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Turisas: No need for lucky underwear

Onstage you only know them as wild barbarians who with their powerful battle songs are able to put the people into a blood rage. In the backstage area of the Myötätuulirock festival Warlord Nygård, however, turns out to be quite an easy-going fellow. Letīs have a look behind the scenes or what really hides behind the furry outfits of one of the most successful Viking metal bands right now.

As we are here at a festival, letīs start by talking about festivals. You were playing for example at Rock am Ring this year, how was that?
That was nice, obviously Rock am Ring and Rock im Park were both big shows. We played the third stage quite early but it was still really, really packed – both shows. Big audiences but we were only playing like 30 minutes – quite compact, four songs.

Did the people like it cause I think that at those festivals you donīt really have that metal crowd?
They were really into it. I think itīs nice to play a lot of festivals which are not purely metal because you get to play to an audience whoīve never seen you, never heard about you. Itīs different than, you know, playing Wacken or something like that which is really like…most of the people have heard of the band and know the band and come to check it out. I think itīs cool that you can sort of go on stage and grab an audience.

Which one do you like better then, festivals or club shows?
Well, I have to say club shows because thatīs like your own production, your own show and youīre more in charge whereas festivals itīs just coming somewhere and having to live with what you get sort of, in all aspects. Of course at festivals you can reach out to a crowd that arenīt out there for only your band , itīs of course different in that way as well. So itīs nice to play to people who have paid a ticket to come and see your band exclusively but playing at festivals is also great because you get the other aspect of the whole [thing].

Last time I saw you play at the Finnish Metal Expo and there you had all this fire, pyro and dancers and stuff. Will you do the same here, at festivals?
Today itīs a pretty basic setup, only the band. No fire even, it would just look silly in daylight.

But isnīt it part of the whole Turisas experience?
Yeah, but we donīt want to… it seems to get kind of… you do so much stuff and then people expect it and then it kind of becomes forced, you have to do it everywhere. We donīt want to sort of get into that because I think that the band is definitely strong enough to do a show as we did like last weekend at Rock am Ring or whatever to get to play a show as the band itself without any extras. So thatīs what we will do today, at some festivals this summer we will have something more.

How do you come up with the ideas for the shows?
Itīs always a bit, sort of, spontaneous ideas. Obviously by now we already tried out a few things so we already have some sort of a pattern what we do like if we want to do pyros or stuff. That makes it a bit easier. I think itīs, you know, the decision on where we do what is of course first of all based on…if it makes logistical and financial sense and then also like if we think that it can bring something to the show in a way that works well but for instance that pyro stuff in daylight is a bit of a waste. The shows where we will be doing that this summer or stuff like that are more the shows that we will play in the night.

Another aspect of your show is your own appearance with all the costumes and make up. Have you ever played a gig without them or if your suitcases got lost at the airport, would you rather cancel the show?
(laughs) I think we would probably have to cancel, we would have to see what we can do but if everyoneīs suitcase got lost then we would be in a quite difficult position. It happened, itīs a long time ago (laughs)… we didnīt have any album out by then and our former keyboard player forgot his luggage at home or whatever. And we were playing a show in Helsinki, on the way he realised that he actually didnīt have the clothes with him so we stopped by and he had this desperate attempt of building some sort of (laughs) Hawaiian skirt made of bamboo [raffia] but in a Finnish version made of twigs from the forest. Just taking something and building something out of that (laughs). Well, obviously it didnīt work so he ended up being naked playing the show (laughs). It was quite a funny thing as such but I donīt think we probably will go that far anymore.

Are your costumes actually made of real fur?
Yeah, most of it is.

From what animal?
I donīt know the name in English; itīs “supikoira” in Finnish. I donīt know if itīs a raccoon or something, I donīt know what it is called. [itīs a raccoon dog]

Have you had trouble with animal activists or so?
Iīm not a huge a fan of the whole sort of wearing fur for being a “nice lady” or whatever. But I think, you know, to myself I sort of justified it in the way that weīve been wearing…I mean the pieces of real fur which we have or the leather or whatever is actually the same from the beginning of the band. How we got it was like, a factory doing fur things had some sort of accident with a leak or something so they had like a big stock of material which was like destroyed, they couldnīt use it so we got a pile of stuff that was obviously dead and killed by then. It wouldīve been just thrown into the dumpsters. I believe in the thing that if you take something from an animal then you should at least use it as good as you can and donīt throw it away just because itīs been spoiled by water.

How much time do you need to get ready for a show?
It used to be more because we had such disastrous setups. Itīs gotten better cause we have done so many shows now so obviously you learn that this thing doesnīt really work so we have to find a solution how we can make it work better and now itīs actually like, I think 45 minutes. It used to be 1,5 hours so we cut down half but I think, you know, in a real hurry we can cut it down to 30 minutes probably even more.

Do you have some rituals before the show like praying to the Gods or something?
Nothing that fancy. I think the ritual [is] getting the costumes on before every show. So we sort of start preparing for the show about an hour before stage time and thatīs something which…because itīs something that weīve done always so itīs something that is attached to all the shows even if itīs just something that you do but itīs still sort of the moment when the whole band comes together. So itīs not like everybody shows up at the stage and says hello. Itīs sort of a good ritual in a good way. I think we try to avoid getting these things like some bands have some sort of moment before going onstage everybody together and bla.

Like holding hands…
Yeah, hold hands and stuff like that. If it gets to the point that you have to have your lucky underwear or something to manage then the day you forget your lucky underwear, just because of having it on your mind, you screw up. I think we try to avoid having these holding-hands-moments.

Youīre also quite successful outside of Finland, did this come as a surprise for you or was it all part of the master plan?
(laughs) Everything is part of the master plan, youīve only seen the tip of the iceberg, ha. Of course, I mean especially the UK…I mean everythingīs been sort of a plan, itīs not like “oh, something just happened” cause we played a lot there, we worked a lot of media stuff in the UK and the media in itself is very difficult in the UK anyway. Itīs been, you know, a long term plan but I think still in the end the UK success as such has been a sort of surprise for us, I think everybody else as well because the British market is usually a bit difficult. The first thing you wouldnīt have thought about a few years ago was that a band like this would actually get some sort of almost mainstream success in a country like the UK.

Do you think it had something to do with the success of Lordi at that time?
I mean, yeah we did a small support tour with Lordi right after theyīd won the Eurovision in the UK. Of course that brought us a lot of good as well but I think Lordi was something that just happened and went away. I mean, I donīt know what they are doing now, probably playing America or something. Of course, it was something that just peaked and then it disappeared. Itīs a part of it but I donīt think, I mean…the fact that weīre for instance doing like in New York, we did a photo shoot for Rock Sound and they flew in the photographer to do the photo shoot in New York that was quite impressing. And to be able to be featured in Metal Hammer and Kerrang is something that I donīt really think Lordi has much to do with that.

Do you think that people who have no idea of Viking history can relate to the songs?
I think most of the people reading Kerrang have no fucking clue about Viking history. (laughs) Itīs a difficult field to work in because it can be quickly sort of a turn off as well if you go too sort of geeky in a way of having this concept record of historical concepts and everything is sort of you have to understand a million things to get anything out of it. But I think on the record in the first place was planned that yes it has a concept and it has ideas behind it but we still wanted to make an album with solid songs, so it works as a rock album as such. Thatīs I think essential otherwise it just turns into, you know…sort of 25 track rock operas with concepts from here and there and a lot of interludes and this and that and itīs usually just a mess.

Do you find it easier to write about historical events than about personal experiences?
I think that historical thing as such is merely a framework that is sort of easy to work with but itīs not like restricted in a way; Iīm able to write about pretty much anything in the same framework; itīs just, you know, itīs just sort of an approach how to do it but everythingīs still doable. Would I want to comment on modern day world politics or whatever itīs still, you know, possible. Working with something like that, I just found it to be a good source of inspiration.

Any news about that disappearing accordion player of yours?
Yeah, that was earlier this year in January or something. The accordion player was always a bit of an interesting figure, hehe, so to say. So he just sort of took off and we never really heard from him. We had this European tour coming up and then after the Paganfest tour in the US we just had to quickly make some decisions and we just decided we canīt work with somebody who just takes off and disappears. So we got Netta whoīs a young, blonde, female accordion player and sheīs really good and the whole team works really well now. Iīm really happy with the situation as it is.

Are you already writing on some new material or what are your future plans?
Right now we, I mean, we played, I think, 70 shows this year so far which is quite an amount, I think we probably have about the same amount to go still this year so we will be steadily on tour. Now itīs summer festival season so thatīs a bit easier, we only play weekends and we actually get to go home in between. But in September weīre going on tour with DragonForce in Ireland and the UK and then we have some plans to go back to the United States for the rest of the year probably and I think right now weīre just so busy with touring so the new record is sort of not happening quite yet. But Iīm not, you know, worried in that sense because right now it makes a lot of sense for us to do tours and play the shows that we get and we will work on the next album as soon as we get time for that.

Well, thanks for your time!

Author: Kathleen Gransalke, photos: Sandy Mahrer
Date: 2008-07-07

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