INTERVIEW: Jarkko Aaltonen – Korpiklaani

The folk metal genre is a vibrant and colourful root of the heavy metal tree. One band in particular, takes all the quirk, fun and creativity the style has to offer and has made it their own for years; KORPIKLAANI. For over two decades the Finnish folk metallers have crafted a legacy and before a co-headline show in Manchester (read our review here) with fellow countrymen, MOONSORROW, we spoke to bassist Jarrko Aaltonen to talk about the tour, the recent success of album number nine Noita and the logistics of playing live.

So we are a couple of dates into the tour, you’ve done mainland Europe, it’s the second UK date tonight. How is the tour going so far?

Jarkko: Pretty good! We started with a festival in Belgium then we had the French shows, then to Spain and back to France again and now we are in the UK. But it has been really good so far, really good turnouts at every show.

Has there been any stand out performances?

Jarkko: Yeah, some of the sold out shows in France were really nice, we can’t complain about that!

This tour is on the back of Noita which dropped last year, how have fans taken to the new material live?

Jarkko: Very well! A few albums ago we made the decision that we had to stop playing the old stuff because we have to keep renewing ourselves, if that makes sense? So that it doesn’t become boring for us and the fans and we’ve done that after every album, with the last three albums we have played almost all of it. We’ve left maybe three songs that we have not played live so we’re playing a lot of new stuff and people seem to like it.

Korpiklaani live 2016
Korpiklaani live @ Club Academy, Manchester. Photo Credit: Christopher Ryan

So is it difficult when it comes to making setlists for tours?

Jarkko: Yeah, of course it is. There are still songs that people definitely want to hear and we have to keep them in the set, even if you yourself are ready to let them go. You just have to go with it, but it doesn’t bother us to play the old stuff, especially now where we are playing longer sets so it is easier to fit more stuff in and to create highs and lows to the set so people don’t get bored.

This tour is with MOONSORROW who play quite a different style of folk metal, how has that worked in the live setting?

Jarkko: I think it works really well, being from the complete opposite ends of the folk metal scale. It’s really good this way as much as I love MOONSORROW, I don’t think I would want to be listening to the style for three hours in a row or nor would I want to listen to us for three hours in a row. It adds variation.

With the new album being just about a year old now, how do you think it stands up compared to your back catalogue?

Jarkko: I’ve always felt that when we’ve made albums, honestly felt, that we’ve always made a better album than the one that came before. This one, was like that and it still feels like that, I’m really really happy with how it turned out.

Korpiklaani Live 2016
Korpiklaani live @ Club Academy, Manchester. Photo Credit: Christopher Ryan

With KORPIKLAANI’s style, it’s quite upbeat. What sort of influences do you look to when it comes to writing?

Jarkko: Most of the song writing is done by Jonne [Järvelä, vocals] but how he comes up with that stuff he has several different ways to come up with the song or the idea for a song. Sometimes, although quite rarely, he writes based on a text that we have. He has this other idea, which I find quite funny, is that he gets interested in new instruments and he goes online and orders an instrument. He starts to learn it and starts playing around with it. Whilst studying it he will write a couple of songs based on the melodies he can get!

What sort of difficulties do you face when it comes to playing live and replicating your studio sound?

Jarkko: I think it is rather impossible, although we are doing our best, is that we are limited to the number of instruments. We only have accordion and violin on stage so we have to do a lot of different arrangements. So if we have a flute on the album then we have to arrange it with the accordion live. We have songs that have acoustic guitars, I didn’t even notice that when I listened to the song! It was only very recently I realised the song had two acoustic guitars and a solo on top of it, whenever we have been playing live the intros have always been either the accordion or the violin.

What do you prefer, intimate gigs like tonight or big stages at festivals?

Jarkko: Well this is a bit too small stage wise! In general, club shows and festival both have their merits. Festivals you have a huge audience and a huge stage but contact is a bit more difficult to establish with the audience. You always have a 20 minute change over time, you get on stage and you have no idea what you are going to hear when you hit the first chord!

And really to close off, we have this current tour. Can we expect KORPIKLAANI at any major UK festivals over the next year or two?

Jarkko: As far as I know, no. Which is actually a bit sad as we have a decent fanbase in the UK so it would be nice to do some festivals. But then, we did Bloodstock last year so it’s not a really a big issue.

KORPIKLAANI are currently planning the release of their first DVD & live CD –  due out late 2016/early 2017. Stay tuned for more details…

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