Chrigel Glanzmann | Eluveitie
DJ Nathan Mulch had the chance to catch up with Celtic Folk Metal band Eluveitie when they were on the road. He made the pilgrimage to Seattle, Washington and his reward was to sit down with Chrigel Glanzmann himself.
Nathan: One of the things I’ve been interested in is the Gaelish. Where do you pull that from? Because I looked it up and we don’t have a lot.
Chrigel Glanzmann: Yes and no. Yes we do have a lot, but nevertheless, you’re right. It’s a lost and dead language. All we have today in college besides the many inscriptions and stuff of course, besides that, all we have today are actually scientific reconstructions of the language. Actually, it’s pretty much a reconstruction of the Gaelish language. But there are, I mean the vocabulary is no problem and there’s really lots of inscriptions and stuff. But there are some points about the grammar that scientists are still in the dark about, and as well of course with pronunciation. There are some things that if you compare young Celtic language that’s derived until today and you can see how they developed…
N: Cornish and Breton and Welsh and all those?
CG: Yeah, stuff like that. So with the knowledge of those things and other stuff you can pretty much come close to the ancient pronunciation, but it would be wrong to claim that that’s how it sounded like 2000 years ago. But yeah, if it comes to the use of the Gaelish language in our songs we always work together with scientists and try to come as close as somewhat possible to the original thing.
N: We were wondering because we didn’t see a whole lot of it in Everything Remains, if you had run out of vocabulary or had just not really felt like using it for that album.
CG: No, I mean besides the acoustic album which was a special thing anyway, we usually had like one of two “something” songs on each album, and it’s pretty much the same for the latest one. Yeah, ok, the recent album just has one song, just one short phrase, but actually we don’t think about stuff like that too much, things like that just kind of develop quite naturally. There will be more Gaelic again on the next album though.
N: And is that one going to be acoustic or metal?
CG: It will be a metal album.
Nathan: Metal album, awesome. Are you planning on going back and doing “Affectation Two” as it were?
CG: Yeah, we will do that for sure, we certainly have not decided yet when we will do that one.
N: Very cool. Another thing we were wondering, because they had become sort of image-wise, iconic of the group, why was it the Kerters left, Rafi and Seth?
CG: I killed them. No, they just decided to leave the band after, I think it was, 2008? Yeah, I think it was after a U.S. tour, I think it was 2008. Well, they were thinking about it for quite a while already, and yeah, after that tour they just decided to leave the band, mostly due to the fact of being on the road a lot. You see, I mean we as a band we have grown quite quickly and constantly, and over the years each band member actually had to face the question of can I still do that, can I afford that amount of time that needs to be invested in the band? And yeah, as time continued, the band actually grew more and more. Every year we had more shows and more tours and so on. And yeah, that was the case for the Kerter brothers as well, after two tours in a row, they just decided, “ok, that’s more than we can handle.” Especially since they actually didn’t want, they actually wanted to keep their regular life back home with a regular job and stuff like that. A life like that was not possible anymore. So today we basically live from the band, and that’s not what they wanted to do, they love playing music, but they want to do it as a hobby and stuff, so it just became too much for them.
N: Speaking of members, I know you’re down from a nine piece to an eight piece group. Are there any songs that you are unable to play with only having the one fiddler?
CG: Not really, no.
N: Oh, ok. Was there any reason for the switch?
CG: Yes, I mean, Linda the second fiddle player that was in the band, she and Meri they were just like a really really strong duo, like personally of course, but also musically. I mean the chemistry musically was just perfect, and we, especially Meri actually, thought that it will be hard to find another fiddle player like that. It probably takes years to get that chemistry, that combination again. And it actually makes things easier anyway for playing live shows, we just decided “ok, we’ll leave it that way for the moment .” Maybe one day, I mean you never know, maybe one day we’ll meet another fiddle player and things will fall into place. Why not? But yeah, but for now we’ll just leave it that way.
Meri Tadic : And it’s actually just as good a sound this way, so it would be nice, but it’s not necessary, it would be nice, but we’re not missing anything.
N: Another question, on the instruments, I know they’ve had problems with properly balancing that number of instruments, I know that a lot of times the acoustics get really over-driven by the electric instruments. For example, when I saw them you could not hear the accordion or the fiddle, it was all bass and guitars. Have you ever had issues with that?
CG: Yeah, I mean in the beginning it was like really really hard. One of the main problems is that most of the folk instruments are actually completely acoustic instruments-
N: Miked up instead of…
CG: Well yeah, they have pick-ups, but like, still, I mean the mandolin for example it still has, how do you say, has body, and for you, Meri, she plays the electric violin today for example which makes things a lot easier. But still, the hurdy-gurdy mandolin stuff, they’re acoustic instruments which means they pick up a lot from the surrounding noise. So if you’re playing drums like two meters away from a mandolin, the pick-up in the mandolin actually picks up a lot of the drums, and that’s the same for the hurdy-gurdy and stuff. And that’s one of the main problems you have to deal with. If you’re mixing in acoustic instruments, the problem you have there is you can’t raise the volume of the acoustic instruments a lot, otherwise you’ll get feedback like hell. Yeah but, after all I would say this is basically something that just needs experience; there is not a problem that cannot be solved. And today, I would say we have no problems with it, not at all. I mean we have our own crew; they know how to deal with it, they know the difficulties of the certain instruments and stuff, so I don’t think it’s a problem today anymore. It was hard in the beginning though, but yeah, not anymore.
N: Very cool. Where did you get the concept for the group?
CG: Well it was basically the realization of a dream I had in mind for many years already. I just basically wanted to combine the two kinds of music I love most, which would be death metal and Celtic folk music.
N: And what are the, I would say, the roots of most of the members? Do you pull mostly traditional people, people who are into metal, people who are into folk?
CG: It’s completely different. Anna for example, our air guitar (or accordion, couldn’t tell) player, when I first met her she was a black metal chick and she only listened to like really, true, old school death metal and stuff.
N: Oh, the first wave.
CG: And on the other hand, Merlin our drummer, he actually started to play metal because he joined the band. Before he joined the Late he was not into metal that much, he was playing in a reggae band. Yeah so, you see, it’s like totally different from band member to band member.
N: Very cool.
CG: And of course, all of us, we love metal. And most of us really love folk music as well.
N: On folk metal you describe yourselves as the “new wave of folk metal” on a lot of your materials. What do you mean by that exactly?
CG: Not too much. To be honest, we really don’t give a shit about labeling, that’s your job anyway and we really don’t care about what the music’s called, after all it’s just folk and rock. We don’t care about labeling that much. But that thing, when we came up with that, it was before we released our first full-length album actually. This whole folk metal thing was still quite new back then, and the scene and the music press was looking for new labels for that kind of music, so they came up with Forest Metal, Viking Metal, Heathen Metal, Pagan Metal, blah blah blah, and we just felt like it was really really ridiculous. So when we came up with that, on one hand it was a little bit serious, we simply wanted to show that we were a little bit different, we’re not just like folk metal like everybody else, but mostly it was basically a joke because there were so many labels for that music we just thought “oh, fuck you guys, we’ll come up with another new one.” But mostly it was basically a joke, but suddenly it got adapted by the press, but so what?
N: It’s kind of like, I know Amon Amarth said “Well I guess we’re Viking Metal, we always thought we just played Death Metal, but ok.”
CG: Yeah, there you go.
N: Now you personally play a lot of instruments for the band. How many of those did you learn for the band, or did you play all of the beforehand?
CG: People keep on saying that, I don’t think it’s that much actually. I’m basically playing wind instruments and string instruments, that’s it. Well I already played bagpipes and stuff, mandolin and those things I bought for the band, but I didn’t really need to learn it because I’m basically a classical guitar player since, I don’t know, many years. Let me think, 29 years now. Yeah, so it was like nothing I really needed to learn.
N: You just picked it up, learned the tuning?
CG: Yeah yeah, there you go.
N: Now, were you involved in many projects before this one?
CG: Well some of them, yeah. Nothing that you would know. I think I founded my first death metal band in 1991 or something, yeah, ’91 it was, and since then I was always in a band. But yeah, nothing you would know.
N: Another one people have always asked is how’s the voice holding up? I know it can get pretty bad, as someone who does screaming vocals, myself.
CG: I never have problems with that. I mean, right now my throat is actually quite sore, I picked up a quite bad cold a couple of days ago, my throat is really fucked up, but it doesn’t really affect the singing. I never have a problem. But even like, two years ago or something, we had a really long tour and it was two and a half months or something in a row, playing a show every day, and not even in that tour did I have any problems. I think after all, it’s a matter of technique or something.
N: Absolutely. Which brings me to the question, were there any bands that were inspirational, as it were, for Eluveitie?
CG: Yes and no. I usually don’t really know how to answer that question. That’s a question on almost every interview. I would say no, there are no influential or architect bands. But on the other hand I think that it’s a natural thing that the music you love personally and listen to a lot also influences the music you’re playing and writing yourself. In that sense, yeah there are maybe hundreds of influential bands, and it’s different bands for each band member. For me personally, to give you an example, I’m a huge fan of “something band” which is like a traditional Irish folk band from the 70s, and yeah, my style of playing the whistle and bagpipes is for sure influenced by their bagpipe and whistle player.
N: And your Celtic rhythms, are those mostly borrowed from the Irish, Welsh, Gaelish?
CG: You mean the tunes?
CG: Pretty much all over. It’s basically folk music from countries with Celtic roots. I think it’s mostly from Brittany or other continental countries like Britain and stuff.
N: What made you decided to, I know a lot of folk metal bands go with a traditional lineup and keys, what made you decide to go with the traditional instruments?
CG: I hate that. Basically because I really really hate that keyboard thing. I like keyboard, keyboards are a cool instrument if they’re used as keyboards. If you’re using a keyboard to copy or display a bagpipe or something, if you do that, why don’t you just play a bagpipe? Or for drums or stuff, people are picky about that, so why don’t they use real bagpipes? I like hand made things.
N: And myself as well. I think that’s it as far as interview things are required, but thank you very much, thank all of you that are here, and we look forward to the show tonight.