Published: Jul 28, 2013 Filed under: Interviews
Teemu is the guitarist for Finnish Epic Metal group Wintersun.
Teemu takes out some time to chat with us the day after performing at the Tuska Open Air music festival in Helsinki, Finland, where Wintersun had performed along side other notable acts such as Amorphis, Bolt Thrower, and King Diamond.
Teemu shares his experiences from his early musical roots, how he joined Wintersun, Wintersuns approach to performing their intensive orchestrated music live, his guitar gear of choice, upcoming concert dates and much more.
Video Interview with Teemu Mantysaari
Interview with guitarist Teemu Mantysaari
Guitarhoo!: Hello and welcome to Guitarhoo! Today we're joined by Teemu Mantysaari guitarist for epic metal group Wintersun. Hi Teemu, how are you doing this evening?
Teemu Mantysaari: Hello, I'm doing well. I just came from the Tuska Festival. We had a show there yesterday and also going there today just to hang out.
G!: Who were some of the bands you played with and how did everything go?
TM: ou mean yesterday? Who we played with? We played around 4 o'clock already because it was our first show at the main stage. We played the Tuska Festival before, but we always played at the second biggest stage. This time it was the main stage and it was a lot of fun because it was such a big stage and still what a crowd already at 4 o'clock. After us it was Bolt Thrower and then there was King Diamond who's headlining yesterday. We were all checking King Diamond and it was a really cool show.
G!: Speaking of playing live, with Wintersuns music being so complex with multiple layers in the orchestration, how does the band perform this live, are the songs stripped down or are there pre recorded backing tracks involved? Whats the band approach live?
TM: Well, we try to reproduce the albums as close as possible. The orchestrations and synths are all backing tracks because we don't have a synth player and then there are some backing vocals supporting the live backing vocals that we do, me and the base player. And, all the lead vocals are live of course and all the guitars are actually live as well. We don't have anything pre-recorded guitar-wise, but we have kind of prepared a lot of different sounds for live using Axe-FX units and we've got like 30 pre-sets that we're using during the show. So everything is kind of done so that it would sound as close as the album sounds. For example, when we're playing rhythm guitar, both guitars are playing the same riff, it's like the sound is panned 100% on the left side, 100% on the right side. But then when the other one is playing lead, the lead is in the middle and then the rhythm guitar is on the other side. But, then the rhythm guitar is doubled with the delay to the other side, so it sounds kind of like double track albums.
G!: What guitar and gear do you use for live performances?
TM: Well, like I said, Axe-FX by Fractal Audio is our main amp, because that is such a diverse amp. It can produce a lot of different sounds and it's also light-weight so it's nicer to carry around than, you know, heavy, big heads and cabinets. Then guitar-wise we are Ibanez users. We have a few different models that we carry around and everybody's playing Ibanez - me and Jari, and Jukka the base player.
G!: Lets back it up to the beginning. When did you first get into music and pick up guitar?
TM: Well, I remember actually before I realized I got into music, I remember being a small child and always trying to sing along the tunes that I would hear on TV or radio. I guess it was from 12 when I started getting more into music and listening to music. Some of my friends were into heavy metal and that's how I got into it and also my best friend bought a guitar when I was 13, so I had to get one myself as well. Then we started practicing together and also a couple of other friends got in and started at the same time. So, we were always trading ideas. So, if someone learned something, then the other one would learn that as well. It was kind of like that, learning from books and trying to learn stuff by just listening to recordings by ear. When I was 14, 15, I started getting more into practicing and really trying to get better all the time. Around that time I also met one friend at school that we started making our own music together and formed a small band at school, and played at the school parties and this kind of stuff. When I was 15, 16, I realised this is really what I want to do and try to, you know, get really good at. I started taking guitar lessons and I got really more inspired. Then when I was turning 17, I decided that I needed to move to the capital area Helsinki, because there's a big music scene there, and where I'm from it's a small village of like 5000 people so there weren't that many people who were having the same goals in music that I was having. So I moved to Helsinki and then after a while I met a lot of nice friends that were also really good musicians. I got into Imperanon, then after a while I also got into Wintersun. Also around the same time I started giving guitar lessons and Wintersun and guitar lessons is pretty much what I've been doing since then.
G!: Who would you say were your biggest influences on guitar?
TM: Well, there's so many. I've tried to study a lot of the big names. You know, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, John Petrucci and these kinds of guys that everybody knows. But I'm also really into Shawn Lane, a not so well known name. His album “Powers of Ten” has been a really big influence and inspiring thing for me. Lately I've been checking a lot of stuff from Guthrie Govan, who I think is one of the most accomplished players and, kind of, he can play anything. So, that's very inspiring for me as well. Yea, I try not to limit myself to one genre so I also like a lot of fusion stuff and jazz, and acoustic players, and all kinds of styles. Like Tom Emmanuel for example, was one of my favourites on the acoustic guitar and, who else? Brett Garsed, Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme. There are so many names that I've been digging during the years.
G!: Wintersuns music is so lush, with elements of classical, folk, metal. Such a refreshing cinematic sound. When you first joined Wintersun, what was your impression of the music, and did you feel it was a big task to take on such massive arrangements?
TM: I joined the band in 2004, in December. I was already listening to the band before. Their first album came out in September 2004 and I got the album at the record store. I listened to it and I was really into the music. Then I wrote fan mail to Jari actually and said that I really like your album and if you're ever putting up a band, I would be interested to audition. And then after a while he thought that, yea, he's actually looking for a live band and then it went from there. There were a couple of auditions and then in the end I got selected to the band and I was really, really happy. It was a big change for me to get into a really professional band like Winterson, with players older than me and more experienced than me. Always I saw it as a really good opportunity to learn from these guys and it's been great playing with the band ever since. I'm really happy to be in the band.
G!: How would you describe the sound of Wintersun to someone who has never heard it?
TM: Well, we like to call it epic metal. To describe it more, it's a combination of many styles. It's got a lot of influences from movie sound tracks, a kind of really thick orchestral sound, but also from many genres in metal. There's thrash metal riffs and kind of a black metal influences. I've got basic heavy metal kind of stuff and it's a mixture of a lot of styles. There's also a folk influence and lately we've been bringing in the kind of Asian, Oriental sounds as well. So, it's kind of hard to describe in short, but just, if you give it a listen, like the new album, if you listen to that: "Soul Sons of Winter and Stars," that's kind of, I think, a good example of what our music is.
G!: Between the time you joined the band and the release of Wintersuns album "Time 1", there were quite a few technical dalays which spanned years in its release. In this time did you fill the gaps by playing in other bands or writing and recording new material?
TM: Well, kind of both. I've always written myself, some bits and basics for songs to release someday, I would put out an album someday, maybe. Also, I played in a cover band some Metallica songs and did a lot of teaching during that time. Also, when we started making the Time 1 album, still Imperanon was active, so I think this band ended in 2007. Yea, there's been a lot of other stuff also going on, but Winterson has always been the main thing. Like, lately I've been working in the studio for some other bands like Hevisaurus, the Finnish children's metal band. They're recording some guest solos and stuff. Also for Italian Elvenking and some other projects for friends and helping out. It's kind of fun. I like to work at the studio.
G!: Has the band ever been offered to lend its music top film? It sounds like a natural fit.
TM: No, actually. There hasn't been a discussion about that, but yea, I think you're right. It would fit into some movies very well.
G!: It looks like you'll be touring quite a bit for the rest of the year. What are somethings fans can look forward to at the shows?
TM: Well, we'll be presenting the whole Time 1 album every show, and then depending on the playing time that we have, we'll be playing as much as we can from the first album. There's going to be now two weeks off and then there's going to be a week in the UK. Then we're going to have one more festival in Germany and then we're going to have the Metal Days Festival in Slovenia. Then after that, we're heading off to North America. We're having one show in Mexico and then we have, I think, 25 shows in the United States and Canada.
G!: Is there any advice you'd like to give to aspiring musicians?
TM: Yea, I think when starting out, it should be more about having fun and, you know, just doing what you feel like doing and not to be pushed too much to practice and that kind of thing. If you're having fun playing, I think it's better than someone saying you have to practice now. When you're getting more into music, I think it's also important to kind of make up your mind about what you want to reach as a musician and make your goals according to that. If you want to be a professional musician you have to realize that it needs a lot of work as well. And yea, in general, I would say that having an open mind for all the styles and not being afraid to ask for help from others, maybe taking lessons. Yea, just kind of, at least for myself, I think it's worked well that I've tried to draw on influences from everyone. If I hear a good piece of music, for example, on TV or radio, or wherever playing, I kind of try to adapt something from that. Try it out on the guitar and figure it out myself. So, I think also, working out things by ear, with your own ears listening and practicing your ear, making it better. That's also important. Not to just, you know, I think what a lot of people are doing nowadays is just checking tabs from the internet and not actually working with their own ear. That's what I recommend doing and also using your own ear.
G!: Teemu, thanks for taking out your time for this. Have a rocking tour! And everyone head over to WinterSun.fi for more info on the band, their music, videos and concert dates close to you!
TM: Thank you very much!
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