Hello everyone, we are truly excited to be with Jonne Järvelä, the vocalist/guitarist of the Finnish folk metal band Korpiklaani. We would like to thank him for accepting our invitation and being here with us today.
GD: Before we plunge into the questions, we would like to know more about the history of your group. How did the idea of forming Korpiklaani come in sight? (And the title of the band of course…)
J: We were before known as a band called Shaman and we made two albums under that name. Idja 1999 and Shamániac 2001. Then when we started to make our third album we got a worldwide record deal from Napalm Records but they asked if we could change the name because there already was a band called Shaman from Brazil. It came to my mind that Woods Clan could be a cool name because that’s what we were. Finnish guys from woods and countryside. Then they asked at Napalm Records what Woods Clan is in Finnish and I said Korpiklaani. Their answer was, they want to make a deal with Korpiklaani. Then the third Shaman album came out as a Korpiklaani “Spirit Of The Forest” name 2003. Now Jylhä is our 11th studio album, so it’s been a long road from there to this. Great thing in our career is that it’s been at an all-time low but continuing to rise when thinking about our success.
GD: Your country is often taught to have an affinity for metal music. It is even said to have more than 50 metal bands for every 100.000 people. What is your take on that? Where do you think this tremendous interest come from?
J: Maybe it is because this is a cruel and cold country. There are a lot of dark woods and winter time is long. Maybe that’s why musicians and songwriters’ first idea is not to write happy shiny pop music. Maybe it is easier to make cold and dark music when living in these views. That’s how I see it.
GD: Kiuru, a track from your studio album Jylhä, is pervaded by aggressive drumming along with a wailful melancholy. The merging of these ambivalent tunes makes the song even more canorous. Yet it doesn’t seem to be a typical Korpiklaani song. What made you go stray off the beaten path and try something experimental like this one? Could you give us some insight into the creation process of your songs? What comes first: the lyrics or the composition? Is there some sort of work sharing or do you collectively work on the songs?
J: Now we have a new drummer Samuli mikkonen who can play even my wildest visions so it is easier to write music and songs like Kiuru because I don’t need to think if someone can play the song or not. Most of the time I have a melody first and then I try to think about guitar riffs around it and after that what would be fiddle and accordion lines. Kiuru was an exception to the rule because the riffs came at first and then I wrote melodies afterwards. Then when I have everything on my mind I start to record a demo. Then it still changes a lot. When I have a demo I send it to Tuomas Keskimäki who writes lyrics. I have a vocal melody played by acoustic guitar and Tuomas follow that when writing. But I also sometimes use his poems as an inspiration for the songs, so it can be lyrics first too but this is a very rare way to do these days.
GD: Style-wise, Korpiklaani delivers a rather festive, vivacious folk metal scene. We all know that musical appreciation is a subjective experience but when it comes to metal music, non-fans often set it down as being gruesome and noisy, voiced by frantic vocals. However, metal encompasses myriad of sub-genres, each of which is prolific and thriving in itself. Do you think Korpiklaani’s joyful fashion helps soothe its “harsh” image?
J: I think at least we can bring some good and different vibes for metal fans. Maybe that’s why we are not every metalhead’s cup of tea but those who like to have fun in a big way we won’t let them down. Of course there are both sides, light and dark as in everything in this world, so is in our music. We also have our dark side holding our festive side.
GD: Beer Beer, which can be regarded as an iconic song, was released in 2005 and it was covered by many artists around the world between 2019 and 2020. Has this interest occurred suddenly? Is it possible to claim your song has been rediscovered?
J: We had an idea to make Finnish version of the song and it was an idea to ask some other artist tos sing it using our new background for the song. Then it went out of hand when we asked our friend bands to make versions in their own language like Trollfest in Norwegian-, Exodus in American- Alestorm in Scottish- and many other languages and artists. Then after a little time artists heard about the idea and asked to join but that was just a great thing!
GD: Of course, Beer Beer is not the only song about alcohols you titled. We also know that Vodka, Tequila, Jägermeister, etc…. What are the reasons to write songs about alcohols? Also, having regarded to your songs and creating a Vodka brand, we would like to ask you what does “drink” mean in Finnish culture?
J: Korpiklaani Vodka brand actually won “The best Vodka in the world” awards. It is cool to have your own vodka brand because people buy your album only once but vodka bottles they buy many times even every weekend. It is cool to play those drinking songs for people who are drinking alcohol at the time when we play, as you know people like to drink a little bit when they come to metal gigs. In Finland we have a very strong drinking culture and we like to drink too much. Here must be something to keep you warm.
GD: Finland seems to have embraced diverse cultures throughout history. According to sources, Kalevala is a didactic work compiled to the end that your national identity is revived and preserved. We also know that Tuonela Swan in the epic sings and is depicted on Manala’s cover artwork. Besides, Väinämöinen, a central shamanistic deity in Finnish folklore, to whom sageness and magical incantations are attributed, is also portrayed on the same visual. What is the connection between Kalevala and your music? Given the mythological references and symbols, could you tell us about how your album covers are designed?
J: Kalevala is a big influence in our lyrics and Finnish myths and history in general. Then again, I don’t think so much about those kinds of things when writing music. For me the biggest influence has always been nature and on the other hand having fun in life. In the end positive vibes is the main thing for me that I want to bring up.
Jan Yrlund is our graphic designer. Finnish guy who also worked for Manowar for years. Now he also works with Testament for example. He has been doing all our album covers since Tales Along This Road album 2006. It is easy to work with him because he knows exactly what this band needs art wise. I have an idea about the cover and somehow when I explain my idea he knows what to do. We are on the same “frequency” somehow. He also knows everything about Kalevala and a lot about Finnish mythology. I couldn’t even think of hiring someone outside of Finland to make our cover art because I need it to be in touch with our culture like the songs are as well.
GD: Looking at your music and the previous names of the band, we can understand that you have strong ties with Shamanism. Finland is a country that still contains some of the first communities coming to mind when we think of Shamanism (for example, Sami Shamanism). We can see these traces of Shamanism through the horn you attach to your microphone and the Shaman drum which is your band’s symbol. What traces of Shamanism remained in your country today? Does Korpiklaani have a mission regarding these past beliefs?
J: Shamanism is actually equal to nature, so that’s why it is so important for us. That’s why our logo has also been drumming shaman since the beginning. Shamanism is actually the same everywhere on this planet. Nobody needs to preach it. It’s been the same in Northern countries, Africa and native Americans as well as in Russia and Asia. Today shamanism in Finland is actually rising when church power is not so strong anymore. For some reason the church always tried to put it down and thought it is somehow satanic. There is nothing to do with that. Shamanism is not any kind of religion; it is more like a way of life. Even healing.
GD: In Central Asian Shamanism, there are symbols on the Shaman drum pertaining to the design of human, shaman, God and universe. We see the similarities of these symbols on Korpiklaani’s album covers and on the drum that you use, and even on your vodka brand. Did you design these symbols? Or is there something about shaman drums in your culture?
J: I put together my own visions and old symbols of Sámi culture and old shaman drum symbol paintings. But for example our symbol is the same as old rock paintings that have been found around northern countries.
GD: We encounter “Yoik” in some parts of your vocals in your songs and in your live performances. Can you tell us what Yoik is? How did the idea of using Yoik for your music come about?
J: I lived five years early 90’s in the north of Finland, Lapland with Sámi people. They teached me how to yoik and how to live there with nature and all about reindeer works. Yoik is their way to sing mostly without any lyrics. It is pretty much the same kind of chant as native American people do.
GD: We all have been feeling the effects of Covid-19 pandemic since day one. In the midst of improving vaccination rates and extended regulations, we are just hoping to go back to our previous ‘normal’. In what way has the pandemic affected your work?
J: We haven’t had a chance to play any tours after that. Only some gigs here and there and of course it’s been a financial disaster for us. I think we are in the same boat as all the bands but also concert venues. I really hope everyone will take this seriously and take those vaccines, so we could get rid of this shit or at least try to put it as low as possible.
GD: As far as we know, you gave a concert in Turkey. Are we going to be able to see you again?
J: We really hope so!
Would be nice to get a chance to play in your warm and nice country again.
GD: Lastly, is there anything that you would like to say to your Turkish fans?
J: Hope to see you all in gigs as soon as possible!
Peace, Love, Folk and Metal!