Happy Little Boozers

feature image

Back in May of this year I made the 2 hour trek to the Riot Room in Kansas City, Missouri to see Paganfest V. This years iteration was the usual mix of big name headliners in Finland’s Korpiklaani and Turisas, a little different flair with Taiwans’s Chthonic and Kentuckian Winterhymn. Of course my main reason for attending was to see to two Finnish folk heavyweights, who rarely make it to the midwest, let alone Missouri.

Having seen Korpiklaani twice before, once just two years ago in Lawrence, KS, I was really excited to see Turisas (who put on an incredible show) but I thought this might be the time to actually sit down with Korpiklaani and conduct an interview. I was able to sit down for a few minutes on the band’s rather ‘fragrant’ tour bus before the show with violinist Tuomas Rounakari and talk about Finnish metal, folk metal, US tours vs European tours and American food.

So how is the tour going so far? We just talked a minute ago about this being one of the last dates of this tour.

It’s going really good, it’s been very relaxed. For some reason we enjoy being over here. Maybe because it’s one of the best places in the world to go around in a bus.

That’s a good point. Each time I see you guys over here or read interviews and Facebook posts , I really get the impression you guys really enjoy being in the US. What is it you enjoy about being here in the US?

The are a number of reasons. First the audiences over here seem to respect the whole range of Korpiklaani songs, where as in Europe where the crowds get to see us more often and they get to see more folk bands more often. Over there we tend to have audiences that only look for certain songs but here the crowds appreciate anything we play and it makes it special to be here. We feel the fans over here really know and spend time with our music. Then there is a relaxed attitude in the US we really appreciate.

How many times have to been to the US now?

This is my second time in the US with Korpliklaani.

Have you had a chance to to anything truly cliched and  “American” while you have been here? Like say go to Disneyland or a Rodeo or go to a gun range and blow stuff up?

Well, we have seen a lot of diners! I had some disgusting, big breakfasts over here that I have loved. Let’s see… we had a great time in Hollywood. Me and our drummer Matson went to hang out with Christopher Brown, one of the writers for Beavis and Butthead and now he is a producer for a show on Disney, and he is a huge Korpiklaani fan. So we got to go and hang out on the set of a Disney show.

What’s the best food you have had while touring America?

San Francisco was amazing. I ate all day there the first time I went there. The Fisherman’s wharf was amazing as I grew up on the coast so I love seafood. I had the most amazing Thai place there as well. Food is very important to me when touring. I like to try stuff. The other guys stick to beer and 50 cent noodles!

I’m originally from Europe myself, so I have a bit of experience with the culture difference between Europe and American. But on this tour you have been to Canada- are there any striking differences that you notice about Canada?

The venues in Canada are different. Like here in the US (editors note: the venue is Kansas City was essentially a bar with a small stage with NO ventilation and the band had to cut their set short due to the heat in the venue) the venues are much smaller. In Europe and Canada the venues are much bigger and better — they have showers and other facilities. It’s weird that in the US that a lot of the venues don’t even have showers.

That actually reminds me about one of the questions I was going to ask later. You guys and Turisas especially are big on costumes with all the furs and folky attire. How do you keep that stuff  ‘clean’ while on tour? Do you get a chance to wash it at all?

I’m actually lucky I get to wear this light cotton tunic, so I manage pretty well, but on this tour we have been able to wash everything at least once so far. There is some sort of vent on this bus that we use to hang out clothes in front of to dry them out. But I remember on out last tour in the US the band would step up on the monitors and get near the crowd and the front row would actually take a step back because we smelled so funky! On stage I can tell who is behind me or next to me by the smell!

The last time I saw your was with  Moonsorrow, who smelled pretty funky too by the way, Estonia’s Metsatoll and Tyr. I can’t remember was that a Paganfest or Heathen fest or some other fest? Are those the only ways for European folk bands to get to the US?

Actually I think that tour was just us headlining our own tour with some other bands.  I’m not sure how that one came about. We were supposed to just tour with Moonsorrow and then all of a sudden Tyr and Metsatoll were with us too. We have done quite a few tours with Metsatoll now. We have done at least two European tours with them.

Metsatoll, like your guys seem to be much ‘bigger’ acts in their homeland and Europe. They have done shows with national orchestras and such.

Yeah. They are huge in Estonia, their own country. Where as we aren’t even doing that well in Finland. It’s kind of weird there are only a few types of bands in Finland. Either they play a lot abroad and hardly ever in Finland or they only play just in Finland. There are a few metal bands in Finland  that do very well domestically but don’t play anywhere else in Europe. We are the opposite, we play everywhere else in Europe an hardly in Finland.

That’s surprising I assumed you guys were huge rock stars in your home country. So making the switch from Napalm Records a few albums ago hasn’t impacted your popularity in your home country even?

No. You look at Nightwish also on Nuclear Blast, the band does their own PR in Finland. The label does no PR there. Finland is a weird place. You have to know people to make it.  We are certainly happy to be off Napalm. I wasn’t  in the band when we were on Napalm, but being on Nuclear Blast has improved a few things, like the production on our albums.

How many albums do you have left with Nuclear Blast?

We had a 4 album contract and Manala was out forth album with them. Within a couple of months we should have a new contract with them but it remains to be seen. Both us and them are open to another contract, so there are no obstacles, but you never know.

When you think of Finnish metal, you almost certainly think of folk metal like you guys, Finntroll, Turisas, Ensiferum. What is your opinion on that group of bands on how they represent Finnish metal and have put Finland on the metal map?

For me, Finnish metal starts with Amorphis. They are the ones that should get the most credit, even when it comes to Finnish mythology and even though it wasn’t folk metal, they openly used Finnish heritage of Finland like the Kalevala and put it into metal. Those early albums are amazing. Finntroll really are unique and all four of those bands you mentioned are a little different. We all get along together. We don’t compete, as we all bring something a little different to the sound. Turisas has that battle metal sound, but for us it’s all about fun. We have the fun factor, for us, folk is the attitude of dancing and having fun and just enjoying playing.

Yeah. I’m a die  hard death metal fan. I go to mostly death metal shows. So the show you guys did a few years ago with Tyr, Moonsorrow and Metsatoll was really my first ‘folk metal’ show and it was  completely different crowd and experience.  It was just a fun, happy crowd with everyone dancing and jigging as opposed to the circle of gruff dudes with their arms crossed nodding their heads. 

That’s right. Another difference with folk metal shows is that there are more girls too! We are more like a rock band in that sense, we get a more mixed crowd tan death metal. The girls at death metal shows want to be guys!

So you guys are the grizzled veterans of Finnish folk. You are eight albums in. Are there any young new bands to hand off the baton too or continue the legacy of Finnish folk metal?

It’s weird because Finland is such a serious place .  So us being in a fun metal band and having fun, not many folks like that. To do what we do in Finnish culture is a little against the grain  and in way the whole genre of metal. There really isn’t a whole new set of younger bands coming up because of that culture.

So what do you listen to in your spare time?

I enjoy progressive rock, folk rock and also weird stuff that does anything different. I listen to a lot of Jethro Tull. What Ian Anderson does with the flute I kind of do with the violin.

Speaking of violin playing, Turisas has a violin player also. Olli Vänskä. Do you guy compare playing notes on each others performances or have friendly competition at all?

Not really. We play very different styles. We discuss some technical things here and there, such as equipment. We are different in how we play and each bands’ music requires a little different way of playing. Olli is more traditionally trained and classical that goes perfect with Turisas’s big cinematic sound, where as mine is more folky and rhythmical going along with the guitars.

How long have you been playing the violin?

Since I was 7. I have played all sorts of music since then. I’ve played classical stuff and some improvisational stuff for years before I joined Korpiklaani. I have my own solo project, Shamanviolin which is based on more acoustic stuff with the violin and ankle bells. It’s sort of a one man show. That’s how Jonne (Järvelä, Korpiklaani’s vocalist) approached me. You have Jonne’s  interest in Finland’s indigenous people on the northern regions where shamanism exists and my project. Oh and alcohol!

Chthonic, the Taiwanese band on the tour uses and Er -hu- an Asian sort of violin. Have you had a chance to try and play it or conversed with them about the difference?

The Erhu is way different in all ways. I tried it years ago its very weird. The bow is attached. I like the sound . Chthonic is the darkest of the bands on this tour, Even the Er hu has a dark sound and isn’t  as up front as my or Ollie violins.

What has the feedback been to them? There style of darker black metal  seems a bit out of place on such as generally folky, happy, beer drinking group as this.

Personally, they are very polite and silent I have only really talked to one of them while on tour. They are really laid back and very cool to be on tour with.

If you could go on tour with any other bands who would it be?

One band I am really enjoying right now is Trollfest from Norway.  They have a fun factor too. The Tom Waits cover they did is fantastic. They are one of the only bands I know that really have some humor, I love their bumble bee suit and the albums are great. I would love to tour with them. We have had disillusions for years about touring with Finntroll, but it just hasn’t come together.

Manala came out about 2 years ago? Do you have any new material ready? Are you playing any new stuff on this tour?

No, we aren’t playing any new songs, but we are playing  some songs for the first time like “Kultanainen” from Karkelo.  We have never actually played it live before this tour.

Cool, but lets be honest, your set is about “Beer, Beer” and Happy Little Boozer” right? I assume you are still going to play those?

Oh of course, we could not come over here and not play those or “Vodka!”

You you have done Beer, Tequila and Vodka themed songs? When is the Whisky song coming?

Haha! It’s weird that those few songs are less than 10% of the bands output but get all the attention. We love to play them because the crowds go crazy. And of course alcohol is a big part of Finnish culture mythology, and of course us and metal. Ukon Wacka ( the bands 7th album) is a ceremonial brew that’s was brewed in the mid-summer solstice.

When can we expect a new album then? Is it pretty well done?

We go into the studio this coming fall. I hope we can release a new album in the beginning of 2015. We try to release an album every year, but we have been on the road constantly for the last year. I actually joined the band in the studio for Manala, then went on a bunch of tours. Also, Jonne just released his solo album so some of the demo music ended up there, so that delayed us a bit, but early 2015 should be the release date.





Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. All post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and need to be manually approved (so don't wonder about the delay). We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.