To Finland and beyond - Turisas vocalist Mathias “Warlord” hails forthcoming DVD A Finnish Summer With Turisas


By Anthony Morgan

In early July 2008, it was revealed that Finnish Metallers Turisas were in the process of cutting an inaugural DVD release. During September, its title was cited as being A Finnish Summer With Turisas. Throughout 2008's summer, Turisas had performed at numerous festivals throughout their native Finland, and recorded the shows. Eighty minutes of live footage features, all collected from various performances upon that trek. A documentary spanning an hour charts the outfit's career thus far, boasting interviews and so on. To celebrate, fan favourite number “Battle Metal” (originally featured upon the 2004 album of the same name) was re-recorded, with a music video being additionally filmed. Fans were invited to film video footage of themselves donning Turisas type attire, and to subsequently mail that footage to the group. Following that, the footage was collected together, and comprised the track's video. A Finnish Summer With Turisas is scheduled to be released during early November within Europe, and later in the month within North America.

On September 26th at the Manchester Academy in Manchester, England, Turisas began a British tour as part of a package headlined by DragonForce. A Cardiff date was scheduled to occur on September 30th at Cardiff's University, and so an interview was arranged with Turisas vocalist Mathias “Warlord” Nygård to begin at half past four in the afternoon (UK time). Turisas' tour manager Elmar possessed a foreign mobile phone number, so assistant Gus was called instead. Collecting yours truly at the entrance, Mathias was greeted upstairs, and Gus took us both into a room. Around a table with chairs, me and Mathias sat down to begin the interview.

Nygård discussed a wide range of topics, such as; A Finnish Summer With Turisas, how the DVD portrays the act, how live cuts were selected, why an accompanying live CD won't be issued, “Battle Metal”'s re-recording, its documentary, why he dislikes special edition releases, the atmosphere prevalent at both intimate and larger shows, how Turisas prepares for live performances, whether critics and fans excessively focus upon the group's image, and plans for a follow up to sophomore album The Varangian Way (2007). Lacking the makeup and attire prevalent onstage, this presents Nygård in quite a contrasting light. As opposed to adopting a personality befitting of his onstage character, Nygård seems both personable, and down to earth. A more appropriate scenario would be where future articles regarding Turisas critiqued the group's actual material, as opposed to the group's image.

 

  • First of all, how are you?
  • I'm alright. We've only completed four concerts thus far, so there are still quite a number of dates to honour.
  • Turisas performed in Cardiff during March 2008, headlining at Clwb Ifor Bach.
  • Yeah, that's true. We performed in Cardiff as part of our headlinining tour, and supporting us was Norther, and Alestorm.
  • Since March, what's happened in the world of Turisas?
  • Since March? Alongside Norther and Alestorm, we then toured across Europe. Following that, we toured across North America, and only returned to appear at summer festivals. We had completed one tour, and then immediately embarked upon festival tours, performing at festival dates during the whole summer. In addition, we also pursued a DVD project during the entire summer. Yet again, we're touring (laughs). For quite a few months to come, we'll be performing at various tour dates.
  • Following an absence of six months, how does it feel to return to Cardiff?
  • I'm looking forward to tonight's performance, as our last Cardiff concert was really good. The venue was small; fans crowded onto the stage, and the evening boasted a good, extremely intimate atmosphere. Despite the fact that the Solus is a slightly larger venue, I hope that same atmosphere can be rekindled. Obviously, not all of tonight's audience have purchased tickets to view our performance, though I feel some of them did.
  • In light of the fact that Clwb Ifor Bach was a smaller venue, and didn't use a barrier, do you feel that tonight's atmosphere might be different? In using a barrier, does this make such shows less intimate?
  • Yeah, of course. When a few metres lie between you, the barrier, and the audience, it lends the show less intimacy. Luckily, that March show went smoothly. At that show, some bystanders squeezed between the stage, and the audience (laughs). That was slightly unpleasant. Of course, we enjoy performing at both smaller and larger venues. It's nice to be part of a larger tour nowadays, and it's additionally nice to perform before a wider audience.
  • Thus far, how has the tour alongside DragonForce been?
  • Thus far, we've only completed four shows, though the tour has run smoothly. The members of DragonForce are extremely cool individuals, and the whole crew happens to be extremely nice. Of course though, this is a supporting slot. It's a slightly different situation for us, so we have to be comfortable with whatever treatment we receive (laughs).
  • In light of the musical differences between Turisas and DragonForce, do you feel this specific tour package is quite interesting for Metal fans?
  • To a vast amount of DragonForce fans, I think our music can easily make sense. Of course, there's likely many Turisas fans who are debating whether they should attend. They don't know if it's worth purchasing a ticket, and witnessing us perform a brief opening set. Generally speaking, it's nonetheless a tour package which makes sense; both acts know how to execute a good, entertaining performance, and both acts know how to enjoy themselves. It makes a great evening.
  • How do you prepare for a live performance? Do you like to be alone, do you like to drink a few beverages, or...?
  • It's quite a routine, given the fact that we have to don our stage outfits. Prior to the show, this always occurs. Roughly an hour prior, we begin to don our outfits, apply our makeup, and so on. In that respect, its a ritual of its own. Of course, this additionally happens alongside the customary warm up.
  • Do you feel that the group's overall image is a major part of Turisas' live performance?
  • I think our overall image is certainly a major aspect of our live show; right now, I couldn't imagine walking onto the stage in jeans, and delivering the same performance. I'm not saying that it would be detrimental to the music, but the performance would be extremely different. We look at the group's image as being part of a whole package, an aspect that teams alongside the music - strong music, and strong visuals. Everything comes together, but in a great way. We could perform the same tracks, and likely deliver a tighter performance even (laughs). So that we could see our notes better, we'd instruct everyone not to flash lights. However, it wouldn't prove extremely interesting.
  • Do you feel that some concentrate upon Turisas' image too much, as opposed to the group's material?
  • Yeah. There's likely many individuals who hear the name Turisas, and immediately think of the group's visual image. When you open a magazine, that's the initial impression you receive. Sometimes, it's slightly difficult to compete with that. This can additionally work against the group; in some respects, our image can discourage a potential fan. They'll assume that Turisas are a bizarre outfit, and won't wish to listen to our material. When most individuals witness us in live performance, it's a somewhat enlightening moment (laughs). Then, it all begins to make sense. You have to take note of the fact that the media always place emphasis upon aspects they feel will aid in selling their publication. It won't be the first time, or even the last time, that a photographer will suggest a Viking themed photoshoot upon an open top bus. Of course, we could sometimes suggest alternative ideas (laughs). We don't participate in interviews for leisurely purposes anyway; as opposed to turning down interview and photoshoot requests, we might as well just make the most of things. Actually, it's essential to have good coverage in the media, as that's how music fans learn about you, and learn about your group. Despite the fact that the internet is taking over so to speak, I think that articles published via print media are somehow deemed slightly more valuable than those published via digital media.
  • I agree, although I think it's wrong to feel that way.
  • Yeah, that's true.
  • If a webzine interview is printed, it can be read three or four months later even. Magazines, on the other hand, are upon a shelf over the course of one week, and may not be available to access a week later.
  • When you work with extremely professional, large media, it's evident that they're professionals. On the other hand, due to competition and rivalry, a hunt always ensues to try to unearth information. Words are sometimes put in your mouth, even though you never said anything regarding that topic (laughs). To make an interview more interesting, words are slightly twisted. At times, this goes over the top. On the other hand, print media always have an urge to constantly conceive fresh angles. That's due to the fact that the publication lies on the shelf for one month, and subsequently disappears.
  • Turisas is due to issue a DVD entitled A Finnish Summer With Turisas, so could you provide an introduction to this upcoming release?
  • Compared to the other group DVDs available for purchase, it's slightly different. Whilst touring across North America, we began to take a look at our summer 2008 schedule. We realised that a number of Finnish shows had been booked, and that was quite strange. In the past few years, most of our performances have occurred within Germany, the UK, or abroad. Only during the last year or two, we've actually started gaining recognition in our home country. Of course, it's nice to gain recognition in your home country as well. We found our summer schedule slightly special, and opted to film a documentary regarding the whole summer. It's a road trip somewhat, but also happens to be a documentary regarding Turisas. The DVD features interviews and so on, and that type of material spans roughly an hour. That footage sits alongside roughly ninety minutes of live material, which was filmed from each of the festival performances we conducted. Collectively, they work; you see the group behind the scenes making pre-show preparations, and you can then view the performances themselves. In a nice way, both are built on top of one another.
  • As a viewer, do you witness the preparation Turisas undertakes in support of live concerts? Applying the facepaint, and donning the costumes etc.?
  • Yeah, material of that nature features. It documents us travelling to the festivals, and the usual nonsensical behind the scenes madness is additionally present (laughs). As well as such footage, the DVD features other events which happened this summer that aren't even necessarily related to touring. We also discuss the Finnish summer in general, and how it feels to be home. The DVD takes others from outside Finland, and shows them around our home country to an extent.
  • Is the featured backstage material of a friendly demeanour, or is it an honest portrayal? Or does the backstage material concentrate upon conflict? Which direction has the director opted towards?
  • The DVD doesn't resemble those reality TV series' which feature Ozzy, or Gene Simmons (laughs). It isn't screen written. We toured for roughly ten weeks, and were constantly accompanied by a small camera crew. Whatever happened, they just filmed. We didn't attempt to spice up certain aspects, and portray inner conflict. Also, nothing occurred merely for the benefit of the cameras - it wasn't filmed in that way. Of course, you can film good entertainment via that method, but we wanted the DVD to focus upon what actually happened. The material doesn't resemble shabby, pocket camera type footage, and was professionally filmed.
  • Has the DVD's live footage been lifted from one specific festival performance, or does the footage feature live track renditions from several festivals?
  • We hadn't actually decided which performance footage would eventually feature upon the DVD. For that reason, each and every show was recorded. In light of the DVD's fellow content, we felt that it was more appropriate to use several tracks from each of the festivals we performed at. Obviously, the DVD's fellow content concerns travelling to the festivals, and the circumstances surrounding those festival performances and so on. It'd be slightly strange not to use footage from each of the performances. The DVD isn't a complete show as such, but is simply comprised of a lengthy set, and that set boasts tracks from different performances.
  • How did the group select which live track performances should appear on the DVD, and which performances should be omitted?
  • If you only select merely one or two tracks from a specific festival performance, then you should select those which captured the show's atmosphere in the greatest way. Due to our time frame, budget, and ethics even, we couldn't enter the studio so that we could perform overdubs, and so on. If I sang poorly during one song performance, then that performance wouldn't be selected. We chose tracks that worked slightly better. Also, we chose tracks that sounded great of course, and where the group delivered a tight performance.
  • So Turisas didn't enter the studio, and tighten up the musical performances upon certain tracks as has been the case on live albums issued by other groups?
  • Yeah, but that's not really live anymore, is it (laughs)? Of course, the DVD was mixed; it wasn't mixed the very night of each performance, but was professionally mixed in a studio. Each track is actually live, and it isn't as though Finnish festival shows are slightly special. During the Finnish summer, it's lighter for most of the day. For that reason, nearly all shows are performed when daylight is prevalent. If you'd like to film the greatest live show, then you'd issue something such as Live at Wacken. At Wacken, you could film an evening performance which boasts a large crowd. As opposed to that, the DVD features intimate performances - one particular show was extremely funny (laughs). The venue was that small, we didn't really know about it. Nevertheless, we wanted the DVD to include one performance track lifted from that respective show. That performance still occurred, and we wanted the DVD to reflect that. It's funny to watch Turisas performing before a modest audience of fifty, and then before an audience of five thousand.
  • A Finnish Summer With Turisas also features interview footage, so what does Turisas discuss in that specific footage?
  • Much of the interview footage focuses upon the group. Up until now, music fans have publicly seen Turisas as the individuals constantly painted red and black (laughs). This is the first time that you can actually see who the individuals behind the group are, and see them offstage. It's an introduction to both Turisas, and the people behind the group. Each person relates how they became involved with the group, and it documents Turisas' story up until 2008. Additionally, the DVD features other various material, regarding our live costumes, us applying makeup, and so on. Such footage is of interest to our fans, so that material of that nature happened to be included.
  • Are plans underway to issue an accompanying live CD?
  • Issuing an accompanying live CD was discussed. Century Media asked if we wished to release one, though we simply declined. So many DVDs have been released, and numerous have been pressed in extremely limited boxes boasting six discs and so on. In most instances, those bonus discs might be an audio CD of the same material. In short, this bonus material is compiled from nothing. For example, the bonus material includes a photo gallery of the shows in question. Who fucking places a DVD in the DVD player tray, and begins to leaf through the photo gallery? It's merely included so that the release seems massive. However, you still wish to own the core product in question, and the ornamental features that surround it. We definitely wished to issue a DVD release comprised of solely one disc, and that's due to the fact that this keeps its retail price as low as is feasible. That's what we wanted to issue, as opposed to an over-fanciful five disc package boasting extras of no genuine value.
  • Do special edition type releases annoy you then? For example, an album may be reissued a year or two following its original release with bonus tracks. If they like the bonus material, fans who already own the album may purchase the re-release anyway.
  • Generally speaking, I feel that much has changed during the last few years. Nowadays, you're not only expected to cut an album's worth of material, but three to five bonus tracks. One has to be recorded as an exclusive contribution towards a sampler, whilst a few have to be recorded in support of a limited edition album release. Furthermore, extra material has to be cut in support of the album's Japanese release. You enter a recording studio, and work upon an album project. The amount of work involved vastly increases all of a sudden, yet the recording budget remains the same. You have to cut all that material, but within the same time frame. In my opinion, this certainly affects the group's performance. When asked to produce bonus material, that's why we've always had huge problems. The Varangian Way was immediately a heavily conceptual album, and that album has beginning, middle, and end sections. We couldn't have recorded The Varangian Way, and additionally recorded bonus shit. It's slightly strange, I think. You cut an album, but that isn't enough anymore. You have to film a DVD that documents the making of the album, or film group rehearsals and include that. In some respects, it's the mass consumption of all. You purchase an album, listen to the record once, and then throw it away. Following that, you listen to the next album. In the past, you would purchase an album, really listen to it, and become increasingly enamoured with it. I don't really like the fact that record companies release many different editions of an album alongside bonus material.
  • Turisas filmed a new music video in support of “Battle Metal”. Regarding this new video, what can you reveal?
  • As we embarked upon this tour, a label representative asked us if we wanted to cut a budget video in support of “Battle Metal”. After being asked, we then all thought about it. We like how the track is performed live today, though the album version is somewhat outdated in our opinion. We didn't really want to channel much work into a track we felt was somewhat outdated. Instead, we re-recorded “Battle Metal”, and slightly changed the arrangement. However, the original rendition will always be the original. I used to say that everything cut after a track's original rendition is crap, though the re-recording wasn't made to replace the original rendition, or anything of that nature. We merely wished to hear how “Battle Metal” would sound, had we recorded the track during 2008. At many of Turisas' live shows, countless fans arrive replete with makeup, and costumes. How much effort they channel into their appearance is extremely impressive, so in light of that, we invited fans to send in their own material.
  • Obviously, Turisas' sophomore album The Varangian Way was issued during May 2007. Are there any plans to issue a third full length?
  • I think it's going to be awhile before we issue our third album (laughs). At the moment, we'll be touring for quite some time. Right now, our plans are to finish this touring cycle alongside DragonForce by the summer of 2009. Following that, we'll take a break to start focusing upon writing new songs, and subsequently entering production. From mid 2009 until the end of 2009, there'll likely be a gap. We won't tour much, but will focus upon writing new tracks, and cutting our third album.
  • So Turisas won't likely release its third album until 2010?
  • Yeah, that sounds realistic.
  • Whilst on tour, have you penned lyrics or anything similar?
  • In some respects, it's a constant working process. Ideas are floating around. However, this is what happens during my average day; I wake up, have to do something, and then have to subsequently conduct an interview. I then have roughly forty-five minutes of free time, but following that, I have to do something else. My free time is so splintered out that it's really difficult to work on material, and I can't work in that manner. If I have fifteen minutes spare, I can't work upon a track, and then embark upon another task. So that I can wholly focus upon writing, I need to have a longer period of time free, and can't be disturbed much. In our case, writing tracks whilst on tour isn't something which really works well. There's many other tasks to be completed; I'm reading a lot, and that is building a picture within my mind.
  • Are you reading anything specific?
  • Much historical reading is involved, of course. The Varangian Way was a really historical concept album, and I think it's follow up will venture in the same direction. Before The Varangian Way was written, the initial concept behind the album was slightly broader than the concept which eventually surfaced. We had a concept in support of a whole story, but that story would've been too scattered out to fully detail within a single album. Nothing is written in stone, or anything of that nature. We'll see. Our initial idea is that The Varangian Way is the inaugural part of a wider story.
  • Does there happen to be a specific battle, or a specific period of time, or even a specific concept, which The Varangian Way explores?
  • The Varangian Way deals with the first half of the eleventh century, basically. The album documents the tale of a trade route from Northern Europe, or Scandinavia, through to Eastern Europe. From there, the route went down to Kiev, and Kiev was a major capital at the time. Finally, the route reached Constantinople, or Istanbul at it's known today, which happened to be almost the largest city across the globe. That's the time frame.
  • Will the successor to The Varangian Way deal with the second half of the eleventh century?
  • Time wise, I think The Varangian Way's successor will deal with that.
  • In the coming years, where would you like to take your career?
  • The way Turisas has progressed has been really nice, I think. At the end of the day, the motives behind performing as part of a group aren't to gain success, or to perform at large venues. On the other hand, any musician who says they wouldn't like to perform at larger venues, or gain a larger fanbase, is probably lying. If you begin to think of music as solely a profession, and a means to earn money in order to live, then you have the wrong approach. If you begin to think that way, you begin to make decisions which are based upon the wrong factors. Whatever happens, I believe that Turisas will grow as time passes, and as we tour more extensively, we'll sell more albums, and perform at larger venues. From an artistic perspective though, decisions are always based upon what we wish to do, and what we feel we should do. We don't opt towards venturing in a specific direction to solely achieve additional success, which isn't particularly interesting.
  • Do you have a message for the fans of Turisas?
  • Last time we performed in Wales, we had a great time, and we hope the same can be said of tonight's performance. A Finnish Summer With Turisas will be issued in November, and fans should purchase that release - it's a really great package.
  • Ok, thanks for the interview.
  • Thanks.