This e-mail interview with Jari Mäenpää of the Finnish melodic death metal band Wintersun was done by Vincent Eldefors in September 2004.

Jari Mäenpää has been a member of the Finnish melodic death / folk metal band Ensiferum for several years now but has all the time, and even before joining Ensiferum, been working on his own material. Now is the time to unveil his true self. Having left Ensiferum he is now focusing hard on his solo project Wintersun. He took some time off to discuss his album, the contract with Nuclear Blast and more with us.

First of all I must congratulate you on a great debut album, what has the reactions been so far? Are you completely satisfied with it yourself?
Reactions have been great, there´s been some praising reviews. I can say that this is the most satisfying album on my career so far, but I´ve never been 100% satisfied with any album that I´ve made. I guess I´m a perfectionist. But that also keeps me going and reaching forward, so I´ll try to make the next one perfect.

The label compares your music with older Amorphis, Children Of Bodom, Finntroll and, not surprisingly, your previous band Ensiferum. Do you agree with them? What do you think Wintersun has that these bands don't?
Well I have gotten influence from older Amorphis. We listened it a lot as teenagers. I also played Amorphis cover songs in the early years with Ensiferum. I don´t think I´ve been influenced by CoB, ´cause I don´t really like it. And I don´t think that I have been influenced by Finntroll either, but I like that band though. The folkish influences comes from the time I was in Ensiferum ´cause I played many years in that band and I write some songs to Ensiferum too. I also listened to folk music during that time... (and still do).

Wintersun has this big atmosphere and I have explored making riffs and arrangements in a new way. The album has lots of variation, ´cause the music is done without any "rules", so it doesn´t quite fit into any genre. I like doing music that way, that anything can happen and you don´t have to think about which kind of music you are writing, just let you imagination flow. So I could say the album won´t get boring because of that. I´m experementing with my vocals too, so there´s also variation, hmm what else... faster guitarsolos? heheh! :)

Why do you think Finnish metal has become so successful from the late 90s until now? What are your thoughts on this development?
I really don´t really know, people like shitty music? :) Just kidding, we´ll there´s lots of good bands here, but for me most of the great bands aren´t from here.

What do you remember most from your eight years with Ensiferum that ended early this year?
I have a really bad memory :) But I remember some early years when we we´re making demos in Munkkivuori MD-Studios. Many great shows in Finland. (The good old times with our friends in Pasila). Also the time in Denmark recording the Iron album with Flemming Rasmussen has stayed in the best memories, although it was a bit stressful time for me, ´cause I was sick a lot. But great years!

As I understand it was more or less your record company Spinefarm Records who forced you to leave the band by booking a tour at a time when you had to work on Wintersun. Would you have liked to stay with the band?
Yes, but now that I think of it, it would have probably happened sooner or later, ´cause it´s very hard to do many bands at the same time. It´s a bit sad, but I´m guy who can´t play the same style of music all my life, so I needed a break from Ensiferum to do my album. That wasn´t ok with others, so I got fired and I can surely understand that.

You have written your own music even before you joined Ensiferum in 1996, why has it taken so long until you have decided to release something? When was the material on this debut album written?
The material has been written in the period 1995-2004 and there´s equally older and newer songs. The thing was that I just enjoyed playing in Ensiferum, so I didn´t really pushed my own material to anywhere. In that way I kinda neglected myself a little bit.

How did the contract with Nuclear Blast happen? Is it a standard contract for several albums?
I got the deal by coincidence. After one Ensiferum show I met Andy from Nuclear Blast. He came to talk to me and I mentioned about my own music. He was really interested. Later I put 3 demosongs into a CD and sent it to NB and they loved the music and offered the deal. It was a good deal so I had to take it. And yes it´s a contract for several albums, but we have an agreement that I always will send a 3 song demo of my newest material and then they decide whether we do the album or not. Because I have also other kinds of projects that I want to do in the future. They are also metal so don´t worry :) but their different kind of material than Wintersun.

Many bands think that being a small band on a big label such as Nuclear Blast is not a very comfortable situation, have you had any thoughts about that?
Sure, but everything has gone great with them and they have supported me a lot! One problem is that they would like to have Wintersun playing live, which is also good, but it´s a bit difficult situation, ´cause I don´t have a band that is fully functional yet. And there´s lots of things that needs to be organized before we can play.

The lyrics apparently deal with your own life from different aspects, is there any overall message in the lyrics or do you just wish to add an even more personal touch in that way?
Well there´s no perticular message. The lyrics are just my thoughts, feelings and visions from the period of time they were written. But one can also understand them in different ways and get his/her own meaning about the song, which is good in my opinion. So the song could actually tell from something else than my life, but it´s reflected to my life in hidden meanings and metaphoras.

Do you agree with me that the rising popularity of metal with folk music influences has a lot to do with the Tolkien movies?
Maybe it has helped a littlebit, but I can´t really say what´s going on in people´s minds, when they are buying records.

Do you listen to a lot of folk music yourself? If so, which bands / artists do you like and recommend?
I use to listen to it a lot, but not that much anymore. I recommend a Finnish band called "Tarujen Saari" and their album "Levoton Hauta".

The cover art obviously aims at portraying how many people think of the Finnish nature, was this your idea or the artist's? How did you come to pick Necrolord as the cover artist?
The idea was mine, but the execution was Necrolord´s. I wanted a cover that has two feelings/dimensions reflecting the music: The (Finnish) winter-feeling and magical kind of space-feeling. I first was looking someone else to do it, ´cause Necrolord had done both Ensiferum covers and just finished the "Iron"-cover. But then Nuclear Blast suggested that he could do the cover and they agreed to pay it, so I couldn´t say no, ´cause I´m always been a big fan of him. And the cover turned out to be great as always!

How did you come to work with drummer Kai Hahto? Did you know that he would suite the Wintersun concept, having previous experiences with more brutal death metal bands?
I didn´t know him before, I have just been a fan of him for a long time. I knew that he would fit perfectly in Wintersun, so I just tried my luck and sent him an email. He was interested about my project, so I sent him demomaterial. Then we talked on the phone. He said that he loved the material and he had been looking for something different to play, so he agreed to play the drums for Wintersun, so I was screaming at home of happiness :)

Is he a permanent member or was he only to work with you on this album?
He was a session musician when we made the album. But now we have talked and he´s agreed to play live with Wintersun and come to play in my future albums.

Have you found any members to play with you live yet? About what time could people expect to see the first Wintersun shows do you think?
There´s 4 members in the band right now: Me (vocals, guitar), Kai Hahto (drums), Oliver Fokin (guitar), Jukka Koskinen (bass). So keybord player is missing. I can´t really tell about the future, but I´m hoping that next year we are able to play.

Have you written any new music already? What are the nearest plans for the future of Wintersun?
Yes I have written some very good material which I´m excited about. I´m just writing music all the time. Also I´m organizing the livething and soon getting Wintersun website online.

Any final words to close the interview with?
Eat porridge and drink beer for breakfast!

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer this interview and I'm sorry if there were too many questions. Best of luck in the future!

Links of interest:

Nuclear Blast