DATE OF INTERVIEW:
25th September 2009
MATHIAS "VRETH" LILLMÅNS
METAL DISCOVERY: This is your first date of the UK tour in Nottingham - do you find it very easy to slip back into life on the road, or does it take a couple of days to adjust…to the beer drinking and so forth?!
MATHIAS LILLMÅNS: Well the beer drinking comes quite naturally! That’s not a problem! The first day is always the first day. Usually it takes you two or three days to get in, but this seems quite easy. We know all the guys from the warm-up band from a gig before and we get along really good. I think tomorrow we’re gonna have the “on tour” feeling.
(Mathias "Vreth" Lillmåns on the sound of Finntroll's forthcoming new album)
"...you take Emperor, and you take Peter Gabriel, you mix that up together and put a little bit of Swedish death metal in it."
Mathias in the Speakeasy pub Nottingham, UK, 25th September 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview and Photography by Mark Holmes
2009 marks the twelfth year since Finntroll, the originators of blackened hummpa metal, formed and are soon set to unleash their, as yet untitled, sixth studio album upon the world after inking a new deal with Century Media. Over in the UK for a handful of shows with Battlelore in tow, Nottingham Rock City is the first date on the short tour and I'd pre-arranged, at somewhat short notice, to meet up with the band for a pre-gig interview. And it's an interview that almost never happened due to over-running schedules and miscommunications although, after the show, the band's frontman, Mathias "Vreth" Lillmåns, approaches me in a nearby pub just over an hour post-gig, saying that he saw me in the crowd earlier during Finntroll’s performance and suddenly remembered he hadn’t done the interview! We buy another beer, settle down in the somewhat noisy beer garden on what is a pleasantly mild September evening, and both admit to perhaps being a little drunk. So, one inebriated journalist, and one fairly drunk Finnish vocalist, the ensuing discussions rather surprisingly transpire to be fairly coherent...
MD: You’ve recently signed to Century Media - why the change of labels? Was your contract up with Spinefarm and was you offered a more lucrative deal with Century Media?
ML: The thing was, we were done with the deal with Spinefarm with all the albums, so we were just looking for the best offer, and Century Media offered us…they have been distributing in mid-Europe before and the States so it was quite a natural switch because they offered easily the best deal.
MD: A very good label to be on.
ML Oh yeah.
MD: I was reading parts of your studio diary…was it your drummer who wrote that, I think?
ML: No, it was the keyboard player.
MD: Ah right. I noticed it’s hosted on Moonsorrow’s website - is your own site out of action at the moment?
ML: I think because he’s got easy access to it, that’s why, because he’s also playing in Moonsorrow. And we are actually switching servers with Finntroll because we have a new guy taking care of all that, so it was much easier to put it up there.
MD: So on the studio diary, it says you’ve just finished recording the new album…how was your time in the studio, and are you pleased with the final recordings?
ML: We are really pleased with the results, and this time we actually…before, we didn’t want a top-notch sound, like a really produced sound, but this album we went for having a really, really good sound…this album sounds really good.
MD: Do you have a title for the new album yet, or a release date?
ML: We have, but I can’t really talk about it yet! We haven’t decided how to translate it.
MD: Your last album was in 2007...I won’t try and pronounce its name because I speak no Swedish! But its translation is ‘From the Depths of the Earth’, yeah?
MD: It had a kind of darker feel to any previous Finntroll material - is the new music going to carry on in that vein?
ML: Sort of. We have still some of the dark, but we have quite a lot of stuff from the older albums also on this one. As I’ve been saying all day, the new album sounds like…you take Emperor, and you take Peter Gabriel, you mix that up together and put a little bit of Swedish death metal in it.
MD: So Genesis, Dissection, and Norwegian black metal?!
ML: Oh yeah! [laugh]
MD: That sounds interesting! I read on the studio blog that several kazoos had been bought at some point. Are we gonna hear a return of the kazoo on any songs?
ML: We have the Furious Kazoo Army going on!
MD: Any other bizarre instruments?
ML: Yeah, some of them come from the keyboards. But on this album there’s gonna be Theremins…there’s a Greek instrument like a guitar called a bouzouki…we have this Bulgarian acoustic guitar…
MD: I think I read you played that on the album?
MD: There’s a picture of you holding it.
ML: Yeah, I’m holding it…I didn’t play it at all. It sounds like a really huge fucking mandolin in some way. And we have banjos…of course the kazoos…
MD: Why did you buy so many kazoos? It was mentioned you bought not one kazoo, but “several kazoos”?!
ML: We wanted it so that more than one could be recorded at the same time. Me and Trollhorn…I do one octave down, and he does…
MD: Like kazoo harmonies?!
MD: Interesting! Finntroll’s original vocalist, Jan, wrote lyrics for the last album - has he contributed again?
ML: Oh yeah, he’s done all the lyrics again, and they’re really awesome on this one.
MD: Why does he still do the lyrics, out of interest?
ML: Because he’s really good, that’s why! And these lyrics, they’re awesome actually.
MD: So obviously he’s still a big friend of the band?
ML: Yeah, yeah. They’re like old Scandinavian folklore that you can actually adapt to nowadays. The new album is all about stories that repeat themselves through time.
MD: How is the whole studio experience for you - is it something you enjoy, or do you prefer performing live?
ML: I like being in the studio, because I also do…when you get a little bit tight on the money, I have a studio where I work. I can’t really choose my time when I work there…a couple of weeks here and there. So I’m used to it; it’s like home when I’m in the studio now. No fear of the red, blinking light!
MD: You allowed a few journalists into the studio for a sneak preview of some of the new songs - did you get any feedback from the journalists, and what kind of feedback?
ML: Yeah, we got some. I’ve read two of them, and they really enjoyed it. We tried to play…because it was the last day…we tried to play four songs and we were really worried.
MD: So if you got any bad feedback, would you go back and remix some songs, or redo some parts, or would you just say “fuck you” to the journalists and release it anyway?
ML: Listening to small details, always of course…especially being a sound engineer myself. There’s improvements I could do but if we go there it would take me two months and then still wouldn’t be pleased, so…