EverythingRock recently conducted an interview with bassist Jarkko Aaltonen of Finnish folk metallers KORPIKLAANI. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
EverythingRock: As I understand it, “Manala” is the Finnish underworld in mythology and this album is based upon parts of a poem. Could you explain this concept a bit more to us?
Jarkko: The original idea was to make a concept album based on the Finnish national epic “Kalevala”. The lyrics then started to come in and it turned out that it wasn’t all from “Kalevala” after all and we were still using those texts. We forgot the idea of the concept album and announced that it was to be called “Kunnia” (Honor/Glory) — as is the first track on the album. But then, we looked a bit more into what we had done, and we realized that many of the songs are actually still about “Kalevala” or Finnish folklore anyway and most of them are about death and the underworld so we thought, “We need to change the name because ‘Kunnia’ doesn’t really fit with this album anymore.” That is how it became “Manala” and now everybody thinks that it is a concept album about Manala, which it isn’t, but it has lots of references to the underworld and death in general. There’s a lot about murders and that kind of material as well… The funny, lovely, hilarious folklore of Finland. [laughs]
EverythingRock: How did you keep the happy, upbeat sound that has become synonymous with KORPIKLAANI when writing about these dark and morbid subjects?
Jarkko: [laughs] That’s because we write the music first and the lyrics come later so it’s quite easy. But it is funny — you’ve got the music written, the melody written, and the music doesn’t change but then you put a certain set of lyrics on top of that and it changes the whole mood of the song. It may be different for a person who doesn’t speak or understand Finnish, but for us, the lyrics change the whole atmosphere of the album. For us, it is a dark album. It’s got some thrash-metal-like heavy riffing and some brilliant melodies yet it is a really dark and gloomy album.
EverythingRock: When you set out with the idea of a concept album, did you change your approach to writing the music for album?
Jarkko: The original idea for the concept album was only for the lyrics – not like a musically a concept album, not in the style of “Thick As A Brick” or anything like that. It’s a collection of songs. We had more songs written and demoed for the album, but we left out several that we felt, or the producer felt, didn’t fit in with the album that well.
EverythingRock: Could you see KORPIKLAANI using those songs in the future?
Jarkko: We don’t usually do that. We always have extra songs that we for some reason have left out from the album. Usually it has been because we have felt that they are not good enough so we leave them out, but now, we actually had songs that we felt were good and we were even arguing about that with the producer because we felt they should be on the album, but we made a deal — If he says that “it’s not there,” then it’s not there. After a long argument, he won, but maybe this time we will use those later. For the first time, in what we left out, I feel that there is some good stuff there. Maybe we will take the better riffs and just leave the not so good ones.
Read the entire interview from EverythingRock.
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Photo by Harri Hinkka