22 Février 2015



Interview Ville Seponpoika Sorvali / Mitja Harvilahti

Thank you for according an interview for First, may you introduce yourself and your band?

Ville: I’m Ville, from Moonsorrow. I play bass and I sing in Moonsorrow.

Mitja: I’m Mitja, and I play the guitar in Moonsorrow.

So about your last album ("Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa"). The concept was centered on life after the end of the world. How did this idea come to you?

Ville: It came to Henri, the guitar player and composer. He had an idea when he saw some pictures of Tchernobyl or something, and he started to think of a storyline or idea that would be great to make with Moonsorrow. We already had an album, the one before "Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa", which ended with the end of the world. So we thought that we could continue the story a bit further.

Was it already planned when you wrote "Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa"?

Ville: It wasn’t that intentional, and they are not stories linked together, but for the previous album, there was a song about the end of the world, and then we just wanted to describe how it would be after that, but they are not really connected to each other.

When Moonsorrow was founded twenty years ago, did you think that you would reach this level of success?

Ville: Twenty years… I’m old! We didn’t think of anything actually. We just wanted to create music. Our main goal was to get a record deal and concerts. We had the record deal in 1999 and our first concert in 2000, and everything that came after that wasn’t really planned.

Mitja: Yes, we never aimed for that. We just wanted to play all around the word and play and make music. Everything that came after was because people liked our stuff and there was a demand for our music.

Ville: It was two days ago, when we played in York, I caught myself, while playing the show, thinking  "this is really weird". It was after a spoken part. So I was speaking Finnish to the audience and when it was over, I thought that it was really absurd. I mean in England, speaking Finnish to people who don’t understand it... but they seemed to like it. It’s really amazing that we got this far.

How would you define your musical style?

Ville: Epic Pagan Metal I’d say. I don’t know how to define it really. It has so many elements from Black Metal, and progressive Rock and Folk Music of course. I can’t really define. Maybe Mitja can!

Mitja: No! You said it already.

Ville: We always want to make music that sounds like us. We didn’t intentionally try to make music that sounds like nobody else, we just want to sound like ourselves.

Your songs are usually very long, don’t you like shorter songs?

Ville: We can’t make them.

Mitja: It’s very difficult, when you write songs that are fifteen minutes long or longer, to go back to five or eight minute songs. It’s that the whole mindset is really different, and you get used to slower built structures. It’s really different from making the classic three, four or five part music. Then it becomes very challenging for us to make shorter songs nowadays.

Ville: Our way of composing music is, I’d say, closer to classical music than punk-rock, because the songs have a more classical type of structure for this kind of music. It’s not just A B A B.

How do you compose your songs? What is the process?

Mitja: The process isn’t always exactly the same. Usually, anybody can send ideas, It’s Henri who puts everything together, always. So we send him ideas or riffs, or we can go there to show the stuff. Or he just makes it by himself when he has an idea, like composing with the computer. Usually we don’t go to a rehearsal place at all, until just before we go to the studio but things are done at his home studio always. So the process is that we can be involved, but sometimes Henri composes by himself, there’s not so much input from us. But we discuss it all the time, by phone or by going to his place. It’s a bit different from most bands.

Ville: During the course of our history, we made six albums we only jammed one riff at the rehearsal place. We've tested one riff there. That’s how we work. That was the starting riff of "Pimeä". Everything else happened on the computer.

You signed a deal with Century Media in 2012, how is it going with them?

Ville: Well we still haven’t made an album for them yet. I think it’s going well. We signed with them because they were actually interested in our music, not just interested in business. Or so it seemed. They seemed to be cool and honest people and most of all music fans. They work for a label because they love music, and this is how I like it. Of course it’s business, but you also have to like what you’re selling.

Mitja: Of course they are still waiting for us to finish the record. It takes time, it always takes time. They have to understand that we will only release the album when we are happy with the material. We already have quite a bunch of songs ready but we ditched them at some point and we started all over again one year ago.

What can you tell us about the new album?

Mitja: It’s different from the stuff we did before. This time we have shorter songs. A little bit, not much. There are a lot of elements this time. The previous album was very produced and unified, this time there are many things happening in the music.

Most of your albums have to be listened without interruption to be fully appreciated. Will it be different this time?

Mitja: That’s something we can’t say yet. It could be easier to listen to this time, like you can listen to separate songs because they are quite different from each other. We will see when it’s ready if it’s like a concept album or not.

I suppose that you cannot give us a date right now?

Ville: No not yet. I would guess something like around a year from now.

Fair enough. What attracts you the most in Pagan Black Metal?

Ville: It was really different when we started. There wasn’t a thing called folk metal for example. People didn’t know how to label us or Finntroll, or Ensiferum, or Turisas, which were the finish bands that were doing the “same” kind of stuff. People didn’t call it folk metal at the time. It was supposed to be a new thing. And it wasn’t a new thing if you think about it, there were already some bands like Skyclad for example, who did folk metal like decades before us.

Mitja: Black Metal of course, was very interesting when I started listening to it in the early nineties. It was so different from Death Metal for example. All the lyrics of course, all the Satanism and the paganism were interesting. Also, musically it was so different from all the other bands. It could be extremely brutal with calm ambient stuff. Some very good bands like Emperor really introduced me to using keyboards. Darkthrone also.

Ville: Yeah, Black Metal was very interesting at the time because I’m pretty sure bands didn’t know exactly what they were doing but they were just doing things they felt were right. At the time we could have a really raw album by Darkthrone, where everything was recorded in one take and with members also very drunk, and the songs were very aggressive and then suddenly we would have an all-acoustic album. They were just experimenting and that’s what is very interesting. Of course we started by copying the bands we liked the most, but we tried to make what we felt was right and experiment our stuff. Our first album was quite much like Enslaved but it evolved with time, we found our own sound.

What do you think about the growing popularity of Folk and Pagan Metal?

Mitja: I don’t think it’s a surprise, because it really is one of the last new genres of Metal and if you use wisely your instruments it can be extremely interesting, very catchy. So yeah, it has grown so much in the last ten years. I don’t listen to it much, I don’t listen much to new bands, I don’t have a clue about what’s going on, I should pay more attention, but I see why it started. For exemple, Finntroll and Turisas: they are quite different but they are very catchy in their own forms.

Ville: There is a lot of influence that you could draw from all sorts of folk music. I also don’t listen to it that much, I don’t really know what is it nowadays, I listen more to folk/rock. I find those actually more interesting than bagpipes combined with distorted guitars.

So there are no “new bands” that you enjoy listening to?

Ville: There are some bands that I really like, but of course I can’t remember their names right now. I got old and lazy and I just listen to my old records. What I bought when I was fifteen. They still have a special place in my heart. Most of that is Norwegian Black Metal, but there’s also progressive rock. I don’t know which new band really caught my attention…

Mitja: For me it's a young Finnish thrash metal band named Forced Kill. This one I really liked. There are quite a few bands that make like eighties kind of Thrash Metal nowadays, but these guys are really good.

Ville: There are lots of interesting young bands from Finland nowadays, really young guys who are barely eighteen. They are playing so well and composing so well it’s just amazing... because I couldn’t do anything when I was that age. I was practicing how to play bass, because everyone wanted me to play bass in Moonsorrow. That is the truth, I’m not hiding it.

Can you tell me a bit about the Metal Scene in your country?

Mitja: Well, Finland became really really big as a “Metal country”, but now it’s going down a bit. We don’t have many successful new bands. I think the focus is somewhere else nowadays than in Finland. We still have the same old bands we had ten years ago, Children of Bodom and all these, but I think Metal has been going down quite a bit. At some points we had metal bars, I think there are fewer and fewer.

Ville: And we don’t go to those places because we don’t like to listen to Metal when we drink beer. Yes, we want to listen to Metal while we drink beer, but not at an agonizing volume.

What is the strangest thing that happened to you while on tour?

Ville: They are many.

Mitja: They are so many! There are really funny stuff and very horrible stuff. Like people getting killed. We have witnessed shootings and stuff very close by. Yesterday I remembered one really funny that happened to me in the Netherlands. I was just couple hours from the show, and I took a walk and I saw this big cathedral. So I went inside and they were closing already, but I thought I would have time to visit the catacombs and stuff. So I went down there. It was as dark as any place can be. I was in the middle of these catacombs trying to find my way with my hands, and it wass so silent that I started to hear my own heartbeat and my own blood pumping. After some time I saw the exit sign, so I went out and there in the empty cathedral, there was nobody there. Then I saw a lift that brought me to the top of the cathedral. Here I looked at the view for some time, and I thought it was time to go back because it was really getting late. So I pushed the button and nothing happened. I was stuck there, one hundred meters from the floor, like how the hell am I supposed to do! So I used the emergency interphone, called a guy and explained him that I was stuck there, and asked him to get me down. The guy was very angry; he told me “I just left the fucking cathedral fifteen minutes ago!”. So he came to unstick me. Then I got lost in the streets. I was already really really late and luckily I found a very nice homeless guy who helped me to find my way. So I bought him a meal, because he was starving and he helped me. It was a really strange day… We have been touring for so many years that basically if you watch the Spinal Tap movie, all the things that happened in the movie happened to us.

Ville: There are so many stupid stories… One of the most stupid is the story when I was in the US, we just came out of the bar, and I saw a tree. I thought that since I was drunk as a monkey, I could as well act like a monkey. And I climbed that tree, but I didn’t know how to stay there. I fell down and I really hit my head badly. I had serious headaches for the next two days, and Mitja was really angry. The tourman also was really angry. He was saying that I could have killed myself, and none of us would have had any work! I was very sorry. I haven't done anything that stupid ever since. I don’t wanna kill myself, I still want to live another thirty-five years!

The tours from Moonsorrow are very rare. Is there a reason for this?

Mitja: Yes, there are reasons. First of all, there is a limited time when we can tour, because people have families and jobs… Sometimes having all these five people in the same schedule can be difficult. We didn’t have a proper tour in Europe in years.

Ville: We only had a year with two tours once. All the other years there were one tour or no tour at all.

Mitja: We also like to tour in America, and shorter tours somewhere else, like in China or Japan. So we have to find time to do all this and it is difficult. Ville: I would like to do tours like 250 days a year if it paid, if I could pay my bills with it!

Is it very different to play in countries like China or Japan?

Mitja: You know, in European tours, everything is very settled. In China it is really different; you don’t know anything about anything. If you have a good crew then everything goes fine, we never had any problems. It’s interesting to tour in countries that don't have so many bands coming.

Ville: China is changing all the time, very fast. The major issue was the communication: few of the people there spoke English at the time.

Do you have any last words for your French fans?

Mitja: Oh yes! We really miss playing in France because there are always great crowds here. We really want to come back soon, and play more shows in France.

Ville: Yeah I really enjoy playing in France every single time, the crowd is so intense, and people really live with the music. And I can tell you a fun fact for all the French fans: I have an excel sheet of all the shows we have done, because I’m a nerd, and our gigs number one hundred, two hundred and three hundred have all happened in France, and we only played here like ten times. We have all the big anniversaries in France. Statistics.

Thank you very much, and see you soon!