Korpiklaani (picture: www.korpiklaani.com)

My very first interview took plae in Villeurbanne on the occasion of the Pagan Fest with one of the pioneers of Pagan metal, Korpiklaani. I reach the Transbordeur in late afternoon and wander backstage for a while to discover the other side of the picture (nobody will ever talk enough about these people who do everything they can to ensure the show will go smoothly) before introducing myself to the producer.

It is then that I spot familiar faces in the corridor. What on earth are the guys from Kataklysm doing here? That’s ridiculous, I’m seeing things. In case of doubt, just keep your mouth shut. Too bad I did keep it shut – because these guys were indeed the members of Kataklysm, who were there to perform as Ex Deo. That’ll teach me a lesson!

But there’s no time to complain when you get to enter the lair of Korpiklaani. Contrary to me, all the members of the band seem relaxed, lounging on couches and playing with their instruments. It must be said that some bottles are already empty…

The interview will take place with Jarkko, the bass player with the soft voice. The man is very nice and immediately puts me at ease. My first question regarding the launching of the album on the Internet, however, is a real flop, Jarkko being totally unaware of this! Thankfully, Jonne (vocals) takes over and claims there have only been good reactions so far.

Erm… Right, so this first question wasn’t exactly a success. I have no choice but to take a deep breath and proceed. Fortunately for me, the rest of the interview will take place more naturally and without a single hitch.

Jarkko tells us that the new producer totally revolutionized the band’s way of working by encouraging them to go deeper into things. Did they write “Vodka” because beer isn’t strong enough an alcohol for any self-respecting Finn? Answer: “every kind of alcohol is good for us! The only thing that matters is to sing about alcohol and party!”

What about the differences in the way metal is perceived in France and in Finland? Korpiklaani’s latest album landed in the Finnish Top 50, which is quite an achievement – and something we would never see in France! Jarkko stresses the fact that Finland is a small country, making it easier to enter the Top 50. Such a rank is therefore not always pertinent. To underline this, some members of the band (barely) manage to make a living with music, others don’t.

Korpiklaani – Karkelo: “Grandfather”

Wanting to know more about the design of the various albums, I then ask Jarkko about the character that can be seen on every artwork: “It’s Grandfather!” he answers. “We wanted to have a recurring character, something to link all of our albums. This character immediately appealed to everyone in the band, it’s like a paternal figure for us.”

Jarkko will then talk about the genesis of the Finnish band’s musical style. It all comes down to Jonne, who spent several years with the Sami people in Lapland and learned all about their culture and their way of life. He fell in love with this people and wanted to pay tribute to them with this original mix of folk and metal. This true love for this culture is what makes Korpiklaani so different from other folk metal bands. Still, Jonne moderates this answer by insisting on the fact that, despite his affection for this folklore, he doesn’t believe in anything.

We have a right to wonder what the band think about their concerts in France. After all, we are neither Pagan nor Vikings, and this culture is totally alien to us. According to Jarkko, the band never felt this to be a problem. They’ve always received a warm welcome, and the shows in France can even be said to be one of the highlights of every tour. Yes, the audience play the game!

To conclude the interview, I ask if, following the example of Lordi or Nightwish, they intend to join the competition to try and represent Finland at the Eurovision Song Contest. To which my interlocutor answers point-blank: “Fuck no! We represent Finland much better in our own way!”

Thank you very much, kind sirs – and cheers!

Interview conducted on September 22nd, 2009 in Lyon

Transcription by Saff’

Korpiklaani website:

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