Turisas’ violinist Olli Vänskä took some time to talk to me during the busy Paganfest tour. It was a very nice conversation where he told me a little bit more about himself as a violinist and of course about what Turisas has in store for us this year.
Hi Olli, how are you and what have you been up to lately?
“This will sound cliché, but I do have a hangover! But it will be all right. The tour has been very nice so far. Tonight we will play, I think, the fourth show. Everything is getting a little bit more smoother now. It’s been a while since we were on stage, so that’s always a little bit scary.”
When can we expect a new album?
“We have been talking about a new album and discussed about the direction we wanted to go, but don’t have any concrete plans yet.
We always write songs, but not especially for a new album. I don’t think we are going to rush it, we are not a band that come up with for example ten songs and immediately record it. To be honest, I don’t think we will be in the studio this year.”
Something Old, Something New
Do you have any idea yet what we can expect from a new album? Will it continue on like ‘Turisas2013’ or do you maybe go back to the old days like ‘Battle metal’?
“We’re probably not going to redo ‘Battle metal’ neither will we redo ‘Turisas2013’. I think our last album was a lot of ‘experimenting’ in many ways. Which is good, because I think it’s not good to always do the same thing. It will be safer or easier for us to do stuff in a familiar way, but sometimes we feel this need to experiment.”
Can you tell me about the process of making new songs?
“Normally it starts with a theme, kind of like writing a book, we think about what we want to write about, second is the music and the lyrics come last. Mathias is our history freak. He likes to follow a storyline. I also have a lot of ideas but I’m not very good at composing whole songs. I make fragments and Mathias is pretty good at putting stuff together.”
Do you know where Mathias gets his inspiration from when writing lyrics?
“Usually he goes to the library, for example about The Varangians, this came from historical facts. But we’re not like a history telling band, not everything has to be exactly the way it happened. The rest is just imagination.”
There has been some line-up changes during the past years, how does this affect the atmosphere in the band?
“It is kind of hard sometimes, because you have to rehearse over and over again with new people. But most of the time new band members pick it up very quickly. It’s also nice to take a bright new look at songs when new band members maybe play it a little bit different. I do understand when somebody decides playing in a band is not for them anymore. Because it is pretty hard to be away from home for months.”
Yes, how about you? How do you deal with this life of being on the road a lot?
“I think I’m very well adjusted now. I have other things going on at home as well, but so far it has been manageable. Of course, it’s not always easy. Especially the older you get, you like routines more and not a Nomadic life. But I get to see the world, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining!”
The Portage to…
Are there any countries/cities you didn’t get to see yet, but would like to visit?
“I’ve never been to Africa and India. I would like to go there some time. I don’t know if they will ever invite us to play there!”
What’s your favourite song to play live?
“The portage to the unkown’, we are playing it on this tour so it will be fun tonight.”
I really like the acoustic versions of some of your songs you recorded. Do you have any plans on recording more songs acoustic or maybe play an entire show acoustic?
“Actually we have been talking about this. I think at the moment we have a lot of musicians in the band who are capable of doing this. It will be interesting, so hopefully at some point we will be able to do this again.”
Is it difficult to convert metal songs into acoustic pieces?
“Yes it sure is, especially when you have really bombastic and opera like songs like ‘End of an empire’. With a lot of our material it’s difficult. But we can take some parts of the songs and turn it into a different kind of acoustic song.”
Do you think it will be possible to do a whole show acoustic?
“Maybe, I’m not sure it will sound very coherent. Maybe we can also do some cover songs, which are easier to play acoustic. Some of our songs sound so ‘epic’ I think it’s very hard to catch this same feeling when playing them in a different way.”
When did you start playing violin?
“I was 5. Now I’m 33, so already been playing it for 28 years! This sounds like I am so old!”
Did you always knew you wanted to be a musican?
“No, it had a lot to do with opportunities and luck. I never wanted to be a violinist in a symphonic orchestra. I didn’t want to sit in the ‘back’, so I changed to metal to be in the front.”
Already existing for over 10 years, delivered 4 successful albums and played a lot of shows all over the world. What else are you wishing for?
“I would like to make a really, really good album, do some more writing, maybe learn a new instrument, be an even better violinist, be a bit taller….”
I saw your new backdrop, picturing the band like ‘saints’. What is the idea behind that?
“I think it’s a good contrast. We’re playing on Paganfest, people are probably expecting drinking horns or stuff like that. It’s good to amaze people with something different. I think it looks really nice from the audience perspective.”
Olli’s last words:
“We are going to take our time making a new album, but we will be back! Thanks for the support and this interview.”