Think you can't dance to metal songs? Well, think again. Put on any album from the Finnish folk-metal band Korpiklaani and watch your feet start to tap and your legs begin to sway along with your banging head. That's the kind of reaction the body gets when hearing albums like Spirit of the Forest, Voice of Wilderness, and the bands latest Tales Along This Road. Combining folk with metal is nothing new, as group's like Skyclad and recently Finntroll have brought lots of new sounds and styles to the metal genre, but none have quite the impact as Korpoklaani, who use violin, accordion, woodwinds, and traditional Finnish instruments alongside the normal guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. It's music to play at your local watering hole while hoisting a pint of your favorite ale up high. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with bassist Jarkko to talk about the band, their style, and the new album.
Read on for the complete interview!
Sea of Tranquility: The band has now been around for a few years and has a couple of releases -has the vision of Korpiklaani stayed constant over the years? How have things changed for you over the years?
Jarkko: I think the vision has been clear all the time. The music itself may have changed for various reasons. The vision was and still is to combine the traditional Finnish music and mentality to metal so, that the result is melodic, fast, heavy and extremely fun. Many things inside the band have changed during the years. A lot of members have arrived and left. Some of them left their mark on the band, some didn't. The most important change in this respect is however the main writer Jonne's transformation to a really productive music machine who has extremely clear vision of the band and it's
SoT: The new album Tales Along This Road is even more accessible and infectious than Voice of Wilderness-how has reaction been so far to the new album, and do you feel that you are gaining new fans with each release?
Jarkko: Reactions have been really good. The Finnish reviews have been the same as
usual, not a word about the songs, but a lot of stuff that has nothing to with the music. For example from the US we've however received excellent reviews and this is actually the first one of our albums that will be released in the US as well. The previous ones were only available as imports, so I believe that this album will indeed get us some more fans from the other side of the Atlantic. Reactions in the Europe have been really good as well. I think the combination of a really good album to promote and three European tours in the last 9 months have done quite a lot of good for our future.
SoT: The music of the band, while still metal at heart, is taking on much more folk influences, giving the overall feel more of a "party" and danceable feel rather than pure headbanging. Is that a planned direction?
Jarkko: To my ears the new album always sounded much heavier and more aggressive
than the previous ones. That is probably because of the massive guitar riffs that many of the songs are based on. However, many people have also said that they really like the new more folky approach which I at first found a bit strange, but then someone, probably Jonne, pointed out that we now have a full time accordion player in the band and he's playing a lot of stuff on all songs which will definitely make the music sound more folky, regardless of the guitar riffs in the background. So, we didn't really think about moving to more folky direction, but the addition of the accordionist Juho may have done that accidentally. I'd say that the new album is both more folk and more metal!
SoT: Korpiklaani is quickly being hailed as one of "the most fun" metal bands to listen to. How does it feel to be a band that listeners love to listen to and really have a good time, drink and dance to?
Jarkko: It feels great. That is exactly what we try to do. The smiling faces in the audience really make all the concerts worthwhile. It doesn't really matter how big the audince is. If we get them all smiling and dancing, it's always great. The metal genre today is full of bands all dressed in black, singing about death, torture, pain or whatever negative things in life. They have their own place in the business and deserve the respect on their own, but our aim is to do things differently.
SoT: Does the band play live often? If so where, how often, and do you plan to come over to the US any time soon?
Jarkko: Lately we've been playing quite often. In March-April we did a 20-concert
tour in central Europe, last week we were in Russia and from June 10th will start a
long line of festival concerts around Europe including also the greatest of them all, Wacken Open Air in August. The new European tour for the end of the year is also already in the works. I guess we have to see how the new album starts to sell in the US before we make any detailed plans about touring there. The band is of course willing
to play anywhere, but there are no planned dates anywhere outside Europe at this
SoT: Can you talk about each member of the band these days, and their role as far as instruments played, songwriting, etc.
Jarkko: Starring in alphabetical order:
Cane - guitar, backing vocals
Hittavainen - violins, pipes, flutes, bagpipe, mouth harp, etc. etc.
Jarkko - bass
Jonne - guitar, vocals
Juho - accordion, backing vocals
Matson - drums
Jonne is the main writer. Hittavainen has done a couple of tracks in the past and will probably do a few in the future as well, but he was just too lazy to finish anything for this one. Juho wrote two songs for this one and already has written some stuff for the next one, so the pressure is no more only on Jonne.
SoT: How did the band come together?
Jarkko: The bands roots are in the fully acoustic folk duo that Jonne was in in the mid-90's. Later Jonne added a full band behind that and it became the band called Shaman who did two albums under that name. Shaman could be considered as Jonne's solo project because the lineup was under a constant change and probably every concert was played with a different personnel. Later it started to settle down, but another major change came when the band was recording it's third album. Ex-members of Angra founded another band called Shaman and our Shaman was forced to change it's name and it became Korpiklaani, so the first Korpiklaani album was actually supposed to be the third Shaman album. There were some major personnel changes after Voice Of Wilderness. Both the third guitarist Honka and the percussionist Ali left to concentrate on another things in their lives. The band decided not to replace them. The band had
previously used accordion on some the songs on the albums and when Juho offered himself for the permanent accordionist, Jonne decided to hire him. Around a year a ago it became evident that the bassist Arto was going to serve his time in the Finnish army and the band needed a replacement for some of the summers concert. That's when Jonne contacted me. I was going to do only those shows that Arto couldn't make it to, but then he told that he may not continue with the band after his service anyway, so I joined as permanent member. That's where we stand now, and this is the we want to keep. Six different individuals who have great time touring and making music together.
SoT: What are the bands influences?
Jarkko: I am not sure which, if any, particular folk artists are the main influences since that side of our music is not really my cup of tea. On the metal side the earliest influences are all those great 80's bands like for example W.A.S.P. in it's prime. Other names I could give are for example Motörhead, early Metallica and many speed/thrash bands from tha era.
SoT: How is the music scene these days back in your homeland? Finland seems to be a hotbed for metal bands these days, with bands like HIM, Children of Bodom, Stratovarius, etc gaining worldwide exposure.
Jarkko: That is true. Metal is quite popular in Finland and some of those bands have
also been accepted by the wider audience and they have became sort of mainstream. However, Finland is still mostly about those same artists than any other country.
The music scene in general is very much alive in Finland. Apart from the strong metal scene there is a large number of those smaller sub cultures with their own music. The punk scene is really strong in Finland and quite well known around Europe as well, but you never seem them in the TV like you can see for example HIM.
SoT: Has the band begun to get exposure in other markets besides the metal genre?
Jarkko: I don't really know about the markets, but at least few times I've met some
young people at our concerts asking to speak with Hittavainen or Juho, because
they are playing for example accordion and just came to see that instrument used in a really different environment. I believe someone was actually asking tabulatures for violin on our website forum at some point. Maybe we are actually ruining some talented and promising violinists and accordionists with our use of those instruments!
SoT: What does the near future hold for the band?
Jarkko: As mentioned earlier, we have quite a busy summer with all those festival
concerts. We'll spend most of weekends in aeroplanes above Europe. Later this
year we'll probably do another headlining tour in the central and southern Europe and after that it's time to start with the new album. And then the cycle starts again!
(Click here to read our review of the CD Tales Along This Road)