Ensiferum

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Resident Rock Star Interviews Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum 

We recently had a chance to catch up with Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum back stage at the Summit Music Hall before their performance on May fifteenth and he had some interesting things to say about the recording of their newest album “One Man Army,” some excellent child hood memories, hopes for the future and more.
Resident Rock Star: Tell me what is going on with you guys?
Sami Hinkka: Well the album came out in February and we did a European tour that went really well. Then we went home for a few weeks and did laundry and now we are here in North America!
RRS: And the title of the album is “One Man Army,” correct?
Sami: Yes it is. And things are going really well! (Sami Gestured to the amazing crowd roaring outside)
Both tours went really well, the European tour and then this one as well.
RRS: Yes there are a ton of people out there so that is really awesome!
Sami: Yeah! And it has been the same every night. And then after this we are home and doing shit loads of summer festivals in Europe and then we have a bunch of plans for all summer and the most of the next year, so going to be busy times.
RRS: Are you excited for any of these festivals in particular?
Sami: Oh well you know there are so many good ones. I don’t want to name any because there are so many and I love festivals. Playing festival shows is really cool especially if you have some time to check out a few of the bands, have a few drinks, the sun is shining, good music, great people! (Two thumbs up)
RRS: The European festivals are definitely where it’s at.
Sami: Yeah I really hope that one day we can do these festival tours in North America you know like Mayhem festival or something that would be so awesome!
RRS: Aw yes that would be awesome I would love to see you on Mayhem Festival!
Sami: Let’s see let’s see you never know!
RRS: YES! Get them on Mayhem Fest! (Points at viewers)
RRS: So tell me more about “One Man Army.”
Sami: I can’t say it is like a concept album at all, because the way we work at the moment that is not possible. Composing went slow as always, took a few years to make all the songs. And we changed our label. We are now on Metal Blade. So this is our first album with them and so far everything is really well. So cool to have a label that is really excited about our album and comes up with ideas all the time and really want to put effort into it. And so we made the album with producer Anssi Kippo who has worked with Children of Bodom, and many other bands also and he was an excellent producer and I would want to work with him again. He’s like a little bit crazy in a good way, you know, a really positive person. And you know we record like 14 hours a day like average.
RRS: Yes you guys are really hard workers.
Sami: Yeah and this is why we wanted him honestly because when we met him before we made any decision we told him that we wanted a producer that would kick our ass. We want an album that sounds like a live album. Not like recorded in pieces we want to play whole songs. We wanted to get the sound of the live band. And the way I feel we have kind of been lacking the energy of the live gigs in our albums and so that was something we wanted to achieve on this album and we did it. At least the way I see it.
So Anssi Kippo you know he might come up with an idea and say ‘Ok we are just going to put up a microphone in a room and you guys just go in there and get angry for the microphone like argh grr (Sami makes growling thrashing noises) Lets record that kind of stuff’ and we are like ‘Ok it’s like 3 am in the morning ok let’s do that.’ You know stuff like that just crazy ideas. But in the end it makes it sound really good!
RRS: That is probably the best way to go about it I think just throwing yourself in there whole heartedly.
Sami: Yes yes definitely and now that we both know how we work, Anssi knows how the band works he knows our good and bad sides in a way so I think if we work with him in the future things will go even smoother, even though this was almost like vacation in the studio.
RRS: Because you will know what you are in for?
Sami: Yes! And I can reveal that we are already working on new material so shh don’t tell anyone!
RRS: well we will only tell a few thousand people is that ok?
Sami: Yes that is ok.
RRS: well the new album sounds amazing and I think you are right on with the whole live album sound. You guys are a band you just have to see live. You have an incredible stage presence so while the new album does sound a lot more like your live sound it will never be as good as seeing you live so go see them live! (Points to audience)
RRS: Any other news you have for us?
Sami: Um a lot of plans a lot of touring and something really special that we can’t tell you about yet for this year and next but stay tuned for that!
RRS: Awesome we will definitely be watching for more news on that! So I want to ask you some silly questions. Let’s start with what is the official language of the United States? Most Americans don’t know this.
Sami: English?
RRS: Nope, we don’t actually have an official language we are a melting pot of all people. So now you know something that most American’s don’t know.
Sami: Really!? See every day you learn something this is what I love about life.
RRS: What is your favorite movie?
Sami: Brave Heart or Conan the Barbarian, yes!
RRS: Wow that is a tough call! How do you feel about Masters of the Universe?
Sami: I went to movies to see it as a child I am assuming you are talking about the original from the 80’s of course, come on.
RRS: Yes of course. The movie poster was way better than the movie but it was still a good one.
Sami: Yeah I had the He-Man action figures as a kid and I remember when I was a kid I used to work in a theater, an actual theater... my father was actually working there building stages and stuff and I kind of went with him a few times just to hang around and I kind of got asked for one play and I said sure why not. And so I did it and I got some money and so there I was this little kid with this money and I spent all my money on Masters of the Universe figures and Iron Maiden Vinyl so... (Two thumbs up)
RRS: Yeah! Kid after my own heart right there!
Sami: And here I am playing heroic shit so (throws hands up towards the crowd outside)
RRS: Yep that is kind of how it goes huh? So if you could be an ice cream flavor what flavor would you be?
Sami: Chocolate.
RRS: I would be pralines and dick. What movie is that from?
Sami: Oh no.
RRS: It’s from Wayne’s World
Sami: Oh I have watched Wayne’s World so long ago!
RRS: So now you are going to have to go watch it on the bus.
Sami: Well today we were watching National Lampoons with Chevy Chase and everything.
RRS: Oh that is a good one.
Sami: And we realized we were really old because we were quoting Police Academy and everything like that. And we have Netta Skog on the bus, who is playing accordion on this tour and she is like 20 something and she is just like, ‘what?’ (Raises one eye brow) so she is just like too young.
RRS: Wow well you guys are going to have to show her all those things she is missing then.
Sami: Ah yes we will have to show her those movies we grew up with.
RRS: Thank you for your time Sami, you can find this interview and more at www.residentrockstar.com/youtube 

Photos and Interview by
Amy Hutcheson

About

Petri Lindroos: Vocals / Guitar 
Markus Toivonen: Guitar / Vocals 
Sami Hinkka: Bass / Vocals 
Janne Parviainen: Drums 
Emmi Silvennoinen: Keyboards / Backing Vocals 

Forged in 1995 as a trio by guitarist/vocalist Markus Toivonen, and presently featuring current and former members of October Falls, Rapture, Norther, Barathrum and Sinergy, ENSIFERUM has been flying the flag of epic, folk-infused death metal high and proud for two decades. A Latin word translating to "sword bearer," ENSIFERUM's valiant tale begins humbly with three meticulously composed demos that raised the collective eyebrows of the extreme metal underground with their sharp and dexterous fusion of Bathory-ian darkness, Amorphis-styled melody and poignant accounts of ancient sagas and warrior quests. Released in 1999, it was third demo, Hero In A Dream, which included the band's first-ever integration of female vocals, that reaped the praise and support of Finland's Spinefarm Records, where the band would remain for five conquering studio offerings. 

ENSIFERUM recorded their self-titled debut in November of 2000 at Sundi-Coop Studios in Savonlinna with Tuomo Valtonen (Rapture, Nattvindens Gråt, Darkwoods My Brotherhood). Released during the new millennium's emerging Viking metal movement, the album featured such guest musicians as Trollhorn (keyboards), Marita Toivonen (kantele) and Johanna Vakkuri (guest female vocals who first appeared on the Hero In A Dream demo). Christened, "an excellent platter of Viking metal," by Sputnik Music, furthering that "The Finns put forth an excellent effort, one that combines heavy, yet melodic riffing, impressive, folky interludes, and fun sing/growl-along atmospheres," the record's methodic, yet organically-executed synthesis of Viking, folk and power metal adorned in fantastical themes of Scandanavian lore sans the more kitschy humppa trappings of many of their sword-wielding peers, earned ENSIFERUM the mass reverence of fans on European shores and beyond. 

Second full-length, Iron, found ENSIFERUM holed up in Copenhagen's Sweet Silence Studios. There in Denmark, during the Fall of 2003, the band's second full-length was captured by the gifted hands of producer Flemming Rasmussen, notorious for his work on such groundbreaking recordings as Metallica's Master Of Puppets and Ride The Lightning. For the next decade, ENSIFERUM would gallop their way further into the hearts of metallers of all walks with their epic hymns and grandiose, cinematic live performances. Honing their creative skills both compositionally and thematically with each passing effort, the band's unification of technically adept metallic guitar sweeps with the more traditional sounds of their homeland a la Finnish kantele, bagpipes, nyckelharpa and bodhrans, and the gentle balance of vocalist/guitarist Petri Lindroos warring growls with Toivonen's and bassist/vocalist Sami Hinkka's harmonized choruses, proved continually and deliberately infectious. 

By 2013, ENSIFERUM -- Toivonen, Hinkka and Lindroos alongside drummer Janne Parviainen and keyboardist/vocalist Emmi Silvennoinen – had become an international folk metal sensation having spread their valiant battle anthems to the stages of some of Europe's most prestigious metal festivals as well as lengthy live pillagings through North America, Australia, South Africa, China, South- and Central America. That year, the collective joined the legendary ranks of heavy metal powerhouse, Metal Blade Records, for the release of their sixth studio album. 

Titled One Man Army, the primarily analog-recorded long player was tracked between September and November of 2014 with award-winning producer Anssi Kippo (Children Of Bodom, Impaled Nazarene, Entwine etc.) at Astia-Studios in Lappeenranta, Finland and boasts eleven heroic victory psalms. 

"The composing process was slow as always," elaborates Hinkka of the One Man Army birthing process. "We twist and turn every note, chord and part upside down so that we can be sure that the result is the best possible. We cut down the actual amount of tracks on the record and really arranged the instruments more wisely. The recording process was equally long and hard," he continues, "but rewarding and full of incredible moments. Instruments were actually played and left as they were instead of creating tracks from hundreds of different takes, moving them to the grid and modifying things. Of course computers were used but overall we made everything as analog as possible. Listeners can experience a better sound and natural groove, something that we think most metal albums lack these days. Overall, the album sounds much more like a band playing live rather than 'midi-metal.' I think we've learned from previous sessions what we like," he continues, "and on this album I think we finally reached the level songwriting and sound wise that we have been reaching for on our previous albums. We are extremely proud of each second of this album." 

Commended by Outburn Magazine for songs that are consistently "epic" in scope with a "reliance on catchy melodies," ENSIFERUM's crushingOne Man Army serves as the follow-up to 2012's critically-lauded Unsung Heroes full-length and comes shrouded in the stunningly detailed, mythological cover craftings of renowned illustrator Gyula Havancsák (Annihilator, Tyr, Elvenking, Stratovarius etc). 

"On the new album, we took many things musically to the next level so we decided also to try something new graphics-wise," relays Hinkka. "Gyula Havancsák did a phenomenal job! For the first time it was really nice to be more involved with designing the cover and all details. Our humble gratitude to Gyula for all the patience and really amazing results. We couldn't be more satisfied!" 

As a precursor to the release, ENSIFERUM unleashed the special Suomi Warmetal EP for public consumption in December 2014. A four-track platter of bonus cover tunes featuring the band's rendition of Barathrum's "Warmetal," Iron Maiden's "Wrathchild," Uriah Heep's "Lady In Black," and Judas Priest's "Breaking The Law," the EP was unveiled as the covermount CD of issue #94 of Germany's long-running Legacy Magazine. ENSIFERUM's One Man Army will be released via Metal Blade Records worldwide on February 24th, 2015 with widespread touring to be announced throughout the months to follow.

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