Interview with Jakke and Mikko of Crimfall
Crimfall’s Bombastic Energy
Finland’s Crimfall is truly a special band which draws influences from many styles and manages to blend them together to create music that is epic, emotive and powerful without ever making it feel like it is just cluttered with random ideas. After 6 six years, they are back with their most amazing album to date, Amain, and we have the pleasure to bring you this interview with Jakke Viitala and Mikko Häkkinen.
Congratulations on your new album. Amain has been out for some time now. How has the reception been so far?
Jakke: “The reception has been very good. Both in Finland and abroad. The people and reviewers who have been following our career since “as the path unfolds” have all agreed that AMAIN is our strongest and best album so far.”
Burn the Money
You have worked on this album without a record contract. I’ve also read you have raised the money for it yourselves without a crowdfunding campaign. How, if at all, did all these change your approach to the creation process?
Jakke: “Crowdfunding is a thing we have been talking about once in a while, but in our case that’s not a realistic option. Making a Crimfall album costs minimum of 10k€ and that does not cover the cost of making physical copies, distribution or promotion. And on top of that you need to pay taxes almost the same amount of money. And to be able to pay taxes you need to have a company. And when are an entrepreneur, you are not part of the network which takes care of you if you ever get unemployed.
Getting enough funding for the album should not be a problem with the amount of Facebook fans we have. If everyone would participate with just 3-5€, it should be enough. BUT during these 10 years of Crimfall, we have sold maybe 10 t-shirts and 5 albums from our own online store, so I don’t see how on earth we would succeed on the crowdfunding campaign. That would look a pretty bad if we would be 10% on target when the campaign ends… And this just for digital release without any promotion. If you want to make a physical copy, it will cost 3-5€/CD plus distribution… So that’s pretty much the reason why we guys decided to burn our own money on AMAIN.
But how this decision affected to out process… Well, first of all we had to do as much as possible by ourselves (but that would have been the case anyway). Also we didn’t have any deadline, so we were able to polish everything as much as possible. But as we did not have anyone to release the album, we did not have any target… no release date what so ever. And to be honest we lost our motivation quite many times and even were about to quit. But luckily Metal Blade enjoyed the album and here we are!”
How would you describe Crimfall’s music someone who’s never heard of it?
Mikko: “Always a tough one especially when trying to avoid strong genre references and we do want to stay away from defining boundaries. It is hard to capture the core of what is Crimfall with words. Most of all our music is very visual journey that travels through varied landscapes, orchestrations and voice of Helena paints vistas of epicness and beauty but some miles are travelled through primal forlorn paths with harsh jagged edges.”
A plethora of influences has always been present in Crimfall’s music. And Amain feels even more varied as well as more powerful. If you agree with this, what do you think is the reason behind it?
Jakke: “For me Crimfall has always been a melting pot. I listen to various kind of music, have thousands of ideas in my head and have a band with musicians who can deliver anything I want. So if I wouldn’t use these “resources” as much as possible, I wouldn’t have given everything I got. Making AMAIN also took 6 years (since the first demos until the release date) of my life, so I think that during this time I have been influenced by more stuff than previously.
Album sounds more powerful indeed. I think there are two reasons behind that. First and foremost since the early writing process this “bombastic energy” was the main keyword for me, but also the production quality is finally where it should be. Album was mixed in the one and only Fascination Street studios and those guys really know what to do.”
Although you incorporate many influences in your music, there isn’t an aspect that hogs the stage, so-to-speak. Everything is balanced. Do you find it challenging to take a variety of elements and make them work well together?
Jakke: “It can be challenging for sure, but the more I work with these people, the easier it gets for me to create the “Crimfall-sound”. Of course I want to bring in new influences as much as possible which might create new challenges, but that is the thing that keeps Crimfall interesting and challenging for me. I wouldn’t know anything more boring than write “wildfire season” for the 10th time.”
Where do you draw inspirations from for your music and lyrics?
Jakke: “My biggest source of inspiration is movies and movie scores. The visuality of that sort of music is something I want to achieve with Crimfall as well.”
Mikko: “I tend to read a lot. History, philosophy, psychology of war and religions, occultism and esoteric literature, but also good fiction. You also can’t live in Finland without being touched by its nature and vivid seasons. I live close to the sea which is often somehow present in the lyrics.”
Ten Winters Apart
I’d like to ask about “Ten Winters Apart”. Digipak version of Amain includes an instrumental version of it as one whole song. Why did you decide to divide it into parts for the standard version?
Jakke: “The whole song itself has 4 pretty different sounding parts which were easy to slice from the “calm places”. Also as people unfortunately pretend to listen to songs rather than whole albums, they can more easily pick their favourite part if they want. We have played the song as whole in our shows but now there is also an option to cut some parts from the song if we don’t have enough time to perform the whole thing.”
Speaking of bonus tracks, there’s also the acoustic version of “Until Falls the Rain” with Finnish lyrics. Did you ever consider making an album with lyrics only in Finnish?
Mikko: “Probably not. I prefer writing in a language more than 5,5 million people can understand. Music of Crimfall is meant to stir deep and strong emotions and I can better touch the hearts of listeners with English. And it is also personal preference as I think Finnish is not the best sounding language for growling and screaming, just my opinion. But the acoustic version sounds awesome and I think Helena nailed it with the translation and her beautiful voice. So we may or may not do something similar in the future.”
Amain is truly a beatiful album and an ambitious work of art. Now that you have the backing of one of the biggest and most respected labels that is Metal Blade, can we expect even grander things from Crimfall?
Mikko: “Time will tell. I think we reached certain culmination point with the Amain, it was “all in” in many ways and we might explore some other paths with the next album. But I hope we are in the beginning of very long journey with Metal Blade and having more resources and support to do your art should lead to great things. Looking forward to that.”
What are you plans for 2018?
Jakke: “Touring and playing live as much as possible.”
Thank you very much for this interview. Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to say?
Mikko: “We Finns are terrible at touting ourselves so if you appreciate our music please do share some word of mouth and let your friends, gig-bookers, clubs etc. know a band called Crimfall exists. And see you in the concerts, that is where the energy truly flows.”