Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Jonne

Interviewed by Arto Lehtinen

Korpiklaani may sound a little bit weird as well as exotic in ears of readers. Korpiklaani, meaning WoodClan, definitely share the same playground along with their land mates Finntroll, by combining the metal elements together with the folk influences and putting out great sounding stuff. Even though Korpiklaani as a band is a new name in the genre, the background of the members lead all the way back to the early 90's when they used to be under the moniker Shaman (until former Angra members went on by forming a band called Shaman). The front man of the Finnish forestclan, Jonne, sheds some light on the band's current activities…

Good day Jonne, how is it going there, what have you done lately?

Just fine thanks. I'm fighting here with the new songs. Some home recordings and things like that. I'm also trying to get some festival gigs for us from Europe and here in Finland.



Korpiklaani, sounds quite weird and exotic to some. But before going any further with Korpiklaani, I find it reasonable to take a look back at the past and how everything started out and led to the formation of Korpiklaani. The saga started with the Shaman moniker in the late 90's when a couple of full length outputs were put out and the band kinda gained the name more among the ethno and folk music public, or….Could you shed some light on this background details ?

Yes, in the beginning it was basic ethno or folk whatever...and year was '93 and I lived in north-Finland, Lappland. The first album was under the name Shamaani duo and year was '96. After that I got the feeling that I wanted to electrify the sound and I wanted to make a bit stronger music. That's how the Shaman was born. Shaman made albums "Idja" '99 and "Shamaniac" '02. Korpiklaani is straight continuation to that.



If I have understood things right, Shaman was quite an odd and eccentric band in the Finnish metal genre. People didn't know how to react and classify your sami and more shamanish based background. Did you find it to difficult to get metalheads convinced about Shaman's style?

It was difficult that's true. Those albums were released only in Finland and Shaman was as marginal as it can be but I don't look at making music how much I will sell the records and how much I make the money. This music comes from my life what I live. Of course it's great if I can some day live only from making music but it's not the reason to do this.



Shaman did mostly ethno festivals and occasionally gigs with different types of metal bands. Was it somehow weird to play in front of all kinds and different sorts of audiences? Did you view that as one kind of advantage for Shaman, to expand the audience base and conqueror other types of crowds who are not being into the pure metal stuff?

We did all kind of weird gigs and happenings then and it was kinda fun. It was only way then because here in Finland it's typical metal people doesn`t dare to say out loud that they liked us. Maybe we were too weird....One reason to that was our management. It was far from the metal fields.



But what made a young lad get interested in the cultural and folk-ish music by bringing in the metal elements? Any guy at your age would have gone to the flourishing power metal genre or the utter brutal death metal approach dominating in the early 90's?

I lived far from the cities out in the middle of the forest and hills and the only job to me was playing and singing in ski resorts. There you can't play death metal :), as you know. It was just an accident that our first album anyway. Some guy came to me after the gig and asked me if I wanted to come to the studio and record some stuff. I said "yes, if you'll pay the plane tickets." A few months after that there was our album around in the fucking little food shops. After that we released our Shaman albums through our own, or actually my wife's, record company.



But then you were forced to change the name to avoid possible lawsuits from the former Angra members forming a new band under the same name. Did you just voluntary agree about changing the band's name and were you ever approached by them regarding this name dispute?

I think that it was good timing to change our name because our music and record label changed too. Korpiklaani collects our musical line and nationality perfectly. The name is as yokel as our music and we ourselves. I think that even Brazzes doesn't dare to steal name like that anymore :)



Shaman was your "baby" since the early stage of your career, apparently giving up the moniker must have been heart breaking?

Ten years as Shaman was enough. I don't know, maybe I got the new start and it freshened the air. At first it was weird because the "spirit of the forest" album was already recorded when we still were under the flag of Shaman but now it feels like a good choice.



Because the Shaman name was blocked by these Brazilian fellows, you didn't have any other choice but to find a new name? Where the heck was the name discovered, and for non Finnish speaking people trying to pronounce the Korpiklaani moniker, and trying to figure out what it exactly stands for, may have some avoidable troubles, so go ahead and tell us now!!

There was a lot of name candidates but what was good sounding name to me it was not that to other guys in the band or our new record label. Anyway, final name candidates was Woodstribe and Woodsclan but in Napalm Records they thought that the name could be in Finnish, so they asked from me that what Woodsclan is in Finnish. I said Korpiklaani. They liked it, so here we are...



In which major way does Korpiklaani differ from Shaman in terms of the music as well the image and what is the least major change between the two bands beside you (used to) front both the bands?!

Using yoik is the biggest difference and of course using the Sámi language before. Those things was kind of trademark of Shaman. Like I said, my own life seems to affect so much to my music and it was rolling so many years from Lappland times that yoik songs are not coming anymore. I thought that it's stupid to still try to make it as forced, so I let the the music come naturally. The new Korpiklaani album is that. Of course we now have real violin and flutes. The violin now has a more important role in Korpiklaani because of Hittavainen who joined us two years ago. Earlier those "folk" instruments was from the synthesizer but now all instruments are real and original instruments.



The debut album of Korpiklaani titled "Spirit Of The Forest" was unleashed by the Austrian based label Napalm Records which kinda focused on not so typical extreme metal stuff as the label features for example the mysterious Falkenbach. What made you decide to sign the deal with them, and I can't help wonder if there were a whole bunch of other labels that showed  interest in Korpiklaani?

We were in the very bad situation between the album recordings. We had a deal with some German company but they wanted to change our musical line but I didn't. So they left us in the studio and didn't pay the bill. I had a hard job to find a new record deal quickly and I sent the songs from the "Spirit of the forest" album around. Here in Finland nobody answered to me from any of those record companies but from the abroad came a few offers. Napalm Records feels best to us in every way. It was easy to talk with them about things. There was little helpers too who recommended Napalm to me. One of these was Ásmegin`s Marius. Napalm Records just let the good feelings to me and I always do things what feels good...like beer drinking ...



Shaman's products came out through a small independent label called Natural Born Records. Why didn't you continue with the same independent publisher with Korpiklaani, or was it about time to have a proper distribution for the folkish stuff influenced by the spirit of the Finnish forest and is this Natural Born Records somehow  involved in Korpiklaani?!

I got the taste some touring in bigger stages and in abroad with Finntroll so it made me hungry to get back there. Finland is so tiny that here is no more than a few places to play. I just wanted to widen the area because playing the gigs is our biggest influence to do this. It is the thing what I want to do with my life. My wife's little Natural born Records of course can't publish the records in world wide so we decided to find this one. Natural Born Records is still our publishing company.



Shaman was more inspired by the cultural background as well as the music of Lapland, whereas Korpiklaani's material could be associated with the modern style folk troll by including these metal elements. Was your main purpose to add more updated folk elements to the approach of Korpiklaani by leaving these sami influences to the background?

The Korpiklaani line-up is different than Shaman's so those guys gave lots of it but as I said, life affect to the music and my two years with Finntroll affected a lot too. Life goes forward and music also with it.



When checking out your music for the first time I got fooled into thinking it was Germany's In Extremo. Do you think Korpiklaani might have something in common with In Extremo and other so called kindred spirit bands ala Finntroll, Battlelore, SkyClad, Subway To Sally ?

I think that we have our own way and it will go stronger in that way with our next album. I have to say that I like all those bands that you mentioned but I don't want to make the same kind of music as somebody else.



Hullunhumppa…hmmm.. The Elakelaiset…hah, but ?

Yeah :) I don't listen to Eläkeläiset except when drunk at some festivals...I heard that they have a same named song after the album was already released. Hullunhumppa was great name to this song in my opinion because that song is so insane humppa. Hullu is Finnish and as translated it's insane.



As for songs on the Spirit Of The Forest album, are all those tunes new ones. I mean, if you had written/composed some of then for Shaman, but re-did and reworked them to meet the Korpiklaani sound?

The album was ready and done when we changed our name. We never thought that we have to change our musical or lyrical way. Those songs just came and that's it.


How do you usually start doing Korpiklaani music and songs? What are the first parts to be written and composed before going any further with the material?

I make almost always music first and lyrics after that. I make some home demo recordings from it and then we try to play it in practice room. Those songs change a lot when we play with the group. Every person has their own way to look at the song and this is a good way to us make music. To our next album there will be more other guys songs too than just mine and it's great because we can get more different kind of material in that way.



When will these other instruments like the violin be added to the material besides the guitar and the drummer to give more variable vibes to the structure of the approach of the Korpiklaani concept ?!

The violin lines comes with the music right at the start. I make it with the guitar. Then Hittavainen does some changes that he can play it with the violin or flute.



As for the instrument; the violin definitely brings interesting and variable vibes to the stuff and in general the joy and happiness. But the violin isn't a new invention because for example My Dying Bride was the first ones to have the violin mixed in their dismal slow doom/death stuff whereas Skyclad brought the violin to the folk metal, but it is obvious the violin belongs to the concept of the album. How do you view that ?

We have a good violin player and it would be crime if we didn't use his talents. I like the sound of violin, flutes and accordion so much that I need it my music. I hope that it's getting more to it with other bands too that they start to take real players to play real instruments. I'm very bored to those synthetic sounds from the keyboards that most of the bands use. It's so great that here is bands like Skyclad etc...who really use those real instruments.



Well, are you going to add other new instruments to upcoming releases ?!

Yes, Hittavainen has a new sackpipe :)



By the way didn't The Spirit Of Forest make a quick to stint to the Finnish top 40 chart ?!?

I haven't noticed...



In reference to In Extremo a couple of questions earlier, I can't help but  point out they are damn big and popular in Germany and even outside. Are the most potential and idealistic market places for bands like Korpiklaani located in Central European countries, especially Germany, where that kind of folk inspired material seems to appeal to the local crowd?

It would be so great to get touring in Central Europe. Of course we are waiting for those festival gigs too but I think that we are still too small a band, so we don't have a chance but maybe after next album, I hope.



This whole folk metal concept has spread like wildfire as there are various folk black metal combos and.. Well whatever folk epic metal oriented bands available in the market. Isn't the whole folk concept a little bit over saturated and kinda over hyped because of the excessive use of the term?

I haven't seen any hype and real success. I mean, even the biggest folk metal names like Finntroll, they have to still keep their day job if they want to buy food and pay flat rents. Hypes are somewhere else and definitely still far, far from folk metal.



After altering the band's name you achieved more attention and have been more in public view than during the whole Shaman era in my opinion. I have personally come across you doing gigs somewhere and quite a lot of interviews. Is this the result of better promotion, better media hype, or has the folk metal been accepted by the normal mainstream public?

Only reason to this is that we have at the first time in my history a real record company and promotion. But maybe it is easier to even this kind of music because people are getting bored to machine music. They are getting looking for something real and organic after all these years of dominating computer, machine dumb dumb shit.



The lyrical side is definitely another interesting topic. What is the main source of inspiration for your ideas and issues for the Korpiklaani stuff? How much do you rely of the imagination when doing the lyrics?

When I made music to our last album I lived in a little forest cottage. It was easy to write the forest kind of lyrics. I haven't got to imagine it. I lived it, but writing lyrics has always been the hard part to me. I don't like to write the lyrics as I like to make music. I hope that I find some day somebody who will take care about our lyrics.



How much do you personally listen to the traditional folk music and the metal stuff in general and have you studied more about ancient Finnish as well as shaman culture? Do you find it an endless source of inspiration to write in lyrics?

I never studied shamanism. I lived with the people in Lapland who were using it in their every day life. The Finnish folk music is running in my veins so I never studied it either. I have lived most of my life in the countryside so I just live my life and let the music come as it comes.



Korpiklaani is described as a vital and energetic live act. I understand that you give 100 % of yourself in a gig, but I guess you won't turn somersaults on the stages like for example like In Extremo ?

I like to keep our gigs like big parties so I want to give all from me to audience and I've noticed that I get it back a thousand times from the audience. It feels great. I have to start practicing somersaults with guitar right away. Thanks for the tip :)



Apparently you have done more gigs with Korpiklaani than during the Shaman era and more will be done and probably some festival dates?

Playing the gigs is our biggest influence to do this, so I hope that we get lot of gigs and festivals in the future.



Well I thereby thank you for this interview and wish all the best with Korpiklaani in the future, but it is obvious you have something to say, go ahead ….

Thank you and I hope to see you all in the gigs around some day!

Band: www.korpiklaani.com