KORPIKLAANI interview online. New album out Friday 5th Feb.

 I spoke once again to TUOMAS ROUNAKARI of Finnish band KORPIKLAANI about tours being cut short, empty calendars, isolation work, bodies buried in the swamp (not his doing), and the new KORPIKLAANI album, due out tomorrow (Friday 5th February). Always great to speak to him.

KORPIKLAANI – preceded by Jonne's own project SHAMAANI DUO (1993-1997) and the band SHAMAN (1997-2003) – was founded somewhere deep in the primeval northern forests in 2003. Ten celebrated studio albums, numerous world tours and hundreds of millions of digital streams alongside multiple other releases, have established KORPIKLAANI’s status as one of the leaders of innovative heavy music. For their diehard legion of fans, they are known as Folk Metal Superstars.
"I have always been fascinated by ancient Lappish/Samish culture and the infectious melodies of aged folk songs. However, that's only one side of the coin as I have loved rip-roaring metal since I was a frantic kid looking for some rebellious sounds. My butt was kicked by the likes of MOTÖRHEAD, IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST", says Jonne. "Since the early 2000s, KORPIKLAANI has combined these elements as we have tirelessly attempted to pump new life into the ancient tales of joy and heartbreak, and added the enormous energy of current heavy metal into that folk metal melting pot. We have always been on a mission to create something new and unprecedented."
Here and now, KORPIKLAANI’s fearless journey continues on – and this time, the journey is powered by rather serious subject matter. Their eleventh full-length studio record "Jylhä" (which has no direct translation but can be described as majestic, or wild and rugged in a beautiful way) brings all the well-known and essential ingredients to the table: heavy-duty guitar riffing, rhythmic folk melodies and more.
"Where should I start... There are so many new angles", smiles Jonne. "This time, we brainstormed, composed, demoed, did pre-production and recorded all of the material more meticulously than ever before. Every single track went through many cautious and patient developmental phases, and at the end of the day, we can say with certainty that we made the most of these songs. One of the key architects of ideas was our new drummer Samuli Mikkonen. He took over the early demos and started developing the raw songs with his youthful enthusiasm. Both playing and ideas-wise, Samuli's input was simply phenomenal. There was no holding back from the others either, accordionist Sami Perttula started arranging folk instruments – both his own and Tuomas Rounakari's violin parts – into the new material during the very early stages of the process. All in all, I would say that the results are outstanding: catchy folk melodies and crushing heavy metal – carefully crafted by guitarist Kalle "Cane" Savijärvi and bassist Jarkko Aaltonen – that blend together just perfectly.”
​Immortalised at trustworthy Sound Supreme Studios in Hämeenlinna and at Jonne's own facility JonneMusic in Lahti with renowned producer Janne Saksa (MOKOMA, TURISAS, ROTTEN SOUND, STAM1NA), "Jylhä" is easily KORPIKLAANI’s tightest and most diverse recording to date.
"The album blasts off with belligerent track ‘Verikoira’, which was composed having JUDAS PRIEST's mighty ‘Painkiller’ in the back of our minds. One can also hear my vocal tribute to one and only Mr. Rob Halford", reveals Jonne. "However, "Jylhä" is not just a pummelling heavy metal record, as it's also our most versatile full-length. For example, some of the new songs feature energetic punk rock influences and there are even some audible laid-back reggae rhythms. I am also delighted to mention that one of our closest friends within the metal scene, bass player Jack Gibson of thrash legends EXODUS, makes a guest appearance with his banjo!"
What about the tales of the wilderness then? The fascinating and miscellaneous tales have always been a crucial part of KORPIKLAANI’s journey within the realms of unspoiled Finnish nature, ancient Scandinavian myths, shamanistic voyages and beyond. "Did I already mention that "Jylhä" offers some new angles?", the singer/guitarist laughs. "Well, lyrically, there are definitely some previously unknown passages – such as fables connected to the infamous Lake Bodom murders in Southern Finland in early 1960s."
KORPIKLAANI’s long-time lyricist Tuomas Keskimäki – the renowned Finnish poet and author, comments: "When I am coming up with narratives, interesting wordplays and other ideas for KORPIKLAANI, I often feel like I am diving into some absorbing fantasy world. I would describe this state of mind as some kind of a deep trance", says Keskimäki.
"As a whole textual piece, "Jylhä" is rather widespread. For example, there are stories about the fragility of life, revealed by using nature metaphors. ‘Miero’ is one of these tales: after all, it's a fact that the lifetime of a human being is just one blink of an eye compared to the eternal aeons of the cosmos."
"On the darker side, there are several murder songs - I wasn't really planning these rather untraditional lyrics, they just happened... One of these is ‘Kiuru’, and that story is inspired by a famous Finnish double homicide case, which took place in the small village of Tulilahti in 1959. In these lyrics, the character called Kiuru – Skylark in English – acts as eyewitness and a prophet, but at the same time, this creature also functions as an allegory of many things... All in all, I am really happy with the lyrics and all these new themes!"

MAL-
We saw you here in Adelaide on the tour promoting your previous album, and that was called 'Kulkija'. Did I pronounce that correctly?
TUOMAS-
Quite good.
MAL-
Where did you go after here and what stage was the band at when everything shut down?
TUOMAS-
Oh my it was 2019 right when we were down there and we still did a US tour in between, like after that, and then we were in Japan actually on the last day of February and first day of March we had shows in Osaka and Tokyo, it was Sunday March 1st that we played on Tokyo for 800 people and that night on the nationwide news in Japan they mentioned that there had been a concert in Osaka with 140 people in an audience and nine had the covid out of the those hundred, and the government asked that nobody would go to any events any more. You know at that point they had already shut down big sport events, like the sumo wrestling championships weren't happening and things like that, but they literally shut down the country the evening of right after our last concert in Tokyo. So yeah, and then we flew back to Finland and one by one the calendar became empty. So yeah, that was a tough situation to be in that and now, you know at least myself I'm pretty relaxed about it, you know, I've been lucky to have compositional work and and other things within the music than performing so I managed to stay active and creative even in these hard times but a lot of the colleagues and other musicians are really in a desperate situation right now.
MAL-
So how did the band go getting this new music out? Was it all done in isolation sending things over the Internet or did you manage to get together as a band? How did it work out for KORPIKLAANI?
TUOMAS-
Well, we did manage to meet each other. Finland was very mildly hit and and yet we've had quite strong restrictions here. So concerts are not happening here even though our covid numbers are very low compared to almost anywhere in the world. But I think you know, we've played out smart over here, we took it seriously before the numbers are sky high. We don't really work for the arrangements as you know as together as a full band. So our process goes in a way that whoever writes the song sends out the demo for everyone and then there's kind of feedback going on and most often the folk parts, the violin and accordion, is being further developed by me and Sami and Sami being the being the most productive one in this terms. I have an easier place with the violin kind of giving accompanying tones, you know, following the harmonies and then playing solos where Sami is actually, you know, he's all over with his accordion almost all the time. So he actually has more to do in terms of the arrangements. So we work together with Sami on my place. We travel to Jonne's place and work there, the three of us and Samuli our new drummer was there also and Jonne and Samuli worked together quite a bit. Samuli has had an impact on the overall structures of the songs, and I think his impact really made these these songs better, more strong. So it is like a collective process, but not like a big jam session with everybody present.
MAL-
You can swoop in at the end and embellish it with your violin and be done.
TUOMAS-
Yeah, exactly and also, you know personally I liked it. I never practiced my solos before the studio. I you know, I like to go in raw and unfinished, you know because that gives a little bit more it makes it more intense for myself and makes my sound to be a little bit more aggressive. So, you know, if I practice then, then I would just be there in a studio trying to play what I already, you know what I've already done. So I don't like that. I like to have that wild card, you know that I don't know exactly myself what's gonna happen, to give a little extra juice into my playing.
MAL-
Yeah. All right. So tell us about this album ,firstly for us down here. How do we pronounce it?
TUOMAS-
'Jylhä'.
MAL-
'Jylhä'.
TUOMAS-
Good. Yeah, we were clever enough to pick up an album title that doesn't translate to English at all.
MAL-
What does it mean?
TUOMAS-
Well, 'Jylhä' is a phenomenon that it's grandiose or something majestic, something that really has an impact on you in nature. Like, you know a big cliff somewhere, a mountain, an enormous tree, you know, these things could all be called 'Jylhä', but it's not enough to be prominent in the landscape. See also it needs to have a feeling of that it's been there throughout millions of storms. You know, it's been it's worn out but it has endured, you know, it has to have that kind of a feeling of ancient quality that you know, that that rock has seen a lot in its time, you know, that kind of an impressive quality. So that's 'Jylhä'.
MAL-
When we were talking about the last album, when I was speaking to you last, you are relaying some fascinating stories behind the lyrics of the songs have we got this time around? I'd imagine with a title like that we've got similar sort of epic tales being told.

TUOMAS-
Well yeah that title was difficult. There are a lot of murder stories in this album and our first title was kind of depressive and and I felt that we can't go on with that title because the music is not depressive. So I felt that that we need something that actually fits the uplifting feel of the album and not just the lyrics and the stories, and that's how the 'Jylhä' started to feel fitting. 'Jylhä' is a very rock and roll word if you'd understand Finnish, but this time we have a bit of a different approach to myths this time. We are looking at myths that have a closer tie to reality, you know, a lot of the myths are actually real life events that people just keep talking about for hundreds of years and slowly to the context of those stories is no longer present, but the stories remain, and then because we don't have the context, we don't know anymore if they were real or not. So this time we have the murders from the Lake Bodom that really shocked the whole country in the 1980s. So those murders remain unsolved. So there are a lot of stories around those murders that we don't know if it's true or not, but we do know that the murders did happen. So similarly there's a story behind the 'Leväluhta' which is a physical place, actual swamp in Finland that they've discovered hundreds of bodies and we don't bury our bodies into a swamp in this culture, so something bizarre has taken place there but we don't know what, was it a collective suicide or was it you know what, you know, what's it (Mal- I shouldn't laugh), you know? Yeah exactly, but well, you know, welcome to the club. We have a dark sense of humor in this country. So, you know, we made a metal reggae song out of a collective suicide, so I guess we are similarly fucked up here. But anyways, so, you know, this one example of the place that must have a story.
MAL-
It must have a hell of a story.
TUOMAS-
Yeah must be a strong story, but we don't know, nobody knows, so this is an aspect of myth and reality blending together. What do we know? That kind of a question that you can see in the album here and they also 'Mylly' the windmill. There's this sort of like the character who is supposed to go into the windmill doesn't want to go because so many people have gone missing, you know, when they went there and you don't know why, you know, if it's you know full of evil spirits or if there's if there's just some physical lunatic person, you don't know what the danger is. So, you know, that's the kind of stories that inspired us this time.
MAL-
Excellent. When is this album coming out?
TUOMAS-
The 5th of February, so this Friday right?
MAL-
Then what happens? What's open out there? Or is it going to be the bizarre situation where you put an album out and people listen to it, but you can't tour in support of it. What's going on?
TUOMAS-
Well, yeah. Well, we were supposed to play a record release show in Helsinki and Tampere. Now they've been postponed to September so it is devastating and it feels so awkward, like when we did 'Kulkija', ..with Nuclear Blast there's always quite a long preparation time from when the album has been recorded to the release date. So this album was recorded in May. So we've you know, we've been playing these songs for a year now and similar situation was with 'Kulkija' you know, the album was ready and we were just waiting and waiting and waiting to get it released and while we waited we were playing these songs live and now it feels so awkward that you know, we've played these songs to each other for a full year without having this feeling of you know, playing it for the real people and seeing their faces and seeing their reactions and you know sharing in a same physical space, you know, true performance and that feels so strange to be just you know, spending time with these songs as a band, alone as a band. It feels kind of wrong.
MAL-
Do you get a better feel for the song you know, in a sense of preparation and work out. 'Okay. This song is going to work better live than this one?' or you know, 'We thought this one was going to work. It's probably take that one out of the set list and put another one in its place'. Have you had that sort of reaction amongst yourselves?
TUOMAS-
Yeah. We have we have some songs that has, you know felt good to play in a rehearsal room, the audience like those songs a lot, but somehow we as a band don't feel good playing them, you know, so that has happened. It's also happened that we've been totally blown away by ,for example 'Kotikonnut' from the 'Kulkija' album. No one had heard of that song when we played it live for the first time and it was like after a couple of (unclear) everybody was dancing and fooling around and having a lot of fun. You know that feeling that 'What's happening here?', you know, like they react like they would know this song by heart and you know, it was never published, never been out before so it is interesting. It's definitely a different thing to perform a song and to play a song and they are all sort of things that go beyond reasoning that you just have to try out and see what happens.

TUOMAS WAS THEN CUT OFF BY WINDOWS UPDATE. WTF?