Korpiklaani: More Suomi Than You Can Poke A Fiddle At

"I'm The Folk Guy Who Improvises" - Tuomas Rounakari

There is something so mesmerizing about Finland. A country where one thousand years of history isn’t even considered as being a chapter in their long heritage. This long history of song, folk and Suomi is encompassed into the band Korpiklaani. Constantly compared to explosive export Finntroll, Korpiklaani take a somewhat ecstatic measure to their music. With songs such as Happy Little Boozer this band has truly brought folk metal to the 21st century.

While other folk metal bands began with metal before adding folk music, Korpiklaani started with folk music before turning metal. When unveiled to the metal world was the positive response to the style anticipated? “Folk metal is still a growing genre; in the beginning we were considered a bunch of weirdos playing metal [Laughs] with our smiling faces jumping around like crazy people whereas in most metal genres you see people jumping around in blood, I don’t know, there is just something about Finland and metal in Finland, we are sometimes considered the outlaws of Europe. Finland has the same relationship as any country with heavy metal music but in Finland there are so many bands compared to the population. So the response is always splendid, we know what it’s like to live here, to only have three hours of daylight during winter so using a cheery folk metal tune... its using the ‘let’s party’ approach as opposed to the grim approach”. [Laughs]

What made you want to dive into the heavy metal genre? “It was more about the history of folk metal; it has a somewhat weird reputation, some musicians need to explain a lot, we don’t. So the monthly comparison to Finntroll is not really warranted – Korpiklaani take a whole different approach. We take the fun out of Folk music and the heavy from heavy metal and enjoy the contrast”. Did you always want to incorporate your heritage and culture into the music? “We are very different inside the band, many varying tastes; Jonne [Järvelä] spent a lot of time in Lapland where he learnt the Yoik, Jarkko [Aaltonen] is very much rock & roll and I am classically trained in violin with many styles that incorporate the traditional music of Suomi, so it was a combination of several worlds really. After Jonne returned from Lapland the music took a more ethnic direction”.


Not long after the change in name, ultimately came the change in music – what was the logic behind this change? “The notion that you don’t always have to please, the music of Korpiklaani is never under pressure, it’s not hard to play yet heavily respected. Nothing is difficult in our eyes, we just have fun – we all share common ground in the music”. And the philosophy on the music of Korpiklaani is ultimately, not to take it so seriously? explain this position to us. “We play over 100 shows a year, all that time together in a bus isn’t always fun, but there is no pretending with us either, that is what makes a lot of problems with band members, that and social pressures. We have ways of living with each other whilst on tour [Laughs] we fun with our music, as if you couldn’t have fun with our music”. [Laughs]


The band has released an album almost every year for the past nine years – where does the band draw its constant inspiration? “It is a peculiar thing however, the fore claw of the music of Korpiklaani is our heritage in folk music, it is a history lesson. Finland holds the world’s largest archive of folk poetry. These ancient writings store the wisdom, the solutions, everything you need to know about life, and if you are patient enough to learn the poems, you hold all the worlds’ answers at your feet. Folk is the constant inspiration, there are thousands of poems and songs, well every poem has its own unique song to it, and there is no folk poetry in Finland without its own song”.


Now who is this enchanting old fellow we consistently see on the Korpiklaani album artwork? “[Laughs] that is Grandpa Shamman; he has a life of his own. For the Manala cover, it was fairly simple, we saw the sketch, knew exactly where the artist wanted to go”. Threw in Grandpa?! “Exactly! We generally use the same artists who have previously designed covers and stick with a few favourites. The Korpiklaani logo is the real story – the Shamman logo has been in Jarkko’s family for many generations, so old in fact not even his grandmother knows the story behind it, it was found and now represents Korpiklaani”.

 The current release Manala has gained more success throughout Europe than most previous albums for Korpiklaani…. “Well now I have to be selfish [Laughs] even though I am not the original violinist, there was a time in the band where the original violinists was going through a deep depression, as much as the band aided him in his battle, these were the things that held the band back; he was a strong player originally, he just started to lose the joy and ultimately this affects the aesthetic of the band – if you analyse the two albums previous to Manala [Ukon Wacka 2011 & Karkelo 2009] you can sense something is not there. With assistance from a very talented producer and some much needed zest put back into the band, we were ready to fight again and it all comes out in Manala”.


I believe that most songs were already written by the time you had joined the band. Were you able to do your own compositions or arrangements at all? “I started right at the studio, I met the guys and realised straight away I had a lot to learn, not just the music but the history of the band, the ideology of the band. Jarkko was supportive, I wasn’t ready but he urged me to go with instinct, in a lot of ways it was scary but also such a freedom and trust especially with the amount of solo stretches I was trusted with. Manala is a well produced album; it has all the folk elements in the right place. I have brought a fresh air to the band that was long overdue, and these small changes resulted in a big difference, no one holds back anymore, it’s a fantastic time”.


What plans are there to promote the album? Any chance for an Australian tour on the horizon? It sure would make me a happy little boozer….  “[Laughs] unfortunately there is little chance for an Australian tour in the next short while however our management is at the moment looking into a tour combined with Japan & Australia – no dates yet of course, we have five dates waiting for us in Japan we just need to set all the logistics. We’ll definitely hit your corner of the world sooner or later, there is a window approaching”.