Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Interview with Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum, Part Two

Click here for Part One.

Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum

KS – You’re headlining a tour called Paganfest, and your lyrics to “Heathen Throne” say:
This hate inside me
It is constantly growing.
Years of hollow lies
Made pagan hatred rise.
SH – Yesss…

KS – That’s pretty strong stuff.

SH – Yeah.

KS – Would you identify yourself actually as a practicing pagan, or as an atheist, or as nothing, or…?

SH – Ahh…

KS – This is what I was talking to Heri [Joensen of Týr] about, too, because his stuff is so much about “the heathen call,” “follow the ancestors.” It seems that a lot of the fans of pagan metal actually are heathens. What does it mean to you as a performing artist, that people are identifying with you as someone who shares their beliefs? How does it affect you as a creative person, that they are reading their beliefs onto you? How do you relate to that?

SH – I have thought about that a lot. In a way, I don’t see myself as a pagan, because I don’t believe in anything superstitious.

Maybe that’s just one way to express that kind of grudge towards certain institutions. Like the line you just quoted from “Heathen Throne,” that’s really straightforward against… Well, I don’t want to say against, because that sounds so teen-style. Ha! On a general level, it’s against someone forcing you to believe something.

The cover of Ensiferum's From Afar

We were actually just talking with Gunnar – the bass player of Týr – one morning about this subject. On a general level, that it’s so wrong. We were actually talking about Western culture, and we were talking about Aborigines and Indians, also.

It’s against forcing people to believe something. If some people have a working community or faith, if it’s not harming anyone – outside at least – then just leave it be. But if there are people who come to some other community and start forcing people to believe, kind of breaking it – it’s not good. It’s not healthy. There will rise a counter-force. Like we talked earlier, cultures evolved – but that has to happen within. It has to come from within. It will change generation after generation.

But yes, it still feels kind of weird when people can take the paganism thing really seriously. I have nothing against any religion, in a way, as an idea. If somebody gets faith and strength to live this mortal life by believing and saying a prayer, it’s totally fine for me. I have no need to burn churches or whatever. Ha! That wouldn’t make my life any better.

Sami Hinkka, Petri Lindroos, Janne Parviainen, and Markus Toivonen
Ensiferum plays Paganfest in Chicago - April 13, 2013
One of my favorite scientists – one Finnish astronomy guy – he has written really good books. In one of his books, he says, “If I would have to choose” – he’s agnostic, which I characterize myself, also – “If I would have to choose, I would be a closet Buddhist.” That’s something I can kind of relate to, because Buddhism is not religion, in a way. I do yoga, and I meditate almost every day. The whole thing is about focusing on this moment. You really start to appreciate this moment.

At least for me, it has gone that way. I appreciate life, other people, everything much more. Not that I have ever been like I haven’t appreciated, but now I kind of realize it much more clearer – and I don’t need any god for that. I don’t need any book to tell me. It just comes naturally when you rationalize things.

KS – That leads naturally into my most serious question. How the hell did you lose all that weight?

SH – Yoga. I lost twenty kilos. I can’t say I watch what I eat. Today, I ate my breakfast at McDonald’s. When I got here, the dinner I ate was burger and fries. This morning, when I woke up, I ate a huge big piece of a brownie. Yesterday, I had a big steak and cheesecake.

Sami Hinkka in a kilt, before yoga

KS – How much yoga do you do every day?

SH – Forty-five minute to one hour. It’s real hard exercise. That’s the thing. I have a really good teacher. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go to class for a year. You need a really strict teacher.

Yoga is about breathing. I think that’s the thing, because it’s active. I think that’s the thing that helped me lose the weight, because it’s about controlling the diaphragm. You have to keep it tight all the time, and if you’re keeping it tight for an hour every day – plus doing a show – I think that kind of burns the calories.

It all started because my back started to ache really bad on tour. It’s a lot of sitting on the bus and just waiting back stage. Then you go on stage for an hour and a half and be crazy. Then you get – at that time, we’d get totally wasted. Junk food, and again you’re just sitting in a bus. It really started to get my back. A good friend of mine said, “You want to try yoga?” “Why not?” I try to keep an open mind. It still took a while. That was the year 2008; 2011 I really started doing it.

I was just talking with Gunnar about this. He said he would like to do it also, but he said, “Yeah, but I’m too lazy to exercise.” I said, that’s the thing. It has to be the same thing, like when you get up in the morning and take a pee. It has to be part of your life. Like my teacher said, “Use one hour per day to do something, and the rest of the twenty-three hours will be better.” No matter what – swim or jog or whatever – but do something with your body.

Sami Hinkka in a kilt, after yoga

We are living an unnatural life nowadays. We’re sitting by a computer all the time. I think the human body is meant to be used. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need gyms. I think people feel they have too much energy.

KS – Speaking of living in the body, I was surprised by the high level of male nudity in the behind-the-scenes DVD that came with your new CD.

SH – Ha!

KS – Were you trying to show off your new body, or are all Finnish bands always naked in the recording studio?

SH – Ha! It’s a Finnish thing. Ha!

KS – “Passion, Proof, Power” is the masterpiece of the band. If you all die tomorrow, that’s the masterpiece.

SH – Ha!

KS – It has this huge range, from folk music to early prog rock. It has a nice jazz piano interlude, opera singing, death metal, synthesizers, Iron Maiden harmony guitars. Then, in the middle of this big epic, there are these German dudes in a skit. Is that you guys?

SH – No, those are guys from a band called Die Apokalyptischen Reiter from Germany.

Die Apokalyptischen Reiter

KS – I was trying to figure out what they were saying. I couldn’t figure out if they were going out for sausage and beer, to see a witch get burned, or to hear Ensiferum and Finntroll play a concert.

SH – $#%^! So you speak German?

KS – Yeah. So is that right? Is that what’s happening?

SH – Yeah, yeah. We have had this idea of a medieval market square atmosphere for an intro or something. We had that for years. We were sitting in the rehearsal room, sorting out some chords for that song. We were like, “We need some dynamics for this song,” because there has already been so much that has happened. It has to calm down a little bit, so that the end will be like whoosh!

I think Mahi said, “How about that market square thing?” Why not? We came up with some folk melody and were thinking, “This is not enough. There needs to be dialogue. Like two guys going to a bar or something.” We were laughing a lot, thinking about this. I can’t remember who said, “It should be in German.” “Of course! Let’s make it even crazier!”

Sami Hinkka and Petri Lindroos in Chicago - April 13, 2013
We did a demo in English. “Welcome, welcome to the Twilight Tavern – where ladies are beautiful and men are strong and there is a lot of beer!” We have German management, so wrote them an email: “Hi, guys. We’re not drunk, so please take this seriously. We need three German actors for this thing.” They’re like, “Okay, let’s see what we can do” – a really professional answer. One day later, they answered again: “Maybe we should ask some band members from other bands, because they are usually up to all kind of crazy stuff.”

They hooked us up with the Apokalyptischen Reiter guys. We had seen them many times in festivals but never talked with the guys. They were really cool guys, exchanging emails. They got the idea perfectly, and they changed the text a little bit, so it’s a little bit like Old German. They translated it, and it turned out to be even better than we expected.

It’s two guys going for sausage and a beer. They’re going to burn a witch later, in the market square. There are two bands from Finland – Ensiferum and Finntroll – and also some local bands. But if the local bands play overtime, they’re going to also be burned in fire. Ha!

I bet things get pretty wild when Finntroll throws a house party.

Like I said, Finntroll are really good guys and really good friends. I remember I was at a party at Henri’s place, and almost all the Finntroll guys were there. That was before our album was released. I was like, “Dudes, you have to listen to this!” And of course, everybody was drinking and saying, “Oh, it’s a &%$^?$* long song!” When it comes up – “Ensiferum und Finntroll!” – they were like, “What the *#&$ – is this your album? Oh, dude! So cool!” Ha!

To be concluded in Part Three.


elfslinger said...

Dude, Sami is clearly your most quotable interview yet. "Hi, guys. We're not drunk, so please take this seriously. We need three German actors for this thing."

Also, yoga rocks! I wish I looked like that after doing yoga... of course maybe that's because I only did it once a week and took long breaks without doing it during the holidays.

stupididiotlady said...

Sami's ideas about religion were different than I thought they would be. I think of religion, and other forms of spirituality, from a Jungian, pantheist perspective, with "God" more abstract than concrete, but not so abstract as the "God" of Taoism, and as equally transcendent as immanent.

What and why did I think Sami's ideas would be something other than what was stated in this interview? I thought that he would be Odinist (no I don't mean Asatru,) or some form of Neopaganism. I also thought he would be focused on utilizing methods of individualization, rather than focused on the superficial aspects of Eastern Religions. But as he said, in some form, there is not one right view, but many equally significant facets.

I thought that he would feel differently because my time in Finland left me feeling like, ignorant and presuming, that the Finnish population had indeed a more affective education system, and that they were thereby wholly superior to us - the 'mericans. Low and behold!! that McDonald's is the true culprit, and it has had a permanent effect on Sami's brain!!! SAMI, it is the MICKY DEE"S!! You are becoming a sheep!!!

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