This was the very first live interview I ever did! I ended up chatting to Marko Tarvonen from Moonsorrow about 20 minutes after they finished their set. As luck would have it, the now lost Destruction interview kept it’s place on most of the tape, only to disappear when I came to transcribing it. The vast majority of the interview is here, so I hope you enjoy it!
It’s Saturday afternoon and it’s raining. I get led backstage by a gorgeous petite blonde who is very happy to see me. We meet Moonsorrow, and then I borrowed Marko who plays drums. I caught up with him an hour or so after their performance.
Alex: Hi Marko, how are you doing today?
Marko: Great! It’s fantastic to be here.
Alex: How do you think the show went?
Marko: It was good, even though it was quite early. The audience was good enough, we didn’t expect much, as it’s the first time we’ve done a festival in the UK. We have done a few club shows here before though.
Alex: How was the reception at those?
Marko: The first one was the most important, and it was very good. It was a full house in The Astoria, so it was the best debut ever [in a new country] for us. We did four gigs during the PaganFest tour, along with dates in Leeds and Dudley.
Alex: That was with…Ensiferum and Korpiklaani?
Alex: How was that tour, especially with there being some similarities in your sound?
Marko: I think we were the black sheep of the three of us, the other bands have more of the happy, folky melodies and up beat tempos and we have a dirtier sound.
Alex: It’s also a fair bit darker than the other two as well.
Marko: Yeah, our roots lie Scandinavian black metal circa 1992, stuff like Ulver, early Enslaved, Borknagar…if you listen to our early demos from that time, they are very similar. Even some riffs, one could say we even copied something. When I joined the band in ’99, the sound was a lot different, even then. The sound was a lot more down tempo and mid tempo with added folky melodies. But the overall melancholic atmosphere, that’s what we usually do. Traditional folk from Finland is different, if you compared it to traditional folk from Sweden or Norway, we have a lot of Russian and Slavic influences too, more of a melancholic sound. It’s a mixture, it’s what we sucked into Moonsorrow, and sort of mixed it with black metal. We’re not any kind of Satanic band, but of course very anti-Christian, we share some things in common with black metal bands but I hope we’ve done something of our own that we’re recognised for.
Alex: As you said, if you’re an anti-Christian band and especially if you’re from Scandinavia, it’s very easy to get lumped in with bands like Burzum for being Satanic …I just really pick up the darker, epic vibe as opposed to any religious message.
Marko: When we did the older albums, they were folkier. A couple of years ago saw folk metal become bigger we thought the whole folk metal thing was more popular and it sells and blah blah, and we didn’t want to be part of that trend, so we turned back to our roots and began to do make more black metal-sounding music.
Alex: Speaking of newer albums; your latest album, ‘Chapter V’ is two tracks, and it’s an hour long! What’s the thinking behind that, it’s certainly an ambitious project…
Marko: Yeah!(laughs) At first, we weren’t thinking about doing two long songs, we just thought about doing a normal Moonsorrow record, whatever that is. But, as we wrote the first song it got longer and continued on and on and on and after we finished that song, we kind of thought “What the hell are we going to do; a couple of shorter songs? Oh, fuck that, let’s do another long song!” It was a very stressing session to write that album. The actual studio session was very easy, as we always pre-produce the songs; there’s not much to change in the studio. Only one or two percent we leave for improvisation, so it’s very thought through.
Alex: Does the new material translate well into a live setting?
Marko: Um…we have played one of the songs from that album live, we edited it. It lasts twenty minutes, so it’s not that boring (laughs). I personally like playing those songs live, the long songs, and ‘Jurgenheim’. If I could choose our set, it would be a couple of long songs and that’s it.
Alex: Would you ever consider taking ‘Chapter V’ out on tour and playing it all?
Marko: Uh, no! Not yet, we never played the first song live. We can’t actually do it, because we haven’t rehearsed it. We only played it in the studio and it was done in bits. If we were to play it live, it would take three months to prepare and rehearse it. But who knows, maybe someday.
Alex: Is today just a one off show for you?
Marko: Yeah, just a single show only.
Alex: Are you planning to tour before the end of the year?
Marko: We’re going to Mexico for a couple of shows, we’ve not been there before. From what we’ve heard [about metal fans in Central and South America] we expect them to be a very fanatic audience, it’s the same thing when we went to Russia, it was fucking crazy! The venue holds 500, and there were 900 in there, people walking on each other; fucking crazy! But, we enjoyed very much playing there!
Alex: Have you started thinking about writing the new album?
Marko: Not yet, we’re going to have a small tour in Canada in November, maybe seven shows, and a show in the US in Minneapolis. After that, we’ll have a New Year’s Eve party in Helsinki for a possible live DVD, we don’t know yet; we’re still discussing it
Alex: That would be very interesting as your live stage show is something of a spectacle…
Markko: I think that’s the next step, people have been asking for a live DVD for many years. Maybe that show or one next year, it’s in our minds. We’re not going to release the new album in the next year, we really don’t know where to go. What we’ve been talking about is that we don’t want to do anymore of these long songs that we have to go back to learning. We’ve got to go back to learning to write shorter stuff again. It’s very hard to pick song for live situations. Especially at a festival where we only have 40 minutes, it’s very hard to pick songs, we can’t do songs from every album. People like the first two albums very much so we usually do a couple from them, and then do some newer stuff like we did today.
At this point, I sadly ran out of tape. Marko did tell me though that they will be playing live next year, possibly joining the US leg of PaganFest. Thanks a lot for talking to me, Marko! Lovely chap but not enough tape to get it all on!