This interview with Sami Lopakka of Sentenced was done face to face on April 19th, 2005.

Sentenced, one of the biggest Finnish bands from the dark/depressive metal genre, have decided to end their career after 16 years. Their final album entitled "The Funeral Album" will be out by the end of May 2005. This interview with Sami Lopakka was done by Socke and Alexa Kasparek with additional questions by Silence during his promotion trip at Century Media in Germany.

Hey, how are you?
Well, alright.

Your last album will be out on May 30th – “The Funeral Album”. How was the response to the album so far?
Well, we only got response from friends and some journalists and colleagues that have heard it and it seems that they do enjoy the way we are finishing our long career. It's of course a relief to see that we have managed to end this way and it has been a very hard and emotional time for us and we just tried to capture that same feeling on the album and it seems that also in other people's opinion we have succeeded.

Do you have any expectations what will happen when it comes out or do you just wait and see what will come?
I will wait and see. Every time I have expectations I will be disappointed. Already the info that this will be the last one has been in the internet since February and we have received tons of different kinds of messages and some people seem to be sad, some are thankful (laughs) and some are even angry. It's a wide range of reactions, so maybe it will be like that for the album, too.

Are you satisfied with the final result yourselves?
Yes, we are. First of all to write the last songs of the band was very challenging and exhausting. But we felt that we really reached what we were after and it is exactly the kind of music for our funeral that we were looking for. Even though it's “The Funeral Album” it is not a concept album in any way. There are also some – even many – different themes or topics on the songs and the songs are pretty much different from each other. So it's the kind of wide range of emotions. The same kind of thing that we have experienced during the whole decision process, the songwriting process, recording … up to this point.

Do you feel any differences in promoting this album compared to your previous albums?
Yeah, everybody has at least one same question which is the ‘Why'-question. I have answered it probably 150 times this year already. It even starts to come out in the exact word form and it's something very weird. I almost like ‘disappear' from my body (laughs) to listen to the same answer again and then return.

Let's get a bit deeper into the album. You have 13 songs, but also two instrumental songs with differ from each other like night and day. I read that “Karu” is actually quite old and “Where Waters Fall Frozen” was a rather spontaneous idea. How did you come up to put so completely different instrumental songs on your album?
It seemed like a nice idea and they somehow, like you said, are the exact opposite of each other. The “Karu”-song was… we had it even before the Crimson-album was recorded. And ever since we have been kind of looking for the right place to put it. Never we kind of found a place – until now. I think in its place as the second last song of the whole career it is a perfect place for it as it totally stops the album and totally calms down everything before the big ‘finale'. It's a melancholic piece – somehow it has this weird hope in it, too, like this waiting feeling ‘What will happen next?'. Next of course is - death (laughs). Then the other one… it was at the rehearsal place. We were just messing around, waiting for Ville to show up and all of a sudden this burst of aggression… a weird… like taking a shit, you know (laughs) – together! When it came out we were just like ‘What was that?'. It was weird and we decided to keep it and took it to the studio and just tried to make the same kind of burst in the studio. Even intentionally we left it quite messy soundwise and playingwise. It's a nice surprise between the normal songs I think. And it's somehow a reminder for people that they shouldn't really be expecting anything what happens next. Also it seems to be – we didn't really plan or think about it this way – but it seems to be a reference to the early days. Kind of ‘closing the circle' of Sentenced's career in some way.

So that “Karu”-song you mentioned before is meant like an ‘intro' to the last song or…?
Not really. It's an independend song. Of course totally different than we have ever done before. Maybe it could be like a composition for a movie or something. But in its place it really works like the ‘stopper' first of all. Yeah, in some way also maybe as the ‘intro for the end'.

As we only have a promo without lyrics I'm not sure whether I got them correctly, but let's talk about the meaning of the lyrics. To us it seemed like that there is a certain 'concept', but you denied it before…
Yeah, well, there is this certain 'finality' in all the lyrics I would say. But still it is no concept. It's just like a little “spice” we like to have in every song on this album. All in all it has of course references to the funeral itself and the band coming to the end. Death as usual. Also like life and melancholy and losing someone you love, vengeance – then also some more sarcastic, self-ironic kind of lyrics. Even though it's the funeral album we wanted to have this variation in the music and in the lyrics so that it would be more of a rainbow of what's inside or within these last moments.

We noticed that many songs are written in the “we”-form. Does that mean that those songs should be seen from the band's point of view ? Like in “Consider US dead”.
Yeah, we noticed that, too. But only in the studio (laughs). It didn't seem kind of logic and I think it was somehow subconscious that we were concentrating on the “we”-form, because we had been having this big thinking process together and wondering about the future of us as people, as musicians and also of course the past of us. But then again I think only two or three of those songs are mainly having references to the band. The “we”-word is for example… in the song “We are but falling leaves” it's more like “we people”. In “Consider us dead”, that was written by Ville, but I think what he's after in that one is a dialog within one's head so it's like two persons who live “here” (laughs). So it's not really always a reference to the band or to us as people, but certainly in songs like “Despair-ridden Hearts” or especially “End of the Road” it's exactly that.

You used lots of atmospheric elements such as the children's choir in “Vengeance is Mine” which also reappears in “End of the Road” and the church bells which create a funeral-atmosphere. How did you come up with this idea?
When we wrote “Vengeance is Mine” – Miika did the music and I wrote the lyrics – it turned out to be pretty brutal and violent and we thought it would need some… not maybe ‘need', but it would be nice to have some kind of contrast to it all. What's better to give contrast to violence than a bunch of innocent children that sound like sort of heavenly? The idea for the children-choir was born then, with the song “Vengeance is Mine”. For the other song we were kind of thinking that since in the first half of the song there is vocals and lyrics and the second half is more or less instrumental we'd need some kind of bridge between these parts. The choir delivered the perfect bridge, I think. It's starting this kind of ‘divine feeling' – the end is coming and they're kind of singing us to eternity (laughs). That sounds very dramatic and even stupid, but that was the idea. I think it works out in the song very well.

On the previous albums you developed a unique lyric-style based upon depressions, suicide mixed with irony. But there also have been songs that dealt with love or lost love in different ways like “You Are The One” on The Cold White Light or “Sun Won't Shine” on Down. On "The Funeral Album" there's no such song. At least I couldn't find any.
There really isn't a pure love song like that. This time it just didn't feel necessary to put one in there. Maybe because all of this being the funeral - to have a pure love song there, it would have been quite strange. But it is included in some of the songs, you know, as a smaller side topic or so. For example “Her last 5 minutes” is, in my eyes, some kind of love song still. Only in the concept of losing someone you love. It has been in the past that whenever there was a song that felt like a love song I was never afraid to write a love song from it, because I always think it's the most important thing to maintain truthful to the music and write just the stuff you feel is right for it, even though it might piss off some people (laughs).

Who wrote the lyrics this time? You've mentioned two songs and who wrote them, but in general.
Erm…the lyrics are mostly written by me. And Ville did the songs “Consider us dead” and “Drain me”. The rest of the stuff is by myself.

Did the songwriting process differ from the previous album knowing it would be the last one? Was it easier or more difficult to write the songs?
It was more difficult, and on the concrete level it was more or less the same that the same guys were writing the same amount of songs or something like that. Of course especially after the decision was made and there was still six or seven songs to be written – those ones were the most difficult ones we have ever written. Because how do you write the last chapter? It's pretty important and it has to be something impressive and we also wanted to have this feeling of good bye and telling farewell to the listeners but also to the band itself. It was a very nervewracking time, but at the same time very rewarding and something very special. Not many musicians get to write something like this so it was a big stress but an opportunity as well.

I read somewhere that those two songs you already played at the summer festivals last year were written quite some time ago. Did you already know back then that this album would be the last album?
No, not at that time. We had been thinking about this for about two years. So it has been in discussion or in thinking also for those songs, but at that point the final decision was not yet made.

On "The Funeral Album" you used elements from your past albums but also new ones. So it's like a blend of your career in a way. Was it planned like that?
Not really. We kind of like wanted to make that next natural step from The Cold White Light, even though it was going to be the last step. These references to earlier albums and to the past: We recognized them now, but only after other people pointed them out and there certainly is this weird connection in many songs to albums like Amok, Down …you know, like the short instrumental is maybe to North From Here. This certain kind of atmosphere in some songs remind about moments in the history – something were we have been earlier. But it wasn't really something that we planned to have, it was maybe something subconscious if there is such a thing in the brain. They just came from somewhere and now I think looking at it seeing those references it is also a nice way to summarize the whole career. Even though it's the next step forward it's a step made looking back a bit.

About the recording… You recorded the album at Finnvox and at Tonebox Studio in Oulu. How was the recording process and how was it to work with Hiili Hiilesmaa who also produced “Crimson” and “The Cold White Light” ?
Well, about the studios. They were kind of the obvious choices. We wanted to record in our home town, but the place there is too small to record drums properly. We needed a big recording room for the drum parts and also to catch the whole drumset from like 10 meters away and creating this sort of echoing drum sound. We went to Finnvox to record the drums and then returned to Oulu to Tonebox which is technically enough, you know, it has all the modern stuff in it and we knew that we didn't have to worry about any technical side of the recording and it was very nice to go back home after every day. For mixing then Finnvox is absolutely the best place in Finland and I think one of the best places in whole Europe for mixing so it was the obvious choice. Hiili we wanted to have with us as he produced the two previous ones so we knew him personally very well. And it would have been quite weird to bring on a new guy at this point, recording the last album. We would have had to get to know him and you know… but with Hiili – he knows us and he is kind of sick in the same way than we are. And he always gets the 100% out of the band. He isn't afraid to kick us in the ass so to speak (laughs). He makes us concentrate totally. And then also the personal relationship between us has grown to friendship and in some twisted state of understanding each other.

In how far will your life change now "Sentenced" is gone or will be gone after the festivals? Because music was a big part of your life.
It will be a big change after the last concert. Sentenced has been a very important part of my life and I think I'm speaking for all of us. To let it go now feels very empty inside. Even something we're a bit afraid of maybe. But on the other hand it's as well as relief and a great satisfaction to see how the career is coming to the end and the way we managed to do it – to do something that is not really done before. Having a funeral for the band all the way from the album to photosessions, then the liveshows and so on. So it's a very interesting last trip these few months that are left and it is something that we are looking forward to very much. Even though it has this other side of letting go, but on the other hand we all know that this is the only right decision to make.

But you don't think you will be involved in other projects just like Ville with Poisonblack?
I don't think any of us can leave music, you know, writing songs or playing totally from their lives because it's something that we have grown to express ourselves with. If that is taken away completely it needs to be replaced sooner or later. In the future we will see how it will be replaced but certainly there has to be a new canal to pour the shit out (laughs).

If you look back at your time with Sentenced; are there things you will miss? Or are there things you think you won't miss at all?
I won't miss the touring, but I will miss the live shows… weird it sounds. And of course writing music with these guys, especially these four talented guys that are very good friends, has been something special and something that I'm going to miss, I'm sure. It is, however, the decision we have made and the decision we will stick to and it isn't the end of life to any of us and it isn't the end of friendship like it is for many bands. I will see about the rest of the stuff later, but those are basically the things I'll miss and all the other hassle going on around the music is something that I'm probably not going to miss.

Well, don't you think you will regret it afterwards? Because in the internet statement you said, “No, we won't come back. We won't reunite.”
No, not really thus we took all the time to think it over very thoroughly to reach this certainty that it is the thing we want to do. And we won't regret it, we will now be able to look back at this all with satisfaction that it's something that we kept pure. And we totally refuse to return and take a piss on what we have done before, it would be so stupid and I'd rather cut my wrist! (laughs).

Along with the new album you also release a DVD. Can you already reveal some details about it?
The main focus of it will be the very last concert of Sentenced and it will be out of the concert in our hometown Oulu and it will be a clubshow in a place that draws, I don't know, 2000 or 3000 people. Of course it will be also a very long set because we want to kind of make this retrospective and with it more or less not probably every album but almost every album and of course we will play with the idea of a “funeral”, too, of that it is the last day and we already have this coffin and we have to use it somehow and… (laughs). Then on the DVD we want to include also all the music videos we have done and some “behind the scenes” kind of material that we have from the past, like from the touring, backstage, and also we have a guy with us for the farewell shows just to take a camera and film what happens so maybe that will also produce something that is worth putting on the DVD. But it's starting to be quite full in the sense that the show already is two hours and if the “behind the scenes” material is maybe one hour and then all the music videos… we have to figure out how to fit everything in there or maybe make it a double DVD. There are a lot of ideas about it and the title will most likely be “Buried Alive” and it will be the memorabilia for ourselves but especially for the people who can't see us live this last year.

And will this be the final release really or will there come some 'greatest hits' albums after that?
That is not really up to us and we don't consider them even real releases. They are just shit to collect money with something old and we won't have the idea of putting a compilation out, but I'm on the other hand pretty certain that Century Media will have the idea and they can do it of course, why not? But there won't be really anything new on it and we don't consider it a new release so for us the ending is “The Funeral Album” in May and the DVD in… I don't know when it's released… but probably this year still.

Do you think that there's a “hole” in the Finnish Metal scene when you're gone or what do you think will happen with the Finnish Metal scene afterwards?
Well, we are not bearing the whole scene… (laughs)

No, of course not, but I think you had a unique style and almost created an own genre I would say…
Yeah, that has been one of our goals during the years to make something unique and something of our own. And maybe there will be some sort of void after Sentenced is no more. But still we hope that this hole is not filled with something else. I think what we have created should go to the grave with us and future bands and other existing bands should probably concentrate on creating something of their own as well. This is always more truthful than trying to repeat something that is already done.

I think that's all. Thanks for the interview.
Sure. You're welcome.

Links of interest:

Century Media