If I'm not mistaken you started out as a studio project and due to the great reviews you decided to take it a step further and continue as a real band. Is that correct? Did that surprise you?
Yes, that's correct. When I've founded Eluveitie in autumn/winter 2002, I firstly intended it as a mere studio-project (such as Falkenbach for example). But the main reason for that was that it was just difficult enough to find so many people/instruments for a studio-project. Not to think of a “real” band. But later then we (or more precise: Meri, Sevan, Dide, Dani and myself) formed a real band out of it - we somehow really accreted, became like a family.
Well, no it did not surprise me too much, that everything worked out like this. This was actually what I've planned, or at least what I've hoped for. ;) But what was really surprising was how fast everything went! As soon as our Demo-CD was out, it began to sell really well. We've got tons of good reactions (from press, fans, ect.) and also requests for good concerts. That was surprising indeed.
Your band name Eluveitie means “I am the Helvetian”. What, in your opinion, defines being a Helvetian?
Hahaha, good question! Well, in the end it's quite simple: “The Helvetians” were a Celtic clan, which once inherited the land we live in. So everybody that belonged to this clan (was born out of it or lived his life with it), was a Helvetian. Today our country is still named after this clan. But actually you can't really call us “Helvetians” anymore. Or at least not in it's original sense. Unfortunately maybe? ;) We're not even a Celtic land anymore (even though our culture is still full of Celtic customs, etc.).
But I might add here: The Gaulish sentence “eluveitie” was found during an archaeological excavation. It was carved in a pot of clay, that obviously belonged to a Helvetian (the sentence is sometimes also translated as “I belong to the Helvetian”). That's where our bandname comes from.
The title of the new album is 'Vên'. Can you explain where this title came from?
“Vên” is also Gaulish and just means “joy”. And this is exactly what our first release expresses on the whole and it's what we feel and want to express by playing our music. We want our songs and lyrics to be “mystical” somehow. Mysticism and as well Celtic mythology is something very joyful in my point of view. It's not something dark, it's something to make heart and soul fly.
How would you describe your style of music? I stated in my review of 'Vên' that it sounds halfway in between In Extremo and Thyrfing. Do you recognize that?
Haha, well the first part of your comment was a big compliment for In Extremo and the second one was a big compliment for us, hahaha! Just joking... however, if you abstain from Celtic folk music (of which neither In Extremo nor Thyrfing have anything within they're sound; they focus more on Skandinavian Folk roots), your definition is not too bad, I think. But in the end I would additionally also name some harder band - for our music is heavily based on death metal and too it fancies with black metal. Relatively often we are compared with bands as In Extremo. And to be honest: I simply don't know why, hahaha! Maybe it's because of the use of bagpipes - which is quite unusual in metal and more common in this modern "mediaeval rock", like In Extremo plays it. But actually they're really doing something else than we do. I mean, if you once imagine our music without bagpipes, whistles, fiddles, etc., what remains is a mixture of midtempo-pagan metal (maybe in the vein of Thyrfing, yes), old-school death metal (Swedish styled a bit) and black metal... not very like the music of In Extremo, Schandmaul, ect. And even our acoustic folk-instruments, at closer inspection they're different too. While most of the "mediaeval rock" bands use contemporarily evolved "continental mediaeval bagpipes" (often similar the old "shepard pipes"), we use traditional "celtic" bagpipes - uilleann pipes, gaita and Helvetic bagpipes. Most of all the uilleann pipe is a really different instrument (in it's sound, but also the way it functions and the way it is played).
To cut a long story short: Personally, in Eluveitie I don't see extremely much in common with bands like In Extremo, Schandmaul, Subway To Sally, etc. But nevertheless I really like some of them a lot privately - I'm a big fan of The Merlons and Faun.
One of the main sources of inspiration seems to be the Celtic history of Switzerland. Now the majority of people won't think about that part of the woods when they hear “Celtic”. Is this one of the goals of the band to revive that part of your history?
Definitely yes. We love our country because of its immeasurable natural treasures. Have you ever visited the Alps? They're awesome, they're majestic! And we love this land, no matter if it has a Celtic history or not. BUT: The Celts left us many, many heritages here in Helvetia. They really enrich this country, they're precious and they must not be forgotten, they should be kept alive. We hope that our albums contribute a little piece to that goal.
You decided to do a number of tracks in a mix of Gaulisch and Schwyyzerdüütsch. How did that come about and how authentic is that language?
Well, I would not implicitly call it a “mix” of Gaulish and Schwyyzerdüütsch. The Gaulish language – the original language of the Helvetians - is more or less lost. It died out centuries ago. But nowadays really lots of words and sentence are found (carved in stone or metal for example) and in whole Europe there are different people (scientists as well as laymen) working on reconstructions of the Gaulish language. As well I am; this is just a long-time hobby of mine. I just exceptionally survey our Schwyyerdüütsch language, because there are still lots of Gaulish words in it, which have outlasted until today, especially in the mountain-regions of the land. Some words even didn't change too much. For example a "cow" was called "loba" in Gaulish... and in the Alps it's still called "loba".
About how authentic “our” Gaulish is: Well, I'm not a linguist, neither a scientist, but a layman. In the end, the Gaulish used in Eluveitie is more artistic than scientific work to me. It's more something to bestow the narration of history "flesh and blood" a bit. But nevertheless I'm continuously exploring and working on it and I'm keen to work as substantiated and historically founded, as possible. So, it becomes more authentic day by day (but I guess, it will never be the Gaulish, the Helvetians really spoke. I don't know if it's possible, that this language will ever be completely rebuilt). Our lyrics on “Vên” were not really authentic. Even if I guess that one of the old Helvetians would have been able to understand them (partly at least) - he would have considered us bloody illiterates. ;) But the Gaulish lyrics on our next album will already be much more authentic. During the last year I've got to know some other “Gaulish-reconstructors” (laymen and scientists) and came to work together with them. So we'll gain a better and more founded result.
You've signed a deal with the Dutch label Fear Dark, why did you decide to sign with them?
This is answered shortly: They just do hell of a good job! They are pretty dedicated to their bands. They make very fair deals. And in the end, they're completely cool guys (which is really important too, I think).
This album was previously released as a self financed album. So I recon you already have material for a new album lying around?
Yep, we do. ;) But actually I don't want to blab out too much yet. We plan to release our new album (full-length) next year. In summer maybe. Again it will be about Celtic/Helvetic themes of course. Musically we will head on, where we ended “Vên”. But I think our new material sounds more mellow and solemn and the songs of our next album will build a "unity" all the more. And there will be a couple of new instruments additionally. ;)
You state that you are a Celtic Helvetian Pagan Metal band, so I was somewhat surprised that the majority of the traditional melodies on the album have an Irish or Breton origin. Is there not much left of the original Celtic Helvetian music?
Hahaha, you're not the first one to ask this question. Well, somehow I can understand it. Firstly it's to be said, that we actually call our music just "Celtic pagan metal" - and it's Helvetian, because Eluveitie just comes from Helvetia. And because of the lyrical focus (dear goodness, always those meticulous hardcore-professional labelling! *sigh*). The main part of our tunes are influenced by traditional Breton folk music, true (Brittany was also Gaulish, like Helvetia was). This has many reasons. Firstly (and most important): we just love that sound. Furthermore, we call our music - as aforementioned - “Celtic pagan metal”, so we let Celtic folk music stamp our sound, no matter where it comes from; be it Ireland, Brittany, Helvetia, Belgium, etc.
Another (sad) fact is, that Celtic folk music mostly survived in Brittany and on the British Isles and not here in Helvetia - like you supposed correctly. Here about two centuries ago, a new kind of music came up – accompanied by the emergence of a new instrument, that was brought over the Austrian Alps: The accordion. This new music more and more replaced the old Celtic music with the years. And since our old folk music was not written down by notes, but bequeathed orally (or better said: By playing), most of the old Celtic tunes of Helvetia got lost. There are very few of them, which are still known today; of the old "Hirterüef" and "Chrüereie" (ancient Helvetic tune-forms), there is just a handful. It's a pity. The same thing also happened in other countries by the way. But fortunately a new interest for this ancient music (and the culture) starts to emerge in our land, and more and more people begin to research for the old things.
But again concerning the “Helvetian” thing: Yes, we also include old Helvetic music – as far this is possible (see above). But in the end we just play our music and we're lyrically focussed on old Celtic Helvetia. Now take for example a band like Amon Amarth (which I like a lot personally). Lyrically they're clearly focussed on ancient cultures of the north. But musically? They more or less just play pure Death Metal, like it could come from anywhere of the world. There's nothing of old Scandinavian folk roots, no really Scandinavian urban tunes, etc. So, would you ask them the same question? ;)
How does the song writing take place within Eluveitie? Is this a democratic process or do the musicians who suggest the idea decide what a song will sound like?
I think a “democratic” process in writing a song would simply not work with ten people. Mostly it's me that writes the songs. As well Ivo brings a lot of song-fragments and he writes really great riffs.
But: When the matrix of a new song is once written, then it will be worked out, refined and arranged by the whole band! Everybody brings his/her ideas and lines for his/her own instrument(s). So, Eluveitie-songs are normally put together by ten people and basically written by one or two.
If you could make a line up for a festival with yourself on the bill which five other bands would be on that bill and why?
Wow, what a cool question! Hmmm, let me think. Okay, I'd love to once play together with Thyrfing. Besides them two, for sure Skyforger, Heol Telwen and Slechtvalk should take part, for all of them are friends of us. As fifth band I would maybe take Aes Dana. Or Moonsorrow. Or Cruachan. Or Finntroll. Or Asmegin. Or whatever. But I bet, if our fiddle-player Meri would have been here, she would have stated The Haunted five times, hahahaha (which would not to be sneezed at of course!!!) ;)
To rap things up I have a couple of choices for you:
1. Metal or Folk?
No, please don't ask this! I could never decide!!!
2. Cruachan or Finntroll?
Finntroll. Because they have a higher musical standard.
3. Helvetia or .......?
Helvetia. Always. But the other choice would have been Ireland. Because it's almost the "second home" of my wife and myself and we go there regular.
4. Studio or stage?
Very difficult. I love both of them. But in the end I think I'd choose the stage. It's maybe less “interesting”, but much more fun!
In conclusion, is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
Raised horns and many thanks to LoM and all readers for your interest in Eluveitie!!! And weeelll, I think you definitely should come to our shows when we're in Holland, hahaha! We'll join the Fear Dark Festivals 05 (04 March 2005 - Alter Gasometer – Zwickau/Germany, 05 March 2005 - De Kei – Ede/Holland, 06 March 2005 - Hedon – Zwolle/Holland). So, it would be great to see you there!