Interview With Turisas - 19th March 2011
Photo Of TurisasJames caught up with Mathias "Warlord" Nygård from Turisas to talk about their new studio album, current UK tour and plans for the future.

You have just released your latest studio album ‘Stand Up And Fight’ how has the album gone down with your fans and the press?
I think pretty much as we expected. I mean it’s kind of a different album; it’s not a copy of what we’ve done in the past. So the reception has been good overall but some people maybe expected something different and will feel strange about the album at first. It’s just really important for us to not redo our previous stuff but release albums that are interesting to ourselves, fresh and have a new angle. I mean in the UK I think we charted number 4 in the rock charts which is pretty amazing for something like this. In Finland we charted number 5 in the main album charts; it’s been on the charts in Japan and in Germany as well. It’s a totally different case compared to the release of our previous albums.

How did you find creating the album compared to your previous albums?
It was quite a lot of work; we stopped touring around mid 2009 and then spent the rest of the year song writing. We did festivals but apart from that we didn’t tour anymore and then much of 2010 was spent in the studio just recording and producing the album. There are a lot of layers and a lot of different things going on in the album; all details needed to be done separately so it was a lot of pieces in this puzzle but it paid off in the end.

What would you say your favourite track from ‘Stand Up And Fight’ is and why?
The thing is you try to make an album which has a good variation of different things and sides to the band. So not all the songs are done in the same way or don’t aim for the same thing. I would say the big song “End of an Empire” which has quite a lot of stuff going on in it; a lot of almost musical references to the west end kind of things, so I think that’s quite a funny piece. Out of all maybe, closest to what I had in mind and how it came out, because there’s always the difference from the vision you have but in the end it doesn’t usually come out as planned. So I think closest to the vision and what I’m very happy about is more like “The Bosphorus Freezes Over”, which turned out to be pretty much exactly how I imagined it to be so that’s probably the song I’m most happy with.

The lyrics within the album deal with the Byzantine Empire, can you tell us a little more about this?
Well the previous album “The Varangian Way” was a journey from the north of Europe through the sort of eastern European river routes down to the Byzantine Empire. That album kind of ended there and this album picks up where that left off; although it’s not as structured as the previous one it’s more like flashes from here and there in the sort of historical story line. Totally on purpose to kind of focus less on the story and write about things that are more interesting in that way. It’s basically about these so called “Varangian’s” who would then have served in the so called “Varangian Guard” which would have been an 11th centaury mercenary troop in the Byzantine Army; it pretty much follows their adventures in that part of the world at that time. A lot of the emphasis was not to write specifically only about that even if that was the historical framework to make it work where you want to look at it as commenting what you would see on CNN today when you put it on and not just tied into old dusty history stories and books. It’s more timeless in that respect.

Your debut album was called ‘Battle Metal’ with many people classing your music as the same name, do you ever think ‘Battle Metal’ will every officially become a genre of music?
I don’t know. To be honest we don’t really care. We just write music we don’t even want to say “we are Turisas and we play folk metal or Viking metal or whatever you want to call it” because maybe the best record will be a bit different again and we will go in a certain direction. The best way to keep the artistic a freedom is to not categorise yourself too much. The whole thing about the term “battle metal” it started in the beginning when we started out we had a broad field of influences and brought in things from different genres; so we started calling it battle metal as a joke really and it became the album title and from there it picked up as a title or slogan. It’s hard to deny its impact when we played London and Hammerfest in Wales last night, even today you can hear people chanting “Battle Metal” all around the venue already from in the afternoon. So it’s astonishing the impact of just one term and being able to call it “cool” but it’s nothing we set out to do or planned or anything that is our sort of mission; it’s just cool that we have such a dedicated fan base.

You have recently been touring in America with Cradle of Filth how was the tour?
It was good it’s been a very long time since we’ve been there. We did our last tour there in 2008, so a lot of things have changed I mean the recession has really had its impact and the live market; and the music market is changing year by year its going so fast nobody can keep up with it. I think it was a very good tour with us; the crowds were obviously very different more black metal type of crowd and for us that’s a cool thing. We can go tour with Dragonforce or Cradle of Filth and still come out gathering a lot of new fans and people appreciating our live show. I think it would be very boring touring in a package with a lot of similar bands all the time, it’s also a challenge for us to go and play to a crowd that’s not the most open to what you do and still win them over. So yeah it was a good tour.

You played Hammerfest last night, how was it and did you manage to check out any of the bands on the bill?
I think I heard Accept playing but I didn’t really see any other bands play because we played just before Accept and I think they were the last band. We’re so tied into getting into makeup and costume and then getting out of it which takes its time; it’s not just the 90 minutes we play, its 90 minutes before and the again after also, then by the time you’re out of the shower and done the venues normally empty and everybody’s left, your there feeling miserable by yourself. The show was good; there were a lot of kids coming out in painted faces and stuff. We did a signing and it was really wild. It’s also been a long time since we’ve done any headlining shows in the UK; we did festivals for a few years in a row like Sonisphere and Bloodstock but its maybe been 2-3 years since we toured the UK, even if this is only 3 dates we’ll be back for a proper tour later in the year. It’s very cool to come back and see how big things have got and how enthusiastic everyone is. We’ve toured and played the UK quite a lot over the years and started out with London Underworld in 2005 and frequently kept coming and we’ve just grown from there, so it’s good to see it catching up and having that support from the fans.

Tonight is the last show of your mini UK tour, how have the crowds been taking to the new material and what can we expect from tonight’s show?
We’ve obviously played some new songs on the American tour, they couldn’t really tell the difference between an old song and a new song; most people were there to see Cradle of Filth and didn’t really know us so you couldn’t tell how they felt. However the past couple of nights we have played some new songs and it’s been really cool. Of course when you play new material people aren’t going to go as crazy as with stuff they are familiar with; however with London and yesterday you could tell that people knew the songs even if they’ve only been out for a couple of weeks and already we’ve got a good reception so it’s pretty cool.

UK festivals are currently being announced, can we expect you to come back in the summer to play any festivals or maybe another UK tour?
We are going to be playing Download this year. That’s going to be massive; we played there in 2007 opening up the main stage and it was crazy because of the sheer largeness and the scope of everything is beyond imagination. Being able to share a stage with bands like Iron Maiden and Motley Crue you felt you were in good company there. I don’t know where we’re going to play this year or what slot but I’m sure it’s going to be really cool. We’re the kind of band we have our kind of metal audience so we can do like Download which is somewhere between a metal and more mainstream rock festival and being in the same fashion as going on tour with a black metal band, it’s cool to be able to play a mainstream rock festival as well where people who read Kerrang and like My Chemical Romance can also see you live and to be able to pull it off and play a good show. The proper UK tour is still coming later this year; we’re working on several dates and maybe sorting something whilst we’re in Ireland so it’s going to be pretty extensive and cover as much as we can because it’s great to play here.

Social network sites seem to be a big tool in the music industry these days, with artists communicating with their fans over it and some even ditching their own website and having just a social network page, what are your opinions on social networks as tools in the music industry?
Well I think anyone following a band is more likely to go to their Myspace page or Facebook or Twitter or whatever rather than their website to find out whatever they need to know. I just think that’s how it goes and you just have to adopt it because there’s no point going against it. I don’t really have a particular opinion on it it’s just how the world goes.

Where do you hope to see Turisas in a year’s time?
We’re going to pretty much on the road the whole year so we’re surely going to be touring. Now with the release of the new album that gets us somewhere, because it’s been a bit silent on our end for the last year or year and a half because we took a break to write the music and record the album. So now back on the road again with a new album, we’ll hopefully see the band growing and play some bigger shows.

One last random question that we ask every band, if you could be an animal out of a Zebra or Giraffe which one would you be and why?
Between a giraffe and a zebra? Either of them? Hmmm... I think I’ll go for the giraffe because they seem more relaxed and can eat stuff from high up in the trees. I don’t know I don’t think giraffes have any natural enemies; I mean someone will hunt them but zebras are a bit worse off. A giraffe is a lot more interesting animal I think.

Thanks for your time is there a message for your fans reading this?
We just want to thank you for the enormous support we’ve already seen for these 3 shows here in the UK; London and then Nottingham tonight it’s just mind blowing to see how enthusiastic people here are about the band. It’s flattering for us to come over here and play and get that kind of reception so we’ll make sure to come back again.

Interview By James Webb
 Band Members

Mathias Nygård
Jussi Wickström
Tude Lehtonen
Hannes Horma
Olli Vänskä
Netta Skog
 Latest Releases
Turisas - Stand Up And Fight
Release date - 23rd February 2011

1. The March of the Varangian Guard
2. Take the Day!
3. Hunting Pirates
4. ß??et??! - p??s????!
5. Stand Up and Fight
6. The Great Escape
7. Fear the Fear
8. End of an Empire
9. The Bosphorus Freezes Over
10. Broadsword (Jethro Tull cover, bonus track)
11. Supernaut" (Black Sabbath cover, bonus track)
 Band Related Links
Turisas Myspace