With ‘Kulkija’ Korpiklaani have crafted a joyous musical journey and one that you don’t need to understand a word of to enjoy and feel their sense of purpose. I imagine this will be an album that their long term fans will love; and I can testify that it makes a great introduction to people who have never heard a note the band had previously recorded. Here’s our quick chat with accordion player Sami Perttula.
What is your approach to writing both the metal and the folk parts of the songs? Do you compose them at the same time, or one first and then decide how the other half of your sound fits into it?
I think every song have different kind of story about how it have been born. When there is important melodic theme or accompaniment pattern that is crucial for the song then it’s usually composer who write it down. If there is no composer written folk parts then it’s usually me who compose those. It work also other way around; Jonne and Kalle are both good guitar players so of course I give them free will to do guitar parts because they know their main instrument better than I do. It’s wonderful band because everyone have freedom to add own spices into our music and without this line-up we have right now Korpiklaani wouldn’t sound like it do.
Can you tell us about the title? As I understand it ‘Kulkija’ means “Wanderer.” Is it specific to a wandering person within the songs, the wandering nature of a band that grows over the years and goes into new places? The closing track “Tuttu on tie” for instance feels a bit sorrowful, or slightly regretful, such as a Wanderer coming to the end of a long journey.
Kulkija is kind of imaginary description about how wanderer could see life through his/her eyes. Naturally I cannot avoid association to life of hard touring band with this kind of traveler theme. I think touring and playing in this band is big thing for everyone of us and we love it. I think we all understand that it’s privileged occupation that give us chance to experience and see the world in a way that is not possible in any other occupation. We also know that nothing last forever so I think that boost us to enjoy it and take all from this what er are doing.
The music has the feeling of going someplace with a purpose, and bringing the listener there. The cover art suggests that as well. As someone who doesn’t speak the language, this is simply the impression that I got listening to and reviewing the album. Could you elaborate on what some of the themes for these songs are?
You got the idea exactly right! I think it’s a Korpiklaani album that have largest scale in expressing different emotions so far. There is lot of beauty but also bad things included into music – just like in normal life.
For example “Korpikuusen kyynel” is description about moonshiner who is peacefully laying on shades of spruces and safely doing his work while watching whole world keeping on same boring routines as always. the most delicious part is that he don’t have to participate to that and he has a secret -moonshine- that most of the people don’t know. I think everyone have sometimes will for that kind of thing; Just to escape to place no problems from daily life can reach you, have time of your own and… as a bonus have a little secret that nobody knows and that can make you smile! Mythologically this song include two important themes for finns; “Korpikuusen kyynel” can be translated to “a tear of a fir-tree” and it’s old name for moonshine. Alcohol have big part in Finnish folklore and it have central role in many heathen observances by being one of the main offerings. Also forest has respected and notorious role in Finnish folklore.
You’ve been doing this as a band for a long time now. What new challenges do you put out for yourself to keep things fresh and interesting?
I have noticed that this band is naturally getting more and more professional. We have reached higher level in our musical expression and as a band together. I think it’s important for us to do high quality music, give great shows and release all the time better records. I don’t think I have ever faced problem in keeping this work interesting.
Your music, even when heavy and aggressive, has a sense of joy to it. Is this conscious, or a byproduct of your writing? It’s an incredibly fun album to listen to, is it as much fun to record and perform?
I think it’s byproduct. We don’t really plan ahead or set goals like “in next album we want to sound like this and have this kind of songs in it”. I think it come naturally and in the end this group is kind of merrymaker on tour.
The band has been known as Korpiklaani since 2003, how have you seen the folk metal genre change over the past 15 years? Is it gratifying knowing that you’ve helped contribute to moving the genre forward and growing its popularity?
It seem like it’s not possible to get explosive kind of success with this kind of music. It have been like we have been worked hard and gained success little by little. That can be seen also popularity of the genre;it have all the time been rising and more popular little by little. I think this genre is marginal under marginal so I feel like every folk metal band that have made this music more well known have helped each other. We don’t see other folk metal bands as our competitors.
This is the first album since 2006 whose cover art hasn’t included the old man. Why the change?
The point is to show world through wanderer’s eyes so in this case it can be you who is seeing the road in front of you… or maybe it’s the scenery that the old man see through his eyes?
It seems that a lot of bands that mix folk and metal eventually make an entirely folk based album. Have you considered doing such an album as well?
Our “primus motor” Jonne -who is mainly composing all the music- already has his acoustic solo project called “Jonne” and I think that satisfy most of his lust to do an acoustic album. No, we haven’t considered that. I think this band have so strong rock ‘n’ roll spirit so I think it’s good to keep like that. But who knows? We don’t usually plan things ahead so maybe that can happen one day.
You have a Russian tour coming up, followed by a pretty extensive world tour afterwards. After all these years doing it, is it stressful preparing to debut new music, or old hat by now? A lot of these new songs are going to bring the house down in a live setting.
It’s most joyful thing to start to play new songs live! We tour that much that it often happen that playing music start to feel like just switching autopilot on and enjoy the trip. With new songs that cannot happen so it’s great way to keep this interesting and challenging.
Are there songs that the band is especially excited to perform live? “Neito” seems like the perfect song for opening a gig.
Neito going to be first song in our liveset. Also “Juomamaa” is perfect live song with uplifting energy. “Kuin korpi nukkuva” is entertaining with it’s funny tango -style of ending.
Overall to perform the new album really needs that we are present on stage and interpret music. It’s music we cannot play just with punk attitude.
Thank you for your time, is there any message you’d like to send to your fans about the album, upcoming tour, or in general?
Thank you! See you on tour and be ready to party with us. I consider that also people who haven’t liked Korpiklaani earlier would give the new album a chance; you may be surprised.