Shortly before my holidays we were approached by Hammerheart Records if we'd like to do a THYRFING interview. As I like the new album a lot, I made up a couple of questions in quite a rush - but I guess they weren't that bad, after all (decide for yourself). THYRFING singer Thomas Väänänen was in stress, too. Nevertheless, he obviously took more time and thought than some other musicians I interviewed via email, so thanks for that!
How did you find out about Metal, what's the reason for your addiction? What was your first Metal record and the first gig you saw?
"Our neighbours, friends of my parents, had a son who is about seven or eight years older than I and he played the drums and listened to Metal so I guess he kind of introduced me to the whole brilliant cult of Heavy Metal and pounding percussion. He used to do these Iron Maiden-mix tapes for me, so still when I listen to Maiden-albums I feel like the running order of the songs is wrong because he used to put them in the order he liked better, haha. And this is more than fifteen years later."
How did you meet Jocke and Patrick, what was the reason for starting a band with them?
"I first met Jocke by playing in the same football-team as him. It didn't take long for us to connect since we both had the same passion for Metal. His grandmothers basement then proved to be a perfect place for me to move my drums and Jocke and I just started jamming together for fun (mind you we were 13 at the time) and later on Jocke's friend Patrik joined in on the fun and started playing bass... later on we switched instruments, and the rest - as they say - is history."
Before the founding of THYRFING Jocke, Patrick and you used to play together in countless bands and projects such as PANTHEON. What was the reason for all those changes and how did THYRFING become a long lasting band? Just because of the record deal or is there more behind it?
"Well, we didn't really play in countless projects - it was always us three with other people coming and going in addition to the core of us three. The bandname changed every now and then, but that was just natural as we started playing together when we were 13 and discovered new genres of Metal all the time. We started out playing more regular Heavy Metal and then we discovered Deicide - boom! Death Metal was the name of the game... a bit later came Samael and all album covers had to be in black & white, hehe. Then, of course, we discovered Bathory and there was no turning back from Viking Metal. The reason Thyrfing has lasted is because we were all friends before we started the band... it's like the mafia - once you join you can't get out in one piece."
With PANTHEON you used to play the drums - why did you give up and start singing for THYRFING instead?
"THYRFING originally started out without me, with just Jocke jamming on the drums with Patrik playing guitar... then came Peter and Kimmy and it started getting serious. I totally worshipped the first demo, "Solen Svartnar" so I asked them if I could try out as a vocalist and they said yes and here we are."
How did you come up with the name THYRFING? Who had the idea and what does it mean anyway? How much does it represent the band? (I know about the faq-explanation on the website, but maybe you can tell us a little bit more han that, in connection to the band)
"We (or they as I had not joined the band when the name was picked) had a couple of different names first; Vargavinter and Midvinter among others. I think it was Peter who came up with Thyrfing, but I'm actually not sure. Back then it was more of just a cool name ("a sword that slaid every time it was pulled - cool!" you know 15 year old guys, heh) but the symbolism is actually pretty suitable. Every time you put on the album you slay somebody ;)"
Did you already have a vision of how you would sound in the future (=now) back in the founding days?
"The purpose back then was purely to create something like what Bathory did on their classic Viking albums, and I think that we're getting closer and closer for each try in creating something as epic as they (he) did back then. But we didn't really have a vision of how we would develop and how we would be sounding today, we just developed naturally album by album."
What's the song writing process like? Do you jam in the rehearsal room or does everybody sit down on his own at home?
"It's a combination of both actually. Rehearsals are usually just a big show off of riffs. Somebody shows a cool thing they've done and somebody else picks up on it with a part they think might fit after and so on... Sometimes people will also come down with entire songs, but they always tend to change a tiny bit after they go through the filtering of the other five members."
What's the reason for recording songs in your mother tongue? Weren't you afraid that people wouldn't understand and ignore THYRFING therefore? And why do you use English lyrics as well?
"We've never been afraid that people would ignore us just for singing in Swedish instead of English... on the contrary, people seem to get pissed off if we say that we might feature more stuff in English in the future. I think especially the fanatics of this whole genre think it's important with lyrics in Swedish. The reason for using English lyrics as well is simply that we don't want to limit ourselves to one language. If an idea pops up in English then we go with that and do the song in English and the same with Svenska, you know."
How important are the lyrics for you and for THYRFING? Can you give an overview of the lyrics on "Vansinnesvisor"? What does the title mean anyway? "Vision Of Madness"? Is there a concept behind the lyrics on this one?
"The lyrics have become to be more and more important for each release we've done. When we did the first album we were just 17-18 years old, so we just wanted to have lyrics that suited our music, but by each release we get more and more picky about everything and that includes the lyrics. We have written more and more personal lyrics for each passing album and this time we really poured our hearts on paper regarding some of the tracks. "Vansinnesvisor" means "Songs Of Madness", so you were quite close. 'Draugs Harg' is quite hard to translate but a Draug is a dead person, a ghost if you will, and a Harg was a sacrificial altar of stone. So you could basically say that Draugs Harg is a sacrificial site for the dead. What Jocke refers to though is modern man and their lives. People in these times are pretty much dead in their souls - they wake up, join the soulless ratrace, come home, eat a TV-dinner, go to sleep and then the same thing again. The Harg he's talking about is the big cities of today which most certainly are dead places in many ways and where modern man sacrifices himself. People forget what life really should be these days... something to be experienced - not something you suffer through - and that fills us with contempt. 'Digerdöden' is the Swedish word for the Black Death, (the plague, the great death) that struck Europe and other parts of the world in the 14th century and clamed the lives of millions. This is actually one of our better lyrics this far and is extremely well written and poetic. 'Världsspegeln' ("Mirror Of The World") deals with personal thoughts about ending your life by your own decision at the bottom of the ocean. It's all set in a framework of mythological words and phrases though, staying in touch with the Viking-concept. The music and lyrics on this one go hand in hand in a very nice manner. 'The Voyager' is very classic Thyrfing Viking Metal. The song basically deals with the typical northmens love for the ocean and the travelling there upon. The song, of course, has a dark twist in the end. 'Angestens Högborg' ("The Stronghold Of Angst") actually also deals with how depressing life in the modern big cities can be. I wrote this lyric unbeknowing of the fact that Jocke had chosen a similar theme for ''Draugs Harg', but as the lyrics are very different in nature, this one being more melancholic and pitiful while Draugs is more like a kick in the teeth of the modern man we used both ones. 'The Giant's Laughter' is pretty much Patrik's English interpretation of Swedish Poet Esaias Tegner's brilliant poem "Jätten" (the giant). The words paint a fairly depressive view of nationalism and a "lost struggle"... ah, read it damn it :) 'Vansinnesvisan' ("The Madness Song") is basically just what the title says. It's about all those feelings inside when you loose your fucking mind with rage and anger and how you'd like to piss on the graves of those who have ever done you wrong. The most aggressive lyrics I've written so far. 'Kaos Aterkomst' ("The Return Of Chaos") deals with Ragnarök, Armageddon, the end of the world. It's far from being as infantile as most Metal lyrics dealing with the same subject, but instead a bit more subtle and poetic in its approach. Extremely suitable for the song in question - epic and foreboding."
How important is mythology for you? Are you 'just' interested in that or is there more behind it?
"Well, let's say I'm very interested. I am absolutely no religious person in such a manner that I worship anything. But my interest certainly runs deeper than buying a Mjölner and claiming to be a viking."
How much does the cover art on "Vansinnesvisor" represent the lyrics? Did you choose the cover or was it Hammerheart's decision? Are you content with it? Do you know Niklas Sundin personally? Or how did you get in touch?
"Well, as said before, the title of the album translates into "Songs Of Madness", so I think the connection of the lyrics to the cover is pretty clear - the man on the cover obviously looks like he has lost his last fucking screw. The one that held the vital brainparts in place. We basically sent the album along with a bunch of pictures from our most recent photosession to Niklas and said that we wanted something that would go hand in hand with the music and lyrics and I certainly think he delivered 110%. Hammerheart had nothing to do with the cover, it was handled strictly between the band and Niklas. We got in touch with Niklas via e-mail and all contacts with him were handled that way."
Writing songs, recording them, playing live: what are your feelings about these 3 central parts in the life of a musician and what do you like best? Why?
"All things have their charm and their negative sides. I think the least satisfying part for me personally is the actual writing, the birth of the songs. I am a horrible songwriter and the only thing I can contribute with in a satisfying manner is help with arrangements. And I also actually don't like rehearsing that much, which of course is required when preparing material for an album, haha. I do like writing lyrics though, at least when everything flows in a pleasing manner. When it comes to recording I fucking love it... especially when you're doing final additions before mixing and you hear the album really coming together. And when livegigs work fine it's one of the most pleasing things, not just when it comes to music, but in life! The feeling of commanding an audience with your hands and voice is amazing."
What was the reason to release your demos on CD?
"Ah, the label asked us if we wanted to do it and we agreed. Now afterwards I do regret it. Although it's cool that all the people who were craving for those old recordings finally got to hear them the actual release is not at all satisfying. Everything just got rushed and the artwork looks like fucking shit, shit, shit. I personally think it's very important that all aspects around a release look good, and "Hednaland" looks horrible."
Do you follow the Metal scene in your area? Is there one? Are there any good clubs to play or to hang out at? Do you know any cool underground bands there?
"Well, Tyresö is a suburb to Stockholm, so you could pretty much say that we belong to the Stockholm-scene - and of course we follow it. If there are any cool gigs we're there enjoying the concert. As far as clubs go things are pretty crappy at the moment, but I'm sure things are going to pick up soon again. When it comes to bands I think it's pretty unnecessary to mention the famous ones from Stockholm so I'll try and list the cooler ones we have and have had from Tyresö. We have had bands or members from bands such as: Unanimated, Celestial Pain, Malign, Raise Hell, Wyvern, Sins of Omission and Svartsyn. Pretty strong for a place with less than 40 thousand inhabitants."
How important is the internet for THYRFING?
"I guess it's about as important for us as for other bands on our level. It's just basically a good way of getting information to a lot of people at the same time. Another medium with which to spread Metal."
You're offering MP3s on your site - what's the reason for that? No fear people won't buy your CDs after that?
"It's just good that people can get a taster of the album without having to go down to the recordstore to listen to the music. Haha, no fear of people not buying the album - if they like it that is. I still believe Metal people have the need to own the actual album complete with booklet und alles. It might be a different story for other genres like techno and so where the bond between the "artist" and the fans is not as strong."
When will we see you live on the road? Is there anything confirmed already?
"Unfortunately there's no concrete plans as of yet. We have promised the label we're going to do gigs to support the album, but no what / where / when decided yet."
Do you have a funny or interesting story for us, maybe from your life on the road, from the rehearsal room, a bar, etc.?
"Man, I'm really sorry to disappoint you, but I can't think of anything funny to share with you at the moment. Too many interviews the last few days."
Any last words?
"Thanks a lot for the cool interview! I've always enjoyed reading Voices, but I didn't think about the fact that these long interviews would be such a pain in the ass to answer, haha."
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