By Andrew Bansal
It’s been more than eight years since Wintersun released their self-titled debut album, and the eternally long wait for the fans to hear new material is finally almost over. The Finnish metal band are all set to release their new album “Time I” on October 19th in Europe and October 23rd in North America via Nuclear Blast Records. It’s the first part of a double album, with the second album to follow next year. The band will immediately promote the album’s release by doing two special hometown shows, followed by a European tour, and a North American tour with Eluveitie and Varg. A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari to talk about the process behind this colossal album. Read the conversation below, and visit the official Wintersun website for more info.
Your new album is finally coming out in a few weeks. It’s been a while since Wintersun put out a record. How are you feeling now about being able to release this album?
It’s great, of course. Now the ball is starting to roll. We can really start to push this band. There’s been a lot of waiting and a lot of setbacks with the making of the album, but now we are really looking forward to get on tour and play the new songs live.
During these 8 years, what was Wintersun going through? I’m sure it must have been frustrating because you weren’t able to release the album.
Yeah for sure, those were frustrating times, but we were sticking together and Jari’s been working very hard getting things done. There were periods during which he would work non-stop. There were setbacks with the gear, the computer stopped working and things like that kept happening. But I’m really happy that this turned out well in the end, and the album came out great.
From what I understand, most of this material has been existing for a few years now. Did you change any of the tunes over this period, or is it the same as what existed before?
Well, the songs have been pretty much the same since 2006. Back then, we had a pretty good idea of what the songs are going to be like. Most of it was written by Jari at his home, and then in the summer of 2006 we went into the studio, recorded the basic tracks for the drums, guitars and bass, and then the problems basically started when Jari started making the orchestrations and vocals, because he had such a big vision and big plans, but the reality was that our equipment couldn’t do that so fast. Then the whole thing got bigger, and along with the orchestrations he started to come up with new ideas and new things on top, and also vocal ideas when he started composing the vocals. He came up with lots of new layers, so basically the structures of the songs and the basic idea of the songs has been the same for six years now, but there’s been little layers coming up now and then, that Jari has been adding.
I believe this album has some sort of a lyrical and musical theme to it. Would you call it a concept album?
Of course as the title suggests, it’s about time, but that’s a pretty broad subject. So it’s sort of like the first album, and the meanings of the lyrics are kind of universal, about deep human feelings, despair and the kind of stuff that everybody feels in their lives. There’s not like a real story that goes from one song to another, but time is the subject and all songs are under that. When Jari makes lyrics, he takes experiences from his own life, but he wants to keep the mystic thing to the lyrics that he doesn’t want to reveal too much to the listener, and expects the listener to make his own perception of what he thinks the lyrics mean.
Because it’s been so long, do you think it even makes sense to compare this to the first album, or should fans look at this as a completely new start for Wintersun?
Yeah definitely, I think it’s a new start. For the fans, the new album is certainly going to be recognizable for the Wintersun sound, but there’s also a lot of new influences and I think the band has developed a lot in every sense. First of all, on the first album, Kai played drums and Jari was doing everything else, but now it’s the whole band, with me playing some of the guitars and Jukka playing the bass, and everybody has done a lot individually. Kai has come up with a lot of amazing new drum stuff for the songs. Jari has been practicing a lot on his singing, and I think his technique is much better than on the first album, and also guitar-wise there’s a lot of mind-blowing stuff that was not on the first album.
That’s great to hear. So, this is going to be 2-part album, with part 1 obviously coming out now and part 2 next year. Was that the initial aim or did you guys just feel that the material was too much for one album after you did it?
Yeah, the first plan was to make it as one package and release it at once, but when Jari kept on doing orchestrations, the intros and the instrumental pieces between the songs kept on growing, so the album grew to over 80 minutes of material. I think now it’s 85 minutes altogether. So, there was planning with the record label, and everybody felt that may be it’s better to release it in two parts because we can release the first part sooner, and then we can tour before we release the second part. So it’s a good plan for us for the next two to three years.
Yeah, it’s a great idea. I like the 2-part approach. So, in terms of the music, as you said, there are so many layers in it and it’s so complex. Is that the sole reason for the slowing down of the production process?
Yeah, definitely, the layers, and also because Jari basically wanted to do all of the stuff himself. And although there were some people who came in from the outside to give their opinion, Jari already had a big vision in his head about how to do the orchestrations, and he felt that he can’t just explain it to somebody and let them make the orchestrations. So that also took a lot of time, and he had to learn to do a lot of things, like how each instrument should sound in the orchestration, and the production. He is really a big fan of the big production style of people like Devin Townsend, with a lot of layers. When Jari started building the layers, he realized that it’s going to sound great and that pushed him forward to make a lot of parts with layers, and in the end it’s kind of a complicated album in the sense that there are so many layers, but I think there’s still this clear line so that you can find the most important melodies. So, you need to listen to it with a musician’s ear to be able to hear each part separately, but at the same time there’s also easy-listening stuff because there are lots of easily structured melodies. But if you really want to dive into it, I think the layers make it interesting as you can sit back, close your eyes and try to pick little things here and there.
You’re playing a couple of hometown shows in October. Are you going to play the whole album? What are you planning to do for those shows?
Yeah, we are now planning to play the whole album at all of our upcoming shows. We have two shows in Finland, then we have the European tour, and then the US & Canadian tour, about forty shows altogether for the rest of the year. The Finnish shows are going to be a little bit extended because those are the record release shows, so we will be playing some more of the old songs too along with all the new songs, but on tour we’ve got 65-minute sets so we’ll be playing the whole new album and then some old stuff as well.
That’s awesome. As you just mentioned, there’s going to be a North American tour with Eluveitie. That should be something your fans in those parts are looking forward to, as I’m sure you are too, right?
Yeah, definitely. We’ve never played in America before, so it’s the first time for us. We’ve got a lot of really good feedback, fan mails and stuff from the States and Canada. We have no idea how it’s going to be, but we’re really happy to go with Eluveitie who have been there a few times already. I think it’s going to be a nice package!
Lastly, you’re just 25 years of age, easily the youngest member of the band. So even though Wintersun haven’t been too active in the past 8 years, you’re still young, while the other members are not!
(Laughs) Yeah, I sure am the youngest guy in the band, but I don’t think about the age difference so much, because we’re still just four guys having fun together and we have the same jokes, and get along really well in the tour bus and everywhere else. But yeah, when I joined the band I was just turning 18 and now I’m turning 25, so it’s been a long time, but I was always sure that when the new album comes out things are really going to start rolling, and I never had the idea to start doing something else.
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