Interview with JYRI VAHVANEN
August 14, 2005

Fantasy and metal. Like beer and pizza, or black metal and corpse paint, the two have always been fitting companions. In Battlelore's case, the fantasy theme is more than just a lyrical concept; it is central. Whether in their elaborately developed majestic hymns, or their theatrical stage performances, Battlelore leads us on an authentic fantasy adventure, while still carrying the metal flag. Their harmonious marriage of the two is delightful and inspiring, and is as much a pleasure to experience as it is for Battlelore to create.

Enslain: Your new album debuted at #38 on the Finnish charts, were you surprised about that?
Jyri Vahvanen: Yeah, we were really surprised because we never thought that we could enter the Finnish charts or anything, and we are really happy about that because it only proves that the metal scene in Finland… bands who are singing in Finnish, they are usually on top and everything, and we are doing our stuff in English, so it was really nice that we entered the charts and that there was room for a different kind of metal music in Finland. The metal scene is huge in Finland at the moment; there are so many metal bands in the charts, there are like doom metal bands, and thrash metal bands, and everything, so, actually it's quite nice that we entered the charts, but still it's really hard to get concerts and everything in Finland because we haven't managed to get anyone to set up our gigs or anything, we are working really hard for that at the moment.

Enslain: Are most of your shows festivals?
Jyri: In Finland we are only doing a few ones, and it's funny and ironic that we come from Finland, and we have to go to tour in the middle of Europe, and for example some people from Mexico asked us like to tour in Mexico and everything, but in Finland it is really quiet, and that's a bit funny, but maybe because here are so many metal bands at the moment, so we actually don't know, are we really working or anything, and time will show how it's going to be, but it's a bit silly that we can't have that many concerts in Finland, than for example in Germany or Spain or everywhere else but in Finland.

Enslain: Have you toured outside of Europe yet?
Jyri: No, not yet, we really would like to do some gigs or tour out of Europe because we have been touring in Europe twice, and I think we pretty much know what it's going to be like, so we would like to do gigs in, for example in Northern or Southern America, or in Japan, or in Russia, or in places like that, because I think that we have seen the Europe stuff already.

Enslain: Do you think that's realistic, has the label approached you with the possibility?
Jyri: We haven't discussed anything like that, but I think that in near future it's going to be a reality because a lot of Napalm Records bands have played at least in Mexico and in Canada, and to go into Japan is a dream of mine, that would be great, if we sell enough records in each country, then they are going to arrange a tour in that country… we just have to wait and see what happens, but we really hope that we can do some oversea tours or gigs.

Enslain: How was the RingCon Festival, what was that like?
Jyri: It was an official Lord of the Rings Convention, it was in Germany, it was a lot of movie stars from Peter Jackson's films, and a lot of people; I think there was something like two or three thousand Tolkien fans. It was like, there are those conventions like for role-playing stuff and everything, and you know when the people who are fans of Star Trek and everything get together, it was like that, and actually it was really nice to play there because everyone was dressed up, there were like two thousand people dressed up like elves or hobbits or orcs. I think it wasn't the right place for a metal band to play because most of the people didn't even know who we are. It was great fun, but after all we are a metal band, so for us it would be much nicer to play in a normal metal festival or a normal metal concert, because there were so many people who didn't know what was going on, who we are and everything. Of course we got a lot of new fans, but it was a bit weird interaction in a way.

Enslain: Were there other bands playing?
Jyri: No, not like us. There was some kind of folk bands who were playing bagpipes and stuff like that, but not a metal bands or anything.

Enslain: For the new album, was there any reason you guys recorded at the Sound Suite Studios in France instead of any of the well-known Finnish studios?
Jyri: Well, we recorded our two previous albums in Finland, and we wanted to do something different this time, and we considered studios in Finland, but almost all the good ones were already booked up, so we would have been waiting a long time until we would have time, so one of our choices was that we could do the album in Sound Suite Studio in France, and in the first place it was our record company's idea, and the decision to go to France, it wasn't easy because we didn't know the guy in the studio, the producer, and we didn't know anything, but it was a great decision that we really, really needed, because everything went so well, and we had a great time in there, and we were really pleased with the producer and everything. When we went to France, there wasn't any excuses for anyone to do anything but the recordings, because when you are in Finland, it's easy for you, if for example you have a bad day or something, you just play some of your takes and then you go home, or make an excuse like 'I have to be there and there, let's play quickly' or something, but we were in the middle of France, so no one didn't have any hurry to go anywhere, and we really had a chance to concentrate fully on the recordings. It was a great experience for us, and I'm quite sure that we are also going to record the next album in the same studio with the same producer.

Enslain: How would you say your sound has developed over the last three albums?
Jyri: this new album we decided to do a lot more organic, lively, and down to earth sound, for example all the drums are real on this new album, and there are mistakes in our playing, to create the feeling that we are really playing live, because nowadays you can hear so much that is so-called plastic stuff, and everything sounds like no human can play like that, for example bass drum. Plastic sounds are almost annoying, so we wanted to do it like really lively. I think that this new album is the truest Battlelore album so far because now we didn't have to make any compromises, and everyone was so pleased in everything what we were doing, and big thanks goes to our producer because he had this vision for us and it fits so well into our own plans that it was really nice to work in there. I think that we took kind of a step backwards, not in a bad way, but nowadays every band tries to be so perfect and clean and everything, but we wanted to bring feeling into our music, and we wanted people to hear that those guys are really enjoying playing their instruments and everything, and that was a great way for us to make an album. There are still lots of things that we want to try and do, and now we know our producer better and he knows us better, so next time I guess that we can reach even higher level in our sound and in our songs.

Enslain: Do you write most of the songs yourself, or as a group?
Jyri: Usually it's written as a group. The basic structure of the songs comes from me or from our other guitar player Jussi. But it's only like a skeleton for a song, and then the rest of our group adds their own elements into it, and all the decisions are made as a group, and everyone has their right for opinions and everything, so it's a quite democratic group. In the beginning I tried to control everything, but then I realized that those people can do much more with their instruments if I let them do as they want to, and it has worked very well so far.

Enslain: You've had a lot of changes to the line-up lately, has that changed the sound?
Jyri: A little bit, our bass player and our main singer, they changed just before the new album, and almost all the material was done for the new album already, so those new members they just had to do what we told them to, and they didn't have a chance to add their own stuff that much for this new album, so I think that for the fourth album, when we are doing it as a full group, and with these new members, and they are involved from the beginning to create and arrange all the songs, I think that their effort is going to be much bigger, and they are going to be affecting our songs a lot more, but of course they affected our songs and our sound a little bit this time, but not as 100 percent or everything. Of course Tomi has a different growling voice than Patrik has, and Timo started to play bass, it's a bit different than Miika's, our former bass player, so there are some differences.

Enslain: Is the line-up pretty solid right now?
Jyri: : Now I think that it is really solid, because those new guys, we kind of tested them with our second European tour, because Miika and Patrik they left the band, and we took these new guys in. We had known them before, and they are really nice guys; they are so eager to do everything for the band, and they have this great energy and everything, so it really affects all of us. It's great to have these new members in our band, because at the moment, just everything in our band is much better than ever before.

Enslain: Wasn't it difficult to find replacement members for such a specialized act?
Jyri: A little bit I guess, actually we had a kind of testing for a few singers before we decided to take Tomi, and in our case it's not that you are not a good growler or a good singer, because you have to have this stage charisma, or you have to look like and act like a warrior, you can't be just a tiny guy with a sword or axe. So it was great that we found Tomi to replace Patrik, because he is the same kind of warrior and leader that Patrik was, and we really need that kind of guy to lead in the front when we are playing live and everything, because it would look silly if there would be guy who would growl or sing, but if he doesn't look like a warrior, it would be like really stupid.

Enslain: You guys are always in full costume on stage?
Jyri: Yeah, we have always used costumes, and we have stage decorations and everything, it depends upon the venues, and if we are playing as a support act for some headliners, then we have only 30 minutes to play, so then you can't do a lot with the decorations and everything, but usually we are using our costumes and flags and live fire and banners and everything on stage, and we try to keep it as theatrical as possible, because it's all about the atmosphere, we are doing this fantasy stuff and we want to create that kind of feeling also. When we are playing live, of course it's also a heavy metal show, but we just want to add the fantasy flavor in our doings, and we are really enjoying about it, and all those costumes and everything, when you've got your suiting on and make-up and everything, you really get into this feeling, and it's a lot easier to act on the stage and play for an audience this fantasy metal that we are doing.

Enslain: I think a lot of people see your image in costumes, and think it's kind of a joke, until they actually hear the music and how solid and genuine it really is. Do you think the image maybe scares people away or makes them more interested in hearing the music?
Jyri: Actually, I don't care if people think that we look like clowns or anything, but personally I think that if I see a group playing live but I have never heard before, and if they are looking interesting, if they have special costumes or something, of course it's much more interesting than just lots of bands playing in jeans and Iron Maiden t-shirts, or something. Of course I know people who actually can't stand us because of our outfit and I've seen some reviews and stuff where people are mocking our music only because we look like some live role-players or something like that. I don't mind if they don't like our music but I don't care because we are doing our own stuff, and we are really enjoying about it.

Enslain: Are the lyrics based directly on Tolkien stories, or are they just based on the settings and the characters from the books?
Jyri: From the previous records there were a lot of songs which were based directly on some events or some places or something. Of course there is my own imagination and my own views added into those lyrics, it's not exact copying of Tolkien's. In the new album there are a few songs which aren't from any certain kind of events or place or story. It's just inspired by Tolkien's Middle Earth theme, because I like to study and read a lot of books and everything about Tolkien's Middle Earth, and there is so much room for your own imagination, it's quite easy to write different kind of lyrics.

Enslain: Have the Lord of the Rings films influenced your sound or your lyrics?
Jyri: Of course it's really nice to see those great movies, I really enjoyed them, and even though it wasn't exactly like the book, those were great movies, but for me the Lord of the Rings I have read it so many times that it's already in my head, and it's so solid that actually nothing can change it. Perhaps there was something which I probably picked up like I probably got an inspiration for some kind of melodies or something, but I'm not quite sure. Most of the inspiration comes from the stories and from the books that I read, and those movies, those were great entertainment, but I haven't used them as any guideline or source of inspiration.

Enslain: So in addition to reading fantasy novels, you also play Dungeons "&" Dragons?
Jyri: Yeah, actually I started at almost the same time to play role-playing games as I found Tolkien's fantasy books, and after that I read lots of other fantasy novels also. I've been reading and playing role-playing games over fifteen years now, and we are just about to start another new campaign, and actually for me it's like an escape from the every day grain, and from this regular 7-3, if you know what I mean, and for me it's the best way to relax and clear your mind, and do something totally different.

Enslain: What was it like filming the new video?
Jyri: When we went to shoot that new video, actually no one really knew what was going on, we didn't know the guy who shot it and produced it. We didn't know any other material that this guy has made before, and we had our doubts about him. When the video was released we were so happy that he really made it, because I think that it's awesome. We did it in about two days, and I'm really pleased with the result. It was shot in Finland, of course, and we had something like two weeks time to prepare for it, we didn't get the chance to get all of our band members even for the suitings, but luckily everything went very well, and the guy who did the video, he really knew what he was doing, even though he didn't tell us what was happening, but he has his own reason, and the result was quite good I think. -- Lady Enslain

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