Regarding Finntroll: "But they're Finnish and they're all the same (laughs), I feel like I know them already"
Following the confirmed release date of their upcoming album "Valkyrja", upcoming tour date announcements and a hefty load of activity over the year 2013, Global Metal Apocalypse spoke with Týr's lead vocalist / guitarist Heri Joensen and discussed about the history and current situation with the Faroese Metal scene, Týr's touring and music activity, as well as talking about the Faroese language and how fans can learn how to pronounce the vocabulary in order to sing to their songs.
2013 saw the lads from the Faroe Islands partake in the North American leg of the Paganfest tour with Ensiferum, Heidevolk, and others. Coupled with their upcoming release of "Valkyrja" scheduled for a release date of 13th September in various editions: Fan edition, Limited 2 CD edition, Digi-CD, LP and digital download, it seems to be a good year for Týr, except the sad departure of long-time drummer Kári Streymoy who quit the band on 12th May 2013 owing to a back injury he sustained 5 years ago. Swords at the ready, here we go.
So guys this is Heri Joensen from the Faroe Islands metal band Týr and now that you're considered the Faroe Islands most successful metal export, how does this feel for the band in general?
It feels very good actually, erm and I think we are not only the biggest metal export I think actually we are the biggest music export in the Faroes, I think, but I'm not really keeping up with the scene, but there are some people who play country and western music who do quite ok, I'm not sure how well but I'm 90% sure we are the biggest music export. I take great pride in that of course, erm what else can I say?
As far as the band's concerned, because you sing about the Vikings and Nordic mythology, do you feel that Týr is different from other metal bands in Scandinavia that do similar styles?
There are probably some that are a bit like us, not the same style of music and maybe similar lyrics but also the other way round, well I'm not sure I think our music is fairly unique but the text writing is not all that original, there maybe some bands who do it in the same way but I mean with our combination I think we have set ourselves apart a little bit from everyone else in this genre, so this Viking Metal whatever they call it isn't really a kind of metal it's more of an attitude in the lyrics and I mean the music styles often have nothing to do with it other than that they are types of metal.
You'll be releasing your latest album on September 16th in the UK (September 17th in North America, and September 13th in Europe) "Valkyrja", could you explain the process behind this album?
Yes, we have been working on this album since around the time we finished the last album and we always do it like that because there's always something in the works, some of the songs that were leftovers from the last album that didn't make it onto that album for various reasons, some even older and about two or three months before studio time that was this March we started working very hard to get the material done and even though we have all the basic ideas before that I guess most of the work is done in the period of the few months leading up to the studio, and we work on the internet sending files to each other, I use a programme called Guitar Pro and we also do some scratch recordings on Logic and the last thing to be done is the lyrics, I have the idea for the name of the album and the basic story outline long in advance but the actual lyrics aren't written until the very last moment.
Because you play Folk Metal do you take any influences outside of the Folk Metal genre?
Yeah I guess we do, I mean our sound and our approach is very basic Heavy Metal with some progressive elements in it so erm, I mean there is clearly a cross between some kind of Progressive Metal and Folk, so needless to say I guess we do that and we I think all of us grew up with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal you know especially Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and those bands, some German bands also like Accept, Scorpions and all the American bands like Pantera, Metallica, Manowar, Dio, Motley Crue all that, so that you know growing up listening to metal like that of course has influenced our approach to metal in general, now all we did was add some Folk to that, that's basically how I see it, so you have to say it's something like 50/50 as there's the folk influence and the other 50% is the you know standard good ole Heavy Metal influence.
So how did Metal begin in the Faroes, how did it start?
Well, when I was young I used to watch Headbangers Ball on MTV, that was before the Grunge wave hit and that's how I got to know most of the Heavy Metal I know of, there was some enthusiasts before that who played you know I guess you can call Hard Rock, there was some cover bands on the Faroes I remember even before that who played Deep Purple and Rainbow especially, so I was aware of this Hard Rock thing and I'm not sure if you call Deep Purple Heavy Metal I don't think you do, anyway that's beside the point so there has always been someone there for us to look up to ever since I was young and there was some local metal bands or Hard Rock bands that played a few concerts every year that we used to enjoy a lot and go listen to, it's been there for all my musical life you know as some kind of metal in the Faroes and now we are a part of it.
You originally started off on Tutl Records, you then went onto Napalm and now onto Metal Blade, do you feel that you have made progression in as far as going from and to different labels?
Yeah I clearly have that feeling, of course Tutl is a non-profit musicians owned company so they don't have the international presence, but the good thing about them is if you make music here they will release it almost regardless, so that was a very good way for us to get started and that with a little bit of international attention was enough to get us to Napalm and then that was a great step forwards especially in promotion, I'm talking of when we released on Napalm and as for this one (upcoming album) regarding Metal Blade we haven't released the album yet but it looks very good so far and I hope that it will be an equally big step forward.
And of course regarding Tutl Records, your side project Heljareyga is signed to them.
Yes, I wanted to do something a bit more local with Heljareyga and I didn't even go to any other labels. I called Tutl Records up, got the deal and they made a distribution deal with some company in Germany and I have two more albums in that country I want to make and actually I want to release the next Heljareyga album before doing the next Týr album again.
I noticed that Heljareyga specifically has got Ísak Petersen from Synarchy as your bassist so with all that sort of inter-connectivity do you think that the Faroe Islands metal scene is more tight-knit than any other country or dependency?
Well I don't know any other country that is as small as the Faroes and that has a metal scene so I guess that goes without saying, we all know each other and we all play together sometime, so yeah it is pretty tight-knit.
Now going back to Týr now you got your UK tour coming up and how are you preparing for that and is this your first tour in the UK?
We have just picked out the songs for the set list and we are rehearsing with Amon Djurhuus these days.
No no no, we have been in the UK many times since 2006, and we have been there a few times since, last time was I think last year or two years ago the York festival, Viking festival.
What was the reception you got the first time round?
It was pretty good we were on tour with Amon Amarth from Sweden and they draw a big crowd so that was of course nice to get to play for them the crowd that Amon Amarth attracted, it was a good UK tour and then the last time was probably the best so far in the UK at the York Viking festival, that was amazing.
So with the tour coming up you're covering a lot of dates in Europe, are there any countries that you are going to be playing in that you haven't played in before?
Oh yeah, yeah! Actually we are very excited about that, we are going to Ireland this time we have never been to Ireland before and I am really excited to get there we have had many requests from people, it just never happened yet and now we finally get to do it, I am really looking forward to that, it's always nice to put another country on our list especially such as one as Ireland and also Romania, we have never been there before either and so we shall see what that is going to be like.
Of course you're touring with Skalmold from Iceland and also Finntroll, now have you toured with Finntroll before? If not this will be a new experience for you guys?
No we haven't, neither of those bands we've toured with before. We played together with them at some festivals here and there, never had a chance to tour with them. This will be a new experience for us, but they're Finnish and they're all the same (laughs) I feel like I know them already.
Going back to your upcoming album, because a lot of your die-hard fans have been following you through the years, but for those that are new to you guys from the upcoming album what song should they check out?
The first two 1. "Blood of Heroes", 2. "Mare of My Night" and the fourth one "The Lay Of Our Love", maybe also the last one "Valkyrja" the title track, that will give you... if you listen to those four songs you will have a pretty broad or whole impression of the band I guess.
Track number nine, "Fánar Burtur Brandaljóð" which looks like is in Icelandic, could you explain what it means?
Nope that's in Faroese and it means 'Fate is the sound of swords' and well it's erm, if you know the storyline of the album there is a Viking warrior (just someone no names mentioned here) who leaves his home and wife, goes off to battle with the intention to die, hero enough to make the Valkyrie carry him off to the realm of the gods in specifically to Freya and her realm Fólkvangr as is described in Norse Mythology, so this is the part where he has to die and is lifted by the Valkyrie from the ground up through the skies and so as he goes up the sound of swords fades away for him. That's the meaning of the title.
Now regarding the releases the band has done, the songs are in English, Faroese and Icelandic, because of the multilingual presence, for the fans that can't sing along because they don't know how to pronounce the words in Faroese or Icelandic, do you have any tips for them?
Well that's not easy because, it's not really pronounced the way it is written especially if you're really used to reading English, so if you are really interested in how to pronounce it you should go to maybe one of the news websites in the Faroes the ones that has video on them, go towww.KVF.fo and listen to some Faroese and how it is pronounced, you can even look up an article and there's a automated play button so you could play and hear how it is pronounced, and I know it's complicated but that's the only thing I can think of.
And is Faroese only really spoken in the Faroe Islands?
Yes, there are maybe 15,000 Faroese people living in Copenhagen or somewhere else in Denmark as a whole, but that's the largest gathering of Faroese people outside of the Faroes and there are 50,000 people in the Faroes, so maybe only 70,000 or 75,000 people in the whole world speak Faroese and it's the national language of the Faroe Islands, and you're not going to find it in many other places except a little bit in Denmark, some in Iceland and a bit in Norway maybe, but that's from immigrants from the Faroes.
Going back to Týr, the band has been going since 1998 and so what would you say has been the highlight of the band's career so far?
There have been a lot of highlights sort of outshining each other along the way, when we went to Iceland it was the first country we really got a hit in, that was a fantastic experience and that was in 2002 I think, and then signing with Napalm and starting to tour on the mainland that was also amazing. Also playing twice at Wacken Open Air Festival in Northern Germany and both times have been mind-blowing fantastic and now I think recording this album and signing a deal with Metal Blade feels like a real milestone and I hope in retrospect it will be as well.
And you toured with Ensiferum and Heidevolk on the North American leg of the Paganfest tour, was this successful for Týr?
Oh yes! Probably our best tour so far in the USA, it was very very well supported with a good attendance and we know both bands well, we've toured many times with Ensiferum so it's a great feeling to be on tour with people you know and you only get to meet them on tour, you know just meeting old friends and having a ball for a month it was a great experience.
Finally are there any hello's, thank you's, greetings you wish to issue to your Týr fans, friends, family, etc?
I'm not sure how far your broadcast goes but I would like to appeal to everyone who has any interest in this kind of music to please buy our albums and come to our shows and that would pay my bills and I hope I can in return provide you with music that you will like.
You can read up about the album, upcoming tour and other bits here.