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Interviews : “An intense, almost spiritual experience” – Interview with Chrigel Glanzmann (Eluveitie)

By on March 21, 2019

Swiss folk metal icons Eluveitie have a big year ahead of them. In addition to releasing their eighth album Ategnatos in April, they’ll be touring Australia in May, presenting a lengthy set. I caught up with singer Chrigel Glanzmann to discuss the album and the tour.

Given that Ategnatos is based around the theme of rebirth, I was curious if this related to the personnel changes the band faced in 2015, given that this was the first metal album released since then. Glanzmann was quick to clarify: “No, I wouldn’t say so. The topic of this album doesn’t have anything to do with us as a band or any developments in the last few years, it’s basically a mythological topic the album is dealing with… obviously, it’s all Celtic and it’s all from Celtic culture. The core theme that circles around the thought of rebirth. If you say in short words that the album is dealing with mythology it still takes it that much further than that… what we did in the past was always just recreating or retelling ancient myths and etiological tales and so on, on a very historical and scientific level. This time, we took it to a much more personal level, which obviously doesn’t mean it’s not historical – of course everything is scientifically founded and historically correct, that’s just the way we work – but still, it’s much more personal. What we did for the album is not just to deal with these ancient verses and scriptures to get the lyrics, but we actually contemplated them for ourselves, for our lives and it turned out to become a very intense experience, almost sort of like a spiritual one. The result of that in the end, is the album Ategnatos, and there is this main core of these parables borne within them and this is always, in one way or another, related to the thought of ‘rebirth’.”

Given the role of Eluveitie as almost modern-day bards, retelling Celtic myths and legends, I was curious as to how the band uncovered the sources for their lyrics and songs. “There are certain stories and traditions that are passed down throughout history orally, but these ones are rather difficult to deal with because obviously they’ve changed a lot over the past 2000 years. A lot of them have obviously been Christianised so it’s hard to get the original version out of something that has been passed down orally. When it comes to Celtic mythology and spirituality, besides epigraphic monuments and archaeological findings, we mainly depend on ancient literary testimonies, since the Celts themselves didn’t exactly write down much about these topics. This is something rather well documented, actually, there are quite a lot of literary testimonies from Roman sources and even more from Greek sources actually, Greek historians and so on that have been writing about the Celts and their culture and beliefs and so on.” His comment on Christianisation interested me, given the pseudo-biblical quotes that have featured in songs such as ‘Sucellos’ from 2015’s Origins and the quotation that opens ‘Worship’ from Ategnatos. I was curious as to how this seemingly Christian influence interacted with the more ‘pagan’ elements of their sound and again, Glanzmann was happy to clarify things: “Actually, it doesn’t. I mean, it’s understandable, that’s kind of the trick I wanted to achieve actually… I formed the wording [in ‘Worship’] very much like the Book of Revelations. It’s pretty much the same for ‘Sucellos’ and some other songs, where I kind of lean on wordings from Christian writings and from the Bible and so on. The thought behind doing so was to kind of give these ancient spiritual words and writings something more accessible. In the end, the Jewish, or nowadays Christian, religion is an ancient one; so is Celtic spirituality. But the Celtic culture kind of disappeared or assimilated with other cultures down to the present age and so on. Yet the Christian spirituality, even though it changed massively over the last 2000 years, it’s still part of our society. If you go out to our society today and present one-to-one original Celtic wording, quite a few things would feel and look extremely odd to the modern mind… There’s also a lot of pretty weird images in [Christian] spirituality, but due to the fact that is still rooted in our society it doesn’t feel that odd to the modern ear… This is basically why: to make ancient Celtic contents more accessible or less weird to the modern listener.”

Having dealt with the text at the heart of Ategnatos, we the turned to the musical sources that underpin the folk music side of Eluveitie. I asked where they found the sources for the music they played: “Well, it’s hard to say. We’re passionate folk musicians, I mean the ones playing folk instruments, so if you’re in Celtic folk music, then you deal with these ancient tunes and over the years you just come across so many of them. After 10 years you have a repertoire of hundreds of them, probably. When it comes then to write a melody or an album, you kind of just choose the ones that fit at the moment.” I then asked how they chose which folk melodies fit with which songs, as well as those that suited metal versus the folk-oriented Evocation albums. “In the end, I don’t really choose, I think it’s rather the song that chooses. Usually, it’s a pretty organic process when we’re composing; the driving force of the creative process, I would say, is intuition. Usually, it just really happens, the song just naturally develops without having us think too much. It’s not only that we shape the songs that we’re creating but the songs shape us in the direction that they want to go. It’s much more intuitive than actually thinking about it and actually choosing certain tunes and so on.” We then turned to Glanzmann’s own development as a musician: “Actually, I did sing in a children’s choir back in the day but my story with music started way earlier than that… even before I went to Kindergarten, music was the main thing that got me hooked… I so badly wanted to start learning guitar, I must have driven my parents fucking crazy with that, but I was just too little. So, I kind of had to wait until the age of six to actually enter the music school to learn the guitar because before my hands were just too small… Music was always a really important part of my life and when I turned six I could finally enter the music school and ever since then that’s basically what I do.”

Rounding out our conversation was a discussion of Australian metal and the upcoming tour. “You guys have quite a few really amazing bands coming from your country. Just recently I played with one of them actually… One of the shows we played in Mexico, we were supported by Ne Obliviscaris which is one of these really great bands you guys have to offer… It’s a bit different this time; usually, you release an album, and only afterwards do you go on tour and support the album. This time, it’s the other way around, the Ategnatos world tour actually started before the album was out. We just finished the first leg of the world tour cycle and that was happening in Central and South America.” Glanzmann was equally enthusiastic about the band’s long-awaited return to Australia: “We are very much looking forward to it, we can’t wait. It’s been such a long time since we’ve been to Australia and really, it’s about time we came back. We have quite a lot to catch up with you guys; since the last time we played in Australia, we’ve released two full albums, so there’s a lot to catch up. This is why we’ll be playing a two-hour set, because we want to show you guys the new music… we can’t wait to present to you our new songs and our new music, especially when it comes to Ategnatos… to us, the lyrical concept of the album, this album just turned out to be very intense. Personally, for us, and for me when I’m singing these songs, it’s a pretty intense and emotional thing and it feels quite beautiful to actually share this with all the people.”

Concluding, Glanzmann impressed upon me his gratitude for the opportunities he has to share his music with the world: “To me, it just remains to say thank you a lot for the opportunity and the interview and thanks to all the Australian fans for their support. Please come to our shows and let’s share all of this together!”

See Eluveitie on tour across Australia this May thanks to DRW Entertainment. Tickets on sale now.

Wednesday, May 15 Adelaide – The Gov
Thursday, May 16 Sydney – Manning Bar
Frida,y May 17 Brisbane – The Zoo
Saturday, May 18 Melbourne – Croxton Bandroom
Sunday, May 19 Perth – Rosemount Hotel
TICKETS

About

Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.