Prior to KORPIKLAANI‘s November 1 performance in New York City, violinist Tuomas Rounakari spoke with Heavy New York. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On the group’s new album, “Kulkija”:
Tuomas: “It was a flow experience, really. The funny thing about it was that all of the compositions were done in [a] relatively short amount of time, and later, when the album was finished, Jonne [Jarvela, vocalist/guitarist] found a file on his computer with 12 other demos that we could have used. But maybe that was for the best, because somehow the songs really capture something that we are now living together as a band. All of the songs, they go nicely into each other, and they all have quite a special feel to it… From the compositional point of view, I think you can really hear that Jonne has been doing his solo project, which is compositionally much more complicated than the KORPIKLAANI songs are, and thus the arrangements have improved a lot. For myself as a violinist and for Sami [Perttula] with the accordion, there’s now so much more room for expression for us in the folk instruments than ever before. That creates an organic feel to the album.”
On the significance of the band’s 2015 album, “Noita”:
Tuomas: “We actually found a very nice balance between the folk and the metal. It wasn’t any more a metal band that has some folk elements here and there, but really a folk metal band. There’s a beautiful balance. Now, in ‘Kulkija’, with Sami, we actually even play in the more folk way. We interpret the melodies in a more folky style.”
On the band’s writing process:
Tuomas: “There’s no method to [the] madness. I think there’s, like, an alcoholic logic — logical for an alcoholic composition project. It’s not criticizing yourself too much, not overthinking it — just going with the ideas and going with the feeling and intuition. I think that’s what we’ve always done. There’s no conscious calculating — now we’ll aim to do this and do these things in order to get there. We never do that. We just do what we please, and do what feels good and feels right… Once we get to the studio and once we start to learn what we are actually doing, then we figure out what it is all about. With the ‘Manala’ album, it was only in the studio after everything was laid down that we realized that all of the songs have some relation to [the] underworld. This time, the same happened — listening throughout the songs in the middle of making the album, we realized that ‘Hey, this is all related about traveling, and about the wanderer,’ and that kind of a romantic idea, the archaic character or a tramp or a wanderer, even a survivalist. All those elements are there, so we felt that, ‘Hey, come on, this is actually telling about the world through the wanderer’s eyes.’ Emotionally, the scope is really wide in the album. It goes from the party to the moments when you doubt your sanity. All those things happen when you travel a lot.”
On the band’s Finnish lyrics:
Tuomas: “I think it’s a beautiful thing that you don’t understand the lyrics, because then you have use your intuition to figure out what it is all about. It’s surprising how well people get it, actually. I have to say about our lyrics that as a band, we can actually be proud of the level of our lyrics, because we dig deep into the mythology and into the ancient style of rune-singing [and] poetry. That’s a very high level of language, so even for the native Finnish speakers, there is a lot of need for interpretation and figuring out what these poems actually mean… As an ethnomusicologist who has deeply studied the archaic layers, the things that people used to sing about are so complex and so meaningful. There’s a saying that everybody is worth a song? It didn’t used to be like that. It really didn’t. People were singing about really valuable and amazing things, and everybody could sing, and singing could be a part of daily life. The things people sang about were epics and myths and big, big things about the cosmology. I really miss that today when I hear pop songs. I’m like, ‘Come on — I’ve heard this story a million times.'”
On what separates KORPIKLAANI from their folk metal peers:
Tuomas: “I think that one big thing that differentiates us from all the other folk bands is that an essential element of folk music is dancing, having fun. That is something that we’ve always had in this band. We’ve had this fun mood; we play for joy. That’s really a big part. A lot of people in Europe in the big festivals, they say that KORPIKLAANI is the best party inside the metal scene, because we light up the day. We make people happy in our special, weird way.”
On alcohol’s role in folk metal:
Tuomas: “Drinking is a big part of all of this. It’s funny that drinking and alcohol has actually even a big part in the Finnish mythology. Vodka is a common offering for the spirits all over the Arctic areas, and also beer. A lot of rituals that were done in the agricultural time in our own culture, they had a village beer that was brewed together and enjoyed together. It has a big value in our tradition.”
“Kulkija” (“Wanderer”) was released on September 7 via Nuclear Blast. With 14 tracks and a total running time of over 71 minutes, the disc is the group’s longest album to date. Working with producer Janne Saksa for the first time, the album was recorded at Petrax Studio (Hollola, Finland) and mixed at Sound Supreme Studios (Hämeenlinna, Finland). Mastering duties were handled by renowned engineer Svante Forsbäck (RAMMSTEIN). The cover was designed by Jan Yrlund (BATTLE BEAST, MANOWAR), who previously supplied artworks for several prior albums and singles by the band.
KORPIKLAANI is in the midst of a 25-date U.S. tour dubbed “The Wayfarer”, which features Russian pagan/folk metallers ARKONA as direct support.