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Interview with Korpiklaani

Finnish Folk Metal Superstars Korpiklaani's new album “Jylhä” was released on the 5th February.  In celebration of the release of their 11th full-length, the band have produced several gorgeous music videos that are already available. Here's what frontman Jonne has to say about the new album “Jylhä”: "This is the most versatile Korpiklaani album we have done. We have some of our hardest, heaviest & fastest songs ever and we have the happy & melancholic ones. It is funny how you can do so many different kinds of music..."
Metal Imperium caught up with the band to find out more about the new release. Keep on reading…

M.I. - Korpiklaani is a natural representation of our journey in life, with music and emotions that can make us dance all night long. Would life be harder to endure if we didn’t have music? Has music “saved” you and made your life better?

Life would definitely be harder without music. It’s always been there. If everything else changes, music is something I can count on. There are so many situations in life where I listen to music: in a car, bus, plane, when I’m lonely, when I’m partying and a lot more. Now, that music is my main job, I really can say music has saved me.

M.I. – Korpiklaani are unique as you blend Finnish folk music with heavy metal. This has been your formula ever since the early days and it has worked wonderfully so far. How did you realize you had a winning formula in your hands?

We never thought it that way. We make music that we like and don’t think if it’s “working” or not. Though it’s nice to see that so many other people like it too. Music is something not to be looked at through formulas. It needs to come naturally.

M.I. – The new album “Jylhä” will be released on February 5th 2021. What’s the meaning of the title? What does it translate into?

It’s just an adjective which doesn’t have a straight translation in English. Usually, it’s used to describe a landscape or scenery. The closest you can get with majestic, rugged and wild. We chose this name because it describes exactly what this album is.

M.I. - “Jylhä” is a collection of tales of folklore, nature, celebration and three stories of murder, including the infamous Lake Bodom murder. Why have you opted to include such diverse themes? Being Korpiklaani such a lively, intense and “happy” band that helps people smile, how do the tracks about the murders fit in with the rest?

All the lyrics are written by Tuomas Keskimäki, who has been our lyricist for a while now. He had been reading books and articles about real murder stories in Finnish history just before he started writing texts for this album. With Jonne, they thought it would be a good idea to base some songs on those stories. So even though the music is uplifting, darker topics bring nice contrast to them.

M.I. - According to Jonne: ““Jylhä” is not just a battering heavy metal record, it’s also our most volatile full-length album to date.” What do you mean with volatile? What can fans expect?

It’s the diversity that the album has. Songs differ from each other quite a lot, but still form together a solid record. We don’t want to repeat something we have already done, so you can expect some new sounds and views but still not forget the roots of Korpiklaani.

M.I. - After “Leväluhta”, “Mylly” and “Sanaton maa”, the band presented the video for “Niemi”, which is based on the Lake Bodom murders, which resulted in 3 deaths and 1 injury. Why the interest in these murders? Has it something to do with the fact that they’re still unsolved?

No, like I said, it was one of those inspiring stories Tuomas Keskimäki read about before writing the lyrics. It’s true that it’s unsolved and still, time after time, we read the articles about the investigation from the newspapers.

M.I. - Jonne has mentioned that: “Niemi was one of the first songs for this album. I had a feeling after ' Kulkija ', that the next album could be the fastest and hardest ever in Korpiklaani's history. I looked at my Flying V, picked it up and here we are!" Has it turned out heavier as you expected?

Yes and no. It ended up being more versatile than Jonne planned in the first place. Even though there are probably the heaviest songs in Korpiklaani history included. 

M.I. - “Sanaton maa” is meant to be a throwback to the 80’s with a folky twist... why did you want to “go back in time”? 

Who doesn’t want to go back there? Golden age of hard rock and heavy. Okay, maybe it’s just us. We like that music and we want to show that.

M.I. - “Mylly” started taking shape when your ex-accordion player Juho Kauppinen had some song ideas that might fit Korpiklaani. The main riff caught your ear immediately and a couple of days the song was ready. What did it have that made it so special sounding? What caught your ear exactly? What is it about?

If I knew what it is, I would do only good riffs. A good riff is a good riff and that’s it. You just know when you hear one.

M.I. - "The album blasts off with belligerent track ‘Verikoira’, which was composed having Judas Priest's mighty ‘Painkiller’ in the back of our minds. One can also hear my vocal tribute to one and only Mr. Rob Halford ", reveals Jonne. Do you think it is a good tribute? How important has Judas Priest been for you as a person and a musician?

I think it’s a very good tribute. Of course, it’s not the meaning of the song, but it was a nicely sung verse, I can say. Halford and Judas Priest is very close to everyone's heart in this band. One of the bands we started with music.

M.I. - One of your closest friends within the metal scene, bass player Jack Gibson of thrash legends Exodus, makes a guest appearance with his banjo. How did this idea come up? 

We’ve been digging his banjo playing in his band Coffin Hunter for some years already. For us, it was pretty obvious who we are going to ask, if we need some banjo for our album. A year ago, they had a show in Tampere, Finland, and we were hanging with them backstage and started this talk about one song that needs banjo on it. Jack was interested and said we’d get back to this after their tour. We sent the song to him and he played his parts at home in Nashville two months later. 

M.I. - According to the band: “Using "Jylhä" as our solid steppingstone, we are able to reach completely new heights. For me, it's crystal clear that KORPIKLAANI has never been better." What do you want to achieve next? What’s your goal?

This is the question we ask ourselves always after the album is done. What’s next? You never know, that's the salt of it. We just live our lives and that is the biggest inspiration for us: life itself. Everything that happens, affects somehow also to the music we write. When looking back, it’s easier to see. That’s how it goes for us, not planning too much. 

M.I. - In your opinion, which are the elements a good song must have?

Good intro, nice verse, great chorus and classy ending.

M.I. - This album has a running time of over one hour and that has happened in the latest ones as well… why? Do you have more ideas and songs you want to release or a bigger budget?

Exactly. We always think the album as a whole and, from the material we had, nothing could have been left out. It has nothing to do with the budget.

M.I. - Markku Kirves has directed some of your music videos, such as “Mylly” and “Leväluhta”. Why do you enjoy working with him? Does he have great ideas?

On top of being a super nice guy, he has some great ideas also. All the five videos we did this time were absolutely professional work. He hasn’t been doing that many music videos for others, but it gives a bit of a different angle to these clips. He has a very unique style, I think. Also, the idea of connecting the stories with the same main character, actor Yrjänä Ermala, was something that hasn't been done before.

M.I. - The band released a video for «Sudenmorsian», your take on Powerwolf’s “Where The Wild Wolves Have Gone”. Why have you opted to do this song? Does it fit with the Korpiklaani spirit and style?

Yes, it fits very well. I think it was the only choice we talked about when Powerwolf asked to do this cover. What makes it even better, is Tuomas Keskimäki’s great Finnish text which is not just a translation but an awesome poem about the same theme.

M.I. - To celebrate the release of Jylhä you have announced two shows: one on the 5th February in Tampere and another one on the 6th February in Helsinki. Even though the shows were advertised as having  limited capacity to keep with safety guidelines, will they still happen? Most of Europe seems to be locked down and the shows are scheduled for next week already so…

Well, the new guidelines came in Finland, so we had to move those shows to September.

M.I. - The band is also scheduled to play some summer festivals, namely Tuska. Will it actually happen? If concerts aren’t possible, how do intend to promote the new album?

We are living uncertain times for sure. No one knows what’s going to happen next. Still we have to plan our future like it’ll be normal soon. Not having shows to promote the album was one of the reasons we made so many music videos to get some publicity with them instead.

M.I. - The band has an insane energy on stage. According to the band’s fans, your music, either live or on record, is capable of transporting us to a better place and wash away all earthly worries. The world is urgently in need of your music to light up our days in these dark days! What helps boost your energy? Alcohol? Drugs? Happiness? How do you feel knowing your music puts a smile on people’s faces? Is it one of the reasons why you started a band?

The best energy booster is a combo of music, good friends and alcohol. Oh wait, that’s our band. It’s nice to see that when we are happy it catches on. Interaction, especially live is very important for us. Cannot say it was the reason to start a band. 

M.I. - The band released a unique spruce-flavoured vodka with a live stream held at the Pyynikin Brewery. There’s even a Facebook post in your page which says “Drinking is good for you!”. Why is Korpiklaani always associated with drinking? Is it a way of having fun?

It is definitely a way of having fun for us. If you write 150 songs and three of them are named after alcoholic beverages and other three say drink in some form, that’s all people see anymore. It’s pretty obvious we are associated with drinking. But we are more proud than ashamed because that is a part of who we are.

M.I. - Korpiklaani has some strange merchandise available such as beard oil. How do you come up with these ideas? Do you use your own products?

Beard oil is a charity thing. It is a 2000 bottles limited edition and 5€/bottle goes to SYLVA to help fight cancer of children and youth. It is a collaboration with Partawa and Mad Viking Finland who were behind this whole idea. It is a nice beard oil all in all and I use it myself. The scent is awesome. Coniferous, which fits really good with the band image and the name Tear of Wilderness.

M.I. - Metallia Suomesta has a really cool playlist that features “Mylly” and “Leväluhta”. Do you often see the charts and statistics music platforms have regarding your music? Which is Korpiklaani’s most streamed song?

Of course, we keep an eye on those things, but not too much. In the end they are pretty predictable as Vodka is the most streamed song from us.

M.I. - The new album is fitting for the dark times, summed up well by the song ‘Huolettomat’ (The Careless). It talks about living in the present moment, alongside a story of joy and celebration. Today is today, tomorrow is uncertain. Is this the best advice for today’s society? 

Yes, it is. You shouldn’t be worrying about the future too much now because, like I said before, no one knows how it’s going to be or what’s going to happen. Only thing we know is how it is now. So, enjoy the moment.

M.I. - Please share a final message with Metal Imperium Webzine readers. Hope you start touring soon and come to Portugal and play! All the best!

Thank you for the interview! I was going to say the same about touring. Fingers crossed! Stay safe and healthy! In the meantime, listen to some good music! Cheers!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca