Interview with Petri Lindroos
December 6, 2016 – Electric Brixton, London
Interview by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Petri Lindroos, frontman of Finnish folk metal pioneers Ensiferum was kind enough to sit down with Metal-Rules prior to their show in London this Tuesday. We talked about their recent acoustic tour, the upcoming album, and pros and cons of wearing a kilt on stage.
Hi, first of all, thank you very much for taking your time and talking to me. How are you doing today?
So far, so good. Had to get up fucking early this morning to cross the border by Calais, but better now!
Also, happy Finnish independence day! I only just realized it was before I left. Do you guys celebrate that in any way when you’re on the road?
It’s kind of hard to celebrate on the road. We’ll have some drinks probably, I think that’s pretty much it.
Did you have the chance to check out the city today?
Yes, we actually did, we took the tube to Oxford Street, stopped by the Primark. I got some Star Wars stuff there.
Is that gonna be your new stage outfit?
No, I wish it was [laughs]. That would be cool, to play as a Stormtrooper or whatever. Maybe we’ll do some special Star Wars themed show at some point [laughs].
So you’ve played five shows on the Headbangers Ball tour with Iced Earth, Kataklysm, and Unearth. How has that been going so far?
So far, so good. First day was pretty hectic and chaotic. We’ve got four bands, four back drops, four sets of drums… and nobody knows anything [laughs]. It was pretty terrible, but now it has started to settle down these last couple of days, so everything is running a lot smoother.
Have you toured with any of these bands before?
Noooooo, I don’t think so. This is the first time we’ve met Unearth; the Kataklysm guys we already know, and Iced Earth is also a new acquaintance. Everybody seems to be very, very cool.
Do you have any funny moments or stories to share?
Not really. Except if you count that the Unearth drummer haven’t been able to get into his bunk yet, because he’s been passing out in the back lounge, every night. We’ve been watching Alien 1, 2, 3, and 4. It’s like ten minutes into the movie, and he’s sleeping. I’m like ‘how the fuck does he do that?’ Unbelievable! But there’s probably some jetlag involved also, they came from the US.
Million dollar question, which one is the best Alien movie?
That’s a hard one, because… I think it’s on the second one where Ripley is in that big transformers suit and there’s the alien queen. I think that’s the best, cause there’s the epic fight at the end!
Did you ever watch Headbanger’s Ball on MTV yourself when you were younger?
Yes, I did. We used a lot of VHS tapes back in those times, I don’t know if kids nowadays even know what that is. I taped them all, checked them out. It was always on around midnight, 1-2am or something, so it was really late and I could not watch it then because I had to get up for school. But I always watched it the next day.
Next year is going to be the 10th anniversary of Victory Songs, your first full length album with Ensiferum. Nowadays you don’t seem to play that much from that album, besides “Ahti” and the occasional “Wanderer” or “One More Magic Potion”. Will we see you celebrate Victory Songs by bringing out some more songs from that album on tour?
Ah, well we haven’t thought that far ahead yet [laughs].
Could we see you do some sort of special anniversary show?
Well, that seems to be pretty common right now with especially metal bands, that some albums have an anniversary and then they play the whole album and then some very cool encores. Why not, I’ll say probably maybe, probably maybe [laughs]. Hard to say yet.
You’ve just finished an acoustic tour in Finland, what was that like?
That was a lot of fucking fun, I have to tell you. We did the first set of shows in the beginning of this year, in January, and it’s so much different from doing a normal show. It was a lot of fun, and playing the shows was very cool as our music works really well in acoustic form, but not in a too serious way. It was all very relaxed, we all have chairs, we’re all sitting down, and there’s no headbanging [laughs]. We did have an acoustic mosh pit though! That has been happening a few times in Finland. We play acoustic – people do a fucking mosh pit.
Where did the idea of doing acoustic shows come from?
The idea came up years ago already, but we never got around to doing them before this year. We were like ‘we have some free time for about a month and a half, so if we can get some shows, then we’ll finally do them [acoustic].’ So we booked the shows first, then started working on the material [laughs]. But yeah, the first idea came years ago for that one, and now we finally got to do them. If we could be so lucky to at some point be able to bring it outside of Finland, maybe do an acoustic European tour, that would also be really cool. Because we’ve been doing European tours since 2004, and it’s always been electric ones, but now we have an acoustic setup ready. The set was, depending on how much ‘blah blah blah’ between the songs, 80-90 minutes. So they were full length sets, I think perhaps 15 songs, like we normally play on a headlining show.
You filmed your acoustic show at On The Rocks in Helsinki for an upcoming DVD release. It was stated on the Ensiferum Facebook that this would only be one part of the DVD. Can you reveal some more about what the rest will be?
I don’t know, I have no idea. We have only filmed that one show, we had 6-7 cameras, go-pros and put them in various spots. That was a fucking hilarious show: it was very close to sold out, there were just under 400 people in this small bar. So the atmosphere was great, people were really into it from the very beginning… it was an amazing night.
It’s been almost two years since One Man Army now, so I guess it’s about time we start asking if there’s a new Ensiferum album in the making. Are you currently working on a new album?
Yes, we are. If everything goes right as planned, which is fucking rare [laughs], we should be going in to the studio next spring. Again, if all goes as planned, we hope to have it out in the Autumn, like October-ish, around there. That’s the plan, but you never know.
What’s the album creation process like for Ensiferum? Do you write separately and then come together, or do you write as a group?
Markus Toivionen is the founder and the main songwriter. He has ideas, he brings them over, and we start to work them out as a group. There’s no dictator in the band. It takes a lot of time… a lot of time and effort. Sometimes it works out fast, and sometimes it takes fucking weeks and months until you get it to sound like you want it to. It’s slow and long.
What do you enjoy the most, recording an album or touring?
Both are nice, but they’re so different from each other. Creating new material is good, finally being in studio, having that right sound and hear it coming together layer by layer. Finally, when it’s done, you’re like ‘okay, now we need to learn how to play it, again’ [laughs], so we can perform it live. Being in the studio is cool, at least you don’t have to be in a different venue and country every day. ‘Where the fuck am I today?’ – in the studio, you at least, or hopefully, you know where you are.
You always include cover songs as bonus tracks, what goes into choosing what songs to cover?
Well, with ‘One Man Army’, we kind of picked up relatively simple songs, that wouldn’t eat up a shit lot of days from the actual album recording time. They’re more simple, they’re easier to work with, and, well the songs need to be at least somewhat good… not just some random two-minute shit from someone. It’s something that everybody likes already, and then we try and put it in a Ensiferum format.
You’ve played most of the material from One Man Army live for almost two years now, and you probably have a feel of what songs get the best reactions from the audience. When you start supporting a new album, what songs from One Man Army would you say is most likely to prevail in the set lists?
So far all the songs we’ve been playing from One Man Army have been working really good. Actually from the very first show, when we played in Finland before we started on the European tour, the fans really liked it. It has kind of never happened before, it was weird to see that the fans already knew the songs, and they were very much into it. Usually when there’s new material everyone is slightly sceptical in the beginning, but on this one we had headbanging, mosh pits, you name it, which usually doesn’t happen the first time ever playing a song. It was very cool, so… so far, all the songs we’ve been doing have been working really good, they always find a nice spot on the set list since there are both fast and mid-tempo songs to choose from, and they fit together really well.
You changed your stage outfits around the time One Man Army was released. Do you miss being on stage in a kilt with the Finnish flag on?
In some cases a kilt is really nice, you know… your balls get a lot more air than in tight jeans or leather pants [laughs]. So yeah, kilt is cool but playing with jeans is also nice, you don’t have to worry about people taking photos under your skirt – which has happened before. And they’ve learned to use the flash [laughs].
Slightly unrelated to Ensiferum, but if the opportunity presented itself, would you be open for a Norther reunion? Do you think that’s likely?
I don’t know. I highly doubt that is something that would happen, Kristian [Ranta] is working a real job, so I really don’t think that he would be up for doing anything. Heikki [Saari] is playing in Finntroll nowadays, the bass player Jukka [Koskinen] is still with Wintersun, whenever they do something [laughs]… Tuomas, I’m actually not really sure what he’s doing these days, haven’t seen him in a while.
I asked Terji Skibenæs of Tyr last week to name the Big Four of Folk Metal, and Ensiferum was on his last. I figured It’s only right I ask you the same, so who are the Big Four of Folk Metal?
Folk metal [long pause]. The problem is there’s way too many bands now these days, it’s too hard to pick. Scorpions – that’s the greatest folk metal band, they’ve got “Wind of Change”, you can’t beat that one [laughs].
You’ve so far been confirmed for one festival show in Spain next summer. What else do you guys have planned for 2017?
We also have some festivals in Finland coming up. There are also some other European ones, that I think we’ve confirmed too, but I don’t think it’s been revealed yet. There’s so many of them, they just come and go.
Anything you’d like to add in the end?
See you guys on the road, and hopefully you guys can BUY the new album when it finally comes out. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, and good luck with show!