Finland's ENSIFERUM have been blazing a trail in the Metal community for the past decade as one of the fore-runners in the Viking Metal genre. Though they have only released three albums and an EP in that time, they have developed a strong fanbase that has been growing steadily. Their most recent album, "Victory Songs", was issued in North America via Candlelight in 2007, followed by the Paganfest USA tour this past Spring. They will return to North America this Autumn as main support for AMON AMARTH.
How has the tour been so far?
"Pretty good, I would say. Pretty nice success; nothing so bad has happened yet, so everything has been working well, no back-line breakdown or anything like that."
How was Chicago Powerfest 2008?
"Chicago Powerfest... that was really good! We liked that one a lot. That one was sold out - it was pretty nice; pretty nice venue, nice people, nice crowd - it was a good night, I would think."
How would you say the U.S. version of Paganfest has been compared to the European version so far?
(pauses) "The crowd is a little bit different over here and everything is a little bit bigger over here, too. For example, the distances and stuff like that, so it's kinda weird, but not that much different, after all, when you're comparing certain shows over here and in Europe, it's pretty much the same. Not that different."
As far as the distances go, I think Portland and Seattle are the two closest cities you're going to have on most of the West Coast leg.
"Yeah, like two days ago, we have over two thousand kilometers to drive. That was horrible, spending like 36 hours on the bus in a row, just driving. Horrible. And the funniest part is that it's almost twice the length of the whole of Finland, where we live. Finland is close to 1,200 kilometers long all the way, so we drive two times Finland and back. (laughter) Pretty funny."
Tell us a little bit about "Victory Songs", as far as what you have put into the album - time spent preparing and writing songs, production, etcetera.
"Well, actually, writing the songs took really long for that album. I think closer to a year, maybe something like that. But it was actually pretty funny to do those songs because on the previous albums with the old lineup, it was pretty much like dictatorship over there that you just bring in the songs and that's it. But on 'Victory Songs' we really worked as a band, like everybody was giving their effort on the songs and all points of views and ideas, so it's very democratic and they're really happy about that one. It just worked out really well. We had no bigger problems in the studio either, but on the previous full-length album recordings, they've been totally against it, it's been really horrible - they've been sick, they've been breaking amps and just name it - they've had all the troubles, but on 'Victory Songs', everything went really well."
What are your favorite tracks off the album?
"I really like 'One More Magic Potion' and also 'Victory Songs'. I don't know, they're just like loose, really happy good songs - a lot of fun to play live, too."
Speaking of that, what is your favorite song to play like?
"Well, actually, all the songs we usually play live are pretty good. I don't know - I could also say 'Lai Lai Hei' because I don't have to sing anything on the song (laughter) - that's pretty easy for me. But I would definitely say 'One More Magic Potion' - that's definitely a good one."
I understand you opened for MEGADETH in Helsinki - how was that?
"It was very nice - first time playing in a big, big place, actually. We only had a half an hour set, five songs, so it was done very fast, but I don't know... it was pretty funny because there were actually people coming to check us out, too, not just MEGADETH fans. But of course, there were dudes in the front row who shouted 'MEGADETH!!!' after the first song. (laughs) I was just saying 'you guys need to wait two hours until MEGADETH comes on, so stick with it'. (laughter) But it was fun, yeah."
What do you think of the recent explosion in popularity of the Folk and Viking Metal genre?
(pause) "I would pretty much have to say that the bands are very good and the music is very good, too, because otherwise it just wouldn't work, but it seems people are finding, more related to this Folk Music genre, also. Like, for ENSIFERUM, there's TURISAS, also MOONSORROW, KORPIKLAANI coming from Finland, FINNTROLL also, have this singularity, like these traditional folk instruments played on the albums and stuff like that, so I think it's a little bit different... well, it is very much different from the normal Death Metal stuff which has been going on for thirty years and the same kind of shit. But I think this is a little bit more, I don't know, happy drinking music, something like that - it just seems that it pulls a lot of people together."
Is there any possibility of a U.S. issue of the tenth anniversary DVD, 'cause I've noticed the only times I've been able to find it is in the PAL format.
"I don't actually know. But maybe we could try to arrange that it could be actually licensed over here on your format. We have the same issue with your DVDs - they don't work at home. (laughs) That is a really weird thing, actually - I've been talking on the bus with the guys, like 'why do you need to have a different format on a DVD than the European one?' It's really weird, but maybe we can figure that one out. Hopefully."
Are there any possibilities of the original demos being reissued in a collection, similar to what MÅNEGARM and other bands have done?
"We actually did that one, but I think it didn't get published over here because we didn't have any kind of license deal or distributors over here at that point. We printed out a thousand copies on a CD which had the three demos that were done before the first album, but those are all gone. I think I don't even have it on my own. Everything went in like, two weeks."
What are your thoughts on the rise of National Socialism within the Metal community, especially in eastern Europe and the former Soviet countries?
"Hmmm... I don't know - I'm not that into politics and personally, I don't really give a damn, but actually... well, shows over there are a really good success, the crowds are fucking crazy over there. The Czech, Slovakia, Slovenia, Russia... well, things are a little bit different over there, but it's very much fun to play over there."
Is there any possibility of ENSIFERUM doing a tour with WINTERSUN and NORTHER?
"No. I don't like doing double time in one day. (laughs)"
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
"Hopefully people like the Paganfest tour while we're here - we've been having a lot of fun so far. Yesterday we had a karaoke party at the after-party at the venue - it was the rehearsal places, I don't know, some band guys were having a party over there, we just dropped by, we were singing two or three hours of karaoke over there, drank a few beers. Support the band - buy the albums, T-shirts and we'll keep coming back." [FIN]
» Official ENSIFERUM Website