Wintersun’s Jukka Koskinen (bass, backing vocals) has a splendid deep voice, and when you ask him a question, he seems to pause and give it a great deal of reflection before answering in his rumbling, cavernous tones. I think he’d be great at narrating audio books.
He’s currently chilling in Vienna (for our readers interested in the atmospheric conditions, it’s sunny but very windy), preparing for the Australian and New Zealand leg of the band’s extensive world tour. So Jukka, you’ve pretty much been with the band since it was born, aye? “Well…yes…but the only thing that is different is that when the first Wintersun album was recorded, Jari (Maenpaa) did it all by himself excluding the drums. It was supposed to be a solo project in the very beginning but straight after the recording he started to try and find actual band members so that’s when I joined – so I joined in 2005 – but yes, you can say that I’ve been there since the very beginning. Even before the recording of the first album I knew Jari, and I heard the demos and was close to the whole process.”
I get the impression that Jari is a bit of a perfectionist; is that a help or a hindrance when it comes to writing and producing? The windows in the nursing home are vibrating as Jukka responds with “It’s kind of both; I would say that when you’re a perfectionist – I find that a lot in myself as well – you are your own enemy, which means some things take a lot longer than they were supposed to. But on the other hand, only you have your vision and you’re the one who wants to make the best out of it. Someone else might do it some other way and it wouldn’t sound good to you, and you would be disappointed. It’s kind of like a double-sided thing, you know? The good side is that you’re more about the quality than the quantity. You want to do the best that you can but it might take a longer time – but then again the outcome will be what it’s supposed to be, or at least very close, – so it keeps you happy and more likely to please the listener and everybody else around you too.”
So you’re never truly satisfied with end result? “Yes, that’s it. Although Jari is the main man in Wintersun, I’ve composed with my former band Norther and some other bands as well; I always feel like there’s something that’s not there [in the compositions]. It can never be a 100% thing – it’s very interesting that you do the things, and you love doing them, but you’re never 100% satisfied but still you keep on going…” At this point I propose that maybe getting 100% perfection would mean that you’d have to stop. Jukka agrees. “Yeah! You’ve said it in a good way – that’s probably the thing…I couldn’t agree more!” He’s chuckling at my observation but I think I might have blown his mind just a little…
I turn to the technical aspects of Time I, pointing out how bloody long it’s taken to get where we are now. Was there any restraint with The Forest Seasons in an effort to get it out to the public? “No, absolutely not because Time I wasn’t meant to be Time I.” He explains that there was only meant to be one album but “…we decided years ago that we would split it into two parts because there was so much struggle with the whole process. Our vision and where we want to aim is so much higher than the resources we can currently access, and we’ve tried our best to go towards that aim but unfortunately we had to make a lot of compromises on Time I.” Jukka is almost mournful that Time I doesn’t consistently hit the high visionary level that the band had for it, and he mentions the recent (and very successful) crowd-funding campaigns that the band has been involved with; he describes these as “A win-win situation with the fans so we can work directly with the fans to invest in the band itself and pre-sell our album directly to the people that have an interest in the band, and the record label also gains a lot in so far as we are releasing more albums – but the point is we wanted to have direct contact with the people without the record label being in between so we could upgrade our studio gear so we could really move onward and finally stop being in this grey area where nothing was really happening.”
Amazing they still need more cash, and he explains “The first campaign, although it was very successful, in Finland, it’s quite an expensive country and we would need a lot more, and the plan is that we’ll do two more crowd-funding campaigns”. I’m kind of stunned by this admission but Jukka outlines the cost of stuff in Finland, the taxes they had to pay on the cash they got (taxes on crowd-funding? What the fuck?) – he even explores the possibility of the band leaving Finland to get the next album out before concluding “Of course you must understand that that is just not possible.”
So do you reckon this is the future for the recording industry? “Yeah, I think so. For the newcomers it’s pretty hard to start a crowd-funding campaign; if you’re a total newcomer then nobody even knows who you are. There might not be any fan-base or anybody to support the whole thing then how do you put up that much money to record some songs?” Jeebers, people! Support your local bands NOW. Jukka sums it up succinctly with the understatement “It’s a problematic situation.’
So the band has been on the road since July. They hit Australia and New Zealand in the next couple of days. Any issue with reproducing the band’s incredibly complex sound? He’s very passionate about the live gigs, pointing out the power of the laptop and “running the symphony orchestra since we cannot afford an actual symphony orchestra. And then the rest is naturally played. When we play, we try to ensure that it is the band that grooves on the top and not the actual symphony orchestra tracks from the laptop that is over the actual band, and with the singing; lead vocals, backing vocals, that’s totally natural. We want to keep natural and play as much of it as possible, unfortunately the symphony orchestra parts we cannot multiply or do ourselves, nor can we hire 30 or 40 people to do it for us – which would be amazing! We have had some plans for a few years now that one day we would play with an actual symphony orchestra; we don’t know when but it will happen one day for sure.”
Given that Wintersun has only put out three albums in 13 years, do you have other outlets for your creativity? He mentions his work with Norther but reiterates his commitment to Wintersun, saying “ I have to say that music is my passion and where my heart is so I want to say that I’m very glad that Wintersun is continuing and we’re actually touring a lot more than ever before – we’re trying to be like a normal band.” And then he laughs, adding “I’ve been putting my energy into all kinds of things but at the moment the main thing is Wintersun.”
Ah well, as long as you’re getting enough cash to eat. He mentions the costs of touring, and laughs as he adds “The payment is quite bad – but at the end of the day, what matters is the thing that you want to do and what you love. So yes, we can live from it, somehow, and we keep going – and even if we couldn’t live from it, we would still keep going somehow.”
A beautiful sentiment, I’m sure you’ll agree – but just in case, I offer to buy him a sandwich when he gets to Australia. He likes the idea and, laughingly heartily, takes me up on the offer.
Wintersun – touring Australia 2, 3 and 4 November.
Wintersun play the following dates in Australia and New Zealand in November:
Nov 2nd – Melbourne, Max Watt’s – with Orpheus Omega/Claim the Throne
Nov 3rd – Sydney, Max Watt’s – with Orpheus Omega/Claim the Throne
Nov 4th – Brisbane, The Brightside – with Orpheus Omega/Claim the Throne
Nov 6th – Wellington, Valhalla (Wintersun only)
Tickets Available HERE