Wintersun win through their ambitions

It is always unfair and extremely frustrating that some artists can’t finish their work for technical or financial reasons. That a T.V. show has to be canceled before its end because it lacks viewing audience – for instance fans of Carnivale are still mourning the end of the show after the second season while six were planned. That sometimes a movie director can be dogged by bad luck, as Terry Gilliam infamously was when he had to give up on his movie « The Man who killed Don Quixote » because of barely believable twists of fate (going has far as the irruption of F-16 from the U.S. army on the set).

Fortunately, Wintersun’s story ended up happily after eight long years. That’s what it took to give a follow-up to their first record that succeeded and made the listeners hungry for more. For this second records, Jari Mäenpää wanted to see big but as he himself admits, his ambition almost got the best of him for he has been too inexperienced and naive. Almost a decade of stress for the band and of eagerness for the public that increases the risk of big disappointment just as the risk of immoderate enthusiasm regarding Time I, out the 12th of October.

Jari told us the story of these eight years of technical problems, stress, and impatient although understanding label. Relieved, Jari doesn’t feel traumatized by this experience and is already thinking about the future and about more.

And just for the record – Jari hate winter, a detail that would have remained unnoticeable for any band whose name isn’t Wintersun…

« I never really gave up. »

Radio Metal : It’s been eight years since your first album came out. Time I will finally be released this month after years of technical problems. So my first question is really simple: how are you doing? How do you feel?

Jari Mäenpää (vocals, guitars) : I feel great. It’s been a big relief to finally get some material out. It’s exciting to see how people will like the new album.

During those eight years, did you experience discouragement sometimes?

There definitely were some very hard years and days on this rocky road. But I just took a deep breath and kept going. The band members and the label gave me their support, so I just kept going. I never really gave up, or anything.

Looking at the reactions of the fans when the release of your new album was announced, it’s amazing to see how dedicated your audience is, considering the fact that you only released one album. How could you explain this success? Do you think this is what kept you going all these years?

Yeah, definitely. It’s been really wonderful to notice that we have lots of dedicated fans. They’ve been giving a lot of support and encouragement during those years. People liked the first album a lot, and after that, I gave interviews and announced that I would be making this very big album. I guess it created a little hype around it. Because we kept delaying and delaying, maybe people thought it was going to be really huge! (laughs) Lots of the delays were due to technical problems, but I had envisioned from the start to make this huge epic album. I didn’t want to give up until I reached that vision.

Apparently you’ve experienced some trouble with the recording and the mixing of this album, since it’s a very complex and orchestrated album. Does this mean that your ambition for this album was too big compared to your financial and technical means?

Yeah, defnitely. I was a bit naïve at the beginning. I didn’t realize that making those orchestrations would take so much computer power. Actually, I didn’t have much experience, or any experience at all, to record music with computers. After the first album, I got my first computer programs and sample libraries, and I started learning on the go. I learned quickly, but I also realized quickly that this stuff needs a lot of power! These orchestrations are usually made with much bigger computers, like those soundtrack composers use, like ten computers linked together. I could only afford one computer, and I had to work with that. It was time-consuming, the process was very slow. It took a lot of time.

About Wintersun’s first album: « It’s been really wonderful to notice that we have lots of dedicated fans. […] I gave interviews and announced that I would be making this very big album. I guess it created a little hype around it. Because we kept delaying and delaying, maybe people thought it was going to be really huge! (laughs) »

How did your label react to this situation and to the fact that the album was constantly delayed?

Of course they gave me some hard times! (laughs) With good intentions, though. But they believed in me and in our band, and they supported us as much as they could. Of course they couldn’t give a 100,000€ budget, because we’re still a very small metal band. It was just impossible to give us millions! (laughs) But they definitely helped us as much as they could all these years. They always helped me get the new equipment and the new computers I needed.

Did this situation, this stress, have an impact on the writing of the album?

Well, sometimes. But it didn’t have an impact on the melodies or anything, it just made things slower sometimes, because of all the stress. I had a very clear vision from the start, and I just kept working as fast as I could. I think I came very close to this vision I had. I’m really happy about the result.

It looks like time and seasons, especially winter, obviously, are the main concerns of the band, judging from the songtitles, the name of the album or the name of the band. Could you tell us more about that, about what time represents to you?

Lyrically, the Time album deals with human experiences and interrogations, like why are we here? Who are we? Where do we come from and where are we going? It deals with all the emotions we go through in our short lives, especially when times passes away. “When Time Fades Away” is the first track on the album. It’s about pain and sorrow when we lose our loved ones. We also lose some feelings, like those magical feelings when we’re younger. But it also deals with more positive things, like energy, strength and power, the amazement at being alive. But yeah, the most common subject on this album is a kind of melancholic feeling when time fades away. You never feel the same, as the lyrics say.

About Nuclear Blast : « Of course they gave me some hard times! (laughs) With good intentions, though. But they believed in me and in our band, and they supported us as much as they could. »

The only season you refer to is winter, with songs like “Land of Snow and Sorrow”, “Darkness and Frost”. Do you think that winter is the most inspiring time of the year for you?

Yeah, definitely. In Finland, winter is very long. There are very dark days; sometimes the sun doesn’t shine most of the day. It’s kind of depressing, actually, but it’s still a very magical, beautiful time. But personally, I don’t like the cold. I’m more of a summer person! (laughs) Winter is inspiring because you can’t go outside. Or you can, but it’s not fun! (laughs) You can’t go to the beach and have a good time, so you spend more time home, just writing. It’s definitely more inspiring.

Do you intend to do shows that would be as ambitious as the record? For example some shows with an orchestra?

Actually, our management suggested that it could be a possibility sometime in the future. It just depends on how well the Time album will do. We need a really big budget for something like that, of course, and lots of preparation and planning. But it’s a possibility. I think that’s it’s a bit too early to talk about it, but it could happen.

Is Time II very different from Time I, or is there some continuity?

I think it’s quite different. The two albums are like siblings: there are the same guitar sounds and the same massive, epic orchestrations and layers and stuff. But I made it so every riff on these albums has its own pattern and sounds different orchestration-wise. It’s like there’s a different orchestra for every riff, so to speak: different samples, different synthesizer effects… I even used different string libraries and everything. I think Time II will be more diverse and have more variety within the songs. There will be more contrast between the songs. I think it will be equally as good as, or even better than Time I.

« I have even bigger ambitions for the future albums. »

How did you choose which songs to put on the first and on the second album?

Actually, it wasn’t a choice at all. From the beginning I knew the track order for the complete 80 minutes. There was this clear divide in the middle. It was natural to split things in the middle.

What is coming next? Don’t you feel the need to take a break with the writing process?

There’s never really any break for me. Writing melodies and riffs, that’s very easy to me, and natural. When I pick up a guitar, I can immediately write something. It isn’t necessarily good, but I can definitely write something. But the best stuff always comes out as a surprise, out of nowhere. The hardest part of making music is starting to put the songs together, producing and getting the sound right. I’m very specific when it comes to the sound I want to hear.

Can you guarantee to your fans that the follow up to Time I and Time II, which will come out next year, will be released before 2020?

(laughs) Yeah, I can guarantee that. The plan is to release Time II later next year, but we’re still figuring out mixing schedules, and we’re working on touring schedules.

Do you think that the next albums will be as ambitious?

I think so. But I definitely don’t want to do the next albums the same way I did the Time albums! I really hope we’ll do well with these albums and we can tour, so we can get better resources and better conditions to work on the future albums, and it will be easier and faster to make them. I have even bigger ambitions for the future albums.

Interview conducted on August, 30th, 2012 by phone
Transcription: Saff’

Wintersun’s official website: www.Wintersun.fi
Album : Time I will be released on October, 12th, 2012 via Nuclear Blast Records

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