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Line up:

Jari Mäenpää - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Kai Hahto - drums
Teemu Mäntysaari - guitars
Jukka Koskinen - bass

In this hot Finnish summer (I know it sounds strange), at Tuska Open Air, finally something seems to be moving in regard to Wintersun, which showed up to play in some festivals while still working on mixing their second album. As Arch Enemy is performing on stage, we managed to get right behind there and have a good talk with the mastermind Jari Mäenpää, about the new records of course, and a few other curiosities. Here is the outcome:

Marco: So, everyone will be curious of course about your new album! Can you describe how this "Time" is taking shape, compared to the music of the previous one?

Jari: Well, basically, I always start to make the riffs with guitars, the melodies... And afterwards I start to make all the tunes and orchestrations. But in the last album there wasn’t so many, only a few basic synth tracks. But on the new album there’s going to be lots of orchestras, plus the synths. So it will be a combination of those. All the choirs, strings, and everything. And even percussions on top of that.

M: We can say that maybe in this sense is a bit similar to what Turisas did with their latest record then?

J: Maybe. But I have my own "special way" to do all the orchestrations. Or, I don’t really know the "traditional way" of making orchestral music. I never really studied it, I just play the horns and strings, add them wherever I want them, then add the synth of top of that.

M: Sounds good. Would you say then that "Time" is the most ambitious project you’ve done so far?

J: Yes, definitely. It’s killing me! [laughs]

M: I’m asking because I was really curious about all these issues I read about in regard to this album, especially the memory problems you have with your computers and so on. How come do you need such a powerful hardware and expensive equipment to complete the mixing?

J: Basically because there is so many instruments and tracks in the project. So you really need a powerful computer for that. And the main issue for me has been the 4Gb RAM limit, because it’s a matter of years to make those orchestrations. I have to take like one riff at a time, and then I have to bounce everything to audio, so I couldn’t work in real time. So that’s the main thing I had to work around. Because if I want to go back and change something, I have to go back and open the many tracks again, and then bounce again.

M: Well now I understand why it’s taking so long!
What would you say has been the worst moment of what we could say has been this "Odyssey" that has been the production of the new album?

J: There’s been many bad moments! Computers breaking... I had like, in the beginning we ordered this PC, it came with that UPS [Uninterruptible Power Supply] or something, and it was smashed to half. And the second one was also! Then we got the third one, it was OK, but still it didn’t have the power. But after that in 2008 we got a Mac Pro, and the power problem was solved. With that I could work at least. So I worked on the orchestrations with that computer. But now I bought again a new Mac Pro for the mixing!

M: It should be much better I guess.

J: Actually, the oldest one had the regular hard drives, and to run the project, it takes too many audio tracks. So we got the SSD drives, and now the project can run.

M: So when do you say that the album might be coming out, maybe already next year?

J: Yeah, I hope so. I was starting the mixing already, but I need the plug-in system for this. Most of the companies haven’t still released those. There’s a few companies that already has, and I’ve been starting to work with them. There is also still like 5% vocals left, and then that’s it. I will do them.

M: Ok, we will be looking forward for the completion of it, finally! [laughs]
So you said that when you compose a song you start working riff by riff... But what about the lyrics? What about the themes in the songs? How do you come up with those and merge them together with the music?

J: It as always worked for me as, when I hear the music, I get visions and emotions by the music, then keywords, and key sentences. And then I start to work around them and about the theme. It’s more personal and kind of universal. It’s more emotional, about love and death, and all kind of human feelings.

M: And what do you expect to achieve with this new record?

J: Hopefully we will have a big success, the band can get bigger and bigger, so that we can make better shows... and release the next album it would be easier hopefully!

M: I guess you didn’t even have time to begin to think about a third album already.

J: Well I have a lot of material ready. Like the last year I wrote 200, maybe 300, riffs and melodies into my iPhone. I could maybe do even 5 albums now! [laughs] Recording is the hard part, but you know, but making riffs and studying melodies... that’s the easy part for me!

M: When you have the right inspiration it must be easier. But I was thinking instead that you must have something special today for your fans since they have been waiting for so long.

J: Yeah, we will be playing one new song. And one kind of, riff, from the song "Time". We start the show with it, so... It’s a cool mid-tempo, and we thought it was cool to start with it.

M: So it’s going to be the intro in your following tours.

J: Yes, that will be our intro. It’s really fun to play the new songs. Hopefully we can play more soon.

M: And after these summer festivals were finally your fans have the chance to see you again, you will also play some dates of Heidenfest in September/October. So after all this time you will have the chance to play in a real tour, or at least part of it. How do you feel about that and what do you expect from those shows?

J: I think it will be good. It’s not a long tour, it’s like 2 weekends, and 3 shows both weekends. Not a problem. I think maybe next year we will start to do some longer tours, if we can get the album finally done.

M: And will you ever add a live keyboard player to your shows?

J: No. Because that’s pretty much impossible. We have already so much stuff to bring with us on the street. So there would be no point to hire a fifth guy, because we are now really packed with all the monitors and backup line to carry with us.

M: Ok. Do you have plans to make some DVD recordings, maybe of these festival shows or some tour later on?

J: There’s always talk about it, but no actual plans yet. We have to release the album first, and then tour a little bit, so that we can get to practice and getting used to play it.

M: What about the preparations for a tour. Do you do anything special before going on a tour?

J: Well I go to gym, and of course practice. That’s pretty much it. And don’t drink too much beer! [laughs]
I’m not that social anyway, I only go out on weekends, so not that much anyway because I’m getting old, my hangovers are getting worse!

M: You don’t go to parks drinking litres of beer like every Finn!

J: I used to do it all weekends, but not anymore!

M: I bet! Anyway, in these years, since you released your debut album, there has been many other bands playing this viking metal, pagan metal, folk metal or whatever do you want to call these kind of music... Like Finntroll, Moonsorrow, or even your previous "creation", Ensiferum... that have maybe surpassed you in popularity with their success, because they have been of course touring much more.

J: Yeah, they are really big bands right now.

M: My question is, how do you picture yourself fitting into that mix, coming back on the road between all these bands, and what do you think about them?

J: I think they are great, but for me, for our band there is no real limits with the music. We don’t fit into one defined kind of genre. The next album will also show that, and after that there will be even more kinds of different music coming up. I like to keep all windows open and do any music I want with this band. Even techno, or dance music! [laughs]

M: Then what kind of bands do you listen to usually?

J: Nowadays I just listen to basic rock’n’roll. Airbourne is one of my favourite bands right now. I listen to dance music a lot. Madonna. September...

M: Not really the kind of music most people would expect from you!

J: I just tried to check out some new metal bands the other day, but I guess maybe I don’t have much interesting bands in mind right now. Because I know how to do it, so I try to analyze it too much and it kind of takes all the enjoyment away.

M: Speaking of Finnish bands there is for example Battle Beast which is pretty good and is becoming popular.

J: Oh yeah, I think I’ve heard maybe one song somewhere. It was some kind of mid-tempo power metal/hard rock song. I liked it. Actually we are going to get into the same reharsal place with them. Because we are getting "kicked out" from where we are now. I’m gonna check them out.

M: You must remember also this band called Arthemesia, which split up last year just a few days before their show with Black Crucifixion. I know you’ve been playing there in the end of the ’90ies. Did you still get in touch with the guys?

J: Yeah. Well, I just saw Jukka-Pekka [Miettinen, aka Mor Voryon] this morning.

M: And do you happen to know why they split up so suddenly?

J: It’s just about the musical differences, I think. There was always like, so many different guys in the band, and different visions of how the band should be...

M: Yeah, at some point if you don’t really agree on the direction you want to take, I guess that’s it. Is it one of the reasons of you leaving Ensiferum also?

J: A little bit yes, but it was also that, my first idea was to do Ensiferum and Wintersun both, but then all the schedules, the tours, and the studio times got fucked up. At that point we all realized that it was best for all to go separate ways. It’s impossible to be the "lead guy" in two bands.

M: Well my all-time favourite album of Ensiferum is still the first one.

J: Yeah, it’s pretty good. Or I think so! [laughs]

M: But I guess in the last few years Wintersun has "sucked up" most of your life, so I understand what you mean.

J: Definitely.

M: Alright, I think we are good (and we are running out of time), so I want to wish you good luck for the show, and thanks for this interview!

J: Thank you!

Intervista di  Marco Manzi

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