DATE OF INTERVIEW:
14th February 2012
METAL DISCOVERY: Hey there! Firstly, congratulations on an amazing new album – undoubtedly your best to date from my point of view. How pleased are you with how it turned out?
ANNA: Thank you! I agree with you, we're really happy with how it turned out, best sounding album we've ever done.
(Anna Murphy on filming the video for 'A Rose For Epona')
"I felt pretty idiotic to be honest, because if there's one thing I'm not good at it's doing anything that's connected with dancing. Except when I'm drunk. So a nice Polish man went to fetch me a bottle of gin..."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Eluveitie MySpace:
Vên (Demo) (2003)
Thanks to Jaap Wagemaker for arranging the interview.
Billing themselves as part of the "New Wave of Folk Metal", Eluveitie have been exercising their self-styled fusion of Celtic folk idioms and the Gothenburg melo-death aesthetic of Dark Tranquillity et al for near enough a decade. And February 2012 has seen the release of their new album, 'Helvetios', a conceptual work based on an ancient Celtic tribe that takes the listener on a sonically epic journey spanning 60 minutes of music that is undoubtedly the strongest material ever composed and recorded by the Swiss octet. Mid-tour of the States, hurdy-gurdy player and occasional vocalist Anna Murphy took some time out to answer Metal Discovery's questions...
Eluveitie - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2011 photoworkers.ch
Review of Helvetios:
Official Eluveitie Facebook:
Official Eluveitie website:
MD: You worked with Coroner’s Tommy Vetterli once more for the new record, and once again in New Sound Studio in Pfäffikon – is that a studio you now feel familiar and comfortable recording in and, apart from making you sound awesome, what qualities does Tommy bring to the band during the recording process?
ANNA: Yeah, I think we'll definitely stick with Tommy for quite a while. It was great working with him, not only as a musician but also as a sound engineer. I've been working in a studio since about a year and since we didn't have the time to record all the instruments with Tommy I recorded some folk instruments and the bass parallel to what was going on in the New Sound Studio. I learned quite a lot thanks to Tommy's insane ears and perfectionism, he's never happy with mediocre results and I could daresay he even pushed us a bit as musicians to strive for preciser timing and tuning. And he's a great guy apart from that of course, really cool and fun to hang out with. So we got the whole package by having him as producer!
MD: I gather that the conceptual theme of the album is based around the Helvetians, an ancient Celtic tribe with some sort of Swiss affiliation. Were you already well versed in this part of history or did you have to do much research around the Helvetians?
ANNA: Well Chrigel was. He did do a lot of research and worked with scientists, but he already possessed a great amount of knowledge beforehand. Most of what we know about the Gaulish war nowadays stems from Caesar's transcripts and that these do not convey the full truth is pretty obvious and also confirmed by historians. His scripture "De Bello Gallico" is political propaganda for his benefit to a great extent in which home and family defending Gauls become "belligerent barbarians" and sheer genocide over Gaulish tribes become "glorious battles" that were fought by Roman legions "heroically to protect the Roman people."
So you can see it's not an easy undertaking to portray the Gaulish war as Helvetians (Gauls) would have. We still tried and cooperated with scientists to question historiography and let historical and archeological findings influence us in writing the album. But we also just let simple emotions and feelings speak by imagining what it really must have been like back then.
MD: Do you regard the Helvetians as an important part of your own heritage in Swiss history?
ANNA: We definitely do. It's weird, I didn't learn one thing about the Gaulish war or the Celts in Switzerland when I was at school. I guess this is due to the lack of information we have...
MD: If I had to describe ‘Helvetios’ in one word then it would be “epic”. Were you aiming for a much bigger, epic sound to represent the historical narratives in the lyrics or would you say your music has just evolved naturally in this way?
ANNA: Epic! Hehe, I like that. Well we were aiming for introducing more epic elements to our music, like choirs and more orchestrations and stuff like that, but apart from that we evolved naturally. We just do what we want and what we feel sounds right.
MD: Your vocals feature prominently on a couple of tracks – ‘A Rose for Epona’ and ‘Alesia’ – which I described in my review of the album as elevating those two songs “to spine-tingling sublimity through her dynamic, powerful voice and the phrasing of some truly captivating vocal melodies”. I know you sung a lot on the more acoustic based ‘Evocation I…’ but can we expect to hear much more of your vocals in the future on some of the heavier material?
ANNA: Thank you again, glad you like it. I have no idea, like I mentioned earlier we don't “plan” what our next albums are going to sound like and our musical developments happen naturally. A lot of my vocal parts on ‘Helvetios’ were actually spontaneous ideas. Since Chrigel and I realised that we especially like our little duets like we do in ‘Alesia’, I think we'll definitely keep that in mind when writing new songs.
MD: The ‘Prologue’ and ‘Epilogue’ feature short spoken pieces in a Scottish dialect (fortunately a mild one, as strong Scottish accents can be quite difficult to decipher, even for us English folk!) – who did you recruit to utter those narratives or was this done by someone in the band?
ANNA: Yeah, that's my morning voice you hear! No, it's Alexander Morton, Scottish actor who starred in the movie ‘Valhalla Rising’ amongst others.
MD: You already have two videos out before the album’s even released - ‘A Rose for Epona’ and ‘Havoc’ – were those two tracks fairly obvious choices from the offset for videos and unanimous agreement within the band for these songs?
ANNA: ‘A Rose for Epona’ was obvious, we already knew this would be one of the video songs when we were still writing songs. The second video was a difficult choice. First we were thinking of either ‘Helvetios’ or ‘Meet the Enemy’, but ‘Helvetios’ (even if it's one of our favourite tracks) doesn't really represent the album well and it has too much “Intro character” for it to be a video. ‘Meet the Enemy’ didn't convince us either and we eventually went for ‘Havoc’ due to its lyrical content which is good for a video and because it's a killer track.
MD: How was the experience of making those two videos? It looked pretty damn cold standing around in the woods on the “making of” footage for ‘A Rose for Epona’!
ANNA: It was cold! Not only was I freezing somewhere in the Polish woods, there were two ventilators blowing into my face. I had no idea what to expect, I just stood there singing the song. After some nervous, Polish discussions between the filming crew I was eventually told that I need to move and express myself somehow and not just stand there. I felt pretty idiotic to be honest, because if there's one thing I'm not good at it's doing anything that's connected with dancing. Except when I'm drunk. So a nice Polish man went to fetch me a bottle of gin (and he even thought of the tonic even though I didn't ask for it) and that was that. I actually have trouble remembering certain scenes, haha. The band was filmed later on in the evening while I was sobering up... The shoot for ‘Havoc’ was less spectacular. It wasn't freezing cold since we were inside and nobody had any inhibitions or troubles. Standing in the fire circle was pretty epic, I think that's what everybody enjoyed most.
MD: Because ‘Helvetios’ is telling a story, hypothetically, if you had the budget, would you want to make a movie to accompany the album, like Nightwish are doing with ‘Imaginaerum’ or is that something you’d never have any interest in doing?
ANNA: That would be fantastic! Chrigel and I were actually already talking about that once, but yeah like you said IF we had the budget...
MD: I gather you’re currently on a pretty lengthy tour of the States – how has all the new material been received by audiences and have any new tracks in particular been going down well?
ANNA: Yes, we are and we're really enjoying it because the crowds are great! To be honest, we wouldn't have expected such success with this tour, but I think we're gaining a lot of new fans. We're playing a few new tracks and they're being received well! I can't really pay attention to the reactions fully yet, because I have to concentrate more when playing the new stuff.
MD: There’s a particularly strong bill on the forthcoming Paganfest European package tour as you’ll be sharing a stage with Primordial, Negura Bunget, Heidevolk, Solstafir, as well as Korpiklaani and Equilibrium at select shows. How does it feel to be headlining above such an esteemed lineup of bands, and do you think you’ll feel the need to “up your game” coming on stage after those guys?
ANNA: I am really nervous and excited! It's really a privilege for us to do this, but then again I think we're definitely ready and we deserve it too. We're practising the new songs on the tour now since we won’t have a lot of time to rehearse when we come back, but we can't wait to play more new songs! I don't think we'll have any trouble being good headliners and going on stage after these bands. Then again, Solstafir really really impressed the hell out of me when I saw them live. And I love their music, I'm glad they're part of the package.
MD: Most unfortunately there’s no Paganfest UK date this time around but are there any plans to make it back over here, later in 2012 perhaps?
ANNA: Yes, definitely! We're touring our asses off this year, it would be pretty stupid not to include the UK.
MD: You label yourselves as part of the “New Wave of Folk Metal” but how much of an influence are the original guys to your approach, like Skyclad for instance who are often credited as founding the folk metal genre? Or are the folk elements in your music derived from other inspirations?
ANNA: This whole “New Wave of Folk Metal” thing was actually more of a joke that Merlin came up with one day, so don't take this too seriously. I wouldn't say that Skyclad and the “original” bands have a lot of influence on us. Chrigel just wanted to combine his two favourite styles of music (melodic death metal and Celtic folk music) and see what it sounds like, this happened ten years ago and the idea was in his head much longer. Not that it matters how long he's had the idea, but since actually none of us really listen to folk metal apart from the stuff we do ourselves, other bands of this genre hardly influence us consciously.
MD: 2012 marks ten years since Eluveitie formed – are there plans to celebrate your tenth anniversary in any special way or is it just business as usual?
ANNA: We wanted to do something special at some point and were discussing things, but we haven't really come up with anything. I guess that we're touring so much with our best album might be enough. But who knows, maybe something will happen!
MD: What are some of your happiest/proudest memories with the band from the past ten years?
ANNA: That's hard to say, for me personally probably the moment when I went on stage for the first time. I was 16 and really scared and nervous (lack of self-esteem and NOT a limelight hog whatsoever) even though there were just about 10 people watching, haha. It took quite some time for the feeling to develop that you just can't wait to go on stage. The other moment would probably be 6 years later when we were recording ‘Helvetios’ and I realised what a privilege it is to be doing this and what a great album it will be, with a great band. I was kind of having a minor crisis before that and was thinking of just leaving the band and being happy with my side-projects nobody cares about. That's definitely over now thanks to the new album and amazing shows!
MD: Finally, what plans lie ahead for Eluveitie and can fans expect another acoustic-based album in the near future?
ANNA: Well like I said this year: Touring, touring and maybe some more touring. After that perhaps a longer break which we haven't actually had ever (I mean a break over a couple of months where nothing Eluveitie-related happens at all) before and which some of us really need. Then perhaps another album? Would be nice! There will definitely be a second acoustic album (‘Evocation II’), but we haven't decided when to do that yet.
MD: Thanks very much for the interview and best of luck with ‘Helvetios’ and all the touring!
ANNA: Thanks you! And thank you too :-) Cheers!
Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion (2009)
Everything Remains (As It Never Was) (2010)