Interviews : Turisas – Is it legal to marry a Koala in Australia? (An interview with Olli Vänskä)
Turisas – Olli Vänskä
Hailing from Finland, Turisas are the quintessential viking metal band of the 21st century. Infusing sophisticated elements or power and symphonic metal. Forging epic tales of Scandinavian folklore and history.
Metal Obsession’s Anwar Rizk had the pleasure to speak with Turisas violinist, Olli Vänskä about the band’s return to Australian shores for the Soundwave Festival.
Olli Vänskä: Hey Anwar! How are you doing?
Metal Obsession: I’m great thanks, Olli. How are you?
OV: I’m very good, thank you! Greetings from a wintery Finland.
MO: I assume you’re freezeing your ass off at the moment?
OV: At the moment its only minus 7 degrees.
OV: Yeah. [laughs] It was minus 27 last week. Is it summer back home in Australia?
MO: At the moment its summer. However, Queensland and Sydney have had terrible weather. Melbourne is great at the moment.
OV: Ah cool!
MO: Before we get into the interview I want to try my hand at some Finnish I learned this afternoon. [awkward pause] Hyvää iltaa, Olli [Translation: Good evening, Olli]
OV: Hyvää iltaa, Anwar! Excellent.
MO: Good. I said it right. [laughs]
OV: Thank you is, kiitos.
MO: Kiitos, Olli.
OV: Where did you learn it from?
MO: Google of all places. [laughs]
OV: [laughs] Excellent.
MO: What are your personally expectations of Turisas returning to Australian shores?
OV: Well, I’m expecting great things, I guess. We did a small run of headlining shows back in 2010. I think we did Melbourne and Sydney…or was it Sydney and Brisbane?
MO: It was Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
TURISAS – Battle Metal (Live). Taken from the DVD “A Finnish Summer with Turisas”.
OV: Yeah! That was a great experience and a great opportunity to come to a different continent and play a country we never have before. There was a lot of people there and the reception was kind of overwhelming and I was happy with that. Actually, back then the organisers [Soundwave Touring] were very impressed with us. They promised to book us on an upcoming Soundwave festival and it happened this year. We’re almost there so I’m very much looking forward to it.
MO: How did you gauge the reaction of Australian audiences?
OV: I guess you could say there was a bit of British influence. Similar to the audiences in the UK. I don’t know the right adjective to use. Not to civilized and not overly drunk. It was great and the over all reaction was really nice.
MO: I know when Turisas usually do festivals. You have a scenario where you all vote for certain songs to be played at each show? Is this something you’ll be doing for the Soundwave festival?
OV: Well, we only have a 30 minute set so it limits you a bit. There is a couple of songs that we would guess people would like to hear. We’re not necessary going to play all the audience’s favorite songs. We have this certain framework that we work with and we think the audience will like. This will also include a couple of classics and a couple of new songs as well. Its nothing super exciting.
Don’t get me wrong. We would love to play a 60 minute set where we can have more variety. Its kind of useless to go to Australia and only play b-sides or song 5 and 6 from the first and second album. Its good if the audience have a connection with all our songs. But of course, we don’t want it to be a jukebox either. I guess we will just build a solid list that will hopefully entertain everyone.
MO: I take it ‘Rasputin’ will be requested by a lot of people?
TURISAS – Rasputin. Taken from the single “Rasputin” (2007)
OV: Yeah. Maybe, maybe not. Rasputin’ is like one of those ‘Smoke on the Water’ moments, you know? Its not even our own material, its actually a cover song. But we’ll see. If the audience is going well and they request it, I guess we will have to play it. But we’ll see about that. There is a lot of solid stuff in our catalogue of songs and we’ll most likely play the title track of ‘Battle Metal’ and include some stuff from the new album [Stand Up and Fight] and perhaps ‘Rasputin’. Who knows? [laughs]
MO: I actually got my first taste of Turisas live at Summer Breeze in Munich, Germany last year. In terms of stage presents is there anything new you’ll bring for Australian audiences?
OV: Thank you! I’m glad you had a good time at Summer Breeze. Well, we actually shaved Netta Skog’s head and she also grew a pair of balls and plays keyboard now. [laughs] We actually have these two new guys. Robert Engstrand is playing keyboards and Jukka-Pekka Miettinen [ex- Ensiferum] is playing bass. We went for a make over in the fall.
Netta is no longer in the band anymore which means no more accordion, but there is roots in our keyboard sound. We aren’t doing the typical power metal cliches, but we are bringing that rooted hammond organ sound into it. We did a long tour in the fall and the band is sounding really solid. It went down really well on the UK and European tours. I’m confident that Australia will like it a lot too.
There is a lot more singing now which is great, plus both guys are really great dudes. In terms of that there is a small change, but nothing overly dramatic.
MO: Hopefully the ridiculous jetlag won’t affect you in any way.
OV: [laughs] Oh yeah! I guess we have one day off there, so maybe that will help. I hate…I mean…I hate flying, I don’t hate touring. Its the worst thing you can do in your life. Well, not flying. Its more of the waiting at the airport, I guess. These are one of the first problems I have when touring. I hate flying. Here I am whinging. I’m coming to Australia and I’m whinging. [laughs]
MO: [laughs] Don’t worry. I know how you feel. After traveling nearly 26 hours from Australia to get to Wacken Open Air in Germany the last two years in a row. I realise how painful flying can be at times. Yet its so rewarding once you arrive.
OV: Yeah, exactly. Last time we flew it was with Singapore airlines, I think. The service on that flight was ridiculously good. I’m not sure who we’re traveling with this time. I’m not quite sure. Its really weird when you look at it from the European point of view, from a globe or map.
You don’t think its that bad. First you go to Asia, then you head to Australia and don’t think its that bad. But its like “What the hell!”, you know? From say, India or China its only 10 or 11 hours flight to Australia from there. I mean the perception is really weird. [laughs] You think to yourself “Well the continents are so close to each other on the map” but then you realise its a terrible amount of time to spend on a plane to get there.
MO: Any chance of sampling our beer or women while in Australia?
OV: If I wanted to try Australian women? Yeah, sure! Why not! I sound like a man-whore. [laughs] I’d actually like to see a platypus and a koala. Perhaps even marry a Koala. Is it legal or illegal to have a Koala as your bride in Australia?
MO: [laughs] It is illegal. However, I don’t think that has stopped anyone from trying.
OV: [laughs] They’re so cute and cuddly and so great to look at. I don’t think it would be normal to hug a platypus, would it? Have you ever hugged one?
MO: They are semi-aquatic mammals, so they spend a lot of time near water. I did pat one when I was a kid and it was quite wet and slippery.
OV: That sounds very weird. Very weird! Patting a wet platypus. Its also strangely erotic at the same time. [laughs] I’m a zoophilian…or a naturephile, maybe. I just want to see all these animals before they’re all extinct, you know? I do hope they don’t get wiped out before I get there. That would be terrible. But to see these animals would be great. To see a kangaroo would be amazing as well.
We’re staying in Sydney or Perth for a couple of nights. Somewhere like that and I’m wanting to arrange a holiday of my own when I’m there. I’ll probably spend some extra time there and have my own personal holiday. Maybe even see a bit of the country side as well.
TURISAS – Stand Up And Fight. Taken from the album “Stand Up And Fight”. (2011)
MO: Time to ask a serious question. Australia is highly regarded as a conservative country when it comes to music. At times people tend to judge a band purely on image. I guess a lot of people would see Turisas and generalise the fact that you dress up in viking attire, wear corpse paint and sing about raping and plundering across the land. If you were put in the position to explain Turisas to a rather conservative audience. What would you say to them?
OV: I think our message is a very positive one. We don’t have one ideology that we preach or anything like that. Musically, we write about history. Its kind of like, know your history, so you can learn from it. That kind of point of view. There is a lot of that insight in our music, but there is also that kind of personal touch which involves drunken Fins. [laugh]. There is this kind of…well, epic seems to be a word a lot of people use for all the wrong reasons. I guess you get that sense of “epicness” in Turisas‘ story telling. But there is also a party atmosphere that is there in our music to lighten the mood. Our stage shows are a mixture of both worlds in that sense. We’re not only about pillaging and raping. I mean it might come in handy now and then to put it in our lyrics, but we are not trying to portrait a cliche viking thing, you know?
The whole folk metal scene has bloomed in a a rather ridiculous way. Everyone seems to be singing about sword fighting and that doesn’t interest me, anymore. Its kind of like so many well known European folk metal bands are actually genuine viking metal band, yet everyone else is trying to copy them. I mean they have fucking Brazilian bands who are playing viking metal and its as fake as it can be, you know? I mean no offense to these bands, but they should do something on their own from their own culture. I mean every country has a great history and culture. They all have a heritage of their own, so why sing about vikings?
I don’t want to tell any cliched viking stories, anymore. I mean from a historical perspective we have done an album. The second album [The Varangian Way] was about a historical journey from Scandinavia down to the Mediterranean. That was more of a historical concept and a form of story telling in the album. I think there is a lot more than meets the eye. If you only see the red and black corpse paint or war paint, you will get the wrong image of the band. But its a good way to distinct ourselves from everyone else. I mean its not like a folk metal version of black metal, its just a costume. I mean it would be ridiculous to go on stage in a clown costume and sing about history. I guess in that sense our stage costumes help to bring down the threshold and help everyone understand the story a little more. The costume is part of the whole experience. This is a very long answer to such a simple question. [laughs]
MO: Its better to have to much information than not enough. On that note, I better let you go. Any famous last words, Olli?
OV: Well, its going to be great coming back to Australia. Just make sure you come see us nice and early. Is this for radio?
MO: Online. Webzine.
OV: Ok Cool! Tell your readers that we’re in Sydney and Brisbane opening at ridiculously early times. We’re opening on stage 4B in both Sydney and Brisbane at 11:00am, so I hope the readers of Metal Obsession and our fans can make it there nice and early with their Star Bucks coffee. Ready at the front of the stage, curing their hang over with Scandinavia’s best and finest battle metal band….TURISAS!!
Its an early show time at Soundwave, so don’t be late!
MO: Hyvää iltaa, Olli. [Good evening, Olli]
OV: Hyvää iltaa sinulle. [Good evening to you to]
Make sure to catch Turisas nice and early at the Soundwave Festival. You can get the full list of band set times at the Soundwave website – www.soundwavefestival.com
Make sure to catch TURISAS along with CATHEDRAL and PARADISE LOSTin Sydney and Melbourne.
Cathedral, Paradise Lost, Turisas Australian Tour 2012 – Soundwave Sidewaves
Thursday 1st March Melbourne, the Espy – 18+
SOUNDWAVE FESTIVAL VENUES AND DATES – FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012
SATURDAY 25th Feb – BRISBANE, RNA SHOWGROUNDS – SOLD OUT!
SUNDAY 26th Feb – SYDNEY, OLYMPIC PARK – SOLD OUT!
FRIDAY 2nd March – MELBOURNE, SHOWGROUNDS – SOLD OUT!
SATURDAY 3rd March – ADELAIDE, BONYTHON PARK
MONDAY 5th March – PERTH, CLAREMONT SHOWGROUND