By: Metalist NY Magazine
With: Mathias Nygard
I think many of us, in this generation of Metal are unaware of how lucky we are. Right now, there’s an affluence of Metal gigs, a small renaissance or so of Metal in Israel, there’s a selection and the matter of choice. It is not too far ago I hear of the days everyone use to go to every gig because that’s “what there was.” This year alone, 2013, we’re already growing steadily a very respectable amount of concerts in Israel, and the ones that will kick it off are the Turisas and Salem double pack. Headliners Turisas are one of the foremost and strongest powers in the Folk Metal uprising. A band priding itself on the basis of it’s brand of Folk Metal entitled Battle Metal, characterized by it’s epic grandiose and war themed music and lyrics, Turisas are definitely one of the more unique leaders of this movement. Instantly recognizable by Mattias “Warlord Nygård” D.G Nygård’s unique vocals and the menacing demeanor of this face paint laden warriors , this is not one of your run of mil bands that repeats itself 9000 times. Straight outta Hämeenlinna, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to speak with Warlord Nygård about Turisas, Folk Metal and the upcoming.
M.N- Hello it’s Mattias on the phone
Benek- Hello Mattias, heard I cut out quite a conversation…
m-N Don’t worry about it…I mean I was talking to Yishai, he was doing an interview as well.
Benek- Well more bang for your buck, how are you? How’s the tour?
M.N- It’s good so far, we have one more week to go here in the USA, we have 4 or 5 weeks behind us already. After were done here we’re heading to SA for a couple of weeks. It’s been a long tour it’s two months back to back on the road. Of course it’ll be nice to go back home, but the shows have been great as well.
So, lets go back to front, how did Turisas form? What was the main concept behind the band?
Well we formed the band, Jussi (Wickström) the guitar player, and myself. Mainly we were really bored, didn’t have really anything to do, and we were very much into Metal at the time, and listening to music together. Then we just decided, “hey, lets start a band” and we both had some background playing in some smaller bands. But we didn’t really have any ambitions or anything, we started from a total 0, and we didn’t know how to play that well or anything so it was kind of natural growth and from there step by step we have gone from having nothing to do to it becoming a hobby to a serious hobby to a profession. So the development has been good, it hasn’t always been easy but it has paid off I guess. As for the band’s name, a lot of influences in our early days came from Finnish folklore and mythology so we wanted a name that suited that, so we picked a name that is sort of the Finnish god of war in early references and it sounded cool. We also liked that it wasn’t an English word that anyone could interpret but it’s just “Turisas “ and we stuck with it since.
What is the meaning of the red and black paint?
It sounds a bit funny right now but when we started out, the second wave of Black Metal was becoming very popular and all the bands were still doing all the corpse paint and stuff at that time and now it feels a bit funny, because we’ve drifted so far apart. But at the time we felt we were coming from that background and that scene. We wanted to keep the visual element that those BM bands had. We felt our music is still so different from their dark image and it wouldn’t suit us that well, so we decided to change it around a bit and we went away from black leather to more earthly tones and furs. The actual face painting just came from us wanting to have splatters of blood on our face and some dirt, which we did. On Battle Metal and even on The Varangian Way we didn’t do face painting as we do it today. Only when we started touring it got out of hand, when we played shows there was someone putting a bit more blood or dirt on their face than everyone else, and we mauled it into the face paint we have today, it’s not that we had a production meeting, sitting down, seeing what we have to do.
what was the Finnish scene back in 1997 like in comparison with now? How did things change?
We were kind of influenced by the whole , the whole scene was so small that it was nothing like it is today. Anything like a Folk Metal scene didn’t exist at all, we were kind of influenced by the early stages of Viking Metal like Enslaved or Einherjer from Norway and some Symphonic Metal stuff like Bal-Sagoth from the U.K which was a really big influence with a lot of keyboard stuff and a lot of melodies but from the very start we felt that our music didn’t sound like anything that was out there yet. Also, we’re not from Helsinki so we weren’t from that scene either. It wasn’t till a little bit later that we’ve learned about the other bands. We came across demo cd/ cassettes from Ensiferum and Moonsorrow from Finland we realized there are others bands that are doing sort of the same thing we are, sounding kind of similar. But everything was super small and there was nothing like Pagan fest and big festivals booking Folk or Battle Metal bands. Back then there was nothing, we started out playing some really tiny shows and everything was sort of very small scale and nobody from any of those bands imagined that 10-15 years the whole thing could grow as big as it had today.
Also, Turisas is one of the few bands to have a truly strong following both in the places where Metal is popular and even in small countries like Israel since the days of the first album, how did it feels to get so famous so fast
Well of course it was, from starting out, when releasing the debut I think it was of course exciting because going from being a demo band nobody’s heard of except for the local juice house. Then you have a record label who released the record in all of Europe and even globally. By the way, I think that when you are in the middle of it you don’t really notice it kind of growing, only now we can look back and say “ah at that point we had some success.” Even now, here we are in Dallas, Texas, it just feels very normal in a way. All of a sudden we realize, it just feels natural getting here. I never felt it getting out of hand or exploding. The first album was already successful, but then the Varangian Way came out in 2007 and that got us even more attention and kind of everything built up very naturally, and we never felt like we’re on any rocket ride to success.
B- So were not gonna see Turisas sneakers any time soon, or you dating super models?
M.N- Not yet not…if anyone is interesting you can give em my phone number!
B- What inspired you go in this direction? Both musically and thematically?
M.N-I think we first of, we never considered ourselves or really thought of “Lets do a Viking image as such” it was more that we wanted a visual thing for the band and I think the Viking tag was added by record labels and marketing. We never really considered Viking themes to be the essence of the band in that way, the first album has a song about the 30 years war in Europe which was in the 17th century, so it’s far out from any Viking era. The Varangian Way was a concept album dealing with that historical time period, but on the other hand it also dealt with the more Eastern regions, not only the normal pop culture Viking scenes you normally get. We never looked at ourselves as “a band about Vikings” it just how it sort of ended up in the end. I think that like, on the new album we just finished working on before leaving for this tour. It’s not a concept album like the Varangian Way, it’s not really tied to any time or place.
What inspires you personally so deeply about this type of history, about travel the Varingians,t he Vikings and other types of nomads?
I never actually looked at that, but when you point it out that journey or journey approach, or the theme of traveling is a theme that repeats itself in our music and in our songs quite a lot. I don’t know, maybe it’s something to do with that feeling of being on the way, going somewhere all the time. Because that’s basically what we do all the time, we tour, and on a more philosophical level, it’s all about trying finding your place in the world. Even when we’re not on the road travelling is something I love a lot , and going to new places and meeting new people, and learning about different cultures. That’s super exciting, that’s the most important thing I can think of , to spend my money on, is to see the world, and luckily , in my profession, being a band, I can do that.
I see Metal as very historically inspired, much more so than most other musical geners, what do you think is there to be learned from history? Why do you think the bond is so deep?
ummmm Good question by the way, in 80% of the time, it’s actually more of a connection with history at best, a lot of times its about the romantic idea of a time in the past, but it’s something that’s been coming and going in trends and popular culture for centuries. Starting out with Wagner and the mid 19th century with the rise of romantic themes, poets and Operas and everything. In the 30’s, people were super fascinated with Egypt, and the 70’s you got fantasy and stuff like that with Tolkein and LOTR, it goes in waves. In the 70’s you had Rock bands and Pop bands dealing with these themes. And in the 80s and 90s you’ve got Punk which was a total anti reaction to that again. Maybe in the 2000s, this decade, something that not only in Metal music but pop culture in general is coming back to that again, you see all these historical based movies and things coming out all the time. I think it’s more of a global trend. But you’re right there, in Metal music there’s a heavy dealing with those kind of themes. If you’re not singing about Satan or your love story gone bad…that’s kind of the third obvious choice.
If it’s not Satan, or your love story gone bad I guess it’s history or NSBM (laughs.) What else inspires other than history? For example, what bands or media really inspire you?
Because I’m working with music everyday and all the time, I am not the biggest consumer of music. I don’t collect CDs and records, and I don’t follow it that actively to be honest. When I do listen to music , it’s not even Metal a lot of the time, it’s been kind of rare that I’ve come across any Metal that feels inspiring and new and fresh to me, maybe Gojira from France being one of those Metal bands I’ve been listening to lately. But really it’s been anything from Electronic to Folk bands. It’s anything from going to the art gallery to sometimes just following other forms of art it can all inspire, it’s so far away you can pick up ideas that aren’t obviously connected to rock and Metal music and come up with more interesting fusions.
what’s your writing process like for Turisas lyrics and music? Who is the main contributor?
That’s pretty much me, I feel like most of the songs and the lyrics are mine, usually I’m the one who sets the directions. But on the new album, the new guys or Ollie (Vänskä) or Jussi (Wickström) wrote or we cowrote stuff together. There are a couple of songs we ripped out together, but on the end it falls to my desk but the other guys from the band slap me with ideas and I pick what I like and whether to use it or not.
Fair enough fair enough, it’s your baby.. So now lets jump ahead, how do you feel about Stand up and Fight (most frustrating name for the handicapped Turisas fan) in contrast to your older albums? How did you arrive at the point from The Varingian Way and Battle Metal?
Ummm, I think with every album we’ve done we tried to reinvent ourselves to some extent , and we only released material when we felt we have something new to give. In many ways the more successful route would be that once you came up with a thing, would be to keep nailing the same style, coming out with an album every year, and keep yourself in the press all the time. For us it’s been important that it’ll be stuff that stands for ourselves and feels interesting to ourselves. Music that honors the band, the shows our sounds but now looking back to Battle Metal, although we still play a lot of songs from it live, it can be a bit painful for me personally. Though it can be heart warming as it has a lot of that first album excitement.
What makes it unique and different than the rest of your albums?
I think, kind of instead of making an album that sounds like a cinematic score to a movie we were flirting quite a bit with musicals and the Broadway approach. To some people that can be a bit much to handle, but I think in Stand Up & Fight we had 80’s stadium rock , musicals, and the songwriting style in that field that we incorporated with stuff we’ve done in the past. It’s a very orchestrated album, the orchestra plays a huge part in it, thematically it continues from the Varangian Way but it’s set up in a different way so it’s not as chronological or as straight forward. I think the sound is pretty much dominated by the orchestral sound, I think it’s very uplifting. It’s not very dark at all, it’s more of a, sort of a, motivational album (laughs)
Being one of the elders of the scene, who are some of your favorite contemporaries?
Well of course all of the bands are bands that we have spend a lot of time meeting up with, and do a lot of the same tours, like last year we toured with Arkona in NA and we toured with Finntroll a while ago. Every time we meet it’s like a family get together, but musically, Moonsorrow has been one of the bands that done their own thing. They’ve just done what they feel like doing and that’s it, I like that approach in what they do. I have to admit, before we toured with Finntroll, two years ago I hadn’t really listened to their music that closely at all, but I understood it better after I heard and saw them live night after night. Henri “Trollhorn” Sorvali who’s the main songwriter, he’s very talented, you have a guy who has so many projects who does Moonsorrow and Finntroll. He has a lot of crazy ideas and he’s not afraid to execute them either. I appreciate him being true to himself.
B- About Finn, their new EP is coming out soon…
M.N- Yeah I think Ollie our violin player played on some of their new tracks.
Considering it has already been out for two years, is there any talk of a new album? Or what’s up next in Turisas future?
Well the album is pretty much done; I mean our aim was to finish it completely before heading out leaving for this tour in the end of January. We were working most of last year in the studio, working on the new album and recording it, when we get back from SA we still need to work out some final things for about a week. Then its going right away to be mixed in London. Then in Spring there’s going to be a single or a video, or something coming out of the album already. And it’s gonna be out in summer, it’s more or less done already, it’s in final touches,
Any word as to themes or a title for the album? Anything really you can tell us?
Well we haven’t decided a title for the album yet, but once again it takes a different approach than the previous albums. This time around we wanted to avoid that whole lot of metal that is completely computerized and done entirely in Protools and tis riggered to the bone. It can be ,in extreme music, very effective, but it also kills so much out of the music itself. So We rented this big house in the middle of nowhere in Finland and set up our recording gear out there. we recorded most of it ourselves and have a sort of very organic approach to the whole production, so it’s gonna be a bit different than what we’ve done in the past. It’s also gonna have a couple of faster songs. A lot of Stand up and Fight was almost entirely mid tempo. And this new album is going to have a couple of faster, even punky songs, so I’m kind of excited, that it’s a very varied album. There are songs on it that remind you of the albums and music we’ve done in the past , the basic Turisas sound is still definitely there, there’s a lot of choirs and stuff like that but there’s a lot of new interesting influences in there, it’s going to be a very varied patch.
As to avoid sounding computerized, Are you working with a real choir? And orchestras?
Yeah, on Stand up and Fight we had strings and brass sections and we’ve done that on this album too, but instead of pushing that larger than life sound that everyone seems to be doing now a days we wanted to make it more organic, our refrences were listening to old Beatles albums with the French horns here and there , and that sounded like a wise studio sound. We arranged it very differently than what bands like DImmu Borgir do. Normally we do our choirs ourselves, this time we use ourselves plus a couple of guys from other bands in Finalnd and we have a good couple of days singing. Guys from Finnish bands Kiuas and Wintersun, a group of people we put together and did choirs.
much thanks, anything special planned for Turisas’ raid in Israel?!
Well its gonna be a special show to us, it’s gonna be our first show there obviously and also none of us have visited Israel or is Jewish , so it’s our first time there ever. We’rel ooking forward to it a lot. Normally we are on tour for two months and play shows every night, but this time we fly out to play one club show and come back. It’s more special in that way so we don’t have that weeks and weeks of touring behind us, it’s kind of cool and I’m sure we’re gonna do a very full setlist. We also don’t have that whole thing of “we played so many times here before” so it’s gonna be out of all albums and new stuff.
any last words to the crowds in Israel?
Come see us! April 4th at Reading 3, even if you hate our band, if you’ll see us live you’ll love us