Ensiferum has had a lot going on lately, with a new line-up and a new album. With the Two Paths release gig taking place on October 13th, 2017, we decided that it would be a good time to sit down with guitarist, vocalist, and frontman Pete Lindroos, and talk a bit about the new material, and what Ensiferum’s been up to leading up to it.
Your new album, Two Paths, has been out for nearly a month now and it’s been only about 2 years since One Man Army was released, which is rather quick for you guys – usually you’re about 3 years between albums. So how did this album come together and so quickly?
Usually it takes longer. In our opinion it took forever to finish this one, but since you put it that way, it was kind of fast-ish.
Did you tour the last album any less, that might’ve led to the studio time coming a bit sooner, or anything like that?
No, actually… no. We did say no to pretty many shows just because we wanted to get to the studio and get the new album out, since you cannot work in this business if you don’t have a new album out. So 3 years starts to become a long time to not [releasing] anything.
Were there any changes to the way you did things this time around, during the writing and recordings? Considering, of course, that you have a new member.
Pretty much, yeah. We went back to old-school. We did it on a tape recording, recording on tape the whole thing. It was extremely cool, ’cause at least in the studio you can really hear and feel the difference with the sound in it and working with the tape recorder, it was even nostalgic, a little bit. I remember I did my first album with Norther 17 years ago. We used that kind of machine on that one. After that it’s been all digital.
It was very nice. It was kind of scary to go out of there, because in the digital world you can just erase and do it again, erase and do it again… it doesn’t matter. You’ve got endless space. But on the tape, you don’t want to fuck up that much [laughs].
So it was kind of scary, but also very… I don’t know how to say it… in a way a bit more loose? Yeah. Also, since we got the accordion player and singer, Netta Skog, in the band, we used the accordion a lot, with the real sounds and not-so-much real sounds, so that is also a very big difference. She also sang one whole song on the album, so that’s also kind of new for us.
That was actually one of my next questions. I recall that Emmi [Silvennoinen, ex-keyboards] didn’t sing all that often on your old albums…
Yeah, mostly in the backing vocals.
Do you expect to have more songs with female vocals in the future, or will it be the same?
I hadn’t given it that much thought.
Just see how the music feels?
Yeah. Why not? If the material is in that kind of way that the female vocals would fit better…
If it suits the song?
Yeah, and she’s the best singer in the band, so why not? [laughs]
Were there any stories or themes that were unusual for you guys in this album, or was this a fairly traditional album thematically and lyrically?
Huh… not so much. We’ve got swords and stuff, so we kind of stuck to the basics, a little bit, but still… from a lyrical point… well first of all, our bass player, Sami [Hinkka], is responsible for all that. He also doesn’t like to comment about the lyrics that much, so that people can find their own… relations to the lyrics, to see how they see them without giving any ideas of how it should be. Just figure it out yourself.
Letting people find their own meaning in the music.
Yeah. I think it actually suits it a lot better, unless it’s really, really epically personal.
Netta seemed to have gone from Turisas to more or less disappearing from the metal world, and then started showing up as a guest musician with bands like Children of Bodom and Mokoma, and then started playing shows with you guys, and then she took over for Emmi when she left. So do you know much about her story, returning to the scene and joining Ensiferum?
On the One Man Army studio sessions she was there also, doing the song “Neitto pohjolaan”, playing accordion and singing, and then Emmi couldn’t make it for a tour, so it was easy to ask her since she had already been doing that with Turisas, so she knows how it is. “Sure, why not? I’ve got nothing else to do. Nice to tour!” Okay, so, after that it kind of just stayed, so I think she likes it.
Was there any particular reason that Emmi left, or was it just a lack of enthusiasm to continue?
In a way, you see this business side of it quite fast. She also wanted to finish her studies, so she took the time off and stayed off [laughs], in a shorter way of saying it.
Fair enough. Now, there were a couple of changes to your sound, including the use of the accordion. What was it like to include that instead of the piano? Was it challenging or was it easy, or was it more or less the same?
I would say that it’s pretty much the same, but using the original accordion sound even makes it a little bit more ‘folkish’, you know? It’s a very, very old folk instrument, and definitely not that common in the heavy metal circles. So we actually liked more of the accordion in the sound itself. But the accordion sound was used a lot and it just sounds fucking fabulous.
Well, you pretty much answered my next question about whether it sounds more authentic to your style.
Yeah, actually, it does.
I know that the digital accordion is capable of some really cool stuff. I know when Netta plays her solo shows, she loops all her own music. Will that change anything about your live shows? Will she be taking over any of the backing music as well?
Uhh… no. At least so far, no. I just hope that she doesn’t put some weird drum beats on accidentally or whatever. That would be awkward [laughter]… but so far no.
The other major change I noticed on the album was that there was a lot less of you growling and a lot more of someone else singing. How did that happen?
It kind of happened since we have four singers in the band. There was a little bit of debate about that one in the studio, but since we got the vocals recorded, “Fuck, it sounds good. Fuck that.” We did the two alternative versions with my vocals on it just for the fuck of it, because we had one extra night still leftover, so I could have the ‘privilege’ of doing these vocals [laughs] and, well, since there are four singers in the band, why not use them?
Did you have any troubles with the clean vocals, combined with the accordion, in any way ending up with a sort of Alestorm, pirate-shanty sort of sound?
I don’t think there is every going to be a problem with us sounding like Alestorm. I fucking hope [laughter]. I’ll raise my voice when I hear that kind of music.
I also noticed that this is the first time in quite a while that you guys haven’t included a cover song on the album.
I guess we did not have time to check out any song that would suit us for this occasion, so we decided to fuck it. And we also had the bonus acoustic show from On the Rocks from about 1 year ago, so that was already planned to be the bonus whatever on the album, so that’s about it. Plus there’s all the classical songs, they’re already done, and then if you want to dig out some really cool song from the archives, no one will ever know about them.
So nothing really jumped out this time?
No, and we don’t want to make it one-to-one. You can always play some more Iron Maiden or Judas Priest or whatever, but if we want to make it sound like ‘us’, we would need to work on developing it a bit more. So not this time, but maybe next time.
What are your plans for tours or summer festivals at this point? Has anything been set up as of now?
This year is pretty much figured out. We’ve got these shows in Finland until the beginning of next month, and then we’re going to stop by South America for about ten shows, and then we’re going to stop by in Russian for a nice vodka weekend, and then for New Years’ time we’re going to stop by China and Japan. There are some tour plans for the beginning of next year and the festivals are starting to drop in now, but nothing is 100% settled so I cannot say anything out loud.
My last question then, is that these anniversary tours are gaining a lot deal of popularity these days, or even specialty one-off shows where a whole album is played. You guys have been around quite a long time now and some of your albums are getting up there in the years as well. Have you considered doing any anniversary tours, or has it never come up?
We have talked about it, yes. Decided anything? No. I think now Victory Songs is about 10 years, and From Afar, I think 2009. I don’t know. We’ll have to figure it out. We’d have to learn to play the songs again first [laughs].
It could happen, but nothing set in stone?
All right, well thank you for your time. Any last words to the readers?
We need shitloads of people at [the shows]!
Photos: Kirsti Leinonen