An Interview With Insomnium's Ville Friman

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Ville Friman is the guitarist of Finland's Insomnium, a Melodic Death Metal band that fans of the genre near-universally conclude is the best group operating within in its confines.

The band's latest, Shadows of the Dying Sun, is a perfect encapsulation of the "Gothenburg" sound after most of its original cast has abandoned it for blue hair, nu-metal riffing and other ill-advised commercial ventures.

Friman, who holds a PhD in evolutionary ecology, told Empty Lighthouse by e-mail about balancing work and music, the new In Flames album and Insomnium's upcoming US tour with Dark Tranquillity. Read the full exchange below.

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Empty Lighthouse: Insomnium will be heading out with Dark Tranquillity in January. Are you as excited as we are? How'd such a great tour come together?

Ville Friman: Yes, we are very excited indeed. We've toured with Dark Tranquillity before and know the guys long way back. Great guys and such a great band.

Actually Martin contacted us while ago and asked us to join the tour.

I think it's really strong package and it'll be one hell of a tour!

Empty Lighthouse: I don't know if you're aware, but it seems that Insomnium has gained a nearly-unanimous critical reputation as the best melodic death metal band that's still active.

Did you expect this much praise when the band started out?

Ville Friman: We never expected anything really. We just wanted to play music, play gigs and get to studio to record our own music.

Of course we dreamt that it would be great to be a big band someday and tour and all.

However, I think we've achieved more than anyone could have imagined.

And it feels great, you know? We're just bunch oh humble guys trying to make as good of music as possible, tour and have fun with this opportunity we've got.

Empty Lighthouse: Everyone in the band has a degree and a day job, correct? How is it that you manage to stay so consistent? Six full lengths and two Eps in the span of 12 years is pretty remarkable.

Ville Friman: Yes, we do have degrees. It's bit different in Finland. Most of the people get University degrees because we don't have any fees and studying is practically free. So for us, it was possible to combine studying and the band.

But of course it has been hard work. Nothing comes free in this world.

I think that the success we have now is because of all the work we put in past 12 years in terms of touring and musical development.

We've done lots but we have also took our time off and have never overworked ourselves or our crowds. And believe it or not, it's still fun!

Empty Lighthouse: Did the hardships of being in a metal band make you want to go to school, or was that always the plan? What takes the priority?

Ville Friman: I think it was always the plan to get our degrees and education because you never know how things turn out in the music business. And we had a really slow start so there really was not an opportunity to just make music and try to make that your only career. You know, we all have steady jobs at the moment so touring, well, it gets more and more difficult.

But we're doing our best and try to get as many places as possible.

Personally, I enjoy working and doing something outside the band as well.

It's hard work in combining these two but at the end of the day, the band and music still are something you get excited about because it's not your main job, you know?

Empty Lighthouse: I've read that one of your albums, One for Sorrow, is inspired by a poem and that Insomnium is inspired by film and novels in general. What have you been reading/watching lately?

Ville Friman: The most recent book I read on the last European tour was Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" and I really enjoyed it even though it's a pretty grim description of the post-apocalyptic world. Last movie I saw was movie about the English painter William Turner.

Currently I'm listening Ghost Inside's new album. I get inspired from all kinds of stuff really. Whatever hits the sweet spot.

Empty Lighthouse: You don't have to answer this, but how do you feel about that new In Flames album?

Ville Friman: I haven't given it a proper go yet but I'm fan of their older material.

I think a couple of the new albums are lacking bit of spirit and emotion and they've tried to change and develop as a band.

I really liked Jesper's stuff and now that he's gone it's not the same band to me anymore.

Empty Lighthouse: After the US with Dark Tranquillity tour wraps up, what's next for the band?

Ville Friman: After US tour we're going to do another European tour with Ensiferum and Omnium Gatherum. I think it's somewhere in March.

After that hopefully lots of summer festivals and not sure what happens in the fall. Personally I hope that I get bit time to start writing new songs.

Empty Lighthouse: Thanks so much for speaking with us! Is there anything else you would like to add?

Ville Friman: Thanks for the interview, it was really my pleasure. If you haven't heard of us before check us out in YouTube.

Dark Tranquillity and Insomnium:
Jan 4: New York, NY - The Gramercy Theatre
Jan 5: West Springfield, VA - Empire
Jan 6: Philadelphia, PA - The Trocadero
Jan 7: Worcester, MA - The Palladium
Jan 8: Quebec City, QC - Dagobert
Jan 9: Montreal, QC - FouFounes
Jan 10: Ottawa, ON - Mavericks
Jan 11: Toronto, ON - Opera House
Jan 12: Pittsburgh, PA - Altar Bar
Jan 13: Cleveland, OH - Agora Ballroom
Jan 14: Kokomo, IN - Centerstage
Jan 15: Joliet, IL - Mojoes
Jan 16: Minnesota, MN - Triple Rock Social Club
Jan 17: Winnipeg, MB - The West End Cultural Center
Jan 18: Saskatoon, SK - Louis Pub
Jan 19: Edmonton, AB - Starlite Room
Jan 20: Calgary, AB - Republik
Jan 22: Vancouver, BC - The Venue
Jan 23: Seattle, WA - El Corazon
Jan 24: Portland, OR - Hawthorne Theatre
Jan 25: San Francisco, CA - Slims
Jan 26: Anaheim, CA - The Grove
Jan 27: Tempe, AZ - Club Red
Jan 29: Dallas, TX - Neon Trees