ENSIFERUM have already began to work on their new album and a couple of months ago (in December of 2016) we had the opportunity to chat with their bass player Sami Hinkka during their visit on Munich for the last show of the Headbanger’s Ball Tour. Among others we discussed for their new record plans, their past acoustic lives, their newest member (Netta Skog) and the metal big popularity in Finland. Sami proved a great talkative guy always a step forward and always cheered to meet new people.
Hello and welcome to Metalpaths webzine. How are you doing first of all?
So far, so good. It’s been a really nice tour, an easy going one. Luckily no one got sick, that’s always really hard when there is no day off to recover. All bands are super cool. It is like vacation with friends (laughs). The great thing about this tour is that all the bands are from different genres. It is a really diverse tour and I think all the bands can reach new fans and new people who otherwise wouldn’t probably come to their show. So I think it’s really cool tour. For example if you do these kind of tours where all the bands are on the same kind of music, probably the people who come to the show will already know all the bands. Of course that’s awesome because there people that over know the songs, but this way you can find new people who maybe next time come to your own show.
How was it to share the stage with such bands? Was it difficult?
No! I think that the diversity is being an advantage for every band, because every band is so different from each other. From the crowd perspective you are going to remember every band, because you are not going to listen to five or six same kind of bands. All the bands have been around long time, so everybody is really professional and it works really nice.
This mini tour has a name that most of us at the age of mid thirties cause some nostalgia (e.g. Headbanger’s Ball). What are your memories from this legendary show?
Oh… That was like the highlight of the week. It came out like Sunday night and it was really late. Of course you had to stay awake and be ready with your VHS to record the songs. And then next morning on Monday you were talking about it like “Oh did you see the new video from Kreator?” So it was an honour when they told us that MTV does something to revive it and ask us to be part of this tour so we were hell yeah. It is an honour. Of course times are totally different now. Internet is way faster. You don’t have to wait to see what’s hot this week. I hope they find a good way to start it again. We shall see.
This year you did some acoustic shows in Finland. How did these shows feel?
It was so much fun. We have talked doing acoustic shows for years and we knew that this year we were going to have a gap where there were no shows or recording of new stuff, so it would be nice to do something. So last year we sat and discuss which song we could rearrange a little bit, because there is no point to change the electric guitar to acoustic. That is not how we wanted to do it. We really rearrange some songs and it was really cool to play some songs that we never had the possibility to play live because they are acoustic. We had a couple of shows on the beginning of the year and the feedback was positive, so we decided in autumn to do a few more. There were people who have seen us like ten times and they said to us that those were the best shows ever. And it was really intimate playing in so small venues. The audience was around a few hundred and someone wrote that it felt like you are in a living room with the band. It was totally different because we decided to do like something different from the energetic band we are. Only us without any clothing playing stuff. It turned to be a lot of fun even people from France and Germany flew to Finland to watch these shows. And we recorded a show in Helsinki for later use.
Do you consider playing acoustic outside Finland?
That would be awesome. We are planning and we hope we can do it. But now we’re really working on new material. We’ve been working on that over a year now. It is been a year already. We are going to hit the studio in March. The album hopefully comes out next autumn (e.g. this autumn) so that the label has the time to promote it. And of course we will have to promote that one and do more tours and we’ll see after that. On the other hand it is also planned to do a new DVD, so that might be a big project also. We are still planning it, we really hope. I hope that when we get the Helsinki show out, promoters and people would get an idea of what an acoustic live is like, and take the courage to say ok I would really like to watch you play acoustic.
This year also you released a best of album. What made you take this decision? Is it a label thing?
Yes it is a label thing actually. It is a release standard when you change labels. We change our label we went from Spinefarm to Metal Blade Records – “One Man Army” was the first album – and it’s like a standard thing for labels, they usually do a compilation. Of course they asked us our opinion. There is no bad blood, we still are connected and some of them are really good friends. They asked us if we could peak the songs and write a little bit something for each song. It was a cool process also to talk with the band. We had only sixty minutes to put a selection of songs, so that a person that never heard the band before to show the diversity of the band and also the evolution and the progression from the first album of the band until now.
Folk, Viking or Pagan metal? How do you actually call yourselfs?
I really like heroic folk metal, but the idea of folk metal because that is where it started. Of course there are a lot more bands who are more folkish than we are. They have a lot of folkish instruments on stage that we use in studio, like flutes and stuff like that. All the session musicians that we had on the albums, everybody said if we ever wanted to play on a live show with them they said yes, but maybe on some better shows. There is already five people on stage and it would be really crowded if we wanted to use more instruments. And that’s where Markus started the band; the melody and the rhythm things from the Scandinavian and Irish folk music. And metal – death metal.
The last years this genre has been really popular. Where do you think this popularity comes from?
I don’t know. You cannot plan that kind of things. I have no idea. In a way pop culture also with the Vikings series has something to do with that, but I have no idea. One thing might be that this kind of music borrows from the history and the folklore and the folklore has these stereotypical characters of the heroes and antiheroes that you link to. I think many people search for their roots and this type of music supports that kind of search. A line that a guy from Metal Hammer told me in an interview was that folk metal brought back fun to metal. I never thought it that way. There was fun back with power metal and the 80’s with hair metal and then thrash happened. So folk metal brought the idea that is ok to get drunk and be happy with your friends and still you can plunder into darker, gloomier stuff.
Netta Skog started as a live musician for you replacing Emmi. Is she now a full time member of Ensiferum?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
So she will be on the recordings on the next albums.
When we decided to bring her as a full member, it was one of the first things I told her. We want you to put as much input as you can. She is very talented musician with wide musical horisonts. There is already stuff for the new album that she composed. And we arrange everything together and she has also a lot of ideas. It was definitely a boost for the new album, bringing in fresh blood! And that’s how we composed; someone brings a raw idea and then we start to fill things together. One of the best things of being on this band is the composing process. Of course playing live is interesting, but composing in the band is always getting better and better. And this is something really rare, especially if I compare it to my old bands. We really have fun and we do argue and debate. We talk a lot and we have like a democracy in the band; if three out of five say it’s good, and then we keep it.
That was also going to be another question. How does the composition works? Because Markus is the leader as the founding member if you guys have an opinion in the composition process.
Of course, we have. Markus brings like the seventy percent of the stuff. We arrange everything together as a band. It is not like he brings the songs and tells us how to play. This is definitely not us. In a rehearsal if there is something came up, we start at this point and build it together.
There was a list come out about a year ago about how many metal bands per capita each country around the globe has. And Finland was at the very first place. Are really so many metalheads in Finland?
Yes. There are actually a lot.
We always hear about how great the education system and many good stuff about the other Scandinavian countries also, but what brings people towards metal?
I wish I would have the answer. We can only guess. I think it has something to do with the culture and I would say folk music itself. In Finland especially there are a lot of minor scale chords which are sad and mourning. And when you grow up with that stuff it is easier to turn to metal. Another thing is that nowadays – well the last ten or fifteen years – a lot of bands got successful abroad; bands like HIM and Children of Bodom. I think that this build our self esteem. When I was a kid I never dreamed of playing abroad, never. I was happy I could play in my youth centre with my friends some Guns’n’Roses songs.
Let’s move to our last question then. I’ve made up a question about the influences and the inspiration of the person I interview. If our kind – the human kind – was about to send a shuttle out in the space and we were to choose an all-time top 5 albums to represent ourselves in the universe and you were the one to choose them. Which ones would you choose?
Well there have to be some classical act. Like Beethoven or something like that. Hmm… It’s difficult (laughs). I will go with some album from Bjørk and then “Seventh Son of the Seventh Son” of Iron Maiden.
Well we have three so it is alright.
I’m just thinking of all the genres, you know. It would be nice like to have a death album, but it is getting too difficult. But again maybe something more hard like the Dark Tranquillity’s “The Gallery”. This is the album for me with the music that I think there is nothing that came out after it.
The last words is yours if you want to add something.
In case you haven’t check out our last album “One Man Army” go check it out. And happy holidays! And stay tuned for the updates on our new album.