Finnish folk-metallers, Korpiklaani are very much an established and respected name in the genre. With eight albums already under their belt, and the ninth, ‘Noita’ poised for release, now is as good a time as any to catch up with bassist, Jarkko Aaltonen...
So, Noita is to be released on the 1st of May. How would you describe the album compared to Manala?
“The thing that we have, with this album, is the introduction of the new accordion player. I think we've perfected the balance between the metal part and the folk music part. Speaking about the actual songs and the composition, I think that it's pretty much in the same lines as Manala but the thing that we call the ‘folk department’, A.K.A the violin/accordion thing, it's way more prominent now… way better melodies, really nice harmonies, lots of solos from both of those guys so that's what people will first hear like 'Woah..this is a bit different than the previous one!”.
Yeah, because Tuomas, with the violin, has taken some sort of lead guitar place in 'Noita'.
“Yeah, we've never had um... I think there's one guitar solo on the first album..or something like that and then maybe one on the second album and then, since then, since 2006 we have had no guitar solos on any of our other albums so.... we haven't had that much like solos anyway but now on this album there's a lot more of that folk accordion and violin. I think people would have been complaining that we've lost our folk music roots, they should be at least happy with this, this one.”
Yeah, I think it’s definitely found that nice balance, especially since listening to 'Lempo'. It's a nice balance between the metal side of things and also folk music, of which is fantastic.
Previously you had Juha Jyrkäs writing the Finnish lyrics, and in 2011 Korpiklaani started working with Tuomas Keskimäki. Has that changed or affected the band musically and lyrically?
“Um..musically no, because we had at least 90% of our songs written. Like, music first and then which text can I fit into this melody. So, lyrically um.. I think, in the beginning with Juha, was like really traditional in the topics and style, and then he moved to different styles towards the end of his era with us, and then Tuomas is also a really traditional writer, but also in the same way uses rather modern themes every now and then as well so....I don't see a big difference there between the texts...now that I think of it I don't even prefer either of them over the other. I've never really thought about it in that way.”
So basically, it's still kept the same theme standard...
“Yeah...yeah. I think this is the first album... that we have some texts that are more personal, in the sense that they are about not really one particular person, but they're about an individual, trying to find his path maybe. That's a bit different on this album...with a couple of songs so...not a major change in it.”
What is the connection between the lyrics in 'Noita' and the artwork?
“The previous artwork had a theme with the underworld, and now, with this album, we have two songs that could actually be connected to the album title. One of the songs is called 'Ämmänhauta'... is like witches grave, witches tomb, and the story is taken directly from an old legend...from the area were myself and Jonne were born. That legend has a part were the witch, the dead witch, is being carried through the forest at night, so this is the connection to the album title and to the artwork as well. We already had a different idea for the album cover, and then I just, e-mailed Jonne that I really see this as an album art, this story, this legend, and these people carrying the witch through the forest at night. I said that to Jonne and I even said that and the colour scheme should be like King Diamond’s 'Abigail' album cover, so....that's pretty much what it is now.”
I was just about to ask you about the two theme cover songs in the album, as I know that one of them is 'Viinamäën Mies' which is an autobiography of the band, and describes your fun side, touring around the world.
“Yeah, that is what it is. It is one of the very few...in fact for the only text, that is not by Tuomas, but it's written by Jonne. So, the style is different. The topic is different, but as you said, it is an autobiography of the band, that is just basically travelling around the world and drinking other peoples’ alcohol!”
It's a good fun way of doing it, saves you money as well (chuckles)
Aside from everyone, of course, contributing to writing the music etc, I read that you also contributed before by writing one or two songs for the albums? Have you done the same thing for 'Noita'?
“No I haven't. I haven't done a single thing. I haven't finished a song...I have finished a single song in like...two years. I haven't done anything....I've been awfully unproductive!”
Fair enough. So when it comes to videos, then... we currently have a lyric video for 'Lempo'. Once the album is released are we going to be blessed with a band video for another song on the album?
“Right now, the plan is to release two more videos...like actual videos. There will be an animated video which I hope will be better than the one that we did few years ago! That should be released pretty much at the same time as the album and then..the other one, having the actual band in it, should be released later this year. September, October… but not quite sure yet.”
So you guys have already decided as to which songs you'll be doing the videos for?
“Yes.. that has been decided, but then I am not sure if that is public information so…”
Yeah, understandable. For 'Noita' you've also done a Finnish cover version of Billy Idol's 'Mony, Mony'. How did that come about in conversation?
“Jonne sent us a demo 'How about this one?' and everyone was like...'hmm..okay..'. Really it’s like everybody knows the song, and wherever we travel, when we tour, we always carry a speaker set with us and we play our favourite music, and Billy Idol is quite often on the playlist so... everybody of course, knows the song. It is rather well known in Finland, not just Billy Idol’s version but also...at least two other Finnish versions of that...and ours, the next one.”
Brilliant...When it comes to 'Noita', what is it that you personally would want fans to take away with them, once they listened to it? Is there anything in particular that you think might get stuck in their head?
“It's a difficult question, because we don't really think about that kind of thing we just do the albums the way we want, and then, if that stuff we do moves someone, some way, whether its musically or lyrically, or whatever, then we can all be happy about it. As much as I know...about my own way of listening to music and feeling those things, always very personal...like the reasons why you enjoy something are very different, even though they are the same song, but can compare to different things to different people, so I can't really say anything that I would expect people to get out of it.”
Yeah, definitely. It always varies.
Korpiklaani, has just finished this years European Paganfest tour. What are your memorable moments from it?
“Well… nothing particular. I mean It was a nice tour. Half of the bands were Finnish anyway, so everybody knew each other anyway. I thought about this. People ask for any funny memories on the tour, or any funny stories, and I always say the same thing… When you're on tour you are basically surrounded by similar minded idiots, and you only play an hour and a half in the evening, and the rest of the day you move around with whatever, and there are many, many cases were you are laughing your asses off there, but then when you come home and start saying things to someone else, they just look at you with a blank face and ask 'What was funny about that?' On tour, there's like always something going on. I think its hilarious...and then afterwards when someone asks a question 'what's so funny about it?' and then you start asking the same question from yourself after that like.. ‘Yeah..I actually don't know what was so funny about it, but I remember laughing like an idiot!’ I think that when you have a tour like Paganfest....with 40 plus people touring...there's always someone being an idiot somewhere. It is constant fun.
Korpiklaani is hitting quite a lot of festivals this year, one of which is Bloodstock festival. Are there any plans for touring the UK in the near future?
“We just toured the UK with Sabaton.”
Yeah, at the end of last year.
“Yeah, It was really nice actually..with Sabaton. I really liked that. I've been to places in the UK that I'd never been before. It was really interesting.”
I saw you play last year in Plymouth with Sabaton and Tyr.
“Yeah one of the places I would have never gone to without that tour. We were playing, in my opinion, too small venues. Sabaton would have filled bigger halls as well...most of those venues were sold out… but it was nice too.”
Understandable. Okay, onto a less serious subject. If Korpiklaani were to feature in a movie, what would be the storyline?
“Hmm...ah...crap...you are difficult...”
“I have no idea… I think, if you think about how we've always done things... I don't think there would be a story line. There would be just a two hour movie, and every 3 minutes, it would change one scene to another one and they wouldn't be related at all!”
Just a lot of variety and confusion then?
“Yes exactly. People would just leave the theatre thinking if that was the greatest piece of art they ever saw or just a huge pile stinking of crap!”
If that's the case then it surely would make a lot of people laugh as well.
“Yeah, and cry!”
Haha! Who would you say has the worst habits on tour, and what are they?
“Worst habits...Tuomas, the violinist, who doesn't drink, who is a family man, perfectly fine person… never cleans after his shit on the table always leaves...even if the trash can is right next to the table the fucking empty yoghurt can is right there on the table, with the fucking dirty spoon sticking out!”
I'm assuming he does it pretty often then?
“Well... I mean… just one of the things you start wondering on the tour 'Do these people live their lives like this at home as well?' Everything that you've finished or half-finished, you just leave there on the table and expect someone else to clean it away!”
Haha. Sadly, we’ve run out of time. This has been an very interesting, I've loved it.
“Yeah, perfect. You are happy with us?”
It's been fantastic. I shall leave you to it. Thank you very much.
“Okay, you're welcome. Bye-bye.”
Interview by Cassandra Irving
This interview was first carried on www.devilsgatemedia.com