Because of the great experience I made when listening to TURISAS' album "Battle Metal", it was absolutely clear I had to take the chance and send out a few questions. Band founder Warlord Nygård and allround guitar player Jussi Wickström were so kind to answer them and enlighten me... |
First of all, let me express my appreciation of "Battle Metal". I didn't enjoy listening to any album that much for quite a while. Absolutely awesome!
Could you please introduce your band to our readers? Who are you, where do you know each other from, how did things start with the band etc.?
Jussi: Turisas was founded by me (guitar) and Nygård (vocals) in 1997. Shortly after Antti Ventola (keyboards), Tude Lehtonen (drums) and Ari Kärkkäinen (guitar) joined the band. Me and Antti played in same rock/punk/something band-project at the time and we shared a rehearsal room with Ari’s and Tude’s band project. In 1998 we did our first demo-recording called “Taiston Tie - The Battle Path” but it was never released. A Few years later Ari decided to leave the band and was shortly replaced by Georg Laakso (guitar). Tino Ahola (bass) joined the band and the first "real" demo "The Heart of Turisas" was recorded in year 2000. The release of the demo was delayed and and finally released in 2001. We got realy good feedback from many labels and the negations with Century Media started. After long negotiations Turisas was signed by Century Media in 2003. In the same year the recordings of Battle Metal took place in Sound Suite Studios in France with the producer Terje Refsnes.And now, after 7 years of blood, sweat and tears, the debut album has been out for a couple of months and the response has been great!
Is it possible to translate TURISAS? What does it mean?
Warlord Nygard: Turisas is a war god worshipped especially in the Häme –region in Finland before christianity. The problem with Finnish mythology is that there are much less sources of written knowledge about it compared with other cultures, which results in dissenting information and uncertainty about facts. The name itself has several writing appearances depending on the source (Tursas, Turisas, Turilas and Turri) all meaning pretty much the same. The etymology of the word is somewhat complex: Tursas refers to mythological giants, Iku-Turso is somekind of a sea-monster according to folk poetry, while Meri-Tursas again appears in old spells as a breeder of disease. The name Turisas stands also pretty near to the Scandinavian, and better known, fellow-colleagues Týr and Thor. Also the þurs-giants in Edda poetry are remarkably close in pronounciation to Turisas.
And now please describe the music of TURISAS and who or what you think does have the biggest influence on the music?
Jussi: It is hard to describe the music of Turisas. “Pagan Battle Metal” would be pretty close. It’s versatile, lots of massive stuff, horns and choirs, but also folk influences with violins and accordions. It is absolutely metal music. Vocals are also versatile, there is growling and clean vocals as well. I have heard that we’re being compared to Bal-Sagoth and Finntroll. I think we are in the same genre with them but I don’t think we sound like them. There is of course some similarities. Our influences are in different things, some movie soundtrack music and completely different style of music. This way we get fresh elements into our music.
Please give us a short idea of what the band thinks about "Battle Metal". Why was that title chosen? What was the creative process like when writing and recording the songs?
Warlord Nygard: I can say on behalf of the whole band that we’re extremely pleased with the album. It was a huge amount of work, but it eventually paid off and now the reactions from press and fans has been 95% positive.
The title for the album was chosen mostly because the title track, Battle Metal, which is a real Turisas-hymn in it’s purest form. The title is simple and gives in my opinion a good idea of what the whole album is about.
The song-writing process for Battle Metal has been a long time period. The songs on the album are written during a six-year period, between 1998 and 2004. Still I think we managed to make a very tight and complete album and all the songs are good and have earned their place on the disc. Most of the songs have been written by me, but also Antti and Jussi have contributed to a couple songs. The recordings took place at both Steeltrack studio in Finland and Soundsuite studio in France with Terje Refsnes who produced the album together with me. As said earlier, it was a long and stressful period, but everyone is really happy with the result.
Now, after the official release, is there anything you'd like to have done different about the album?
Jussi: Of course there is always things that could have been done in a different way but I’m really pleased with the album. Some songs on the album are 5 years old so we have had time to modify and arrange them in a different way many times. The time in the studio was limited and the songs developed significantly there also. I’m glad that the album came out the way it is now.
Warlord Nygard: Obviously there are things that we’d like to have done differently looking at them now afterwards. For example, I think guitars have maybe a bit too small role on the album, but then again, this is the way this album is and the next one will surely improve on those things we’re unsatisfied with on this one. Still, I think we did the best we could, so at the end of the day we’re simply happy with the result.
Is it possible to transfer the epical and orchestral atmosphere of the songs on stage? Do you work with a real choir or orchestra or is there usually only the regular line-up on stage and all the other tunes are coming from a tape?
Warlord Nygard: I’d love to work with real orchestras, choirs etc. but that is obviously out of the question at this stage. We’re forced to have some amount of additional things on backing tape, but we try to perform as much live as possible. We have extra people to sing in choir parts in addition to us of course, and the violin and accordion are also a part of the band live.
According to rumors most people in Finnland seem to be suffering from depression and drinking lots of alcohol. Would you say these rumors are true for TURISAS?
Jussi: Yeah, I have heard that kind of rumors my self too, hehheh. I don’t think that kind of rumors have anything to do with Turisas. When we drink, we drink to celebrity something or just for having fun. Some of us just drink more often than others, hehh.
Warlord Nygard: Depression is one thing, alcohol another, but the mix of is a bad combination. Turisas is a bunch of happy people, so we drink to party.
Is it an advantage to live in Finnland if you want to write music like TURISAS does?
Warlord Nygard: I doubt it. Of course we have the folk-music in our blood, but otherwise I think anyone could do the same irrespective of whether you live in Finland or Spain. On the other had I do think that it would be extremely weird if a band from let’s say Afganistan would play similar music as us. This style is very European.
How come metal bands enjoy Finnish folk music "Humpa"? Here in Germany, metal and folk or traditional music are pretty much like fire and water and no one would seriously consider making an album by mixing these two up.
Warlord Nygard: First of all, “humppa” is not a word for all Finnish folk/traditional music. It is simply one form of it, and maybe more a kind of a party-form. I think metalheads here are just crazy enough to enjoy it. I still think that when it comes to humppa it’s more of a not so serious thing.
You had to wait quite some time (since 1997 if I'm correct) to release your debut album. Are you now eager to release the second one, maybe even working on new stuff already or will we have to wait another seven years?
Jussi: We are eager to start making the new album. The band is very motivated and waiting to hit the stages and start the writing process for the new album.
Now we don’t have to think who will release it or other that sort of things anymore. We can put our full effort in playing live and writing new songs. So I think we’ll manage to release the album bit faster than seven more years, hheheheh.
Your webpage announces only one live gig for 2004 which already took place on the 17th of July. How was that gig for you with such a great album in your baggage?
Jussi: It was our first gig in two and a half years and after finishing the album so we were really excited to play there. We had full line up; accordion, violin, few dancing girls and backing vocalists who also played additional percussions. It was nice to play the album songs to audience and we got really good response. I’m waiting to do more gigs in near future now when album is released.
Warlord Nygard: A Turisas- show is extremely energetic and the crowd usually is wild as hell. It was cool to play to a big crowd who were 100 percent alive and gave everything even if they didn’t know the songs, because the album was released a week after the gig. We also played live in Riga last weekend on a folk /pagan festival with over 3000 people, who vere simply crazy. I love a wild audience – it makes us give everything we have as well.
Are there any plans for further tours, maybe even coming to Germany some time?
Jussi: There has been some plans about touring but nothing sure at this stage. People who are interested should just go and talk to the local promoters and such because they are the ones that can actually make something happen.
But be prepared, the new wave of Pagan Battle Metal is going to wipe over the Europe…sooner or later.