Through hard work and determination, Ensiferum have become a household name in the metal scene. I had the pleasure of interviewing Sami to talk about their latest album Two Paths, making music, touring the world and what the future holds.
Jack: Hey, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you?
Sami (Bass/Dulcimer/Percussion/Vocals): Hi! This is Sami from Ensiferum, the pleasure is all mine!
Jack: You just released your latest album Two Paths, are you happy with the response?
Sami: The best feedback is that when we play the new songs live and people are already singing along the lyrics and obviously enjoying the new maerial. Also Two Paths made it really well in charts around the world so yes, we are very happy about the response.
Jack: What are you most proud about the album?
Sami: I’m very proud that we achieved what we were looking for; studio album that rocks as hard as Ensiferum in live situation. It’s sometimes hard in studio to get yourself to that drive that you have on stage but on Two Paths we nailed it.
Jack: What makes Two Paths different to One Man Army?
Sami: The way I see it Two Paths finalises something we started on One Man Army. The point was to have organic, groovy and dynamic folk metal album and now I feel we got there. Let’s see with the next album will we continue on this path or will we persuade something totally different, time will tell.
Jack: Two Paths includes some songs that were recorded 7 years ago? What made you want to finish these songs?
Sami: For us composing new material is on going process. Some songs are ready faster than others because we have very strict filter what we see as a complete song. So even though some raw song might have all the parts and even vocal arrangements ready, if we still feel that it could be better in someway, then we continue working with it and release when it’s ready.
Jack: Netta Skog is now a full-time member, what does Netta bring to the band?
Sami: Heh, actually Netta just left the band. We had lots of great time with her on the road and in the studio but sometimes in life you just gotta follow your hard and make big decicions and move on. No big drama here, we are all still good friends.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Sami: We used lots of analogue equipment so that gave a nice old school-feeling to the session. Recordings went pretty smoothly because we made demo versions of the songs earlier with Anssi Kippo so everyone had quite clear picture of each song how they should sound.
Jack: What made you want to work with Anssi Kippo again?
Sami: Our co-operation in One Man Army session was so awesome and Anssi really understood what we wanted the album to sound like so it was natural to continue working with him. Also it was easy for him too because he knew what everyone in the band is capable to do and he knew our vision.
Jack: Ensiferum are known for their energetic metal, how do you keep the energy up and stay fit on tour?
Sami: I agree, Ensiferum is definitely a live band. The energy on stage comes lots from the audience, the synergy is very important. And of course we have been around and made our drink-till-you-drop -tours so that we know that if you want to do kick-ass show every night you can’t party like an animal every day. And that’s the main thing about touring; playing music that we love to the best crowds in the world. No drinking session is ever more important. Some of us also do some sports on the road to keep fit.
Jack: Ensiferum have been a band since 1995. Did you ever think you’d still be playing this long in 1995?
Sami: I guess when you are a teenager it’s hard to imagine yourself as a 40-years old guy, heh. But of course there has been the ambition inside the band through all these years to became better band and keep writing music that feels good so I guess the wish was there since the beginning to do this as long as possible.
Jack: What has been a career highlight for you?
Sami: Impossible to name just one highlight. Getting a record deal, recording of every album, first gigs in overall but playing for the first time in Wacken etc. were really impressive moments. For me personally every gig is a highlight because that’s why we are doing this.
Jack: How has the folk metal scene changed since the band started?
Sami: It has changed a lot. It was a really small genre back in the days and then it kinda exploded like ten years ago. I guess it will suffer the same fate as thrash/black/death metal and there will be lots of bands for awhile and then the strongest will survive. But from all those genres also, something new came up and they influenced the next step of metal so it’s going to be interesting to see what will be folk metals “legacy” in the long run.
Jack: South American shows are famous for their crowds, how did you find your recent South American tour?
Sami: Shows were amazing as always. The trip was hard because most of us got sick and there wasn’t that many days to recover but we made it and fans seemed to be very happy, I hope we can get back there soon.
Jack: How did your recent Russia shows go?
Sami: They went really well, big crowds, cheap vodka and good food. Can’t complain!
Jack: What can we expect for Ensiferum in 2018? Any returns to the UK on the horizon?
Sami: There is going to be a long European tour starting in April and we will play in UK but unfortunately only one show (London). Then there will be lots of festivals and there is a plan to do a long tour in North America later this year so busy busy busy. I hope we can squeeze in a proper UK-tour also.
Jack: Finally, as you are returning to China this year. What are shows in China like compared to the rest of the world?
Sami: Chinese and East Asian crowds in general are a bit more “polite” than anywhere else in the world like they tend to be quiet between the songs, compared to for example South America where they might start a chanting song spontaneously. But when “the metal is released” East Asian crowd is as crazy as anywhere else. We have the greatest fans in the world, that’s a fact.
Jack: Thanks for your time and come back to the UK soon!
Sami: No worries! We’ll harrass our booking agency about the UK tour so stay tuned for updates. All the best!