They see their current roots in melodic metal. Their past was dearth metal and their future can lead them everywhere. We talked with SENTENCED's guitar hero Sami Lopakka about depression, death, diseases, tango and other nice things...

Megalomaniac Productions: How did Sentenced start off, as a band?

Sami Lopakka: Oh, well - I can be pretty short with that. The band was formed ten years ago. And we have really come a long way since that times... We started out as a death metal band and had a lot of influences from the death metal of that time. Our first album "Shadows Of The Past" is quite a typical album for a band that was recording a metal album in the early nineties. But actually, ever since that we have been searching for something else and our next album "North From Here" (1993) was already quite different from the first one. It was very technical in the guitar playing. It was this "hatered to your face" kind of thing, was full of anger. Then it took two year to make the next album "Amok" (1995) and I think this is the album where we created the basis for our future. In some way we are still doing the same style of music we did with "Amok". It was an important album in that way... After the recordings of "Amok" there was a line-up change in the band. The former singer left and Ville came. "Down" (1996) was the first work for him and of course there was a new influence in the band, a new voice. But still we continued our path we had chosen with "Amok". Then, with "Frozen" (1998) we took that style even deeper. And now we are here with the new one "Crimson" (2000) and that is again a new step somewhere musicwise and soundwise. Yet the basis for songwriting has been the same almost since 1995.

MP: This time you worked together with Hiili, who also produced HIM. Is this the reason why you sound a bit like them?

Sami: Yeah? I don't really agree with that. People actually think that having the same producer and having used some solutions in the same way as some other band just straightly means that they are alike. But I think we are not much related to HIM, musically. Maybe there are some elements like song-structures in some cases but if we start to count that we have things in common with - maybe - a million bands.

MP: Where do you take the influence for your songwriting?

Sami: It is always a very personal kind of thing. We listen to so much stuff, that it is impossible to name any specific things. Our roots now are melodic metal. But even I don't know what influences we do have. Everything we ever hear affects us in some way. Currently I'm listening a lot to the new Type O Negative album, to "Judgement" from Anathema and also to this live-album of Fields Of The Nephilim.

MP: Can you give me a few words to the songs on the album?

Sami: bleed in my arms - That was written by Ville. So I have to give you my opinion here. It's kind of a love song. It has to do with temptation, betrayal and lost love.

home in despair - You can see it already from the title, it is a song about everything going wrong. And when this happens and goes on for months you already know it so well that it almost feels like home, when things are going wrong.

fragile - Well, I think it is the most personal song on the album, lyricwise. That is taken more or less taken straight from reality. It's a song about two people and the hard things that sometimes happen. And about emotions when things are not going so good between these two people.

no more beating as one - This song is again written by Ville and is again about lost love - and death, as well.

broken - Hm. It's a song based on a feeling as well. It's about having enough from everything and wanting to leave this everything behind.

killing me killing you - That's about love that is fading away and the consequences of that

dead moon rising - That song is lyricwise pretty much based on its musical mood. It is a very atmospheric song with no special theme. It only expresses one moment.

the river - A song about hangovers and the feelings related to that.

one more day - Not about the morning after the hangovers. It is about the contradiciton of love and hate and when they collide.

with bitterness and joy - That is a song about dying - actually the main theme that I had in mind when I was writing the lyrics was cancer. And how it would feel to die from cancer, to die a death like that.

my slowing heart - Yeah, that is lyricwise the weirdest one on the album. It's about a slowing heart and in a way a bit like in 'Broken'. You want to live but then again you're actually reliefed when your heart stops beating...

MP: When I listen to your interpretations it seems to me that you spend a lot of time thinking about (darker) feelings. Is it helpful that you can express you through your lyrics?

Sami: Yes! It is very therapeutical in a way that I can express my feelings through my lyrics and through our music. So in some way I can scream everything out in the songs. It doesn't make the bad things go away but it helps a little bit. And for some reason it has always been our way this expressing of depressions and the of negative sides of life and the whole world.

MP: When you started with music did you ever dream of playing in an band, of being a rock star?

Sami: I think in the beginning it was just that we were so much into this metal music that we wanted to try out wether we could do it ourselves. As I told you earlier, we had lots of influences in the beginning, so it was not to get laid. It was more to find out what we can do with music. It has been growing and growing and we have never thought we would come this far.

MP: Do you still have fans from the early days of have they changed throughout the years?

Sami: We have both things happening. There are some people I have met, that already have bought our first demo tape - which is quite amazing as we have changed so much since those days. They seem to have grown with us. And there are people who have left the band after some album they were disappointed with. They call us 'sell-outs' and things like that. But I think it's like half and half. With every album we gain more new fans and every album has so far sold more than the previous one.

MP: Music has nowadays become such an industry that it seems it is not enough to be just a plain artist but you have to take a lot of financial decisions as well. Does this affect you: being an aritst and an businessman at the same time?

Sami: All this other stuff is the neccessary evil we have to do to keep the band alive. It does not interest us that much. It's just extra stuff that has to be done. We always wanted to keep the muscal and artistical side completely separated from the business side. When we are writing songs we are not thinking about any commercial success, sales figures or how we can kiss somebody's ass with a song. We want to stay kind of true to the music and what we do with it. So that sometimes in the future we can look back and still be proud of it.

MP: Can you make your living from being a member of Sentenced? And do you spend a lot of time together? You all live in Oulu, Finland, right?

Sami: Nowadays I can. But we all still have separate lives from the band to keep it healthy. If this would be the only thing in live for us I don't hink we were alive any more. I am for example studying, Ville is working, and Sami and Vesa are also studying. Miika is doing nothing at the moment except things with the band but he has a separate life as well. Vesa is studying in Turku, which is like 600 km away, but he comes home for the weekends. So even if we are not rehearsing we see each other a couple of times a month. We are friends outside the band as well and it is not only a professional relationship. Sometimes it is a bit hard, when you are on tour for five - six weeks, to be on the bus with the same guys allt he time. Because for 24 hours a day they are the only people you really see...

MP: Tiamat told me once that due to the weather and the lack of daylight up there you have only three possibilities: 1) you kill yourself, 2) you become a severe alcohol addict or 3) you start making music. Other escapes don't exist.

Sami: Ours is not a very joyous music and I think that the wintertime affects everything we do there. Maybe these weather conditions have something to do with it but I rather think that it is a general melancholy that runs through our veins.

MP: After Argentina, Finland is the second largest tango-nation in the world. Does this has anything to to with the melancholic streak as well?

Sami: I personally don't know how to tango, but tango music is very big in Finland. Every summer there is this big tango festival with so many people there, dancing tango for a whole week and drinking vodka. And true, tango is melancholic as well, it has these minors all the time. So it is easy to imagine that tango does well in Finland.

MP: Let's say I'm the famous fairy queen offering you three wishes. What would these wishes be? And don't come up with "peace for mankind"!

Sami: You mean as a bandmember or as a person?

MP: Both!

Sami: The first thing is to have the possibility of expressing ourselves in a way that feels right to us and letting nothing interfere with that. Then only a secondary things is to have success around us with the band. That people would like it and we would totally live on it and have no financial problems.

MP: Can you imagine youself as a mega-successful rock star, sitting by your pool, somewhere in California?

Sami: No! That's not for me. Even if I had all the money in the world I think I would still stay in Finland and live where my home is at the moment...

MP: And as a private person?

Sami: First I would ask for a peaceful life for myself and the ones I love. That everything would go smooth and that there would be no big problems. That's one. When I die, I wish for a painless death. I have seen people dying from diseases that totaly eat you up from the inside and I hope not to go that way. The third wish would be that there is no afterlife. I hope there is nothing waiting...

MP: Thanks, Sami.

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