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From Beer To Vodka


Архив интервью | Русская версия

June 26 saw the release of the sixth album by Finnish folk metal band Korpiklaani mysteriously titled “Karkelo”. Shortly before this landmark event we got a phone call from the Finnish forest people’s bass player Jarkko Aaltonent, who is the sole person to speak to all foreign reporters – for the simple reason that the other band members are not too confident of their English skills. To tell you the truth, Korpiklaani to me (and I guess, not only to me) bears a strong relation to wild parties, rivers of alcohol, collective dances, choir singing and other joys of life. That is why I expected Jarkko to be a funny person skillfully evading tough questions or something like that. But it turned out completely the other way round. Jarkko is a very serious and thoroughly-thinking interview subject. He would concentrate on answering a question or simply tell me that he has nothing to say on the issue, and it’s time to move on. A very business-like conversation, indeed. And I thought I knew a thing or two about human nature…

I was told that you’re the only one from the band, who can make an interview in English. Is it true?

No, not entirely true. But I think it’s easier for me to speak with you.

The name of the band is “Korpiklaani”, and that means…

Yes, “clan of the forest”…

Exactly. And the thing I wanted to ask is: why do you call yourself that name?

Well, we all come from really small villages from different parts of Finland, so we basically are the people from the forests.

Ok. But it sounds like Greenpeace or something like that…

No-no-no. (laughs) We are not an association. And we are not associated with any things like that.

So you don’t care that much about the environment and nature, do you?

Oh no, I didn’t say that! That’s another thing. But we are not a part of any kind of movement officially.

Still you have some kind of propaganda in your videos. For example, with the man being punished for cutting trees. Or is it just a joke?

You are talking about the video “Keep On Galloping”. The whole idea of the video was not ours. It was the director’s idea. And we all thought, that the story and the script went too far… That was not our intension at any point.

Ok, let’s talk about your new album. Its name means “pleasure” or “party”, so it must be full of fun and good mood. Am I right?

Hmmmm… Well, yes. Usually our albums are like that. The album has a lot of up-tempo, basically tricking songs. There is plenty of partying for people who want that. But the album also has a sort of “different side”. There’s also quite heavy stuff.

And what about the lyrics?

Well, they are basically the same that we have had for a few years now. And we have a lot of stuff inspired by the Finnish mythology, culture, folklore and traditions.

Some kind of “traditional themes”…

Yeah-yeah. For quite a lot of time we were avoiding taking any characters or ideas from Finnish national epos “Kalevala”. But now we have dropped that idealistic attitude and we have actually used a couple of characters from “Kalevala”, for example, to write the lyrics.

Some of your songs are in Finnish and some are in English. Why?

Well, we don’t try to decide things like that. It’s just like that: for some songs the lyrics come out in English and for some songs they don’t. There’s no any sort of “meeting”, where we decide it. Things just happen like that, or songs “just happen like that”. The English lyrics are mostly written by Jonne, but the Finnish lyrics are written by Juha Jyrkäs, a friend of ours.

The first single for the album is called “Vodka” – what can you say about it?

Well, it is a tribute to a drink. There’s not much about it. We’ve just written a song with a catching melody, and the lyrics are about… You are from Russia, you should know what they’re about! It’s about vodka. (says the word “vodka” in such a special tone)

And you decided that this “catchy” song should represent the album…

That was probably the record company’s idea, not ours.

You often sing about alcohol drinks: “Beer Beer”, “Let’s Drink”, “Vodka”…  Why are you so “deeply interested” in this stuff?

(coughs) I read somewhere a few years ago… I can’t remember who it was, I believe it was one of famous novel writers. When someone asked him: “How do you become a good writer?” – he said that the first rule is that you should write about the things you know.

But there’s a kind if stereotype, that all the people from Northern countries are heavy drinkers…

Oh, that’s a different thing.  We’re making that as well. Yeah! You know, there are a lot of songs about beer and a lot of songs about whisky, but there are not enough songs about vodka.

So you’ve decided to change the situation, I see…

Yes, and if we take a song name like “Vodka”, then there’s nothing else left, no one can write anymore. We have taken the best title that you can get for a song about vodka.

Great! We seem to have discussed all the important themes lyrics-wise. And what about the music? Do you have any surprises for your fans?

For the first time in the band history I’ve got two my songs on the album. They are musically a bit different from the other stuff that is mostly written by Jonne and Juho. I guess my musical background is different. I’m writing slow and heavy stuff. Usually when you think about Korpiklaani, it is about really cool tricking songs that are fast, hilarious and happy. And on this album it’s totally different, and that’s ME writing songs that are slow and heavy and all “doom and gloom”, you know… There’s something that’s different on this album.

Can you name the songs you’ve written?

Yes, they are “Uniaika” and “Huppiaan Aarre”. Both in Finnish. It’s Juha who wrote the lyrics.

I wanted to ask you a few questions about your recording process. On your web-site you have this touching story about your great time at Petrax Studio (an especially charming part is the tale of the studio owner’s dog, whose barking was also recorded for the album)…

Actually, at Petrax Studio we only recorded the drums.

And where did you record all the other stuff?

We did drums at Petrax. The reason why we did drums there was that they have a really big recording room. You know, you can get really good drum sounds, if you have the ambience microphones far away from the drums. But the rest of the album was done in Lahti, at Grooveland studio. The whole studio thing was basically the same as we’ve done all the time. But this time we were actually with a different producer. And actually we were playing much more. He was demanding more from us, than the previous producer. So that was the difference in working in the studio. And the whole atmosphere was a bit different, because usually there was only Jonne who had the final say for songs and for what we do in the studio. But we have a deal now with our new producer, that he’s the one who sets how it goes. So all the arrangements differ a bit. We had a new producer who had a new kind of attitude and a new kind of vision of how the band should sound like. I don’t know if a “normal listener” can hear the difference, but we ourselves hear it and feel it.

I see. But does the recording place affect you? Is it important for you to have a special atmosphere while recording your music?

Not really, because studios are studios. When you’re working, you’re inside a building, and they are all the same. And then when you’re not working, you go wherever you want. I don’t think it has such a great effect.

Do you do anything else for living except playing in the band? As far as I know all of you have some other professions.

Some of us do, yes. I work as a GPS engineer.

I know that you tour a lot. You’ve already played not only in Europe, but also in Israel, Canada and the U.S. Where do you like playing most of all?

That’s not very different. You see, we usually had a really good audience anywhere, so I don’t think that we have any favorites.

But are you impressed by traveling and seeing other countries, or is I like “I’d better stay at home”?

Of course I am! That’s one of the best parts of the business that we need to travel around the world and we don’t have to pay for that, and we’re actually getting money from that! (laughs) And we feel like we’re in a “privileged” situation, because we can do things like that.

You used to tour with many different bands – is it like “we think these guys are cool, so we’d tour with them”?

Usually when we tour it’s something like Paganfest or whatever and we don’t choose the bands that we tour with. (Says it not very happily)

You don’t seem to like any of them, do you?

We have never toured with any band we didn’t like.  We’ve always had excellent time with different bands. For example with Finnish band called Moonsorrow. They are brilliant guys. We’ve toured a lot with Eluveitie from Switzerland. I think all the bands we have toured with have been a good company.

And what about your future plans? Is there any band you’d like to have as a company for new concerts?

I don’t really know. I haven’t thought about that.

I have quite a special question… Your singer Jonne has such an interesting microphone stand with the horns of a reindeer. Is it because he used to perform in a restaurant named “Hullu poro” (“Crazy Reindeer”)?

No, it has nothing to do with that.

Then why do you have them?

Because they look cool.

But it looks like a kind of symbol. You have these horns on your single cover as well…

Of course it’s a symbol of many things. It’s a symbol of the whole Northern culture and the whole Northern attitude to whatever.

Talking about the covers for your albums – do you have one and the same artist who creates all of them? Is it he who decides what to depict there?

For a long time already our album artist has been a man called Jan Yrlund. He used to be quite well known in Finland, because he played in one of the first speed- or thrash- band in Finland in the late 1980s. And nowadays he’s doing cover art or merchandise art or whatever. I thing the ideas for album covers come mostly from Jonne. I think Jonne is the one who always have some sort of ideas.

Are you going to play in Russia this year and what do you think about our country and Russian fans?

Hmmm… I don’t know where we’re gonna play next time… I’m a sort of surprised that we haven’t been there for quite a long time, because we usually had been there at least once a year. And now we haven’t. I think it’s been quite a long time already from the last time. And I don’t know why it’s like that. But we always had really good time in Russia. For some reason Saint-Petersburg has been quite a difficult town for us, but in Moscow we always had a brilliant audience. The last couple of times… or three times… that we’ve played there, we’ve been in this club called Tochka or however you pronounce the name… It’s a really good venue to play. It’s been full of fans every time, so it’s been really good to play there. And I really don’t know why we haven’t been there for a while.

You know, some say that Russian and Finnish people are quite similar in some ways. Do you think so?

Well, I don’t think so. Of course there are some cultural similarities, because we have neighboring countries, but I don’t think we’re so close anyway.

Then do you see any great differences? Can you name them?

Ho-ho-ho! (laughs) No, not right now. Not when you ask.

Do you want to say something to your fans in Russia? I believe they miss you and want to see you here as soon as possible.

No, I don’t really have much to say to anyone. (sounds confused)

Ok, then thank you and bye!

Have a good night.

Korpiklaani on the Internet: http://www.korpiklaani.com

Special thanks to Yuri Surgeon (Irond) for arranging this interview

Ksenia Artamonova
June 4, 2009
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