Ensiferum’s Sami Hinkka Plays His Favorite Riffs on Six-String Bass
Ensiferum may have a certain sound, but as you'll see in our latest Gear Factor, the roots of bassist Sami Hinkka's playing are a little bit more varied that what you may think.
Hinkka was schooled early in metal, coming from a musical family. His father was a drummer and his older brothers made sure to indoctrinate him with plenty of metal at a young age.
"I have two big brothers who made sure I grew up listening to heavy metal – bands like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Dio, King Diamond, Bon Jovi, WASP and so on. My other big brother, he got a guitar at some point and it was so cool to watch him play real songs," says Hinkka, who recalls asking Santa for a guitar at a young age and getting a small plastic one.
The bassist says KISS was his first love, trying to play tracks like "Lick It Up" and "Heaven's on Fire," years before he understood what the lyrics were about.
As for his first riff, he recalls, “When I was 11, I got my first bass and my big brother taught me stuff and the very first riff that I learned to play was ‘Iron Man’ from Black Sabbath. Legendary.”
Even though he plays bass, Hinkka credits his brother, a guitarist, for teaching him how to utilize a four-finger technique on his fretting hand. He also had an appetite for learning his instrument by watching others. “One very defining thing as a bass player for me was the gig, Live After Death, from Iron Maiden. Every day after school I’d get home and play this gig every day just to learn the Steve Harris galloping [parts] and to get some stamina to my right hand, because originally I played with a pick." Hinkka plays a little bit of Maiden's "The Trooper" for the viewing audience.
Other inspirations in the bass world include Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler and Metallica's Cliff Burton. "It’s incredible as it’s almost like he’s soloing all of the time. It’s almost like playing melodies at the same time. Good job sir," marvels Hinkka about Butler. Meanwhile, he leaned on Burton for the melodic style, demonstrating a bit of "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Another Metallica bassist, Jason Newsted, helped him develop a more tight metal bass style of playing.
But Hinkka's influence goes beyond the hard and heavy style of playing, venturing into funk. He singles out The Brothers Johnson's Louis Johnson, recalling, "I fell from my chair when suddenly I started hearing [him] ... He played incredible slap bass, great soloing and I thought, 'I can’t do that kind of stuff.' Check his stuff out. He’s fantastic. He just bangs the bass so hard it looks like he’s going to break it."
As for his own band, Hinkka says his parts are often to serve the song while the guitars get more of the attention. However, he does display a bit of "Victory Song," one of the first tracks he worked on after joining the group. He also breaks out some of "Deathbringer From the Sky" and finishes this edition of Gear Factor playing a melody line from the forthcoming song "Andromeda" from their upcoming Thalassic album.
See more of Sami Hinkka's playing in this edition of Gear Factor in the video below. And look for the Thalassic album arriving July 10. Pre-orders can be found here.
Ensiferum's Sami Hinkka Plays His Favorite Riffs on Six-String Bass
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