This e-mail interview with the Finnish melodic death metal band Ensiferum was done by Sherrie Zemla in June 2004.

How are things going with the release of "Iron"?
It is only being released in Finland now so I don’t know how the selling is doing, but at least we were 17th on the national charts of Finland! We have started to promote the album by doing gigs as much as possible and they have been a success. I hope that the album will be released outside of Finland no later than in the end of July.

I was introduced to the music of Ensiferum not long ago and was immediately snagged as a fan. It seems as though the (s)word has been spreading and awareness of the band is growing fast in the garden of the underground.. Would you mind giving a brief bio on how Ensiferum came to be?
Markus gathered Ensiferum in 1995 for he was anxious in getting a band started which would play metal that has been inspired by folk music. They made one demo with different line up. Back then, the band consisted of Markus Toivonen, my brother Kimmo Miettinen, Sauli Savolainen and Jari Mäenpää. After the first demo, Jukka-Pekka Miettinen (me) and Oliver Fokin replaced Sauli and Kimmo. In 1999 we made two demos with this new line up and with the third demo we got record deal from Spinefarm. We made the First album in 2001 and got tremendous reviews. After that Meiju Enho joined in as a keyboard player and we started rehearsing material for the forthcoming album. The rehearsing took about three years. After the recording of the album, Jari got out of the band, but now the second album is released and we are more than happy.

It's obvious that you guys are heavily influenced by and use a great deal of scandinavian/nordic folk music elements. Listening to Ensiferum one finds a strong combination of folk music, death/thrash metal and sort of black/viking metal, like providing a soundtrack to embarking on a march of victory through the wilderness. What are some of your main sources from which lyrical and musical inspiration is drawn?
Our inspiration derive from so many different aspects that I can’t name anything particular. We get inspiration from movies, literature, different kinds of music, mythologies and so on.

Aside from ancient shamans, pagans and viking history, in what other topics of interest do you find inspiration?
I personally just love Russian literature classics especially, but I don’t write the lyrics so it doesn’t come up in the lyrics. I wouldn’t even try to put any social messages in the lyrics if I would be the lyricist, because I think that in this kind of music the line has to be drawn in somewhere. If we compose music that is heroic folk metal, I think there should not be any social criticism for that is for other bands than us.

I know many of the traditional folk type bands and folkmetal come from Ireland and Europe, what are some of your favorites? And what are some of your current favorite bands/artists in general?
I liked Storm very much when they made the only record they have and Einherjer’s Odin owns ye all is fantastic, but that’s about all of the folk metal acts I like. Markus is the guy who is listening to folk metal the most. I like to listen to bands like Talking Heads, The Smiths, Joy Division, Boards of Canada and such. I now it is quite weird to play in this kind of band and even not liking that much the bands of the scene. I just think that it is wealth, that I can maybe give something else to the band.

Finland (more accurately, Europe) spawns many raw black metal bands with a strict driving force and ideology, much of it incorporating nordic folklore, but what do you think of the typical "die christian parasites, die" black metal ideology?
I think that everyone is free to say in the lyrics what they want. I have liked many black metal bands, but I’m not that much into the ideology of theirs. Black metal is lifestyle and the mockery of the Christians belongs into it. I think that without it, it wouldn’t be black metal. For me it is lyrically just too one sided, that’s why I listen to different kinds of music.

Are there any books or films you've encountered recently and found particularily inspiring that you might recommend to readers?
I find the poetry of William Blake inspiring and anything from Dostojevski. The last good film I saw was Dogville and of course, Kill Bill was quite entertaining, Tarantino never fails. I do not want to interpret the meaning of these works of art, because they are so versatile. That is why I recommend for everyone to go and see or read them.

Are there any future plans in the works for Ensiferum? How about the past that's lead up to the Ensiferum of now... Have there been any previous bands/projects?
We will make the summer gigs that have been booked for now. We have also been starting to look at some new material with Markus and maybe you don’t have to wait for the next record that long time. We haven’t had any bands before Ensiferum, but at the same time I joined a band called ArthemesiA and we are going to record second album in next fall.

I know you guys put a lot of time and effort into creating albums. How did the writing/recording process of "Iron" differ from the self titled (and “Tale of revenge”) album?
The recording process of “Iron” was harder than the recording of the self titled. We spent more time on it and we had lot of problems including illnesses. It was nice to record abroad in very big studio with a great producer although. He worked really hard and put lots of time in recording the album.

How have your touring experiences been thus far? Do you see Ensiferum crossing borders anytime in the near future? Perhaps some Canadian and American dates could be considered?
The tour with Finntroll and The Wake was very nice. We liked to play in every country and people came to see us. I hope that we could visit to foreign countries such as America or Canada, especially because we have got such a great feedback from there. It just depends on that can we arrange a one and that it should be profitable, so we don’t have to pay to go to play.

If you could determine how your elder years would unfold, by choosing either a rich mind and poor health, or a poor mind and rich health, which would it be?
I would choose rich mind, for when you have rich mind you can make money by making good albums.

Cheers! thanks so much for the interview. Is there anything you'd like to add?
Please buy the album, because we are poor musicians and we need the money. Folk On!

Links of interest:

Spinefarm Records