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Korpiklaani – Interview met Olli Vänskä (violin)

Olli Vänskä: “Apparently this music can make even a sober person get drunk. I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing”

Rankarumpu’ is het nieuwe album van Finland’s populairste folk metal band Korpiklaani. De opvolger van het in 2021 uitgebrachte ‘Jylhä’ is opmerkelijk uptempo en opmonterend. De melancholieke zijde van de band komt slechts in twee songs aan bod. Opvallende nieuwkomer in Korpiklaani is violist Olli Vänskä die we nog kennen van Turisas. Hij is nu als permanent lid ingelijfd bij Korpiklaani en heeft zich al waargemaakt als enthousiaste hulp voor de anderen, zelfs als songschrijver. We kozen hem om eens een andere kijk te belichten op het hele gebeuren. Onze gesprekspartner liep over van enthousiasme over deze nieuwe wending in zijn leven.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 14 mei 2024

Olli, you are the new permanent member on ‘Rankarumpu’. How did you get involved in Korpiklaani and how did you even start writing songs for them from now on?
My history with the band… well, I obviously knew the guys from years ago. We did some tours together when I was in Turisas. In 2016 and 2017 there were a couple of tours for Korpiklaani and some gigs when they needed a violin player to fill in. So I was like a substitute musician there and it went well. It was fun to play something very different from what I was doing back then. Some years went by then and in 2021 it was corona time. I was enjoying the lockdown and family time and everything and then Jonne sent me a text message: ‘Hey, what’s up? Our violin player Tuomas he cannot make some of the shows, so would you be available?’ and I think at that point Tuomas was like kind of fading away from the band. I consulted my wife and we decided: ‘yeah I can do this.’ It was like a handful of shows, still during the corona times and then for some reason I stuck there (chuckles). There were more shows and it was all fun. I kind of slipped in just as a member. As for the music writing… I had some music ready for different purposes, but it was very Korpiklaani sounding and the guys were open to that. We discussed the music and the new album together and they said: ‘If you have new music, then just shoot.’ That was nice of them of course, because some bands are very protective about the creative process, but they were like ‘if you have music, yeah, just send it’. I did and they liked what I gave them: two songs that I had previously written and then last year I finished one new song. It was ‘Aita’, the second single. That was written during the Korpiklaani year. That was basically my short history of being in the band.

What leaps to the eye is that ‘Rankarumpu’ happens to be a faster paced album. The previous albums ‘Jylhä’ and ‘Kulkija’ included more slower, melancholic songs… Was it done on purpose or did it just turn out that way?
That was probably the only conscious decision that we made about the new album, it should be faster than the previous one. Not because the previous one was worse, it was just slower and we also had the idea that the album should be a bit shorter.

Not only you are involved as song-writer, also drummer Samuli was coming up with good ideas these days. So this album is a real group effort I guess, more than ever…
Samuli asked me if it was alright when he should write some lyrics to ‘Saunaan’ and I was like ‘yeah, go ahead’. Traditionally I am not very familiar with writing lyrics, so that was nice and he did good work. I even did not realize until all the recording was done that he also wrote the lyrics to ‘Kalmisto’ and some of the riffs were his. Yes I think he is doing a good job with arranging and I did not know that he writes good lyrics. So that is a big bonus of course. This is really exiting for me. I mean, I was doing this one solo single of mine with my own name and that was how I was getting better in the song writing process. It was some years that I did not make music or anything like that and it has been really invigorating to be able to write music that is actually published. That is really nice and I am feeling really creative these days.’

Talking about the lyrics: the album title ‘Rankarumpu’ stands for the band. It means a kind of rhythm or drums, isn’t it? Can you explain that?
It is Jonne’s lyrics and he found a good translation saying that he was talking about the reggae drums, a little bit old and weary, a chilly drum, but he said that the song is a love song for the band and for ourselves and also for the audience. He said: ‘I wrote a love song to you guys’ and he also said that there is a funny detail. I think it is about joy of playing and joy of living life. Play your instrument and let’s rejoice, stuff like that. He also told us that some really drunk guy came to him after one show and he said: ‘I have been sober for many years, but as soon as I came to your gig, I started to drink.’ Apparently this music can make even a sober person get drunk. I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing.

We see the shaman drum depicted on the cover again…
The artwork is quite nice. I think it is a powerful image about the drum. It is a funny name as well, because it is hard to translate, but you can at get an idea, at least as a Finnish person about what it means.

On the other hand we have a war song with ‘Tapa Sen Kun Kerkeet’. That is an actual topic and Finland is close to Russia of course… Does it live among the people? Is their pessimism?
I guess everybody hopes that we won’t get into war, but yes, I think that song was kind of inspired about the war theme of some sort. I guess it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. No matter what your meaning is, they are serious about that in Finland.

Just like the two previous albums, you have worked with Janne Saksa for mix and mastering. Can you tell something about that process of mix and mastering?
I actually know Janne better than the other guys, because he is from Hämeenlinna, also Turisas worked with Janne Saksa. So I actually spent a lot of time in the same studio and it was fun to work with him again. I really like his style of producing and recording. He did the mixing as well, but it was mastered by Svante Forsbäck. Janne is very easy to work with. He uses his ears a lot and also he is listening to what you say. He has a nice way of communicating, so he is not one those producers who just kind of shout at you, making you do what he wants. I think he is really good with musicians and with people. It was a really nice experience to record with him.

What can you tell about the making of the video clips? In the first one we see the band, in the second one ‘Aita’ there is a wooden cabin and you see a walk in the show and the third one is with pictures of nature and an actor…
Yes, that was filmed in Iceland. ‘Saunaan’ and ‘Aita’, they were directed by Tuukka Temonen and his team. It was nice, kind of easy stuff. Again, these are the first music videos I have filmed with Korpiklaani, but I think it was pretty easy. We had plans to do something with the sauna, our plans changed a little bit, but the original idea was also that nobody goes to sauna (laughs). It would have been easy to film a bunch of naked men who are drinking beer in sauna, but this may be a little bit different approach. I am quite happy how they turned out. ‘Aita’ was filmed in Jonne’s kind of home area and it is quite nice that they got the old guy there. What is his name? I think it is a nice link that he performs in the video, because it kinds of connect different albums together in that sense. There is still coming another video, directed by Vesa Ranta that we really enjoyed. I have seen a foretaste, I think it is going to be a good one. He has also directed Ensiferum and I really like his style. He is a really nice guy and he has a good eye, so I am really looking forward to that fourth video for the title track ‘Rankarumpu’.

What are the plans for this year?
April and May was filled with a US tour with Visions Of Atlantis and Illumishade. That lasted till the beginning of May. Then there is a little break and then starts basically the festival season. We are coming back to Alcatraz festival in Belgium in August. There are a lot of talks of different possibilities, aboutwhat will happen in the Autumn when there will be a shorter tour somewhere, or whatever but there will be no headlining tour in Europe for us this year, because at the end of the year we will spend a lot of time with In Extremo. The big EU tour will be for 2025.