» Jari Mäenpää - Wintersun
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Interview conducted June 08 2017
Interview published July 11 2017

"You're stuck in this kind of limbo, kind of a state between life and death, before you wake up again."

The Finnish metallers Wintersun are gonna put out their new record, The Forest Seasons, on July 21st and as they happened to play at Sweden Rock earlier this summer on one of their few live performances, Metal Covenant saw an opportunity to talk to the band's main man Jari Mäenpää, in order to hear a little bit about his personal reflection on his new creation.

The Forest Seasons track listing:

1. Awaken From The Dark Slumber (Spring) - 14.40
2. The Forest That Weeps (Summer) - 12.18
3. Eternal Darkness (Autumn) - 14.08
4. Loneliness (Winter) - 12.54

Tobbe: About the new record. Why did it become The Forest Seasons instead of Time II?

Jari: Well, in 2014 I had a burnout. I was mixing Time II for, like, 2 years. I mean, in 2012 we released Time I and then we toured and did festivals and in the meantime I was mixing Time II, but I was like "Fuck! I cannot make it sound like I want it to sound." and I had a burnout and "Fuck this shit! I'm gonna put this album on the shelf and do something different. Maybe something easier.".

Tobbe: I think a lot of people expected you to pick up the trace from Time I and put it into this new record.

Jari: I was already, like, battling with making Time I for 6 years. So that was already really stressful. And there were a lot of compromises when we released it, so that's why I wanted to make Time II, you know, perfect.

Tobbe: Is there a way to describe the overall sound of the new record?

Jari: I mean, we wanted to have this, like, primitive kind of feeling, you know, and not overpolish everything and have the guitars to be a little bit black metal-ish.

Tobbe: What is the story on The Forest Seasons about?

Jari: When I had the burnout I wanted to make something easier. It was summertime and I was jogging in a forest and I was just blown away by the beauty of it. And I was also listening to some riffs in my, like, riff library and one riff and the forest kind of clicked and then I kind of decided that I wanted to do a song about the forest and make it, like, dark, but still with kind of an epic feeling.

Tobbe: So when you started to write the lyrics, was that easy for you now?

Jari: Yeah. The first words came like that [Snaps his fingers.]. Very easy, because I was really inspired by the forest and that riff. So I started working on the new song. I wanted to make the song really fast and do something easier, you know, for a change.

Actually, I had no idea about The Forest Seasons theme at that point. It wasn't until I had made the summer song. I had 3 other riffs, like a starting riff for each song and I kind of knew that those 3 riffs would fit really well with one another. But they still were kind of different and they all had a different vibe to them.

One riff was really dark and another was cold and sorrowful, like winter, and the dark riff was autumn, 'cause for me autumn is already a dark season and the sun doesn't stay up so long and also my dad died during autumn time and that was a really dark time for me. I wanted to make a really, like, black metal-ish dark song.

And then one riff was really energetic, like a springtime feeling, like the nature is waking up. At that point I started thinking about the Four Seasons theme, because I've always been a fan of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and I've sometimes been thinking about covering that classical piece, but never really had the time.

So at that point I was like "Okay. I'm gonna do a kind of Four Seasons album myself.". And then I started thinking about what the name could be. It was kind of hard to invent the name. A lot of suggestions, but we came up with The Forest Seasons. We know it's a stupid pun, but sometimes those stupid ideas stick and stay in people's memories.

Tobbe: Could the songs on the album actually be put in a different order or does it have to be the obvious order and start with spring and end with winter?

Jari: Well, as you know, I did the summer song first, but it's kind of a story and you wake up in the spring and then you celebrate your life during the summer, but you already kind of start to feel the autumn and the darkness coming. Then everything dies in autumn and then you die, sort of. And then the winter song is kind of: You're stuck in this kind of limbo, kind of a state between life and death, before you wake up again. Like in these fields of snow, just wandering there alone.

Tobbe: But the seasons are so different around the world, because up here in Sweden or in Finland we're used to having four really different seasons, but if you travel to Southern Europe it's a little bit different, so do you think that they can relate to the lyrics as well, the way we can?

Jari: I don't know, but I think so. You know, they can visit us. [Laughs]

Tobbe: All of the songs are at least 12 minutes long and does it require quite a bit of extra hard work to, like, compress the album into only 4 songs?

Jari: It was kind of easy for me to make this album. I mean, for me, longer songs are actually easier to make than shorter songs. But probably the next time I want to make shorter songs again. But, you know, because this is the Four Seasons album there's only 4 songs.

Tobbe: You know, Wintersun started out as a solo project, but it's closer to being a real band nowadays, but do you personally still take pretty much every decision yourself?

Jari: Well, in band sort of stuff we have a democracy, but, you know, when it comes to the music nobody really composes music and they have other jobs, so that job is left for me to do. When I started Wintersun it was, like, my baby and my point when I started Wintersun was like "I wanna make the music I wanna make", even if it would be techno, or whatever. The point of Wintersun was that I could do anything under this name. Of course it would be career suicide, a techno album, and Nuclear Blast wouldn't like it. [Laughs]

Tobbe: You had a crowdfunding campaign on Facebook, about a month or two ago, and how did such an idea come to life?

Jari: Well, the fans actually were suggesting that to us for many years. At first we kind of didn't like the idea and we wanted to do things the old way, but then we came to the situation where we couldn't finish Time II, so we started thinking "Okay. We need to have a better production and we need a studio to work more efficiently.". And not just for recording, but the live shows and rehearsing and everything that includes the band.

So we started thinking about how it works and what we could offer the fans and then we started thinking about making it to just one package, because usually crowdfunding are so confusing and there's so many different perks and I don't like that idea at all and I'm kind of more that Steve Jobs/Apple kind of thing. You know, limit stuff, and I think you can make more sales that way.

So we made this big package with, you know, lots of stuff to offer, and we kind of counted how many people we would need to take part in the crowdfunding so that we could reach our goal and build the headquarters. And it worked really well. Happy surprise.

Tobbe: So, for a forthcoming record in a couple of years, could you do this once again?

Jari: Well, that's the plan, because we haven't still reached the final goal. We got, like, €400,000 from this crowdfunding, but there's a lot of expenses and taxes of course. But the plan is that we will do 3 crowdfundings, but we'll see, if the second crowdfunding goes as well as the first one did, then we can build the headquarters already with just 2 crowdfundings

Tobbe: And Wintersun has only released 3 albums in 13 years, so you will try to become a little more frequent with album releases from now on?

Jari: Yeah, that's the plan of the headquarters, so we can compose and produce music more efficiently.

Tobbe: And what about touring activity? Will you try to pick up the pace in that department too?

Jari: Yeah, that as well. And now when I'm only singing live, it will be easier for me to tour, because playing guitar and singing was, like, a two-man job and it took a toll on me. And I'm already wearing so many hats in the band, like writing all the music and producing, you know.

Tobbe: What have you learned from every obstacle through your career that you have climbed?

Jari: Well, I've learned, you know, to try to not stress so much, 'cause I stress way too much and I kind of worry too much. So I try to take it more easy. I've learned that about myself. And try to think more positive about things.

Tobbe: Could your music benefit from your personal problems in some way?

Jari: Maybe. I don't know. It's hard to say. You know, sometimes trouble and bad things in life can inspire you to make music. But of course you don't want that. [Laughs] Yeah, it's kind of fun, but you put all your good and bad emotions to the music and that helps you, you know. It's kind of a therapy.

Tobbe: Has it been hard for you to tell and come out so open about the problems that you've experienced?

Jari: Well, I'm Finnish and Finnish people are kind of private and don't really like to talk about personal stuff so visible all the time. There's so many bands and everyone is competing, you know, for attention.much, so. But with the crowdfunding I definitely understand that today you have to make yourself.

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