TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This live interview with vocalist Tapio Wilska of the Finnish folk metal
band Finntroll was done by Vincent Eldefors prior to their show in Linköping, Sweden, on September 18th, 2004.
Do you look forward to tonight's show?
Yes, we haven't really played live that much. The previous three shows have been very good, so..., tonight should be good also.
Have they been sold out?
I think Stockholm was sold out but it has turned out very good for all three shows so far.
That's nice. This tour you have done now with The Wake, Ensiferum and Norther, have you chosen the bands or did the label choose them?
It has been 50 / 50, I mean, this tour has been put on by our label. The previous tour with The Wake and Ensiferum, it was supposed to be like a Spinefarm tour. Ensiferum we know from before. I liked the first album from The Wake so we brought them along.
What are the best and worst things about tours?
I've always been into music, been into playing music just for live shows. That is why I do it. Getting around and get up and play for different audiences all over the world every night, that's the sole reason why I am into music. The worst thing is the waiting and the lack of sleep. I've spent like ten years in these buses and I've never learned how to sleep in them unless I'm very, very drunk. The waiting and the lack of sleep really gets you down and being away from home but it's all good. I mean, I enjoy touring.
Which tour or show has been most fun so far?
I think the best we have done so far was the whole tour with Ensiferum. That was probably the best tour I have ever been on because all over Europe we got really great response. There were a lot of sold out shows and we had a really great crew, these American guys. As a tour that was the most fun. As a single show, Waldrock this year in Holland was great. There was a really good line-up on that festival, it was a very nice festival, good turn-out and then a lot of good bands like Exodus, Transport League and Cradle Of Filth. And I can mention also in Belgium last year, Graspop Festival because that's probably the biggest audience we have ever played to. The tent was packed and we heard later from the organizers that the capacity of the tent was always 11,000 people and being in front of that kind of audience is just mind-boggling.
Where do you like playing the most?
I don't have like a lot of preferences. Every country has their audience. I love playing in the old Eastern European countries - Russia for example has been really good, Hungary... All around Europe I have a lot of friends in different countries so everywhere it's nice to be. In Sweden it's a bit more special for us as it's the only country where people know what we're singing about. Like yesterday in Gothenburg we had a really great show and the audience was just amazing. A lot of stage-diving, people got into it. I just love playing and it doesn't really matter where. Of course I always enjoy when we get to play in places we've never been to before like this year when we did Slovenia for the first time.
Do you prefer festivals or club shows?
I don't know. Festivals usually have a big audience and a lot of other bands which makes a nice party. I enjoy clubs as you have the audience so near. There's so much more energy doing club gigs.
Do you ever watch other bands at festivals?
Yeah, of course. I remember actually, this year at the Waldrock festival, I had a sore back, head and neck a week after as we went to see Exodus and I was in the moshpit, getting pretty banged up on that show. Yes, of course I check out other bands. At the same festival actually I can tell a nice story about our friends from Sweden, Transport League. They were playing at this warm-up club thing before the festival and we were right there. We got to that club, got really drunk and when they were on stage the Dutch audience was a bit reserved so we ran to the front of the stage and put up a really big moshpit. Tony and the guys were like "oh, f***, you are here!". Yeah! After that, the night was a great fucking time.
How did you end up on the X-mas Festivals? Was it your label?
Actually, no. The booking agency behind those shows, Metallysee, also organized our tour with Ensiferum. Johan askes us if we wanted to do that tour. We also did the last two X-mas shows last year, Tilburg and Antwerp. We have a really great following especially in Belgium and Holland and Johan offered us this spot For me personally it's going to be really great to get on tour with Napalm Death who I've been a huge fan of since their first album so it's going to be good.
What do you do while on tour to pass time? Do you ever get to see anything of the countries?
Basically you never get to see much of anything. You see the bars, the menus, a lot of gas stations. I try to take time but mostly you just sit in the bus drinking. During the last spring tour we only had one day off during the whole tour. The free day was spent in a really small town in the Austrian countryside and there was nothing so...
Have you had any offers to go outside Europe yet?
Yeah, we have but it's always about the money. We are negotiating a few shows in the United States and Canada right now but it's nothing certain. We'll see next year.
Speaking of the new album, do you know how well it has done so far compared to the others?
Extremely well. I don't know exactly how many copies have been sold. The last I heard was one month after the release Spinefarm had sold as many copies as they had sold of "Jaktens Tid" till that point, in 3 ½ years, and it is going on well. Century Media has gotten the distribution a bit wider so at this point we get a lot of fanmail from the United States, Canada and all around the world. It is doing really well. We'll know in November when the statements come how well it has sold. The label staff at Spinefarm and Century Media are very pleased.
Has it been strange to write an album without any original members?
Yeah, it was of course. When I joined the band about 1 ½ year ago Katla's problems became apparent and it was clear that he couldn't go on and he asked me to replace him. Somnium was of course worse. When speaking about original members, the band has been around since 1997 and Trollhorn has been a member since like 1998 and it started out to be more of a project. I think we have grown as a band. It has always been like a family thing, especially the last two years it has been much more of a band. Looking at the recording of the new album I think that the band is much bigger than any member of it and we have always had very similar ideas about how this band should sound. We had a lot of fun writing and recording this album in the studio and of course it's always weird not having those people with you who were there in the beginning but I believe that they themselves would want this band to go on.
What are the reactions from fans to the new line-up?
Mostly positive. We are a band who are very active on the internet and not a band who stand and watch. We like to hang out with people. Of course there were those who were against me replacing Katla. I mean, I understand that. When the first Exodus album "Bonded By Blood" came out I thought it was one of the greatest albums of all time and I think that band was much worse when Paul Baloff quit the band, so... Of course the original members have a status and all. Actually, Gothenburg yesterday was our 100th show and I think I've done 56 shows over a year with the band. I don't know, I just do my thing.
You haven't though of writing any songs in English or Finnish?
No. I think the Swedish lyrics has always been an important part of our sound. If we were to change that it wouldn't be Finntroll anymore and there were some people at our record label who told us at the time I joined that now would be a good point to change to English to reach a wider fanbase. We just basically told them to f*** off because this is what we do.
Is there any chance of Katla rejoining?
I don't know.
Perhaps having two vocalists?
Yeah. I mean, of course I would want to have him here. Medically, when I last spoke to him his voice was completely gone. The treatment that he goes through, the doctors have given it three years. Of course if would be fun to have two vocalists but I don't know. He joined us on stage at the Tuska festival last year, which was great. He is a great guy and a good friend of ours but his voice is gone after one song.
You never asked him to write lyrics for this album?
Actually we talked about it but at that point when we were doing the album Katla went to an art school in the north of Finland and he was really, really busy with the school. At one point we just sort of lost contact for a few months. 50% of it was a conscious decision as we wanted a bit to make this like a band album.
How important are the lyrics to you?
I have always loved Katla's writing. He made this lyrical world, the concept of the band. The lyrics are of course a big part of that concept.
Is it important to have a message?
I think so. I mean, I listen to a lot of music without intellectual lyrics but personally I see tha lyrics as my forum to convey my ideas to people. There are things that I and we as a band are passionate about.
Would you mind telling us about the general lyrical concept of the album?
Well, you could say that it takes on where the last album left off. We're still using that lyrical world of the troll kingdom and its fight against outside forces. I think the anti-religious theme is much stronger on this album. It is a bit more straight-forward but I still want to keep the concept of the band, that rowdy troll atmosphere.
You recorded the album late last year. Have you written any new songs since?
Yeah, almost everyone in the band has their own home studios so we have a lot of songs floating around. It was fun really, when we recorded the album late last year and it came out like four or five months later we had an album's worth of material ready.
You don't have a time plan for the next album?
No, we made a very conscious decision not to think about it at all. We just want to tour this year with the album and take a long break. We'll take all spring next year off and maybe start touring again in April. I think the earliest time to start thinking about the next album is next autumn, like a year from now.
You're a bit tired of it?
Yeah, we have been touring so much this year so we all wanted to have this long break. We all have other musical projects and it's good sometimes to be with your family.
"Nattfödd" is more aggressive and less happy than the previous album, was this intentional?
It just came about that way. The last year was bad, a lot of things in our personal lives. The songs just came out a little more aggressive and also soundwise it was a very conscious decision that we wanted this album to be less polished. We have played that much together now and we are much more aggressive live and we wanted the album to have a bit of that live aggression and a rougher, not so processed sound. Basically it was just natural how this came out.
Who are Aldhissla, Rivfader and Eliytres?
They are just these characters from the troll kingdom. I think Katla found Aldhissla from some troll story but otherwise they are made up.
You're not inspired by "Kalevala"?
No. I do like it. It's a funny thing because it has cool stories and all but "Kalevala" was spoiled in school for many people when you were made to study it. I found it again about ten years ago and I don't think we take inspiration from that.
Whose idea was it to do a video for "Trollhammaren"?
Well, we wanted to do a video and the record company gave us money to do a video. Actually, the record company and a couple of guys wanted to do a video for "Det Iskalla Trollblod" but I was the most vocal part getting it to be "Trollhammaren". I thought it was the strongest song for a video or single. I basically just twisted everybody's arm. It was our guitarist who did it and he did a great job, capturing the atmosphere of Finntroll.
Has he been to film school?
Yeah, I think he graduates in a couple of months now.
Has it been shown on any TV stations outside of Finland?
Yes, actually, Viva in Germany has shown it and I think also some other small stations but mostly it has been spread around the internet.
MTV hasn't shown it?
No, and basically I don't care if they show it or not. That whole institution is not our band, not what I am about. If they show it I don't know if I would be that happy about it.
"Headbangers Ball" was pretty good.
Yeah, it was when I was younger.
You have also mentioned plans of a DVD, is anything happening with that?
Yeah, we have actually been filming on tour, gathering material. We might take a couple of shows later this year. If and when we do the DVD we want it to be a good package, not only a live show. We want to give people value for their money, have clips from several shows, things from the band's history and not just stupid, drunken things. We're getting there, sitting on the bus drinking and trying to come up with material.
Will it be released before the next album do you think?
Yeah, if we're going to do it.
Are you happy with the support from Spinefarm and Century Media so far?
Yeah, totally happy. Sami Tenetz of Spikefarm Records has first and foremost been great to us. I live 200 meters from him in Helsinki and we spend a lot of time together and he has always been very strongly behind our band and Century Media for this album has also given us great support. Both Spinefarm and Century Media have been 100% behind us so I'm not complaining about it.
You are actually signed to Spikefarm and not Spinefarm, is there any difference?
Yeah, Spikefarm is solely run by Sami, he makes all decisions and signs only bands that he can stand behind 100%. Spinefarm is more about selling albums and bringing out good music so there is a big difference.
You would not like to be signed to the main label?
I have been signed to Spinefarm with other bands. I have to say, I don't want to badmouth them but they have lost a lot of things that makes me not able to stand behind that label 100%.
Has anything changed since Universal bought Spinefarm?
A lot of things have changed of course for Spinefarm but for Spikefarm, no. Sami is very stubborn and does things his way. Of course a lot of business things have changed.
You didn't have a bigger budget this time then?
No, smaller actually. That's probably the crappy things about being part of Universal. A lot of smaller bands and labels have their budgets cut down. Then again, the way we in Finntroll work, we have always been a very cheap band for the band. This album we recorded, mixed and all that in under two weeks. We did a lot of work in our home studios before and just arranged it and mixed it in the studio.
You have always been inspired by folk music. Do you like any other bands than Hedningarna (Finntroll recorded a cover of their song "Vargtimmen")?
Yeah. [He mentions a couple of Finnish bands which I am not able to spell..., one might be called Barkabala or something similar.] We also take influences from music from the mid-East. We try to broaden our spectrum.
How did you get into music in the first place?
I've always been a total metalhead. I was nine when I started listening to Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Motörhead..., and from there it was a downward slide. It was all about heavy metal, I got into bands like Venom and Metallica and all that, I was 13 or 14 when Metallica came out.
Do you have relatives who are musicians?
No, actually. My mother played the piano when she was younger.
What do you think of bands like Skyclad, Elvenking, Otyg, Vintersorg...?
I love Skyclad and several people in our band are big fans of Skyclad. Otyg, I have the first album and I like it a lot. I am a big fan of Vintersorg and I especially like his newer albums.
Do you listen to any Finnish bands? Any Finnish folk music?
Yeah, I do, I have demo tapes of a few bands but the Finnish folk music scene is quite small. At this point I am trying to educate myself and always try to find new stuff. I am trying to educate myself about a lot of older things - Pink Floyd, Rush...
What do you think about the Finnish metal scene at the moment? Do you think that it's stronger than ever?
Yeah, of course. There are a lot of bands, some smaller bands coming out now who I think will get to do really cool things in the future. I think it happens because of some bigger bands who get more exposure which also helps the smaller bands to get some attention. The Finnish metal scene is quite small so you get to know a lot of people there.
Do you think it's difficult for younger bands who get to be compared to Stratovarius, Children Of Bodom and Nightwish?
Yes, it can be but I don't think it makes it difficult for them. Always when the bigger bands get attention it arouses interest in the smaller bands also. If the bands find a strong identity I don't think comparisons can change that.
Do you think Nightwish was the main reason for Universal's interest in Spinefarm?
I think so.
Do you think there are any strong identities in Finnish metal today except for the old ones?
Yeah, definitely. There is a folk metal band called Turisas who are signed to Century Media who are very much their own band. They are like twelve people on stage and a great band. Then there's an industrial death metal band that I really like called Total Devastation. Their first album was just f***ing amazing. There's also a cool band called Amoral that I like very much.
Which song are you most happy with so far?
Well, right now I think my two favorite songs on the album are "Nattfödd", I like its mood and it's always very emotional to do that on stage, "Eliytres" is probably my favorite song from the entire live set.
No, I have basically heard that too many times already. I think my two favorites are "Eliytres" and "Nattfödd". "Eliytres" really gets the crowd going and it's the best song to play live.
Do you have a constant set list on tour or do you ever change anything?
On this tour we had the same set list but it depends. Festivals is a different thing than tours of course.
[I ask about a certain wedding at which Finntroll was supposed to have played according to an interview a big Swedish metal magazine published but apparently they had published the wrong information.]
[Tapio says that they DID however play at the wedding of Pasi from Amorphis and Jonne of Korpiklaani joined them on stage and it was a great party.]
Do you ever play any cover songs live?
On some shows we have played Napalm Death's "You Suffer", a two second song, and then we did the Windir tribute but that was such a special thing. It was a tribute to Valfar which we did in Oslo but I don't think we will ever play that again. We are toying around with some ideas, there might be some surprising material to expect from us. We'll see what happens.
Do you have any other funny stories to tell us?
Actually, at this time my mind is just totally blank. I'm living in a mist right now. Actually, yesterday we had our fifteen minutes of rock stardom. There was this club who had an anniversary of some kind. Friends of us arranged so that the people at the club came to pick us up in a limousine. We sat in the limousine for fifteen minutes, drank champagne, arrived at the club and had a really great party. The last people joined us at half past nine in the morning.
Any final comments you would like to add?
Not much. I mean, what I always say. Those who understand what Finntroll is about come to our shows. This is what we love to do, this is why we do it so if you want to check out the band just come to our show and I guarantee a lot of fun.
Thanks a lot for the interview and good luck tonight.
Links of interest: