An Interview With Eluveitie's Chrigel Glanzmann
Eluveitie is a band from Switzerland known for their unique instruments and Gaulish vocals. In April they released their first acoustic album, "Evocation I," through Nuclear Blast, and are currently on tour throughout Europe. Labeling them is a difficult task, as founder and resident death growler Chrigel Glanzmann rejects some of the commonly used descriptors like celtic or pagan. But fans of those genres will find something familiar in the pipes, whistles, mandola, and even hurdy gurdy that Eluveitie uses in their compositions. I recently spoke with Chrigel about Eluveitie’s unusual style, and his work and interest in Helvetian history and the ancient Gaulish language.
Nichole Nash: "Evocation I" was just released in Europe and the U.S. What made you decide to do an acoustic album that is admittedly more mellow, with much less death metal elements than your prior work?
Chrigel Glanzmann: Well, due to the fact that it is an acoustic album, it’s logically more mellow. We had the idea of once creating something purely acoustic for quite a while already. It was just something that kinda challenged and excited us. And during the last one and a half years, this idea became more concrete then. And so we just did it now. There will be a second part of this acoustic concept as well. But as I’ve said, it is simply something we really wanted to do once. It doesn’t signify any kind of a change of style or so. To us, "Evocation" is more something like a project, a "special release" or so.
Nichole: You mentioned that there will be a second part to this acoustic concept. Is the material for "Evocation II" already written?
Chrigel: The concept is written. I wrote like a whole concept, ranging over two full-length albums. But the single tracks and arrangements of "Evocation II" aren’t done yet.
Having realized an acoustic album, we want to focus on metal again now, for this is what we basically are: a metal band. So, our next album will be a folk metal album again, which I’m already writing at the moment. We plan to record it this year. After the release of our next album, we’ll start working out "Evocation II."
Nichole: Do you think the decision to stream the entire album on your Myspace page will influence sales?
Chrigel: Oh, I don’t know at all. And I don’t care too much, to be honest. We started doing that with our last album. We think it’s just a nice thing to do for the fans that are waiting for an album... to give them a first impression of it, before the album is out.
Nichole: You’re responsible for most of the material writing. Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?
Chrigel: Don’t really know. They kinda just come up. Well, tradition and folk music itself is a huge inspiration, of course. Another important source of inspiration is nature and its majestic sceneries. If you’re wandering across the Alps -- okay, there are plenty of Alps round here (laughs). It might also be something else. For instance, when you stand before those awe-struck giants, your heart kinda gets calm and filled with a childlike felicity, but also with reverence and the cognition of how small and unimportant you actually are. Such moments and feelings are very important and inspirational to me.
Nichole: The basis of your name and musical style revolve around the ancient Helvetii tribe. Do all the band members share a common interest in Switzerland’s tribal origins, or is this more of a personal passion?
Chrigel: It’s something important for all of us, and every one of us has a certain affinity for history. But in particular it’s different from band member to band member. Maybe I’m the one crazed about it the most, for I have to write the lyrics (laughs).
Nichole: You began touring and playing festivals May 1. Any plans to come to the U.S. soon?
Chrigel: Yes, sure! We were really, really looking forward to play in the U.S. on the Paganfest USA II tour. When we heard that we got canceled from this tour, we were totally pissed off, of course. But also we promised our fans that we’ll immediately start working on a worthy replacement tour. And so we did. Nothing is definitely confirmed at the moment, so I can’t blab out too much unfortunately. But for pretty sure we will come back to the states and tour the U.S. later this year, most probably in November.
Nichole: That's great to hear. Speaking of touring, Eluveitie is comprised of double the normal number of band members, and fifteen different instruments. How do you transport all the equipment and people?
Chrigel: (laughs) I guess like every other band. Just imagine that there are two four-member bands on the road -- let’s say a metal band and a folk band – and you got it.
Nichole: You’ve toured with some big names, like Amon Amarth. Are there any other bands in particular you’d like to tour with?
Chrigel: Hmm, don’t know. Basically we don’t care too much with what band we’re on tour, as long as we are on tour, for we really love it (laughs). And so far we always had hell of a time with the bands we toured with. But well, personally I’d like to tour with Amorphis once. Just like that band. And of course we’d always be happy to be on the road again with Finntroll and/or Primordial, because they’re both very good friends of us, personally.
Nichole: Both you and Pade are significantly older --not to call you old, since you’re my age -- than the rest of the band. Do you ever at times feel like a parent?
Chrigel: (laughs) No problem if you’d call me old (laughs). But nah, there’s no such parent-thing at all. We’re all on the same level pretty much. Age doesn’t matter too much, I guess.
Nichole: Eluveitie uses some unique instruments, including uilleann pipes and the hurdy gurdy. How many and what all different instruments do you play personally? Where did you learn to play?
Chrigel: Oh, not that much actually. Basically just some string instruments --guitars, mandolin, mandola and bouzouki – but the last three are virtually the same to play, and some wind and reed instruments, tin and low whistles, and diverse bagpipes, and some blown reed instruments.
which is in Switzerland something like your American Berklee College of Music. But not for too long (laughs). The other instruments I learned in a pretty traditional way for folk instruments -- in the folk music scene itself. By listening, by observing others, by playing with others, etc., and practicing a lot, of course. That’s mostly how folk instruments and folk music is learned.
Nichole: One of your big hobbies is reconstructing Gaulish inscriptions. How did you get interested in this ancient language, and how or where did you learn how to translate and reconstruct it?
Chrigel: Well, that just belongs to the whole concept behind Eluveitie. It’s an important part of the whole thing. I wouldn’t say that I "learned" it... I’m still a bloody beginner. I’m dealing with the topic since many years though. But it’s not easy though, since Gaulish is actually a dead language which died out in the early Middle Ages. Regarding our lyrics, we’re always working together with scientists -- celtologues, linguists, historians -- to make sure we’re doing it as authentic as possible.
Nichole: What are some of your other hobbies?
Chrigel: To be honest, I don’t have actual hobbies. There’s just virtually no time for that. When I can take some free time, I tinker something in and on our old wooden house. Such things are normally waiting to be mended since ages already (laughs). But as mentioned, actually I don’t find much spare time besides the band.
Nichole: You tend to dismiss the term "pagan" in regards to your sound, and refer to yourselves as part of the "New Wave of Folk Metal." What do you think are the main differences between the two?
Chrigel: (laughs) You noticed that? Well, actually it was us that came up with the term "New wave of folk metal." It was our drummer’s idea once. I don’t really know if there’s a difference. To be honest, we don’t even care too much. I mean, coming up with that was a little bit of both. On one hand, just a little joke with an ironical, with a twinkle in its eye towards all those super-serious tendencies about this genre, and their myriads of style labeling. Yet on the other hand, it was also a little bit serious, showing that we don’t care too much about all the "true pagan" stuff. I mean, we are a fuckin’ pagan band, totally focused on the pagan culture of our pagan ancestors, and singing lyrics about their history. And now? We don’t have to preach pagan beliefs like missionaries, rail against christianism, etc. just because of that. To me, celtic culture and mythology is very important in every-day life. But that’s something personal. I formed Eluveitie because I love to play that kind of music, not because I wanted to become a "pagan crusader." And also, we don’t have to run around in ancient costumes -- that doesn’t make you more pagan. Come on, we’re living today. My fuckin’ blue jeans can be as "pagan" as tailored tunics, (laughs), even though I like tunics, by the way. However, we just don’t take all this typical neo-pagan fuss too serious.
Also, our music is actually not that "true" -- our guitars aren’t sawing sounds in old-fashioned black metallish style, which are – what an irony – often accompanied by some very un-ancient keyboards imitating traditional instruments. Our music is, metal wise, pretty modern, actually. And all the folkish sounds are handmade, played on authentic folk instruments. So, in all those terms, we’re just a little bit different than many other pagan metal bands. So we just had the idea to come up with another style label.
Nichole: If you weren’t in Eluveitie, what would you be doing?
Chrigel: Hmm, hard to say. If I hadn’t formed Eluveitie, I’d formed or joined another band like this most probably.
Nichole: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Chrigel: Well, it just remains to say, Thank You! Thank you for the interview, and thanks to all the readers for their interest in our band! See you!
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