TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with guitarist/composer Markus Toivonen, vocalist/guitarist Petri Lindroos of Ensiferum was done face to face by Audrey Dujardin on January 23rd, 2006.
Ensiferum have been emerging as a mixture in between the Finnish folk metal and melodic death / doom metal which trends have been repectively set by Moonsorrow and Amorphis and are currently finding their own style and sound with more progressive and epic elements. A few days before the release of their 'Dragonheads' EP, I met the band's composer and founding member Markus Toivonen and the newest addition to Ensiferum, vocalist/guitarist Petri Lindroos of Norther, replacing Jari Mäenpää now having his own successful career in Wintersun. We spoke of the recording of their 10th Year Anniversary DVD, touring, and upcoming release parties.
Ensiferum is now 10 years old. Why did you have to record 3 demos?
Markus: Maybe because the first and second one are not so good. The first demo was not good.
I was always curious to know: where does Ensiferum get their inspiration from?
Markus: I don’t know…. Everywhere! From some folk music, mainly Scandinavian folk music and melodic death metal like Amorphis, well their old material , Dark Tranquillity of course some heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, stuff like that. Folk music is the main influence.
How about the lyrics?
Markus: I haven’t done any.
Petri: They are mostly fantasy lyrics, Viking stories, heroic fantasy lyrics.
So do many of your fans come to the shows dressed up like elves or in coats of arms?
Markus: We have seen some plastic swords, Viking hats and war paintings on their face…
Pete: and also on the torso…
I read somewhere that you just picked the name ‘Ensiferum’ in a book. What does Ensiferum mean?
Markus: ‘man with the sword’.
Pete: ‘he who carries the sword’.
I also read that after you won a band contest in 2000, it’s Spinefarm that came towards you and not the other way around. How did that make you feel?
Markus: It was fucking great! I don’t know what to say. I was just like ‘wow that’s really good!’.
What are the major changes after Jari left the band? Besides the fact that you got a new vocalist did the style change, did the spirit change?…
Markus: I can’t tell you yet because we haven’t done any albums after Jari left except for the mini CD, which is coming out really soon.
Pete: Out in February. Markus: There is only one new song.
And the band’s spirit is still sort of going the same way?
Markus: Actually yeah we have a really good mood.
So it wasn’t a bad thing that Jari left?
Pete: No. Laughs
The spirit in the band is better now and we like very much working with each other. Our style will remain the same, the chance of vocalist will not effect on that because Markus is still writing almost all of the songs in the future too.
What is Henri Sorvali’s contribution to Ensiferum?
Markus: He was playing keyboards for the first album. He was just a session musician.
I was curious to know why so many band members from Ensiferum decided to join Mikael Karlbom’s side project ArthemesiA?
Markus: Well nowadays there is only our former bass player, Jukka-Pekka, Jari is no longer a member of ArthemesiA.
Pete: Well actually we had some personal issues within the band, so they had to go. It’s an inside thing.
How do you feel about ‘lending’ Meiju to Finntroll? (on tour 2004) We your protective of her because she’s the only girl in the band?
Markus: No I think it was great! A good thing for Meiju. She got more experience for playing keyboards.
Pete: because she had only done keyboards for Ensiferum, and now she did a tour with Finntroll, now she’s a true rockstar!
I know that you recorded material for a new DVD. Could you tell me more about its content? Will it be only the live show, or will it be also backstage material?
Pete: We recorded the new year’s eve 10th anniversary show, and that is around 2 hours for that show and we don’t know yet how much there is going to be of the extra material. So everything that we find that is usable, we will put it on.
Markus: But I think that this DVD will be mostly the show. In the next one there will be much more stuff.
Pete: All kinds of weird things.
So will there be any surprises in this New Year’s eve DVD?
Markus: Maybe… You will have to wait.
What is the release date for that DVD?
Markus: Maybe somewhere in July this year.
Does it have a title?
Markus: Not yet.
And did you have fun making it?
Pete: yeah. It’s pretty cool
And do you have any stories about the making of the DVD?
Pete: Not exactly, no. It’s only the show.
Markus: We practiced a lot for the show.
Pete: When the song “White Storm” started, we had this “snow-machine “ on stage and all the “snow” came all over me and you can see laughing on stage.
Can you tell me more about the parties that you had when you toured with Finntroll?
Pete: Well actually I have to say… I do remember some of the gigs from that tour, but aftershow parties in the bus were pretty wild. I think you can say that too because you’ve been there. Well, during the first tour, we had a show in Holland, Biebob or something…
Pete: Belgium. Whatever. But after the show, the venue pushed all the crowd out and we had a party there and I was sitting there at the bar…
Markus: No, that was in Holland.
Pete: That was in Holland. Whatever. But I was sitting at the bar the whole night, and the bands were drinking, Finntroll, Ensiferum and the Wake, you know how the Finnish people are with… ALCOHOL… First of all, we drank all the vodka from the house, they ran out of vodka, then we started to drink … I don’t even remember, but they ran out of a lot of alcohol that night, and I don’t even remember that I even went to the bus. I woke up in the downstairs (lounge) the next day, and I was … I passed out.
And did they paint you like Gene Simmons in your sleep?
Pete: I don’t actually remember, but I think I was almost everybody from Kiss.
Did you have any problems on that tour?
Pete: Sami (Tundra) had some problems with his leg. The Finntroll bass player. He had to go to doctors in a few different countries and shit like that… He wasn’t that well. But nothing bigger.
What are you best memories from that tour?
Markus: Every day!
Markus: It was really good!
And about the 2005 Spring tour with Ensiferum? I remember going to venues in Spain where Meiju wrote messages on the wall for people in Finntroll who were touring at the same time… Do you have any stories about that tour?
Markus: it was quite easy.
Pete: But the end of the tour was pretty fucked up. I mean Graveworm’s singer started coughing blood during sound check, and he was already sick when the tour started…
Pete: He got a little bit better, and then he got sick again… And the doctors told the guy: ‘ok you need to go home and stay safe’
So he dropped off the tour?
Pete: Yeah like a week before. So Graveworm went home a week before the end of the tour. That was really shitty. We also had some problems in Spain, with something that I don’t understand still, but we had to cancel the last 2 shows. But that’s enough of that.
So what are your best memories of the 2005 spring tour?
Markus: I think the funniest part was the trip back home because we drank like hell!
Pete: We got like 12 cases of beer or something. And then we had to drive from Madrid back to Holland, Amsterdam. And by bus that took like 2 and a half days, something like that. And we had nothing else to do than sit on the bus and drink shitty San Miguel beer, which we had way too much of. And everybody was sick!
Markus: Actually I was sick the whole tour, I had a pneumonia. I got some antibiotics for the tour but I was sick anyway the whole tour.
So the Dragonheads EP hasn’t come out yet…
Pete: No, it’s out in February.
Markus: Only 4 weeks!
Are you going to do more touring after that?
Pete: We’re going to do the Wacken Road Show. It’s going to be in April. It’s 2 and a half, 3 weeks.
And who else is going to be on that tour?
Pete: We just know of Orphaned Land and 2 bands TBA.
Markus: And there is one more, but I don’t remember the name, some German band.
Are you going to have a big party for the release?
Markus: We have one show, at the Finnish Metal Expo, only 3 days after the release.
Pete: It’s going to be like a releasing party…
I was curious of one thing. How can Ensiferum play so many shows in the same city so close together? I mean you have the release party in a few weeks, but you played on New Year’s Eve! Do people still come to the shows?
Pete: I can’t really explain why… We haven’t done so much shows here in Finland actually. We’ve been mostly to festivals in Germany and on tours which are not here in Finland. So when we are here live, people come to see which is really good. Last show we played before New Year’s Eve, that was in Gloria. That was at the end of September. That was also sold out…
Markus: Then we did one show in between, in Turku.
Pete: Which was actually really a hilarious show too.
Pete: Well there were only like a hundred people or something. It was funny because our drummer needs a double bass drum kit, but he plays with a double pedal, he doesn’t actually use the other bass drum. Laughs. That is not supposed to be mentioned, but they had a really hard time getting the other bass drum to the venue. Then they got it all together and our drummer comes in and they go ‘what the fuck, you don’t even use the other bass drum!’ And he said: ‘no, but it looks good!’, It looks better when you have two kicks drums. And also, all the backline, everything else, were really crappy, and the PA system there was like the size of this (table) like a small stereo thing… But it was actually a pretty funny show…
Markus: I was like back to the roots!
Pete: Yeah, back to the roots…Really shitty backline, really tiny guitar amps, really shitty guitar sound. It’s good to do those.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Markus: on top of the world!
Markus: I dunno, I think we’re still kicking… Maybe, hopefully…
Pete : If we don’t turn into fucking alcoholics who don’t play anymore…
Alright! Well do you have anything else to add then?
Pete: Buy the new Dragonheads EP or we will kick your ass!
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