"The most exotic (for us) places, where we had watchers, were definitely Uganda and New Zealand. Metsatöll has not yet managed to perform there, but maybe we should!?"
Metsatöll, arguably the most successful metal band from Estonia performed a concert on 20th March 2020 with a unique twist, there were no concert goers... at least physically. The band played a concert to people all over the world by streaming their set through Facebook and YouTube with only the band, tech and venue team in attendance.
What a surreal experience that must have been and yet the band that celebrates 21 years this year, certainly felt taken aback by the overwhelming response they had, even if a vast swathe of viewers do not speak or understand an inch of Estonian; the band sings in their mother tongue. Irrespective of the language barrier, the band gave it their all in what could be described as an event that they ironically hope never happens again, that is, playing a concert to no one physically present because of a global pandemic.
Both lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist Markus "Rabapagan" Teeäär and vocalist / guitarist / instrumentalist Lauri "Varulven" Õunapuu spoke to GMA about the concert, the challenges for non-Estonian speakers in singing to their songs, their quarantine and end of year plans.
Hi guys, firstly it's a tough time for all of us with COVID-19 savaging the world and so how are Metsatoll keeping in touch with each other?
"I live in a really separate country house in the middle of nowhere, a four-hour drive from the others, so there really aren't many opportunities to meet with the band. However, given the current situation, it is not a very wise thing to meet someone at all. Of course, if there are issues to discuss, we will contact using all sorts of 21st century tools.
And to be honest, communicating with the rest of the band over the Internet seems to be one of the few possibilities of communication for several more months. Because at the moment organizers are starting already to cancel festivals and concerts, that were supposed to take place at the beginning of the summer. For a freelance musician, it's a hit below the belt - even during the war, the musician has a job, but now..."
"The internet does wonders these days. So we keep in touch every day. But that internet concert gave us a little boost and we are thinking what to do next."
Are you generating new ideas from your own homes whilst the lockdown in Estonia carries on? What are your restrictions?
"Restrictions are pretty strong and I'm happy that our people take it seriously for a few weeks. We hope that things will get better. Until then we make new ideas and things from our homes. You can record a riff or melody and send it to others. Somehow we deal with music everyday."
"As it is currently forbidden for more than two people who are not related to each other to meet in Estonia, it is, of course, difficult to rehearse. But a musician never rests, of course you have to write music and lyrics, not just for Metsatöll. Just play music, give music lessons over the internet, compose. Record demos, think through your friends' musical ideas, and give advice when needed. It is also possible to dig out your own old demo recordings and listen again, recompose, rewrite new words, etc .. There is always something to sow for yourself in the wide field of the music."
You played a live stream over Facebook last week, what was the reception like? Where were your most views and obscurest (country wise) views from?
"The reception was very good. Although we might have hoped for a little more audience. Because, look, the total number of views on YouTube and Facebook is currently about 80,000. However, calculating the number of minutes viewed, and figure over the Facebook and YouTube calculation widgets, the actual number of viewers may be around 10,000.
The Metsatöll concert was watched in about 30 countries. The reason I say "about" is because we still have countries in the world where Facebook and YouTube are banned and these channels are explored through other countries' VPN. The most exotic (for us) places, where we had watchers, were definitely Uganda and New Zealand. Metsatöll has not yet managed to perform there, but maybe we should !?"
The event itself must have been a surreal experience playing to an almost empty hall; technicians and venue staff aside?
"For me the experience was exactly like a real concert. I was nervous and I went to feeling all alright. Maybe because the RGB team and our own crew are so professional, I didn't feel any difference. It was 100% LIVE so LIVE will always be LIVE for me. I think we all felt that."
Arguably Metsatoll is Estonia's most successful metal band, what bands are following your footsteps in terms of getting international attention?
"In fact, there are quite a few bands around the world that tour and give dozens of concerts a year. Compared to the total number of bands. In this sense, it could be remarkable that in one small country there could be, for example, ten touring bands. But of course there are good new musicians coming up who want to play all over the world. For example, a trio of my good friends: “Trad Attack” - it would be worthwhile for every Estonian ensemble to learn from them something in terms of production and organization. At the moment, however, it still seems that many good technical crew members from Estonia are touring the world a lot more than different Estonian bands."
Given your songs are in Estonian, have you got any tips for those who want to sing along to your songs; seeing as some letters are unique to the Estonian language?
"Õ, õ is really cool letter. Now Lauri can talk about it about thousand words. Lauri?"
"In fact, as far as the 'Õ' letter is concerned, it can be said that there is more than one 'Õ' letter in the spoken language in Estonia. In southern Estonia at least two, different similar sounds in Western Estonia on the Islands, even more. Even an ordinary Estonian does not know exactly how different vowels are pronounced in different counties. Therefore, of course, it is difficult to give a foreigner some hints to start with. Language learning usually starts with learning the spoken language, imitating someone or something.
I think it would be a good start for a Metsatöll listener to learn some of our songs by listening. And then send it to us. Probably all of us, after a short pause of laughter, will send our own instructions on how to move on with your life later, without having to think much about Estonia. Of course, this is not very easy, because, not joking - in Seattle, for example, it is possible to study Estonian culture and language freely at the University of Washington - our culture has drilled so deep into different parts of the world that the drill has long since jammed."
What sights / attractions could you recommend to metalheads visiting Tallinn?; under normal circumstances*
"The Old Town is very beautiful with its architecture and all kinds of bars and pubs. But If you have time go outside Tallinn. There is something historic to discover everywhere in our country."
"I would not recommend Tallinn. Come to the country, breathe fresh air, go to the sauna."
What plans do you have for the rest of 2020 (all things considered) and do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
"We still dont know what 2020 brings but we wanna send best regards to our listeners! We are lucky to have you and we feel your support! Thank you so much! Aitäh! Stay healthy!
Or even METAL HEALTHY!"