Interview with Olli Vänskä of Turisas

Olli Vänskä of Turisas
Olli Vänskä of Turisas

“It’s absolutely great to be in the land of two taps and single women.”


by Lisa Billingham


Hi Olli, thanks for meeting up with Midlands Rocks ahead of your gig tonight.

Hey, nice to be here back in the UK, absolutely.

You’ve played 16 dates since the end of January on the We Ride Together tour and are now in the UK for what will undoubtedly be another 5 awesome gigs.  How has the tour been received so far?

Quite nice, it’s always nice to tour during the winter time, I get to wear my long johns and have a nice time.  We went through Germany, Switzerland, Austria and then I think the warmest day must have been maybe Barcelona or Madrid, it was fun.  Good audience reception, nice crowds, it was lovely I can’t complain.

You have Starkill in tow as well, how are you guys all getting along?  Any funny moments you wish to share?

Apart from their bassist left to go to Calais in France last night because of some weird work permit stuff or something like that, I think they actually have a bass player for tonight.  So they will play.  It’s been good, I’ve not met them before but the band are from Century Media so it’s good.  I must admit I know nothing about Husk.  Are they good?

Yes they are, I had a listen to some of their tracks this afternoon.

Yeah I know nothing so I expect to be surprised in quite a positive way.



The album Turisas 2013 was released last August, so it was time to bring the amazing folk/ symphonic metal sound to the masses in Europe. How does that make you feel?

It certainly is different stuff and we showcased maybe 4 or 5 songs live on the tour last Fall and this Spring so it’s been nice to play some fresh tunes.  There is a lot of new stuff, Mathias Nygård is the main songwriter and he produced the album, like the previous two as well. Yeah it must have been puzzling for quite a few fans because it takes the sound to kind of a different territory from maybe what they expected.

I must admit I heard that as well.  I have been listening to the more recent stuff and wondered if you set out to achieve a slightly different sound for the last album or was it a gradual evolution? 

I guess there was somewhat like an intended step into an uncharted territory for us.  It was on purpose to not try to do this massive orchestra sound and instead rely on more of a band sound.

Did you find it very challenging or were the band full of ideas to achieve this new sound?

Well I guess it was an interesting experiment.  There was a bit more song writing collaboration now between the different band members. I think I have two songs and Jussi, our guitar player, has three songs whereas before it was mainly Nygård writing most of the stuff.  Yeah we decided to kind of like to keep it a bit in the air of not trying to on purpose push it to certain sounds.  For example there is a very punky take on No Good Story Ever Starts With Drinking Tea.  I had the feeling it would be fun to start with [clapping] more upbeat, uplifting stuff to play in the live set.  I was listening to something like 90s pop punk, Bad Religion, Offspring, fucking Blink 182 live yeah.

Listening to For Your Own Good and watching the video for Ten More Miles, has shown this evolution to a slightly more “poppy” theme, whilst keeping your story telling anthem style lyrics, are you looking to appeal to a different audience now?

Yeah, well we have been drifting away from the folk metal approach already.  I think that The Varangian Way album from 2007 was kind of very… people always want to put us in this kind of Viking metal box so I guess that was pretty much that and I think it’s been pretty clear for us that we wanted to try different stuff as well but I think most people expect us to wear the Viking hats on stage and “where’s the accordion blah blah blah?”  It’s been five years since we had the accordion in the band.  I play violin still but there’s not much of folk jig stuff or anything like that on the album so yeah may be that was also about doing a bit of, if you want to say, “pop” sound. I don’t think it sounds like your average Lady Gaga or anything like that still but yes there is definitely a kind of push to that.  I don’t think it’s like a carbon copy of anything like Top 40 chart stuff or anything like that but I guess that we have a unique sound.  So yeah I guess in that sense I think you are right, that was just the feeling we had when we were doing the album.  It wasn’t a push from the label to be “poppy” or anything of that kind.  I think that they would love us to do Viking metal stuff.

You have 4 acclaimed albums in the bag.  Was it difficult to decide what songs to use for this tour?

Yeah, we actually thought about it quite a lot. If we play say, Newcastle or London or somewhere we played before then maybe we go back and check from Setlist FM or somewhere like that so we can showcase a bit more stuff we haven’t played before.  Of course there are always a couple of those songs that we are kind of obliged to play but not always like that either.  We dropped this very well-known drinking song, One More and stuff like that, we haven’t played on this tour and some of the old classics but for example, from the debut album, Battlemetal, we bought some lesser played tracks as well.

And they are always good to hear…

Yeah I think it is for the fans as well – there is somebody who has coming to see 12 shows on this tour so we want to keep it alive from a day to day basis as well, so that we are not playing strictly the same set list from day one of the tour.

That’s good.  I note that your albums releases tend to come out every 2-3 years, at what stage do you think “time for another album”?  Or is this something that you work on all the time?

No, it’s hard to write stuff in a very conscious way when you are on tour and, well if depending on me, then 2015 or 2016 might sound good but let’s see how inspired people feel about doing an album.  I don’t think we would be touring this album for more than this year maybe year and a half.  I would be motivated to go into the studio pretty soon yeah.

You have a few festivals lined up this year already like Paganfest and Hellfest scheduled for the Summer, do you enjoy travelling in for what could only be a 30 minute set?

Mmmmm well it depends.  Paganfest is a package tour that we are doing on the US side and I think we are probably do a 50-60 minutes set each day but if you are doing something like Hellfest in France or somewhere like that, then it’s always fun to play for people who don’t know you, I guess that’s the point of doing festival shows as well, it’s a different type of challenge and of course there’s limitations if you travel light and what kind of stage gear you bring and other show stuff.  We have our own lights here and a pretty nice set up so yeah festivals are fun as well but of course, on tour is on tour so you have the whole day to prepare.  I remember at Hellfest in France, doing a planned 40 minute set but there were technical issues and we played something like 15 minutes because we could not get the stuff working.

Now that would have been an absolute tragedy.

Yeah, so its kinda like ok let’s erase tracks from the set list and play three songs that kind of, probably, not surprising anybody.

So with the miles that you travel, and you are on this tour now until the end of March, what do you guys do in your down time?

Just wait, I went to army and that’s one of the things you learn in the army is to wait. Its killing time, I went to HMV and bought an Emeli Sande DVD of live concert footage, so stuff like that…

And sleep…

Yeah sleep or end up on Facebook doing too much of the same and news sites… stuff like that.

And I have to ask one last question for all the ladies, who does your stage make-up and how long does it take?

[Laughing] we do the stage make-up ourselves and I guess we reserve like an hour to do it but as the tour goes on, everybody gets more bored of doing a really good job,  so then it’s like 35 minutes before we go on stage and we should start and then you put on your wet disgusting stage clothes and you are starting 5 minutes too late… pissing your tour manager off and stuff… That’s how it is.

Thanks once again for spending time with me in your busy schedule.  Is there anything you’d like to say to the Midlands Rocks readers?

It’s absolutely great to be in the land of two taps and single women. No, I really like touring the UK and hope people will find their way to our shows.  I’ve looked forward to these dates definitely and hopefully we will return to the UK again soon.