Vreth – Vocals
Routa – Guitars
Skrymer – Guitars
Trollhorn – Keyboards, Guitar
Virta – Keyboards
Tundra – Bass
Beast Dominator – Drums
Interview by Victoria Fenbane
Just before Finntroll take the stage tonight, I managed to pop onto the Finntroll tour bus to catch-up with Mathias ‘Vreth’ Lillmåns [vocalist] and Madon ‘Routa’ Karlboms [Guitarist] before the last of a handful of exclusive release shows, promoting their latest full length release ‘Blodsvept’.
They ponder alcoholic accompaniments as they discuss the creation of ‘Blodsvept’ and the bands policy of remaining as unpredictable as possible!
Routa: We have almost every time played in Underworld, when in London. We like playing here as our old sound engineer is the lady of the house over here so we have benefits of playing this venue. It’s going to be a punk show, you know punkish feel to it.
Vreth: Usually I like small venues which are full, rather than big venues that are quiet.
If your music is to be enjoyed with an alcoholic beverage what do you recommend?
Vreth: Cheap alcohol.
Vreth: I recommend like 1.50 euros white wine.
Routa: It is quite funny, every once in a while people bring gifts to us, and they tend to be alcohol a lot of times. And they bring some really fancy drink and those are the bottles which are last on the bus still. Everybody is like ‘Oh no that’s too fancy. We’re going to get that 3 litres of white wine for 2 dollars from the gas station.’
So Finntroll are a cheap date?
Routa – We are cheap yes! [Laughs]
Would you prefer your music to be taken more seriously?
Vreth: Well you know, some of the songs are sort of made serious and some of them are not, so I guess it is both things. I guess it’s OK if you know the difference between the serious and the fun.
Routa: I have never noticed that it would be a problem, you know, that people are not taking us seriously. Well the lyrics are pretty serious alway, grim and evil and whatnot. Not all of the songs are, but then again we’ve always been one of these bands that can actually put ourselves there as well, we can laugh to ourselves if we want to. And it’s not like we’ve ever been afraid to do, you know, some weird stuff it’s just like ‘Hell yeah we’re going to do that’, and it’s always been an important part of Finntroll, to be like that. You never know what we come up with.
Vreth: And playing around, whatever elements you want to and have fun with it. I don’t think there is a problem with having to be taken seriously in any way.
What kind of trolls are the one’s featured in Finntroll’s music?
Vreth: Well it’s sort of talking about really really old like native people from Finland. You know ,un-developed primitive human beings sort of. It’s more referencing to like the Trollish side in humans, than you know cute little furry trolls.
Routa: Actually the name of the band basically comes from when the first crusaders came to Finland, and when they met the first native Finnish people they were actually describing them as ‘Finntrolls’. They were sort of hobos.
If one member of the band was an actual troll, who would it be?
Vreth: Tundra (Sami). Show the picture!
Routa: That was of myself though!
Undecided there then?
What would you say are the strengths of the current album; Blodsvept.
Routa: I have to say it’s the in your face element of the album. We tried to do more like straightforward album this time and not have so much of this….
Vreth: …small details.
Routa: Yeah small details, and painting metal images or anything. This was just more pure like. In the second the album starts you are in the middle of it, there is not so dramatic curve on the songs
Vreth: Thing is we just scaled away like lot and lots and lot of tracks. When we did the pre-production they sounded like ‘Nifelvind’ album, but like version 1.2 or something. They were were like too detailed. So we just took away lots and lots of layers and everything and kept it simple. It’s like less is more, usually it’s more like is definitely more ,more!
Routa: Yeah but this time less is more. We wanted to do this album that is kind of like kick in the crotch in a way. You know?
Which song did you enjoy recording the most?
Routa: I think for me it was ‘Häxbrygd’, cos I love playing that live. I’ve always liked that song so much, it’s just simple and works so well. That was definitely my favourite.
Vreth: ‘Skövlarens Död’ that one for me, the vocals were really really fun to do on that song because it like this kind of whispering kind of singing.
Routa: I’m thinking which song that is. See you know we are always using these working titles and when we start using the real name of the songs we’re like ‘Oh shit which one is that’?
Do you have some funny working title names?
Routa: Most of them are kind of like, you know, somebody does some demo recording at home and saves the file as ‘agsffssgg’, and then it just comes up with some kind of name.
Vreth: like ‘Sami’s Irish’ Tune or something.
Which was most difficult song to record on the new album?
Vreth: I think it’s just you know overall it’s the guitars on the album, not playing-wise, but technical aspect.
Routa: Yeah we had things were out of tune all the time, it was ridiculous. We actually had to use three different tuners to keep things on tune. We have never had those kind of troubles. But it’s hard to say which song was the most difficult to do.
Vreth: But it was the string instruments overall. We also had some problems when we had things just eaten up for some reason and had like lost 8 tracks all the time. Zap! But I don’t thing there was a song in particular.
What is the writing process? Do you all sit down together in the same room, or work on elements individually?
Routa: No. It’s basically everybody who writes music, they do something at their home some kind of like raw demo version of the song. Then it goes to the mail, everybody comments it and then it starts to build from there. And usually Trollhorn does the last touch for the song, when he writes all the keyboards of course. It’s everybody works together for the songs, but still it’s not like we sit together ever: ‘Hey this note would be nice here’. It would never work. We would kill each other in half an hour.
Vreth: Yeah probably. I don’t think it would be good because everybody would be thinking different things all the time. It’s better you know that we do something and discuss, you know like, everybody gets to listen to the finished song.
Routa: Sometimes it can only be like part of melody that people like: ‘Hey that melody’s really great lets build song around it’, or it then it can be almost like final product already, that you send to the people and wait for the feedback.
To my ear the latest single has a rock ‘n’ roll sound this this intentional or is this just a variation on the humppa sound used in your music?
Routa: It is actually a more rock n roll sound that we wanted to put on this album. It was one of this to make it more straight forward. We wanted to do this like rockish, choruses over there and parts and riffs. It was definitely like a decision we made, that this gonna be rock ‘n’ roll album and not a folk metal.
With the many line-up changes – some through forces of nature but not all – what keeps the band going?
Routa: Touring, really. Yeah. The whole thing. I mean last year we kind of took a holiday; we did only like 10 shows and started writing the new material, and at the end of the year it was: “oh it’s so boring, we need touring and everything”. It’s the whole thing at least for me which keeps me going.
Vreth: Yeah for me too.
Some bands get worn down by touring but you thrive on it?
Routa: Well it depends were was one where we did like 250 shows in 18 months or something like that, and most of them were in abroad, so it wasn’t just touring. So after that many shows we were actually a bit worn out. And there were stupid fights in the bus.
Vreth: The worse thing I think was, you know, the environment we were in. We had this really ,really horrible American tour to end everything, cos it was really really crappy like the organisation and everything. I was ready, and then it was like one week and we checked the cites, and it was like ‘oh shit’, it’s going to be one week still more of shitholes!’. We were like in New York or something like that ‘ah, lets fly home!’.
Routa: But now when you look back at that, it’s kinda like there’s still the things that you miss, not the crappy venues.
Vreth: But being out and playing shows.
Some bands say living on a bus like this drives them mad but you all enjoy it?
Routa: Yeah enjoy is a strong word but…
Vreth: It’s OK this one is cool.
Routa: Yeah this one is really nice, but we’ve have had these buses that has like 4 celsius inside during the night and it rains inside, it smells like….
Vreth: …And there’s no air anywhere, and there’s insects living in your bunks. This is the third tour with this bus, and we’re really thrilled to get it this year.
Finntroll have had an image change for the new album, which I see has transferred to the stage show. What inspired this and whose idea was it?
Routa: – We just wanted to do something different, as much for the fans as for ourselves. You know, we’ve been playing shows for 10 years almost, in the same outfit more or less and everything. It just started to feel like “lets do something that is also different for us.”
Vreth: Yeah, and something that the scene hasn’t seen before. Cos everybody, you know, they expect us to do like the classic folk metal kind of thing, and you know we’re getting so bored. Because there’s so many copycat bands out there, that does this kind of thing. We wanted to keep messing as we do with the sound, you know. I think we already started this theme on the last album a little bit, dressing up.
Routa: Weird dresses….
Vreth: Twenties like mafia style.
It’s kind of steampunky in a way...
Routa: Yeah in a way, there are influences from many genres, not only from steampunk but it is present there as well.
Vreth: Steam punk, cyberpunk and also like this kind of war-like kind of feel.
So you’re not going to wear the ears on stage tonight?
Routa: We are!
I look forward to that!
Is there any chance that live collaboration, such as with Eluveitie at festivals in 2010/11, would ever happen in a studio setting?
Routa: Well, we keep our options open, as you should never say never, but we haven’t planned anything like that.
Vreth: And also I know it would be a horrible trouble to do it, because we are different labels.
Routa: Yeah there is a lot of those label issues. They are so strict about who can do what.
Vreth: You never know with Finntroll anyway….
Can you recommend any other folk metal bands your fans should be listening too?
Routa: I got introduction to a pretty cool sounding band. It’s not folk metal it’s kind of like a bit more ritualist chanting called Wardruna . They are some black metal guys from Norway doing it, but it has nothing to do with black metal actually.
Vreth: It’s pretty cool.
Routa: Our bass player played it to me a couple of weeks ago.
Vreth: Also talking about this Finnish sort of folk, there’s a band called Tenhi but that’s not folk metal because I don’t listen to folk metal.
Routa: Me neither.
Vreth: Well if you count all the old classics like Storm, and Isengard, that as far as I go. Borknagar; the first album maybe.
Routa: Yeah but nowadays folk metal’s has become like a curse-word, because there is so many bands that are just, you know, playing crappy metal, and then they put some kind of bagpipes on it. It’s one of these genres you don’t listen to that much actually.
Thanks for your time tonight!