At the end of York’s 2012 Viking Festival, I went to see Tyr, fresh from the Faroes and ready to destroy Fibbers in what was no doubt going to be one hell of a night. Before that, I meant to get cosy with Heri Joensen to chat about all things Nordic. He disappeared, however, and instead I sat down with Gunnar Thomsen and Terji Skibenæs for a bit a chinwag.
AM: So guys, how have you found the Viking Festival?
TS: Aaah…we didn’t know we were at all. We just arrived.
AM: Wasn’t there a lecture at the University last night?
TS: That was the other two guys.
AM: So…this is your first headline gig in the UK?
Both: No! We’ve been here a few times. We’ve played Bloodstock, we did our own headline tour…it was a long time ago.
AM: So, how do I pronounce ‘Tyr’? Tear or Te-oor or something else?
TS: Toor-ish. You can say Tyr, though.
AM: When did you guys arrive in the city then?
TS: Oh, a couple of hours ago.
GT: I was here at twelve. I think. Maybe two. We arrived in to Manchester.
AM: What do you guys think of York? Obviously it has some great connections to a lot of your music…
TS: It’s a nice little town….the other two have spent more time walking around today. But the hotel is nice!
AM: So, it a sold out show tonight. Are you only here for a one off show?
GT: Yes, we’re here just for the night. We’re going on tour in March with Rage, from Germany, around Europe.
AM: You’re still on the tour for The Lay of Thrym, then?
TS: Yeah, mostly from that album and Light of the Northern Star tonight.
AM: Obviously, your work has a lot of Nordic/Viking themes, your last album focusing on The Poetic Edda? Why did you choose that particular piece to base your album concept on?
GT: I don’t know! Ask our singer (Heri) who comes up with these things…
TS: We’re more into the music side of things…not really the lyrical stuff.
GT: I just play bass, he plays guitar!
AM: Ah, so you do you have any solo projects going on then?
GT: No, not at the moment. Heri has, however, called Heljareyga.
TS: We chipped in on this new one, though. We actually made the title song on the album.
AM: It only took 12 years!
TS: Ha, yeah. He’s got one of his (points to Gunnar) so it’s not all bad.
AM: But do you ever play it live?
GT/TS: No! (laughing)
AM: How long have you guys been with the band then?
GT: Yes, since the very beginning.
TS: I joined in…2001.
AM: So, how did it all get started? Obviously the Faroe Islands are a little remote…
GT: We didn’t start there, we started in Denmark. Everyone from the Faroe Islands goes to Denmark to get educated and then they go back there…that didn’t help very much. We met down there. Me and Heri played in a band before, earlier on the Faroe Islands.
AM: So you moved with the intention of getting a band going?
GT: No, not really. We just all happened to meet one another.
AM: Is there not a lot in terms of metal going on in the Faroe Islands then?
TS: Yeah, there is now actually. There was not that much back then, though. There was even a thing to get on at Wacken, just for bands from the Faroe Islands.
AM: Certainly over here it’s taken a while for you guys to get serious coverage…
TS: Yes, England and Sweden it’s been very difficult to get anywhere. Sweden is not that good for us. If you have these countries who have all these big bands similar to what we do…it’s going to be a lot more difficult. Places like…America it’s very easy.
GT: It’s because all the bands from there suck.
AM: You guys did Paganfest a while back didn’t you?
TS: We were on the very first Paganfest. That took us all over Europe and then all across the USA. Hopefully it’s about time to do that again?
AM: Obviously there are bigger bands who do similar things to you, like Ensiferum and Amon Amarth. How do you compete against bands of that size, who are a lot more established.
TS: It’s really not a problem. Many Ensiferum fans are Tyr fans and vice versa. We’re friends with those guys as well, so there’s not a problem.
AM: What’s next in the pipleline, for Tyr?
GT: We are between labels right now…first we want to decide what label we go to/
AM: Napalm said no thanks to another Tyr album?
GT: No, at all. They’ve offered us a new deal, the last contract just expired. We’re just taking it slow to get the best deal for the band.
TS: I think this year will mostly just be touring. We do have material for a new album though.
GT: …And this is our lovely manager. (Dan walks over)
AM: How long has he been with you?
Both: Waaaay too long!
AM: This to the man who books all your gigs just gets crap from you guys?
Dan: You forget how much crap I give them! You didn’t know there was a viking festival?!
GT: We just go on stage!
Dan: Give them vodka, that’s the secret. They will do anything for vodka. Aannything.
TS: Don’t get any dirty ideas now.
Dan: I have fond memories of Tude and Mattias from Turisas on the US Paganfest…the things they did for vodka.
AM: I’ve seen them naked. A horrible sight.
(Everyone dies laughing)
AM: …Anyway, back to a new album?
GT: Yeah, we have the material for a new album. Just needs a lot of work.
AM: Is there anything that you would like to focus on?
TS: Well, obviously we like to just make the music. We’d like to get a broader audience. Sell our balls, make a pop album!
GT: I could get a lot of money for that.
TS: His balls are humongous.
Dan: (pipes up from the back) The balls were on display a few hours ago, I’ll no more.
TS: But yes, sorry, we are waiting until we sign a new record deal before we start anything more solid.
AM: How has the band changed in the years you’ve been together?
GT: Well, it’s changed a lot, but there’s always been the root of the band there. We’re try to go a little bit more mainstream I guess. Simply, more to the point.
TS: More power metal.
GT: Some of our earlier stuff was very progressive.
TS: Most of the lyrics are in English, but sometimes in Danish, Norwegian…whatever floats our boat.
(Maelstrom begin to warm up in the background)
AM: Know that you know there’s a Viking festival, you’re going to check it out right?
GT: I don’t know, man. We’ve got a lot of vodka back stage…
TS: Well, we’re not really into so much of the Viking stuff. Us…girls back stage.
GT: For us, it’s just some really great stories and we like keeping it that way.
AM: So, what do you guys do when you’re not doing Tyr?
GT: Actually, I’m plumber!
AM: Well, my toilet is a little blocked…
TS: I am a tattoo artist (points to his arms). I work in a studio when I’m at home, but when we went on tour last time I was tattooing a lot of the fans.
GT: Me too.
AM: (worried) Really?
TS: Oh yeah, he tattooed me. (Pulls up trouser leg) Gunnar did this and the drummer did that one (points to two little pictures on his calf).
AM: Well, I was expecting some kind of giant penis…
GT: Well, if you look long enough you can see it!
AM: Does real life ever get in the way?
GT: No, the band always comes first, but you have to make the schedule. It’s difficult to say the least.
TS: We’re on tour all the time.
(Maelstrom get louder in the background)
AM: Right guys, I think we’re going to have to call it a day there, as they’re getting louder in the background.
GT: Dan, we have been here before haven’t we?
Dan: (walks over) Yeah, at least three times…
GT: There was Bloodstock, Leeds, Scotland, Wales…
Dan: And Stalestorm.
Dan: You ever smell them after a few days?
And on that note, the band warming up became so loud there wasn’t much point carrying on as we could barely hear each other. No doubt there were all manner of girls and vodka after the gig for Gunnar and Terji. One thing is for sure, they’re two utterly genuine guys who love their band and the life they lead.
The Lay of Thrym is out now on Napalm Records