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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

INTERVIEW: Pioneer's of Folk Metal - KORPIKLAANI

Folk Metal unlike any other subgenres of metal is more diverse with each band offering something new and very different from the others. Korpiklaani is one such band, famous mainly because of their feel-good high energy tracks. Today on board we have Juho Kauppinen, the soul of Korpiklaani's melodious accordian progressions, to spill some beans on the band's new release 'Manala', their upcoming tour and a lot more.

1. Hello and welcome to Metal Wani. How have you been?

Juho Kauppinen: We are doing fine. Thank you for asking. We have a lot of work to be done, a lot of shows to be played and a lot of new songs to be put onto our setlist.

2. Korpiklaani has been one of the pioneers of Folk Metal. Yet, it is only a handful of metal bands, like yours, that are able to bring in this unique, exuberant feeling through their songs. So, what is your secret behind the song writing and composing process, that merges so well to bring about such immense rush of adrenalin, in the listener?

Juho Kauppinen: It is not really a secret and if it was, I probably would not reveal it. I would say it is the spontaneity that our songwriting process has always had. Most of our songs are anything but complicated. They come into being quickly and are easy to sing along. That exactly is the point behind all of that. We are entertainers. We play a lot of shows to make people happy. It is easy to do that with these immediately comprehensible melodies that will stand out in the listener's mind for long.

3. Tell us something about the early times, from the days of Shaman. How did you master the unique art of yiking that was used in that band? Can you tell us something more about it? 

Juho Kauppinen: Jonne lived in Lapland with the Sami people, an indigenous people of Scandinavia, for five years during 1993-1999. The Sami people have their own language and musical culture, including yoik. It sounds pretty much like the American Indians' traditional way of singing. There are not many actual lyrics in yoik, but it is rather about transforming emotions, things, people or landscapes into a song. Jonne played the traditional music of Sami people with them for tourists in ski resorts. In so doing he gradually acquired their musical culture and started writing songs in the same vein. Jonne made an album with Sami people and two albums with a band which also had drums and electric guitars. Earlier the music was acoustic, accompanied by just a shaman drum and an acoustic guitar.

4. What is the story behind the band mascot, Vaari? 

Juho Kauppinen: He is the shaman used on our album covers until the album Voice of Wilderness, but since Tales along This Road he has been a human-like creature. Before the mascot we only used the shaman symbol that can still be found on our covers. For instance, on the Manala album cover it is on the shaman drum.

5. Another prominent factor that sets you apart from the rest, are the numerous alcohol related songs namely – Beer Beer, Wooden Pints, Lets Drink, etc. These songs get stuck into one’s head right from the moment they hear it! Many even play the "Drinking Game" to your songs like, "Vodka"! Tell us about this unique and catchy lyrical theme? 

Juho Kauppinen: Drinking is strongly connected with Finnish culture and the Finns drink a considerable amount of alcohol every year (about seven litres of pure alcohol a person a year). It's not exactly something to be very proud of, but it seems to be an important part of life to a lot of people. To me it is not, because I simply decided to quit drinking on a whim in 2007. I have been able to fully enjoy my life sober and I haven't had a single craving for alcohol since I quit.

6. Coming to the new album 'Manala', it is something different from your previous albums. There aren't much of party tracks in there. The sound is more mature, and we can hear the characteristic use of violin. What inspired you to make this change in your usual sound? 

Juho Kauppinen: It wasn't a conscious solution or a change. Our songs just come out the way they do. Sometimes they just happen to be different from the predicted Korpiklaani sound. For example, Ruumiinmultaa (Soil of the Corpse) is atypical of Korpiklaani, because it has a lot of parts, many different rhythm patterns and an oriental vibe to it. Jonne has said he would never consider forming a solo project a good idea, because he can actualize himself the way he wants in Korpiklaani. That's why there may at times be songs that differ from the regular Korpiklaani pattern and we should keep it that way.

7. Lyrically, 'Manala' is based on the Finnish epic, Kalevala. Can you enlighten us with this influence?

Juho Kauppinen: Although the majority of Manala's songs are based on the Kalevala, there are the songs Ievan Polkka and Husky Sledge that don't deal with the Kalevala. Ievan Polkka is a cover song and that we wanted to record, because it sounded very much like Korpiklaani.

Below I have gathered some details about the lyrics on the album.

1. Kunnia / Honor
The song Honor suggests you should never commit suicide, because the future generations do not want to pray for the ancestors who have. It is essential to honor the people among your ancestors whose life, character and deeds deserve to be honored and whose effect you want to feel in your own life. Those who commit suicide arrive in the Underworld after their death like the others, but they will barely be honored by their future generations.

2. Tuonelan tuvilla / At the Huts of the Underworld
In the mythological beginning, Väinämöinen and Joukahainen end up against each other and Väinämöinen outsings Joukahainen, literally in such a way that Joukahainen sinks in the swamp. Angry about this, Joukahainen chooses to shoot Väinämöinen with an arrow. He works a bow and arrows. Joukahainen's mother tries to forbid him, but regardless of his mother's advice he shoots Väinämöinen off the back of his blue moose into the primeval sea.

3. Rauta / The Steel
Iron (which is The Steel in the song title, meaning sword) is born in the busts of nymphs, out of which it flows into the swamp. A blacksmith Ilmarinen picks a white, red and black iron-piece from the ground, taking them to his forge. Ilmarinen tells iron to promise never to turn against humans nor shed innocent blood. (Eventually, after hardening iron in lye, iron goes mad and from then on has struck humans and shed innocent blood.)

4. Ruumiinmultaa / Soil of the Corpse
Soil of the corpse was a folk belief related to the pursuit of financial success, known in the area of Lapland. The one who desired to get rich made a deal with the devil, secretly collecting soil in the graveyard and offering it to other people, having had it mixed in their spirits and coffee. Soil of the corpse was only allowed to be given to those who were not enemies of the ones giving the soil of the corpse. A person who drank the soil of the corpse either died or lost his sanity permanently or temporarily. In contrast, the one giving the soil of the corpse gained financial wealth, as long as he was able to stick to the contract made with the devil, giving the soil to new victims on regular intervals for a few months. If the terms were not met, the devil killed the giver of the soil or made him insane. They say the belief lives on in certain regions of Lapland.

5. Petoeläimen kuola / The Predator's Saliva
The song deals with the birth of beer. Osmotar, the father of beer prepares the first ever beer out of barley grown by Pellonpekko. He rubs his hands, which results in the birth of animals that fetch the seasonings for the beer from the forest. However, the beer does not ferment. Osmotar finds the means and tells to get the predator's saliva. That's what happened and the beer began to ferment.

6. Synkkä / Dark Side
Joukahainen is one of the creators and the brothers. Ilmarinen is the god of the sky and the air, whereas Väinämöinen's divinity is strongly connected with water. Joukahainen, the youngest brother, is the god of Earth, appearing as a dark and gloomy god with counterforce in forests, swamps and stony grounds. The balance of the Earth is maintained by the dualistic relationship between Joukahainen and Väinämöinen. The song is about how Joukahainen appears in nature. In addition it deals with awe among people.

10. Uni / Dream
In folklore, dream is seen as a creature who comes to make a human fall asleep. The strong connection between death and dream has been believed to have come from the Underworld, the land of the dead. Dream binds and weaves up the eyelids, shoots with a drowsy arrow and in many other ways gets you off to sleep. When asleep, a human falls onto the level of the Underworld, in which the dream brings the Invisible world as a dream into the dreamer's mind.
11. Metsälle / Off to the Hunt
Louhi, the queen of Pohjola in the Finnish mythology, has told Lemminkäinen to go in pursuit of Hiisi's moose. While in pursuit, he breaks and loses his skis and poles, begging for Ukko the thundergod to make him new skis, by which he could catch up the moose and complete his task. Lemminkäinen skis and chases after the moose in the land of Tapiola.

12. Sumussa hämärän aamun / In the Mist of a Dark Morning
Ututyttö or Terhenneiti is the sprite of fog and mist. In misty weather a lot of ghosts have been told to have been seen. Some of them are restless souls, who have been left to wander in this world, but some of them are visions from the land of the dead, the Underworld. Fog and mist make the borders of the two worlds more and more indefineable, to such a degree that we can see the land of the dead with its ancestors in the world of the afterlife. Due to this, Ututyttö is also called the Bringer of Death.

8. After the album launch, there is a full US-Canada tour followed by a European tour. Any plans of heading a little east for an Asian tour maybe?

Juho Kauppinen: I don't know at this point, but of course I hope we would play there soon. It would be nice to play on every continent each year.

9. What is your opinion on bands that come out of nowhere and get instant stardom, thanks to social networking and video sharing sites?

Juho Kauppinen: I have nothing against anyone's success if it has been achieved by fair means.

10. As a band, would you prefer to stick to just one style which is appreciated by the audience or would you prefer experimenting with different styles just to see if you can outdo yourself? 

Juho Kauppinen: We don't think about such things too much. There may be some songs that are radically different from what people have gotten used to when they listen to Korpiklaani. We have certain things that we want to keep the same: for example the lyrics will usually be connected to Finnish folklore or otherwise keeping the style we represent. The cover songs we have played, on the other hand, do not necessarily have to do anything with Korpiklaani's style to begin with, but after we add those songs to our setlist they will eventually get a Korpiklaani-esque touch.

11. What can we expect from Korpiklaani for the years to come? More songs based on alcohol? A little more Finnish Folklore? Or will we see some social problems being conveyed through your music? 

Juho Kauppinen: We have probably composed a sufficient amount of drinking songs by now, as we could even play a concert of 50 minutes consisting of nothing but drinking songs. Korpiklaani will record an album after album and play a show after show and, of course, do an interview after interview and will continue this way as long as we are capable of doing that.

12. Do you recall the song, album, concert that changed your life and made you want to make music your life?

Juho Kauppinen: No, there has never been such a revolutionary event. Music has always been present in my life since my childhood and my musical taste has changed and diversified many times in my life and I am not afraid of any possible changes. When I was a teenager, I was sure I want to become a professional musician, so I have kind of achieved my goal now.

13. Just for fun, share with us something about yourself that might surprise those who don’t really know you.

Juho Kauppinen: My hobbies are too normal to be considered unusual or interesting to read about, but I enjoy reading and outdoor activity, for example. 

Thank you for your time. It’s been an honor to talk with you.

Juho Kauppinen: Thank you for your patience! It was a pleasure to talk with you too.



Read Our Korpiklaani - Manala Review Here


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Interviewed By,
Team Metal Wani