Interview with Korpiklaani — “Sometimes I still think we are only at a starting point, even if we have been doing this for 15 years.”


The journey of Korpiklaani has been of many great successes after one another. After 9 highly acclaimed albums, the band now is releasing their 10th studio album “Kulkija” (“The Wanderer”).  The album is the band’s longest album up-to-date, including no less than 14 tracks and also their most natural sounding one.

We had the chance to meet up with Jonne Järvelä to talk about “Kulkija”. This is what we talked about…

© Peero Lakanen

Hi there Jonne! Thank you so much for making the time, how has the summer been for you?

The summer has been really good. We played at plenty of festivals, which was really nice. We also managed to get a bit of free time during the summer. Great. The new album will be out soon and overall, it’s exciting times for us.

“Kulkija” is coming out September 7th. We’ll dive deeper into the thematics later on, but first, what can you tell us about the sound?

The sound is actually pretty much what Korpiklaani sounds like live. So it’s very pure. We didn’t do any production tricks or anything like that. Let’s just say that when you hear the song live, it is going to sound the same way it did on the record. It’s very natural in many ways. We used the first takes of the songs or tracks because they have that kind of first take magic in them. This suits us as a band really well, for some reason. So, in general, it’s not overproduced.

So, it seems like the production is very different from the other albums. What else can you tell us about the production process?

We actually have made most of our albums with Aksu Hanttu. But somehow we got this feeling that for this time, we wanted something else. Aksu is a really good producer, but we wanted to have something different because the songs are also a bit different than from before. There’s a wide range of songs on the album. For example, some of the songs wouldn’t really be classified as heavy metal music at all, for instance, “Harmaja” which is an almost completely acoustic song. So, we wanted something else. Janne Saksa was a good choice as a producer. We didn’t know where we were going to jump exactly, but it was worth to try it out and he succeeded very well.

Like you mentioned, the songs are really diverse. Still, you advise listening to the album in one piece. How are you going to do that live?

Of course, we are planning to play many songs of “Kulkija” during the shows. But the whole album is not possible. It’s 14 songs, so it’s quite long. We also want to add the old Korpiklaani classics. We are going to play many songs though. We already played 5 new songs during our festival shows, which is not a typical choice for the band. During festivals when bands are touring for their new albums, they play perhaps maximum only two or three songs. For our club shows, we are going to play at least 10. It’s going to be a big part of the setlist.

So, you played 5 new songs for the festival shows. How were the reactions?

The reactions so far have been very well. We were surprised. The audience couldn’t know the songs. But I think they liked them, at least they were having fun.

© Peero Lakanen

The previous release was three years ago and ever since you have been touring. So, what was the creative process like for this album? Did you start right away, while you were on tour?

I started writing songs right away. But I lost my memory card, with all my demos, riffs and melody lines. There were like 12 new songs on it. I had to start all over again. So, in that sense, this album was actually made quite fast, because of what happened. Of course, now I found it. (laughs) So we already have new songs now.

So, you already have the next album? (laughs)

Actually, I don’t think I will use those tracks. Because now I want to do something else. It’s not the right timing anymore.

Omnium Gatherum had a similar situation and it was very refreshing in the songwriting process. Did you have a similar experience?

It’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s good. In this case, I think it was.

Do you feel that you were able to show a different side from Korpiklaani in this album?

I think so. There are some darker songs, and also a calm side of us. We had enough courage to put out an album that’s perhaps not so typically Korpiklaani. But, I think it was a good decision to do so.

“Kulkija” is about “The Wanderer”, which is partly based on your experiences of being on the road all the time. It’s a very personal album. Can you elaborate a bit more on what the album is about?

Even though it’s not really a theme album, there is only one character in the album. It was kind of an accident. We noticed it afterwards when we recorded already quite many songs. Everything felt like it was connected somehow. So basically we noticed there was a theme in the album. All of the songs are from one man’s eyes: The Wanderer. It was quite difficult to drop any songs from the album because the theme was really deep. That’s why the album is so long. We couldn’t drop any songs, or put any as bonus tracks. Because they were all part of a story. Even though there is no real story, but the theme is so strong. We don’t know yet what we will do for the next album.

Perhaps this character can be central for the next albums as well! Anyhow, can you talk a little bit about the lyrics of “Kulkija”?

Tuomas Keskimäki nowadays writes almost all of the lyrics. For this specific album, I asked him to forget everything about Kalevala, all the mythology, and the things we have been doing for the previous albums. I wanted something that’s more close to earth. And that’s how “The Wanderer”was born. Accidentally.

What would you say your favorite song on the album is?

It’s really difficult to say because I think this is the strongest album that we have ever done. All the songs are so different and they are good for a variety of reasons. So I can’t really pick out any of them.

It’s true that the songs are quite diverse…

Picking a song also depends very much on the day, and the mood you’re in.

© Peero Lakanen

Other than losing your memory card, were there any other challenges?

Everything went really smooth. We were finished before the actual deadline and everything was done in the right time frame. Somehow we got a feeling that all the pieces fell in place by itself. We didn’t need to work too much or put too much power or effort to it, everything just fell into its place. Which was a really nice thing.

“Kulkija” is your 10th album. You have already done quite many things as a band, is there still something you want to achieve though?

I don’t really have anything that comes to my mind right now. But what I do hope is that we can still do this for many many years. Sometimes I still think we are only at a starting point, even if we have been doing this for 15 years. The years flew by basically. I don’t feel like we are an old band or anything like that! (laughs) I think we are still going to make good albums and a lot of tours.

Talking about tours, I think many people think it must be a lot of fun and a dream coming true, but when I listen to your album, which is about being on the road, it seems like it’s not all fun and games. Do you have some insight into that?

It’s not always fun every day. Sometimes you have a really bad hangover or you can be really tired. You have good and bad days on tour as well, just like as you would have so in daily life. In the end, the time on the stage always makes it a good day. If I’m sick or something I forget it on stage. It’s a magical place for me. I feel like I’m a new person there.

People always call you a party band, because basically, it’s a lot of fun to not only listen to your music but also to see you guys play live. You throw yourself 200% in every show. What’s the secret behind that energy and how do you do this every single day on tour with the same amount of energy?

That’s actually a really good question. We don’t know how we get the energy to do it every single day. But we have it and it’s a really good thing. I hope we never lose the energy, even when we’re sixty.

Well you know, people like Iggy Pop and Bruce Dickinson are still jumping and running around on stage without any problem!

That’s how I imagine us to be, as long as we can to do the same.

You guys based a lot of songs on mythologies and stories. What would you say is your favorite story?

I think in general for me Kalevala. I see it as the main piece of art in Finland. Even if you read it, you are just at the start of everything. It’s not so easy to understand, because it’s not like a normal book, where you read it and you know the story. Kalevala is a collection of poems and so on. So for me, it really is the number one art piece that Finland has to offer.

So, do you personally draw a lot of inspiration from there?

Yes. Overall, I think Kalevala affects every Finn in some way. Even those who don’t want to admit it. It’s rooted so deep in how we are, how we act and how we speak.

Yeah, when I look at Finnish arts and music, most of the influences are nature and Kalevala.

Yes, nature, of course, is one of the most important things for us, but as a piece of art, Kalevala has inspired a lot of bands, for instance, Amorphis.

So, let’s talk a little bit about the near future. What’s your plan after the album release?

The same day the album is released on September 7th, we are going to our Russian tour for three weeks. Then, I have some studio work. Afterwards, we go to the USA for about a month. After that, there’s a European tour and then we are doing some shows during the festival season.

Are there going to be any shows in Finland?

Next spring. We tried to book some shows in between the Russian and US tour, but we were advised that it’s better to book shows during springtime.

What can people expect on the new tour?

We are going to play a lot of new songs!

Can’t wait! I think, unfortunately, our time is running out. Do you have any last words for our readers?

See you at our gigs! (laughs) In Finland, or if not, the rest of the world.