Latest release: Helvetios (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)

With ten years and five albums under their belts, Eluveite decided that it was finally time to come to Australia, for a short three show tour down the East Coast. Founder and front man Chrigel Glanzmann took some time to talk to LOUD about the upcoming shows, future releases, and why he doesn’t consider Eluveite to be a folk metal band.

Helvetios was released to excellent reviews, you managed to crack the Billboard 200 in the US, you’ve been touring pretty well non-stop for months, and you’re about to come to Australia for the first time. It seems like the past year has been pretty amazing for Eluviete.
It was indeed, it kept us very busy and to be honest was quite exhausting, but it was an amazing year for us.

You’ve got a really tight touring schedule when you come here, three shows in three days, but then you’ve got three weeks off until the Celtic Rock Open Air Festival, so will you be staying for a holiday and exploring our country?
We won’t have the time unfortunately. We would’ve loved to, because none of us have ever been to Australia, so it would be great, but there won’t be the time for that. As you said, the touring schedule is quite tight, so we’re going to come over, play shows, and then we’re off to the next destination although I don’t know exactly where that is.

And Anna Murphy [hurdy gurdy] has been experiencing some health problems lately which have unfortunately forced her to pull out of a few shows. First, and most importantly, is she getting better, and secondly, will she be well enough to make the trip to Australia?
Thanks a lot for asking, and yeah she is getting better. She’s not well at the moment, she’s still in hospital, but things are going up. Just three days ago I received a phone call from her manager telling me that she’s definitely doing better now, which is great, and according to doctors she should be ready to be back with us after the Eastern European run. So she will join us for Australia.

Have you got anyone filling in for the time being?
No we don’t, I mean of course it would be great but on the one hand it’s not that easy to find Hurdy Gurdy players to play in a metal band, and on the other it’s not easy to find a hurdy gurdy player who wants to play in a metal band and can also sing very well. It would have been a bit of a challenge to find a replacement, but the main thing is she fell ill while we were touring. We were somewhere in southern America I believe, and she had to fly back home, so we had no possibility to even search for a musician.

While we have no Celtic origins in Australia you clearly have many fans here, why do you think people from outside your culture are drawn to folk metal and European mythology in general?
If I only knew that [laughs] but I really don’t. I think it’s a pretty natural development within music in general, the new style or new combination of styles develop and some of them die away, but others get popular everywhere. But other than that, I really don’t know. It’s true, European folk metal is doing really well at the moment, also in Northern America at the moment, it’s got pretty big over the last couple of years but why exactly, I don’t know.

So when you tour these countries where they don’t have Celtic origins, what’s it like? Is it weird playing that music to an audience who doesn’t have as strong an understanding of the history?
No, why would it be weird? It’s cool we love it, we appreciate it and it’s not weird at all. Of course history is an important part in Eluveitie, it’s important conceptually and all that, but after all, we’re a band, it’s about music in Eluveitie, it always was about music. You don’t need some kind of experience around the history to enjoy the show because after all it’s just a fucking metal concert.

I was curious because I wanted to know if you feel a different connection when you play to audiences who are linked to or have an understanding of the cultures you sing about?
I don’t think there’s a different connection to the band. Probably there is a different connection to the music itself and to be honest I think that makes it pretty exciting to play. A couple of years ago we had a show in India, which is a really different culture, and it was absolutely fantastic and amazing to play there.

Storytelling is a key element of Eluveitie’s music, and many folk metal bands tell stories in their lyrics, why is storytelling such a fundamental element of folk metal?
[Pauses] On the one hand I think it’s just a part of it, but to be really honest I don’t know that much about folk metal. I mean, none of us are very much into folk metal and when I formed the band, it wasn’t like we sat down and said, let’s form a folk metal band or pagan metal band or whatever you want to call it, because I hardly even knew what folk metal was. There wasn’t a folk metal scene in the sense that there is today, at least not in central Europe. I basically just wanted to combine the two kinds of music that I love, which was death metal and Celtic folk music. Then some years later suddenly this combination of styles got popular, there were so many bands coming out during the last few years and suddenly there was a scene, like a folk metal scene, and apparently we got drawn into that. But we don’t consider ourselves to be that much like folk metal, well [pauses] how can I say it. We just don’t care, it’s just our music and we just do the thing that we like to do. We don’t look around that much and we don’t care what it is. So [laughs] to answer your question I honestly don’t even know that much about folk metal, and I don’t know if or to what extent it’s important to other bands to include history or something like that.

That’s interesting because you’re branded as part of the ‘new wave of folk metal,’ so do you think bands even need genre labels?
All that new wave of folk metal thing, that was us who came up with that and originally, I must confess, it was a joke [laughs] you know. I don’t remember exactly I think it was 2006 or something when we did that, it was about the time when suddenly the combination of folk and metal kind of picked up. There were more and more bands doing that, and the press responded. Even in 2006 it was still something little, so in the music press in Europe there were many descriptions and labels for that kind of music. They started calling us and similar bands folk metal and pagan metal and Celticmetal and Viking metal, blah blah blah blah blah. We just thought, oh come on, seriously people that’s ridiculous it’s just music, seriously, [laughs]. So to make fun of that a little bit we thought, ok, let’s come up with another description for that kind of music, so that’s why we started calling ourselves the new wave of folk metal. But then after years the scene and press picked that term up and started to use it, and what could we do? So we just said, OK [laughs].

The bulk of your music is based history and mythology in your music as well, but a lot of history from the Celtic era is quite limited, so how do you construct epic tales with limited information.
The information isn’t that limited actually. Of course, there are parts of history we know a lot more about than European Celtic history of course, but still we know a lot, so I don’t think it’s hard to draw from that source. When it comes to stories [in our music], it’s all purely historical stuff, especially the last album Helvetios. It was our first album that was a real concept album with a continuing storyline, but that one is also pure history, or a narration of history. But there’s a lot of knowledge about that period actually. As you said correctly, there’s other cultures we know a lot more about, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t know anything about the Celtic era.

The reason I asked that is because I did some reading on Cernunnos, who was the figure that you based Evocation I on, and apparently the information on him is quite limited.
Oh OK OK, yeah that’s a whole other topic. If it comes to Celtic mythology and religion especially, there is some information but it’s quite hard to get. What we know about Celtic religion is quite little, that’s totally true, but nevertheless, there is information about that. When it comes to Evocation I, on the one hand it was a purely acoustic album, and it was special, it was like a project to us you know, a kind of a special release. Lyrically, it was all from original texts, we just took texts which had been written down 2000 years ago and put them into songs, and that was the idea of Evocation. To take some original bits of Gaulish mythology and put them into music. The lyrics had already been written 2000 years ago and we just had to sing them.

Because I’ve heard that you’ve started a bit of work on Evocation II as well, so will you be exploring the same Celtic mythology on the second acoustic album?
Not in this way. Since it’s the second part of Evocations, it will focus on Celtic mythology, but this time we won’t sing traditionally [in Gaulish], or quote traditional texts. We would rather go into the topic itself, lyrically, so it’ll be like a journey through the Celtic pantheon. I’ve started working on the concepts for Evocation II, and at the moment I’m crawling through something between three and four thousand A4 pages of literature, which is quite a bit of work. And as I mentioned before, there are quite a few things we know about it but it’s mostly scientifical work.

And in relation to Slania, there appear to be story telling elements in the artwork. On the cover there’s a picture of a little girl holding a sword, then on the cover of Everything Remains, there’s a woman holding a sword in front of a house. Is that supposed to be the same person?
[Laughs] if you want, it doesn’t really matter. Back when we released Slania, that thing with the little girl was pretty much a spontaneous idea. Slania is a Gaulish girls name, and that little girl is Slania, but there’s not much of a deeper meaning behind it, all our artworks are more about a free, creative atmosphere, or to express the atmosphere and emotion in music. This little girl, this little Slania from back then takes the listener by his hand and takes him on a journey, 2000 years back and tells himabout her time, her culture and all that.

A couple of years later when we released Everything Remains, the idea to use that similar motif began as a spontaneous thing, we thought it would kind of be cool.

Will you feature her as an old woman on the cover of the next metal album which you’re apparently working on as well?
[Laughs] I don’t think so, because what would happen with the follow up? We would have to put a skeleton on the cover or something [laughs]. I don’t think so but you never know, maybe that girl will show up one day again, but it’s not planned for the next album.

So then, what would be an historical period, outside Celtic society, that you’d be interested in covering?
There’s a lot of them. I’m a bit of a history nerd, and there are so many things that are pretty fascinating [pauses], if I had unlimited time, I would probably do some other project that looks at, well also Celtic culture, but the later Bardic culture as it happened in the Middle Ages in today’s Wales and all that. It’s a culture that I think is pretty fascinating.

Eluvietie is touring Australia in April:
23/5: The Zoo, Brisbane QLD
24/5: Billboard, Melbourne VIC
25/5: Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW