DATE OF INTERVIEW:
27th January 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: You released your seventh album, ‘Valkyrja’, back in September - how do you think your sound has progressed since your debut?
HERI: Our sound has evolved from very dark, slow and doomy to more modern sounding up-paced Nordic metal. The one constant is the folk influence and the mythological setting.
(Heri Joensen on the mythical/real-world duality of his lyrics)
"...I’d like to write in a way that doesn’t automatically put off those who are not necessarily interested in the mythical part of Týr. There are definitely ways of combining it, and that’s what I’ve been aiming for with the recent albums."
Interview by Siân Williams
Official Týr Facebook:
How Far to Asgaard (2002)
The past few months have seen some key changes in the camp of Faroese metal warriors Týr. In September 2012, it was announced they parted company with long-time label Napalm Records to ink a three album deal with Metal Blade. And March 2013 saw the departure of original sticksman Kári Streymoy after fifteen years behind the kit. However, unleashing their seventh studio album, 'Valkyrja', just six months later, with Nile's George Kollias fulfilling drumming duties, Týr returned stronger than ever with their latest studio offering. Metal Discovery quizzed frontman Heri Joensen early in 2014 about 'Valkyrja', his lyrical inspirations, and their recent tour with Finntroll...
Týr - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2013 Uncredited
Official Týr Website:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Eric the Red (2003)
By the Light of the Northern Star (2009)
The Lay of Thrym (2011)
MD: ‘Lay of Thrym’ had more overtly political themes whereas the new album goes back to your roots of Norse Mythology. Was this a conscious decision from right from the start of the creative process for ‘Valkyrja’?
HERI: I wanted to write about women, and the ‘Valkyrie’ concept seemed obvious, so that’s what we did. Looking back I see that ‘The Lay Of Thrym’ didn’t have the same level of mythical accuracy and detail, but that back and forth from mythology here wasn’t a conscious decision.
MD: How much impact does the overarching theme of the album have on the sound, or did you let the music inspire you to write your lyrics?
HERI: The music is done before the lyric, so if there’s any cross inspiration between the two then it is, as you mention, the music that inspires the lyrics. However, for the songs I write I have a general idea as to what it will be about from the start, like for example a song title or a few key phrases.
MD: In your last interview with Metal Discovery you said that you’d like to include more contemporary lyrics in your songs. Although the general theme of ‘Valkyria’ is a mythological one it also concentrates on the influence of women over men, which is as relevant today. Did you write the lyrics for the album with the mythology in mind and how much do you think they are applicable to contemporary issues?
HERI: The issue of women and men will be contemporary for as long as humanity exists, that I am sure of. I guess all I meant was that I’d like to write in a way that doesn’t automatically put off those who are not necessarily interested in the mythical part of Týr. There are definitely ways of combining it, and that’s what I’ve been aiming for with the recent albums.
MD: With such specific themes on this and past albums, how much research goes into the lyrics on any particular album?
HERI: Very little actually. The lyrics aren’t very rich factually. When it comes to mythology I have read most of it already, and when it comes to politics I keep up fairly well with the world situation. Anyone who has been romantically involved knows a thing or two about the influence of women over men. The most research I do is grammatical and linguistic actually. Having said all that, I do look up a fact every now and then.
MD: How did your collaboration with Liv Kristine come about and are female vocals something you’d like to incorporate in your music more often?
HERI: I made a guest appearance with Leaves’ Eyes at Wacken 2012. Liv most graciously offered to sing guest vocals on our then upcoming album in return. We thought it was a good idea, and we all agree that it turned out great. We haven’t decided one way or the other if we’ll do something like this again.
MD: George Kollias took up drumming duties on the album after the departure of Kári. How was it working with him and what difference, if any, do you think his work brought to the sound of the album?
HERI: Working with George was very easy and straightforward. His style is different from that of Kári and that changes our sound a bit. It’s more technical, faster and more up-tempo generally.
MD: On your last album you covered Black Sabbath’s ‘I’ and Rainbow’s ‘Stargazer’; on ‘Valkyria’ you’ve taken on another two classic metal songs in the form of ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘Cemetery Gates’. What made you decide to cover these songs and, as they’re such well-known songs, was it daunting to put your own spin on them?
HERI: Many years ago we decided to cover the favourite metal song of each band member. On The Lay Of Thrym we covered Kári’s and mine. On Valkyrja came time to Gunnar and Terji. We played them in a way very true to the originals, but it’s impossible to do it without putting your mark on it, if you want to or not. To be honest it didn’t feel daunting at the time. I felt up to the task and I rather enjoyed recording them.
MD: You’ve recently done a tour with Finntroll and, although both Tyr and Finntroll are often classified under the umbrella term “folk metal”, you have a very different sound. How did that particular tour arise and how was the experience of touring with them?
HERI: It was an amazing tour, probably one of the best we’ve been on so far. We’ve never toured with Finntroll before although we’ve toured with most Nordic Folk Metal bands, so both bands felt it was about time. We add Finntroll to our list of folk metal friends.
MD: You mentioned in an interview before the tour that you hadn’t listened to the band much; has touring with Finntroll now made you a fan of theirs?
HERI: Yes, they have some cool stuff here and there and they put on a great show, but it’s not the kind of music I put on when I’m at home.
MD: Within your back catalogue of work, is there any album that you’re particularly proud of?
HERI: That one gets more difficult with every album. But I think honestly that ‘Valkyrja’ is our best one so far. I think our songwriting skills develop constantly and so each album is better than the previous. I’m sure many people disagree with me on this, but seen purely from a songwriter’s point of view I think I can defend this point.
MD: Finally, as we’re entering a new year, what was your highlight of 2013 and what can we expect from Týr in 2014?
HERI: Highlights were releasing ‘Valkyrja’ on our new contract with Metal Blade Records, shooting the video for ‘The Lay Of Our Love’. Another very big thing for me in 2013 was when Terji, Amon and I visited CERN in Switzerland while on tour with Finntroll. As it looks at the moment 2014 will be spent mostly on the road. Also I plan to be busy writing material for Heljareyga and Týr.