen, who is just absolutely nuts and created his own style. But he's somewhere in a totally different world and different level. Ritchie Blackmore, absolutely a great guy and great guitar player. I like these old school players. And I would be stupid if I wouldn't have mentioned Malcolm Young and Angus Young. They don't play much, but they are just absolutely brilliant, and brilliant dynamics in their music. So I enjoy most of these more melodic and more recognizable players than any technical fast metal guitar players. That's just my cup of tea.
On the Late Alexi Laiho
I spoke with Alexi, I think it was two weeks before he died. He was so full of energy and he was so happy with his new band. You know, we shared the same keyboard player who played keyboards for my Silver Lake project and was also a session player for Bodom After Midnight. So Alexi was really keen to hear what my music is like, what it is about. And I sent him some songs and he sent me the Bodom After Midnight songs they recorded. I told him that it's like Children of Bodom, but in a more hybrid version. It was unbelievable.
And it's such a loss that we lost him because I think there would have been so much for him to give the metal community. A great guitar player. And he influenced a lot of people, and especially the kids. Kids started to play guitar. You just have to look at what kind of guitars kids and the people who are getting into guitar playing are using. All these V-shaped Alexi Laiho ESP models that the youngsters are using. So I think that tells pretty much how important he was for people.
On the Potential for More Silver Lake
Absolutely. When I started this project and while I was starting the recording I thought that I'm super happy and when I'm done with this album it's just this album and I can thank myself for doing this. But the session was great and I enjoyed it so much. So I'm sure I will start to write some more music for the Silver Lake project. But I think that will take time.
Perhaps I will start to write little by little, because making this album was around half a year project for me. And as soon as the world is open again for live shows and touring I think we're going to be very busy again. And I don't know if I will find that much time to finish the project, but I'll start to write little by little and see where I'm heading to. Definitely, it was a great experience to do this. And I hope it can be heard from the album as well.