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Interview

Týr/Heljareyga Frontman Heri Joensen Talks Vodka, Touring, Foreign Languages

All it takes is one look at the lead singer/guitarist for Týr, Heri Joensen, to know why they call his music "Viking Metal." Hailing from the land just southeast of Iceland, called the Faeroe Islands, his bands Týr and Heljareyga have been introducing the world to a new blend of metal and folk music. A veteran of the European festivals, Joensen has also toured various countries, singing in both English and the native Faeroese to crowds everywhere. Most of the time, the crowds sing back even though they probably haven't the slightest idea what they're saying in Faeroese, just having a good time.

While in the process of completing Týr's forthcoming 2011 album, Joensen gave a few words to MetalUnderground.com. This sheds some light on how much Faeroese folk music influences his music, his tastes in vodka, and what to do if your band sings in a language that half the world doesn't understand.

Progressivity_In_All (Frank Serafine): Was it a conscious decision to make the Heljareyga lyrics all Faeroese and not part English, like with Týr?

Heri Joensen: Yes, it was. I always wanted to make a Faeroese-only project, even before forming Týr, but Týr never turned out that way. The Faeroese-only thing was one of the very first things I decided about Heljareyga.

FS: Can you tell us a little bit about what types of Faeroese music influenced Heljareyga?

Joensen: Mostly on the lyrical side, the Faeroese ballad language style and modernizations of that. Some recent Faeroese rock and metal bands and musicians as well.

FS: You endorse Bjarnastein guitars. Can you tell us a little about what you like about your custom guitar?

Joensen: Not anymore. The guy stopped making guitars for years now, and I've waited to get a few replacement guitars from him. In the meantime I've signed with Ibanez guitars. They were so kind as to make me a 7 string version of their brand new 30 fret RG series.

FS: What has been the best tour you've been on?

Joensen: That depends on how you look at it. There are good and bad aspects of every tour. When we were driving in our old van between European festivals and gigs the summer of 2008 I think it was, and our van broke down, three times. The last time we decided it wasn't worth it fixing it and we had to arrange alternative transport to Denmark. That was one of the touring lows of my entire touring life. Also we once had an asshole-from-hell tourmanager that went out of his way to make our daily lives a living hell! But the headliner band, Amon Amarth, were very kind to us. That was in late 2006.

FS: What other musicians have influenced you from metal and other genres of music?

Joensen: Ronnie James Dio has been one of my greatest inspirations. Jari Mäenpää (Wintersun/Ensiferum), Steve Vai, Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs), John Petrucci (Dream Theater.)

FS: What made you choose the musicians you chose to record with on Heljareyga?

Joensen: Their talent and level of musicianship, and their willingness to participate in the project.

FS: What country has the best alcohol?

Joensen: I don't drink that much, and I don't like beer at all. When I drink I drink stronger stuff. One thing that has struck me is Russian vodka. Once you've tasted that you don't understand why you even bother to drink much of the crap vodka they make in western Europe. Having said that, there is one very good vodka from the Faeroes called Eldvatn.

FS: Any advice you can give up-and-coming bands who write music in different languages?

Joensen: Don't be afraid to sound different. If singing in your language is what you want then it is what you should do. Don't follow trends and play whatever you want. Oh, and buy the Heljareyga album to see how it's done.

A 4.5-skull review of Heljareyga's colossal debut album can be read here.

Progressivity_In_All's avatar

Frank Serafine is an avid writer, music producer, and musician, with five albums to his name. While completely enamored with metal, he appreciates a wide range of music. He also works full-time at the American-based performing rights organization, SESAC.

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