Interview with Samuli 'Skrymer' Ponsimaa (guitar) and Mathias 'Vreth' Lilmåns (vocals) of Finntroll at Rock Hard Festival in Gelsenkirchen
Alright, how are you doing?
Skrymer: Very good, thank you.
Vreth: Yeah... it's really nice.
How was the show?
Skrymer: Nice, very good. A bit awkward, kind of. We haven't played any shows for half a year, it was Mathias' first show...
Vreth: Yeah, it was my first festival, so I haven't got anything to compare to. But I think this was really great!
Is Vreth a full band member now or are you still looking for a new vocalist?
Skrymer: Why should we look for a new vocalist? We already have one... (laughs)
Hehe, just because there were some rumours saying there still would be a change…
Vreth: No, I don't think so.
How did you select him? Did you have a special procedure for the candidates?
I mean, why did you take him?
Skrymer: Actually we went to...
Vreth: ...the place where I live...
Skrymer: ...we got very wasted.
Vreth: I'm a friend of their first singer, Katla, we were in the same school and we're friends. So when they went and asked me if I was interested we partied and... yeah, here we are! (laughs)
So that was the crucial factor to choose him?
Skrymer: The crucial factor? The drinking or what? Partying?
Skrymer: Errrm... no! No, that's really not the main point.
Which influence did he, Vreth, have on the band chemistry so far?
Skrymer: What kind of influence? Sort of a fresh start again. It feels like we started the band three weeks ago, which is excellent. I don't know, we decided about the whole thing again... and it turned out very well.
Were there any other live shows before and how did they work with you, Mathias?
Vreth: Well, we had this really small gig, you cannot really call it a “gig” but we played a show in Helsinki before, like a month ago. It was a surprise gig, nobody really knew about it, just friends were around...
Skrymer: We played as a warm up band in Helsinki before. Just to have played one show before touring again. (laughs)
How were the fan reactions to the new singer?
Skrymer: It's hard to say... Good, I think! So far it has been very good.
And the reactions from here so far?
Vreth: I got really good feedback. I think we all did...
Skrymer: Anyway, we stand behind him for everything and whatever people think about it, they can think whatever they think about it.
Vreth: Yeah, and they have to get used to it now.
Skrymer: Because that is how the band is now.
There were some rumours that Katla would come back, was he really an option for you?
Skrymer: I think he still has a problem with the vocal cords and can't really do long tours or anything. And he has been away from the band so long and it probably wouldn't work any more because, you know, he cannot do any long tours or anything. But he is doing the lyrics for the new album, so he's sort of involved in the band again. Maybe he's doing some backing vocals on the new album or stuff like that, but Mathias is still the singer, so...
About Wilska, are you still in contact with him?
Skrymer: Well, it's getting there. No one really would like to be kicked out of a band. Of course he got upset about it in the first place but I don't know. I think it's getting in a situation where it is “okay”, sort of that. It's just a shitty fucking thing we needed to do but either we would have quit the band or we would have done something about it. But quitting the band wasn't an option.
You are planning to release a new album early next year. Can you already reveal anything about that, and how is the current state?
Skrymer: Awkward? Very weird? I don't know. (thinks) Hard to say. Every album just turns out as it turns out in the studio. I can't really say what will happen. All in all everyone is more involved now in the songs. It's finally a band that's making music.
Do you think the sound will change now that Wilska isn't in the band anymore?
Skrymer: We'll change more back to the original idea of the whole band. Not that he ruined anything, he didn't, but...
(Vreth and Skrymer discuss)
Skrymer: More... what? (thinks)
Skrymer: Sort of. Hard to say, we'll see how it turns out then in a few months.
How can we imagine the process of songwriting at Finntroll? Is there anyone taking the lead or are all involved from the beginning?
Skrymer: I think that's the biggest difference with this album, now everyone is involved. On the previous albums there were only two guys doing everything. On the last one we agreed that Tundra and Trollhorn are gonna, you know, produce and make the whole album. And they did it. It turned out pretty nice. But on this one it's more like everyone from the band comes up with some ideas and hopefully Mathias will do some vocal arrangements and guitar riffs as well.
Vreth: I hope so.
Skrymer: We all! (laughs)
Are you playing guitar as well?
Vreth: Yeah, I'm mainly a bass player but I play guitar as well.
A question you probably have heard many many times already is the language question. I know your decision to sing in Swedish had to do with your first singer Katla because he is Fenno Swede. Is there anyone else in the band who belongs to this minority of Finns, apart from Mathias?
Skrymer: No. So basically Mathias is also the only one in the band that actually speaks Swedish.
A thing which I notice very often is that most Finns aren't that fond of learning Swedish for years at school. Where do you think does the dislike for this language come from?
Skrymer: 'Cause we have to.
But you also have to learn English at school, haven't you?
Skrymer: No, we don't have to learn anything. You can choose to learn some language, but you HAVE to learn Swedish. I don't know, it's kind of fucking ridiculous nowadays. And this leads to disliking Swedish in Finland, because Finland had been under the rule of Sweden.
Vreth: Yeah, I think that's mainly the reason.
Skrymer: You don't like when someone takes over your country and forces you to learn their language. People are not happy about it.
Vreth: This really leaves a mark.
Skrymer: The thing is that no one actually really dislikes anyone. But we don't like Swedish - no one actually does 'cause we get along with them. It's so fucking ridiculous.
Vreth: I think it's just the ignorant ones that don't like Swedish. Rednecks.
Skrymer: Those idiots are all over the world.
(looking at Vreth) By the way, did you have to learn Finnish then?
Vreth: Well, I'm really not that good at speaking Finnish, I speak a little bit and they understand what I am saying.
So you communicate with the band in Finnish?
Vreth: In Finnish, yeah. I already could speak a little before I came here and now we have been at least a month together, so it's getting better all the time.
Samuli, where do you take the ideas for your drawings from? What does inspire you?
Skrymer: Hm, holy shit! All the folklore from the North, Scandinavian and Finnish folklore, everything like forest creatures and things, knowledge and folklore from the last 10.000 years or something. Also Finnish national artists. Things like Kalevala. I don't know, all folklore mainly. And my head. It's really hard to say, I'm sorry. But the main influence is the Finnish folklore.
Are you also doing custom's work? Like for example are you doing cover artwork for other bands?
Skrymer: I did two covers for Glittertind from Norway, one for Moonsorrow...
Skrymer: (thinks) The brown one? There was originally a completely different colour but then someone else started to paint it brown. It took hours and hours and hours to paint this very very perfect nice blue sea there and now it's brown. Mmmh. Anyway...
Vreth: Yeah, so the painting and the cover is like night and day.
Skrymer: Then I do tattoos... but I don't do much.
Do you still have enough time to draw besides playing in Finntroll?
Skrymer: Yeah, I do. Within the last half a year we didn't really do anything. I got more into painting then. I don't know, I just play guitar and draw every day, play playstation, watch BBC. I don't fucking know. (laughs) I have a very very boring life.
You have exhibited some of your work on Elfwood homepage. Apart from publishing your drawings in the internet, would you take part in an exhibition like Vesa Ranta from Sentenced for example?
Skrymer: Yeah, I would. Actually there was an exhibition for Finnish record cover artwork at Tampere with all Finntroll covers. So - yes, I would take part.
Like last year you will play in Wacken this year again. However, this time your gig is scheduled to take place at the bigger Black Stage after the area around the party stage was totally overcrowded in 2005, people were even climbing on trees to see anything... Do you think your show will work out on this big stage as great as on smaller stages?
Skrymer: Why not? Of course. No, I think we fit better to venues though, dark lights, sweat, moshpits, stagediving and things like that. That's definitely more us than a huge fucking stage for thousands of people. But I think it's gonna be very nice 'cause there's some specialties coming...
Something completely different now: What do you think about the Eurovision Song Contest and what is your opinion on Lordi?
Skrymer: KISS is cool. And they are pretty much the same kind of style. About the Eurovision Song Contest... there is a contest for music which basically the whole idea fucking sucks so much in the first place. There is no competing or music... you can't do that. Anyhow, a cool thing is that some governmental people in Finland had the balls to stand out and send Lordi there. I don't know, was it last year or three years ago, there was Nightwish, trying to apply to the song contest and they won the public voting. And then the governmental part didn't want to send them there, a metal band. But this year they stood up and send Lordi there and they won. Which is excellent. And the excellent thing is what he actually said in the interview: “It was a victory for rock'n roll”.
Skrymer: Although they are monsters... and whatever. But still, it's a victory for real music. Not for fucking Christian Swedish bitches or whatever.
What effect do you think this might have to the Finnish metal scene?
Skrymer: My opinion on the reason why Lordi won is that those bands like Children of Bodom and whatever have been touring the whole fucking Europe and the world like ten years or so. That's why Lordi won. They did all the base work. Suddenly some people noticed: “Oh, there's this country somewhere in the north and there's someone actually living there and they are making some music!” I think this is why Lordi won. So it doesn't really change anything. There is this Finnish person who's actually the organizer of Nosturi or something like that and he said really well that no one who really listens to music is fucking interested in seeing someone on a glass covered stage, playing playback... They don't fucking care about that. So it doesn't really do anything for the actual bands. Not that Lordi is not a band... it's very much comparable to a KISS kind of thing – masks, these things... I think it doesn't really help any Finnish bands or whatever. More than all these other bands. Amorphis and those did the thing.
What do you think is the reason for the extreme big popularity of Finnish folk metal at the moment?
Vreth: That's a hard one... I think the songs are like easy-listening.
Skrymer: Yeah, the folk is very easy.
Vreth: It's like you can drink beer and chill out and watch the show and everybody gets like in a drinking mood or something...
Skrymer: Yeah, I guess that is kind of a part of the Finnish folk metal. I don't know, I really don't know.
(Vreth and Skrymer talk to each other)
Skrymer: It's very easy because there is no really progressive part or anything.
Vreth: Kind of straight forward. These not-so-folk bands have like these lalalala epic parts in their songs, 5 minutes it's like- (intones a majestic fanfare). Spoken words and such.
Skrymer: The destruction of whatever...
When I was preparing for the interview I asked a friend of mine at the camp ground what I should ask you. And she said: “Ask them for their favourite German beer!” And that's the last question.
Skrymer: Favourite German beer?
Vreth: Oh! That's a hard one...
Skrymer: I don't remember the label but it's from Bavaria, Weißbier local-
Skrymer: No, it's a local brewery from around Stuttgart.
Vreth: I remember on Friday when we came here we went to a shop and wanted beers at a gas station and we bought this “Neptune”. I think that was really good.
Skrymer: Yeah, that's the best one 'cause it costs only 50 cents. That's perfect. It's cheap and you don't need to puke.
And Jägermeister. It's the best beer... reindeer beer.
We're actually through with the interview. So is there anything you would like to state to our readers?
Skrymer: Trust us – we know what we're doing!
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