Ensiferum – Sami Hinkka’s Interview (English)

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Sami Hinkka From Ensiferum
By Morrigan
2014

  • So… I wanted to ask your opinion about Motocultor Festival so far… even if you just arrived ! (the band had actually arrived like a hour ago, immediately did the signing session then this interview)

(laughs) So far so good ! I dunno, we won’t taste and enjoy it very much, when we arrived there was a guy playing acoustic guitar here onstage [Mononc’ Serge], people sing along a lot, so it seems like eventhough it’s raining people are really in the mood, and it’s the first day, so I think everybody has full energy, no hangover yet, so… really big show today !

  • And many many people are expecting you actually… you don’t even have to try convincing people to come see you. Today you are just the « example band » in pagan metal… I mean most bands say their main influence is Ensiferum, how does it feel ?

Emmm it makes us feel old ! (laughs) No, it makes you humble, and I really had hard time to understand that somebody really was inspired by our music to start their own bands because in a way, I still feel alive not as a fifteen year old guy, but as a twenty year old who was still recording demos with first bands and everything, so it feels really weird… in a good way ! And it’s really nice to come back to France, we have played here too seldom…

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  • Yes… and do you have a “special relationship” with France because at the beginning of the year you toured only in France, does it mean something or…?

Of course! France is certainly one of the best places to play to be honest, it’s really weird because when I joined the band 10 years ago, the band was just starting doing tours, I think they had gone on one tour before I joined in, and when we checked out the upcoming tours, there was no France, and we always asked “what is your France?” People had told us there was definitely no metal scene in France, nobody likes metal, and we were like ok because we didn’t know! And a few years after that, we were getting more and more requests by email from French fans “Come to France! Come to France”, so ok this is obvious there is some buzz going on there, and then we had some shows this year, and we had those kickass shows thinking “what the fuck is going on? What has been missed?”. There’s something very unique about French fans, they really love, sing along… So yeah we wanted to do just a French tour, and to well kind of conversate too, because in a way we’ve ben there so many times, and also on these tours were usually Paris, Lyon, and that’s it, so we wanted to do a proper tour since it’s a huge country, lot of people, lot of nice places to go, nice people to meet… We wanted to do a special tour in France and it was definitely worth it!

  • That was an awesome one!

Yes we loved it!

  • And you did the Heidenfest too… it was something!

Yes, you were there?

  • Yes! I was in Paris and the day after in Germany, and I felt like there was a special energy in Paris, it was just crazy!

Yes, I totally agree!

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  • So how did the French tour go on? You toured with Frosttide, a young Finnish band partly getting their inspiration from you…

It was a really easy-going tour, yes Frosttide, the guys are very young, we would be afraid because you know, of course we like to party now and then, but there’s this huge difference if the band average age is like 20 or over 30… There’s this little difference about how the after-show parties go on. But Frosttide guys were behaving really well, really polite young gentlemen, and we had a really good time! Everything worked, we had an incredible crew, it was just a pleasure and everybody did their best and everything worked!

  • Everything was perfect!

Yeah, this is really important also! You have to apreciate those moments… It’s important we express our gratitude to people.

  • And thank you for that, because some bands don’t show that, I mean as a fan it’s very nice to see a band, like Ensiferum giving this energy like you do onstage, I mean nothing can make me more happy than that, and it’s sad some bands don’t show that…

Yeah! For us it’s like interraction with fans. At least, personnally for me, playing live is one of the best things in life. Like, you know, today we have travelled like 10 hours already, and after the show we will travel another 5 hours to get to Paris to play a 15 minutes show, but it’s worth it! That’s why I love our fans, they have so much energy, they give it to us and us also onstage, and it goes back and forth, I really like it!

  • That’s what interesting in your shows too! When we see you guys like in signing sessions and all, you look so calm, and in shows you are like… monsters! You got a double personnality? How do you do with that, I mean, do you have some special habits maybe before going onstage? Or you play a character when you’re onstage maybe?

(laughs) Actually no… We all have different sides! No matter what you do, you always have a role to play, if you’re with your friends, with your family, when you’re working… You act different! I dunno, for me, playing live is such an emotionnal thing… I know the music gives me, and it also comes from the audience, there’s ne need to pretend something. You know each member of the band has been hrough rituals to do before the show to get in the mood, but usually it’s when the 1st song starts, on 1st second [claps his hands] it just happens, you try to boost yourself just as much as possible before the show, but you can never reach the peak before you get on stage and see the audience.

  • So do you plan to come back soon?

Yes. As you probably know we are working on the new album, so of course we have plans about an upcoming tour. I haven’t seen anything yet but I would be very angry if there is no France. There has to be!

  • What do you think is the key of Ensiferum success? Because as I already said you are one of the topping pagan bands, you’re the example, and it never goes down…

Really I don’t know… I think one thing, I don’t know how other bands do it, but for us, we really mind ourselves when we are writing music, it has to come fom the heart. You can never start looking back like “oh people like this song”, and if you start do that role, you try to please people. I think that’s kind of the wrong way. At least for us. And as a musician it would be really weird to do music so as to please someone else more than yourself. You know this is selfish. When you are writing a song you have some emotion that has to come out, so that way that’s selfish. The biggest gift is if someone else comes to like your music. It gives me goosebmps.

  • How do you compose in Ensiferum?

Usually it’s Markus who brings most of the ideas and then we start working all together. I also bring lots of ideas, that’s the beauty of our couples of metalheads, we do it as a band, I think that’s also really important, because you get older, people have families, and we live in different areas nowadays. Doing things together keeps the band unites, and not just someone brings all the songs, and then we play it.

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  • So I wanted to ask about Unsung Heroes… It had a not-so-warm welcome because people thought it was different, how did you experience that? Some people said that it was basically bullshit… Here we are back on the idea you do what you want and not what people expect.

To keep repeating yourself is pointless, I don’t know, there is no right or wrong when you’re doing arts in general you know, if you’re painting, sculptures, whatever you want. The band is almost 20 years old, and we want to evolve, because you get older, you get… at least we want to get wiser, but you’re more life-experienced, and you have different things you want to get out of your system. But about Unsung Heroes, we were expecting it: when we had the songs ready, we were like “ok it’s completely different from previous album, but that’s it”. Next album will be totally different too from Unsung Heroes.

  • Again somethig different or more back to the previous ones?

There’s obviously the Ensiferum elements there, but I would say some fans will be really surprised! [laughs] It’s gonna be… I would say more aggressive in a way.

  • You are recording it right now?

In a few weeks. This weekend we gonna have three festivals, and then two more, and then we actually go straight from the festivals to the studio. So it will be in the beginning of September.

  • So it will be out next year…

Yeah. In… I would say February/March, or something like that. Because you know, all the labels want to have three months for promotion.

  • Is there any Ensiferum album that has a special meaning to you or you particularly like?

I think the old albums are really important, of course, every song is important, but in a way, Victory Song is something… really unique : I just got in the band, and I remember sitting at Markus’ appartment and I was like “yeah I have this one this one!!! one melody!”, it went like that. I made him a demo where the core of Victory Song was, and he was like YES, we were sitting at his place and “yeah, lets listen to that one! No that’s crap but this part…” and the song just happened in a way. It was something really special, and I’m telling you a secret : I’m a kindergarten teacher, that’s not a secret, the idea of Victory Song actually came when I was outsides the class. I was looking after kids, they were playing, and [hums the melody of Victory Song], I was like “oh, it!” and I ran inside, got my guitar and… I have to remember this one because it was a long time ago… I had the melody in my head.

  • Oh that’s a nice story!

Yes, a nice story! Maybe not so heroic as people want to hear it but… When I came up with this one I started writing more.

  • That’s exactly my next question actually, you’re reading my mind! What about your influences when you write the music and the lyrics?

[laughs] I know Markus, when he comes up with the raw ideas, he usually sits on his couch and watches TV. And I kind of understand that because he doesn’t analyze it. He just let it flow. It’s better to let stuff come out naturally. But inspiration… well I wrote the lyrics for the new album, once again the inspiration came fom the real life : of my life or something that I saw. I really like the challenge when you kind of have this Ensiferum’s heroic theme or something. On the new album there are three songs about different kind of warriors. Of course they are inspired by three different type of person, but it’s really fun to find the metaphors and to recenter how I saw it. And of course on the album there are a lot of expressions coming fom literature, and a little bit history. Some ideas come from how the future of mankind will be, I’m fascinated by this kind of things.

  • I only got one last question : tell us about your side projects!

There’s this kind of indie rock atmospheric band, and actually last Ensiferum bass player [Jukka-Pekka Miettinen] is in it : Atmosphere Enterprise, and we have recorde a second album, but people in that band are even in a way busier than Ensiferum so I don’t know about that album, lets see! That’s kind of sad, when I was younger, as a teenager, I used to play in like seven different bands but at that age… it was fun! I remember when I was 17 there was a band competition in a local youth house, there were seven bands and I was playing in five of them because there were no bass players… You know on that evening I played pop, funk, metal, all kind of stuff : it’s good to keep your mind open because music is just one form of art.

  • We are done! Thanks again for that interview, have a great show tonight! A little message for French fans?

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