with Vocalist/Hurdy-Gurdy player Anna Murphy
Interview by Victoria Fenbane
We had a chat with vocalist and hurdy-gurdy player Anna Murphy about her unusual choice of instrument, singing in dead languages and their upcoming comprehensive nine date tour of the UK and Ireland supporting Sabaton.
Could you please explain your role within Eluveitie?
Anna Murphy (AM): I play the hurdy-gurdy and sing occasionally.
The hurdy-gurdy is quite an unusual yet fantastic instrument. How did you end up learning to play it? Did you set out to play it in a rock/metal band, or were you initially playing/learning in a traditional folk setting?
AM: I saw the instrument for the first time when I went to see a "Faun" show, a German folk band. I thought it was weird and cool, just the thing for me. I then rented one at a school for old music for a few months until I got my own one. When I started out I would have never thought that I’d end up with a metal band, but I wasn’t going for traditional tunes either. I wanted to incorporate it in modern, electronic music.
The hurdy-gurdy looks like an unwieldy instrument. Just how do you manage to play and head-bang simultaneously?
AM: I’m a woman, I can multitask! Haha no, besides being the worst multitasker on the face of the earth I believe that’s a rumour. Uhm, but how do I do it? I don’t know, I don’t think it’s that different from a guitarist headbanging and playing at the same time. It’s strapped on, so it’s pretty steady. I can only headbang to fairly easy parts though, not everything I play.
Like many other members of Eluveitie, you are a multi-instrumentalist. What other instruments can you play, and are there any you would like to learn to play in future and why?
AM: I used to play the piano and the traverse flute. I’m really bad at playing the guitar and nowadays my mind is set on becoming a bassist. I’m planning to get pretty good at that, so I’m going to start bringing one on tour, it’s always been my favourite instrument.
Many of Eluveitie’s songs are in Gaulish – a dead language. How can you be sure of pronouncing the words correctly? Can it be difficult to decide where to enunciate the words while singing?
AM: We can’t be entirely sure, we can just try to get close with help from scientists and Celtologists. I don’t think it’s difficult to sing, once I’ve fit the words into a song and recorded it it just sticks somehow.
The recent album Helvetios is a rather epic piece of work. Did it take longer to write and record than previous albums?
AM: It is indeed! It didn’t take longer though, at least not the pre-production and recording process.
In some ways Helvetios is a lot more metal than previous albums. Will Eluveitie’s material be continuing to get heavier in future? Do the band feel that now you are well established in the metal scene, you have the confidence to take folk metal down a heavier route?
AM: It’s funny how differently the album is received. Some say it’s more metal, some say it’s softer and more commercial. I’d agree with you though, I also think it’s slightly harsher than the previous ones, but also more diverse (if you compare The Siege with A Rose for Epona for instance). We develop naturally and don’t really think about what we want to do next and which path we’ll head down.
I guess that’s just what Eluveitie is, we’ll always just do what we enjoy and what feels right for us. Sometimes that’s heavy guitar riffs with almost no folk, sometimes it’s an acoustic with female vocals. It’s good that we have many options, we’d get bored otherwise.
Which of your upcoming live appearances are you most looking forward to and why?
AM: Ireland!!! We are finally playing in my other home country! My family will be there and I can’t wait. We’ve never played there before, it’s about time.
Eluveitie’s recent UK gigs included UK 2010 support slots touring with DevilDriver and headlining The Garage in London last year. Eluveitie have always gone down a storm even with audiences unfamiliar with your work. How did UK punters take to you, especially outside London? (from being in the audience in Bristol they seemed bemused but interested!)
AM: Haha, bemused but interested is a very good expression! That describes it very well. Which I think is cool, because we didn’t exactly fit in the package and for that we were received surprisingly well. I still remember touring Europe with Kreator and some of the truest metalheads were standing in the first row constantly showing us middle fingers and such. Anyways, I liked the UK crowd, they had more manners.
Do you find that having a relatively large number of band members limits touring possibilities, especially outside of mainland Europe?
AM: Well, it’s going to be more complicated with us than with regular bands obviously, but I don’t think we’ve ever not done a tour or a show because of the number of people. Promoters will know what they’re getting into and sometimes we’ve also been in situations where we made financial sacrifices to do something we really wanted to.
Will you be recording any collaborations with other bands in future? Like the performances with Finntroll at festivals in 2010/11, or will these performances just remain special to those who saw them and a few Youtube videos.
AM: We haven’t thought about that to be honest. Maybe, maybe not! I think it was a cool idea and Finntroll was the perfect match for it. I can’t really imagine doing it with another band.
Aside from Eluveitie you also work with a few other bands. How did Fräkmündt come about? It’s pretty crazy stuff!
AM: Haha, cool that you checked it out. Yeah, the music is just like we are! The other people in the band have come to be some of my closest friends. I joined about two years ago after doing just a guest appearance, we got along really well and I liked the sound of it.