PiercingMetal Talks To Korpiklaani’s Jarkko Aaltonen (7/11/2006)

Logo - Korpiklaani

How do you describe the band Korpiklaani to someone who has never heard of the name before? How do you possibly explain a Metal band that has a larger than usual lineup to best deliver their brand of Folk-Metal because the use of the traditional instruments is so necessary. Very simply, you cannot accomplish this task with any ease whatsoever as any discussion requires you to have a CD player or computer to offer immediate example of the cool brand of Metal these guys are delivering. Folk Metal has been around for awhile, and can be heard in bands like Finntroll and Skyclad among a host of others. Yet of them all Korpiklaani stands out a little more since the music has more of an accessibility than the others. The band has never toured the US and given their being based in Finland the easiest way to do this interview would be via email. I tried to keep the ideas to a degree where readers could hopefully learn more about the band and dig deeper into their music. Answering the questions would be the bands bassist Jarkko. Here is what he had to say.

KP: To begin this, I find that Korpiklaani really takes the aspect of “Folk Metal” to the next level. We have heard this type of music done in Finntroll and Skyclad but it truly seems that Korpiklaani “kicks it up a notch or two”. What are your thoughts on that and have you heard this before.

Jarkko: Of course we’ve heard a lot of different comments and comparisons. Quite often we’ve been compared to some bands that I’ve never heard before so I’ve then bought one or two of their albums and checked them out myself. Skyclad for example is one of those. I really enjoyed that album but I really couldn’t hear the resemblance, except that both bands have a violin. Musically and especially lyrically really different. Same goes to Finntroll. We’ve been categorized to the same genre but musically we’re quite different. Most of the folk metal bands are basicall metal bands with some folk elements thrown in when Korpiklaani’s roots are originally in folk music and the metal part has been added later. On the latest album the metal part became a bit more dominant without losing much from the folk melodies, so I guess we’ve found a right balance between those two and some people like you will find that combination quite interesting!

KP: What led to the formation of Korpiklaani out of all the things that make a band form. How long did you guys know one another and was it always a plan to form a band together.

Jarkko: Korpiklaani was never exactly formed. It has developed to it’s current form over the last 10 years. It’s roots are in the fully acoustic folk music duo which later developed into more metal oriented Shaman which was then forced to change it’s name while recording the third album which then came out as Korpiklaani’s first album Spirit Of The Forest The lineup has also changed quite a lot. Some members have met each other in the first rehearsals and some have known each other longer. For example Jonne and myself have known each other from the mid-80’s but the rest of the guys I met the first time when I joined the band.

KP: Instead of forming a more power or melodic based Metal band, you went the route of Folk Metal. Since Finland has been known for putting some of the greatest Metal around today out on the market (nightwish, sonata arctica and him and 69 eyes among them). I wondered what made you decide on the genre out of all these other types of music to play.

Jarkko: As I partially explained in the previous answer this band was never formed to be a folk metal band. The music as well as the lineup have developed naturally to their current form. The first music we really got interested in as kids were the 1980’s metal bands like W.A.S.P, Iron Maiden and Motorhead and then later Jonne went to totally different direction with his Sami folk stuff. Current style is just a natural combination of all that.

KP: what bands inspired this idea in your own heads and made you follow this path instead of doing something different. Or was it all based on your deep love of Folk melody that you just did this.

Jarkko: The age difference between the youngest and the oldest member of this band is 13 years. Some of us were actually going to metal concerts when some of us were not even born yet! All that means that our own favourite bands are naturally quite different. However, the common thing is that everyone is into metal in it’s different forms. The main writer Jonne got really deep into the folk stuff in the early/mid-90’s and Hittavainen is a strange combination of Manowar and folk, so the musical style of the band is just a result from a natural progression.

KP: Who’s idea was it to employ such a wide variety of instruments as opposed to just having a core band and perhaps using samples of these sounds via a keyboard or sampling computer.

Jarkko: One of the basic ideas has always been, that this band will never use synths or samplers to replace the original real folk instruments. That would of course be the easy way, especially live, when the acoustic quite silent instruments are really difficult to use, but there are some things that are important to us and those instruments are one of those.

KP: Do you think the large number of musicians in the group makes touring difficult.

Jarkko: I don’t think it matters how many members there is. It only takes one asshole to ruin it from everyone. Luckily for us, this band don’t have any of those! This band has six really different individuals who have great time together and touring and playing live has so far been the best part of the job!

KP: “Voice Of Wilderness” was a wonderful album. Comparing that one to the most recent effort “Tales Along This Road”; How does one differ from the other and are you more proud of this new album than the last.

Jarkko: “Tales” is my first album with the band so I can’t really answer the last part of the question. Otherwise I think that there are actually quite big differences. The first and most notable is the addition of a fulltime accordion player which makes the overall sound on the album quite a bit “folkier”. Otherwise the songs on the album are in my opinion a lot heavier than previously, and many of are based on hard guitar riffing instead of just folk melodies. Sometimes the guitars are are even very thrash metal like, most notably on Kirki One thing that I am proud of is that the album has no filler tracks. Every song deserves it’s place on the album which was not necessarily the case with all the songs on the previous albums.

KP: This one seems a little more commercially accessible, and I don’t mean in the way of selling out, I mean more in the content being a little easier on the new listener. Was this the idea to follow when the material was being written or did it just happen this way.

Jarkko: It just happened that way. The main writer Jonne has become more productive over the years and he just comes up with better material all the time. What you hear on the album is just a tip of the iceberg. And we must not forget Juho’s contribution either. He wrote one of my favourites “Midsummer Night” which I think is one of those “easy to new listener” songs with a really catchy theme melody.

KP: The music of Korpiklaani as a whole comes across as more of a Festival in the woods kind of band. I see myself enjoying your performance with friends drinking good amounts of ales and doing a lot of dancing. Do you get a lot of people telling you that this happens to them

Jarkko: Yes, we do indeed. That’s what we’ve tried to achieve and hearing that happening is really rewarding to us. Funny thing is that it happens to us also when we are playing. We just have to start drinking and dancing!

KP: Let’s talk about likes and dislikes now. What is the groups favorite Folk Metal bands and what about them gives them the status of being something you all hold as high on your list.

Jarkko: I can only speak for myself and my opinions are not necessarily even close to the others’ Lately I’ve been listening to Swiss group called Eluveitie. We’ve played with them a couple times and I finally got their new album a couple of weeks ago. They also use genuine old instruments and have also stayed true to their folk heritage.

KP: Out of the crop of other style of Metal bands, who do you like the most.

Jarkko: This is always changing. Lately I’ve been listening to a Finnish band called Verjnuarmu, but then again I’ve also been listening to Scorpions’ Tokyo Tapes live album from the 70’s!

KP: How do you find the level of popularity and acceptance is to what
you are doing. I wondered about how you are received in Finland and
the rest of Europe overall.

Jarkko: In the central Europe we’ve had an excellent reception. We’ve been able to play there quite often, three tours in the last 10 months in fact, and all of them have been really successful. For some reason in Finland we haven’t made that kind of impact. At least not yet. We did a couple of festival shows here lately and we are hoping that they’ll bring us some more gigs at home as well.

KP: Do you find enough attention coming from the states to merit a
tour over here. If yes is the case when do you think it will happen
and who do you foresee coming along with you.

Jarkko: The attention is not enough. We would need someone to pay for those concerts as well and so far no one has volunteered! We haven’t even spoken about the US tour so I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon. Then again, I’ve already seen that some things happen really fast when the time is right…

KP: Would you prefer to headline or open for someone bigger and more
established? If so who is that dream band to perform with.

Jarkko: In the US where we are practically an unknown band it would probably be wiser to open for someone. Businesswise the main band should probably be someone who has at least partially the same audience as we would have, but if we ever get to choose that we would probably pick someone who is our favourite band so that we just get to hang out with them. Never mind the concerts 🙂
Seriously speaking, I believe something like Ozzfest would be a best way to start in the US. Sharon, did you hear that?

KP: How do you see Korpiklaani fitting in with the rest of the Metal

Jarkko: With no problems at all. The metal world and the metal people are in my opinion really open minded and they recognize good music when they hear it!

KP: What’s in your music player right now?

Jarkko: Right now? Hayseed Dixie covering AC/DC: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. (this is a bluegrass rendition of the Aussie rockers classics for those unaware of what he is talking about)

KP: how did you feel about your Countrymen in Lordi winning that
recent Eurovision Song contest 2006. Do you think Metal is gaining
more ground or being taken for granted.

Jarkko: I don’t care about the band or their music, but I think their victory did quite a lot of good for the song contest itself. At least they showed that there’s a limit on how far you can get with silicone and botox! Then again you can nowadays see old grannies walking on the streets in Lordi shirts which can be seen as a kiss of death for Lordi and hard rock in general!

KP: Any closing words for the readers?

Jarkko: This is always the hardest part of the interview. Umm. No?

The music of Korpiklaani is truly enjoyable and it’ hard to find yourself listening to it and not being ready to dance, gather with friends over open fires and enjoy gallons of “beverages”. You can find their CD’s on Napalm Records and all can be ordered via Amazon.com which is always a bonus. If you are one of those folks who gets into stuff before the rest of the world then I highly recommend you also be the person to look into Korpiklaani, Only through investigation and interest can a band like this ever tour over here. Let’s help to make it happen.

Official Website: www.korpiklaani.com

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