We sat down with vocalist Vreth (Mathias Lillmåns) and guitarist Routa (Mikael Karlbom) of Finntroll for a chat ahead of their performance at Heavy Scotland. We spoke about new material, live shows and more!
“I think we will be going to the studio within the next year.”
Dave: You guys haven’t released anything in a while. What’s coming up?
Vreth: You know it seems like this is the first thing that everyone asks us whenever we do an interview!
Routa: Blodsvept was four years ago, no?
Vreth: It’s pretty much exactly four years ago!
Routa: We’re working on new material though.
Vreth: Actually on the way here I heard sections from two new songs.
Routa: Yeah, me and Tundra have done a few new songs, and we have had a couple of sessions with Trollhorn. It’s coming. Slowly! But we’re not really in a hurry. We really want to create albums entirely by ourselves and we don’t want to rush them!
Vreth: We like to bring something new on every album.
Dave: Is there a focus to any particular instruments on the new stuff?
Vreth: It’s still so much in the cradle phase that we haven’t quite found the right thread for it yet, but let’s see! I think the new stuff is strange but it’s strange in a good way.
Routa: It’s rock, it’s black metal and it has folk elements. It’s going to sound like Finntroll.
Vreth: We’ve got some Eastern folk elements in it as well.
Nat: It sounds like you’re going down a TrollfesT route there if you’re using Eastern folk!
Vreth: I think we’re going even further East than that – we’re far beyond Balkan at this point! (laughs) I think we will be going to the studio within the next year.
Dave: Is there a name for the album?
Routa: It’s way too early for that!
Vreth: I have had some lyrics from Katla already though and they’re really cool. The lyrics he’s written are way more brutal than before. They’re like ritualistic stuff.
Routa: It suits us well actually.
Nat: Do Katla’s lyrics get more brutal with each album?
Vreth: Yeah, this is going to be like a new Cryptopsy album! (laughs) It’s sounding quite tribal, too.
Dave: Where are the influences coming from for it all?
Routa: They’re coming from everywhere, basically! I don’t think you can pinpoint it. It depends on the mood of the day and what [we’ve] have heard or read; it comes from everywhere.
Dave: So what have you guys being doing since your last release?
Routa: Touring, pretty much.
Vreth: Yeah, we’ve been touring like crazy.
Routa: This show is the first of only about six or seven shows for us. We also have a Russian tour, but that’s at the end of the year.
Vreth: I think we’ll only be doing about ten to fifteen shows this year.
Routa: In the past few years, we’ve had shows every single week and a few big tours. We’re not really a band that likes to write new material on the road.
Dave: So what does happen on the road?
Routa: It stays on the road!
Vreth: To be honest so much has happened over the past few years [that] it’s been crazy. I could write a book about it.
Routa: For us it was interesting touring-wise. We finally made it to South Africa last year.
Vreth: That was really cool.
Routa: Yeah it was really awesome. We also played some new places in Russia and China and also some new places in South America. Last year we toured all the places we’ve never been before!
Vreth: We also had a bit of a weird show this year. We played at this place where all the Finns go for their summer holiday at Las Palmas!
Routa: It was weird because all the audience was sat down and we were like “come on down to the front of the stage” and so a few people came but then they started to come onto the stage and the security was like “no, no, no!”
Routa: We were just like “fuck, the audience is so far away!”
Vreth: It was an amphitheater with all these nice padded chairs on an incline.
Nat: Was there any crowd surfing going down the chairs?
Routa: I wish! I just really hate shows where everyone has to sit down. It’s kinda like ugh (Routa groans in disdain.)
“That song is mandatory – it’s a curse!”
Dave: What’s been your craziest show?
Vreth: Some of the South American shows were really wild; also the one we played at Johannesburg in South Africa with the weird catwalk down the middle.
Nat: Did you walk up and down the catwalk then?
Vreth: Of course! (laughs)
Routa: We always have really good crowds in France. The audiences there are always so crazy – crazy in a good way of course, with everyone really into it; I think one of our most violent shows was in Poland where people were actually beating each other up in the mosh pit.
Vreth: Oh shit yeah.
Routa: That was fucking horrible to watch, we were like “oh, ouch, that must have hurt!” Everyone was pounding each other!
Dave: Did you intervene at that point?
Vreth: Yeah, I said “go nuts, headbang and have mosh pits, but no violence!”
Routa: It just didn’t look nice. It was just really aggressive. The whole atmosphere was starting to turn.
Vreth: People were just backing away like “we don’t want to go near that mosh pit.”
Dave: Your music’s brutal, but it’s not really the type to incite violence, it’s good fun!
Vreth: Yeah, you don’t have to break each other’s noses!
Routa: The funny thing was they weren’t actually fighting each other and arguing – they were just laughing and shaking each others hands after picking each other up! (laughs)
Dave: What about tonight, what’s in store for us?
Routa: Pretty much something from all the albums!
Dave: I’ve been told it’s a touchy subject and that I shouldn’t ask about whether you’re playing Trollhammaren?
Routa: That song is mandatory – it’s a curse! We’re actually having quite a short show today [as] it’s about an hour long.
Nat: Is it difficult choosing what songs to fit into an hour-long set?
Vreth: Yeah, it’s pretty much just one song per album! Today, we also have a stand-in keyboard player.
Routa: El Condor!!!
“It’s like in theater. When you put on the makeup, you can do whatever you want. There’s no shame and no limits!”
Dave: Do you ever make music with the keyboards in mind? In your earlier stuff the melodies seem to come from the keyboards.
Vreth: Yeah, there’s the lead guitar of course but the keyboards do a lot of the melodies so in Finntroll the keyboardists, either Virta or our new guy for some of the shows, still want to be stood a little bit back, but they do a huge part of the show.
Routa: That’s why it’s really important for us that we have our own sound engineer as he knows when to push up the keyboards. We have done a few shows with local sound guys and it’s kinda like (shakes head)
Nat: So how did you find Felipe?
Routa: It was through Virta our keyboard player. He knew his band (Frosttide – ed) and had met Felipe a few times, and he knew that the guy had the skills to play.
Vreth: So we asked him if he could send a video.
Routa: We actually asked about four or five people if they could just play some song and send a video so we [could see] how their playing was, and Felipe’s video was way better than anything else we got.
Vreth: Yeah, he’d done all of the different sounds. Some of the videos we were sent just had the ‘piano’ sound and–
Routa: And skipping all the hard parts!
Vreth: Yeah, exactly, so fuck that! But Felipe played the whole song with all the different sounds and we knew that this would be our guy! Plus, he was free for the tour as well.
Nat: It must have really helped that he spoke Spanish for when you went to South America, too.
Vreth: It was a help but we had to [ask him to] tone it down a bit because he’d start speaking in Spanish to the promoters and they didn’t speak to anybody else. They totally forgot about our tour manager and stuff like that! But when it was critical and we couldn’t talk to anyone, we could be like “ah, Felipe, come here!” In the airports he was a huge help because all the staff only spoke Spanish! So it was really handy to have him around.
Routa: The most important thing is that he’s a super nice guy, and he fits with us perfectly. One more asshole in this band — I mean there are already The Old Assholes so we don’t need any new ones!
Dave: Are we allowed to publish that?
Routa: You can! (laughs)
Dave: Speaking of new band members, how do they feel about getting with the aesthetic?
Routa: Well Felipe is all into it! We had this guy on our North American tour a few years ago: Skrymer couldn’t get a visa in the States and it was about two weeks before the tour, so we were like “fuck, we need a stand in guitarist” so we got an American dude called Brandon Ellis, he was eighteen years old and at first he was like “yeah guys, I am not gonna put that shit on.”
Vreth: No, he was twenty-one! He could drink!
Routa: Oh yeah my bad! But yeah at first he was just like “I’m not going to put that shit on my face.”
Vreth: He was like “I’ll do the makeup but I won’t do the ears!”
Routa: So then he did the makeup and we did our first show [with him,] and we had all the ears and shit. He was watching us on the stage and after he said “next time I really need those ears it looks way too fun!”
Nat: He does one show and he’s like “no, I can’t hold myself back from the ears!”
Vreth: Yeah! He was like “I’m missing out on something, I felt so distant from you all!”
Routa: It’s like in theater. When you put on the makeup, you can do whatever you want. There’s no shame and no limits!
Dave: I’m really looking forward to tonight’s show by the way, it’ll be the first time I’ve ever seen you guys live.
Routa: Oh, that’s awesome! In that case, we’ll blame that guy if it sounds bad!
(Routa points at Felipe who has just joined us at the table.)
Felipe: Yes, it’s my responsibility!
Routa: ALWAYS blame the new guy!
Felipe: Yeah it’s my responsibility to screw up here, but I’ll get paid for it.
Routa: Not really.
Nat: (to Felipe) You’re just here for the adventure?
Felipe: Yeah! They’re nice guys.
Vreth: And you get free beer!
Live photography by A D Zyne