Lords of Metal has done two interviews with you in the past, so let us drop the questions about foundation and the past and focus on the new developments. One of them is your new deal with Nuclear Blast. Was that before or after you recorded the new album 'Slania'?
It was after. Actually we finished the whole record and got many offers for record deals. We just had to discuss and negotiate with them and Nuclear Blast had the best offer. But the album was actually finished at that time already.
Actually the band signed a contract with Twilight before but in the end they work together with Nuclear Blast. Twilight will re-release the EP 'Vên' and the CD 'Spirit' while Nuclear Blast takes care of upcoming releases from 'Slania' on.
It was a new experience to record at the Fascination Street Studio in Örebro. What about this adventure?
Yes, of course it was new for us. First of all, it is a really great studio with great people working there. The other thing is that we worked together with a real producer for the first time. Jens Bogren is also known for his work with Amon Amarth, Opeth, Katatonia. He had more influence at the recording process than someone in a small studio. He did a great job.
In previous times you divided the recordings in different studios (for example Studio E with Markus Stock and home studio), but now it was done at one place, isn't it?
No. The metal instruments like drums, guitars, vocals and bass were recorded at Fascination Street and a part of the folk instruments were recorded in Liechtenstein, the small country near Switzerland and the rest of the folk instruments and choirs were recorded in Zurich. Then we went off to Sweden again for the mix and mastering. It took about two months to record everything without mixing and mastering.
Slania should be an ancient Celtic girl's name…
Yes it is. Actually there is no deeper meaning behind it. We were looking for a nice album title and just decided it should be something in Gaulish again after 'Spirit'. It sounds nice, it is short. One day while doing researches about Gaulish inscriptions and stuff like that I just crossed an ancient tombstone of a girl that lived here somewhere in the Alps two thousand years ago and that girl was called Slania. There is no concept or big story behind it.
And what is 'Slanias Song' about?
It is a song in Gaulish language, you might have noticed (grins). It is hard to explain, actually it is a kind of love song for your own country, in Slania's case for Helvetia. That song was actually written by a professor who taught at the university in Vienna. He is one of the few scientists who is able to do a reconstruction of Gaulish language. He was really helping us out and that song is actually written by him lyrically. It is kind of a love song to Helvetia.
You must have read a lot about this subject…
Yes, that is true. It really is a passion. It is very important, not only regarding the band, but it is also very important for me personally in my life.
'Inis Mona' should be a seaman's song?
The melody you hear in the chorus is a part of an old sailor song from Brittany. We used just a part of that melody. The rest is something else. Lyrically it has nothing to do with sailors. 'Inis Mona' is actually the name of an isle, somewhere in today's North Wales. On that isle was the most important druid college of Celtic era. Families from all over Europe used to send their young boys who were supposed to become druids to that isle. They got education there for twenty years, pretty long. Our song is just written out of the view of an old Gaulish druid. He is old and looking back on his life and thinking about days long gone by. He thinks back on his youth and the time he has spent on that isle during his education. I don't mind to say it even is kind of romantic.
You shot a videoclip for that song. Since I cannot watch it at the moment, what can we expect?
There were two shootings for it. In some scenes you can see the band playing and those scenes look pretty modern. It is just a black screen and in that black screen you see the band playing without anything around it. It was difficult to shoot but I think it looks pretty cool. It is very modern, I am very curious about the reactions on this. It is definitely not typical for a folk or pagan metal band. Besides this there are some outdoor scenes and you can see little parts of the lyrical story. You can see the druid now when he is old and he goes back in his thoughts to that isle again and he meets himself there as a little boy. You can see the old druid and the little boy together, reading.
The album is out in three versions. What are the differences?
We have the normal version. There is a digipack version which includes a bonus DVD with the videoclip and live footage from festivals that we played last year and there is a picture gallery and stuff like that. The third edition is really limited, there are only five hundred copies of it and you can only buy it at the Nuclear Blast mailorder. That version will not be in the shops and it is the digipack in a special bag in woven cotton. There is also a patch inside. It is more like a goodie.
Long before 'Slania' was planned, you were already thinking about an acoustic folk mini CD. What about this one?
We are much more than just thinking about this (laughs). We are about to record it and it will be much more than a mini CD. It will be two albums, belonging together as a concept. The concept is called 'Evocation'. The first one will be out next winter around December, part two will be released one year later.
There should be guest musicians on it. Can you tell a bit more about this or is it too early?
(hesitates) Of course I know the guest musicians, but I don't know how much they would like it if I tell about them now already. There are some well-known names of the whole medieval scene. Also some musicians of the real folk scene; for example one really great folk singer in Switzerland.
You played a lot at festivals last year…
But I see this year is going to be pretty busy as well…
Indeed with start in Europe with the Paganfest tour early April and later on it continues in the United States and Canada. We will be on the road from the beginning of April till half May with bands like Tyr, Moonsorrow, Ensiferum and Korpiklaani.
I heard you are spread all over Switzerland…
Indeed. Anna, the hurdy gurdy player for example comes from Luzern, which is in central Switzerland, one guitarist comes from the Northeast of Switzerland. But Switzerland is not that big. We rehearse once a week in Zurich.
The artwork was done by Manuel Vargas. What about this cooperation?
In Summer 2006 he has done some band photos for us. Now he did the artwork for 'Slania' and he will do the whole artwork for our first acoustic album at least. The cover is already finished actually.
How did you get into music?
I started playing guitar and had an education in classical guitar, starting when I was six. I was just playing classical guitar for a long time. When I became a teenager I started to play electric guitar and some years later I started with all the folk instruments. Metal came into my life very early because I had an older cousin who was into metal. I am a huge fan of the Gothenburg sound.
The brothers Rafi and Sevan Kinder are exceptional musicians, on stage they give a dynamic show. What is their background?
Quite different actually. They are twins. Raf started as bass player with a kind of rock 'n' roll music and hardrock. Sevan focused on folk instruments. It must have been around ten, fifteen years ago they started with music, I cannot remember exactly. They learned everything on their own, no lessons involved.
Let us focus on the songs a bit again. What is 'Tarvos' about?
It is not exactly a concept album, but there is a kind of red line lyrically. The lyrical focus of the album deals with a very important aspect of Celtic mythology, which is called “the great real”, like the cycle of the year with four seasons and stuff like that. In Celtic culture it is something important. It is also an important aspect in mythology. At first there are four main feasts in that culture, they happen with the four seasons of course and for each of those four feasts we have one acoustic track on the album. You can say that the album is running through the year's cycle. Besides that the majority of the lyrics are in one way or another dealing with that topic. They are all about this year's cycle and Celtic mythology. And concerning 'Tarvos': also this song tells an old Gaulish parable, an old myth. A myth about the seasons; coming to earth when the earth was young. When the Gaulish hunter god Esus killed the golden bull, that's when the first winter came to earth. After a few months the golden bull that died resurrected again and spring came to earth.
One of my favourites is 'Elembivos'. It is a special song, isn't it?
This is one of the four instrumentals (laughs), okay, there is a choir, but it is more or less instrumental. 'Elembivos' is the start of autumn, because in the Celtic calendar the year starts with winter. Autumn is the last stadium of it. Lyrically we have this choir, reminding of Cernunnos which is also a figure in Celtic mythology. Cernunnos is actually very similar to this golden bull, I mean, he symbolizes life itself and nature, every living creature. Cernunnos is very active, he awakes in spring and he is active during summer. When Elembivos comes and autumn draws near, he is slowly preparing to rest and sleep. When Samon comes, the winter, then Cernunnos goes to sleep for three months and begins to wake up again when spring comes again. This is what the choir says.
It is time for a summary for everyone who is not that familiar with the Celtic calendar:
Samon (first instrumental): Summer's End – October/November
Anagantios: (second instrumental): January/February
Giamonias (third instrumental): Winter's End – April/May
Elembivos (fourth instrumental): Autumn's near – month of the horned God Cernunnos – July/August
I love the guitar solo in 'Elembivos', it is kind of a surprise!
(laughs) Hehe cool! That is funny, Siméon, our guitarist always wanted to do a guitar solo and most of us were like “Oh my God, no, you cannot do a solo, we are a folk metal band, you cannot do a kind of heavy metal solo”… he just did not stop complaining and moaning he wants to do it. One day he tried it out and everybody just really liked it. So we went for it.
I also reviewed a few CD's of Folkearth. If my memory serves me well you were involved in that extensive collective as well in the past?
Eh yeah. I cannot remember by heart on which one I contributed, the first or the second one. I played two songs, but now I am too busy with Eluveitie to concentrate on other projects. Originally I was supposed to contribute on their fourth album. Actually I already said yes. At that time I wanted to do a kind of Nordic acoustic song together with a singer from Greece, but then it did not work out. I just could not find the time and in the end I just told them “I cannot do it, I am sorry”.
Back to Eluveitie. We talked about Gaulish, Celtic, Breton and other folk influences, but to be honest, I cannot imagine how Swiss folk would sound…
That is really something not easy at all, because there was this old folk music here, they also played bagpipes and everything, but so many years ago this music was not written down in notes. It was transferred orally. Maybe around one hundred fifty years ago, a new instrument came to Switzerland from the East, called the accordion, and together with the accordion a new style of music came to Switzerland. Not only Switzerland, to this areas anyway. This new music was like the pop music to the people, it became very popular. Most of the young people refused to save and like the old music with bagpipes, they just focused on playing accordion and all the new stuff. Most of the original old folk music got lost.
That is a shame…
Yes it is. The bad thing is that it was not written down, so it really got lost. What we have of it today is really a handful of tunes and songs, it really is not much. The only thing you actually can do is write new tunes and songs in the vein of the old music. That is the only tradition we have.
It is a pity indeed. The final question I have is: with eight people, isn't it difficult to tour that much?
(surprised) To tour? No, why?
Well, to bring them all together, being free without restrictions?
That is just a case of priority. I mean, that is how it works. If somebody cannot join in because of the job, he quits the job. Or if that is not possible, which is actually not the case, mostly everybody can, but if someday this would not be possible, we would go with another musician. To replace the guy that cannot come. But normally we just do it like this. If you cannot do something for the band, you quit the job.
It may be a simple but hard statement, but that is why we can enjoy the top notch quality of a new Eluveitie album 'Slania'. If they were not passionate about their endeavours it would be a shadow of what we hear now. Think about this when you listen to 'Slania' and enjoy their vigorous performances during the upcoming Paganfest tour!