Wintersun (Tuska 2017)

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Lately you just couldn’t escape one band weither you liked it or not: Wintersun… They had a new album ready out of nowhere (no, not “Time II”) and launched a crowdfund campaign to get their stuff going. Facebook was drowning in post from and about the band and its campaign and it became a success. Of course we had to grab the opportunity to sit down backstage at Tuska and have a chat with longtime guitarist of the band: Teemu Mäntysaari.

Nice to meet you! How are you, man?
Pretty good, pretty good! We just had the show and it was fun. A bit challenging weather in a way… a lot of wind. Fortunately not as much as it could’ve been, at first it seemed like the tent was going to blow away. But it wasn’t that bad… and we had some wireless problems on stage, don’t know why that was, but we had fun on stage! And the audience was pretty nice, so glad to see that so many people came to see us at this early hour, that was cool.

Well, we didn’t notice that you had problems on stage and the wind didn’t blow your sound away, so that was good!
That’s good! Cool!

Now there’s a new album coming now soon, there has been much talk about it… How has it been to actually work on completely new stuff?
Well, of course the whole process has been kind of special with the crowdfunding preceding the album release. Normally you have the pre-album release stuff that you do: interviews, reviews and stuff. But we did all of that already kind of with the crowdfunding and there’s this big gap before the album comes out. Because we could only give the master files of the album to our record label after the crowdfunding succeeded. So it’s been a little bit longer process after the album was always completed, we’ve kind of been sitting on the album for awhile. Though on the other hand it kind of has been good since we’ve had a little bit more time to work on our live set-up, our gear… We’ve been upgrading a lot of our gear to make it easier for live shows and working on the new songs. And of course the whole new set-up with Jari being on vocals, Asim coming on the guitars, doing all the guitar auditions and such, Timo filling in for Kai on drums,… it’s been a pretty hectic time for us this year.

I can imagine so. Now, we all know that Jari has the most to say in the creative input for Wintersun, but did you have some part in that too?
For The Forest Seasons not that much and Wintersun is still kind of Jari‘s braindchild. So for The Forest Seasons, that was pretty much “99,9999 %” Jari… Of course we heard the songs earlier on and commented them and you know, we were digging them together. But yeah, this one Jari pretty much did all by himself. The album originally wasn’t even supposed to be… like there was the one song that we had already played live: The Forest That Weeps. And that kind of was the catalyst that Jari got inspired by and then he wrote the rest of the songs, fairly fast for his song-writing style. And one of the main reasons for this process being this way this time was because Jari did the project already kind of before composing the 3 other songs. So The Forest Seasons was already ready and he made kind of a good production for that one, so he kind of had a template for the production already. So basically the song was already mixed before it was composed and he likes to do it that way. He has all the sounds there in the project and he can just come up with the melodies and the riffs. He doesn’t have to tweek the sound too much so that made it much faster in a way as well.

I can imagine as a musician, you kind of like to create music yourself as well. How does that feel then for you to play someone else’s work and not really have any say in it?
Yeah, right. Well, I feel like Wintersun works great as it is. Jari does it fine and it’s not like any of us have the kind of ego thing like “I need to put something in there ’cause I want to write something”. It works great as it is and we’re all fans of the Wintersun music, the music that Jari does. And for me personally, I have some projects in which I can use more of my creative input. In Wintersun it’s just different: it’s the live stuff, I work out a lot of the practical stuff with the gear and such…

So challenging in a different way just…
Yeah right! There’s for sure enough work, you know, with Wintersun stuff. But other than that, I like to do some guest solos maybe once in a while. Which I think of as composing a mini song within a song. And now I have this other band, which started out as a cover band, called Netta Dahlberg – Run For Cover, with a female singer. And we’ve been doing some local shows for a couple of years now and we’re doing some own music now as well. So that’s a place where I can put a bit more of my creative input as well.

Talking about having a guest spot, you worked along with the creation of the “Tuska Anniversary Song”. How was that?
That was great. A lot of stuff was recorded at the Sonic Pump Studios, which is kind of the Wintersun home base, ’cause my work space is there. I’ve been doing my teaching and a my own work there for a long time, so I knew the guys and they knew me. And they asked if we wanted to do this and you know, of course we did… We got a good spot, you know. Kai got a drum solo and we’re kind of doing the first lead together with Jari, so that was pretty cool!

Seems like a really nice project to be able to work on with that long list of names…
Yeah, with such a great group of people! A once in a life time opportunity, so pretty cool!

And you’re able to be playing at Tuska’s 20th anniversary as well, which is pretty great for you guys. Are there any bands here this weekend you’re definitely going to try and check out?
Yeah, there’s always great bands playing at Tuska. Today, I’m definitely going to see Devin and I think everyone of the band is going to go see Devin.

I thought so already, ’cause I seem to remember that Jari is a big fan of how Devin composes his music and such…
Right right, Jari is probably the biggest Devin fan. Although Timo is as well… he was saying yesterday that the Devin show is the most important thing of today. If he can make it to our show, that’s ok, but Devin is number one! (laughs)

That’s putting your priorities straight…! (laughs)
Other than that I think I’ll try to catch HIM tomorrow since it’s probably the last chance to see them live. And probably Apocalyptica on Sunday… so a few bands.

Well, those are all kind of unique shows to see since it’s HIM’s farewell tour and Apocalyptica’s 20th anniversary of Plays Metallica by Four Cellos.
Yeah, right.

I noticed on your Facebook page you’ve gotten yourself a new guitar not so long ago. So are you happy with it?
Yeah yeah, kind of an interesting story with that. I’ve been playing Ibanez for a long time and we’ve got some custom guitars. Now at this time we haven’t really been in close contact with Ibanez for awhile. And when the crowdfunding was finished, we got back in contact and renewed our deal. But they didn’t have a chance to make a new custom guitar in time for the live shows. So we kind of had to improvise: we bought some stock guitars and then we got them modified by this one great Estonian. So we could kind of get our own custom guitar made out of a normal one, we pretty much changed everything: the pick-ups, the tuning-backs, the paint job,… pretty much everything. So we’re really happy with those guitars. Other guitars that I’m playing now… one is Jari‘s old guitar, the black one that I had on stage. That one I got from Jari now that he doesn’t use it anymore. And as a backup I have another guitar from Jari as well. Because one of Jari‘s things for the live set-up in general is that every guitar needs to have this “ever-tune bridge”, which is pretty much making the guitar stay in tune all the time. Which is really important for Jari‘s singing because if he hears that some of the guitar notes are out of tune, that makes it harder for him to sing as well. So that’s why I’m borrowing some of Jari‘s guitars as well, because he already had the ever-tunes before… I was kind of sticking to traditional bridges, but now I’m converted to ever-tunes as well.

Now if you would be able to have your own festival, what bands would you’d like to have there? It can be a Wintersun festival, it can be your own thing…
Right, it could be an idea to do a Wintersun festival at some point, but you know, if the budget was not limited… I think Iron MaidenMetallicaWintersun,…

And of course Wintersun headlining…
Oh yeah, for sure! And Gojira… great live band and they play with Metallica anyway, so maybe it could be a cheaper package to get together. (laughs) Euhm… maybe Devin as well, that would be pretty good…

Sounds like a nice line-up for sure. Now one more question I wanted to ask still about the crowdfunding campaign… I think that’s indeed sort of a future way to do things in music business, but where did the idea come from to push it so much? ‘Cause I had almost every day a post popping up on Facebook for instance. And I had the impression that for some of your older fans it became just too much…
Maybe… Well, originally the idea actually came from fans. We maybe had seen the Protest the Hero campaign and some things here and there. And fans had been writing us that we should do this as well. But we were first like “I don’t know”, ’cause we didn’t have a product yet and we already kind of have a reputation of delaying stuff… (laughs) So are people going to pay for something that they’re not sure if they’re getting it and stuff. But then we thought some more about it and were like “what about if we make the stuff first and then we already have it done” and then we’re kind of funding something with that. And then of course the studio idea, that had been there for a long time, that we need that kind of “own” space eventually anyway…

And that is going to work out now since the crowdfunding succeeded?
That’s the idea, we needed a certain amount of money to be able to build the Wintersun headquarters. Which is the studio to record not just the next album, that is Time II, but all the future Wintersun music faster and easier. And being our rehearsal place and easier to make live production stuff and all that. But because we had a lot of the material done already before the crowdfunding was starting, that’s why we had a lot of material to show people. Normally when people do crowdfunding they have an idea, but they need the funding first. What we did, we funded the album ourselves and did it with a smaller amount of money, rawer production. But it fitted with this album perfectly this way. So we had all the songs ready and we made a lot of videos for it. We had a lot of time to prepare, we took a lot of time to prepare and it’s not like it happened over night. It’s been more than 2 years in the planning and really working long days to make it happen with the photo shoots and all the video stuff. And especially since we did it by ourselves, you know, “do it yourself” stuff and not hiring somebody. A professional probably would’ve done it much faster, but we had to learn this all ourselves. And you know, making videos… doing long days of videos and then checking “ah, this doesn’t look good, so we have to do it again”. So that happened a few times, sometimes it was frustrating, but a great reward in the end that we succeeded. So thankful for all the people that supported us in the crowdfunding. It was a really fun thing to do, we learned a lot, we studied a lot of things that other people had done… In the past we had some social media people who were giving us tips how you should things, how you should like you said “post on Facebook everyday”, you know. Some people are going to get pissed that there’s too much. But then again, we reached a lot of people that way and keeping the “hype” up. At some point it might have felt like it was too much, but I think the plan went pretty well. We had this “hype month” one month before the crowdfunding where we were starting to reveal things bit by bit. And then during the crowdfunding we kind of had planned what we were going to do day by day, keeping people updated and such.

Yeah, overall it was a successful campaign, but for me personally it really seemed like it was pushed in my face too much. It almost felt like I started to lose interest in the coming music. And reaching people clearly worked ’cause I started to find Wintersun and the campaign even in comments on other band’s posts to complain about it… you’re name was everywhere!
(laughs) Right, even if it was annoying people, still we were kind of in people’s minds and we were talked about. So that kind of worked.

Right, negative press is still promotion…
Yeah, but we’re very fortunate that people still believed in us and still stuck with us through the hard times and you know, even with all the spamming. (laughs)

And well, maybe you filtered out some of the not really “true fans” in a way…
Yeah, maybe. And maybe even some people who might have said “yeah, this is too much. I’m not going to follow this for awhile”, maybe they check out the album and that’s it for them.

Yeah, and I’m guessing that if now everything works out: that the Wintersun headquarters get build, Time II, Wintersun producing now actually more regularly,… Maybe all the people who are negative about it will have something like “Oh ok, it made sense after all”…
Yeah, and maybe more because we’ve been kind of silent on social media, like one post a week or one post a month. And now suddenly one post a day, then it’s like “ok, what happened?!” And now we kind of wanna find a good balance, you know. Keep fans updated regularly, not spam too much but still posting cool stuff and stay interesting on social media as well.

We’ll be excited to see what comes next still… I guess we can end our talk with the classic “anything you want to add still for our readers, your fans,…?”
Well, anyone who has been following us and supporting us: again thanks a lot for sticking with us and believing in us. And when you listen to the new album I hope you like it a lot and hope to see everybody at the shows as well. We’re going to start the real tour now after the summer festivals, we’re still having 7 more festival dates around Europe. And then we’re going to be doing a short Finnish tour: 6 dates in Finland, our own club shows. And then this Eastern and Western European tour, to some places we’ve never been before… 15 different countries, so that’s going to be an interesting tour, our own headlining tour as well.

After that there’s probably going to be still another tour before the end of the year and then more coming for the next year. One really interesting tour for next year that I can’t tell more about yet, but it’s going to be huge, I can tell that… And yeah, hope to get to play at some places that we haven’t played before like Asia and Australia. And North America hopefully soon as well…

Sounds great! Thank you for the talk and enjoy the rest of your festival and touring.

Congrats to Teemu for keeping his cool during those last few words, ’cause apparently colleague Asim was doing his best to get him laughing by busting out some “Saturday Night Fever”-worthy dance moves behind my back… Great guy to talk with anyway and we’ll be looking forward to finally hear the full “The Forest Seasons” soon and see all of the guys on the road again!