If you like to party, if you like folk instruments, and if you like music that puts a smile on your face and some pep in your step, you are surely familiar with KORPIKLAANI. Their latest album, “Kulkija,” was released on September 7th, 2018, so we met with vocalist/songwriter Jonne Järvelä at Cafe Bergga in Helsinki to discuss the new album and the various folklores that influenced it.
First of all, how’s everything going with KORPIKLAANI right now?
Really good. Excited about the new album release on Friday [07 September 2018]. Also we are going to Russia this Friday as well, so we are back!
I noticed that you guys, back in the day, released an album more or less once a year, and now it’s been more like 2-3 years between albums. Is there any reason for the longer breaks between releases?
Other works. I made two solo albums. I made those albums because I wrote some songs which didn’t fit with KORPIKLAANI but I wanted to put it out anyway. So it took some time to do it. Also, we are doing other work as well. Mixing some other bands. We have our own studio nowadays also, so I want to do that work. And then we are touring a lot as well. I think we are working all the time [laughs].
Do you see the band ever going back to yearly releases, or do you think the situation has changed permanently?
I don’t know, because it depends on how the songs build up. If we have a lot of songs, we would like to record them quite quickly, because we want to get them out of our minds. It’s a good way to get rid of things, to record and put it out. Then it’s out there. But I have no idea about what we are going to do. Actually, right now I feel really good that I don’t have any KORPIKLAANI songs waiting for a record. It feels quite free.
For the English-speaking fans out there – obviously your songs are almost always in Finnish these days – can you tell us a bit about what the songs are about, or any themes on the album?
There is only one character on this album, a vagabond or wanderer. There is a whole circle of life from his eyes. There are girls, then he’s trying to keep them, but he’s also losing them, he wants to kill himself, but also he’s drinking with friends. I think everyone is a kind of a free wanderer in a way, so it’s about all of us, in a way. But it’s not so strict.
More like different stories from the same character, as opposed to a linear storyline?
Yes, exactly like that. Before, many times, Tuomas Keskimäki wrote the lyrics, and he likes to write more about shamanism or about the Kalevala or those kinds of things, but now I asked him to do something more down-to-earth, and this is the result.
So we should expect something a bit different from the standard KORPIKLAANI album?
If I recall correctly, your albums are usually produced by Aksu Hanttu [ENTWINE], but this time you went with Janne Saksa. Any particular reason for the change?
I just got the feeling that there was something more that we could do differently. We have gone with Aksu for many years and we’ve been fine with it, but maybe the problem was that I knew how it was going to sound and how it was going to be. I wanted something else, something new for it. The only name that came to mind was Janne Saksa. When I called him, his answer was quite cool, because he said that he secretly always wished for this call, to work with us, so it was a pretty cool answer and a nice starting point to do something together. I really like the result. It is maybe more open. There is a lot of first-track magic. It wasn’t produced so much. We didn’t take a hundred takes. [Aksu] is doing really good work in his own way, but so is Janne.
This album will have a more raw, organic sound than the past albums then?
Yes, it is more like how we are live. The songs, when we are playing live, will sound exactly the same as they will on the album. One of the main reasons is the drums. Nowadays, even on the record, they put some samples on it. Almost every metal band does it like that these days. But we did it really organically. Also, there are not so many tracks. One guitar player with one track. There’s not fifty guitar tracks or two hundred of any other tracks, which is really common nowadays. It’s only what we need.
Just to be clear, you guys don’t usually use backing tracks live, correct?
We are not using any, never.
I heard that when you were originally writing this album, you lost all the material and then found it again. Will that material ever see the light of day somehow, or is it too far behind you and doesn’t feel relevant anymore?
Now I feel that I won’t use it, but I don’t know. If my mind at some point goes empty. Right now I’m feeling like I want to do something fresh, because I really like songwriting. It is really a joy for me and I like to do it. It’s always nice to work with something really new and fresh.
Obviously, based on your past albums, you’ve been heavily inspired by the Kalevala and a lot of Finnish mythologies. Are there any other mythologies, folklores, pantheons, etc. that you draw inspiration from outside the ones you are so well known for?
I don’t know lyric-wise, maybe not, but music-wise yes. There are a lot of… even this new album, there is a melody which could be from an Irish band or something like that. It’s funny, the “Kotikonnut” song, Sami made a lot of melodies, and those melodies, I said to him, “These are not so Finnish.” There are a lot of things that are not so typical Finnish things. You hear music everywhere. We are, a lot of the time, out of Finland nowadays. Maybe it catches on somehow.
Do you ever get the feeling that maybe you’ve tapped as much as you can from the Kalevala, or do you think it’s an endless fountain of inspiration?
I think it is endless [laughs]. We’ve done quite a lot already, but right now I’m feeling good with this more everyday lifestyle kind of direction.
Do you consider your albums as their own “KORPIKLAANI mythos,” so to speak, or do you think the band already has their own world in that sense?
Yeah, we are doing that all the time. Many times we do our own… at least how we look at it or we made up the whole story.
You guys have been touring a lot lately – have you been going anywhere that you haven’t been before that surprised you with their response?
At least now, there’s a tour to America, but those are the same places we’ve been before. Europe, there also… we’ve been touring so much that there’s not so many places anymore that we haven’t been many times. So, not right now. Maybe later?
My last question then is, you have the album coming out and then you’ll be touring. Is there anything else unusual or different that you’re planning for the future, or is it going to be much of the same tour-album-other projects, rinse and repeat?
I think that’s what it will be [laughs]. The movie project is going on as well, but I don’t know how it goes. There’s coming a documentary, but that’s what we’re going to do. Album and touring. It’s a good life. It was my little boy dream, so now I can live it.
That’s great to hear! Any final comments?
See you at the gigs!
Interview by Bear Wiseman