Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! Congratulations on 20 years of Ensiferum! Looking back on the last two decades, what has changed, and what do you feel has stayed the same?
Hi and thank you. 20 years, that's a long time! Time flies when you are having fun, heh. If we look back to the time when Markus found the band back in 1995 I would say that even though line-up has changed and the band has evolved a lot as songwriters and as musicians but still the very cornerstones of the music, heavy metal and folk music, plus the heroic atmosphere are still there.
You celebrated this moment in time with the release of a Greatest Hits album, containing 14 tracks. This collection shows how much your style has developed over the years. Are there any tracks in this compilation that you would have done very differently, had yourecorded them today?
No. Every track reflects certain period of bands evolution and we are proud of them all as they are.
In 2013 you signed with Metal Blade records, who also released your 2015 album “One Man Army”, yet your greatest hits compilation was once again released by Spinefarm Records, your previous label. What’s the story there?
The whole idea for the compilation came from Spinefarm and we thought it was cool idea and Metal Blade was also ok with it and even gave two tracks to it. So now we have a compilation out there.
Had the label said, let’s do a greatest hits EP of four tracks, which songs would you have picked then, and why?
We wouldn't have agreed to it, because it would have had to have at least one track from every release. Still it would have been extremely hard to pick the songs but I go with my intuition here:
Token Of Time
In My Sword I Trust
Two Of Spades
Comparing your “One Man Army” release and the sound on it to the general feel of your compilation album paints yet another picture of how much the band has grown over the years. You have many more influences in your music it seems. What can you tell us about your current sound?
That's true, we have never wanted to ”paint ourselves in a corner” by limiting ourselves what we can or can't do. If something feels good to us, then we continue making that song and release it if it turns out to be a solid track. On last two albums we have wanted to go back to more organic sound and cut down the amount of tracks (on From Afar we kinda went over the top). We are already working with the next album and we have some new ideas for it's mixing.
I loved the track “Two Of Spades” on that album, which coincidently also appears on your best of cd. It has a few very surprising turns in sound! What can you tell us about this track?
Heh, that song tells prety much of us and how we compose. If the song needs a seventies discopart, then we compose it there. Some might say that mentality like that is a commercial suicide but our fans seem to have great sense of humour and that is really fun song to play live.
Have you ever performed the track “Neito Pohjolan” live?
Yes. We did few acoustic gigs in Finland and it was in the setlist. It was really awesome experience to arrange old songs to acoustic format and we also played songs that we have not played ever live. Some hardcore fans said that the acoustic gig in Helsinki was the best Ensiferum concert they ever been to. I really hope we can make acoustic tour in Europe and North-America some day.
How do you handle the guest vocals in a live situation?
We just do them ourselves. Oh, if you mean Neito Pohjolan, that's piece of cake nowadays because our keyboardplayer Emmi Silvennoinen left out of the band and she was replaced by Netta Skog who sings Neito Pohjolan on the album.
Are there songs in your catalog that you have never played live?
Hhhhm, not many but yes there are. Like on Unsung Heroes and One Man Army there are these mammoth songs Passion, Proof, Power and Decendants, Defiance, Domination, they might be quite challenging to play live but maybe we surprise everyone some day and make a setlist of just all of our over 10 minutes long songs, hah!
You have done many different cover songs in the last two decades, both recorded and in live settings. I was pleasantly surprised by your Gipsy Kings cover. How did you land on the choice to record that song?
We had the idea for that cover for like ten years and on Unsung Heroes session we just thought to give it a go and it turned out to be really fun cover. We even played that live and people loved it.
Looking at your body of work, I feel fun is an important factor for you while writing music, am I right?
Of course. Even though many of our songs are sad, powerful and aggressive, there are still other sides in life and we want to make most out of it. That's one of the greatest things in this band that we write music on so wide spectrum, it makes it much more interesting for us and also for fans. There is no point to keep repeating yourself but bravely explore mysterious dimensions of music.
Looking back at the last 20 years, what has been your biggest adventure?
Impossible to name just one tale from this journey and label it as the best. We are very proud and humble about being in this position. And it's all because of our loyal and crazy fans around the world. Thank you!
What’s the craziest tour story you have experienced, being on the road with the band?
Heh, I think there are stories that are better left untold. But our bus has cought on fire, we have played gig so that one member came from hospital to play the show and went straight back to hospital for few days etc. Lots of great memories.
Not really. Maybe we have been a bit naive in the beginning of our career with some choices but that's the price you have to pay.
Many artists and fans look at the release of a greatest hits compilation as something for the end of a band’s career. How do you see your latest release yourself, how do you look into the future?
I think it's quite standard thing when band changes a label that the old label releases a compilation. But we are not done yet, we are full of ideas and the spirit inside the band is better that ever, the songwriting is more fun and creative album after album so I'm sure Ensiferum will go on at least another 20 years.
We read this week that Netta Skog will be joining the Ensiferum family permanently! Will there be more accordion in your future songs?
It always depends of the song and what kind of sound we are looking for. But to make things clear, Netta plays digital accordion (she is actually world champion on it) so it's practically a keyboard with all different sounds you can get from keyboard also.
Where will we be able to see you on tour this year? Do you have any festivals planned?
There are some festivals this year (check official site or Facebook page for dates) and for autumn we have some special pland and on December we are thrilled to be part of MTV's Headbangers Ball tour with Iced Earth, Kataklysm and Unearth. That will be one hell of a tour!
Do you have any last words for our readers?
In case you haven't heard it yet, go check out One Man Army. Summer is coming so go out and enjoy live music with cold beer and good company! Stay metal! \m/