Korpiklaani - Jarkko Aaltonen

KORPLIKLAANI are getting ready to cross the Atlantic having the brand new album “Kulkija” in their luggage. This is not another typical for this band album and it really needs more listening attention to understand what these Finns were trying to capture in the studio. To help you in this process METAL KAOZ did the following Skype session with bassist Jarkko Aaltonen and confirmed what was written in the album presentation. Check below what he had to say.

Korpiklaani - Jarkko Aaltonen

Hi Jarkko and welcome to METAL KAOZ, we are happy to have you again!
Hello Dimitris, I was gonna say good evening, but now for you is good afternoon.

It’s almost afternoon, so you’re on the spot. How are you, man?
I’m doing fine; a bit tired, but fine. We’re still in the festival season – this coming week is the last festival show. Then we have a 2-3 week break and then the tour is starting again.

Are you excited that the new album is coming out soon?
Yeah, and it was about fucking time! I don’t even remember when we actually finished the album. It’s been done months ago but for some reason it just didn’t fit the label’s release schedule, so we had to wait.

Yeah, the record labels do that. You submit your album and sometimes six months pass before it comes to the light.
Yeah, it’s ridiculous nowadays.

So, “Kulkija” is your longest album to date, with over 70 minutes of music. Apparently you wrote a lot of good songs and you did not want to leave any out of the album, right?
Yeah, it’s rather long. Actually the way we work is the other guys [interrupting himself] because we don’t get together to write songs. So, in general, when we send the demos to each other, no one even gets to hear bad songs. I mean, if you write something and you don’t like it, then you don’t even send it to the rest of the band members. So, this is how we work.

So, you’re doing a pre-screening; let’s put it that way.
There is a lot of good stuff going on, and then, of course, there is a 10 minute song in the album and there is a 7 minute song, so just these two songs are 17 minutes. It was funny when we started to gather the songs, I think we had 5 demos done for the album, and those two were already included in those five. So, I was like “we have five songs and this is already half an album, so we don’t need much more” (laughs). But then, there was still more to come.

Got it. I was about to ask you about “Kallon Malja” which is the longest song KORPIKLAANI have composed.
Yeah, it is. It was a bit of a stretch for us. We always had on the previous albums some sort of heavier tracks but this is the first time when we actually really stepped into the Doom department. I mean, when I really heard the demo – the song was written by Jonne – and I was like “have you been listening to CANDLEMASS?”

(laughs) Right! In fact, I will jump forward to my questions because I was actually writing the review for the album and I was particularly intrigued by “Sillanrakentaja”, and this one sounds to me that it’s closer to Doom Metal.

Well, it depends on what Doom you are talking about; I really find the riffing that is on “Kallon Malja” really, I always connect this kind of stuff to the ‘90s CANDLEMASS kind of thing, but then “Sillanrakentaja” is a little bit more old school. It is one of these things that when I happen to write something, this is how it sounds like. I’m a bad guitarist, so I really can’t write any faster stuff.

So, does this mean that you’re into heavier stuff?

Yeah, I’m into old kind of material. Lately I’ve been commuting to work quite a bit for the past few weeks and I have this external USB hard disc attached to the car stereo and I’ve been listening to everything, from JETHRO TULL to SUICIDAL TENDENCIES.

Wow, you made my day, Jarkko, you know! SUICIDAL TENDENCIES have a new album coming out…
For the past two days, I’ve been only  listening to the “Join The Army” album; “War Inside My Head”, “Possessed To Skate” and all that stuff.

You have derailed me but I love ST so that’s fine! But let me jump back to my questions; it’s interesting to me that this album seems to be bringing new stuff in the band’s sound, but at the same time mixes with the first albums. One visual difference that I see is the cover artwork where we don’t have the guy with the antlers, so what is the connection between the album’s cover artwork and the lyrics?
Yeah, actually it’s true that the old guy is not there anymore. Again one of those things that I didn’t pay any attention until someone else mentions that. Lyrically, we always have this thing with the past and the legends and the myths and the whatnot, that kind of stuff. And we sort of wanted to step away from that and of course said that to our lyricist Tuomas Keskimäki. He came up with very different kind of stuff but he’s a brilliant writer – so whatever he writes, he does it rather well, he has an interesting way of putting his words together. What happened this time is that the legends are still there but also there are some songs that somehow connect with the idea of traveling, and the idea of traveler or vagabond or outsider. And that thing is also included in a song about home, and the home sickness you feel when you are on the road. And this also connected with a band being on the road. These songs sort of gave this kind of theme to the album which translates to the title “Kulkija” which of course means ‘traveler’. And then, the album cover artwork is also connected to the same thing, because there is an open road in front of you and yet there are also the homes still visible in the picture. So, it’s all connected but I’m not sure if this is clear to the people who don’t understand the Finnish lyrics.

Right. Now that you mentioned the lyrics and of course I’m going to ask you why you have chosen to use just one language, since previously the lyrics were written in both Finnish and English. Was that a conscious choice?
Sort of, yes; because originally the band, like in the first two albums when the band was still called SHAMAN, used the Sami language, and then for the third album, Jonne already wanted to get rid of that and wanted to start singing in Finnish. But that was the time when he was writing everything and he wasn’t really happy with his Finnish text and with what he was producing. So, he got fed up with that because everything sounded shit to him, so he just started writing in English because Finnish is not an easy language for Rock music. So it’s much easier to use English to write whatever sentences to sound good when you sing them in a Rock song. So, this is how we went with the English language in the beginning. A couple of albums later, there was a friend or acquaintance who was writing this stuff that was sort of suitable for our music and we started using his lyrics, like for a few songs at first, and then more and more, and then we found another writer and we ditched the previous one, and so we have been pretty much like an entire Finnish language band for a few years now. We finally, after ten years, we are at the spot where Jonne wanted us to be originally.

And, in fact, although it’s hard, it’s almost impossible for someone to sing-along in a concert, the pronunciation works great with Heavy Metal music, I think.
That’s one thing, yes. I think there’s a lot more power and emotion loaded into the Finnish vocals than in the English ones.

Although it’s difficult, especially here in the US for fans to accept a non-English speaking band, but KORPIKLAANI is not a young band anymore.
Yeah, I know it is difficult of course, especially in the US and there haven’t been many complaints about it but some Americans who have voiced their opinion. And then a couple of albums ago we did record the album also in English and that was solely aimed for the North American market. And then in the end the record label didn’t even release the double CD version of it, so it really did nothing. It didn’t do anything for us or the fans.

Things like that destroy the atmosphere of the music, because you write the music thinking of the Finnish language and that’s all. So we have to start enjoying the vocals as another music instrument.
You are right, and if you listen to that album and compare it with the Finnish version you will understand how big the difference is.

What about the sound of the album? You switched producer and I think you used another guy to do the mixing; did you have a specific sound for this one?
Yes, we did. I cannot remember how many albums we did with Aksu Hanttu; I think it was four or maybe five. Anyway, he did a good job with us and we came a long way with him sound-wise and production-wise and also in the arrangements because he had a say on those too. But after our latest album we felt that there was nowhere to go from that point. I mean, we did not feel like continuing towards that direction with everything being more and more processed. Like, we were taking fuckin’ sixty takes on a violin solo and no one knows why. So, we chose to go back to our roots and have a more natural sound with the guitars having an old-school Marshall crunch. And at the same time keep all the instruments fresh which means that we did not want to keep polishing things more than it was really needed. And we knew that this kind of attitude would not work with Aksu and so, we had to find someone else. Janne Saksa had contacted us earlier saying that if an opportunity would arise he would like to produce us and so we discussed this with him and found out that he had pretty much the same idea of how the band should sound and work in the studio. We decided to work with him and I believe we got exactly what we wanted. I mean, sound-wise we are more natural; the singing and the solos are in-your-face because almost everything was done with one or two takes. There was no fixing of anything because we wanted to keep everything fresh even if one take was not technically perfect. If the emotion and the strength were there then we would keep that take. I think this is quite audible in this album.

Yes, I think there is more room and you can hear everything.
That was exactly one of those things we were aiming to get. The sound should be more open and there should be room for everything.

So, choosing to not to multiple takes also meant less tome in the studio?
In a sense yes, but then again this time around we had more time available so we were not in a hurry. Working in the studio was more relaxed with a more mellow kind of attitude. We still worked from morning to evening but there was no pressure. This was the first time that we actually recorded the album all at once. Usually, we recorded one part like the drums then go play some shows and get back working on the album. The entire ban was in the studio for a few weeks and that was a nicer way of working.

Is it true that you had finished all the song-writing before entering the studio?
In general we have everything written before going into the studio. Of course, there are some cases like some solos that have not been completed or maybe some changes or details being polished for a song. But the basic structures are always ready before starting working in the studio.

Got it! The US tour is coming in November although I know that you don’t like the cold…

Oh yeah, I hate cold but it is better doing the Russian tour first because going to Siberia later in the winter…

Oh yeah… Then starting 2019 you will tour Europe so do you see KORPIKLAANI returning to the US?
The US is always a bit tricky because it is quite difficult to get a decent tour like financially doable. But then again, it would kind of stupid to not do another tour in 12 months after the first one since we have to pay for the working visas and those are valid for a year. Basically, this may indicate that we may do another North American tour in 2019. However,  I do not have more information to give you right now.

That sounds fair Jarkko and this is a good point to wrap this up. Thank you for your time, have safe travels, great show and see in Chicago in November.
Thank you Dimitris see you then!