Welcome to the Moonsorrow Interviews Compilation!
Here you will find more than one hundred Moonsorrow interviews, many of which have already disappeared from where they were originally posted. Check the Index and Contact pages above and the notes in the left column for more info.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blistering / Early 2007

Link 1 - 2 - 3

By: Christa Titus

No headbanging bands are performing at the July 7 Live Earth concerts that will raise awareness about the planet's climate. That's par for the course when it comes to gargantuan, A-list-act events unless an icon like Metallica gets invited. It's not just a shame because deserving bands miss out on worldwide exposure. For the Live Earth shows, Al Gore and his organizers neglected a genre whose lyrics are tied to honoring nature.

We're not referring to Native-Americans, although that's another group of overlooked advocates. We mean Pagan music—a catch-all term that's as flexible and baggage-ridden as the F-word. It can make Christians seethe and practitioners go on the defensive. This makes people lose sight of the essence of Paganism, which is, to quote a paganinstitute.org essay, "a general term for all the ancient and modern religions which identify nature as the body of the divine."

This feeds into Finnish band Moonsorrow's lyrics, which draw from its country's heritage. Cousins Henri and Ville Sorvali formed the band in 1995 to create epic heathen metal, and they are undoubtably succeeding. Moonsorrow crafts albums that are cinematic in scope and detail, telling tales with scores as vast as the Scandinavian winter of religious crusades that bloodied Finland's snowscapes. Read the translations posted on the band's Web site to learn the stories since singer Ville employs a scathing roar that would be unrecognizable even if it wasn't in his native tongue. The songs' haunting, reverent atmospheres mingle with hard-charging metal anthems ready to send armies marching into battle and bursts of folk delicate enough for fairies to prance to.

Fifth album "V:Havitetty" (translation: "Chapter Five: Ravaged") pushes the grandiose compositions further by compressing them into two songs that run approximately 30 minutes each. The set is a daring U.S. debut since it's Moonsorrow's first record to receive Stateside distribution, but it turns out the band already has a bit of a following here, as evidenced by its inclusion in the first Heathen Crusade festival in January 2006. The group is also capitalizing on its growing popularity by touring European music festivals this year; Aug. 4's Wacken Open Air is among its destinations.

We logged in an hourlong conversation with drummer Marko Tarvonen about Moonsorrow's touring experiences and its Pagan background. Religion and politics are the worst conversations to have over dinner, but for metal, they make for appetizing discussions.

Blistering: How is this the first year that you've started major touring in Europe?

Marko Tarvonen:
Back in the days in early 2001, 2002, we were asked to do [tours] and invited to many tours, but since those offers were bad, we just thought, "We don't have to do those," because it's very hard to get any money for the touring, and since we were a very small band back then—that we still are—but I think those years, the waiting was worth [it], because nowadays we can do it more properly and our conditions are better for touring. It was lack of time, it was lack of facilities. I don't know. It was never a lack of believing in our band.

Blistering: It was more about getting the proper support?

Yeah, and the first years we wanted this to be more like an underground thing, so it's been quite amazing that Moonsorrow has gotten this big since we are singing in Finnish and are doing those [small laugh] half-an-hour songs, and the success has been very amazing.

Blistering: Why is it that you wanted it to stay underground?

Well, I didn't, but the core members, Henri and Ville, because they started the band in the underground and they are very underground-minded people . . . Especially Henri, he's very underground-minded and doesn't care so much about music business or stuff like that. He's more into recording albums. He doesn't care very much about touring, and actually in the last two years, we have had [a] substitute guitarist on our tours and [Henri] doesn't, he doesn't like very much to tour. He's doing a couple of shows in a year with us, but mostly we have hired [a] friend of ours from another band, another Finnish band, to do gigs . . .

We don't know why he's like that, but it's not a big deal, because the guy who was doing the guitars onstage, he's very, very talented and he knows how we must sound onstage, and he's a good friend of ours . . . And also, because [Henri] has [a family], and he has a job that he doesn't get free time very easily, so it's kind of [a] problem for him, but we have discussed this through many times, and he's OK with the situation.

Blistering: Musically, how does this album differ from your other ones?

It's very heavily influenced by certain progressive rock bands from the '70s, especially those British ones, such as King Crimson, old Genesis, Jethro Tull. And I mean as an influence . . . we don't sound like those [bands], but our style of how we arrange the songs, it's very similar to those, that's why our new songs got so lengthy, I guess. We are huge fans of those old British prog bands.

At first, when we started to write those songs, it wasn't planned [that we] do just a couple of songs, a couple of lengthy songs. We were thinking just of doing like a normal [record]—well, yeah, what is a normal Moonsorrow record? But as the first song got longer and longer, we were in that situation. We had one half-an-hour track ready, and then the question was, "What to do? We have a half-an-hour song. Are we going to do a couple, a few shorter songs, or what are we going to do?" And we just thought, like, "Hell, let's just do another one." [laughs]

. . . Doing long songs, it isn't anything new for us. As you can see from our back catalog, we have had long songs before, even on the demo, "This Winter Eternal" demo, songs where counting like eight minutes or something like that, so, it's been always a part of Moonsorrow, but that doesn't mean that our next album will consist of only one song. I think we will do that album too, in the future, but it's not definitely the next one. I guess the next album could easily consist of 10 songs. I don't know yet, because our thoughts our not in that far yet.

Blistering: You did dates in Montreal this January. Since you have come as far over to North America as Canada, do you see yourselves playing the States anytime soon?

Yeah. Actually, we have been to the states once in Minneapolis [in 2006]. There was this Heathen Crusade festival. That was the first show for us in North America. We were invited by the promoter of that festival. It was the first time they put up this festival, and we were one of those headliners . . . And of course it was a great honor for us. We had just got home from Russia when I opened my e-mails and we were invited to come over to [the] States, and I was like, "Geez. This is huge. Now we are getting huge." It was crazy, just coming back from Russia, 'cause we, we didn't have many, many shows abroad Finland before that, so it was one of those dreams that's come true. And we did one show in Montreal during that same trip, and the same guy who organized that Montreal show invited us this year too, and we did have this mini-tour mostly in Quebec province and a couple of shows in Ontario. That was one of the greatest trips in Moonsorrow history.

Blistering: Do you know when you'll be coming back to America?

It's being discussed a lot actually . . . I think we can come over in next January or February, if we get some bigger maybe American band. I don't care, but I would like to headline that 'cause we are still [a] very unknown band there. In Canada it was quite [a] strange situation to go as headliners there, but we still got many people, especially in Quebec province, so I definitely hope there will be [a] chance for us to support some bigger band onstage.

Blistering: What's the story that the new album is telling?

The whole concept's about the end of the world that, like, how do I say this? It's like the old Scandinavian and Finnish mythology is like adapted to this day, and when you look for the modern world, what's happening on this planet, it's very obvious that it's not doing very well, because [of] all the problems caused by different religions and stuff like that, and we wanted to express ourselves through our history. And well, we are not preaching how this world would be [a] better place or anything like that, but we are just pointing out . . . the values from our past. What it was like 1,000 years ago in our country.

Blistering: And what was that? What was that like?

[laughs] I don't know.

Blistering: I know—you weren't there. [laughs]

That is what's written from Finnish history. [The] first books were written as in Finnish [in] 1000, 1600 I guess, so everything you can find from Finnish history before that, it's all in Swedish, it's all in different sagas from Scandinavia, so we know very little from our past. But it's very similar to the history of Sweden, because we were once part of Sweden, and Swedish people settled the coast of Finland, so we still have that heritage, that we are the country that has two official languages. Of course, they are Finnish and Swedish. Then we still have Swedish minority people here, and I think our cultural heritage comes from there. Of course, our culture is influenced also by the Russians because we were part of Russia once.

Blistering: From your lyrics, I can see your music is directly related to Paganism, right?

Yeah. Our identity and our like . . . what's the word, I should have a dictionary here . . . well, our . . . wait a second, it's on my lips . . . the whole identity comes from our cultural heritage and what's in our blood, and that's not very much to do with [the] modern world with the Pagan, I mean, but it can be adapted into this day. I mean the old beliefs that still exist in Finland and I guess in every country . . . we honor our ancestors and everything comes from there. It's a matter of respecting the nature and, well, not all the bullshit that's going on today.

Blistering: You're saying the concept of Paganism is about praising Mother Nature?

Yeah, it's [a] very important part of it.

Blistering: The lyrics, are they directly taken . . . because I know you're saying this album has to do with the end of the world because of religion . . .

It's like, in the Bible, the album's called "Apocalypse." It's very apoc . . . sorry . . .

Blistering: Apocalyptical.

Yeah. But not in a Biblical way. So it's like the world comes and goes in cycles. The new world is born through the older's death, or something like that. The old world must die that the better and new world can be born. If you look, for example, [at] the days of Rome: They have their glory and they have their ruin, and obviously, the world didn't cease to be when Rome was ruined, and maybe something better came out from it. And we think a similar way. That, or the album is about that. I don't know what to think, but the album is about that.

Blistering: You're mentioning religion, but it also has to do with the environment, right?

Yeah, a little bit . . . It's about total respect of nature because it's [a] very powerful force. You don't mess with Mother Nature. I don't like [to] sound so green, but that's how it is.

Blistering: I know you're saying the lyrics are about respecting the heritage of Finland and your ancestors, but I don't know if Paganism is something that all of you actively practice . . .

Some members of the band, they are heavily, like, heavily believed with Paganism, and some of us are just, well . . . everybody of us, we are very anti-Christian or anti-whatever religion; atheist.

Blistering: Well, atheist means you don't believe in anything.

Yeah, I'm one of those. I believe in today, what's going on today, and I don't care about yesterday so much. But of course, I care about tomorrow and what it will bring. I'm like, maybe I am the most normal guy in this band. Those who consider themselves as Paganists are Henri and Ville, so I'm not the right person to [laughs] discuss these things because it's [a] very personal aspect. Those things can be, well, different people understand those things differently.

Blistering: Those two members, they very much identify themselves as Pagan, and you, you're more like, you identify with it but not so much as they do?

Yeah. I'm not just so interested in that. I'm not interested in any kind of religions or beliefs . . . I don't have a problem with any other people belonging to any kind of church or whatever. That doesn't [mean] being Pagan or being whatever you want to call it, it doesn't mean you don't respect what others are doing or believing.

Blistering: There are people who are immediately reactionary to anti-Christian stances, but when I look at something like the Crusades, I can see where people would be unhappy with the Catholic Church.

In Finland, Christianity, it was brought here by the sword, so that's where all the hatred comes against it, and that's where our heritage come from. We are still angry [laughs] or something like that for those days, what happened back then, when mostly Swedish bishops sent their missionaries here to convert Finland to Christianity. And that doesn't mean that we are, like [laughs], we are not retaliating here, we are not declaring war against Christianity here. You just don't, you just can't do things like that in modern society. But we can express our feelings through our music, and that is very anti-Christian.

Blistering: I can also see, in what I was reading, the lyrics weren't like where within parts of the black metal movement you've got people burning churches.

That was one period in the history of music, so to say, of course, it was very childish, and, well, those people who did it, they were children back then, and I guess they weren't thinking the whole thing through, and, I don't know how to, I don't support any kind of vandalism or any kind of mutilation or any kind of actions against any people or any religions or anything like that. We are living in free, modern, free world, free countries with freedom of speech, freedom of religions, so we are not declaring any war. Although there might be sometimes some aggressive lyrics in Moonsorrow too, but that also reflects the music, because we do have aggressive parts in our songs, and we just cannot sing about butterflies or stuff like that. The aggressive music needs aggressive lyrics.

Blistering: What would you like people in the States to know about your band?

I would like them to have some more time to digest our music, because Moonsorrow isn't your ordinary metal band, your ordinary pop music. We are challenging our listeners a bit more. It isn't your easy-listening, easy-going music. It's easier to say what we are not than what we are, because we are still searching our style, our identity, because as a human, you learn, you develop, and same goes with music. So we have our, maybe I sound a bit too much like not [a] very happy man, but we still like to have fun and we can party, and we definitely hope people come to see us and party.

Blistering: It's good to hear you can sing about the end of the world but party at the same time. [laughs]

It's [a] very hard topic to discuss because we are five individuals in the band, and everybody of us thinks these things [in a] different way. Most of all, doing a band is about entertainment. I don't deny that.

Blistering: The music has a very cinematic quality. Have you ever been approached by cinematographers or scored any music?

A couple of guys have been in contact that they want to do music videos or stuff like that. Again, I wouldn't like to do your ordinary music video. It would be great to do something more [artistic], but it's a matter of money, it's a matter of contacts and this far we haven't been lucky enough to do that kind of thing. But maybe in the near future, stuff like that will be possible to produce.

. . . When we are writing the songs, we can see that score, like film score. We can see the whole picture of the song, and after that we are starting to write the parts for that song in particular. I doesn't always go like, "I have now done the first part of the song." It could easily be the last part of the song that comes first.

We have these little different, what's the word in the movies: plot. We have little stories, plots, different plots, and when we are arranging those lengthy songs, all those little parts come together as the whole score, and the way we see our songs, it doesn't mean that our listeners would have to see the same way. And there's the freedom we give to our fans. Whoever listens to our songs [make] up their own script or score for the songs. And it's been great to read those reviews where people have made up their own script, like some battlefield stuff or whatever, and that's what [is] important for us—that people can . . . what's the word . . . well, they still have more time to consume our album that what you, well, if you're listening to Britney Spears' album, that's very easy, I guess. But you have to use some more time to consume music Moonsorrow is making, and if people are doing that, I'm happy.

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