Hey! Please introduce the band to the hungarian metal fans!
Turisas was founded by myself and Jussi Wickström in 1997. We signed to Century Media in 2003 and gave out our debut album “Battle Metal” in 2004. Three years later in 2007 we gave out our second album called “The Varangian Way”.
Your tour with Iced Earth and Annihilator has finished in november, what experiences did you get on this trip? If you got any stories never to be forgotten, please share with us.
It was a good tour and we were playing to audiences slightly older than our own. Both Iced Earth and Annihilator have been around for quite some time, and it was nice to see that especially someone like Jeff Waters from Annihilator was such a down-to-earth nice guy. We recently also did a five-week European tour, which unfortunately didn’t include Hungary. This was our first full European headliner tour and it was nice to see, that so many people showed up and that we can now tour on our own as well. I hope that we will come to hungary still during 2008, as I know that there’s a lot of fans there waiting for us.
Music of Iced Earth and Annihilator differs a lot to your music, what do you think, how fans of the mentioned bands liked Turisas on these gigs?
I think it went down very well. As I mentioned, the crowd was a bit older than we pull ourselves, but they still seemed into it and even if we only got to play 30 minutes, we still had very energetic reactions.
Bands 2nd full length called The Varangian Way hit the stores in Juny, acclaimed by the international press. How would you describe this release, if you had to highlight a song or songs on the album, which would you choose?
The Varangian Way is definetly a more mature and compact release compared to our debut Battle Metal. It’s a concept album, that tells a story of a group of Northmen who set out the Eastern-European trade route down to Kiev, and finally reaching Constantinople. As much as it is about the physical journey, it’s also very personal and about the inner journey the protagonist in the story is going through. Musically, it ranges from epic orchestral passages to, small and acoustic moods and headbanging guitar riffing. I can’t really pick a favourite song on the album, as it’s all written more or less as one piece and in this case, the entity is more than the sum of its parts.
Music of the band is quite varied, a lot of instruments and musical elements meet in the songs, how do you compose songs, do you write the lyrics at first and then the music, or reverse order?
Composing The Varangian Way was a very different process than Battle Metal. Whereas the debut was more or less a collection of songs we’d done during the 6 years of existence before the debut, the table was cleared after that and sitting down to compose something as a whole from scratch was very exciting. In this case I first worked on the concept story for over 1-2 years before even composing as much as a single note. When the story was somewhat plotted out, and I knew which parts of it would be a song and what the respective songs would be about, it was a completely different way sitting down and starting composing to these ideas. It was quite like making a soundtrack to a movie, as I often see my ideas and visions as small videoclips in my head. I think this way of working definetly adds a lot of depth to the music itself, as it is not only a bunch of meaningless riffs put together with a couple of lyrical lines, but the music is there to support the story so you can actually hear the story itself and the drama in the music. Funny enough, lyrics was the final project, and I wrote pretty much all of them in the studio within 2-3 weeks. I always slave the words to the rythm, so I need to have the song and vocal rythms and ideas clear before writing the text. Even if the time of actually typing down the lyrics was really short, I had still worked on the whole in my head for a good 2-3 years.
You recorded the songs in Sound Supreme Studio, how much time did it take to record this diverse album? Was there anything maybe which made your work set back?
The recording process was a long and filled with stress. I had already started preproduction in my home studio 6 months earlier, and we entered Sound Supreme in the beginning of December 2006. It took us 3 months before all the parts for the album were recorded and we could move down to Helsinki and Finnvox Studio to mix it. We were short of time all the time and during the last weeks of mixing at Finnvox, there were still small parts here and there missing, so I ended up sitting with the mix and after that trying to program or record everything during the night. I think I slept 10 hours in the last week and by the end I was so tired I could not really hear anything anymore. I knew I could trust Teropekka (Virtanen) who mixed the album, and knew that we had set it quite ok by then already, so I didn’t want to give any input anymore during the last day not to spoil anything by accident.
What do you think, which the things are, made the band stepping further compared to the album Battle Metal released in 2004?
I just think it doesn’t make any sense to release an album if you haven’t really got anything to say musically on contentwise. There’s too much musical small talk about the weather in the world anyway. Too many bands repeating what they’ve already done in the past. I think it was essential for “The Varangian Way” turning out the way it is, that we had those three years inbetween albums – something that people sometimes regard as a particularly long time. I think we could have done a “Battle Metal 2” in six months after the release, but it would have been pointless.
There are a lot of guest musicians cooperating on the album, would you introduce them, do they accompany the band to concerts or how do you reproduce these instruments in live?
Yes. On the album we have both a full classical choir (appearing on the last two tracks) and the more “rough” male choir which consists of ourselves plus a number of friends. In addition to those there are some minor guest appearances like vocals, some additional guitars, double bass (contrabass) and so on. Of course it would be nice to include everything also live, but as you might imagine, in a normal touring environment it would be senseless and financially impossible. I also think it’s important, that we as a band in a live situation are not there to do the album 1:1, but have also rearranged a lot of stuff to maybe potray the songs in a slightly different light. The accordion and violin have a more prominent role live, which I think is a good thing.
On your recent single you covered the song made originnaly by the disco band Boney M, called Rasputin. Why did you choose especially this one, the music video recorded for this song is not an easy stuff either, who wrote the script?
The Rasputin coversong is sometimes taken quite a bit too serious. Originally I got the idea of covering the track on a ferry trip to Sweden in 2001, where there was this disco coverband playing all sorts of stuff from Bee Gees to Abba and obviously Boney M. It wasn’t until around 2005-2006 we started playing it live and I must say it became quickly a sort of a live-hit, and we were getting a lot of fans asking for a recorded version on it. So, when recording the album we decided to nail it down at the same time. On the video, we wanted to capture the sort of 70’s kitch I at least personally associate with the song. Of course it’s far from any other of our stuff, but I think it’s also a bit of a curse, that bands are expected to stick to a very narrow path and formula and shouldn’t be allowed to break out of it every once in a while, because it makes it difficult for the common fan to know what to think about the band. To us this track is just good fun and shows that we just as we can make highly thought-through historical concept albums, we can still have a good time and laugh at ourselves. The biggest joke is bands that think that the stuff they do is the biggest art in the world. Even if it would be, thinking that way can be somewhat dangerous…
You are signed to the label Century Media since 2004, how would you describe your relationship, are you satisfied with their work?
I think we have a good and healthy relationship. We’re just starting out in the US, so that will be a lot of new CMR people for us to work with, but right now I think that we have a really good support from the label. Of course it’s not always a dance on roses, but no relationship is!
In March there is an english minitour scheduled, then European tour again unfortunately without a hungarian date 🙁 then you play overseas at Pagenfest 2008. Noone can say you are lazy asses, what do you expect of these gigs?
Yes, by the time of writing we just made it back from a five-week European tour, which was in fact our first full blown headliner tour. The shows were excellent and we were actually quite surprised about the amout of people showing up each night. Unfortunately there was no Hungarian date – a country we still never played in – but we hope that we could fix this later in the year 2008. Just in a few days we’re flying to the States to join the Paganfest there. It’s our first tour in the US – as it is for all the bands on the bill – but all the way since this tour was announced, we have been hearing only good things about presales and how excited people over there are to get a tour like this. We’re looking forward to it very much and I’m sure it will be a great experience.
By the way, it was planned that you were playing in Budapest on 11th of december with Ensiferum. Unfortunately this failed, you could tell us what happened, why did you cancel the gig? When could we expect you next time playing in Hungary?
There were initial talks about a tour together with Ensiferum, and unfortunately some promoters released info that was not even close to confirmed, which then caused confusion when we in the end were not on this tour. It was nothing dramatical, but this is just the result of what happens when people release info too early when things are still under negotiation. In our case we decided to do our own tour instead, which turned out great – exept for the fact that we never reached Hungary of course…
If you had to mention three albums which influenced your history the most, which ones would you pick?
Sepultura – Arise
This was the album that got me excited about metal after digging stuff like Roxette before ahhaha.
Amorphis – Tales From The Thousand Lakes
I actually like the successor “Elegy” better as an album, but it was “Tales” that was a huge initial spark in combining folklore and metal. I still think Amorphis did and still do this in a much more sophisticated way than a lot of bands around after them today.
Satyricon – the whole discography
I’ve always loved this band, and I think they have had a very nice curve of progression in their music album by album, but still keeping a good red line in the way the albums have progressed. I’m inspired by the way how I’ve loved their first medieval-influenced early black metal recordings and have grown with the sound as the band has moved on the the present industrial sounding and rocking material. I hope our fans could be able to have a similar feel about our albums.
I really dont know how much free time you have beside the thousands of gigs, but i still ask you, whats are your additional plans for the year 2008?
Well, as you can see, it seems difficult enough to find time to do all the interviews piling up, not to even mention free time! The US –tour is kicking off in a couple of days, then we return straight to Europe to hit the summer festival season, which will keep us busy until September and then we already have a tour with Dragonforce coming up and as it looks… more is on its way, so I think the year will more or less be spent touring.
At last whats your message to the hungarian Turisas fans and to the readers of Fémforgács Metal Site?
I apologize for a Hungarian Turisas show not having taken place already and guarantee, that we would really love to play in your country and are trying our best to make some shows happen. Hope you find our new album The Varangian Way in the stores there – check it out! And last, the Hungarian band “Besh o Drom” really kicks ass!