Interview with Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum
By Beth Jones
Beth recently got the chance to have a chat with Sami Hinkka, bassist of awesome Folk Metal band Ensiferum. I’d like to thank Sami very much for his time. Enjoy!
Beth: Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us, it’s really appreciated.
Sami: My pleasure! 😊
Beth: Firstly, for any of our readers that don’t know you, could you give us a brief history of the band?
Sami: Back in early 1990 Markus Toivonen was getting into heavier music and at some point, instead of playing cover songs he wanted to have his own band. It was Amorphis’ “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” that showed him the way: melodic metal with heroic/mythical lyrics. After few line-up changes, many albums and tons of gigs on every continent, here we are now!
Beth: You’ve just released your 8th studio album, “Thalassic” and it’s an absolute killer! It’s themed around the sea and water. Where did you get the inspiration for that theme from?
Sami: The idea popped in my head when we were promoting our previous album “Two Paths” and many journalists kept asking, ‘was it a theme album’. My default answer was that we can’t really make a theme album, because of the way we compose. This started to piss me off! Why would I as a lyric writer, and we as composers, set this kind of barrier to ourselves? So, I suggested to other members that we make a theme album next. Everyone was into it. I listed lots of rough demos we had of the new songs, while I did long walks around Helsinki. It’s a coastal city so very often I walked on a seashore, and many of the melodies took my imagination to sea battles, etc. So, there was the theme. Everyone agreed that it was a good theme, and broad enough, so I started to read about sea-related myths, legends and historical events around the world. In the end I had way too many cool topics for lyrics, but it was quite easy to find the perfect match for each song.
Beth: Personally, I think the themed nature of “Thalassic” was brilliant. Are you going to explore a theme in the future? And if so, what potential themes would you like to look at?
Sami: I really don’t know. We haven’t talked about it yet. We have bunch of raw songs for the next Ensiferum album under work. Let’s see what the future brings.
Beth: There are a lot of nods in this album to the sounds of early Ensiferum. Is this intentional, or is it just the way your sound is evolving, almost coming full circle?
Sami: We never compose stuff intentionally; I mean we don’t think “that seems to be popular song so let’s keep making more songs like it…”. We compose and arrange together as a band, and the point is to write stuff that we love, and that we love to play. We are very lucky that there seems to be many metal heads around the world that like the same thing as we do, heh!
Let’s see how the next album sounds, because we always want to go forward and push our music boundaries.
Beth: When you’re creating a work like this, how do you approach songwriting, especially with all the orchestration?
Sami: It all starts from a good melody, that’s the corner stone of every Ensiferum song. Harmonies, layering, orchestrations, folk instruments, etc. are easy to arrange once you have a good image of the song.
We have democracy in the band, so everyone can bring ideas, every idea is tried, every idea can be twisted and turned to something totally different than the original idea was, and the key thing for us is that we arrange the songs together. This way, everyone can stand behind every note of every song. It’s a slow method but that that’s the way we love to write music, as a band.
Beth: With all the recent weirdness in the world, what have you been doing to keep yourselves busy?
Sami: We have been having few sessions where we checked out new ideas, we played a stream gig and one real festival show, woohoo! I really miss touring…
In the spring, when COVID-chaos started, I recorded my very first solo release and made a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the mixing and professional artwork. I was lucky to find a day job to pay my bills, but the problem is that it slowed down all my music projects a lot. But now my solo EP is mixed, and I just found a professional person to make a world class lyric video for the first single so the EP should be out in early autumn.
Beth: I’ve just watched the ‘Festival Simulator’ video for ‘Rum, Women, Victory’ (awesome song by the way!). Was it fun getting all the crazy clips in from fans, and what do you think of the final cut?
Sami: This was an insane project! I think it’s our best video ever! It felt so awesome to see how many people sent clips and how they enjoyed the new song! I have always said it: We have the best fans in the world!
Beth: And you did a live stream on 10th July. How did it go and how did it feel playing live in a way that is still so alien to many of us? Was it more nerve wracking than usual?
Sami: It was very weird. I have always seen Ensiferum more as a live band, and the best part of playing live is the interaction with the crowd and seeing people having good time, moshing, singing along etc. So, when that element was missing, it just felt weird. It was nice to play the new songs and chat with fans during the breaks we had on the gig, but I dare to say it was once in a lifetime thing for us to do a stream gig.
Beth: The scene is flooded with emerging bands at the moment, and the current climate has allowed a lot of people to discover music, both through playing and listening, which is amazing. What would be your best piece of advice for people just starting out in a band?
Sami: Simply, have fun. Find similar-minded people and create music that you love. Don’t worry if your influences can be heard “too much” in the beginning, you will find your own style. And generally, for every musician; try to listen to, and play all kind of music, because that will broaden your musical horizon and give you tools to become a better composer.
Beth: Now we all have a different way of working, how do you think the music scene will change and adapt, and do you seen this evolution as an opportunity to grow your audience with things like virtual gigs and fan videos?
Sami: I really don’t know. I’m an old geezer who believes in hard touring to convince people with your music. Of course, modern ways give chances of “short cuts” to reach lots of people, and one can become “one hit wonder”, or whatever, and that’s totally fine for me. I think whatever you do, just do it honestly and don’t pretend to be something that you are not, because that’s gonna back fire in the long run.
Beth: This has certainly been a memorable year, for all the wrong reasons! Do you know yet if you’re going to be able to play live to any audiences this year, and if not, what’s in store for you in 2021?
Sami: We have few gigs still lined up for 2020, I really hope they will happen. For 2021 we have lots of plans and we have a new album to promote! So, I’m crossing my fingers for scientists to find the vaccine fast, so that we can get back on the road as soon as possible.
Beth: And finally, what message would you like to give to your fans right now?
Sami: In case you haven’t listened to “Thalassic” yet, please do. Stay safe and hope to see you all soon on the road!
Beth: Thanks again for your time. We absolutely love the new album here at Ever Metal HQ, and really hope that we get to see you perform it live sometime very soon!
Sami: Thank you very much for your kind words! 😊
All the best to you and hopefully we’ll see you soon somewhere! Stay safe!
Hello, it’s Rick again!
If you haven’t read Beth’s full review of Ensiferum’s latest album “Thalassic”, which was released on 10th July 2020 via Metal Blade Records, then hit the link below.
To keep up to date with everything Ensiferum related then visit the following links:
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.