Jokes, Bass, Svalbard…, but always Metsatöll
This month I finally got the chance to see one of my favorite bands live and to have a nice talk with them. The result is a crazy interview where I sometimes lost the red thread in the stories. Most answers make sense but for some it’s better to take them with a grain of salt… Enjoy!
How is Holland so far? What are your expectations of tonight’s show?
‘It’s been a great success. The show in Dordrecht was really nice! We’ll see what happens tonight, we’ve played several times here, I belief tonight is the third time.’
In Holland you are not really known, do you have an explanation for that?
We’re not known anywhere except Estonia and Finland. It’s always so that everywhere we have some friends, we cannot tell you we are known in some country or not, because we know our friends and our friends know us, we can say we are a bit known.
‘Right now we are working on it, to get known better.’
So maybe a little introduction to the Dutch fans?
Metsatöll is an Estonian band. The name means wolf in ancient dialect, or is an euphemism for, wolf. ‘And we play metal and folk together, but it’s not folk-metal.’ ‘It’s not a matter how you call it, our music doesn’t change. We play it in our own key, we definitely are different.’
‘Once somebody said we weren’t folk metal, we were trash metal, it all depends on the listener.’
‘For us, folk metal is a proud thing. Korpiklaani and we are some of the oldest folk metal bands.’
I think a lot of bands are a little bit stupid. some they have folk instruments and people want to listen to folk metal while we are their favorite band. We are not folk metal in such a way.
‘If people want to hear folk metal and they think the bands are folk metal. You don’t have to be ashamed of yourself. I think to be folk metal band is not a shame thing. We use folk instruments and we play metal and that’s folk metal.’
To me folk-metal is also a part of being proud of your own heritage and bringing that to the audience.
Every band is proud of their country anyway. They don’t shame about their country, I think. But we’re not a band referring to their own country.
Next year Metsatöll exists fifteen years, how do you look back on those fifteen years?
‘This is unbelievable actually. You know we started at the basement like every band and I always thought that it would stay in Estonia with maybe two concerts a year. Because touring and recordings are expensive. But see, when you push something, you can make it happen. And I’m like truly happy.’
‘We managed to break out, get out of Estonia. All our dreams came true, we are truly a happy band.’
Are there any dreams left then?
‘Yes, to go further. Always.’
You’ve already done America.
‘Unbelievable.’ (We’ve made an arrangement for a show on Svalbard, so I’m happy now xD)
I really enjoyed the questions you asked fans to win the signed cd’s. Who came up with those questions?
‘This is our bass player’s sense of humor. He has a really good sense, we have to tell him one day before, we need a really good joke the next day. Then he thinks of something and comes with little stories. He came up with those ideas. They are absurd.’
Well one thing I noticed, you guys have something against Germans. There were two questions with Germans involved. The one with the moustache and the one with the Opel.
No, I love Germans. The rest of the band always laughs at me (Markus) because I have an Opel.
‘I know what you think. But it’s like, Estonian black humor. We have dealt with Germans a long time. They have very good humor, but they never tell about it.’
‘The right answer is: all answers are correct.’
-Bass player walks in- ‘Tell her what you think about Germans!’ ‘Well I can’t think so fast to give a political correct answer. Next question please.’
You guys had a video under water. Why and how did you do that?
‘The worst thing was actually to make it happen.’
Was it somebody’s wish?
‘We didn’t want to do a regular video with four guys playing in the woods. Some blood, explosion and naked women sacrificed somewhere in the woods.’
‘Of course there were naked women in the video but we cut them out. We wanted people to listen to the song not make a cheap video.’
‘But yes it was one of the hardest things we’ve done. We had to make all the instruments heavier. And there were divers who gave us air the whole time. We took a breath, shoot for three seconds and that over again. It took us almost 24 hours to do it. Under water maybe 5 hours. Luckily the water was only four meters deep and not that cold.’
‘But playing drums is really hard, one drumstick is like five kilograms.’
So you say it’s one of the hardest things you have ever done. Well, we had some ideas for the next video. Maybe you remember Felix Baumgartner, who jumped from 39 km height?
Atso (who has lots of crazy ideas): ‘We’ve thought about it, actually we are thinking about it like how to do it. But yeah it was too expensive so I could not do it. Maybe we can do a video where we are playing instruments in the fire. But now we don’t know what we will do in the next video. It’s going to be hard to make it better than this one, that’s why we haven’t made a new record.’
There was a song I was curious about, it’s called Oma laulu ei leia ma üles (I cannot find my song) what was the reason you covered this song?
‘Therefore I (Markus) have to go back fourteen years ago, when we were at my friends place drinking and we listened some heavy metal. Then the friend said: oh my god we are so drunk let’s ruin my mums cd’s and then I saw this old lady now, I put it on, I heard it and thought: oh my god this song is so good that I want to cover it. Just for that, no other reasons. I loved the melody. It had nothing to do with the lyrics. We are not that emo’s.’
Well you put a lot of time in your lyrics, with the old language.
‘We are an emotional band.’
You sing a lot in old Estonian, did you learn that by yourself?
‘Actually it is kind of a mixture of two languages, the normal and the elder. In Estonia nowadays it is also that in different parts they speak a little bit different language, you can call it dialect but in different corners it is more a language.’ Lauri comes from south Estonia where they speak a completely different language which other Estonians don’t understand. ‘I’m a bit of a language freak, those folk songs, it’s my hobby and work at the same time, dealing with old manuscripts and dialects. I get inspiration of that. Some words have a meaning in south Estonia nobody knows in north Estonia. So I kind of mix it, I don’t push it that way but there is a sort of language freedom. In lyrics there has to be freedom of words, that’s very important. If I feel the words are going well in that way, it’s okay. And I use different rhymes. In capitol Estonian language the language is very narrow with maybe 2000 words. But the Estonian language itself is very rich. When you go back in time it’s even richer. With lyrics you can choose different times, dialects or rhymes. But for me if I think about it, usually people don’t read a lot of the lyrics of metal bands. It’s kind of the song itself, the mood, the instruments. We get very few questions about the lyrics.’
‘If you read lyrics without the music, they’re there anyway. You can read it as a poem, you don’t need the music to make it work.’
Do the lyrics tell the audience something?
‘Yes, but not to teach them something.’
‘Everyone translates it differently and takes a different clue out of the song. It doesn’t have to be the same, everyone listens to the song and reads the lyrics and the outcome is completely different.’
What can we expect from a new album?
‘Next year there will be a next one. We don’t know yet what it will be. You can expect Metsatöll. I think we changed a little bit. We don’t know what but we’ve changed a bit. You can expect some metal, that’s all I can tell. We try not to copy previous albums, every album is different. Next one will be as well.’
Will it have a theme?
‘I don’t know. With Lauri we have good ideas.’ ‘But it’s way too early to talk about. When it’s ready, it’s ready.’
On your facebook page I saw pictures of you guys in Afghanistan. How was it to be in a warzone?
‘It was a cool experience. It was good trip. We played only in a camp. We haven’t been on the minefields.’
‘Living in the warzone is the worst thing. Nothing good to say about it.’
‘They all have good sense of humor, because if you don’t have that, you won’t survive there. And no hero things. All the heroes die.’
In your songs you sing about old history and battles. Then how do you look at a modern war like in Afghanistan.
‘Make love not war.’ – lots of things and dirty jokes I will not write – ‘next question please.’
What is the idea behind your logo?
‘Actually we would be really happy if somebody could think out for our logo some legend or something ‘cause it doesn’t mean anything.’
‘It’s four M’s, four sides, four members.’
That means there will never be a fifth member?
‘Yeah we can’t take that, cause then we have to change the logo.’
‘But if you look at it, it looks a bit like a windmill. In old tales they tell about them. Actually it is old Estonian pattern/symbol. In all pictures in Estonian have different meanings.’
‘If you know what it means, write us!’
Something off-topic. I read on Wikipedia that the majority of Estonian is atheist.
‘The meanings behind religion nowadays like in Estonia, if you are asking a religious person it is stereotype thinking. Christianity in Estonia is a minority. Most people don’t want to go to the church and think about Jesus. And when you say the word god everyone thinks Christian god. If you ask the right bible question, almost every human is a kind of religious. So you have to ask the right question. The most of the Estonians are not Christian people.’
But how do you consider yourself then?
‘The believing is in countryside, how they communicate and there daily life. It’s different in history and nowadays. It’s kind of a mixture with nowadays life and religion, it is a different world. When you ask if somebody is religious, everybody thinks different.’
‘Markus likes to think he is an atheist but of course he is not. The Estonian folk belief, the words for plants, name for plants is the plants essence name or spiritual name. By example: the word for the peppermint plant, from which you drink peppermint tea, the word tells you what it does. Then you are already in folk belief. You are using camomille, not the plant but the idea.’
Something I noticed with your music is that the bass is really present. Normally the bass is more of a background instrument.
‘Yes it is more a solo instrument like the guitar. It’s because I (Markus) started to write songs for Metsatöll, I wrote them on bass. And then I heard the bass sounds so natural. We wrote the songs like that and it was really different from others of course. And at that time we had a good bass player, he made the solo’s and stuff.’
‘I think bass is the heart of the instrument. If you have a bad bass player in the band it doesn’t sound at all. The bass player needs to be good. We are lucky to have a good one.’
‘The bass parts are crazy. In bands, if you have a bit of a shitty guitar player it’s okay but shitty bass player sucks.’
‘Of course first we wanted Raivo only for the band because of his good looks, we didn’t care about his skills. Now we have one person who can be in the picture.’
‘The bass player is the lowest on the monarchy. We took him for the good looks, we are happy he can play bass guitar too.’
Do you see touring festivals like Paganfest as a bless or as a curse?
‘Well we have never played such a festival. Which is a bit strange since we are one of the oldest folk metal bands, but nobody asked us. But is somebody calls us, we go.’
‘We haven’t had yet a good promoter, so we look around and see what happens next year. Hopefully with the next record, a promoter can make a business plan for us.’
Thank you so much for this fun interview. Is there something you would like to say to the fans?
‘We can’t say stay metal.’
-Many attempts to formulate a nice message, all fail-
It doesn’t have to be an emotional message, just something you would like to say.
‘Stay dudelsack metal.’
‘They say Estonians are no believers but we believe in alcohol and hope to touch people.’
Thank you guys for these really wise last words!