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Omnium Gatherum: The Mysteries of Songwriting

A bit decimated in numbers, the men of Omnium Gatherum return with a new album titled New World Shadows. Despite or maybe even because of the personnel loss, the band managed to compose an even more coherent and gloomy album, which easily beats their previous output The Redshift by a long shot. Bassist Toni Mäki kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the band´s new record and the whole schmear via email.

What´s up? Where are you at the moment and what can you see out of the window?
Hi there! Right now I´m at home doing an interview with a peculiar first question and when looking outside I see a wintry Finnish landscape, lots of snow covered trees, a clear cloudless sky. And a kindergarten.

Your new album is called New World Shadows, what happened to the “old world”?
The old world got old. Now instead of the shadows of the past we´ve got our brave new world with its brave new shadows.

Is it maybe also some kind of new beginning? You did, at least, switch the record company…
It´s a commentary of our times and its phenomena, but also of one´s personal decisions. And as we have the new label and the songs on the new album are somewhat darker than before it actually fits that description as well. Good point!

When comparing the new record to your last one, The Redshift, I find that all the musical elements simply fit together way better this time around, did you do something differently?
One thing that´s different is the time that we used for the pre-production for the “New World Shadows”. Cause “The Redhift” was made in a very short time and we really used a lot of effort for the latest one. But without a doubt the most significant change is that this time our guitarist Markus Vanhala composed all the songs. Previously, Harri Pikka (former second guitarist) composed about half of the material.

I think it also has more of a gloomy atmosphere and you can´t take single songs out, it has to be regarded as a whole? Would you say it´s a concept record?
It´s not a concept album as such but there is definitely a recurring theme. As we arranged the songs our singer Jukka started to put together an idea that the songs would describe the modern times and society and the decisions one makes in order to live in that world and its shadows. Also the cover art draws inspiration from this source.

While The Redshift opened with a very energetic and straight to the point song (Nail), on New World Shadows you have opted for a very different beginning. Everfields, the opening track is a 9 minute epic, why that?
Actually, “Everfields” was supposed to end “New World Shadows” but then we made the song “Deep Cold” and had no other option than to finish the album with it. So we started to look for a new place for “Everfields” and thought about starting and closing the album with almost ten minute epics. Partly, but only partly it´s also a statement. Everyone expects an album to start off with some fast radio friendly hit song and we grew tired of it and wanted to give a finger to that idea. You know, what you must do and what you mustn´t do, an arrogant way to say that we do as we please. But the most important thing is that music-wise we feel this order is the best for the songs.

Were there any guest musicians involved when recording?
Yes. Dan Swanö who mixed and mastered the album did some clean vocals and keyboards, our engineer/producer Teemu Aalto added some percussions and other stuff, Niilo Sevänen of Insomnium shouted some vocals in “Ego” with some other fellas and finally Mikko “Monni” Reinamo played organs for two songs.

Markus is now the only guitarist left, after Harri Pikka quit last summer, what changes did this entail, in the studio or in a live setting?
The composing is the most significant change but since Markus played all the guitars in the studio, the guitars and sounds fit together better. In live situations we need a second guitarist and our good friend Joonas Koto (Malpractise, To/Die/For, Hateframe) has helped us out there. He actually has done a few gigs with us before, when Harri couldn´t make it because of his work.

Are there plans to hire a second guitarist again?
I´d say we pretty much have to. We thought about going on without a second guitar but dismissed that idea pretty quickly. In the studio it´s ok but live our songs demand two guitars. We haven´t made an official announcement yet but Joonas is the strongest candidate for the job and on our gigs, it feels like he´s a part of the band instead of a hired gun.

What is Harri doing now?
Good question. I don´t have a definite answer for that because he never gave us one, he just sort of faded himself out of the band. As far as I know, he wants to focus on his other bands, personal relationships, his work with multimedia and other activities. We respect his choice and wish him all the best.

There´s also again an instrumental song on the album (Watcher of the Skies). What significance do instrumentals have for you, in general?
We like instrumentals. All of us have listened to old prog bands that used to have instrumentals so it comes naturally. Also the instrumentals are more ambitious than songs with vocals because they don´t have the lyrics explaining the song for you. They are more open for the listeners´ own interpretation.

When writing the songs, do you know from the beginning, it´s going to be an instrumental?
Not really. The songs and the way they turn out are always a great mystery for us.

In April/May you will be on tour in Southern and Eastern Europe, how did that come about? It doesn´t include the “usual suspects” when it comes to tour places (Germany, UK; The Netherlands…)...
Our friends in Massive Music that organise the tour invited us along with Rotting Christ and we decided to take the offer to gain better visibility on those regions. Without a doubt, we will also tour the UK and Central Europe and we´re constantly working that out.

Have you been in those places before? What are your expectations?
Some we have, some we haven´t. Honestly, we don´t know what to expect, I mean, how the audiences know us in those places and how will they receive us. Nevertheless, we expect to have a great time with the other bands and fans and to play some kick-ass shows!

What has so far been your worst experience while on tour? Missing equipment/band members, horrible backstage etc
Well, there´s been some shit happening like equipment breaking down on a gig, Markus breaking his ribs on a gig and stuff like that but luckily nothing really serious. The worst moment could be when an unmentioned member of the band went missing after a gig in Hamburg and nobody could reach him and everyone feared for the worst. After a few hours of desperate searching, he returned from his skirt chasing adventure…

Thanks a lot for taking your time to answer this. Good luck with the album and everything.
Thank you and thanks for the interview!

Author: Kathleen Gransalke, photos: band
Date: 2011-03-11

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