DATE OF INTERVIEW:
5th December 2008
The media room at Hard Rock Hell festival is no other than the childrenís play area at Pontins so you can tell my surprise when I meet Jyri made up from head to toe, ready for the gig. Thankfully, no kids were around at that time or there would have been tears! Battlelore are already popular in their home country Finland and other European lands but they are only just starting to make a name for themselves here in the UK. Basing their lyrics solely on Tolkienís stories, their music oozes fantasy and legendary spirit. Jyri Vahvanen, rhythm guitarist and founder of the band, has given Metal Discovery a bit of his time before the performance to answer my questions.
METAL DISCOVERY: How are you feeling tonight?
JYRI VAHVANEN: Tired but happy. We have been touring for almost a month now and last night we had our last gig in Leeds so we had this party. Tomorrow, weíre heading home to Finland so itís quite nice to have a gig in a big venue like this one because we have quite a few band members and crew with us. Back home, we will have a short break and then we are playing a gig on January 1st in Helsinki. Itís a 2-day small festival. Korpiklaani is playing on new yearís eve.
(ďScaryĒ, all made up, Jyriís answer to what he would like if Iíd buy him a drink)
ďI would then sayÖmilk. Milk would be fineĒ
Jyri at Hard Rock Hell, Pontins, Prestatyn, 5th December 2008
Photograph copyright © 2008 Kristell Gathoye - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Kristell Gathoye
Official Battlelore Website:
Official Battlelore MySpace:
...Where The Shadows Lie (2001)
Thanks to Andy Turner at Napalm Records UK for arranging the interview
Sword's Song (2003)
Third Age of the Sun (2005)
The Last Alliance (2008)
MD: How is the tour so far in the UK?
JV: Great! We have been in several places this time. Now, we have seen quite a lot of England and we had very good audiences. The UK is a new area for us. We have been in London and in Wales once before but not anywhere else.
MD: How did the recording for the last album go?
JV: It was quite easy. There wasnít any huge drama. It was quite ordinary. We recorded it in Finland with Turisasí producer. Then, we mixed it in Sweden. It was painless and easy and Iím quite sure we will use the same people and places next time.
MD: Is there anyone you are very excited to meet at this festival?
JV: Personally, I would like to see Black Label Society of course. Iím a big fan of them but I havenít heard of many other bands on the bill. Alestorm maybe as they are our label mates. Textures too as we were touring with them once in Holland.
MD: Why did you decide to concentrate your lyrics on Tolkienís stories?
JV: When I started to play an instrument, I became a huge fan of him and then I played in a black metal band but we didnít use that. I then formed Battlelore and decided with the bass player to concentrate on Tolkien. It was going to be like some kind of tribute band to his works. We knew that there were a few other bands similar to ours also mentioning Tolkien but we wanted to concentrate fully on his stories. Itís also because I like Fantasy stories. Itís not the most unique thing but for me, it works.
MD: Why do you think so many Finnish bands seem to try and keep their traditions alive when it comes to music?
JV: Itís also the same in other Scandinavian countries with Viking stories. Itís amazing because we have this splendid nature in Finland and somehow, the guitar and the sword fit very well together.
MD: What are your best and worst touring memories?
JV: The worst one was on our first tour in 2003. We had this insane bus driver who was using drugs while driving and he was threatening to kill one of our band members! Then, we had another bus driver who didnít speak any English and after the last gig, he left us 20km from Hamburg, with our backline and told us to fuck off his bus. It was on a Sunday evening and I couldnít reach anyone on the phone. Finally I got the record label on the phone who told us that the bus driver wasnít allowed to do that but we didnít have the choice! So, we ordered a taxi to the airport, slept there and waited for over 17h to get a flight back to Finland. That was the worst experience.
MD: And the best?
JV: This tour has been so nice, probably the best one. Also, in 2004, we toured with Atrocity and that was great. We made a lot of new friends. Thatís whatís important on tour: the people you are with. No shit heads around to piss everyone off! If there is one person arguing, it affects everyone.
MD: Do you still find time to go to gigs for your own entertainment?
JV: Yeah absolutely. I like to see gigs in Helsinki and in my hometown too. A lot of bands come here. I go to a gig approximately once a month.
MD: What was the last one?
JV: Last one was before the tour. It was a Finnish band in my hometown. [The name was impossible to catch!]. Itís metal music with Finnish lyrics.
MD: Whatís the craziest thing a fan did to you or asked you?
JV: Here is a funny story from this tour. On our website, there is a joke that says that one of the band members is from Sumatra (Indonesia) because he is actually from a small Finnish town called Imatra. When we played in Germany, this older guy came with a plastic bag and he had these petrified wood pieces from Sumatra. He brought those for us because he really thought the guy was from Sumatra. He also brought small stones hit by lightning that had created a small jewel. On the next gig, he came back with another bag and then again. He kept repeating that these were for us and he was sweating a lot. He really had some issues! And he couldnít speak English so he kept saying loads of things in German. We could only smile and say thank you but that was weird.
MD: Who would be your favourite UK band?
JV: My Dying Bride. I have never seen them live. I saw the guitar player yesterday in Leeds. They had some kind of problem at their gig where the drum tech was not let in as he didnít have his pass. They tried to explain but they wouldnít listen.
MD: Which Finnish band should we be looking out for in 2009?
JV: Kivimetsan Duidi. It means ďdruid of the stone forestĒ. They are really nice guys. They sing in Finnish and in English. They also have a female singer and they are also classified as fantasy metal but they use their own stories for the lyrics.
MD: If I go to Finland, which word should I know?
JV: Ykis Kalja Kiitos; one beer please!
MD: If I would buy you a drink, what would it be?
JV: In the beginning of the tour, I would have asked for beer but I have stopped drinking alcohol after 2 weeks and I donít know when Iíll drink again! Iíve had enough. I would then sayÖmilk. Milk would be fine.