Eluveitie: celtic alliance

Don’t let the title mislead you: Origins, Eluveitie’s new album, is in no way a “back-to-the-roots” record. After all, it’s not like the Swiss band ever changed their musical direction. They remain faithful to the folk metal that has swept so many people off their feet and made them a flagship band of the genre. Following the path set by their previous albums, Eluveitie are going further in their exploration of the Celtic history and culture. The fact that they had to replace two members has obviously not changed a thing. They just keep increasing their fanbase and gaining ground, as their recent victory in the Swiss Music Awards (“Best national live performance”) aptly shows. Being the first ever metal band to receive such a prestigious award in Switzerland has beautifully paved the way for Origins.

We talked about the new album with Chrigel Glanzmann, leader, vocalist, musician and sole composer of the band. The subjects ranged from Gaulish mythology (another aspect of Celtic culture) to the record’s conception, and from the departures within the band to the new arrivals.

« We didn’t win this award for us, basically, we won it for metal music, for the metal scene in Switzerland. »

Radio Metal: Eluveitie made history this year as you became the first metal band ever to receive an award at the Swiss Music Awards. What does this award represent for you?

Chrigel Glanzmann (vocals and several instruments): I would say actually that the whole story has two sides. On one hand, if we’re honest, it doesn’t actually mean that much to us. We didn’t work for prizes and that’s not exactly the reason why we’re playing music. So yeah, it didn’t mean that much to us in a way. But on the other hand, it does [mean something], especially for the reason that you actually mentioned. Switzerland always had great metal bands and influential metal bands, if you think of Coroner or Celtic Frost. But nevertheless, for some reason, metal music was never important at all in this musical landscape. As you correctly said, we’ve been the first metal band ever to win this award and in that sense, it meant a lot to us, because that means we didn’t win this award for us, basically, we won it for metal music, for the metal scene in Switzerland.

Do you think that this will change something in metal’s recognition in Switzerland?

Maybe… I don’t know. You know, as I said, in this musical landscape and in the press, metal is not a big topic, it has never been, and I don’t know if it will ever be, but in a way we kinda tried to somehow bring metal in there. These days, it’s actually working quite nicely. I mean, all the big newspapers and all do write about us, which was pretty uncommon in Switzerland for a long time. So, that’s cool and regarding that, maybe this Swiss Music Award was also a step in the right direction.

The album deals with tales from Gaulish mythology. Why this particular theme? Did you want to talk about some aspects of Gaulish mythology that remain in the dark?

Well, that wasn’t exactly the reason why I chose this topic, it’s just something that on one hand interests me personally and fascinates me, and on the other hand it’s just a part of Celtic mythology. Eluveitie’s all about Celtic history and Celtic culture, it always has been and it always will be. We already have like one full album complete about Gaulish mythology and there are a lot of songs about topics like this. Those ancient tales and myths, they’re just one other components we haven’t covered so far. It’s just a part of the whole thing anyway.

You did realize the artwork for the album. Can you tell us more about that?

Well, the idea behind the artwork was first to have something quite simple and symbolic, something that symbolically represents the lyrical content of the album. That’s how I finally came up with the idea you can see now. I’ve had this discussion with some scientist, some specialist from the university in Zurich actually, we have been trying to find some… How can I say… Some symbolic art style of the Gaulish culture, which isn’t that easy to find actually. But yeah, in the end, it came to that symbol that you can see on the cover which is actually some kind of halo which belongs to a Gaulish god named Sucellus and there has been a statue where that god shows that kind of hammer-halo, if you wanna call it like that… And yeah, it was found in a shrine of a Gallo-Roman household actually, most likely from the 1st century AD. That’s pretty much the idea about it. This god played an important role in diverse of these theological things and the halo is there to actually represent the whole lyrical concept behind the album.

Is the title of the album “Origins” also linked to the state of mind you were in while writing the record? Did you want to go back to your roots?

No. I mean there’s no musical connection between the title and us. I think musically the whole album is developed in certain ways and in some parts going back to our roots may be part of that of course, but yeah, the album title stands for the lyrical content of the album.

Some parts in the album may seem to be more aggressive than in previous albums. Where does this aggression come from?

[Laughs] You know, with the music, when I’m writing Eluveitie songs, this is always 100% an organic process. It’s a very intuitive process. In that sense, I never exactly know what will come out. When I start working on the concept of the album, I don’t know what the album will be like until I finish the whole concept. This is not something that we think about. It’s not that we decide: “OK, now let’s do an album that’s more aggressive or more whatever”, you know, these things just happen. It happens very intuitively. In that sense, it’s actually very hard to answer your question. I don’t know! It’s just basically turned out to become like that. I think every Eluveitie album after all represents what we are, what Eluveitie is musically at the time the album is recorded. I agree, it actually is a lot more aggressive than the older things we did, but it’s not only that, it’s also actually more complex. The musical and technical point of view is on a much higher level, actually. That is, I believe, for sure something that has to do with the last few years, because last time we finished the longest world tour we never had, it was about two and a half years; during those two and a half years touring the world with Eluveitie we basically didn’t do anything else than just holding our instruments in our hands and playing shows and practicing. Every single one of us actually grew a lot musically and we grew a lot musically as a band too. I think that’s for sure one thing that you can hear on the album.

« When I’m writing Eluveitie songs, this is always 100% an organic process. It’s a very intuitive process. »

The album is written like an epic story with interludes and an epilogue. Do you like to write albums like you would write a book for example or a story?

Yeah totally, that’s… Yeah. I can’t even exactly explain why there are always intros and all that kind of things, I just love it! [Laughs]

The album has been produced by Tommy Vetterli. Can you tell us more about his work as a producer?

Yeah sure but I have to say that it’s actually not exactly true because usually we produced our albums ourselves and that’s the case here as well. I mean for some few parts Tommy did coproduce but basically we produce our albums ourselves. We have recorded with him and the album have been engineered by him and recorded and mixed. Well, what can I say? We got to know him a couple of years ago. In the beginning, we actually have been a bit skeptical, we didn’t know the studio, we didn’t know him as an engineer and a producer. We just got to check him and his studio out and he immediately convinced us. After having recorded the first album with him, which was Everything Remains, he really completely blew us away. Personally I really think that he’s very very much underestimated, especially within the metal scene as a producer; in my opinion he’s actually one of the best engineers worldwide. He’s really a genius in my opinion. So yeah, we just continued to work with him and, meanwhile, over the years, it kinda became much more than that. I mean, today we’re not only working partners but we are also close friends and do a lot of things together. We help each other’s bands out… It kinda became like a winning team or something. I don’t know why we should produce our next album not with Tommy, for example.

On a different topic: what was the reason for Siméon Koch and Meri Tadić’s departures?

For both of them it was something they decided themselves, on their own, and something they had been thinking about for quite a long time and also that we knew for quite a while. Both of them told us that they would leave the bands quite a few months before they actually did, so we had time to find replacements. For Siméon, the main reason was that he and his wife decided to have a family, which is actually quite nice, and yeah, that’s the main reason. It’s virtually impossible to start a family if you’re on tour all the fucking time. In average, we are on tour around 7 months per year, and you can’t do that if you start a family. I mean, it’s works when you have kids, Päde, our bagpipes player, and Nicole, our new fiddler, both actually have two children, they’re both parents, and that’s working [for them], but for both, their kids are a bit older now. But if you really wanna start a family from zero, that’s not gonna work if you’re on tour all the time. So yeah, that was mainly the reason why he left the band, and for Meri it was pretty much like that as well. She’d been thinking about it for quite a while but there wasn’t actually a specific reason like for Siméon. It’s actually hard to say. I think for her it was just time to start focusing on new goals in her life. I mean if you think about it, she had been playing with us for eleven years, which is a very long time. In eleven years you develop yourself and sometimes change, and for her it was just time to make some change, to focus on new goals in her life and that’s what she did after all at the end of last year.

What was the implication of Rafael Salzmann and Nicole Ansperger in the writing process of the album? Did they bring new influences?

Yes and no. No in the sense that basically it’s me who writes the music of Eluveitie, so line-up changes don’t affect the songwriting process. So in that sense no, they didn’t influence the songs or anything, but then at the same time I have to say yes because of course, every musician has his or her own let’s say “musical handwriting”, his or her own way of playing. Yeah, of course I also did… I thought about it while writing the songs. For example, Rafael is really good as a solo and lead guitar player, so for that reason there are three parts on the album where he plays some short guitar solo parts, which is actually something quite new for Eluveitie. Pretty much the same goes for Nicole: she’s an extremely skilled violin player; she plays pretty much all I like actually. She started when she was a little girl and she has played Celtic and folk music for so many years now. There’s a lot of power in her fiddle playing. Due to that, there’s actually quite a lot of parts in the album where you can hear the violin very prominently.

You guys invited Konan Mevel from the French band Tri Yann on your album. How did you get in touch with him and how did you get the idea of this collaboration?

Actually it was his idea… I think it’s… I don’t remember exactly. It was about two years ago or something like that. One day, we just received an email from him and he just wrote that he likes what we are doing and thinks it’s cool, things like that, which we thought was cool as well. We started talking and we got to know each other a little bit and yeah, that’s how this whole thing actually came to be.

You guys previously played a song with the French band Manau. It seems like you enjoy playing with Breton artists. Can you tell us more about this special relationship you have with Breton culture?

I don’t know if you can call it something like a special relationship or anything… Well, on one hand there’s the musical connection of course since there are lots of remains of Celtic musical tradition in Brittany. Personally, I really love traditional music from Brittany. But yeah, I think the connection with Konan Mevel as well as with Manau basically came to be because of traditional Breton music. Both bands Tri Yann and Manau play a lot of traditional Breton tunes, and so do we, so yeah, I think that’s the link between the bands, and that’s also actually why we got to know each other.

Is a collaboration with Manau on an album possible?

Yeah, why not? We talked about this and maybe one day, we don’t know. Why not? It would be cool! [Laughs]

At the end of 2012 you guys announced that you wanted to release two albums. The first one is Origins obviously, and the second one is an acoustic one. How comes? Where you super inspired at the time that you had two albums that you wanted to record?

In 2009 we released a completely acoustic album called Evocation I, and since it’s called part I, it’s obvious that someday there will also be a part II. When I started working on the concept of Origins, at the same time I started working on the concept for Evocation part II. I think both will be a little bit linked together conceptually and lyrically. Evocation part II will be kind of an answer to Origins lyrically and conceptually. That’s pretty much all. I don’t know when we will record Evocation part II. We haven’t decided that yet.

Interview conducted by hone on June, 12th 2014 by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription : Chloé.
Introduction : Spaceman.
Photos : Manuel Vargas Lepiz.

Eluveitie official website : eluveitie.ch

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