Mon. Nov 30th, 2020

Interview with Eluveitie – “Death in general in Celtic thinking is basically something like a bus stop, something like a train station, it’s not the end, it’s just a stop and then the journey goes on.”

For almost two decades, the Celtic Folk Metal act ELUVEITIE have been conquering the hearts of their fans globally with their unique music, often inspired by traditional folk music. It's been a while since folk metal juggernauts have released a full-blown folk metal ELUVEITIE album, but the time finally has come for the band to release a brand new album "Ategnatos", out April 5th through Nuclear Blast Records. 

What other day could be more suiting to have an interview with Chrigel Glanzmann than the Spring Equinox. We discuss the new album "Ategnatos" in depth, all things ELUVEITIE and their upcoming tour. 

 

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Photo by Manuel Vargas Lepiz

 

Hi there! Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, especially this late in the evening. You are releasing “Ategnatos” on April 5th through Nuclear Blast. How are you feeling about the release?

Thank you! We are happy to release the album. To be honest, we can’t wait to release it to the world. We’re really looking forward!

Last album, “Evocation II”, was an acoustic release. It’s been a while since we have heard the full-blown folk metal Eluveitie. What can fans expect when they listen to the album?

Obviously, I get this question a lot, but it’s always kind of hard to describe your own albums. (laughs) I think intense would probably be the best way to describe it. I mean, to us when you’re releasing a new album, it’s always kind of a reflection of where you are at the moment, of who you are and all that. So, it’s kind of a personal thing. I would say that “Ategnatos” turned out to be an intense album, with rich sonic imagery.

It’s been 17 years since you released your debut EP Ven, since then members have come and gone, and production-wise music industry has also completely changed. How do you see the sound of Eluveitie has evolved over all these years?

Not that much to be honest, I think. You know, like you said it’s true that features have changed, obviously, but in the end recording an album is still recording an album, and playing music is still playing music. You know, that’s pretty much how it has always been, and also what in our opinion makes it magic to us. Today in this age of super clean editing and all that kind of stuff, and the so-called studio magic, hasn’t had that much of an impact on us, because n the end it’s still the same as it was in the seventies before all those technological changes, if you wrote a shitty song back then, you can edit it into a good song, and if the band plays bad, you cannot make it kicking ass in the studio and vice versa. If a band plays well and writes good songs, then it doesn't matter if it's poorly recorded or something, the songs are still good songs and we enjoy listening to them. In that sense, I don't even think that it changed so much.  Actually, at the studio where we recorded - a fully vintage studio actually - with all the original vintage equipment and it's all analog and all that kind of stuff, so we get to work really old-school, I would say. What definitely has changed or evolved is probably ourselves. I mean we, you know… The long you play, the better you play. I think you just don't play as you did 15 years ago. and I mean there’s still a lot to learn, but we just grew better as musicians. And obviously more experienced, so that has changed, I would say. Also, if it comes to songwriting, as I said before, each album is kind of a reflection of where we are at the moment. In the end, especially for the new album, you can probably take quite a few songs off there and put it on “Slania” and one wouldn't think it's a huge difference, and vice versa actually. You could exchange the songs and they would still work pretty well together.

What definitely has changed or evolved is probably ourselves. I mean we, you know… The long you play, the better you play. I think you just don't play as you did 15 years ago. and I mean there’s still a lot to learn, but we just grew better as musicians.

The concept is evolving around renewal and rebirth, based on archaic archetypes? Can you elaborate?

Simply put, you can actually just say that it’s an album on Celtic mythology. But in the end, it takes it so much further than that. What the album basically does is to contemplate archetypal images or parables and allegories of ancient Celtic mythology from the viewpoint of our modern daily lives. What we did while creating this album was not just dealing with these topics to get the lyrics, but we contemplated these ancient parables as individuals for ourselves, for our lives. This became a rather intense experience I would say and yeah, that chaos ended up in the album that “Ategnatos” turned out to be. All the ancient images and parables we contemplated, they all circle around the God of Rebirth one way or another. Obviously, when speaking of rebirth it’s not meant in a reincarnation kind of way, but more like allegorically and metaphorically, and depicting experiences and transformations you undergo during your life, so these ancient stories that have been written down, some of them have been written down more than two and a half thousands years ago, but in all of them you can find this core topic of change. That’s basically what the album is about and since this became a very intense thing to do actually for us as individuals, the whole album created, we took it much further than we actually ever expected it would, in that sense it became a pretty deep album and by far our most personal album as well, and in some parts even a socio-critical one actually.

This process of being reborn, going through changes, life and death. It’s very clear in the album as well. The album starts and ends in a loop. Is this something that happened in the spur of the moment, or was it more of a thought-out decision?

I would say it’s something in between, of course we decided to do so, but you know, it wasn’t planned like this from the start from scratch, but it kind of evolved into that actually during creating the album.

On both your cover art and your music videos is a raven featured in the art. In general your cover art have usually been strongly connected to Celtic symbols. There are a lot of different cultural depictions of the raven. For example, the raven connects the material world with the world of spirits, it’s the mediator between life and death. In some Germanic cultures they represent damned souls, and even in Celtic lore there are many different interpretations. Do you connect the symbol of the raven with life and death and the inevitability of dying with the concept of “Ategnatos”?

It’s correct what you said, even in Celtic mythology there are several different meanings to the raven. In one of them, and it’s actually one of the many mythological concepts about Death and dying and Life, and so on... In general, the raven appears as a harbinger or an ambassador or something like that, there’s this one image in Celtic mythology for instance when Death - and Death in general in Celtic thinking is basically something like a bus stop, something like a train station, it’s not the end, it’s just a stop and then the journey goes on, but usually dying and Death in that mythological concept and there are several different ones in Celtic mythology - but in that one, death and dying is depicted as a way to cross the sea. There, it’s the raven who guides the soul, those who died across the sea. You go to the shore and then the raven waits for you there and picks up your soul, you know, guides you across the sea on the barge. That’s the part in the album where the raven comes in.  

Death in general in Celtic thinking is basically something like a bus stop, something like a train station, it’s not the end, it’s just a stop and then the journey goes on.

It’s amazing how much symbolism there is behind your albums. Now if we talk a bit more about the writing process... I’m assuming that because of the new members, and the previous album being an acoustic album, a lot has changed about the writing process of “Ategnatos”. How did the writing process go this time around?

On the one hand it was exactly how it always was, in the sense that I first created kind of a blueprint. The first thing I need to do when creating an album is to get a vision of the full album. I usually never start randomly writing songs or something like that, I always need to have the picture of the concrete finished album in mind before actually starting to work on it, then once this is done, there is not much too much thinking, but I would say the main driving force is intuition, and emotion. That’s exactly how it always has been. But it also has been a little different, this is an evolvement that already started a couple of years ago, with the current lineup we have, you know, we as a band just kind of developed and there’s just a very creative atmosphere in the band and already when we were creating the previous album, the acoustic one, the recording process and the writing process, it just started to change and a lot of things got left open to just opinions and creativity. We have been working together as a band, as a group of people more than ever before and this development went on and got stronger this time. That would be the part where it was indeed different, I mean, that’s basically it, we just worked together as a band more than ever on this album.

Looking at the entire package, lyrics, symbols, art work, is it safe to say that the artistic aspect is also really important to Eluveitie?

Yeah very much. Basically due to the fact that I look at an album as kind of a piece of art, but as a whole entity including the artwork, including the lyrics, including music, including the audio, the track list, including the whole cycle around the album with how the album is presented on stage, including everything else around the album, appearances in the internet and so on. To us, it just kind of seems important that all these things go together and in that sense it’s very important to us. It’s a bit the same with music and lyrics in a smaller bit, we never just randomly just write songs and at some point add some lyrics to it, or something like that, but it’s always very important that our songs also express musically what the lyrics transport. In that sense, every time we write a song, we already know what the song is about and what atmosphere it’s supposed to create and so on, even though particular lines of the lyrics are not finished or the wording is not finished, we still know what the song is supposed to express and that just goes hand in hand. In our opinion, that’s just important to us.

We never just randomly just write songs and at some point add some lyrics to it, or something like that, but it’s always very important that our songs also express musically what the lyrics transport.

All your albums so far have been historically correct, and there has been going a lot of researching beyond it. How do you go about researching these things, do you collaborate with historians? I’m asking especially because I have noticed that Gaulish isn’t a language you learn in a school and then will be able to speak, it’s very much based on research and all that.

This is also something that’s super important to us. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, maybe we’re just a bunch of geeks and nerds, but for us it feels important. I also kind of think it’s a manner of respect, if you deal with history, you kind of owe it to history itself and you owe it to the people who lived back then and wrote history to deal with it accurately. From day one I have asked help from scientists and historians, but you know it’s like this after all these years, you kind of get to know each other and you become friends and then one scientist knows another one who could help with a particular question and so on, I mean, today seventeen years later we are basically something like a scientific network of scientists and historians and celtologists from different universities from all over Europe actually, so it’s this scientific machinery that’s going on once we are back with a new album, which is pretty cool I think.

So they’re also kinda like a part of the band then nowadays.

Yeah (laughs)! In a way actually they are, yes.

What I really like about your albums is that there are often these little easter eggs of traditional folk songs from Ireland, Brittany, etc. Like if you take for example "Inis Mona" or "Lvgvs" and many others. Are there any of these traditional folk motives on “Ategnatos”?

A lot, I don’t think Eluveitie would be possible without this, because when I formed the band, I never had the idea of creating a folk metal band or so, back then there wasn’t even a folk metal scene or something like that, it’s basically just the realization of the dream and a long dream I had to bring both kinds of music that I personally could play and loved, to bring them together in one project, so in that sense the basic idea of Eluveitie musically is to have a band, to be a band that is 100% metal on the one hand, and on the other hand 100% traditional Celtic folk music, and there in traditional folk music, it doesn’t even matter if it’s Celtic traditional or Norse or whatever folk music, you know, the tradition of these songs is that some of them have been passed on from generation to generation for hundreds of years, and playing these traditional tunes is basically the soul of traditional Celtic folk music, you can’t play Celtic folk music, without playing these old tunes. Of course, you can write new ones, but still if you would not play the old ones, it would kind of like taking the soul out of this music. So in that sense it’s basically not possible to play traditional Celtic folk music without the old tunes and all that, it’s not exactly possible to have Eluveitie without playing these ancient tunes. And of course, there’s a lot of them on “Ategnatos”.

You can’t play Celtic folk music, without playing these old tunes. Of course, you can write new ones, but still if you would not play the old ones, it would kind of like taking the soul out of this music.

Time for a bit of a lighter question. If you were able to go back in any time period of your preference. Would you find yourself in the midst of the stories you have been singing about?

I have no idea. What I actually just wanted to say is that I’m kind of comfortable in the time that I live, but actually that’s not entirely true (laughs), I mean there are a few things I am concerned about, but in the end, I wouldn’t change anything, I’m born today and I guess it’s for a reason and I wouldn’t be myself I guess if I would have been born in a different time, but yeah maybe if it wasn’t permanent but maybe just for a holiday or something. (laughs) I would probably go back 2000 years ago, just kind of out of curiosity and to get to know some things we haven’t found out about it yet, so yeah like that.

Alright. One last question to wrap things up. What are the plans for after your release?

Mainly, there is touring, but it’s a little bit different this time. Normally you release an album and then you go on tour in support of the album. This time, we made it a little bit different, we actually already started the “Ategnatos” world tour before the album is out even. So, the first part of the tour is already over, we just came back home, I think it was two weeks ago, from Central and South America and now we’re having a break until the release of the album to play two release shows back at home and then the tour goes the next part will be Australia and New Zealand, then Asia and then China and Taiwan and all that. That will keep us busy over there until the summer festival season starts when we come back to Europe to play a lot of festivals. Right after that the tour goes on in North America, Canada and then we have a break for two weeks again and then the tour continues extensively in Europe, until the end of the year basically, so besides touring there won’t be that much time for other things, but we do have some quite exciting plans actually, but it’s too early to say something about it.

Thank you so much for your time! Do you have any last thoughts for those who are reading this interview?

Well, to me as always, thank you! First of all thank you for your time for the interview of course, and yeah most of all to all the fans in Finland, or anybody reading the interview, thank you for your interest in Eluveitie and we can’t wait to finally come back to your wonderful country. I think next stop in Finland will be during the European tour during October to December. We’re really looking forward and we can’t wait.

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