Into the Unknown: Interview with Jari Mšenpša of Wintersun
October 2004 By: Scott Alisoglu
Finlandís Wintersun is the creation of ex-Ensiferum member Jšri Maenpša. Jšri took care of vocals, guitars, bass, and programming, while the second half of the group, Kari Hahto (Rotten Sound) handled drums on the bandís self-titled debut on Nuclear Blast. The musical depth here is stunning, a sort of extreme progressive-metal meets symphonic-black-metal approach. Pummeling blasts are blended with big choruses, soaring melodies, folky interludes, crunching riffs, soaring guitar solos, and on, and on, and on. This is not an album that you digest in one sitting. Itís one that slowly envelopes you until you can no longer see past the vast musical landscapes created here. Jšri breaks it down for us.
You and Kari Hahto created Wintersunís self-titled debut. What was your vision for this project?
To create metal that is big, majestic with a magical atmosphere. I also wanted to do a bit technical/progressive and fast/aggressive music. Basically I just wanted to do/release my music, which I love and I hope that someone else will like it too.
Did you take any ideas, generally speaking, from your previous band, Ensiferum?
Sure some influences have stayed in me from the Ensiferum days, itís one part of me. And the way I write music reflects into everything that I do, so itís unavoidable, although I tried to keep everything separate. Like when I wrote songs for Ensiferum, I wrote music only into that bandís style/genre. But now in Wintersun, Iím free to do whatever I want. I donít have to follow any rules of genres or styles; I just do the music that I like.
How much of a challenge is it to create music like this with only two people? Did you spend long hours in the studio?
Actually I had written almost everything by myself before entering the studios, all the music, lyrics and arrangements, but Kai came up with some great drum arrangements and ideas. So the music wasnít created in the studio, although some ideas were born there also. Iíve just done music by myself for a long time and Iíve recorded demos at home. I have just gotten use to doing everything, so it wasnít that big [of a] deal. We worked in the studios normally eight-hour days, but in the evenings I was doing some additional recordings with my 16-track recorder (some synth parts and guitar solos).
The style is something along the lines of black metal mixed with progressive metal elements (or vice versa), as well as death metal. Is this an accurate description of the music of Wintersun?
You could say that. But itís difficult to label it, since thereís so many styles going on. And I like to keep it that way. I donít really want to be stuck into one genre/style.
The album soars musically;
by that I mean that the compositions arenít dark and dreary (musically anyway),
but instead sound rather upbeat and majestic. Would you agree?
Yep. Itís definitely not evil or dark music (although "Beautiful Death" is a bit darker song). The music is rather majestic, melancholic, very melodic and magical that happens to be a little bit into the extreme side of metal because of its fast and aggressive side.
Talk about the folk elements
in your music and lyrics. What are the stories behind the songs?
Thereís nothing folkish or any fairytale stories in the lyrics. The lyrics deal with my life from the period of time those songs have been created (1995-2004). Under all the metaphors and references to cold winter landscapes, universe and so on... itís all about my thoughts, feelings, dreams and visions. In the music
there are a few folk influences because itís one part of my songwriting and I am influenced by it. I could give a few short comments of each song:
"Beyond the Dark Sun" - A cool fast song with melancholic melodies. Lyrics are just feelings and visions of my life in 1998.
"Winter Madness" - Stormy, technical and crazy song. And the lyrics fits well because it deals with losing your mind in the heart of winter and seeing hallucinations, partly because of alcohol. So thatís what the lyrics are all about underneath... alcohol, yeah!
"Sleeping Stars" - Slow and majestic song. In 1995 when I started to write this song, I wanted to make an atmosphere like you would be floating in space among the stars. This song has many meanings in the lyrics. One meaning is that it tells about "falling into coma and waking up from it many years later". And itís funny because thatís kinda the way this song was written. I wrote half in 1995, then I "fell into coma" and "woke up" in 2003 and finished the song
"Battle Against Time" - Very melodic, fast and chaotic song. It deals with stress, lack of time and all the feelings youíll start to have when everything starts to fall apart.
"Death and the Healing" - Beautiful melodies and big atmosphere. Basically a simple message in the lyrics, that time can be the healer, but also the death of you... well obviously.
"Starchild" - A monster. Very long, epic song that has variable song structures with lots of parts. Lyrics are thoughts and visions that deal with "creation" of... well anything, for example: music, life, universe...
"Beautiful Death" - A dark, yet magical song. Deals with a sickness that I had
some years ago and close call with death, so it was a very dark time of my life.
Remembering all the feelings and thoughts back then and getting them on paper
and into the music.
"Sadness and Hate" - I wrote this one in 1996. A bit folkish song, long and epic also.
The albumís artwork seems so
perfectly suited to a band from Finland, the snowy scene especially, although
Iím not sure about the guy lying face down in the snow. Talk about the artwork.
The man in the snow is a metaphor to a feeling that has kept haunting me, kinda despairic [sic] state, like you canít reach your destination and you will fall on your path/quest. It can also be a metaphor to "death". The light in the horizon between the trees on the other hand is a metaphor to words like "healing", "birth", "home". So I could name the painting after the song "Death and the Healing". Basically the cover just describes the two magical dimensions of the music. The cold and dark yet beautiful winter and the vastness of the universe, space and stars.
Who are your musical
influences? Who are some of your all-time favorite bands, metal or otherwise?
When I was a little boy I listened to KISS and W.A.S.P. When I hit teenage [years], I started to play guitar because of Metallica. Another big "awakening" was the music of Devin Townsend and his singing. Guitarists like Steve Vai and Y.J. Malmsteen has influenced me a lot. Then Iíve just listened to lots of bands, to say a few: Carcass, Megadeth, Skid Row, At the Gates, Amorphis, Dark Tranquillity, Judas Priest, Dissection...
Are there any plans to
assemble a full band and play live?
Yes Iím searching for members at the moment. Thereís been lots of requests for shows so Iím hoping that I will find the right members soon.
Thanks for the interview.
Any closing comments?
Fonte: Live 4 Metal