Interview : Sami Hinkka – Ensiferum

Ensiferum

Version Française ? (soon on french-metal.com)

  •  Nice to meet you Sami ! Ensiferum is one of the most notable bands in the Metal world, but how yould you describe Ensiferum to the beginners?

Sami Hinkka : I’d say Ensiferum is… it all comes down to melodies which are influenced by nordic folk music and also maybe Irish. When we combine that with the power of Metal, that’s what you get. But on the other hand, Ensiferum is also Folk Experimental. There might be surprises that comes around the corner. I would personally say that I like our music, but I just guess that I have a great mind openess in music. Not just like Hardcore. I’d say “Okay but…” (laughs). It’s good music.

  •  Ensiferum just released their seventh full-length, how do you feel about this release? Was there any stress or anguish?

Sami : No, I feel really good, we’re really proud of the album. We love the sound of it. We recorded as much as possible on an analog way. It’s natural, and everybody likes it, so… It’s not a cult or religion, we don’t force you to do something. I love it a lot, we had the best feedback, it seems to work really really well around the world. In Germany we hit the Top 10, it’s crazy in Metal music. Not many Metal bands did it. So the feedback was really great but the best feedback you get is when you play the song on stage, and people are enjoying it, just like fist-pumping air. They’re having a good time, they sing along… that’s the best feedback you can get.

  •  You decided to include Netta Skog as a full time band member last year, but how does the musical creation process works in the band with her?

Sami : Really naturally. She is with us for a couple of years as a touring member, because the last keyboard player had some schedule problems, then she decided that it’s better to step down because she was not here all the time. It was really natural to team up with Netta and we knew her since 2009 in tour, she was with her ex-band Turisas. So it came naturally to ask her if she wanted to be a full-time member, and of course it means more commitment than just coming up for shows, and we were happy to work with her on the new songs. It’s a continuous path. She brings her own ideas, even if it’s just funny, we continue to work on! She is a really talented musician, who has played on many styles of music. So it’s a really good advantage if you know different styles. You can get some ideas from there.

Yeah, you can be open minded.

Sami : Exactly! That’s why I really wanted to “exploit” her (laughs). On a professional way of course (laughs). She really knows how bring some ideas, explain stuff, she worked a lot on the new album, so I’m really proud to work with her.

  •  There is more clean voice in the last album, Two Paths. Do you feel any changes between this album and the first one you did?

Sami : Personally I don’t think that… There is always harsh vocals, because we’re a Metal band, so… But there’s always be some clean vocals, some female vocals since the first album, we always wanted diversity on the vocal section. It all comes down to the song. When you listen to the whole song, you know which vocal stuff is the best for this song, and for this album, just like on Feast With Valkyries, I said “that has to be for Netta.” We talk about valkyries, so it would be kinda weird if there’s male vocals. What I’m trying to say is that it’s a really rocking, almost… I don’t say “popish” but… there’s some Folk-Rock pipes in the composing, so we say “there will be definitely clean vocals on it”. It was also a bit more maybe punkish. So it’s natural to include many vocal styles. It wasn’t an intention to create three songs with clean vocals, but it was really funny in studio! It wasn’t calculated or anything. We recorded the clean vocals and after we were just like “Hey, why not screams? You want to try just for fun?”, and we did like… two takes and the song was done. And it works. We didn’t want to release them as a bonus track just for Japan, or limited edition… Because nobody could hear it so we said “let’s just put them as alternative versions!” and that’s what we did. And that’s really cool! Good customer service!

  •  This year is my fourth one as a festival-goer, I noticed that there is more and more people at folk/pagan Metal shows. Have you got an explanation, as a Folk metal band?

Sami : Well… People like good music here (laughs)!

That’s the best answer!

I had to say it’s really funny, when we started to tour as a Folk Metal band, we were checking the rolling, because even now we have nothing to say about booking, all work is done by booking agencies. There was never shows in France, we were like “it’s a big fucking country, why don’t we play there?” And everybody keep saying “Nah, it’s not a Metal country, nobody comes to France…” We were trusted them, because we didn’t really know where we played. And then we visited and played in Paris and it was fucking crazy! We said « we have waited all these years… » We really love to tour in France. Good food, beautiful women, and a lot of fun! And it’s warmer than the weather in Finland (laughs).

  •  What is your point of view of the crowd on stage? Because from my eyes, it’s a huge party with viking lovers.

Sami : That’s what I really love in this venue. I really love this size’s venues. Not too big, not too small. The interaction is really important, I love to interact, to share something with the crowd. It’s not just about the band, it’s also about the crowd. All together. This sounds really hippish, but… (laughs)! We all create the event.

Like a connection?

Sami : Yeah, exactly! Everybody has their part to play so I really love that big festivals like Hellfest! I love to play there, tons of people singing and having a good time, but people are also far away. So in venues like tonight, you can see almost everybody’s face. I personally prefer those shows.

 

Sami Hinkka - Motocultor 2017
Sami Hinkka – Motocultor 2017

 

  •  Are you more a workaholic dude, or an “office-worker” dude ?

Sami : You can never know. It might be… it’s really rare to go on rehearsal like « let’s go, do something! », you have to keep raw ideas in mind. It might come anytime. In the new album we have this song King Of Storms. The very first idea happened in the backstage of a festival. I was there with a guitar, improvising something, just jamming. I was « yeah, that’s a nice melody… », so I took my phone and I recorded it. It was much slower but the idea was there. And then I made a demo, I send it to the other guys, they liked it and then, it was our drummer who suggested to add some speed, and it’s like the fastest song of the album. Maybe I break some illusions, but it’s true, that’s how everything goes. I was working, it was like… 2006… the chorus melody of our song Victory Song was invented in a yard of a kindergarten. I was there, watching at kids playing and then like « oh fuck yeah, that’s a good melody »! I had no smartphone, I had my guitar, I told my colleagues « I have to go inside! », so I played this ten times because I had to remember it until I go home, I was humming it the whole fucking day and I finally wrote it on my computer! You will never know. That’s actually I do a lot. If you just hum some melodies, it can works! I’m always improvising something. (laughs)

  •  What is your tour funniest story?

Sami : Oh my god… There’s a lot that I cannot tell (laughs)! There’s other people involved so… (laughs) I need their permission to tell those stories! There’s one I can tell, we had a day off, and you know that you have to perform the next day, so we had our time that we drank a lot on the road, but we’re not eighteen anymore, you need to be respectful for your fans when you get on stage. You cannot have a hungover and give 100% of yourself. That’s my opinion. Personally I made the decision I want to be 100% on stage, on the interaction, on the music. I don’t need any alcohol for that, I can drink after the show. So, on a longer tour we had day off, we could enjoy some drinks on day off. But anyway, a funny story… What can I tell? Let’s say most of them include nudity so… It might be better not to tell too much (laughs)! We like to get naked near from others (laughs)!

  •   What is your main inspiration for both music and lyrics?

Sami : For lyrics it’s life. All the lyrics for me have a deeper meaning. Personal or… Not all the lyrics are related to my life, but it can be someone close to me or some stuff in the newspaper or whatever. Somehow there is a deeper meaning in the lyrics. I read a lot, I love movies, I think that some subculture can bring some ideas. For music… I know that Markus (Toivonen, guitar player) loves Folk music. Usually when we go to another country, he buys local folk music CDs. I really admire that. Personally, it’s hard to say. I’m a huge fan of Iron Maiden, and also Dark Tranquillity, Amorphis, but in the other hand I like bands like Prodigy, Björk, I love old Jazz.

You’re really open-minded musically.

Sami : Yes. I think it’s important for a musician to listen to a lot of kind of music, to appreciate every kind of music. When I was a teenager, I played on many bands, they might be Metal, they might be Funk, Pop, Finnish pop… Even a band that used to play Down Tempo Chillout stuff, and we played in rave parties and aftershows, we played until… like 4 AM! There was some interesting stuff but… not for all the time. It was a really good lesson for me, I really started to appreciate really minimalistic things in music. I’m really grateful for being able to play with such great peoples. Of course it was a lot of energy and time, but now I’m still open-minded for any kind of project. As a band, it could be really difficult, but… like on this tour we started a Power Metal band with our guitar tech. We gonna… do it sometimes.

  •  Do you prefer an epic lead guitar or a lumbering rhythm part?

Sami : It depends of the song. But I really think about the music I’ve listened lately and… I’ll say the heavy thing. Some heavy riffs. But you need both.

  •  What is the first Metal song you ever listened to?

Sami : It depends of what you call Metal. Because I have two big brothers, and they introduced me to Heavy Metal early, so I cannot remember what was the first between AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden… It was when I was a child, so… It’s way before, I was like five. Black Sabbath are the best band ever. And Iron Man was the first album I learned to play on my bass. And second one was Pink Floyd‘s Comfortably Numb, then Stairway To Heaven from Led Zeppelin.

  •  Why did you choose to play Metal music as a professional ?

Sami : I didn’t. I never told about it. I always knew that music is part of my life, my family life, but… My big brother is a guitar player, he introduced me into playing, and when I saw him playing as a child I was like « oooooh that’s fucking awesome! », we’re still jamming sometimes. And it was never a decision to do it as a professional, I remember when I was playing in my old band… We were recording demos, playing some shows, and all the stuff… I was thinking that my goal in life was to record an album in a real studio. And I wanted to play a real festival show. We have played in some… fairs, in front of ten people, it was a start…! The beginning! It was fun, we were happy, it was the beginning of a dream come true. I was never like « I want to be a professional musician ». I just think that we are really lucky to have the privilege to be in this situation. Because there is millions of bands that would love to. It’s not just about the music. It might sounds really sad but you really need the perfect timing to do that. And you need the right people. Nowadays, internet is a really good tool, but there are again millions of other songs and you just have to click to listen to. Many choice. So you need the right people. And in this band, everybody are good people. But nowadays, we have a really good management, a really good label, an incredible crew to work with, they’re nearly the same since ten years. You need good stuff, good music. I have no idea what the basis of your question (laughs) but you need to have fun and that’s where all starts, it’s fun to play, it’s fun to do it with friends, because you will go on stage and become a rockstar… Personally, I think it’s the wrong way to approach music. It might comes naturally.

  •  Just imagine you are a tour manager and you can choose 3 bands to tour with, who would it be ?

Sami : It’s hard (laughs)! I have a dream, but you didn’t say I have to be realistic so… I choose Iron Maiden, and… we actually toured with them but Dark Tranquillity! They’re the band who got me into harsh vocals in Metal. With their first album, this one and Tales From Thousand Lakes from Amorphis. And The Gallery is for me one of the best albums ever made. It’s hard but also melodic… The perfect balance. I never believed it but I bought Skydancer for a friend who is a Techno DJ, and… He had to do a promotional night, I gave it to him and I said « just play it because we have long hair » (laughs)! He liked it and I would never believe if someone said « yeah, you will tour with these guys one day », I would have answer « Skydancer is a fucking CD! They’re a big band! ». We did a festival tour with Dark Tranquillity, we were pissed off drunk, I guess that was a day off (laughs) and the singer from Dark Tranquillity passed out and he had his head on my shoulder. I was like « I’m living the dream! » (laughs). They are really, really cool guys.

And what about the third band?

Sami : Hmm… Ulver.

They have a tour next month!

Sami : Really? I’ll check it!

  •  The last question : what was your last musical crush? Any bands to recommend?

Sami : (laughs) I would say… maybe Ghost! I know them before they were famous, and I kinda dropped. But I saw them growing, and I came back to them.

  •  Final words are yours !

Sami : Well if haven’t checked out the new album Two Paths, just do it, and if you already have, thank you for the support! We definitely would like to come back in spring! Until then, enjoy life! And yeah, that’s it.

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