In-person interview with Mitja Harvilahti of Moonsorrow
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
April 25th 2010, House of Blues, Hollywood CA
Andrew: How is it going touring with Finntroll? They are a folk metal band and you are of the folk/black kind. How has it been with the crowd and everything?
Mitja: It's been great. We haven't toured with Finntroll before although we have been good friends since the beginning and even the main composer for both the bands is the same guy. So it was about time we toured with them. It's been really good, great crowds everywhere, sometimes more and sometimes less, but you can see the enthusiasm in the fans.
Andrew: Your last studio album was in 2007. What's happening with the next one and when can we expect it?
Mitja: It's in the works right now. We'll start writing for the material and get it ready when we go home. It's going to be released in February next year.
Andrew: The last album had just two songs, but of 25 minutes each. I don't think I've ever come across anything like that. What was the idea behind that and do you think it was successful?
Mitja: Well, I think we made it work pretty well. It was a really difficult album for everybody and even for the listener as well. It was hard times and it wasn't easy to put together such a hugely epic album. It took a lot of time and effort to compose the material in such a way that you can actually listen to a 30-minute track that makes sense. I hope it makes sense (laughs).
Andrew: How do you manage to deliver these songs live?
Mitja: We play the second song ['Tuleen Ajettu Maa'] We had a chance to play the whole album this year but we didn't have enough time to rehearse it. But the second song in the album, we have played it many times. Of course there are a lot of arrangements on keyboards. We share some of the parts with the guitarists but it still works. It's not that hard to put together after all. The first song is more difficult as it has a lot more of acoustic parts and parts where the guy is singing with nothing in the background. Those are hard times on stage. But I hope some day we'll play that song as well.
Andrew: The band describes itself as 'epic heathen metal'. Can you elaborate on that?
Mitja: I don't think I need to tell what 'epic' means in our music because we have long epic structures. Overall our music is very epic and 'heathen' is because we consider us as a heathen or pagan band in a way. We support those values and traditions that were in the past. Not religiously or anything, but it's an important theme in our music and lyrics.
Andrew: Tell me about your grindcore side project!
Mitja: (Laughs) Yeah, Lakupaavi. We were in the studio recording our fourth album and we had the drunken crazy idea to put out a press release that we are going to change our style completely into something like hardcore/grindcore stuff with stupid lyrics. Then we released it and everybody got pissed off or were just amazed thinking what the hell is happening with these guys, something is wrong with them. It was so far from our original ideas. But we were in the studio, so we went like 'Ok, let's do the album'. We recorded the first song, released it and after a while we made the whole album (laughs). It was pretty successful I think and everybody loved it. Some people hated it, some of them even burned our CDs, but they didn't realize that we should be able to have fun after all. It wasn't done under Moonsorrow's name anyway.
Andrew: In Germany you guys got into political trouble in the past, being accused as Nazi and things like that. Do you think they've moved on from that and you are able to play gigs over there as you normally would?
Mitja: We always played gigs as normal and it didn't really affect us. But it was very bad publicity because it was complete bullshit. We are not Nazis, we hate Nazis, racism and everything that destroys humanity. So it was very unfortunate. The thing was, it was only one guy behind it all. That says something about the power of internet, magazines and press. If one guy can tell a lie about bands and people, it will be released in every major newspaper in Germany. We had to come out in their media and say that this was all bullshit but it was very sad. I don't think I've ever been as angry at anybody as I was when somebody accused me of being Nazi.
Andrew: You guys write lyrics in Finnish. Do you think that aspect makes it harder in the US because no body can sing along?
Mitja: Well, I don't find it hard because I'm used to it. We play so much abroad that people hardly ever can know our lyrics. So it doesn't really matter. But I'm really surprised that so many people like us in America and abroad as well. We only sing in Finnish and if people are able to adapt to our style and still like the music, that's kind of an achievement. I'm very proud of it.
Andrew: The band recorded two demos in 96 and 97 but never released them. What happened to those?
Mitja: One of them is lost I think. One of them was so bad that it shouldn't be released ever (laughs). But we did the next couple of demos after that.
Andrew: Those next couple of demos were more like melodic black metal and you used a drum machine. Looking back, would you say that it's good you changed from that?
Mitja: Yes of course. There was a huge change from the last demo to the first album. The last demo sounded like very melodic, symphonic black metal. Then our first album ['Suden Uni'] is completely different in every way. It had gotten much more mature within one year.
Andrew: What do you have coming up after this tour?
Check out the band's official website.
Mitja: We're going to record the new album in September and then we're going to prepare for a possible DVD later in the fall. The album should be released in February, hopefully everywhere at the same time. So that's what I'm really looking forward to because it's been really long since the last album [in 2007].