MOONSORROW, TURISAS, FINNTROLL, ENSIFERUM, KORPIKLAANI… Finland may be the land of folk and Viking metal, but there is one band from outside the Nordics that stands out among these local legends! Unfortunately, we’ve had to wait several years to get a chance to see them play and talk to them. Luck was on our side on December 3rd, 2015, when the Origins Tour brought ELUVEITIE back to their adoring Finnish fans, and we borrowed a few minutes from their mastermind, Christian “Chrigel” Glanzmann, to talk about music!
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview and welcome back to Finland!
It’s been a fair while since you’ve done a club gig in Finland…
It has. At least 2 years, or something like that.
First of all then, what brought you back on this occasion?
Finland! We’ve been touring all over the place but it’s been way too long since we’ve been on an actual Scandinavian tour. When we were planning the Origins touring cycle, we said, “There needs to be a proper Scandinavian part in it,” because we really wanted to do that.
It’s been so long since “Origins” now. I didn’t realize this was actually still part of the Origins Tour.
Yes, it’s the last part of it.
Wow, it’s been a long time.
Almost 1½ years.
Has the tour been running smoothly, or have there been any great Spinal Tap moments?
Not so much, actually. Or I’ve forgotten about it. Basically it’s been going really well. Of course everybody’s sick all the time and this and that happens, but that’s just normal tour business.
Let’s talk about music then. How did you get inspired to mix history and folklore into music?
I don’t know, I just wanted to do it. You could say the same thing about anything, of course, but to me it was obvious to do that because musically I wanted to mix death metal and traditional Celtic music. So it was obvious to me to make it a conceptual and lyrical thing.
You have quite a few lyrics written in Gaulish; how did you learn to speak it?
I don’t speak it and I didn’t learn it. You can’t.
Because it’s a dead language?
It’s a dead language. You can scientifically deal with it and there are some people who more or less can speak it but it’s not like going to a language course and speaking it fluently.
When you have lyrics in Gaulish then, how do you write them?
It’s a lot of scientific work. I work together with a couple of different scientists, usually from three universities; one in Vienna, one in Cambridge, and one in Zurich, and we just work on lyrics and pronunciation and everything.
That’s really fascinating. Is it particularly hard to come up with lyrics or themes for the music?
I don’t think so. The Celtic culture is a very, very rich culture – I don’t mean that financially – but it’s just a really colorful culture. Also the things they did, especially the story of the Gaulish wars… well not only especially that. They did so many impressive things. All those things, I believe, are worth singing songs about. It’s our own culture, our ancestors. It means a lot to me personally.
I’ve recognized a few of the tunes in your songs, such as “Tri Mardolod” in “Inis Mona,” which is, to my knowledge, an old Celtic French song. Is there any further background to it?
Not really. It was originally a children’s song. A kind of lullaby or something. But there’s no deeper meaning or connection to why exactly this tune for this song.
I’ve also noticed, as a violinist from Canada, in “Celtos” and “Dance of Victory” for example, some of the tunes. Are there a lot of these old folk songs mixed into the music that the average fan might not realize?
Are you sure? [laughter] You’re talking about this one, I guess. [plays the tune from “Dance of Victory” on a whistle]
That’s the one.
That’s actually a traditional Irish tune. In “Dance of Victory” I changed the second part of it and the second part is actually from a traditional Canadian tune, “Catharsis.” I’m asking because you might know the Canadian tune. But it’s actually not that tune. I just changed the second part of [the Irish tune] to be a little bit like “Catharsis,” but it’s actually not the same tune. I think it sounded better like that than the traditional way.
There was another in “Celtos” as well, but I couldn’t pinpoint what that song was.
There are a couple of traditional tunes in “Celtos,” but mostly from Brittany actually.
You have a full eight-member band on tour all the time. Is it difficult at all to play club gigs with eight people on a small stage? Is it hard to manage?
Depends. [laughs] Usually not. Usually we play decent clubs with one or two thousand capacities with nice stages. It really depends where. We just recently played in South Africa, for instance, and obviously the clubs weren’t that big there. It can get cuddly on stage. It’s actually the same for Scandinavian. As I said [earlier], we’ve hardly ever really toured it and Scandinavia has never been much of a market for us. On this tour we just said, “Let’s change that!” We want to get to Scandinavia, so let’s start now and tour it with “Origins” and with all the next albums. So we’re actually still getting into Scandinavia, so most of the clubs we play here are actually pretty small, like the one tonight. Nevertheless, eight people fit on the stage tonight, so it’s not uncomfortably cuddly on stage.
Are there any big advantages or disadvantages to having that many people on the road all the time?
I think you would get eight different answers if you would ask anyone else. Personally, I just don’t care. To me it doesn’t make a difference, because if you’re a touring band like this, working together, functioning together on a professional level, getting along with each other and basically spending your lives together… if you’re on tour, which means in a tour bus or on a plane for 7-8-9 months a year or something like that, you spend most of the time of your life together, so to do all that properly is something you’ll need to learn anyway as a band. It doesn’t matter if you’re three people or twenty people, so in that sense it doesn’t make much of a difference to me.
Now with regard to your line-up, you’ve recently lost Nicole Ansperger on violin. How did you find your new violinist, Shir-Ran Yinon?
We didn’t, actually. Nicole basically was forced to drop out for personal/family reasons. If we are lucky, just temporarily. Shir-Ran, we just hired as a session musician until things are cleared with Nicole, so Nicole might be back.
You’ve had a fair number of band members come and go over the years and since you have such unusual instruments in the band, is it hard to find replacements at times for such a niche sound?
Yeah. Most of the biggest lineup changes we had were in the first couple of years, because in the beginning it was basically just a studio project. When it became a band, the time that needed to be invested in the band just insanely grew year-by-year because we had more shows and more of everything every year. Let’s say the first 3 years were when we had most of the lineup changes because people were getting like, “This is getting to be too much for me.” They couldn’t invest that much time. Or, “I don’t want to give up my job.” Stuff like that.
Back in the day, for instance, when it was 2004 I believe, we had the biggest change ever. I needed to search for a new drummer and to search for a new hurdy-gurdy player who is female and who can also sing very well. It took me half a year to find a new drummer, which is Merlin now, and it took me 3 days to find Anna. So that’s how hard it is.
Seems like it’s largely about luck then.
Yeah, and also in Switzerland the folk music scene is actually quite big and quite good.
At this point it’s been just about three albums since “Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion“ came out. Is “Evocation II” still in the works or has it been scrapped?
I’m working on it right now. We plan to go to the studio next summer and record “Evocation II.”
You guys are playing a show with TURISAS in Tampere quite soon. We were speaking with their singer a few weeks back when they played in Helsinki, about the concept of these Viking and folk metal bands and he was saying that he feels a bit like a lot of the core concepts of the historical lyrics get overlooked by critics because of the genre label and the associations with swords and drinking and things like that. Do you ever feel like you have that problem as well, that people maybe don’t get quite how deep your songs are?
Yes and no. Yes, it definitely is like that for many bands in this genre. For at least half of the scene it’s basically about having the party of your life and getting completely fucking shitfaced and fucking… meat or something like that. That’s just the way it is. Honestly, I don’t think about that too much. I just don’t care. The lyrics that I’m writing, they actually are pretty complex and there’s a lot of meaning in it and the lyrics on “Origins” took me like 1½ years to write. It was a shitload of scientific work. I even released, in addition to the CD, a little book that explains everything scientifically in the lyrics, but basically I do that because I like to do that. I love to do that. I do it for myself because it’s a fascinating topic and I love to look scientifically at the history and all that. If people think that’s interesting and read the lyrics and Google a bit and all that, then I’m happy, I think it’s cool, but if not, that’s totally fine too. I don’t give too much of a shit, actually.
For you personally, do you have any particular album or song that holds a really personal meaning for you?
I have a lot of those. In general, one of my all-time favorite songs that means very much to me, just because of its awesomeness and just because I’ve been listening to that song in all of the times of my life since I was, I don’t know, 16, was “Chaos Breed” by ENTOMBED. I love that tune.
Last question then: You’re finishing up this tour and then you’ve got some time off and then you’ll work on the next album in the summer. Is there anything else we can expect from you guys in the future? Anything special or different?
Yeah, we just recently premiered, for us, a new show concert we call “An Evening with Eluveitie” and it’s a little bit what we’ll be doing tonight, but we worked on a concept and elaborated a bit and made it actually the biggest show we ever made, with a really elaborate and complex production. We’re bringing that on stages next year. We’ll do the album and we’re going to spend as much time as possible on the album, so we’ll play very selected shows and we won’t be touring really. We’ll have one short Asia/Australian tour, but that’s just 3 weeks or something like that. All the rest of the tour we’ll just play single shows. Personally, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really curious how it’ll turn out.
Any chance it might come out on DVD?
That’s the plan, but there’s really nothing confirmed yet. We have been thinking about releasing a DVD for a long time, but we just never really had the chance or the time. We’re still thinking about it probably for 2017 or something like that, maybe. We’ve just always said that if we’re going to release a DVD, we’re not just releasing a live DVD because we think that’s a bit weird. In the age of YouTube, why the fuck would you buy something like that? We just want to make something really special and really extended with shitload of different live footage of club shows and festival shows on different continents and with different cultures and tour reports from different continents and shitloads of behind-the-scenes stuff and probably things on the instruments and something big. We’re just gathering ideas and footage for that and those will for sure be a part of it.
Well, that’s all of my questions then, so thank you again for taking the time to speak with me and have a great show!
Interview by Bear Wiseman
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