Interview: Kai Hahto and Jukka Koskinen of Wintersun

Posted by SeanB on Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 12:11 PM (PST)


So this interview is actually a bit old but my computer has been out of commission for quite some time now (a speaker claimed its life) and half this interview was still on it…but I’m back bitches.  I’ve been able to copy the hard drive and finish writing this whole thing up so here it finally is.  Once upon a time, my partner in crime Tyrus and I got the opportunity to hang out with the one and only Wintersun‘s drummer Kai Hahto and bassist Jukka Koskinen. Due to my issues, the interview hasn’t been published, until now.  We had a pretty amazing conversation ranging in topics from musical influences such as Busta Rhymes, right down to The Muppet Show, and even drunken Santa Claus.  We had an awesome time with these guys and hopefully you’ll enjoy reading the interview as much as we did conducting it.

You can click right here to check the whole thing out.  Our good friend Butcher came along for the ride as well, so in the interest of not confusing everyone with our names I’ve only listed anyone from Metal Riot where appropriate.  Wonder Twin powers activate!

So how has everything been going with the tour so far?

Kai Hahto- Well we just started Saturday in Mexico City, it was great. It was our first time there as a band, so it was a nice experience. There was a lot of people, and the response was really great. And of course yesterday was the third show, in New York City, and it was fucking crazy! It was almost sold out at…what was that place called?

Jukka Koskinen- Irving.

K- Yes, Irving Plaza.

Our boss, one of the guys who also writes for Metal Riot, was actually at the show and texted us about how great you guys were. So definitely getting some compliments it seems.

J- Yes. I would say all three shows so far have been very good. Baltimore…yeah pretty much everything has been going great. We are just eager to see every day whats going to happen.

K- Yes, so far over our expectations.

The two of us have actually been to Wacken in Germany and seen the “other side” of the metal scene and it seems it’s just so much bigger than over here. Do you ever have any of the same issues touring over there that you might run into here?

K- No. No shows have never been moved or cancelled. It’s always like we know the routine, ok we go to these venues and we play them.

Tyrus-Yeah, the metal scene just seems so much more prevalent there, I remember I was in Italy one time  and there was a businessman in a full suit walking down the street, and he had a briefcase with a Wacken sticker on it.  I was like, “That’s the coolest thing, I wanna go work with that guy.”  It also seems like the atmosphere is just so much less violent, so much more peaceful.

J- I don’t know, at least personally, how it is over here, but I really don’t see any violence. Like when it comes to metal festivals, probably the most peaceful place there is, is Finland.

K- Yes, Everyone comes for the music. Not for the getting drunk and fight with each other. All these mainstream festivals always have problems because of the mix of people there. I actually like touring the US a lot.  I’ve been here with Rotten Sound many times.

Yeah, we saw them in Boston…like maybe two months ago, it was amazing. They basically played in a basement you know. There was maybe fifty kids, and it was so much fun just being there with everyone, and there were no problems at all.  It was reminiscent of High School.

J- Yes, in general it was very nice to be playing the last few times here. I really have to say that over here the audience…there’s more energy.

It’s because we have to wait so long.

J- Over here it seems to be more natural.

K- Like yesterday in New York City: people were like they saw us for the first time. Of course there must have been people in the audience who it wasn’t [their first show], but the whole club was amazing.

Tyrus- I do think that people come to these shows in the states are usually very dedicated. I mean we came to see you guys, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Arsis, and Starkill.  I mean bands that we don’t normally get to see and it’s cool from the other side to be in the pit or the crowd and see all these people having the time of their life. I remember seeing Blind Guardian once and they played “Nightfall” and everyone in the club joined arm in arm and were just singing along. I had like a fifty year old man with his arm around me, I was like ok this is cool.

K- It’s like this brotherhood…

J- A fifty year old man huh? With his arm around you like how? Haha

No no, like this…

J- Oh, Mmhmm…as long as your happy.

We are in Massachusetts.

J- Yeah Massachusetts. I heard there’s like a thing where there’s an asshole but then there’s a Masshole.

Yeah, it’s such a friendly state that they got there own term of endearment.

J- Haha Now I’m gonna get killed for talking bad right?

K- Yeah watch your back.

Haha yeah you’ll be looking around and see angry Boston kids creeping in.  So we have some silly questions that we ask all the bands we interview.  So what’s your favorite mythological creature? Like a unicorn, or a troll, or an ogre…

K- Oh, fucking Animal from Muppet Show.

Best Ever Drummers - Animal - The Muppets.Have you seen the new Muppet movie yet?

K- No, no I haven’t.

It’s very funny, he’s in a Buddhist monastery and they have to get his rage out.

K- Ok sounds great! I’ll have to check it out.

J- I’ll have to say that mine goes into the same category. I don’t know, at some point I was watching this character a lot and I kind of sound like him. It’s the Swedish Chef also from Muppet Show.

swedish chefWe’ll have to get you some fish to throw around onstage.

J- He’s the best guy ever, the most ridiculous guy ever. You get no idea of what he’s ever saying but it’s amazing. Plus he’s cooking.

Do you guys have any place in particular you’re looking forward to going back to?

K- At least on this tour, it’s like pretty much everywhere. Of course for me it’s always like New York, L.A., I’m really liking Canadian shows. It’s also like every town has something to offer, so I’m really looking forward to every show. I really like going back to places to see how it’s gonna be. Of course no city is more important than any other. For me though, New York has a special place in my heart. I used to live there for a while and I took some lessons there from Freddie Grubber and Joe Morello, both old jazz drummers.  So I really like the city a lot. Of course it’s different, very hectic. A lot of jazz music there and I really like a lot of jazz music. I have a crazy collection of jazz at home so…that’s how I draw my inspiration actually.

Great, one of my questions was going to be about any big influences outside of metal, so obviously jazz would be a big one for you.

K- Yes definitely, it’s a big part. But really I don’t limit myself to anything. Of course there’s music that I don’t really care about so much or I wouldn’t buy an album…like Busta Rhymes haha.

J- [Laughter and head shaking]

Are you a Busta Rhymes fan?

K- Jukka is like the white I don’t know what is the word?

J- You see a man whose music is like this (makes a small hole shape with his hands) sitting next to me.

K- Come on. Bastard.

J- There are like super cool drum, and bass grooves in hip hop and in rap.

K- Of course, of course, of course. But I don’t want to listen to fucking drums. I play them.

We’re going to send you guys a Busta Rhymes album.  You should also check out Blue Sky Black Death.  Earlier stuff like Late Night Cinema though.

J- I’m going to check it out.

K- It was just a joke about Busta Rhymes because he likes it.

J- Don’t worry, I’m used to his redneck middle finger in my face [laughs].

K- I’m from the East coast of Finland so…

J- East coast? There is no East Coast.

K- Sorry, West coast. There is no East Coast. We are on the sea very close to Sweden. It is only 70 or 80 kilometers.

Do you have any kind of a rivalry with Sweden? You know certain states like Massachusetts and New Hampshire don’t get along very well. Any of that going on?

K- No,no.

J- More like a humorous thing between guys. Ice hockey a little. Then there is like a lot of angry people but that’s pretty much with any country. Other than that not really.

There’s a stereotype that people from Massachusetts drive poorly. It’s not really a stereotype actually, it’s true. Everyone in this state drives terribly. Sorry Massachusetts. So we have things like that.

K- Maybe they need better driving schools or more like mopeds. Like you know Japanese people or whoever. More scooters.

Like the Italians too. 

J- Yes, the traffic there is fucking horrible. I was there two years ago and had to drive a car with my girlfriend. It was horrible. The scooters are fucking insane.

K- Yeah, they’ll just pass you or whatever.

Don’t try driving around here it gets pretty insane too.

K- Luckily we have a bus driver [laughs]. So hopefully he’ll take care of us.

Are you guys able to survive strictly on heavy metal or do you have side jobs that you work on your off time as well?

K- Actually I’m teaching drums.

Ok cool, so either way it still applies to music.

K- Just teaching, it can be like 40 students a week.

J- I’m actually doing other stuff. I find it nice to do other kinds of things sometimes. So I work actually for a company where I am a boss actually for twenty people. It’s pretty cool. So basically I’m like a bass player and an asshole [laughs].

Do they know about your side job?

J- Yeah, they do and they support it, which is why I’m here. Well I’d be here anyways, but it just makes it easier  [laughs]. We’re a company that makes blood glucose meters basically.

That’s good, we need more stereotypes like that attached to metal. More helping, less hurting.  So we just wanted to ask about how you guys split up the Time albums. So the first one was not “mellow” but definitely not as fast as your first album. Is this next one going to have a different theme or style, maybe like a continuation because it just happened to be too long and get split up?

J- It’s a continuation, both the albums are one concept. On the second one there will be more solos.

K- There will definitely be more fast stuff, it’s also really atmospheric like this last stuff. It was like no album we have made before.

Yeah we read about the Japanese influence.

K- Yeah it’s really like, really good. Totally different.

J- There are like two really, really fast songs and also this like very emotional slow song.

K- There’s also this really atmospheric piece with just like a guitar solo and a couple choruses…It’s hard to explain, but it’s still like everything flows together like the last song and the intro on Time I. It kind of ties both albums together.

So grab a six pack, or whatever your poison is, and put both discs in.

K- Yes, when you get to listen to the whole thing together you’ll really understand much better.  It’s maybe a bit more progressive. More progressive elements. There are much longer songs with more complex orchestration and also the structure of the songs. Like the first song is like fourteen minutes of…bullshit  [laughs].

J- We have this fan, I don’t know his name unfortunately, but he said that our album Time I is bad. No riffs, and one guitar solo. So I can tell this fan that Time II will at least have more guitar solos.

K- And maybe some riffs haha.

You can’t make anyone happy if you change something.

K- Usually when people see us live, because then the guitars are more in the front so they understand, “Ok there actually is riffs.” On the album it gets blended a lot with the orchestra so its not just guitar music.

You really have to listen to an album three or four times to really make an opinion.   Hopefully people who see you live might go home and listen to the album again with a different view.

J- Right, and of course it’s like live is a different experience. On the album you hear the contrast of all the elements in a different way. Maybe here is like less pounding and you get to hear the normal instruments.

K- There’s still four guys on the stage and we play our own instruments. There’s no backing track or whatever, it’s just a live band and then there’s the orchestra and these guys sing backing vocals as well. So it’s like a different experience of the new album anyways.

Yeah, last time you were around it seemed that no matter how much production you put into the albums, seeing you live sounded no different. There was nothing done in the studio to alter what you guys actually sound like.

K- It’s like the same when people watch the DVD on the special version of the album where we actually play the songs live in the studio. In just one take. I played the songs once through and that was it. They filmed the whole thing and that’s why I’m fucking sweating at the end , because we had changed the order of the songs. So we first played the slow one “Land of Sorcerer” and then “Time” so we changed the order. That’s why I’m fucking sweating my ass off.  We couldn’t have any air conditioning in the studio so it was so fucking hot.

Especially with everyone moving around in such a small space. It’s been mentioned before, but it would be great to see you guys tour with a real orchestra someday.

K- It’s been talked about in the plans that at some point we might actually do a DVD with a real live orchestra on the stage. We might shoot it in Lorelei in Germany. It’s this really beautiful location like amphitheater so you can actually fit a lot of musicians on stage.

AmphitheaterLoreleyIs this a historic type of venue?

K- Yeah, yeah. Its like this huge cliff and a river. It’s really cool. They have this metal fest there in Germany. We just played there.  You have to go across the river with this ferry. You get to the other side and then have to climb up the hill with some old castles around.

What an awesome setting.

K- Yes it is like really epic and everyone can see the bands because it’s a real amphitheater.

J- Yeah so hopefully that’s going to happen. After both albums are out we’ll have to see what happens.

K- Then we have more problems trying to make the setlist. We already have fucking problems. We would like to play both albums.

Aren’t you playing both? I had read that in a few places.

K- We try, but you know it’s impossible time wise. I mean both albums are already like one hour plus and then we play one new song. We play that tonight, but it’s difficult because then it’s over two hours. We have three bands before us and we don’t want to have the opening band Starkill to have to start 15 minutes after the doors open. We want them to have an audience. We don’t want to be like assholes you know? So we have to skip a couple songs from the first album. We play Time I totally though plus one new song.

Awesome. I think we’re all looking forward to it, it’s a really good line up. I don’t know Starkill very well, but between you guys Arsis and Fleshgod I know I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.

K- So far it seems to be working very well. Everybody’s having a good time.

So…growing up in Finland…did you ever meet Santa Claus?

K- Yes.

J- Yes.

K- Unfortunately, every fucking year  [laughs]. Usually it’s my uncle or someone, usually, or it’s my brother in law.

Santa smells like schnapps.

K- Yeah, yeah  [laughs].

J- Santa smells like schnapps…what…the…fuck  [laughs].

viewcaptionK- Actually once the santa claus broke a chair.

Like over someone?

K- No! Like sit on it and it fell apart like fucking pieces all over the place.

J- It sounds like the schnapps santa said, “Fuck your chair!” Hahaha!

K- No at that time he was sober.

It was too early in the morning.

K- I don’t really get a chance to drink too much anymore you know. I have two kids, two boys.

Yeah, slows you down a little.  Don’t worry, the crowd will pick up your slack. We’re all drinking for you.

J- It’s good that someone’s drinking for us.

So Tyrus and I have asked just about every band we’ve interviewed this question…it’s a little personal. Being on the road you’re eating a lot of shitty food…and whatever, sometimes you just have to go…so do you have any good shitting stories from this band or bands you’ve toured with?

J- I’m always having fun with Kai, he’s always being brought a salad. So he is in fear about it.

K- I can’t fucking play drums just eating green vegetables alright. If I eat like one kilo it doesn’t do anything. It’s healthy but I need some kind of meat. For me protein is like I need it. I lose so much energy out there doing this for like one and a half hours. Like yesterday they brought me a fucking caesar salad for after show food. I was like,”Coooome oooonnnn!” Luckily our mixing guy hates chicken and hates pasta and they brought him a chicken pasta so we switched and I was happy in the end. You know it has happened, many many weird things happen on the road.

caesar-salad-lowerJ- Like what?

Yeah come on, like what?

K- Like on the Swallow The Sun Tour once in Germany.  I was hospitalized before the show because I broke my back a bit. I just did like some stupid move during sound check and like couldn’t move. I had to lie on the floor and then go to the hospital. So I was lying in the hospital for maybe two or three hours and I was like, “Fuck this shit, I’m going back to the venue.” So I came out of the bed and just took a taxi back. I still had on my like hospital hat too. In the meantime my band mates thought that I wasn’t coming back, so they had to get the other two drummers…the Insomnium drummer and one other band’s drummer to learn five of our songs. They actually started the show, played the first song, and I was like, “Fuck this, I’m going to play.” So after the first song I just went right to the stage. I didn’t even have my sticks, I had to borrow some sticks. Plus I still had this fucking hat on. So I said, “Ok, lets try.” I ended up playing the whole show and in the end we had to do an encore. So our guitarist had to…he got like a really bad need to shit. So he was like, “I’m fucking going now,” and in like the middle of the song he just fucking threw his guitar on the floor and I saw him fucking wandering through the audience like straight to the toilet.

[laughter all around]

K- And then, we were supposed to play another encore song and our guy came back to play the guitar, and then our singer goes, “Oh shit! I have to shit also!” We we’re like fuck this we have to stop it here.

J- What the fuck? You know, I haven’t heard any of this.

K- Yeah yeah, well he was like fucking retarded anyways. One time we were on tour and at the airport and he was like, “Ok, I have to take a shit now really badly.” He started running again and when he came back he had his underwears in his hand, like walking through the fucking crowd in the airport going, “Guys I shit in my pants.” We were like, “Are you fucking serious?! You have your underwears for everyone to see what you actually did.” Like go away!  You just shat your pants on the way to the toilet. He is fucking crazy anyways haha.

J- Yes, people may say that Wintersun is boring but at least we try to concentrate on playing and not trying to eat too much shitty food haha!

Wow that is awesome.

K- Yeah there’s a bunch of stories from the road, crazy fucking stuff.

We’ve managed to get some pretty interesting shit stories from a few bands.

K- Things happen.

Sean- Yes they do. I don’t trust anyone who hasn’t shit their pants as an adult.

J- When did it happen to you?

Sean- I don’t know, maybe a few months ago.

J- Oh.

Tyrus- It’s only been months since you’ve shit your pants? I don’t wanna hang out with you anymore.

Sean- Oh come on it was nothing serious! Sometimes you’re at work or out somewhere and have to fart and it’s a little more than a fart. Then you need a safety wipe. Like a shart.

[laughter all around]

K- Like a fart with color  [laughs].

Looks like we’ve got a new term for it.

J- A fart with color. That’s great.



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