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Meer dan ooit zijn we benieuwd wat de fans gaan vinden van ’Kulkija’, het uitgebreide nieuwe werkje van de Finse folk meesters Korpiklaani! Wij zijn alvast laaiend enthousiast over dit fantastische album. De opvolger van ’Noita’ liet drie jaar op zich wachten, maar de band was super geïnspireerd en geeft ons maar liefst meer dan zeventig minuten muziek. Natuurlijk laten wij dan de gelegenheid niet voorbij gaan om een lang gesprek met bassist Jarkko Aaltonen te voeren.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder pagan / folk metal

Hi Jarkko! How are you doing?
Mighty fine!

Congratulations! What a glorious work! So diverse, so in depth & so long!
Yes, I think it is a little bit different, more various with different moods and indeed long. We thought: ‘fuck it, it is long but still interesting’, even though it is long, 70+ minutes or something… it goes up and down with different moods.

I think it is your most mature until now…
Yes, that is possible, but actually we are doing that on every album. Playing with moods, ups & downs. But of course, through the years, we have been developing as musicians and getting better on every album. When you are doing something for years, you are bound to get better. I think that is quite natural.

It has been three years since ‘Noita’ came out. How do you personally look back at those three years?
It is like every recent years. I always keep on wondering: where the hell did they go? When we released that previous album, I remember the listening party we gave at the studio, I remember the first video clip we made for it, and then I realize: ‘It is three years ago’. We just keep on doing things and the years keep on disappearing somehow.

When you get older, the years go by faster and faster. It is true!
Yes, but I know why that happens. There is an explanation.

Ah, tell me…
Yes, you are comparing the time with the time you have lived. When you were ten years old, one year was ten percent of your entire life. When you are forty years old, one year is… well, something less.

I have missed you on stage last times with Korpiklaani. Like the tour early this year… what happened?
The beginning of the tour I have missed, indeed. Let’s say I had prior engagements that I could not get out of. They did a few shows with replacement, I think I missed four or five shows. I think I already played in Amsterdam.

When did you start writing this new album ‘Kulkija’ with the band?
A small amount of writing or putting down ideas is going on all the time. Writing the songs and put them together was actually a very short period before we started recording the songs. Only a few months. We started recording with almost a full set of songs. Anyways, the writing process goes on and on. Not as full songs that much. Every now and then. Usually it is always Jonne who is writing the music, but this time there are at least four songs written by others. So the job was not entirely on him this time, although the majority he did. Sami and Tuomas have written a song and I have written ‘Sillanrakentaja’.

The songs should have more of a live vibe this time. Can you tell anything more about that approach?
Well, we thought that we needed to do that. With the previous producer… we got a lot better in many ways, the songs got a lot better. He was really pushing us hard. Every album was getting better in sound as well, we were playing better. But we also found that after ‘Noita’ we had reached a kind of end in that direction. We did not want to go any further there and we thought about taking a few steps back and go to a more natural approach when it comes to the sound and the actual recordings. We wanted to sound the drums as an actual drum kit, we wanted to sound the guitars more like crunchy seventies guitars and not so processed as they started to be. Also we wanted to have a fresh approach on the actual recording, so that you can do guitar solos, solos on violin and on accordion and especially on vocals. We wanted to use the first take as much as possible or the second take, anyways, early takes, even though it was not technically perfect, but we still wanted that emotion when doing the first take. Not like the twentieth take of the same thing. We felt with the previous album that there were moments in the recording when we kept on doing things too much. Too many takes and then basically nobody knew anymore the essence of a song. With the live album, ‘Live At Masters Of Rock’, we already tried to maintain a live and natural sound as much as possible. That was basically done by Jonne, he was mixing that. Now we worked with Janne Saksa as producer and Svante Forsbäck did the mastering, the guy who did the mastering for ‘Live At Masters Of Rock’. As far as I remember Janne actually approached us. He said: ‘If you ever need a producer, I am available’ and this time we thought ‘why not?’

It was – as always – a puzzle to find out where the songs are about as lyrics are in Finnish, but I understand that the wanderer is featured in every song?
No, no, it is not a concept album in that sense. Not every song is about that. Just like the last albums a few songs are featuring a certain topic and that topic becomes the common theme on the album, but not so that all the songs deal with that. And of course some of the songs have a melancholic touch. We have always had that, on every album and I think that is the interesting part of the band. The fact that it is not always about partying and drinking. As you said, this album might tend a bit more to the darker side, but then again, there are still the fast songs.

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In this case it is also a kind of yearning instead of melancholy…
I think with the idea of the wanderer, the old traveler, you can draw lines from that to the old school vagabond. You can also think about the touring band as the same thing. You are yearning for something. You feel a distant, indefinable need in you that you have to go somewhere. You have to be somewhere and then, when you get there, you just want to go somewhere else or you want to go home. Of course it is a circle. With the band, when you are on tour, you count the days, surely towards the end of the trip, you count the days before you can sleep in your own bed. Then you get home and after three days you start looking at the calendar, wondering when the next tour will start. But the other way around too. The more you go away, the more you start appreciating your own home.

Did you dream of traveling the world already as a kid or was it not an issue?
I really don’t remember. I don’t know. I was born and raised in a tiny village. I even hardly knew there was something outside of that village. It was ‘a big thing’ to go to town I remember, and with ‘town’ I mean the town I am living in right now. Like going to visit my ma. In the early days that took planning and now it is just like: ‘hey, are you home? I am going to come’. The world has gotten a lot smaller these days. But I was a child forty years ago.

There is also a song about ‘Moonshine’ drink. Is it still done these days?
Yes, we have the korpikuusen kyynel, a tear from this backwoods spruce, that is the Finnish version of moonshine. The idea behind that name is that this moonshine was distilled under these trees, because these trees had so big and wide branches that you could actually hide under the tree. In our days it is not done that much anymore I guess. Surely in the South of Finland nobody does it anymore. Alcohol used to be expensive and difficult to get, so people were making their own brew, but now you can get a cheap vodka from anywhere, so it is not really worth making your own stuff unless you have that as a hobby.

Themes like mythology and the raven are also featured on the album. What is the story behind the sixth song ‘Korppikalliota’?
The raven has always been the bringer of death, because that is a bird that does not come to your yard for example in the countryside. It is a bird living in deep forests. So the story goes: if the raven comes to your yard or your house, someone is going to die. It is a bird of very bad omen.

The eighth song ‘Sillanrakentaja’ or ‘Bridge Builder’ is about a place in Finland. Can you tell a bit more about that?
Actually I have never been there. I have never seen that place, that’s the funny thing. I am very interested in history, especially local history of my own. The place where I come from and then of course, the place where I live nowadays. But our lyricist lives on the western coast. He is also very interested in history and local history, but of course his local history is different from mine. That’s why this happens to be a new legend to me. I am planning to go there one day. You know we had the song ‘Ämmänhauta’ on the previous album and that place still exists. It is surrounded by houses now, but it is still there. The municipality was trying to build houses on top of it, but people said: ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ I mean, I would not live in a house built on a grave. That is a kind of horror movie stuff.

The song ‘Henkselipoika’ was already played live at the European tour. Why did you choose that one?
I don’t know. It is just a nice fast song with a good story. We just made a video for it. Yesterday we got the final cut of that.

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You made a video for ‘Harmaja’ and that seems a special song to me… I like it a lot!
Yes, it is – again – I was going to say a bit different, but it is very different from what people have been expecting from us. Then again, I was going to say: it is different from what you expect, but it is not that weird if you look back to what kind of songs we have had. On our albums there has been always that kind of material, even already in the very beginning there was that kind of slow acoustic guitar stuff. Maybe it is strange to release that one as the first video, because everybody is expecting another ‘Vodka’ or ‘Happy Little Boozer’, and this is what you get.

I think you did the right thing, because as far as I have checked, the reactions on it are very positive…
Well, there are always some people who don’t like it, but I have always said: when we released an album or a song or whatever, there is always a group of people complaining that Korpiklaani is releasing the same album every time and then there is a group of people saying that Korpiklaani has changed too much. There is no way to keep both sides satisfied. The only thing you can do is do whatever you want to stay true and honest to yourself. I always remember that I grew up as a huge Metallica fan, at least with the three first albums. Then – I may be very wrong, but – I always felt that they lost their direction, because they start thinking too much about what people would like from them, not just doing what they always did. And what they want.

Yes, they have changed a lot. I think almost every fan from the very beginning got disappointed in the long run…
Yes, but then again there are people who discovered them in the nineties and they do not give a fuck about ‘Ride The Lightning’ or ‘Master Of Puppets’.

A very nice thing about the twelfth song is that it ends with the sentence: ‘Live for today, not for tomorrow’. Indeed, people always think about the future and what they don’t have, they forget to live in the ‘here & now’…
Yes, but that is a common problem and I do find the same kind of attitude in myself as well. I think it is common human nature that you have to make plans and you want other things in future, you can’t be happy with anything you have, you just want something more, something different… and then people spend their lives chasing stuff they never get and when they are seventy years old they realize they did not even enjoy what they did have.

Do you have a big dream you want to see fulfilled in future?
No, I don’t see it that big. I rather take smaller steps at a time.

Do you still like to travel and being on the road with the band?
Yes, I see the touring as the best part of it all.

Recently you have been to Japan. Was it a nice confrontation with that culture?
Yes. We have been there three times and the last time was actually the first time we had the opportunity to see something. This last visit was a lot nicer. We actually went to see Kreator. They were playing in the same town the day before us and that was fun. You know they have a Finnish guitar player…

I see you are going to do a long Russian tour…
The second long one. We already did one a couple of years ago. That was a very nice experience, although it was winter and very cold. We were travelling by train and I cannot say that was a very nice experience, because of the weather, but we met a lot of nice people and drank a lot of vodka on the train.

You also have your own drink now, isn’t it?
Yeah we did a beer, a local brewed one. It has been a long process. We have been talking about it for a long time with them and then finally, a few months ago, we had two options left to choose. We went to the brewery and had a long tasting session to decide on which one. Then we got it in the stores, but it is already sold out. So it was a bit of a quickie (laughs), I guess they will make a new batch.

The artwork is done by Jan Yrlund again, but it is based on a real photograph…
Yes it is true, but I did not know that and I was actually complaining about it when I first saw it. I was complaining that the water in the background looks really fake. It just cannot flow like that. Then the guy sent me the photo and that’s exactly how it is. I said okay, no offense (laughs).

When looking back at the making of this album, what will always be remembered by you?
One night – the plan was recording bass guitar during the day, which we did – the producer went to bed, and me and our guitarist Cane started to drink beer. That was a very nice evening in the studio. We were listening to country music and drinking beer. The recordings went really easy and smooth this time.

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