ZT INTERROGATION: ELUVEITIE’S CHIRGEL CHECKS IN BEFORE THEIR DEPARTURE
Switzerland’s Eluveitie, with their eight band members and arsenal of some of the ‘weirdest folk instruments’ going are about to set off on another leg of globe-trotting in support of their new album Origins. In the lead-up to their UK dates we caught up with Chirgel Glanzmann, whose duties in the band include not just vocals but tin and low whistles, diverse bagpipes, mandola, bodhran, the harp, composing most of the music, lyrics, dealing with their concepts and most of their visual work… Which begs the question: what on earth do the other seven band members do?
Your sixth full-length album Origins was released in August this year. Can you tell us a bit about the album name and the concept behind it/the songs?
In short words, Origins deals in-depth with Celtic mythology. The songs re-tell aetiological tales – origin myths, foundation legends and eponymic myths – from ancient Gaul, and thus deal with deeply mythological and spiritual Celtic topics.
It’s notably a very long album clocking in at just under an hour and 16 tracks; was this always the intention or when it came to the crunch, were there tracks you simply couldn’t leave off? Some have commented that the album works well as both a whole and as individual tracks – was this the plan?
When I write the songs for a new Eluveitie album, the first thing I always do is write an album concept. Before I start composing the particular songs, I need to get a picture of the album as a whole before my inner eye (or ear ;)). So it’s always determined how many tracks and what kind of songs are to go on the album! And yeah, I think all our songs work as individual tracks, but nevertheless many of our albums are kinda meant to be enjoyed as a whole.
Which tracks do you feel most satisfied with and if you had to recommend one to the uninitiated, which would it be? What do you most want a listener to take away with them from listening to the new album?
Hmm, hard to say. I mean, if you’re writing songs, the songs kinda become your ‘babies’. And you wouldn’t look at your babies and pick one as your favourite – you just care about all of them. But anyway, personally I’m really happy with ‘The Nameless’, ‘Inception’ and ‘The Silver Sister’, absolutely love to perform them live. If I’d have to recommend one to the uninitiated, I’d probably name ‘King’ or ‘The Nameless’, because both songs represent Eluveitie’s music pretty well and contain most of its aspects.
Did you approach this album any differently to those previously in terms of songwriting and recording? Was it a smooth process or did you have any near disasters? Any experimentation or unusual events that have left their mark on the album/band?
Yes and no. Basically I did approach the songwriting process as I always did it. Yet we developed musically and tried out new things (well, we do that on each of our albums); some of the songs became more complex. The process was a bit different insofar that the lyrical concept is pretty ambitious, it’s a topic we do not know that much about today. It took a hell of a lot of scientific work – took me almost a year and a half – and I’ve been working with three different universities [for it]. It was a pretty big production. We’ve been working with a classical choir, a children’s choir, an orchestra and diverse guest artists, but after all it went quite smoothly. An album production is always something somewhat chaotic, since there are always diverse unexpected things happening.
Before we move onto your mammoth multi-date,wide-reaching tour, how’s life in Switzerland? Do you have much of a scene in Zurich? Are there any current Swiss bands that you pledge allegiance to? What regard does the band hold for classic Swiss bands such as Celtic Frost and Coroner?
Honestly, we’re actually not that much part of the local scene anymore, unfortunately, simply due to the fact that we’re not home that often. I mean, we just came home from the the first leg of the Origins World Tour two days ago, and in three days the next leg of the tour will kick off in Europe and will keep us on the road until Xmas. So, we usually don’t have the time to go out really. But nevertheless, I think that there are a lot of amazing metal bands in Switzerland! I’d name Blutmond, for instance, a very original avantgarde black metal band including a Saxophonist! Anna sometimes even does some guest vocals in this band, they’re definitely worth checking out!
Also I’m pretty happy about ‘our’ classic bands such as Coroner, Samael, Celtic Frost, etc. With Coroner and Samael we’re good friends. Coroner and Eluveitie is almost some kind of a family meanwhile, haha. Coroner’s Tommy Vetterly always records our albums in his famous Newsound studios. Our drummer helps them out with their merchandise and I did the complete artwork for the re-issue of Mental Vortex – so you see, we help each other out. They’re absolutely fantastic people!
You’re kicking off an enormous tour with some great support acts joining you, where are you most looking forward to playing?
Yeah, true! The Origins World Tour is quite extended. It will presumably take two to two and a half years and lead us (partly several times) to North and South America, all of Europe and Russia, Asia, Australia and South Africa. We just ended the first leg of the tour in North America with Tyr and Metsatöll as support acts, who have been fantastic. The next leg will lead us through Europe, including the UK, and we’ll be accompanied by Arkona and Skalmöld, which I’m really looking forward to! But to answer your question, it’s hard to say. We’re just music junkies. To play our music means life to us and as long as we can hold our instruments in our hands and play, life is good. In that sense we just love to play, no matter where it is. But for sure we’re really curious to play in South Africa, since it will be our first time on this continent! And of course we’re also super happy to tour in the UK again in November!
What can audiences expect live; will you be airing material from all albums or giving the new one a thorough airing?
We’ll present a lot of new songs off Origins for sure. But we’ll also play many older songs, almost from our entire discography! We always try to create an interesting mix for our set-lists.
As for the UK, you have five dates to play, plus one in Ireland. Why should us lazy, apathetic islanders venture away from our comfy armchairs, in the cold, to see you play?
Hahahahhaha! Lazy and apathetic?? Are you really? Come on, you’re talking to a Swiss guy! I think hardly anyone on the planet is more ‘hobbitesque’ than Swiss people! But be this as it may, I think it will be definitely worth leaving your armchairs for an evening! Eluveitie shows are always very energetic – that’s a least what people say. And seriously, when’s the next time you’ll have the chance to see a death metal band live, that comes on stage with bloody eight people (including two female singers) and a tonne of the weirdest folk instruments you’ve probably seen?
What would you say to the metaller who rolls their eyes and sighs at the mere mention of the word ‘folk’ in relation to metal?
Honestly, I’d probably say ‘good for you!’ None of us is exactly a big folk metal fan, haha. But anyway, I’d also say that ‘folk’ is not equal ‘folk’ (the same way ‘metal’ is not equal ‘metal’). There’s weird stuff anywhere. But real, traditional folk music is damn brimmed with energy and power. And it goes well together with metal music.
And before we say bon voyage?
Thanks a lot to all the readers for their interest in Eluveitie – see you on the road! We’ll play in London the 11/11, Manchester 12/11, Glasgow 13/11, Belfast 14/11, Dublin 15/11 and Bristol 16/11…