with Guitarist Kalle "Cane" Savijärvi
By Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Born in a land which is touched by the creeping fingers of the Arctic, and at times may not see night or day, Finland’s Korpiklaani seem perfectly suited to the blend of folk’s culture and metal’s hard edge. Heritage has always been at the heart of the band, and new album Manala is no exception – it’s the realm of the dead in the national mythology if you weren’t already in the know. Sitting down with guitarist Kalle "Cane" Savijärvi we spin a few stories about Korpiklaani, Manala, and staying true….
How do we find yourself today?
Kalle "Cane" Savijärvi – I’m doing great! I’ve been enjoying warm and nice summer days at home between festival shows. Of course waiting for the album release and upcoming tours.
Have you been taking some time out before the release of the new album Manala?
Cane – Not really. After we finished recordings we did the Ukon Wacka European tour. And now since tour we have been doing summer festivals. We love playing, so we don’t need no "time outs". There is still plenty of time between all this.
What is the story behind Manala?
Cane – Many of the songs on our new album is based in Finnish National Epic Kalevala. In Finnish mythology and in Kalevala manala is the realm of the dead, the underworld. Place is also known as Tuonela. Tuomas Keskimäki who was writing most part of the lyrics to this album,
knows Kalevala very well. He is a vice president of Kalevala Poetry Society and he has written also three poetry book’s. Some of his texts which we picked for this album were considering manala so we thought it could be also the album name.
Is it true to say that your cultural heritage is a big influence on the band? Do you think more bands should embrace where they come from?
Cane – Yes,it is true. Our band is very much influenced by Finnish traditions. Lyrics are very often based in Kalevala or some old tales or myths. In the music you can hear the Finnish traditional folk music in almost every kind of way. Lots of different instruments and singing styles. That’s our way to do that. We appreciate our cultural heritage very much, but I’m nobody to say how people should do their work. Everybody must think what is the best way for them. Maybe you should not try embrace it if it doesn’t come naturally.
On that note are the lyrics on Manala in Finnish or English?
Cane – Lyrics on Manala are all in Finnish. We decided to do something new this time and we recorded all the songs in English also. So there will be a bonus disc with Manala album called Underworld which contains same songs as Manala but with English lyrics.
This is the first Korpiklaani album with new violinist Tuonas Rounakari – has he fitted in well with the band?
Cane – Rounakari has fitted more than well. He has been perfect choice for Korpiklaani violin player.
He is very talented and his sense of humor is similar like others. Both are very important things to have. We have already toured with him and everything went well. Tuomas also have lot of good ideas and much knowledge so by time he would be great help for developing bands music and image.
This is your eighth album in a nine year period – how have you managed to remain so prolific?
Cane – In good old times bands used to release album every year sometimes even two and it was nothing special. Nowadays if you do that you are very prolific. We haven’t had any plans like how often we for example should release an album. Jonne, our singer who is doing most of composing, has a certain need to write songs. The thing what he really likes to do. Cause we are spending only about two months of year on tour plus festivals and other shows maybe month, there is plenty of time for him to sit down at home and do music. We don’t do that kind of work on the road at all. Almost everytime when we have finished last albums recordings there is already some ideas for the new songs and maybe some leftovers from the last album, so the work for the new album is already started.
Does this mean you’re always brimming over with new ideas for songs, or is it more of a challenge to keep coming up with new material?
Cane – Like I already said it is more like having a nice hobby what you want to as much as possible. Practicing guitar or playing just for fun is a good place to get some new ideas for songs. Melody or riff just start to sound good and then you try to build up a song around it. Even reading the lyrics can give you the feeling how the music should be. Challenging ourselves is not our way to work in song writing I think. Jonne has said that it must come naturally. It is impossible to force anything out. As long as we think we have enough good material we can release new albums.
If I have my information correct, your music was steeped in folk first, rather than metal – what lead you to bring these two aspects together?
Cane – We all have been big hard rock and metal fans from eighties. Jonne started to concentrate more to folk stuff when he was living in Lapland and performing with Shamaani Duo in nineties. After that he gathered a band around him continuing the same thing as in duo but with electric guitars. Band was called Shaman which later changed name to Korpiklaani.
I think combining two styles that you love is the best solution to do music for us. It gives us free hands to do anything that we like under one band. You can hear it very well on this new album. For example in song "Husky Sledge" you can hear only Rounakaris violin and ankle bells. One man, one take, very shamanistic. Then again in song "Petoeläimen Kuola" there is very trashy feeling and growled vocals still these two songs fit well together in one Korpiklaani album.
Korpiklaani has always managed though to inject a different feeling into folk, particularly in your more party numbers – is it important to the band to dispel with some of those preconceptions?
Cane – In my opinion people are having too much preconceptions about everything even if it was food, music or for example other people. Being more open you can find things that you like or don’t like more easy. I think it is important for every band to show what they got and how they are not like others and so it is for us too. It’s really nice to see or hear how people are finding the feeling what we are trying to bring with our music. This kind of "party" feeling has always been part of folk music I think in every country. Even if the music is different you have the same feeling in it.
You also have a focus on real instruments, instead of synthesisers – is this in order to achieve a more organic sound?
Cane – Yes, this have been important for us from the day we started. Real intsruments just have their own sound in good and in bad, mostly good. Sound is more dynamic and there is more possibilities to affect to sound by changing the playing style. They also look very nice played live. Of course it’s hard to find right players for accordion or violin but we been lucky in that case. For us using a synthesiser instead of accordion is same as using drum machine instead of drummer.
You’ve got a major tour coming up in the US – will you be heading anywhere new this time?
Cane – I think we will hit some new cities also this time. Mostly they’re same, some venues are different though. For example in Hollywood we’ve performed already in House of blues and Key club. Now it’s time for legendary the Whisky a Go Go.
Is the US one of your favourite places to play, or do you prefer to be closer to home?
Cane – Personally I like touring in US very much. Beers are good and there is not that much language problems as some countries in Europe. Even though the venues and backstages are maybe not good as in Europe. I think it’s more exciting to go as far as you can from your home. Then see all the differences in culture, weather, food and everything. It would be easier and quicker to play close home but I don’t care about that. It gives me so much more to be able to travel all over the world.
Will there be a bit more of a gap now till the next album do you think?
Cane – Let’s see how quick we can get the new material together. We haven’t planned anything yet. We are no in a hurry, so if it takes time it doesn’t matter. We are going to concentrate now promoting this new Manala album and there is lots of work in that.
Is there anything else on the cards for Korpiklaani in the meantime?
Cane – We are going to play few festivals here in Europe before we start the North American tour from Mexico August 25th. After that we do the Heidenfest tour in Europe and maybe Russia and more concerts, gigs, shows, playing and performing in different places. And between of course songwriting, composing and practicing.