Interview with Juho of Korpiklaani by Ravana

Your seventh full-length, "Ukon Wacka", came out very recently. Compared to your last two releases, Wacka has fewer tracks, and the shorter, instrumental tracks that often make up a good part of your albums are missing. What led you to this shift?

We are very happy to be able to stick out like a sore thumb and completely looking out of place, yet to be able to entertain people who were come to see something entirely else.
There was nothing conscious that would have led to that. Songs themselves might even have something meticulously pondered, but album duration is definitely nothing we would strictly determine beforehand. I don't think we have ever had more than one or two thoroughly instrumental tracks on our albums, and there is one instrumental one on Ukon Wacka. The song is pretty rapid-paced and lasts no more than little over two minutes. Possibly every band releasing a new album praises it in their interviews, or at least says it's a step forward. Should I thus say Ukon Wacka was one for us? I'm kind of bored of saying that, but it appears to be a vast improvement once again. We wouldn't have recorded the album if it hadn't been better than the previous one. Could there possibly have been any reason? I doubt it.

Although your albums are all similar in the sense that they are all unmistakably "Korpiklaani" albums, most of them do possess subtle differences that set them apart from one another. In your opinion what makes "Ukon Wacka" stand out from your other works?

On Ukon Wacka, we used a bunch of elements that we hadn't used before. To begin with, we had a chance of hiring a separate assistant producer of traditional instruments, with whom we had already played two exclusive shows in the summer of 2009. His name is Tero Hyväluoma. He had a vision as plain as day, and it shows on the album. Because he is a multi-talented violinist and a music teacher, the assignment given to him wasn't a demanding one for him. On the contrary. He made a considerable effort in trying to surface Korpiklaani's obvious capabilities, that had already been noticeable, but had to brought into a completely new level. Our co-operation with Aksu Hanttu also got some wind on its sails. Because Hanttu is a persistent producer, he wasn't afraid of trying out solutions different from the album Karkelo, although he succeeded in retaining the well-tried components that were already perceivable and prominent on Karkelo.

In general, how many songs are written and recorded in a session before you make the decision as to what ends up on the album?

This time we only had the songs that we finally going to be recorded. I'm not certain if Jonne had some songs he had recorded demo versions for, but at least there were no extra songs, because we even had to return to the studio in order to record a bonus track.

You still have one of your signature English-language drinking songs here; "Tequila" is about your experiences touring South America. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe it is your first song about an alcohol that is not stereotypically consumed in Finland (as opposed to vodka and beer!). What was so special about touring in South American that inspired "Tequila?"

You are mistaken. Tequila is sung in Finnish! But you are right about the fact that Tequila is by no means the most consumed alcholic drink here in Finland. Our first visit to Mexico and South America was a unique one. Not least because of the reception we were met with. The first show on the tour took place in Mexico City and the audiences response exceeded all the exceptions we could have possibly had.

Whoops! Aside from "Tequila," which song on the new album is the most meaningful or significant to you?

Each song is significant in its own way. Even if I named one favorite track today, it probably would be another tomorrow and so on. Let alone after a year.

"Ukon Wacka" is your seventh album in eight years. Do you ever hear complaints about too much Korpiklaani material being released?

I guess after the album Korven kuningas the amount of people who have started to blame the band for lack of creativity has unfortunately increased. But on the other hand that's definitely not anything we should feel ashamed of. If something about our career arouses suspicion or discussion, I only consider it a good sign. You can never expect to please everybody. Neither can you record a new album that blows everyone away. That's just practically impossible. But what is possible is to create in a listener a powerful emotional experience. That means the music doesn't even have got to be good in order to succeed in that.

Do you have plans to tour extensively behind the new album? I know your North American fans are all eager for a return.

We have always tried to tour as much as we possibly can. This year is not going to be an exception. I just realized that I've already been two times to North America. The first visit was a short one in 2008, when we played at the university of Calgary in Canada. The subsequent year the time had come to play our first North American tour, comprising the States and Canada. I'm pretty sure we're at least planning our third North American tour to take place later this year.

North American Korpiklaani shows stand out when compared to other metal gigs as being extra-fun because of the band's music, attitude, and stage presence. What is your reaction to this?

Who wouldn't like to stand out in the crowd? And if they did, why wouldn't they consider it an advantage? We are very happy to be able to stick out like a sore thumb and completely looking out of place, yet to be able to entertain people who were come to see something entirely else. For example, we have played some shows at festivals, that were mainly planned to be death/black metal festivals. Nevertheless, the crowd doesn't care if there's a band that without any doubt should've thought to be playing entirely elsewhere. Conversely, they seem not to care, but throw a good party with the band. It's an extremetly positive thing to notice that we can possibly play at any kind of festival. That may explain the fact we have already been able to play this many summer festival annually.

How do you choose which songs will appear in your live set?

I could come up with a simple answer, and say that "the ones that work best". But probably I'm supposed tell about it in a greater detail. That's where it begins getting complicated. There's no telling if a brand new song will be received well by the audience, but sometimes it's pretty easy to predict it. Sometimes not. We had no doubt Tequila wouldn't be a good live song. Neither did we doubt the songs Juodaan viinaa, Vodka, etc. Our drinking songs have seemed to engage our audience. Anyhow, after the newest album we also wanted to give ourselves more freedom and decided to take no less than seven songs from the new album to be played live. To our pleasant surprise, I wouldn't say any of them has been poorly received. In summary, I could say time will tell whether the songs we choose will work in the long run.

This may be old news that you addressed a long time ago, but I have always been curious: About six or seven years ago your percussionist, Ali, left the band, and was not replaced, at least not by another percussionist. Why did you decide to eliminate the element of additional percussion from Korpiklaani's music?

When I joined the band in 2004, the entire line-up comprised as many as eight members, myself counted in. Soon after I'd been brought in the band, Ali, the percussionist, and Honka, our third guitarist, had made a decision of leaving the band because of personal reasons. To be perfectly honest, eight people in the band is a whole lot. We presumably saw no reason to replace neither of them, because I suppose the third guitar and percussions were not so significant elements in the band.

You've done a lot of touring over the past few years; of all the bands you've toured with who did you and the rest of the band find themselves getting along with best?

We've made friends with plenty of bands, due to which is difficult to single out such a couple of bands we get along with. Let's say there has never been a band extremely hard to cope with. Some little quarrel may sometimes arouse, but all problems can always be solved eventually.

So I have to ask: what is the favorite beer in the Korpiklaani camp? Do you have a personal favorite that perhaps you only get to drink at home in Finland?

As I don't drink any alcohol, my favorite beer is a non-alcoholic wheat beer (personal drink of choice--tea). Others in the band presumably prefer Finnish Karhu (Finnish for a bear) beer.

What do you like to do when you aren't devoting your time to Korpiklaani?

I like to read books and watch movies and at least try to spare some time for some outdoor recreation every day.

Thanks for answering my questions! Is there anything else you would like to add?

I'd like to add that it was nice having this interview with you. See you!


Ukon Wacka
Voice of Wilderness

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