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An Interview with Jarkko Aaltonen of Korpiklaani

Over half a year after the extremely successful release of their seventh album, Ukon Wacka; we caught up with bassist Jarkko Aaltonen at their show in Helsinki this past weekend. Jarkko tells us about whats in the works for the future; including more folklore, more touring and the possibility of new album.

Moi! So first off, thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. How are you doing? Are you excited for the upcoming North American tour?

Yeah actually, I know I’m looking forward to it, and I think the other guys are as well. And especially the new violin guy Teemu, he hasn’t toured yet. But I like touring the USA. Obviously playing the smaller venues, but I actually like to tour the country because for a European it offers lot to see, because it’s a different country and you go around the whole fucking continent and see everything there is. Except Disney land, we haven’t been to Disneyland.

Well I think that kind of needs to happen! But otherwise, how are things with Teemu, I actually have not seen him live yet?

Really well so far! We’ve only done a few rehearsals and four shows but all has been good. As I’ve mentioned before the actual test of how the kids going to be will be the North American tour, and then the recording sessions for the next album. Because that’s just what we do, the touring and recording. I’m sure that it will work out!

Now, we at Metal Underground haven’t talked to you guys since 2009! Obviously you have had a new album out since then, Ukon Wacka. Now that took a bit of a different direction with a lot more pagan references, more folklore, entirely in Finnish- For us non Finnish speakers what can you tell us about the album?

Well you’re right, already on the previous album we have this idea to go more into traditional Finnish texts and not write much of our own, of course our own Finnish lyrics are based on tradition and folk lore, but before we’ve deliberately avoided using any Kalevala since there are bands that do that already. And then for the previous album we did a song about Ilmarinen the Blacksmith, and then what does Amorphis do at the same time, but release a whole album on the same guy. It didn’t work that well for us. But anyways it worked for us now, and we’ve sort of decided deliberately that we are not avoiding that anymore, because we used for the next album that will be recorded in a few months, we will be using more of the legends and old text. Of course not always directly from Kalevala but an adaption of that.

Tuomari Nurmio- I was lucky enough to see him with you guys here last February. That was an interesting addition, what prompted that?

Yeah well it was this thing that started from a joke. When Jonne sent us this first demo of the song, he sang in this way that sounded exactly like a young Tuomari, he had kind of a different approach when he was younger. And then we thought that would actually be hilarious to ask him to sing this song, and then our sound guy actually recorded and mixed Tuomari Nurmio’s live album; so we had this connection. So we told our sound guy, well ask if he is interested in the demo. And he was interested but he wanted to hear more, like what is this band, because we’re not that known for his generation, and we are not that known in Finland. So he had no idea what he was doing. So we sent him the whole album and he actually got really interested. "That’s fucking cool you are doing this really Finnish stuff and I had no idea!" And he’s known for working with different bands and he was really into that. Well he sang it! We did a live show with him here, and it was packed. We did that song, then also three or four of his that we arranged to more our style, I actually enjoyed it was really cool to have him and the man is a legend so it was really cool to share the stage with him. We had a plan of bringing him to some European festivals in summer but then he couldn’t go so we had cancel that. But it is not said that we won’t do anything in the future there is still there the possibility and we are still in contact so there is a small chance.

So folk music is something close to my heart at least, so I’m really curious as to how this started for you guys?

Yeah, we have this quite simple history because it’s basically based on Jonne’s time spent in Lapland.

With the Sami people.

Yeah, he moved there when he was like 18, 19 lived there for ten years, married one of the Sami people, a girl, luckily! And he got into their traditions, learned the Sami language. And when he moved back (he had this band there, a duo doing this traditional stuff there) and then he moved back to the south and thought “why don’t I combine this and metal”?

You guys have helped familiarize a lot of people outside Finland with this culture, How does it feel to be spreading your culture in such a positive way?

That is a difficult question! Because I don’t know how to feel, because I don’t think of it that way, that we are spreading anything. We are just doing what we want to do and we are just being Finnish. I’m proud of what we do, I don’t know how to explain the feelings being the whole thing. Ok, it is sort of cool to see though. Because when you go outside Europe you actually realize that you get some extra credit everywhere just for being a Finn.

Well said. One thing that really sets you guys apart from other metal band is how upbeat your music is. Is this a conscious decision, or does it just happen?

Well. We don’t really do conscious decisions in that sense. In any sense. But that is what comes out when we are composing. Now when I write a song it comes out a bit slow and heavy so completely different then what he does. Still we have done that before, but when this band plays that and records it for the album it actually sounds like Korpiklaani anyway. Still finding that you can bring any song into the band and it goes into whatever machine this is, and then out comes Korpiklaani.

Are you happy with everything you’ve accomplished this year?

I can never be happy with we’ve done, we can always do something a bit more!

Well in a perfect world what would you do?

I would like our band (because everybody knows that record sales are like shit nowadays) so I would like to be in a position like Motorhead. Their albums sell worldwide, maybe like 100,000 and they are really, really happy with that, and still you can put that band to headline any heavy metal festival, rock festival, any music festival in the world, and no one would complain. You can put Motorhead to headline any rock and roll show and everyone is happy with that. I’d like to be in that position.

Well you mentioned earlier you will be in the studio in a few months with a new album, can you tell me about that, are you writing yet?

Well the music is pretty much finished, it’s just the folk instruments, we still have some arranging to do. Music is pretty much there, have to rehearse and record though.

Well to close, what does it mean to be a Finn to you, what is quintessential Finland?

Being your own self, and not really caring about what the others are doing!

I like that. Well, have to say thank you, for sitting down with me and chatting. Have a great show!

No worries!

WandererOfKalevala's avatar

Rachel Roth has studied classical music and folk music at the University level, and enjoys studying Folklore in her spare time. She is an avid metal and folk music fan lucky enough to be living in Helsinki, Finland. Currently, she has expanded her love of music to include photography and freelance writing. You can see more of her photography here or at liliumphotography.com.

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