Q. To start off readers who may not know about Wintersun: A common debate amongst all of us is being able to unanimously agree on a genre/s of any given band. As far as Wintersun goes, tags such as epic, power, black, folk and melodic metal have been placed on this band. If you could describe Wintersun’s sound, how would you classify it?
One title I could give is “universal metal”. Wintersun is not limited with certain genre or genres and I like to mix lots of different styles into my music with good taste of course. I will not have any specific rules what Wintersun´s music should sound like. I could even make a techno album under Wintersun´s name, but I don´t think our record company would like that very much. With the future albums Wintersun´s music will evolve quite a lot into many different directions, although I think the core of Wintersun´s music is probably always going to be “melodic metal” or “epic melodic metal”.
Q. Would you call Wintersun a solo project or a group effort?
The first album was a solo project. I hired Kai Hahto to play drums on it. After that our record company informed me that the album is selling well and it would be good to do some live shows. So Kai jumped aboard and I found two other players Jukka (bass) and Teemu (guitar). Since then we have been a full band and the second album will not be a solo album. I still write and arrange pretty much all the music myself, but the guys have brought some contributions, especially Kai. We worked much closer with the drum arrangements on the “Time” album.
Q. You use a lot of synthesizer effects in the first album. Are you still going to add a synth player to the actual band lineup that is Wintersun?
No. The first album already had too much synths for one man to play live and the next album will have hundred times more. We have found a nice live solution with backing tracks, so we don´t want to complicate things more. Maybe someday a real live orchestra + 10 keyboard players!
[ABOUT "WINTERSUN" AND "TIME"]
Q. In the “Wintersun” album, lyrically, you dealt with your personal experiences of your battle with illness, which, of course, gave the album a powerful charge, which is reinforced in the accompanying music. Can you give us an idea of what angle you are taking for the upcoming “Time” album?
“Time” album also has some personal references, but I don´t like to comment too much about it. I leave the lyrics for people to discover the meanings and identify with their own lives. The album deals about powerful human emotions and the whole experience we call life and how short it is. So I think the lyrics will touch everyone in some ways.
Q. Why don’t Wintersun play ‘Sadness and Hate’ live often? There is mention in the wintermadness.net online forum that it is due to its long length. Is this true?
Yes. We usually get about 40-60 minute set list, so we would have two cut two other songs. And we like to play the faster songs to not bore the audience or ourselves. We have played it few times though.
Q. The album artwork for “Time” was revealed a while ago. As with the first album, what is the meaning behind this album’s cover?
Well it´s not yet decided yet whether the leaked cover will be the final version and that wasn´t even finished version. There´s meaning behind the cover, but I don´t like to comment on it until the cover is actually finished and represents my vision.
Q. And now, the question that everyone wants to ask: How are things coming along with “Time”? When can we expect the album?
I have now started mixing and I´m also trying to finish the last bits of vocals. I can´t predict how long the mixing will take, ´cause it will be a very difficult task, but I´m hoping to get it done before next summer.
Q. There are very high expectations held for your first album, and rightfully so. Your fans are loyal and hold you in high esteem. Does any of this create a greater pressure for you to complete this album?
Well it used to, but not so much anymore. In the last three years I was composing the orchestrations for the album I went trough very hard times and stress, but I survived from that and it made me stronger. The high expectations that may cause some pressure for me are my own expectations, but I´m still very confident about this album.
Q. The band has been doing some touring recently, making appearances at a number of summer festivals in Europe. How has that been coming along? Considering the big time gap between the release of the first album in 2004 and now, how has the audience reception been?
It´s been unbelievable. We are grateful for everyone that came to support us! I guess lots of it had to do with our silence for many years, so there was a hype building up and people wanted to hear new material. It´s been very refreshing for us to get back on the stage and especially play the new material. We managed to also update our live gear, so it´s been much more enjoyable to play.
Q. Has there been any show in particular that you have played this summer which stood out from the others?
All the shows have been really great, but I think Tuska festival in Helsinki was probably the most insane show so far.
Q. Overall, which country/festival has Wintersun enjoyed the most so far?
Hard to say, but Germany has always been good to us. Bloodstock in the UK was also great. People were so polite and nice.
Q. Are there any countries that Wintersun would still like to tour?
We would like to go where ever possible. There´s still so many countries that we haven´t been, so hopefully after “Time” release we will have the opportunity to go more distant places.
Q. Have fans in other countries expressed desire for Wintersun to visit that you are aware of?
We get lots of requests from South America and US, but also lots of other places like Australia for example.
[WHAT ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA?]
Q. Given the opportunity, would you like to play a show in South Africa?
Q. Do you have any conception of whether a fan base for Wintersun exists in South Africa?
I think I have gotten a few fan mails, but I have no idea about the fan base over there.
Q. South African metal band Riddare Av Koden successfully managed to bring down Ensiferum last year in October/November. South African metalheads rushed from all corners to catch their shows. International metal acts coming to South Africa are sadly a rarity. Would you be interested in creating a similar opportunity for Wintersun to wow their fanbase here?
That´s cool. Yeah, I hope we get the opportunity to come there someday.
Q. Before Wintersun, you were the frontman of the Finnish folk metal band Ensiferum. Do you ever miss playing material from the two albums that you helped create whilst there? (Albums: Ensiferum , Iron )
Sure, sometimes, but quite rarely I must say.
Q. A matter of personal interest (for non-Finnish speakers): What does the song ‘Lai Lai Hei’ from the “Iron” album mean?
It doesn´t mean anything actually. It´s just a common phrase that people tends to use when singing folk melodies. I made the chorus melody and I was singing along and trying to come up with lyrics, but then I thought that this sounds pretty good just singing it without any words “laa la la laa… lai lai hei!” and I just named it “LAI LAI HEI” for the heck of it.
Q. Whilst in Ensiferum, not only did you cover Metallica’s ‘Battery’ (“Tale of Revenge” EP), you also covered a couple of Judas Priest songs, recorded and live. What songs of theirs did you cover, and did you cover any other songs back then?
In Ensiferum´s demo period we did “Breaking the Law” and Manowar´s “Return of the Warlord”, but I don´t think that´s been released anywhere. With Wintersun we have played “Painkiller” and Slayer´s “Angel of Death” live.
Q. Do you see Wintersun covering any songs in the future?
Sure, but I have so much my own stuff that I need to do first, so we´ll have to see.
Q. You have mentioned before in other interviews that you are inspired by Devin Townsend. What aspects of his music are most inspiring to you?
First I fell in love with his vocals when I heard him on Steve Vai´s “Sex & Religion” album. I´ve never heard such power and variety in vocals. Then the first SYL album totally blew me away. Never heard such intense and insane album and the vocals again were so fucking tight! Then came Ocean Machine, SYL´s City and Infinity and I was sure this guy has to be from another planet. To this day he has blown me away with every single album he has made. And trust me, that´s a hard thing to do, I´m very critical about music. I love his composing style which is out of this world, his use of samples, layering complex layers over the music and the overall “crazy creativity” and the humor of course.
Q. Who are your other inspirations?
It´s a too long list to write here. There are hundreds, but let´s say Summoning, Bal-Sagoth and ABBA for now.
Q. You have done a few other musical features/endeavours that not as well known (eg. Immemorial, Lost Alone, Nuclear Blast Allstars appearance). Are there any other things you have done or are busy with of which we are unaware?
Well I was also in a band called ArthemesiA. I did the first album and a demo EP with them. Usually I´m just busy writing new stuff of my own. I don´t think there are anything else released, although I have some of my old demo cassettes here at home.
Q. What guitar tuning do you prefer to use for your songs and why?
Nowdays D and drop C. These work better for my vocal range and sounds also heavier than the standard E. I also like a lot drop Bb with my new Ibanez 26″ scale RGD, this guitar and tuning destroys! I´m going to be using this tuning more in the future.
Q. What music equipment do you use?
I use Ibanez guitars, Mesa Boogie amps, Tonelab modelling amp, Axe-Fx modelling amp, SM7B microphone, Mac, Cubase and bunch of other software…
Q. Is there anything you would like to say to HeadbangToday or your South African fans?
Thanks for all the support and keep rocking!
I’d personally like to sincerely thank you for allowing me the oportunity to interview you. You are one of my favourite musicians. I wish you the best of luck with “Time”, and with all your future endeavours!
Thanks for the interview! And let me know when it´s online, so I can maybe post a link to my Facebook page.