WINTERSUN: Other Name For Diversity

Wintersun has had a pretty strange and special career. After a particularly excellent debut, they went all but silent on the recording end, to the point where the much long-awaited sequel “Time” had earned a place somewhere in between a modern legend and inside joke among metal fans. Finally seeing a release last year, “Time I” was one of my favourite records of 2012, although there were clearly some who didn’t share the same enthusiasm. Seeing the band live with Eluveitie was one of the most exciting shows I’ve been to in recent memory, and with the release of “Time II” somewhere on the horizon, I had quite a few questions to ask. A big thank you to Jari Mäenpää for taking the time to answer!

Conor: How’s this recent tour been? Any interesting stories, particularly good shows?

Jari: It’s been a really great tour for us. The fans really overwhelmed us. We didn´t have much expectations, ´cause it´s our first tour in the US and Canada, but from all the fan mails and Facebook comments we had a hunch it could be amazing and it sure has been. People have been waiting for a long time for us to come here, so finally we could make it happen. LA, Montreal and Quebec was particularly special, nice big venues, sold out shows and crazy audiences. We loved it!

In a few words, describe your goal and aim with Wintersun. The words ‘epic’ and ‘progressive’ certainly come to mind when listening!

For me it probably would be to make the perfect album whatever style that may be. I don´t like to limit myself and Wintersun into any particular style or genre. If our next album doesn´t sound anything like “Wintersun”, but as long as it kicks ass, then great! I want Wintersun to be really diverse and be able to do anything. Also we want to grow as musicians and live performers and make really special shows. Maybe someday with a live orchestra even and shoot a DVD while where at it.

When did you first pick up music? What were some of your musical influences growing up?

There were always music around me when I was a kid. My parents listen to Elvis and Finnish schlager artists. My father also was a musician, he sang and played guitar, so I guess I´m following his footsteps. But I wasn´t that interested playing music, until I was 14 and my friend got a guitar and he was showing me these Metallica riffs. I just loved how the guitar sounded, especially the heavy crunchy tones. My dad had build me a guitar few years before, so I picked that up and started learning and I pretty much knew immediately that this is what I want to do.

Suffice to say, “Time I” has received some pretty huge acclaim since it came out. What do you think of the way it’s been received by the metal community?

Mostly it has been a huge success and all the comments have been very positive. Of course there´s been few criticisms about the album length and the material being too different than the debut, but that was expected. All I have to say is that there are shorter albums with less instruments and tracks and there´s never going to be another debut album. So all in all we are very happy with how people have received the album!

What went into the process of writing “Time”? To my ears, it seems much more orchestration-oriented and less riff-oriented than the debut.

Yeah, that was the direction from the start. The truth is I´m a bit fallen out of love of the guitar. Maybe because I don´t have an amp at home and even if I did, I couldn´t crank it because of the neighbors. And there just isn´t that much feeling playing modelling amps with headphones. I´ve actually played the electric guitar in my home acoustically now for many years hahaha! And getting a great guitar tone is really hard without the proper studio environment. I would need my own studio to spend few months to search for that ultimate tone! So I guess my writing and arrangement interests have changed bit towards to the orchestral and synthetic instruments, ´cause I mainly compose and work with a computer at home, so the computer is almost like an new instrument for me. Also I wanted to put more focus on the vocals and the songs, rather than guitar riffs, but of course there are still very recognizable “Wintersun riffs” on the TIME albums.

What was the most difficult part of recording “Time”? I hear you ran into some problems along the way…

Definitely making the orchestrations. I didn´t have the resources to get a big computer farm which I needed to work fast with the orchestrations. I only had one computer so I had to use lot of time consuming and frustrating workarounds. There were also lot of technical problems along the way, battling with unstable software, lot of hardware breaking and so on… All that caused me also lot of stress which slowed my working rhythm as well. Also producing all the acoustic guitars, vocals and everything else was really hard without a proper studio. So it was just huge struggle.

Especially given how good “Time I” was, I’m really looking forward to hearing what Time II will sound like. How do you think “Time II” compares to the first? What can fans expect?

It will be equally as epic and massive, if not even more and I´m aiming to upgrade the production to make it sound even bigger. There´s gonna some “fast stuff” and shredding (7 guitar solos), so all those metal heads and guitar w**kers that have been asking for those are going to be pleased. The songs are very individual and different from each other, there´s a big contrast within the songs and I´m sure some of the stuff will be a huge surprise to many people.

Looking back on the debut, how do you think it holds up now that it’s even more ambitious sequel has been released?

I think it´s a good album and songs are great. Just the whole production is a bit demo like, unfinished and raw. It´s much more simple effort. Nothing wrong with that of course, but the debut and TIME I are different animals. You can´t really compare the two.

What advice or words of wisdom would you give to aspiring metal musicians?

Have a clear vision what you want to do and what kind of music / albums you want to make. Be original! If you don´t have the vision, just use your imagination and then do whatever it takes to reach that vision. Use your ears, what sounds good and what doesn´t. Find and surround yourself with great people that you can trust, ´cause it will be million times harder to do everything alone.

I noticed you were playing a RGD Ibanez, what do you think of the 26.5 baritone scale?

I love it! Ibanez gave me this prototype RGD and it´s the heaviest sounding guitar I´ve ever heard! It´s the best sounding guitar (for heavy tones) of all mine and Teemu´s guitars. The longer 26.5 isn´t really a baritone scale, it´s like between baritone and standard. You can definitely feel it at first, but after a while you get used to it and a normal scale feels bit like a toy guitar. :) It´s really great if you love the lower tunings, but don´t like 7 or 8-strings like me. It´s not the ultimate shredding guitar, but you can definitely do some shredding and sweeping with it.

Any tips for other guitarists specifically?

Just start slow doing exercises and do many many repeats and then raise the tempo. Be patient! Again use your ears what sounds good and what doesn´t. If you don´t use your ears, your playing will be sloppy. Enjoy what you are doing. If it´s not fun, then don´t bother. It´s like when some people enjoy going to the gym and torturing themselves, but still enjoying it, it´s the same thing learning guitar. It sometimes can be hard, but when you nail a new technique or a new riff, it´s a great feeling! And the best feeling is of course when you create something with your instrument!

What’s a typical day in the life like for a member of Wintersun?

For me it changes a lot and I live in different life periods. I have the album making and mixing period, then playing live period. Mixing period is something like I wake up, eat, mix, eat, mix, eat, mix, watch TV and sleep and repeat that for many months. :)

Live, Wintersun currently uses a backing track to bring forth the ‘symphonic’ elements of your sound. Do you have any eventual plans to incorporate a keyboardist into the band, or even make use of a symphonic orchestra in live performance or otherwise?

We´re not looking for a keyboard player, but there’s been talk that maybe someday it would be a possibility to do a show with a real orchestra. We’ll have to see if we can make it happen at some point. It would be useless to have a keyboardist on the stage with us, ´cause there´s not really any specific keyboard leads or anything. The orchestras and synths I create are mostly just a huge wall of sound that creates this big universe around are basic instruments. Even 10 keyboardists wouldn´t be able to play all that, but hopefully we can do that live orchestra thing one day, would definitely be interesting to see how it would sound.

Favourite beers? Favourite cheeseburgers?

I like Sol and Finnish beer Lapin Kulta (means Lapland´s Gold). I try to stay away from burgers, especially McDonalds and other similar places, but yeah, gotta still love cheeseburgers!

What have you been listening to lately? Any favourite albums of 2012?

Swedish pop, Agnes and Loreen.

Final words for the metal community?

Don´t stay metal!!! Hahaha!

Cheers from Vancouver- it was great seeing you guys live!

Thanks! Vancouver was awesome for us!

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