It is very early in the morning and still dark outside. Next to two enormous heaps of luggage on trolleys which can barely hold, we find a unusual group. Some of them sip coffee; others drink the last bits of luke beer and tell lame jokes. This is the band Korpiklaani and they are waiting for their plane to catch after a long and exhausting tour.
The first for your eyes to meet is Hittavainen; the enthusiast violinist of the band, who fell asleep at the table with his head resting on his arms and with a cup filled with an unknown substance next to him. Not far off stands bass player Jarkko, flipping through a catalog in search of a fine red wine to buy at the tax-free shop. The other band members are more likely to buy cigarettes and beer though. Jonne, vocalist and lead guitar player, looks pale and not too well. As usual, he is recovering from the flue that he always seems to catch when on tour. Despite his bad shape, he still pulls off hilarious stories to Matson, the drummer, who is even now drumming with his hands on the edge of the table. Guitar player Cane, who suffers from a slight hangover, laughs and turns to look at accordion player Juho, the junior of the band. Juho does not notice, he seems to be totally occupied by his own thoughts.
Passengers walking by, turn their head to watch the unusual looking group. A single fan recognizes them and runs to them for autographs and some mobile phone pictures, which are granted friendly.
Most people however, are unaware that they just passed Korpiklaani, the Finnish folk-metal band that started in 1993 under the name of Shaman, and changed their name in 2002 to Korpiklaani (Clan of the wilderness).
Their music consists of metal with a happy folky base. So does their choice of instruments, they use a mixture of electric guitars and drums as well as violin, woodwinds, jouhikko, djembé, and the typical Finnish folk instrument: the accordion. They reject synthesizers (of course), and use only genuine instruments.
To most people their music is so cheerful and lively that they cannot resist dancing, laughing and feeling happy. Maybe that is why fans call it 'beer-metal' (it certainly has the same effect as beer), but it could be also due to the many songs about this all-time favorite drink of Korpiklaani.
The first Korpiklaani albums contained merely English lyrics, but nowadays most lyrics are in Finnish. These lyrics are often written in the Kalevala-style (a special metre, from the Finnish national epic) and tell about nature, history, partying and the already mentioned beer of course!
At first Korpiklaani was just another unknown Finnish band. Nowadays they are widely appreciated for their unique and cheerful music. But it was a hard road to travel. In the beginning they were happy if they got a gig set, any gig... even for just some beer and travelling costs. They could not afford a proper place to sleep after a gig; often they had to spend the rest of the night stuffed together in a small room in a crappy and cheap hotel. They slept on the plain floor or in the bathtub. If they were lucky they could stay at some friend´s home. Their instruments were not of any quality, and if one got broken, there was no replacement. Of course they all had a job, because they had to make a living. It was hard to combine a job with a band; gig planning was really tough, and the band members always suffered a severe lack of time and money. But... these friends had a lot of fun together, and loved to play.
Some milestones came by: the first gigs abroad, the first time headliner at a small festival, a bigger festival, a big festival. Another milestone, the first time at WOA in 2006, and this summer they occupied the Party stage in Wacken again, at the 20th Wacken Anniversary! Things grow slowly in the right direction for this band with its original sound.
In 2009 one of the big wishes, the first US-tour, came true.and in 2010 another US-tour and the first South-America Tour, the Vodka Revolution Tour took place.
In many ways the hard days are over. Still it is not all sunshine. It is hard to go on stage if you are terribly ill and have high fever, if there is a family crisis, if you have a severe hangover, or if you have not slept at all because the damn hotel was closed, and you had to sit on your instrument cases all night to prevent them from being stolen.
Once the nightliner broke down in the middle of a crowded highway, hundreds of kilometers from the venue, and it was too dangerous to leave the bus for some fresh air. The reparation took so many hours, that the band members had to be rushed at the venue in a dazzling speed by taxis, to arrive in the last minute before the gig.
These poor souls have to endure a lot, sometimes they froze almost to death in nightliners with a broken heating, other times they almost suffocated from heat. Things got lost, broken and stolen. Fingers got cut by guitar strings, voices got lost by flue. The waiting is endless, the nerves go sky high and worst of all, sometimes they are even out of beer!
Busses, people and instruments might break, but the show must go on. On stage Korpiklaani has an endless energy; being on stage and playing is sheer fun for these guys. The teamwork is excellent: if someone gets in trouble, it is fluently taken over by another band member.
These Finns not only do love to play, they also love their audience; one of the greatest things a band can have is a cheering and happy crowd, loyal fans that show up whenever they can, and heartwarming feedback.
The huge support boosts the gigs, and makes fully up for all exhaustion during touring.
These Korpiklaani guys play because they really like to, they write songs because they cannot resist it, and they enter the studio because it would be waste not to do anything with the endless stream of songs. Therefore they released two albums under the name of Shaman, and as Korpiklaani already seven full length albums. There seems no end to Korpiklaani's victory march yet. Despite the amount of countries visited, many fans are still waiting for Korpiklaani to visit their country, Korpiklaani loves to play everywhere, as long as their very tight schedule allows it.
....But this story is partly in the past now, because Korpiklaani had a recent line-up change. Hittavainen left because of health issues. He was a great band member and still is a great violin player who composed among others Pellonpekko, one of the liveliest and famous songs the band plays on stage.
So, a new violin player had to be found. On a chilly morning the band of Korpiklaani left their wooden cabins with the rising sun to hunt. They traded the smoky scent of last night´s fire for the dense and dark forest, looking for game. They were just tracking down young doe, when suddenly an unearthly sound broke through the silence of the early morning. The Band members froze to the ground. It was only after a minute they heard Jonne utter: ´Darn me if that ain´t a violin!´. Juho chuckled and waved the others to follow him as they made their way towards the gentle melody. They soon arrived at a sunstrewn clearing where in front of an old shack an angelic young man sat with a violin on his shoulder playing, as they only just recognized it, ‘Spirit of the forest’. The enchanting music stopped abruptly as the young man’ s eyes widened with surprise when these five men approached him.
Korpiklaani greeted the young man and asked who he was and why he was playing here in the forest, where none could hear him elict these heavenly tones from such a simple instrument. Hours of talking went by, they learned his name was Teemu and that he had lived alone in the forest as long as he could remember. When he was a boy he visited the local markets every now and then to play with other boys his age, and to sneak fruit from the stalls. In one of these adventures he encountered an old grey lady, who in a creaky voice spoke to him: ‘This instrument is for you, it will be your future’. Teemu never forgot the old lady and he mastered violin quicker than a bird learns to fly. The violin however never brought him the great fortune he had hoped for. His dream to become one of the great violinists of his time was forfeit and though he enjoyed playing, he did no more than playing at local pubs from time to time to have some coin to spare.
When Teemu finished speaking, the band members shared a long glance. Jonne scraped his throat: ’How would you like to come with us? We have a band but lack a violin player, we would be honored if you’d join us…’. Teemu stared in the distance, he did not know what to say. Would his dream to become famous come true? After a long moment he grinned and answered: ‘Hell yeah! I’d love to!’
And so, unfortunately that is not exactly what happened. Jonne found Teemu through the internet. But all the same Korpiklaani is very happy to have him on board!
In 2011 their seventh album “Ukon Wacka” was released. KORPIKLAANI took things even further: seven-string guitars, mandoline, mandola and jouhikko are just a few of the instruments that were used on “Ukon Wacka”. The album title refers to “a pagan sacrificial feast from ancient times, on which a special made beer richly flowed. As can be expected from the title, this album has an ancient and very folky feel and is totally in Finnish“, frontman Jonne explains. One title doesn`t seem very Finnish though: the drinking anthem „Tequila“ which is dedicated to all South American fans of the band. „Ukon Wacka“ also features a guest appearance by famous Finnish singer Tuomari Nurmio! All in all a joyous affair in the traditional and beloved KORPIKLAANI vein, „Ukon Wacka“ boasts ten party tracks that make you wanna raise that drinking horn up high! Also make sure to grab a limited edition copy of „Ukon Wacka“ to check out the brilliant MOTÖRHEAD cover version bonus track „Iron Fist“! Believe Jonne when he says: „A big folky feast for all!“