Interview with vocalist Vreth
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: August 21, 2022
Finland's infamous pointy-eared Finntroll should be no stranger to many fans. Formed in 1997, they have gone through a lot over their career, releasing seven full-length studio albums, toured and played great shows all around the world and gained a reputation as a hard-working band. The band's most recent album (as of 2022), Vredesvävd, came out in 2020 and unfortunately, COVID-19 prevented the band touring in support of the album and postponing many of their future plans at the same time.
The Metal Crypt met our beloved trolls at Metallivuori Festival, which is located near a beautiful lakeside in the middle of nowhere in Eura, Finland, on July 15, 2022, and briefly managed to catch up with the band's vocalist Vreth, who joined the band in 2006.
We talked about quite a few different topics including the band's touring plans for the rest of the year, a near-burnout experience, some special anniversaries, beer, the future and so on.
First of all, welcome to Metallivuori Festival here in Eura, Finland. What are your initial thoughts of this area?
Vreth: I have to say it's great to be here. I mean, this is a small festival after all, which we like a lot. It is different than if we had come to one of the bigger metal festivals, where we would have been just one of dozens of artists. This feels like a welcome breath of fresh air especially now that we have had a chance to rest a little bit.
Also, the staff has been very good to us, and the festival organization seems to know how to take care of us here. There's nothing to complain about. Also, I just heard that they will have a warm sauna reserved for us after our gig and that's going to be absolutely great!
You guys have traveled a long way from the Area 53 festival in Austria straight to this festival. How was that festival experience? I understand that was the first year for that festival...
Vreth: I had some minor breathing issues there because the festival took place 600 meters above sea level, so I had to do some extra work on my breathing just to get my voice working on the stage as well as possible.
Finntroll has seen many different festivals and venues over the years. Is it sometimes nice to play in new places for a change?
Vreth: Well, yes, but both good and bad I would add. Many venues are familiar to us from our most hectic touring years when we've played around 200 gigs within a year. When we return to those clubs or places where things have already worked for us, it's a little like going "home" so to speak. You know that you can get a good food, get your clothes washed, services in the backstage are perfect, etc.
Then again, as for your question, it's always cool to get to know new venues. For example, the Area 35 festival in Austria didn't differ that much from other festivals that we have done in Austria. And as we are speaking about Austria in particular, the big mountains and overall landscapes are breathtaking there, of course.
OF COVID TIMES AND NEAR BURNOUT
After COVID-19 resulted in borders being closed and shit for the past 2+ years, how does it feel to be on the road again?
Vreth: Well, from a personal perspective I can tell you that 2020 was totally screwed up for me at least as far as ...and Oceans' and Finntroll's plans were all concerned. So, I was active on the recording front and released three full-length albums with three different bands [*chuckles*] during the year (Finntroll, ... and Oceans and Dispyt). We had some big plans with Finntroll as well as ...and Oceans in 2020 like record release gigs in Japan for ...and Oceans' new album and for Finntroll, around 80 gigs booked. As none of these gigging plans happened for the obvious reason, it felt pretty darn bad I must admit.
Also, even though this whole COVID-19 thing wasn't a positive thing for me, I had no other option but to take a break. I have always had something to do in my life, sometimes too much as back in 2019 when I was pretty near to a state of burnout. I had some mild symptoms like not sleeping well as I tried to cope with all three of my bands at the same time, going to studios, producing other bands' albums, and so on. They were hard times for me all in all. So, I must say when COVID-19 was closing doors for any of us, it also was kind of a relief for me. I realized I need this break to relax a couple of months and get my energies back. I realized I really don't have to burn the candle at both of its ends. For this reason, we postponed many things further but the more we postponed, the more it started irritating all of us. In the long run, while the postponing this and that circle kept on going, it didn't feel too good for any of us. But truthfully, without COVID-19, I am pretty sure I would be a very tired man today.
Did you guys sink into the murkiest end of the pool at some point when nothing happened for many months and plans were totally ruined by this ongoing virus situation?
Vreth: Our bassist Thundra had a very low moment at one point, saying, "Hey guys, nothing is happening, would it be better to just call it quits?" Fast forward to this spring when we had 11 gigs booked for Finland after a long wait and things seemed to get back on the right track for us. The old spark was back in the band. Each of us felt more energized and were ready for playing live. The hunger to conquer stages was back and that felt really good!
I really didn't have any plan B during these COVID-19 times. I was thinking of the possibility of working either as a singing teacher or youth worker for kids when nothing was happening for my bands gigging wise, but then Finland's strict COVID-19 rules also hit those plans and they went down the toilet.
Finntroll is known as a hard-touring band so you have undoubtedly had all kinds of gig offers which has given you some perspective as to which might be doable, and which might not be due to financial aspects and such. Have you accepted tour offers that don't feed your wallets much?
Vreth: We have experienced that for sure. For example, some of our first Australian trips didn't thicken our wallets at all even though we got paid to go there to tour. Flying with the whole band and crew to a place as distant as Australia isn't cheap. Fortunately, Music Finland RY has given us some financial support for our flight charges every now and then when we have had these long-distance flights to Australia, Asia or South America, so that's helped, and we are naturally very grateful.
Once COVID-19 restrictions are gone and everyone wants to arrange festivals and stuff, we will look through our offers for what is reasonable to do. Due to our long touring experience, we can tell almost right away which offers we will definitely not accept, and which can be discussed a little bit further.
NEW FINNTROLL ALBUM – WHEN?
Your 7th full-length, Vredesvävd, saw the light of day in September 2020, so I guess it's also reasonable to ask what's up with the new material in the Finntroll camp? Have you been able to pen down some new material already during this "a bit silent gigging wise" COVID-19 period? Anything that you could share with the fans already?
Vreth: We never write new material when we are on tour, and that's why it took some time to get Vredesvävd released simply because we were touring so much at that time. Of course, we had the chance to go to our homes for some days or weeks in between the tours but no new material was created while we were spending time at home. Because of this COVID-19 thing, we are still kind of promoting Vredesvävd and we are still playing a good chunk of the songs from that album live. Yes, things may have been pretty slow in the process for us, but the new material still is coming together, little by little.
But you never know how things may proceed regarding our activity with the next album. For example, for ...and Oceans, when we decided to start the songwriting process for the fifth album, Cosmic World Mother, which was the band's first new album in 18 years, things happened pretty fast. When you have that inspired mood and flow to write songs, there's no reason to stop. I can reveal to you that as with ...and Oceans we sent our master tape to Season of Mist last year but haven't nailed down the release date for the next ...and Oceans album yet. Perhaps this virus pandemic gave us the boost to get things done quicker than we originally thought – who knows?
Do you have some sort of concept for how you may start building up your new songs for the band's next album?
Vreth: No, not at the moment but we have always had the concept thing in our minds, and I think that's always been the hardest part for us because we want to make sure our stuff is always in line with our previous sound so that it will be recognized as a Finntroll album. With Vredesvävd each of us brought in all kinds of ideas and put stuff on the table, and some of it did not even fit in this century to be honest with you. After some self-criticism and discussions, our ideas started melting together seamlessly, allowing us to write a coherent Finntroll album eventually even if it did take some time.
It's always important to us when we release something that it needs to be recognized as Finntroll right off the bat, but still with a twist of something new. It keeps things refreshing for everyone in the band. It's not that wise to do the same album over and over again; it kills your creativity.
I have always said that we need just one "icebreaker" type of song and each of us may write stuff that wouldn't be completely in line with what Finntroll should be all about. All kinds of wild and crazy ideas are being put on the table that make us wonder how on earth we can proceed from this messy puzzle of wild ideas. Then, someone comes up with just the one song, which each of us then approves and we can follow with all our other stuff from then on. It works as a good roadmap, so we know which way to go from that point on.
Skrymer from your band has always illustrated the world of Finntroll. Has he introduced some of his new ideas to the rest of you?
Vreth: No, not yet. But on the other hand, we have seen some of his recent artwork on our shirt designs and stuff. I remember the album cover artwork for our previous album, Vredesvävd, was finished when we still were in the studio, and getting our first raw mixes that we shared with each other in our common Finntroll Whatsupp group. He can do miracles within just a few days as far as all this art stuff is concerned. Many times, he talks to Katla, who was Finntroll's first vocalist, about all this spiritual world and stuff that could be transferred to his art. The main idea behind the cover artwork of Vredesvävd is the result of the discussions that both Skrymer and Katla went through together.
As we all know by now Finntroll has achieved a lot during the band's history and, of course, even more is yet to be achieved. Is there something specific you personally would like to achieve with your fellow trolls? How about a Finntroll brewery that would make the world's most unique and famous Finntroll brand of beer, which could be named sarcastically as "Krigsmöd"? I mean, it might even turn out to be a "true hit product" if you think about what's going on here in Europe at the moment...
Vreth: Haha... you hit the nail on the head. In fact, we actually do have plans to get our own brand of beer out, but also a Finntroll wine. The thing is we want to be able to go back on the road again and get that wine to different places where we could promote it while being on tour. At the moment, this idea is on ice. Without going into specific details, our planned beer had such a unique concept to it that it couldn't be realized mostly due to the COVID-19 situation.
However, bear in mind that even if we got those for items for sale someday, we certainly wouldn't make any profit off of them. It just would great to have these items available for our fans, who have always been very supportive to us over the years.
You still have festivals coming up such as Summer Breeze and Wolfzeit, among others. After the festival season ends, you'll jump back on the road in November for your own headlining tour with Iceland's Skálmöld supporting you for about 5 weeks. It isn't the longest tour you have done but I'd like to know what your thoughts about it.
Vreth: If we can get back to our homes from that tour in one piece, then I am happy, haha!
Seriously speaking, as we have done many tours that have lasted several weeks, we decided it would be nice to do like a 3-week tour for a change, especially when COVID-19 kept us inactive for so long. We were thinking it would be pretty optimal for us to play around 20 gigs or something and that's it, just to test if we can get used to the touring life again.
But what happened was two tours were combined into one. We have a Scandinavian part to be done first and then the rest of Europe. In fact, it made sense financially to put these tours together because it's very expensive to fly the whole crew back and forth. This forthcoming tour in Nov-Dec 2022 could be considered our sort of baptism-by-fire-all-or-nothing experience. Let's hope everything goes well.
Have you toured with Skálmöld and are you familiar with them?
Vreth: Yes, we know them very well. In fact, we have played hundreds of gigs with them over the years, so it's nice to be on tour with them again.
What kinds of plans have you made for the future?
Vreth: In 2020 we made plans up to 2024 and now we are two years behind due to the obvious reason. This year we will concentrate on touring in Europe and perhaps even next spring will be spent in Europe doing small tours and stuff. Then we are hoping to do another tour here in Finland, but after that we need to figure out if we'll head to the States, Asia, or Australia. But that remains to be seen.
This reminds me that Finntroll's debut album, Midnattens Vidunder, will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. Are you going to celebrate the album's birthday with any special sets perhaps?
Vreth: Hmm...we haven't discussed whether we will do some special shows for that album in 2024. We did have plans for its follow-up album, Jaktens Tid, but we missed the train for that because of the damn prevailing virus situation at that time. There's no point of doing 21st anniversary special sets. That would be silly, I think.
But let's see that later on...
COLD AND NOT-SO-EVENHANDED MUSIC INDUSTRY
As we all know, the music business has changed a lot over the years, bringing us all kinds of digital services and platforms to download music. Some of the companies behind these services do not treat their bands equally with bigger artists and bands getting millions of downloads and better profits while the majority only get a cent here and there. What's your take on this?
Vreth: From my personal perspective I can only say that it's nice people have the chance to find new bands and easy access to listen to their favorite music. From a negative side, as you said, they don't treat artists and bands equally. For example, I remember when we did Nifelvind back in 2010, which was the second Finntroll album I was involved with and which was selling like "hot cakes," so to speak. I lost 10% of my royalties due to this digital service thing. Some of you may think it's not that bad a deal, but for me it was because Finntroll isn't making us millionaires, that's for certain.
Yes, the music business can be pretty unscrupulous and cold toward artists and bands nowadays...
Vreth: Exactly. If you are Adele or Ariana Grande, then your life's good due to all the profits received from digital services. But then again, it's a rough start for many of these artists. I remember reading somewhere that even Madonna claimed she got something like 13 US dollars at some point. She apparently wasn't too happy about that, haha!
FINNTROLL DOCUMENTARY – IS IT GOING TO HAPPEN?
I bet she didn't smile too much that day. As Finntroll has a long history, forming in 1997, I believe fans have been asking when they will get a full documentary containing live and interview clips from the early years when Katla and Somnium were still in the band up to the present. Have you gotten any offers to start putting it all together?
Vreth: Yes, we have received some interest for this over the years and in fact, we're working on a live DVD, which would also have contained a little documentary about our band. Unfortunately, the production company and their filming crew didn't share the same vision about that project as we did, so it got buried. From those plans we only released a live album titled Natten Med De Levande Finntroll on Spinefarm Records in 2014 but that's about all really.
In 2020, we were a part of the book "Folk Metal Big 5," whose author was Markus Laakso, which has a good enough documentary about us, even if it focused on four other Finnish bands as well. Then again, doing an audio-visual thing is a whole lot different, which would be nice to make reality someday, of course.
I am pretty sure that some Finntroll fans out there might have some good quality material in their archives, which could be useful for a documentary like this. Why not throw an advertisement on Finntroll's social platforms and ask?
Vreth: That would be a good idea indeed. Funny you mentioned that, but I just recently moved and noticed when I was opening boxes, I had some Super 8 films among, containing some Finntroll material from 2006 to 2010. I am just not too sure if I want to go through them ever again, haha! But there's a lot of material from that period in them as I carried my Super 8 video camera with me almost all the time whenever in the world we were with this band. I believe if I watched one of those films one day, there would be a big risk I would burn them all in one big bonfire.
OK, that's all from my part, so thanks a lot for your time and all the best for tonight's show.
Vreth: My pleasure. Thanks to you, too.
|Other information about Finntroll on this site|
|Review: Jaktens Tid|
|Review: Midnattens Widunder|
|Review: Ur Jordens Djup|
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