Tyr

Een frisse wind woei doorheen metal land vanuit de Faeröer eilanden toen Tyr het album 'Eric The Red' uitbracht. Het onlangs verschenen 'Ragnarok' vertoont de nodige groei en maturiteit, maar het sterkste punt is gebleven en dat is ongetwijfeld de authenticiteit. Want Tyr verwerkt veel traditionele Faeröer muziek in hun Viking metal en daardoor worden ze lichtelijk uniek. Sinds de vier Vikingen een contract met Napalm Records tekenden gaat het hen voor de wind en dus werd het hoog tijd om wat vragen te stellen aan die merkwaardige band, afkomstig van die ver afgelegen eilandengroep. Zanger en gitarist Heri Joensen beantwoordde met precisie en enthousiasme alle vragen.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

band imageCongratulations with 'Ragnarok'! You even surpassed 'Eric The Red'. Are you a bit satisfied with the album yourself?
Thanks. While recording 'Ragnarok' we really thought all along that we were doing an album even better than 'Eric The Red' and we were very satisfied with the material from a very early stage, so needless to say we are very satisfied with the album and there is no doubt in our minds that it is the best album we have made so far, in all perspectives but one, and that is the fact that 'Eric The Red' is actually more catchy than 'Ragnarok'. This is a much better production and we are better songwriters and musicians now so all ingredients are better.

The whole September month is filled with intensive touring. Can you tell a bit more about your experiences on the road? Was the success like you dreamt it would be and were there special gigs you want to mention?
This was our first real tour. We have been playing abroad quite often before, but the most gigs we have done on one trip is probably only six or seven and that was arranged by ourselves. This was a real tour with real organization. We were surprised at every gig how many people knew us and our songs, much more than we had expected. Being on tour is hard work but it is also the most fun part of being in a band. If I had to pick one gig I'd say the gig in Vienna. Our label Napalm Records contact was there to see us and we tried to put up a show as good as possible. It went well and it was an exciting moment to finally meet up with our partners in business at last.

Did you enjoy live on the road?
It was by far the longest tour we have been on. We find touring an all together enjoyable experience. You get to travel to places you have never been before and you get to meet people who like your music and want to know you. It's a feel-good thing all the way.

But there is even a longer tour coming up in November. A month on the road with Amon Amarth. That must be a dream come true, isn't it? Any prospects on that?
We look forward to meet the other bands, Amon Amarth and Wintersun, and we expect that this tour will attract a much larger crowd than the last one. This tour also goes much farther than the last one, which was only Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This time we will go all over Europe. This is a dream come true for us and if we make it good, which we will, it will be very important for the growth of the band.

Something that takes the eye is that you are native of the Faeroe Islands. Can you tell a bit more about your home and life over there?
The Faeroes, a self governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark, are like any part of Scandinavia in life style and life standards. I would not like to get into details about the daily life of each band member here. The population of the Faeroes counts 48.000 today. The main industry is fishing and related industries. The Faeroes were populated around 700 AD by Norwegian Vikings travelling hereto over the British Isles from Norway. We have preserved an abundance of folklore from Viking times and that is what we build Týr's music and lyrics on.

Tyr has a unique sound which is hard to label or describe. What are your main influences as musicians?
When it comes to songwrithing the main influences are Faeroese and Scandinavian folk, a bit of classical music and all kinds of progressive music also. Our sound is inspired by British metal from the seventies and eighties, and progressive metal of today.

One may call it Viking metal, but you are quite different from established Viking bands as Thyrfing, Amon Amarth or Ensiferum. Has this uniqueness something to do with your origin or is it just a musical state of mind?
I think we are very honest and our sound and style is in no way false or adapted, so I suppose it is our state of mind. Needless to say this is closely linked with our origin. I have often thought about the term Viking Metal and how we relate to that, and although we never set out to become a Viking Metal band it is undeniably the term that fits the band best.

Let's go back to the days of the foundation of the band. When was it and how did you guys meet each other and became a musical unit?
I met Kári (Streymoy, drums) in Copenhagen in 1998. We had moved to Denmark independently of each other and neither of us had a band at that moment, so the natural development was to start jamming. Gunnar (Thomsen, bass) was next to join. All three of us had been in another bands the same time in the Faeroes so we were not strangers to each other. Then there were some changes in the line-up. Terji joined us in 2001. He was in another band participating in a music contest in the Faeroes along with Týr. We were a guitarist short just after that and we called him immediately upon hearing that he had left his band and he agreed to join us immediately. That's the story of the current line-up.

Since the start some proper progressive influences are relishing your music, or am I wrong? Where does these influences come from?
It comes mainly from Dream Theater, classical music and jazz. We like to keep the music challenging, I would hate to be pounding a power chord for the whole evening, both to give the listener a more interesting experience and to make ourselves better musicians and keep developing.

It implicates that your music demands skilled musicians. Is anyone of you a schooled musician or more learned by self-teaching?
I am educated at DARK in Copenhagen. That was the reason I moved to Denmark in the first place. Kári was at the same school for a year. Gunnar and Terji are self taught but very good musicians none the less.

One of the kicks I get out of your music is the excellent guitar work. How long do Heri and Terji play together?
We have been playing together since 2001. I started to play guitar at the age of fourteen and he at the age of thirteen or twelve, I don't remember.

Vocals on 'Ragnarok' have still improved. You took over vocal duties when former vocalist Pol Arni Holm left the band. Can I say that you grew into this role as frontman/singer by now?
Yes, you can say that. I feel very much like a proper singer by now. I didn't do that to begin with and my singing has improved considerably over the three years that I have been lead singer. Also my presence on stage and the contact with the audience has undergone some work and improvement. Being on long tours also makes you much better and more professional at the whole on-stage thing.

The hymn-like choirs are all done by the band. Was this a natural evolution? And how does it work in a live situation?
This style of choir came very naturally to us and we didn't even think it was that special until reviewers mentioned it. We do the same thing live, no problems there. All four of us sing and we get good critics for our live choir.

You worked with another singer for some time. Why didn't this work out?
That singer was a very good front man and a very enjoyable person to work with, but we were a bit further on in our musical careers than he, and because of the professional differences the co-operation was ended. Naturally we are still in very close contact with him, since he is Kári's brother. He visited us in the studio while we were recording 'Ragnarok' and he helped us with some backing vocals.

band imageYour music is often based on traditionals. Can you tell a bit more about your love for traditional music?
It evokes certain feelings, it make you feel like you belong, like something you have to be born into to understand fully, like a national dish that foreigners like to try but can never eat for real. I use it to the utmost degree and incorporate it into almost all music that we do. It leaves marks on the sound and style that makes us sound Faeroese.

And what about the differences in your way of working concerning an own composition or re-arrange a traditional?
Some traditionals we just add music to. We have to pick out a few verses because the Faeroese traditionals sometimes have several hundred verses, but then it's just a question of adding chords, bass line and choir etc. and there you have it. Our own compositions are very often based on trads as well, but there we take a traditional melody and make a riff, a rhythm or a chord progression and build on that, sometimes even abandoning the original melody and making a new one to the riff or chord progression based on it, but you can hear the original trad melody through if you know what to listen for. That is an aspect that makes for a great deal of the originality of Týr.

The lyrics are another interesting item. Please tell a bit more about the mythological universe and stories you reflect in your lyrics…
One of my missions in life is to promote the Old Norse Mythology, but having said that I must add that all my lyrics have a contemporary aspect as well. I write about the present through myths and the Viking universe. Myths can be put to use that way, but what I don't want to be doing is simply to recite history. Anybody can look that up in a book. I want to add new angles, preferably introspective and speak my mind about related subjects and present day parallels in all my lyrics.

Though folk music is a proper influence, Tyr's music sure has a majority of metal in it. What are your metal roots?
Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Dio, Rainbow, Uriah Heep, Dream Theater, Metallica, Savatage and the like. British heavy metal and American prog metal.

How did you come to the decision to call the band Tyr?
We knew that we wanted a name out of Norse Mythology. What caught my attention about Týr was the story of him chaining Fenris the wolf. Týr is the bravest of all the gods and he is the god of strategics, warfare and diplomacy. In order to chain the wolf he had to give his right hand and so he made a great personal sacrifice for the sake of the common good. This says very much about the nature of war, when a General god would go to such lengths to avoid it.

The artwork was done by Jan Yrlund again, so I guess you were pleased with his work for the re-release cover of 'Eric The Red'. Can you tell a bit more about the artwork this time?
We talked back and forth with Jan and Napalm Records about the concept of the album and which approach to use. He gave us a couple of suggestions and we ended up picking the one based on the song 'Ragnarok' as you see on the cover as it is. Jan did very thorough background search before drawing this and he kept it very close to the authentic look. The logo was 'cast in iron' this time as apposed to last time when it was timber. This one looks much better and I think we'll keep it like that. The inside of the booklet is made to look like aged parchment with landscape backgrounds. Very good looking and fitting artwork all the way through if I may say so myself.

The album was recorded in Denmark by Jacob Hansen and it sounds magnificent! A proved address I think. Was the recording process an easy job? How long did it take?
It took four weeks. It was done straight forward. We have queue recordings with us into the studio and we begin with recording drums and bass, then rhythm guitars, clean guitars, vocals, solos, choir and at last we add the sound effects. Then the thing is mixed and you find that four weeks is not one day too many after all.

Produced further by Tyr and then mixed by Lehnert Kjeldsen in Copenhagen. More details about the mix?
Mixed by Jacob Hansen, but mastered by Lehnert Kjeldsen. We were not present during the entire mix. Jacob uploaded the songs to his website and sent us a CDR and we commented on that and worked our way towards the sound that we wanted. We wanted everything to be as clear and transparent as possible because the music is filled with details and we want to be able to hear them all. At the same time we don't want the music to loose any power and that is a very challenging mix to make and I think at some point Jacob must have been pulling his hair from our ceaseless demands to the sound, but he made it better than anyone could have. The combine of power and clarity is his specialty and we are very pleased with his mixing. Lehnert mastered the album. We did that over the phone, oh the phone bill. During mix you adjust the level and sound quality of each single instrument whereas during mastering you adjust the level and sound quality of the entire band at once. This adds volume and power to the overall sound and, I have said this before and I'll say it again, Lehnert Kjeldsen is simply the best at that, a perfectionist to the core.

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Do you have personal ties with Denmark, as it is linked with the Faeroe Islands in a political way?
I have lived in Denmark so I know some Danes and generally I like Danes very much. Kind hospitable and laid-back people. I have some family living there, so yes, there are some personal ties, but one of my dearest ambitions is that the Faeroes become an independent state. That does not make me think less of the Danes, because the matter is purely political.

Two Irish traditionals can be found on the digipack of the album, following the track 'The Wild Rover' on 'Eric The Red'. Can you tell a bit more about these? And what do you see as differences with Faeroe and Danish traditionals?
The Irish traditionals have been very popular in the Faeroes for a long time and they have an other worldly feel to them, a sort of more uplifting melancholy than the Scandinavian traditionals which have a gloomier melancholy to them but filled with such inner beauty that it makes you feel like you see a thousand years back in time. The first time I heard the Irish melody that we have used on 'Ragnarok' it was played by The Dubliners, a favourite folk band of mine. The difference between Danish and Faeroese traditionals is that the Danish trads are not alive amongst the Danes anymore and you have to look them up in notebooks. They tend to have undergone some normalization but they are still as beautiful as anything. The Faeroese trads I just have in the back of my head and I can ask people I know for more trads if I like. They have more semitones and are full of tonalities that would have been removed where they do undergo classical scrutiny. That gives them the folky edge that is the trademark of Faeroese folk.

In 2002 you released 'How Far To Asgaard'. I never heard it, so please tell me a bit about it?
Our first album. It was recorded at a small place called Toccata Studio in Copenhagen where we all lived at that time. We were very surprised to hear the end result because it was much darker and doomier than we had intended, but that is something you learn over time to see the end result based on the original idea.

Is it still available? If not, plans for re-release?
There are no plans to make a re-release, but Tutl Records, www.tutl.com is still printing and selling 'How Far To Asgaard' the original release. You can order it from them. We will keep printing it as long as anybody wants it.

You have made two very beautiful videos. First a bit about the making of 'Hail To The Hammer' video…
'Hail To The Hammer' was shot in the summer of 2002 in The Faeroes. There are some interesting locations, the ruins of the St. Magnus Cathedral and the wood farm house next to it, at least 900 years old. There are some nice helicopter shots from near the airport with very good natural scenery. This was one of the last times Pól Arni was together with us as a band-member, and funnily enough the very last shot in the video shows the bandmembers as the line-up is today.

And the video of 'Regin Smidur' is truly a special one. Where was it shot and can you tell a bit more about the Viking festivals filmed in the video?
It is shot at Jomsborg Viking Festival in Wolin, Poland. We were invited to play at this Viking festival, but it turned out that they had no electricity, so we just sat down and sang some Faeroese trads. Ingólfur Júliusson, our faithful Icelandic cameraman was with us and it was really just a case of shooting as much as possible because everywhere you turned it looked authentic and real.

In which way does Viking culture affects your daily life?
I'm sure our past affects our daily lives more than we know and I think that is valid for any place in the world. In the Faeroes we have the Løgting, the Parliament, an institution going back to the Vikings and before, and that affects all aspects of society, and there is no saying where Viking influences end and the future begins. For one thing the Vikings populated the Faeroes and here we are, how's that for daily life effect? If it wasn't for them I'd still be in Norway.

Some songs are sung in English, other in the Faeroese language. Can you tell us something about the lyrics of 'Torsteins Kvaedi' and 'Grimur A Midalnesi'?
Torsteins Kvæði is a Faeroese ballad about a King of Norway and his two sons, one of which is Torstein. It is a very long and complicated story involving a war with Denmark, which is a very popular subject in Faeroese ballads, and we usually see the Danes beat beyond recognition. This is probably because of hundreds of years of oppression. Be that as it may, we have picked out a few verses from the several hundred that there are to choose from, so there is no way to get the story into our version. We have just picked the first and the last verses and the most beautiful and lyrical verses in between.
Grímur á Miðalnesi is not sung by us on the album. It is a recording done in 1966 by two old men singing this old ballad. It is also a complicated tale about a farmer and his feud with a dwarf. We only have two verses in our version and there is no story at all in that. The second verse is re-used for the chorus of the next song, 'Wings Of Time', so there you can hear the original and see how it turns out when we use it in one of our songs. It is thought as a demonstration of our way of incorporating trads into our music.

This last one is a deviating, exceptional song. It even has a kind of chant-like sound. Can you tell a bit more about this song?
The Faeroese ballads have this chanting feel when sung by few people, and that is what we were trying to capture by putting this old recording on the album. Even in the song 'Wings Of Time' you can still hear the old men in the chorus, we have only added a bit more vocals to give it more fill and power.

You signed a contract with Napalm Records and I think from then on, the conquest of Europe was about to begin. Are you satisfied with how things are going until now?
Yes we are. Since the signing with Napalm Records things have gone very fast upwards and I hope they will continue to do so. We firmly believe that if we put all our effort into it we will end at the top of Metal and with Napalm Records the chances of success have increased considerably.

What do you see as highlights/turning point of Tyr until now?
The forming of the band in 1998, the participation in the Prix Føroyar Contest 2001, the release of 'How Far To Asgaard', the release of 'Eric The Red', the re-release of 'Eric The Red', the signing with Napalm Records and L!sten Up Management, the tour with Die Apokalyptischen Reiter, ...and many more to come.

What are your plans and wishes for the near future?
We plan to release the albums we have in the contract with Napalm Records and we intend to grow to the point where we can make a good living of music, we simply want to go all the way to the top by making the best music there is.

Last words are for you guys: some words to our readers…
See you all in November ...and UNITE METAL!

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