This live interview with vocalist Tapio Wilska of the Finnish folk metal band Finntroll was done by Boris Van Berlo prior to their show at the Biebob in Vosselaar, Belgium, on April 17th, 2004.

How does it feel to be back on the road and how is it going so far?
The start of the tour has been really good. When we got the album ready last fall we wanted to have some time off, and so we only did a few shows during the winter. But the past two months it is itching again to get back into the bus. The first shows were amazing, some shows were sold out like the shows in Holland. London was really good, so it has been a very good start for the tour, and one of the nicest things is that we have two bands touring with us, Ensiferum and The Wake, it are their first foreign shows, their first tour ever. So we are trying our best to make this a living hell for them.

So they are really enthusiastic, and this will also reflect back on you ….
… Yeah. We’re always doing this funny stuff when younger guys get on their first European tour. They notice on the first evening ‘okay, there is a hell of a lot free beer here’… so the Ensiferum guys and The Wake guys have been totally blasted drunk for the past three days (laughs) and it’s starting to show, people are beginning to crack already while we have 15 more shows left. It’s just been a continuous party since we left Helsinki seven in the morning two days back.

The ‘Nattfödd’ album isn’t released yet. Would you rather have it the other way, that the crowd would know the music. Or do you think that they will like the new songs anyway?
Hopefully! I would have preferred it much more when the album would be out a week or two already. But you cannot help these things.

Is this because of a delay?
Yeah. The tour start came after the release date had been set. But because of the fucking internet and people sharing things a lot of people have heard the album already and we do play a lot of new songs on this tour. Basically when we recorded them we were just fired up to play the songs in front of audiences and judging from these shows we have gotten a good response.

This was actually my next question, concerning the set list. You focus on the new album but also play enough older material?
It’s more or less the same from every album. Let’s say that one third of the show is new material, but there are some songs which we cannot leave out. So I think we now have a quite nice set list which is like something from all the albums.

The press already had the chance to hear the new album. Can you tell me something about the reactions so far?
It’s weird, we haven’t had even one bad review. The press has been very good to us, and we are getting great reviews from very weird magazines like ‘Orkus’, the German Gothic Magazine: 10 out of 10 and the album of the month. Also in the ‘Legacy’ magazine it’s the album of the month. But then again it’s a fucking good album so … (laughs)

For the people that are not really familiar with you, what have you been doing before you joined Finntroll?
I’ve basically been on the road for the past 10 years. It all started metal wise with the first band which I was in during the mid nineties, Nattvindens Gråt, together with the guys who are now in Nightwish. Then I did Wizzard, an 80’s heavy metal band where I played the bass. And I’ve also done some guest vocals for bands like Nightwish. At this point I am still in two bands with Finntroll now as the main thing but I have sort of my own band that has a totally different style of vocals, called Sethian and we released one album so far on Spinefarm.

On the ‘Visor Om Slutet’ album, did you do the vocals, or was it partly with Katla?
Yeah, we did it fifty-fifty and we wrote all the lyrics together.

How is Katla doing at the moment?
He’s okay, a few months back we sort of lost contact with him during this winter because he moved out up north in Finland to study at an art college. He does not live in the same town anymore, so we don’t meet that much. His condition when I last saw him was still the same, his voice is really harsh and it has not got any better, but the guy is doing ok and he is studying.

Did he participate in any way on the new album?
No, we talked about it when we started to write the album that when he wanted to contribute lyrics we were more than happy to take them, but he never send anything. The other thing is that we wanted to make this album a band effort. So we didn’t have any guest musicians, nobody from the outside. Our keyboard player and bass player produced the album and they were very strict in producing it, and wanted it to be a band album.

Next to the fact of losing vocalist Katla, there was also the tragic death of Somnium. Was it awkward to write new songs, to record a new album without them? Not only emotionally, but also practically?
Practically not, I don’t think so, no. Off course it was different not having him here anymore.

Because Somnium wrote a big part of the music, did you ever consider changing the name of the band when you were writing the new music without him, or did you want to keep the name Finntroll in memory of him and to honour him?
We wanted to continue as Finntroll because the band was a huge part of his life and still even though we lost him we wanted to proclaim the name and keep his thing going on, because the band meant a lot to him. We talked a lot about that, but then again we wanted to keep the band going on as a part of his legacy.

Where did the initial idea for the ‘Visor Om Slutet’ album came from?
From Somnium actually.

And was it something that was always planned for other projects or so?
No, even before I joined the band the guys talked about it a lot and all the guys wanted to try out new things and a new method of working, because this band has always been different. Somnium basically started to play riffs on a tape recorder and then Trollhorn and the guys arranged them into songs. Nowadays all the songwriters in the band have their own home studios and we make very precise arrangements. But on ‘Visor Om Slutet’ we wanted to try out something completely different. We just went into a cabin for a week and barricaded ourselves in there, drank a lot, we went to the sauna a lot, rolled in the snow naked a lot… and it was probably the most fun I ever had recording anything. This was a completely new way and when we sat there trying out ideas that sounded like crap we threw them away and if they sounded good we used them. I very much liked working like we did with the lyrics from Katla. We just start writing stuff and afterwards discussed where we wanted to go.

I personally like this album very much, and I also think that the album was very well received?
Yeah, of course there are the hardcore metal fans who think ‘Oh god, what a crap, this is the end of Finntroll as we know it’ but in general people took it just how we wanted it because after that album we noticed that we can pretty much do whatever we want and there are still people that appreciate it and allow us to do that. It’s a bit hard to talk about this album because it’s a really special thing, and I want it to remain that way. It is also very personal for me. And I am happy that it has sold really well. I have been joking with Sami, the Spinefarm boss, that this was probably the cheapest album to make that Spinefarm ever released because the studio costs were nothing. We just took a cabin and had our own mobile studio there.

And all those fans that were disappointed are now reassured with the new album.
I think so, because the new album is the most brutal and heavy thing in a lot of aspects that the band has ever done.

So what are in your opinion the biggest differences between ‘Jaktens Tid’ and ‘Nattfödd’?
The power metal parts that were on ´Jaktens Tid´ are totally gone. The sound is not that polished, we wanted this album to be a lot rougher and sort of retain the live feel of the music. We basically wanted to take the extremes of this band, like the very happy polka folky stuff a bit further and then the aggressive stuff to be more brutal, more aggressive. You’ll notice when you hear the beginning of the album that it is kind of a middle finger to all those people who were saying ‘oh my god, this band is going to hell with the acoustic stuff’, and also those people who were big fans of the first album and then when ‘Jaktens Tid’ came out they were complaining about the power metal shit. It’s pretty much a middle finger to all those people. The first moments you notice that it’s Finntroll. There is a very old school black metal intro and the first song is wide out there.

I can see that you are very happy with the new album, and also happy to be on tour again!
Yes I am.

How did the writing of the album proceed?
The music was mostly written by Trollhorn and Tundra. I wrote most of the lyrics, Trollhorn wrote some and when we were demoing the stuff we also took part in arranging. Routa our new guitar player he completely wrote one song for the ‘Trollhammaren’ EP and also an acoustic piece of music which is the outro for the album. But the biggest part was written and produced by Trollhorn and Tundra.

And there is also going to be a video accompanying the album?
The video is for the song ‘Trollhammaren’ and was shot in Finland and already broadcasted on Finish TV. We are now negotiating to release a DVD single sometime this year and in some form it’s going to be on the internet. The first reactions on the video were a bit mixed, I think it’s a good video but how should I say it, it’s not very suitable for children.

Can you tell us something about the concept of the video?
We wanted to have the visuals of the band and it’s basically a troll party in a cave where the priests Amun and Shepil are being served as dinner. The video starts by this troll guy killing Amun and placing an apple into his mouth and then it breaks up into a party. We had a total of 25 extras all dressed as trolls in this cavern near Helsinki at the Suomenlinna fortress and it’s quite crowdie in the video. A lot of people in troll and leather costumes, good looking girls made look bad with scars and warts, and it gets really rough.

Do you or other Finntroll members express their fascination and interest for trolls, fantasy and history in some other ways?
Yeah, Skrymer draws and paints a lot. I have been studying mythology and reading for 20 years and I also paint. Our new guitar player Routa directed the video and he just finished school to become a filmmaker.

What are the plans for the future?
Some festivals in the summer like Waldrock in Holland and Summer Breeze in Germany, and after the summer take a holiday. We have made a sworn pact that we are not even thinking of any new material for some time. We have decided not to say more to people than that there may or may not be a new Finntroll album, so that there are no false hopes and pressures and all that.

And would you like to tour more outside Europe in the future?
Yeah, we have had some offers from America. We are doing this small Scandinavian tour during the summer, and also negotiating a small British tour, maybe also going to Ireland. We have been asked a lot to come to the States but the expenses are so big that we have to plan that very carefully. The album is also getting released in Japan so there are some hopes that I will finally get there. These things obviously take time and I really hope that someday we get to play in some other places. I am in this for playing live and that’s why I am doing music and why I grew up to be in this bad smelling bus and being out there in front of people. That’s the thing for me and also going to places where I never been to. In this tour we get to play in Slovenia, and hopefully some day South America will be next. I‘ve been there once or twice with other bands and it’s always crazy. When you are a bigger band over there, the fans are just mental, they just rip your hair, rip your clothes off and run after your car and shake the car. It’s almost the same when we went to Russia for the first time. Before I was the singer in Finntroll I did lights and sound for them. So when we came there it was totally nuts. The funniest part was when I went there with Nightwish a few years back. I was a roadie for them for 4 years and I only came on stage to do one song. After the Moscow show I actually lost pounds after doing 200 autographs. It was totally insane, they didn’t let me out of the venue to go onto the bus. They still don’t get that much western metal bands in Russia but the fans on shows go totally fucking berserk. It always a pleasure to play there. But then again I am happy that this band gets such good audiences. This is weird but many people tell us that we are one of the very few metal bands that you can really dance to on shows and with us it’s allowed, you can dance. The show in ‘De Bosuil’ in Holland got really out of hand. I grew up in the eighties and always been a big speed and trash metal fan, and at one point I was really disappointed that the mosh pit and the stage diving sort of like went out of fashion with black metal comming on. But in Holland it was like total stage diving hell and it was really fucking fun.

Ok, to finish up, is there any news concerning the different other bands and projects of Finntroll members?
The new Shape Of Despair album is finished and coming out soon and it’s even more fucked up than the band was before, in a positive way. A totally paranoid weird album, actually the first time I heard it, it got me in such an absurd mood that it scared me a little. Moonsorrow is doing gigs now but after the album ‘Kivenkantaja’ I haven’t talked to much to them about it but I think they are doing some gigs in Romania, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia. Actually the next Moonsorrow tour there will be a stand-in for Trollhorn.

You should bring them with you as a support on the next Finntroll tour.
Yeah, and then we will bring Sethian as well so everybody gets to be three hours on stage. We sometimes joke about it that we have to do the ‘BEAST DOMINATOR WORLD TOUR’ with all the bands that our drummer plays in, so that he could do like seven sets every night.

And afterwards drink a lot and totally crash!
Yeah …. the venues Willem 2 and the Bosuil in The Netherlands were so hot, I think the temperature was like 70 degrees. We were so dead after the show. Half of the band are fat guys and when it gets that hot I am feeling like Udo Dirkschneider so that I need the oxygen bottles after the show. Our drummer was totally dead and we always joke to him ‘why do you complain, you can sit through the whole fucking show and don’t have to move’.

So I hope you have the same kind of show tonight and the rest of the days.
Hopefully. The prognosis for tonight was not that good because yesterday we had an after party and everybody got very very drunk. The bus left at 4.00 in the morning which I don’t remember. The last thing I remember is that I had something like eight or nine tequila sunrises after the show in the bar plus one and a half litres of vodka-orange and eight or nine beers… and I was so totally fucking blasted. Today has been really hung-over but we are getting there.

Thank you for the interview, and is there maybe something else you would like to say to our readers?
If you get a chance come see us live and after the show tap me on the back and come drink a beer with me and we’ll talk. I’ve never understood the mentality when you go on tour that you just hang out backstage moping and talking to the same people or only hanging in the bus. I actually get bored hearing the same stories every night. I at least try to hang out with new people before and after the shows. That’s basically the point of touring.

And I have to say that Tartarean Desire is a good webzine, nowadays one of my favourites!

Links of interest:

Spinefarm Records