Luckily for us fans, Wintersun came back to Italy a short time after their headlining shows in Bologna and Roma in October and their participation at the Colony Open Air festival in Brescia in July, as one of the three supporting acts for Arch Enemy during their Will To Power Tour. Just before their show at the Alcatraz club in Milano, I had the wonderful chance to have a chat with the mastermind of Wintersun Jari Mäenpää, to ask him something about him and his music (which I love so much!). This interview was taken together with the colleague Roberto from Metalforce.it, since we shared some common questions that we wanted to ask. Here you can read what my questions were, but I really suggest you to go and check out his interview too since he came up with some very good stuff you’ll surely like to read!
Hello Jari! We’re very happy to meet you and have the chance to make this interview with you! So, let’s start talking about “The Forest Seasons“: how did you come up with the idea of making an album about this subject?
Well, it was actually kinda surprising to me as well. In 2014 I was really frustrated with “Time II”, I couldn’t have it done because I didn’t have the resources to make it sound like I wanted, so I just took some time off and I was running in this nearby forest. It was a beautiful summer, and it was a new place, that I’ve never been before, although it was close to my home. The forest kinda opened my mind, it was so beautiful. Then I was actually listening to some older riff ideas, and this one riff was playing in my head and I connected that riff to that forest and I was “Ok, maybe I could do a kind of song with it, something I can do with my resources, and make a song about the forest”. Then that song became “The Forest That Weeps”. It took me one month to do it all together. After that I had other riffs that kind of complemented and all of these three ideas gave different feelings, one was very dark, one was very sorrowful and cold and one was really energetic… at that point I put them together and was like “These will be Autumn, Winter, Spring…”. I had Summer already, so I thought that maybe I’d do a seasons-themed album.
So basically the reasons that made you decide to publish “The Forest Seasons” before “Time II” were that you couldn’t have the tools that you needed to make it like you wanted, is this right? Still talking about what inspires you, where do you take your inspirations for your powerful orchestrations?
In the first album I just put simple layers of keyboards and stuff like that. At that point I already wanted to do orchestrations but I wasn’t good enough and didn’t have the samples libraries. You know, in 2004 there weren’t any orchestral sample libraries, but in 2006 when I started working on “Time I” these libraries started to come out, and that was the time when I said “Ok, now I want to make this big orchestra on the Time album”.
It was kind of a matter of time, like, you had to wait for these libraries to come out so that you could follow your ideas, right?
Also, I generally didn’t have resources but the problem was even though these great sample libraries and orchestral stuff started coming out, the computer power was not there so it was really hard to run those orchestrations. But for” The Forest Seasons” I had the newest Mac Pro and it really works great for me and I could do its orchestral parts in real time. It was actually kind of easy, and for this album I found these libraries I can’t remember, one was “Forest…” something and the other was “Epic…” something, that sounded really great and fitted the idea I had for the music.
Would you say that coming from a country like Finland, with very long and hard winters and darkness, had influenced the way you make your music?
Yeah, definitely. When I was younger I didn’t realize it, but now that I am older I really feel the seasons, in my body and mind. Like, from October to December it’s really dark and cold, and you even get depressed. But in January when it eventually gets colder and the snow starts to come you have a better feeling because with snow there’s more light and of course you know that spring is much closer. On springtime I get really energized, as I know that summer is coming.
I see that lots of your songs seem to be structured in suites, like some prog metal songs. How would you define Wintersun’s music style? More prog, more melodic-death or a mix of various things?
Well, there are definitely some progressive elements, as I try to combine different genres so I can have new sounds. In the future there will be some experiment, like some djent Meshuggah-style, and the Time signature. But yes, it’s very melodic and we have the growling vocals… it fits as a mix of progressive and melodic metal. And also now that we use so much the orchestrations I’d say something like “orchestral melodic progressive metal”… or as we call it: epic metal!
Did Asim’s entrance in the band change the dynamics between you guys?
Not really, it kind of enhanced the overall feeling. He brings a lot of positive energy to the band!
So it was easy to include him in the whole Wintersun machine?
Do you think that your previous experience with Ensiferum had some kind of influence on you, now that you’re in another band?
Definitely! Before Ensiferum I was already doing a lot of things, like writing music and some other stuff, but then when I joined Ensiferum I got a really good lesson about folk music because Markus is really into folk music and got me into folk music as well. I really loved that stuff and even if now I am in Wintersun, that will stay forever. Nowadays I am trying to get a little away from folk music and going towards different directions.
Thinking about you musical career, are you satisfied with what you have achieved so far or there’s still something in particular that you really want to do?
Well I am definitely more satisfied now. The crowdfunding was a big success and a huge relief, because we were really in trouble trying to find the resources to make our music. But yes there are still definitely more things that I want to do, many albums that I want to do, I want to do killer live shows. On this tour we’re actually filming our shows and I hope we get some good material for the fans.
Is there a place where you haven’t played yet, where you would like to play one of your shows?
Well, actually we went to Japan and China and that was a dream coming true, but yes there are definitely other places… we definitely want to go to South America, we’re working on it. Russia, that’s gonna happen. I’ve heard a lot of great stories about that from the Ensiferum guys. Maybe some really warm country, with beaches… Hawaii for example!
Let’s totally change the subject of our questions: what are the best and funniest memories that you have about touring with Wintersun?
Yes, there were some very nice parties in the past, but now I’m not really into that stuff anymore. You know, getting older and having to play all those shows…
I was thinking back about your naked karaoke on the 70.000 Tons Of Metal cruise…
Oh yes, that was really fun! Me and Markus, we just got a little bit tipsy and we decided to do this stunt… we were laughing our asses off, and before it we were like “Are we really gonna do it?!”
We are now at my final question. After the tour, what are your plans while building the Wintersun Headquarters?
Hopefully we’ll build them, and well of course “Time II”.
Do you already have some material that you are working on?
Yeah, I probably have like five albums of material. They’re not whole songs, but mostly like some parts, riffs and melodies, ideas…I just have to start putting them together.
Needless to say, I was overly excited to have this interview with Jari, since Wintersun is one of my all-time favourite bands. And I must also say that I was very happy to share it with Roberto from Metalforce.it, as I said at the beginning. You can also see our photogallery within the report of their concert in Milano at this link.