Last month, our editor travelled to Finland to see Moonsorrow in both Kuopio and Turku, before heading back to the UK for a third show in York – you can read all about it here. We also got the chance to speak with guitarist Mitja Harvilahti ahead of their show in York, and this is the result! See below for discussions on playing the UK, exploring cities and surroundings, Lakupaavi and much more!
Welcome to the UK! How are you enjoying your time here so far?
So far, it’s been very nice! The best thing is that I even had a bit of sleep because it’s been quite a rough trip. We didn’t sleep at all when we went to Norway – we actually started today in Blastfest!
How did that go?
It was good but we were the last band to play, so the result was that after the show, we only had about thirty minutes to get our gear together, take a shower and then get back to the airport in order to fly over here. So we haven’t been sleeping for two nights in a row! (laughs) But that’s kind of normal for these sorts of tours, where you fly every day to a different place.
So getting down to business, tonight marks your first ever UK headline show. How are you feeling about it?
It feels great. We’ve been waiting to come back here for so long.
The last time was at Bloodstock in 2012, wasn’t it?
Yeah, and that’s way too long! We get a lot of feedback from the UK and every time there’s a tour proposal something goes wrong, so we haven’t been here so much. It almost feels like we have neglected the UK, and we have a lot of fans here, with a lot of people liking our stuff, so we should definitely come more often – but things always go wrong!
How does playing in a country such as the UK compare to your native country of Finland?
That’s difficult to say. We played in the UK more in 2008, we played in London for Paganfest and the shows were just amazing. We had a sold out show at Koko in London which was nice. However I don’t think it makes that much difference.
If the crowd responds well, I guess it doesn’t really matter where it is you’re playing!
Yeah, exactly. British people are quite energetic – just like Finns are, actually – and I don’t see so much difference but maybe after the show I might have a different answer! (laughs)
How do you personally think the two Finnish shows went? Did you have a favourite out of the two?
Well. Of course the venue in Turku was a little bit better but other than that, I loved them both. They were so different – the venue in Kuopio was a lot smaller and people were a bit more drunk, but the enthusiasm was the same for both shows. It was a pleasure to play them!
In Finland – and I assume here as well – you had less choice for what songs to play due to your drummer being injured due to an aikido accident. Is there any songs you’re disappointed to have dropped from the set?
Yeah, definitely. We were planning to play Tulimyrsky but we can’t do it. We really wanted to but it’s just…he can do some fast double bass or kick drum for some time but it starts hurting after a while and he just doesn’t have the power. His right leg is like a shadow of its former glory!
What do you like best about live shows?
Everything! Usually. Except when you’re awake too much, but I always enjoy travelling. Performing is why we are here but I like everything around it, just seeing new places and seeing new people. I like to explore and go around as much as I can, even if the schedule is tight.
That’s really cool – where have you most enjoyed being able to visit?
We’ve had great experiences in China, Japan and America but really…everywhere!
Anywhere and everywhere?
Yeah! Anywhere where you can have time to go somewhere.
Have you had the chance to see much of York?
No. I couldn’t see any of it. I know some stuff about York and have seen a lot of pictures. I was googling a lot – Google Maps is great to explore the city beforehand. So I kind of know how it looks like but I haven’t witnessed it with my own eyes and I won’t have the chance now.
Is there anything you dislike about playing shows?
(There is a long pause.) Actually, no! I enjoy playing shows and I enjoy getting on the road, so for me personally I don’t see anything bad about it. Of course there are downsides, like waiting a long time sometimes or having to sit around in the backstages…but so what? (laughs) It’s part of the job and I don’t see anything bad about it. You just get to blabber stupid stuff with your bandmates!
Photo taken by Sanna Kallio in Turku.
Moving onto some more broader questions, what are your thoughts on the stereotype of Finland being ‘all about the metal’?
I guess it depends on who you ask, a metalhead or someone else! (laughs) I guess it’s not really about metal any more…the metal scene has been going down for many years now already. In a way it’s good, but it’s also bad that we don’t have so many new bands coming out, or that the focus has been shifted somewhere else. So I guess I’m not sure! It still is a metal country in a way, and we have a lot of strong bands from the country, but I’d really like to see new and rising bands reaching a high level. However, so far not many bands have done that.
About a year ago, Moonsorrow was described as being a ‘problematic’ band because of your Lakupaavi ‘side project’ and the fact that Henri happened to wear a Burzum shirt in a few photos. What are your thoughts on that?
Ohhh, that! It was kind of funny. But it was also unfortunate because people don’t seem to think that much when it comes to things like that. They are black and white in their thinking, and when you meet us or want to discuss with us, you’ll get a completely different impression than from some photo on the internet.
People these days are so quick to make judgements, it seems.
Yeah. And when you’re black and white, you make judgements very easily. I have nothing against these people…I think their agenda was good but it was very badly conducted. I only hope the best for these people – and you can include that in the interview, because I felt kind of bad for them. If they were feeling bad in their lives and felt that people had been mistreating them, that’s sad, but the way that they brought it out only made it worse for them. That’s not the way to go and I think that it’s time for them to grow up on many levels and see how black and white thinking is not the way to go in life, in any area of it.
And Lakupaavi…well, it’s all about being politically incorrect! (laughs) That’s the whole point of it. If you’re not on the same level of discussion, you don’t know where all these aspects come from. Of course, people will find it offensive, but you should always see that whatever is said, it has to be in a certain context. If the other person doesn’t understand it then being politically incorrect doesn’t work.
So on the subject of Lakupaavi…is there any chance of new material in the future, or was it strictly a one-off thing?
Well, I have actually wrote about thirty more songs for it! The problem is that it was done in a time that was very spontaneous and if we do it again, it wouldn’t quite be the same. We have great songs, but maybe we should have a different name for it! It would be great to record some of it anyway. I have some killer songs coming up! I already wrote them in 2006! (laughs)
In the same session as Raah Raah Blääh?
Sort of. I wrote them just afterwards!
And to close with some random and more quick-fire questions – if you could choose an animal to represent the band, what would it be?
Wow, that’s hard to say! It should be…what the hell would it be?! A lynx but I’m not sure why! But I guess it was a quick-fire question and that was a quick answer! (laughs)
What’s your favourite word in Finnish and what does it mean?
Turakainen. It means “clumsy, hairy bastard”. I have a boat called that, and the name represents it very well! It’s a very ugly boat from the 50s and it’s falling apart – every year more-so.
And if you could replace the soundtrack to a movie with your own music, what would you choose?
Well, I wouldn’t want to choose any of the cheesy Bravehearts, that’s for sure! I feel like it should be something connected to our music but I think all these Viking movies are really bad so I wouldn’t want to put it to a movie like that! I think I’d like to use it for The Road. It’s a post apocalyptic movie that came out in 2009, and it’s about a father and son running about in a destroyed world. The previous album that we made was kind of inspired by it, so I think it would do it well!