Interview With Heri Loesen of Týr
Conducted by Erich Heintzelman
Photos Courtesy of Sarah Lutz and Metal Blade Records
I recently spoke with Heri Losen, the lead singer and guitarist of folk metal band Týr regarding the band’s new album VALKYRJA. Heri gave some insight into the new album, spoke about the band’s new drummer, and gave his take on the rise of Viking culture in entertainment in North America.
The new album Valkyrja is a concept album. Could you explain a little bit about the story and themes of this album?
HJ: The protagonist of the story is an anonymous viking. He leaves his earthly woman, for personal and patriotic reasons, and goes off to die on the battlefield. He intends to die bravely enough to make a valkyrie come and take him to Fólkvangr, the realm of Freyja, goddess of sex among other things. All his dreams come true in the end. Under the surface the album is about how women affect men more generally.
The promotional press kit for the album states the lyrics were written after most of the music and arrangements were already developed. Do you normally write the music before the lyrics or is it sometimes a combination of both?
HJ: Yes, I always write the music first and the lyrics after. The melodies are the most important thing in our music and the text are secondary in a way, although I still put great emphasis on them. But in the way I write music there is only one way to phrase a melody. We don’t improvise or rephrase during concerts. Compare that to the fact that there are many different ways to say the same thing in a text. So I think it’s easier to write the text according to the melody, and not the other way around.
Does the band write collaboratively or are most of the songs written by you Heri?
HJ: Most of the songs are written by me, but there is also some collaboration on some songs. Gunnar and I worked together on one, Terji and I on one and Terji also provided two songs for this album that he has written by himself.
Liv Kristine contributed vocals to “The Lay of Our Love”. How was it collaborating with her? Did you have anyone else in mind if she was not available?
HJ: At Wacken a year ago I made a guest appearance with Leaves’ Eyes. Liv offered to do some guest vocals for us in return. I asked my bandmates what they thought of that idea and we immediately agreed to take her up on her offer.
Kári Streymoy left before you were about to record the album. How much did that affect the timeline of the album’s release?
HJ: That was not one of the reasons the recordings were postponed so many times. The release dates would have been the same with or without him.
What does George Kollias bring to the band that is different than Kári?
HJ: He is undoubtedly technically one of the best drummers in the world, but he is also a very tasteful musician. There is more variation and more energy in his playing and he found a wonderful middle ground between how our drums have usually sounded and what he’s capable of. I think the result speaks for itself.
Týr is currently touring Europe. How has the reaction from the fans been so far?
HJ: Our first show is tomorrow, so I can’t say yet. We have a lot of comments on our Facebook page from people who look forward to seeing us live, and the feeling is mutual. We also look forward to playing for the Europeans again.
How many times have you guys toured North America?
HJ: Six or seven times? I don’t remember.
Speaking of the album, there are so many excellent tracks. Is there any one track that you feel perfectly captures the spirit of this Valkyrja?
HJ: That’s very hard for me to say at this moment. It’s often easier when you have seen and heard other people listen to it. Maybe Mare Of My Night is a good one to show you the general mood of the album, I don’t know…
Viking culture is gaining in popularity in North America, with the History Channel show “Vikings” being about Ragnar Lodbrok and the Hollywood films about Thor. Do you see this as a good thing or as a corruption of the true heritage of Vikings?
HJ: I haven’t seen that show, but if it’s just retelling and reenacting history, I see nothing wrong with it. I’m all for increasing the general history knowledge, be it vikings or mongols.
There are two cover songs on Valkyrja, Iron Maiden’s “Where Eagles Dare” and Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates”, two songs that I personally happen to love. The Iron Maiden choice seems to fit with your style, but what inspired you to cover “Cemetery Gates”?
HJ: A long time ago, sometime between By The Light Of The Northern Star and The Lay Of Thrym, we decided to cover the favourite song of each band member. Mine was I by Black Sabbath, Kári’s was Stargazer, Gunnar’s was Where Eagles Dare and Terji’s was Cemetery Gates. The former two are the bonus tracks for The Lay Of Thrym and the latter two on this album. It’s that simple 🙂
What are your plans for the next year? Any chance of a return tour to North America in 2014?
HJ: Yes, we will return to North America early next year for an extensive tour. We have long tour plans for next year, all in the works. Please look out for updates on our Facebook page.
Thanks for speaking with me guys! We are big fans of Týr at Metal Rules and we are digging the new album. Best of luck on the tour!
HJ: Thanks, and thanks for doing the interview. Hope to see you all sometime on tour 🙂