When I got the opportunity to make an interview with Ensiferum, I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t familiar with the band and when I’ve been told their music was a kind of “pagan folk metal”, I thought I would have to deal with sinister vikings in leather briefs wearing pelt capes. When we were allowed to enter the interview box, what was my surprise to meet Sami Hinkka wearing a party hat and holding a full jug of local white wine !
Your album ‘Two Paths’ was released last year. How was the reaction of this new album regarding the press and the fans?
I’d say it’s really good. The reviews were really good and the label said the the sales figures were good too but as an artist, I would say the most important feedback was the way we need a long tour. People were singing along and enjoyed the new songs. That’s like the “Thank you” moment. That’s the most important feedback. If they would just stand there, like “Yeah, yeah …play the old stuff”, then it would be like … but when they’re really “Yeah !!!!”, singing with all the new songs, that’s the best thing ! Thank you !
Where does the inspiration come from?
We write songs together, you know. The way we work is : somebody brings raw ideas to the rehearsal room and then, we twist and turn, and make everything work together and whatever. Everybody can stand behind every note. When these songs are ready, then we record them. So, it’s quite a hard to pinpoint where the music came from because it’s some of so many things. Lyric wise, because I’m for some reason the main lyric writer in the band, I always say the other side : “Come on! Bring your ideas” but they’re so crazy that they trust me for the lyrics.
It’s really about heroic theme but of course as a lyric writer, for me, it’s really important that all the lyrics have a deeper meaning. All the lyrics are inspired by the real world or real-life events. Not this really happens to me but something happens to somebody close to me or maybe even terrible events happening in the world. The funny challenge is always to find the metaphors that fit in this heroic theme. Sorry to keep repeating myself, but yeah, that’s where the lyrics come from : real life.
The cornerstones of our music are both : the power of death metal and the melodic, the soundscape wise thing of Nordic and Irish folk music.
This is not your first visit to the Hellfest. What do you think about this festival and about the French audience?
Hellfest is fucking fantastic. This is our third time here and I remember both of previous times, I went there walking and enjoying the atmosphere. It was like: “Wow!!!”. It’s so massive. This time, on this weekend, we only have show on Sunday here at Hellfest. So, for fuck’s sake, I have the opportunity of lifetime to go there for a whole weekend. So I came here on Thursday, camp in a fucking tent like … I’m really fucking old but that was 20 years ago last time I did that.
There’s no real chance when you’re a touring musician because we have festivals every weekend. There’s no chance, so this was really like once-in-a-lifetime opportunityto do that. I fucking love it and the atmosphere here is fantastic. Always in metal festivals. The cool thing was to see it from the perspective of our festival guests. How the infrastructure works and really enjoy all the decoration, good food and go seeing bands without a hurry. It is fucking fantastic. French audience is always insane, I think it has something to do with the culture. You guys being a kind of football country because it’s in your blood to sing along things, you know. It’s there, it’s always really loud here, and we love it. Yeah, it’s always a pleasure to come here. Santé!
Although Netta is no longer in the band, can you share this collaboration experience with us?
Netta really had a major impact on the band. We compose things together and she’s a fucking fantastic musician but no big drama here. It’s just that working as a full-time musician, touring musician, who tours around the world and not in your home country, it’s not …
You know, playing shows, composing stuff, recording stuff … That’s the crown jewel. That’s the beauty of this. That’s the price that you get. That’s the most beautiful things, the best thing you get, but it also includes a lot of traveling, a lot of time away from stuff that you could do. It had happened before also with the ex-members, you know. We’re still good friends with all the ex-members actually. The ex-bass player is one of my best friends.
Anyway, the most precious thing that we have is our time and how and for whom we give it to. If you’re away from things that you would like to do, the other thing has to compensate and it has to be worth it, and that needs to match. In a band, it’s a marriage of, in our case, it was for five people. Everybody needs to believe in, everybody needs to feel the same, everybody needs to be a hundred percent to it. That’s the thing. But Netta is a fucking fantastic musician. She is so talented. She’s doing her solo thing and I wish her all the best. I’m sure we will hear a lot from her.
At that moment, actually, we had like long gap. We were like okay because this works. We just follow us because we’ve been together for like 13 or 14 years. Then, we start pondering at the next album, you know. We can make an Ensiferum album, that’s not a problem. Of course, we are ambitious about music and we want to go forward, not to repeat ourselves and there were some talks about maybe we should get the fifth member, but somebody who will actually bring something new to the table. Something that we cannot make ourselves, you know. We can compose, we can arrange keyboards, we can arrange orchestration but we’re now looking for someone who actually is a good singer but also can play keyboards. I’d say the main thing is to sing. I would say that, maybe things that we’ve been lacking like somebody who actually has a really good lead. Let’s see how it goes but we’re not in a rush or in panic anyway. The band is really functional …
The press officer draws the curtain and says : “only one minute left”
No ? Are you fucking kidding me ? I’m sorry … See? See? See what I mean ? I told you : 15 minutes is not enough.
If you had to define Ensiferum in three words, what would they be and why?
Heroic folk metal. Can I have four ? It would be heroic ironic folk metal.
The last words are for you.
Well, in case you haven’t heard check out “Two Paths”. Summer is still young so enjoy it. Go to festivals. Enjoy live music. Love each other, enjoy good wine. C’est ça … and stay metal!