Beer! Beer!

feature image

Dedication (n): getting up at 5.30am to interview one of the most exciting bands in Finnish folk metal who unfortunately (for me) happen to reside in an entirely different time zone. Then finding out one of you must be on daylight savings and consequently staying up until 1.30am interviewing one of the most exciting bands in Finnish folk metal. Korpiklaani literally translates to ‘Forest Clan’, and they play an exciting and novel form of organic folk melodies and traditional metal. I conversed with bass player Jarkko Aaltonen regarding the bands roots, their live act and their future endeavours.

First and foremost, please explain to the readership what Korpiklaani is to those who may not be in the know.
Well, Korpiklaani is a folk metal band from Finland. Loud guitars, fast tempos combined with traditional melodies and traditional instruments. A great band to see live.

According to the official Korpiklaani site, Korpiklaani emerged out of the ashes of Shaman with a stronger metal lean away from the pure traditional Finnish folk sound. I know this is more a question of Jonne, but what do you think fundamentally motivated this change?,
As far as I know, there was no one particular reason for the change. The first Korpiklaani album was originally going to be released as Shaman anyway, so the change was on its way even before the name change. I guess it was just natural progression. Apparently Jonne as the main writer wanted to do more metal oriented music. I know Jonne already from the mid-80’s and we both grew up listening to mostly metal so I guess it’s kind of natural that it shows at least somewhere.

Just on that, your music is very upbeat and ‘cheerful’ sounding for lack of a better word regarding metal; do you ever find yourselves somewhat alienated from the majority of the metal scene with its sometimes angry and perennial gloom and doom?
Well, no. There’s plenty of room for all kind of bands. Of course it would be an odd pairing if we were touring with for example a Norwegian black metal band with full corpse masks and all, but then again you can’t judge a book by its cover. They have their mission, we have ours. For us it is important to see all those smiling faces in the audience, for a doom band probably some other things are more important. But as I said, we don’t think of ourselves so much different.

For me, Voice of Wilderness is a roaring good time, and every time I hear it I imagine drunken ho-downs and joyous celebration. Is this your intention for the music?
Exactly! In another interview that I did recently I was asked about the time Jonne spent in Lapland with Sami people. I obviously had to forward the question to Jonne and his reply was hilarious and it also defined Korpiklaani’s music quite well. His time up there was going to be some sort of a search for his true self, but all he could find was booze, women and funny music. And those are the elements that our music is made of. The whole point is to give the audience a few moments of relaxation and fun.

It sounds like he found his true self. What is your personal history with the band Jarkko?
Yeah, he definitely did. Although that is probably the true self for most of the Finns.My history with the band is rather short. I guess it was in May this year when I got a call from an old friend of mine (and Jonne’s) who asked if I had any interest in joining Korpiklaani. Although we were old friends with Jonne we hadn’t really been in touch with each other for years except for a few occasional moments like a Black Sabbath concert or our friends wedding. I hadn’t really followed his career with Shaman or Korpiklaani so I wasn’t familiar with the music. Our friend gave me the albums to listen to and a couple of days later I said “yes”. Jonne e-mailed me the set list so that I could learn the songs from the albums. I did, and then Jonne told me that they are actually playing some of them in a different key nowadays so I had to learn them again! We only had two band rehearsals before my first gig with band, which was in early June. The first rehearsal session was without the “folk group” Juho and Hittavainen. They were supposed to be there in the second rehearsal session but Hittavainen was late as usual so I actually ended up on stage with some songs never rehearsed with full band! Apart from that, it’s been great. Excellent people, great company.

Yeah I was wondering about that, with such a large band and such a diverse sound is it sometimes hard getting it all together on the live stage i.e. as far as performance and mixing etc are concerned? And how often do you practice; do you usually practice as a whole band?
We don’t really practice that much. The set list has been pretty much static for the gigs I’ve played. The rest of the guys know those songs already extremely well, but if we have a longer break between the gigs I play the songs a couple of times through at home before we hit the road. Now that the recording of the new album is getting closer we’ve been practicing more often. Of course it’s mainly just new songs, but also some of the old ones. We would of course want to practice as the whole band but Hittavainen lives so far away that it’s too much to ask him to come to every rehearsal. Juho used to live quite far as well but he moved a couple of months ago so we now usually get 5 out of 6 to the rehearsals. Not too bad.

New album? Can you give us any exclusive news on what we might expect as far as direction/release dates etc go?
As far as I know, there is no exact release date set yet. Some time next spring. March is probably a good guess. We were supposed to start recordings in December. Then it was moved to mid-November. And then our very short tour in the end of November turned into two weeks and more dates keep on appearing so I am not so sure anymore that we manage to record the album in time. The direction is maybe getting even more guitar riff oriented. But I can’t be sure until Hittavainen has added all the usual bells and whistles! We’ll add 3 or 4 of the new songs to the set for the dates starting from November 25, so you can come and hear them yourself :)

Just on touring, from what I can see on the website the band is currently on tour, how is that going? Also I see you played the Summer Breeze festival where you shared the stage with bands such as Amon Amarth and Behemoth; what was it like playing alongside really heavy bands such as that? Was the crowd receptive of Korpiklaani?
We are not on tour right now. We are actually on a two months break! Summer Breeze was brilliant. We had a crappy 30-minute spot in the middle of the day, but to our big surprise thousands of people showed up just to see us. That was the biggest audience I’ve ever played, and I nearly wet myself on the stage when I saw the crowd. We started with Journeyman and the crowd went crazy. It was just unbelievable feeling to hear the chorus coming back to you from the audience. To me it seemed like we were the great refreshment between all the “doom and gloom” that you mentioned earlier. The audience liked us and also the organizer liked us because we’ve already talked about next year�s appearance with a longer set later in the evening!

Thanks very much for your time Jarkko, and myself wish you and Korpiklaani all the best in your future endeavors.

Thank you! And have good night (or morning)!


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.