Hey ho. After their successful Glasgow show qmunicate sat down with Olli Vänskä, Turisas violin player and all round bad-ass motherfucker for a chat about life on the road, scottish cuisine and keeping the bar staff entertained.
How has the tour been going?
Well, this is our second last show. It’s been great. We’ve been away a few years, and you never know what’s gonna change. But it was good to see all of our shows still packed, it’s very heartwarming.
You’re still described as a folk metal band – but I don’t think you have sounded folk metal for a while. What do you think?
I agree with you, but we’re not really interested in the genre debate, you know? Some people say we’re too folky, some say not enough. You can never please everyone. I think we’ve stuck a nice balance between more mainstream stuff and folk metal for now.
Will you always be a ‘Battle Metal’ band?
[Laughs] I think Mathias answered that at Download 2007; ‘We are the only Battle Metal band!” I think we will be. We’ll grow, but we’re still the same guys. The new album sounds different from our old stuff. But in Finnish we have a saying – to “turn your jacket inside out” – it means to betray your ideals. We wouldn’t do that. We have to be able to develop but also stay true to ourselves. Of course there’s a Norwegian band called Ulver, they went from lo-fi black metal to trip hop or something. And I love that, but I don’t think we would change so dramatically.
Everyone knows ‘Rasputin’ but you’ve also covered a few other songs. Are you planning on doing any more covers?
Well, we don’t want to turn into a cheap cover band. We do have one recorded already, it’s fun to do every now and then. But we wouldn’t do another disco song. [Laughs] It might even work out, but we won’t just repeat ourselves. Anyway, ‘Rasputin’ could be a bit of a pain. We didn’t play it at Heidenfest, and it was cruelly amusing in a way to leave people feeling slightly dissatisfied.
How do you feel about Glasgow?
It’s cold. But I like the harshness of it. The Scottish people are so friendly. There’s a drunken security guard outside who keeps buying me drinks. I do have a major problem though: people in the UK don’t know anything about skin tape!
What on earth is skin tape?
We need it for the in-ear radio system, but I went everywhere and I’m sorry, I don’t want to offend anyone, but you don’t get skin tape. I was cheeky enough to to the Finnish maker’s Facebook page and say, “Please! Strike up a distribution deal with the UK. They know nothing about skin tape!” We had it before, but obviously they ran out yesterday. Oh, and I had haggis today actually. And Irn Bru. This girl kept shouting “HAGGIS! HAGGIS! HAGGIS!” at me in a thick Scottish accent. And your accent is you, know a bit different from what they teach us in Finland. I thought she wanted to hug me. “Haggis!” “Oh, haggis? Yeah, I guess, if you want to buy me one that’s great,” and she did. And it was great. Yeah. Very greasy.
The Haggis or the Irn Bru?
[Laughs] Both! The Haggis slightly more.
Okay. My last question… Finland seems to produce a lot of renowned metal bands – you have HIM, Nightwish, Children of Bodom, Finntroll, etc. But Scotland struggles to produce any, even though we have a similar population. Why do you think that might be?
I don’t think I know any Scottish metal bands. Are there any? I guess Alestorm, but you know, they do it silly. [Laughs] And the poor Welsh have Bullet for my Valentine. But yeah. I don’t know the country well, so it’s hard to say why that might be. But in Finland, I guess the culture is slightly different from other places. You don’t go play a gig until you know the chops. People say the long winter nights keep us inside practicing, but as a result there’s a lot of super talented musicians. Whereas I guess in other places, people might play live too soon. At the first power chord, everyone’s pulling off their shirts. So maybe they don’t appreciate refining the sound more.
Thanks so much, before I leave, any closing words?
Just that I’ve really enjoyed playing these gigs, and I hope they made an impact. One of the barmen came up to me and said he loved the show, and that really meant a lot to me. When the staff are complimenting you it’s really heartwarming, because they see this stuff all the time.”