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Ensiferum
Interview mit Sami [Ensiferum], 11.03.2015, Bochum/Zeche



Mit ihren Landesmannen von Insomnium und Omnium Gatherum befinden sich die finnischen Folk-Death-Metaller Ensiferum derzeit auf Europa-Tournee, um ihr neues Album „One Man Army“ live vorzustellen. Die Auftaktshow fand am 11. März 2015 in der Bochumer Zeche statt. Vor der Show traf ich Sami Hinkka, Basser und Sänger bei Ensiferum, im Biergarten der Zeche zu einem Interview. Hierbei verriet der Finne, warum er aktuell Schmetterlinge im Bauch hat, was man so auf einer Metal-Kreuzfahrt in der Karibik erlebt und wie partyfreudig die Band im Tourbus ist.

Sami, how’s been the special tour start (Fan Appreciation Show) in Lingen yesterday?


Sami: It was a really good show. The idea came from EMP – maybe they had those kind of shows already in the past. It’s called Fan Appreciation Show! We had a signing session after the show. It was a really nice event with around 300 people – a quite intimate session. Meeting people after the show is something that we rarely do, because we wanna take a shower or eat something. So getting off the stage and going straight to the signing session was something new for us. But people were really friendly, took pictures and gave us feedback. That was really nice. We did already like four shows in Finland, but still there have been butterflies in the stomach, ‘cos of the new album with all the new songs. Nobody has any routine in anything yet. [laughs] But it also makes it more exciting. And then again it also makes it more difficult concerning the setlist, because we wanna play songs from all albums.

How do you decide which song will be part of the setlist? Are there a lot of discussions within the band?


Sami: No, no! We argue really rarely. We’re a really easy going, democratic band.

No one man army?

Sami: [laughs] No, not at all! We usually check out the songs on tours, we check out what we played the last times, especially in central Europe, because it’s like our second home. We played so many hundreds of shows here. So there might be some people who’ve seen us before. For example yesterday there was an elderly lady and it was her fifths time seeing us. So especially when we’re headlining a tour, we wanna play some songs that we didn’t play for a long time, more rare songs. But it is difficult. As I said, we play songs from each album and when you’re promoting a new album, of course you have to play new songs as well. “One Man Army” is our sixth album. But let’s see when we have ten albums out – then it might be even more difficult to choose the songs.

You have already planned that far?


Sami: Ja, of course we think about it. But I think festival shows or support slots are more difficult, because you only have 45 minutes to play.

Less time to convince people…


Sami: Yes, that’s true, especially when you’re not in a headline position and people probably don’t know you…

As mentioned you already played four shows in your home country recently. Is the Finnish audience in some way different than the German one?

Sami: I would say our fans around the world are pretty much the same. They are really friendly and come to our shows in really good mood, even though there are these aggressive looking moshpits, crowdsurfing, wall of deaths and whatever. People always help each other and have a good time. But Finland is a really difficult territory for us. We’re not really popular, even though we went to No. 1 in the charts with the new album. That’s incredible with this kind of material! But it’s changing a little bit. The new generation that’s coming up now, they’re maybe more into our stuff. Let’s see. In Germany we have more tradition roots as we have played so much more here. But overall I think there’s not such a big difference. Maybe Finnish people are a little more, well, not shy, but they stand a little bit more just watching us. In Germany – especially when the fans had a few beers – they’re really going wild. I’m sure it will be a great evening.

Then again you recently joined this metal cruising in the Caribbean: 70.000 tons of metal. Which impressions did you collect over there?


Sami: It’s a really incredible event. It was our third time taking part in there and it’s really unique. There is no backstage or anything. I remember the second time when we were there, I was sitting at the bar and next to me I saw a guy from Blind Guardian. And oh, there’s someone from Amon Amarth and I could talk to him. So it’s a really intimate event…

And nobody can escape as everyone is sitting in the same boat…

Sami: Nobody wants to escape! Everybody is having a good time. It’s a really nice experience and I would love to go there on vacation someday. Well, actually it’s kind of a vacation as it takes part for four days and you play two shows.

Did you leave the boat in Jamaica for some sightseeing?

Sami: Ja, I went offboard for a while, but it was a way too hot for me. [laughs] Personally I don’t really enjoy sunbathing.

Shall we go over into the shadow?

Sami: No, no! I love it. Just when it’s like + 30 degrees, that’s not my thing.

From this night on you will enter the stage with Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum – a very Finnish package. How did this very nice line-up find together?


Sami: That’s a good question, because it wasn’t intentional to get like a Finnish package. We talked with our management that we wanted to have a strong and interesting package – three strong live bands from little bit different genres. Then we thought about which supporters would be good. I can’t remember who mentioned Insomnium, but everybody was like “Hell yeah, let’s ask them!”. And also Omnium Gatherum sounded really good – so we asked them. That was our part: We just said “yes” to our management and booking agency, we wanna have those bands!

Are you sharing the same tourbus?

Sami: Ja, we’re sharing the bus with Insomnium. Unfortunately Omnium Gatherum don’t fit in there. Too many people. It would be excellent to have such a big bus where all bands fit in. As we’re luckily in Europe, the distances between the venues are not so long…

Will there be a lot of partying on the tourbus the next days or are you not such big party animals?

Sami: Let’s see, let’s see! [laughs] That was something I was kind of worried about when I realized that there are only Finnish bands touring together. But nobody is 18 anymore and everybody has toured before. We have a pretty strict schedule with only one day off within a three weeks tour. But we’re all professionals, I think. Fans come over and pay to see the shows, so nobody wants to have a hangover on stage. But then again [harrumphs] we also have professional drinkers with us – as we’re Finns –, but we know our limits. So let’s see! This is just our second day. Especially for the offday we’re already checking out some camping area to have a barbecue and ten liters of Vodka… [laughs]

How do you usually spend your time while travelling and at the venues when there’re some free slots? Some sightseeing?

Sami: That’s the beauty of our position that we can tour with a bus. So we can sleep most of the time while we’re travelling. I also try to read, sitting down with people and talking bullshit…and after the show you have some red wine, good discussions… You know, we’re having the same crew for around ten years, so it’s like travelling with the family. At the venues I had the dream to go running every morning, but of course there is this possibility of hangover, then it’s not an option. But sightseeing…I don’t really do that. We usually don’t have the time. I always use this as an example: We’ve been in New York for a couple of times, but I’ve never seen the Statue of Liberty. Never! Then again I have seen the sign of Niagara Falls “20 miles” many times, but we never had the time to go there. So I kinda gave up hope to actually see something. Okay, I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, that’s it.

On this tour you’re mainly presenting your new album called “One Man Army”. What’s been the musical focus this time?

Sami: The way we compose is really slow. Now we have I would say well ideas for half of the next album songs.

Is everybody composing…?

Sami: Everybody has the freedom to write. We’re a democratic band and everybody can bring in ideas. And we have the policy that everything has to be tried no matter how crazy an idea is. Usually it’s Markus [guitar] and I who bring in the ideas, and Janne’s expertise is definitely in the arrangement area, when we start putting the pieces together. He’s the drummer and sees things totally different like us who play string instruments. Anyway the composing is pretty slow. We don’t sit down saying “Okay, let’s start making a new album NOW”! That’s not how it works. This time the idea was to focus more on the sound of the album. We wanted to have again more organic sounds that you can also find on the previous album. So that it sounds like a real band. And an important aspect was the live energy, ‘cos for me Ensiferum is definitely a live band. Usually when you’re in the studio you have the songs, but the energy is missing in a way. That was something we talked about with Anssi Kippo who recorded and produced the album.

In Lappeenranta?

Sami: Ja! I didn’t know him before, but we had a meeting and talked about the ideas and the sound. He totally got it. He’s so enthusiastic with music… We gave him some recorded and mixed songs and he mixed them again with some equipment just for himself analog. He gave us the stuff with those two different versions and we heard the differences. His version was much more dynamic. He took the songs to the next level!

Who’s usually writing the lyrics within the band?

Sami: That’s me! When I joined the band, I don’t know what happened. I never had written any lyrics before. Well, I read a lot…

Is there still any flavor of personality in the lyrics even though they are about war, warriors, the fallen ones and blood?


Sami: Definitely!

To what extent?


Sami: [laughs] That’s the grey area – talking about the lyrics. I never wanna talk about the lyrics so much, because I want the listeners to have the freedom to interpret them by themselves. On another tour when we played in Jena, there was a girl who came to me while we were doing the soundcheck. Somehow she got already into the venue and had almost tears in her eyes saying “I never listen to Metal, but I read the lyrics and you’re telling the story of my people!” Her family was from Iran, but she lived in Germany and studied at university. So she interpreted the lyrics by herself and I got goosebumps.

The last song on the new album is quite different than the rest concerning the music style and as it is sung in Finnish by a female voice. What happened here?

Sami: It’s actually Netta who’s playing Accordion on this tour. She used to play Accordion in Turisas. We had a raw version of that song already when we were creating the material for “Unsung Heroes”. The song wasn’t ready, the soul was missing. So I had the idea of a country/western style and we talked about who could sing it. It should be a real singer. But I can’t remember who had the idea of having female vocals. Then one thing led to another and it was obvious that it had to be Netta, because she has a really good voice for this kind of Schlager thing.

Schlager?

Sami: Ja! [laughs] She’s always so full of energy and of course wanted to do it. She also plays Accordion on the album and now she’s here as well.

Will she perform the song tonight?

Sami: No, because it’s an acoustic song and we couldn’t bring the acoustic guitars with us. But we did some acoustic shows in Finland to promote the new album and it worked out really well.

Didn’t you also play in Levykauppa Äx [Record Store] in Helsinki?

Sami: Ja, we did! It was so full in there and no more room for people. We expected like ten people to come there, but in the end people were also standing outside and couldn’t come in.

Would Ensiferum also work completely with Finnish lyrics?


Sami: Why not? It’s possible, but let’s see. Better I don’t promise anything. [laughs]

What can we expect from the show tonight?

Sami: Some old and new stuff and shitloads of good time. [laughs] The setlist is working really well and I think it’s interesting for new and old fans.

Do you have any battle call before you enter the stage?


Sami: No, we don’t shout. Everybody has his own routine. Of course we gather together just before the show…but no shouting. We have to do that on stage! [laughs]



Interview & Fotos: Lea S.
Website Band: www.ensiferum.com

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