The Bloodstock Interviews – Wolfheart Print
Written by Mel B   
Friday, 25 August 2017 19:00

Following Wolfheart's breathtaking set on the Sophie Lancaster stage, I chatted with the band's founder and vocalist/guitarist Tuomas Saukkonen, as well as drummer Joonas Kauppinen, about writing, singing and rhyming in English, 'winter metal' as a subgenre, and their mind boggling journey to Bloodstock.


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I watched your set and was very impressed, so well done! Were you expecting that kind of reaction?


Tuomas: I don't want to sound like we think too much of ourselves, but we have been doing a shitload of work to get to the level that, when we go to a new country or festival, we would get that reaction. And by saying that, I don't mean we take it for granted! I mean, we go onstage and we do a lot of work and put in a lot of effort to be on that level, so we will get a good reaction.


I came to see you based purely on your description 'winter metal' on your Facebook page. I love that! It's really evocative. Who came up with that?


T: *Raises both fists triumphantly*


Well done Tuomas!


T: I hate labelling in music: I know our music fits into the category of 'melodic death metal' but that's, like, this wide (stretches arms out). It doesn't tell anything about the band, the themes - and our lyrical themes are quite heavily influenced by winter also. And when it comes to production, I try to make the music sound cold, so it fits the season, too. I think it's really important to have that title to separate us a little bit from the other bands. Having the label 'melodic death metal' doesn't tell anybody anything. This gets us a bit more interest because we are labelled 'winter metal'. You coming (to see us) is a good example.


Do you think all Scandinavian artists are influenced by the climate and the atmosphere, or do you have to consciously tune into it? Do you think that's more of a metal thing?


T: Let's put it the other way around: if you're a metal band who wants to write summer music, you have two weeks’ time! (laughs). You have to be really creative in 14 days! Of course, I think the nature (of Finland) and the four seasons – winter, especially – is quite a big factor. Even though not many bands name 'winter' as an influence, many Scandinavian bands have a similar melancholy style. And it doesn't come from the folk music, it comes from...somewhere else. So, I'm pretty sure it comes from the winter and the nature in general.


Absolutely. Now, when you formed this band, was there any question that you would sing in English? Was that just a given?


T: Well on the first album there is one song that is half Finnish. The idea was to have something in Finnish, but the band's (principal) language should be English. The thing is, because of the winter theme – the first album's theme was winter; the title was ‘Winterborn’ – I found the main problem that's going to follow the band from that album on: if you write about winter in English, there's one word for 'snow', one word for 'ice', one word for 'cold'...if you are an eskimo, you have fifty different words for 'snow', alone! (laughs). So, Finnish gives the ability to have a little bit more diversity to express yourself.


Apart from the atmosphere of Finland, where else do you get the inspiration for your lyrics?


T: Well... there's some personal issues and... we're going to skip into the next question!


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Tuomas, what was the reason behind you leaving all of your other projects [he also fronted Before The Dawn and Black Sun Aeon, and also was a member of The Final Harvest, Dawn Of Solace and RoutaSielu] until 2013] aside to concentrate on Wolfheart?


T: To put it bluntly, everything started to suck! And I didn't want things to suck.


OK! That's fair enough…


T: There were a lot of issues inside the bands. I only had one main band and the rest were just side projects. They were mainly born because I was so frustrated with the main band (Before the Dawn) and needed to step out from that. So when I took the main band down, for various reasons, I didn't have any reason to continue (with the side projects). So it was a lot more simple for fans of my music – and to myself – to build something new. Musically, it's not something completely new, but it was a fresh start – new lineup, new label, new everything.


Based on your success today, I would hope that you're coming back to the UK to do some more dates?


T: We've been talking about that already.  A UK tour is the plan; we did some dates with Insomnium, and after that we started working with Bloodstock to do the show here, so the next step would be our own shows here.


I think you'd go down very well in Belfast. We only have two weeks of summer as well! (Both laugh). Some Bloodstock questions: have you seen anybody else today, any performances? Or over the whole weekend?


Joonas: There was one band we saw: Oni. Weird stuff. Really...(trails off). That's all so far.


T: It's been a really rough weekend. We've been on eight separate flights already! We've done three festivals; we had some bad luck with one flight company; a few flights were really fucked up... We started in Helsinki then went to Prague, Belgrade, then we went to Rome, Bucharest - and now we are here...


Wow...quite the jetsetters! You must be exhausted.


T: We really are (laughs). We can't wait to get back to the hotel.


J: It's not a coincidence that we are both wearing sunglasses! (laughs).


T: My (eye) bags almost reach the bottom of mine! I'm just pushing (the sunglasses) down constantly.


J: The next step is, we're going to need a flat screen TV (laughs).


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Is there any difference between festivals where you're from and the likes of Bloodstock?


T: I think when it comes to the professionalism and the production, Finland and the UK are on a similar level. Of course, in some parts of Europe they don't have the ability financially to have the same facilities or technical stuff. I do need to mention that the crew on the Sophie Lancaster stage... awesome. I've seen a lot of crews – I've been working as a festival producer myself, in Finland for about ten years, so I do recognise the difference. And (Bloodstock) has one of the best I've seen.


It's pretty amazing, what they do.


T: Especially this kind of weekend, when we are already worn out. We come to this festival and suddenly the crew takes over everything, and you only need to step onstage, play the songs and step down...


That would be lovely... so, what's next for you guys? After you get some sleep!


T: Besides sleep! (laughs). We're going to do some small indoor festivals: Spain, Poland and Athens until September. Also we'll do some European stuff: a mini tour that's going to be announced soon enough (the band are playing several dates supporting Ensiferum)... some Russia and Germany weekend trips coming up in December... the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise in February... then, hopefully in March, we're going to be back in the studio. That's only if the label allows us! We will be ready to go.


So you have enough songs already?


T: By then we will have!


Do you write on the road?


T: Well, I do have time in between to be at home. I could never... I need a lot of space and time to be able to write, so I couldn't do it on the road. So, we already have songs and there's more coming constantly.


Excellent! I just have one last question: how do you pronounce this? (points to their most recent album, entitled ‘Tyhjyys’).


T: (phonetically) dthoo-use!


And what does it mean?


T: It's kind of like 'emptiness', but it's a word that has a deeper meaning in the Finnish language. That's why we used the Finnish word instead of the English, actually. It carries a little bit of a deeper meaning than the English translation could ever have. So it's like 'emptiness' but not a void. It's... it's impossible to explain. Emotionally, it's a lot more desolate and...




T: Yeah, melancholy, and... (long pause). As you can see, it has a bigger meaning!


I really am so impressed with bands whose first language isn't English, yet they manage not only to write songs in English, but do interviews as well. It impresses the hell out of me! I've tried a few times to learn a different language and it's really hard!


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T: Finland is a good country when it comes to the schooling system, because we start learning English when we are in like second grade. So, really young. And it follows through the whole schooling until we graduate at whatever level. So we grow up with the TV shows, we are introduced to the English language constantly. Of course, you need to speak English to get the.. .vocabulary? (brief pause and smattering of Finnish while they try and work out a word). But anyway! You need to be able to talk the language. We are surrounded by the English language constantly while we are young, so for Finnish people it's fairly easy. I know countries like Spain dub everything when it comes to movies and TV shows.




T: Yeah, it's really fucked up! You go to Spain, you watch something like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and it'll go “hola!” (laughs). In a deep, deep Spanish voice: “Hola!” (both laugh).


Imagine getting that job! “You're going to be Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice in Spanish”!


T: Yeah! And it's a bit silly, and you don't get the (exposure to) English language at all, so you need to learn everything, word by word, so you can speak the language.


I guess the other thing is, writing lyrics in English that rhyme? You need to know how to rhyme in English.


T: That's what's really important to me, to have lyrics that are more like a poetic style. So you can just grab the lyric sheet, read the lyrics, and it will be poetic. So far I've written lyrics to about 160 songs, so it's getting a little bit tricky now to not repeat the same rhymes! Because I still write from the same point of view – that's the whole point, to write stuff – so I need to find out where I can get some new words! It takes a little bit more effort now.


Well, it's definitely worth it!


T: That's good to hear.


PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/Über Rock.


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