OVERDRIVE Sat Down with Eluveitie’s Chrigel Glanzmann to discuss their latest album – Evocation II: Pantheon
Evocation was released in 2009 and people have been asking for a follow up album for a while now so when you decided now was the time to do it, did the fact that people are chasing it factor into it or you decide when it’s the right time for you?
Yeah totally I think that’s important. A decision was made, while we were working on our last album origins already, that the next one after Origins will be Evocation II. But, why I really don’t know. It’s just like following a gut feeling or something, it just felt right. And I think that’s important because after all, it’s about music, it’s about art, and it’s *your* art, so it should be done the way that feels good for you. I don’t think it would be good to ‘meet expectations’ or something. Whatever art you do, be it music, or writing, or whatever, I think when you start letting expectations or opinions of other people influence your creativity, then you should stop doing it. (laughs)
So, it was basically following gut feeling and the fact it just felt right. We were up for doing it.
It’s quite striking that you consulted ‘Celtic scientists’ to make sure that the lyrics were accurate. How do you go about finding a Celtic scientist? What motivates you to work this hard to be accurate in your representation of the Celtic world?
That’s something we have always done for each of our albums. Maybe we’re just nerds or something. To us it’s just extremely important that everything is historically correct and scientifically substantiated and well founded. I believe that when you deal with history, you owe it to history and you owe it to the people who wrote the history and lived back then, to do it accurately. It’s personally very important to me. It’s probably a nerdy thing but that’s just the way it is. As I said, I always did this. It really depends to where it comes, there’s so many aspects in this project, and one is the language used, the Gaulish language is an early Celtic language, but there’s also the mythological aspect, and the historical aspect. So, it really depends, how we co-operate with scientists, it depends on what it is about.
I remember when I formed the band and I started working on our demo, I had a few questions on the language, on pronunciation and stuff like that, so I was just trying to find a scientist that is dealing with these things. I also must say; Celtic research is pretty big in Central Europe. I found a professor in Switzerland, and I just looked him up in the phone book and made a phone call (laughs). Yeah, I’m that guy, and dude I need your help, and he was open.
Also, I think it’s amazing how this all developed over the last 15 years, because each album went deeper in to the material, and there were more and more things to cover. I think it’s the same with every kind of history. The more you learn, the more questions you have, the more you need to know, and so on. With each album, we started working more closely with scientists from different universities, all over Europe. Then you get to know each other, and they know other scientists, that they ask, because they are specialised questions, you have an answer, like today we are something like a scientific network between diverse universities from all over Europe and its very friendship based, we get to know each other and become friends. Today, there’s this network of a bunch of scientists from all over the place that are kind of part of the Eluveitie family if you like, and we work together for the albums and so on.
I’d imagine it would be quite exciting for someone who is working in science and wondering how much general people really respect the things they are studying, to have someone come and say that you want to build your music around these things?
To be fair, I really must say that all over Europe, in all the universities that I’ve met people from, they are all open and some of them are excited and happy that people from outside the walls of the university are interested in these things. Then again, I really must say, I think one might be surprised. I remember for instance, one day a couple of years ago I got invited to lecture at the University of Zurich, they had a series of lectures on the Gallic Wars, so for one of the days I was invited to host a lecture there. So, I went there and it was cool. And I was surprised because only from Zurich I knew one professor and she looks exactly like what you would imagine a professor in history would, but then I met some of their colleagues there, and one of them for instance, which is one of the leading scientists in Celtic research, I met that guy and he’s like a 2-metre-tall dude, weighed probably 300 pounds, being completely bald but still having long hair, and wearing a way too small Slayer t-shirt. That’s not what you would expect from a history professor. So, it was quite surprising. Cool people.
Obviously, Eluveitie uses a variety of traditional instruments and merges elements of folk music and melodic death metal. Is that an influence that you came up with yourself, or were there influences that led you in that direction?
Not really, no, because at that time when I formed the band, there was no folk metal scene or anything like that. When I formed the band, it wasn’t like, yeah, I want to form a folk metal band. As I said, that combination wasn’t common at that time. But it was more that I loved playing death metal since quite a while, I think I formed my first death metal band in 1991. At the same time, my big passion was also traditional Celtic folk music, I’d been playing for quite a while. It was like a long-held dream I had to kind of bring both together. Both kinds of music are my passion to play, and I always had the impression that they would go very well together. That was the idea, to form not just a metal band that was folk influenced or the other way around, but to really create a musical marriage of both, to really have both in the same band. That was just a long dream back then, and that’s how Eluveitie happened.
Everyone knows there have been some line-up changes between the two albums, although they were not back to back. How have the new members made their presence felt during the recording of this album?
Honestly, really amazing. But, that was quite an unexpected development. I mean, not that they would bring themselves in of course, but how the whole thing developed. One and a half years ago we had this line-up split and of course at the time it was really tough, for us as musicians and as a band, but also on a personal level. Because you know, we’d been together nearly 10 years, touring as much as we do, that meant that most times of our life we spent together, on the road all the fucking time and like that. This wasn’t something easy to deal with. But we all really said that we believe that these things can be a chance, if you use it as a chance, as we tried to do, and now looking back, I think we have succeeded in that. We’re happy about it and the shows have been really amazing I think. When they left the band, it was clear to us that we want to search well for new members and we really want to choose carefully and just take as much time as it needs to find the right people.
But at the same time, we already had shitloads of summer festivals, open airs, tours and everything booked, and confirmed already, so we did not have much time. And for that reason, because we really did not want to cancel one single show, we quickly decided we were going to hire live session musicians to play all the upcoming festival shows and still use the time to find new members. That’s how we came across to people who are in the band now, we didn’t know any of them, but they just got recommended to us. Individually they all have reputations for being among the very best at their instruments, so they got recommended to us and we came back to them and they all were available so, all good, that’s what we did. We started playing the shows and yeah, it was good. Even though they were totally new to everything we do, they really gave the band a lot and did an amazing job, and the shows really, really rocked. Show by show, it even rocked more, so, musically speaking, getting those guys was just like winning the jackpot for us. But the amazing part was actually rather the personal thing, how that developed. The vibe in the band just really changed when we played together and it developed, just super relaxed. Very, very focused and very committed, but very relaxed and a very familial way, actually.
The atmosphere has just developed super well and super nicely and also, interpersonal relationships just developed and it was just good and nice, and it just felt right. So then at some point in fall last year we just asked ourselves why the fuck we’re still looking for new band members if actually we’ve already found them months ago. This is when we just talked to them and asked them if they could imagine to not just play some more shows with us as session musicians but actually to join our band. Luckily, they all said yes and so this was pretty much the opposite of how we thought it would and could be, it was pretty unexpected by amazing. In that sense, that’s also how things turned out in the studio. Then we recorded the album, and I can really say that never before in our career, or at least not since our early albums, we have worked that intimately together as a band and as a whole group of musicians when creating an album. So that was really, really great, and in the studio, I think the whole production time, virtually all the band was there, all the time.
Even these musicians who weren’t recording at the time, they were still there, just to be around, or to cook for everyone else and stuff like that and the whole production time, in every corner of the studio, some band members were sitting together, brooding over some details or just jamming. Actually, three tracks on the album just completely arose in the studio, just out of spontaneous creativity, and jamming and stuff. There was really a lot of space for spontaneous creativity and everyone was just involved. That was kind of novel for Eluveitie, to that extent. It was an amazing experience and I think you can actually hear that, on the album, and for sure on stage.
Songs in Celtic, songs about pagan gods, what genre but metal embraces music that shuns the casual listener? Do you think that works to your advantage, in terms of people staying loyal to your band, buying the CDs, going to shows? Is there a better crowd than a metal crowd?
(laughs) Honestly, I have no idea and I’ve probably never even thought about something like that. No, really, generally I don’t think about things like that, because as I said in the beginning, what we do, it’s about music, it’s about art. That’s why we do that, because we love doing our art and our music, and that’s the main thing we’re focused on. I mean, of course we’re super happy and thankful that we do have a lot fans, but if there was nothing like that, that wouldn’t keep us from still doing it. In that sense, I never really thought about something like this.
But what I can say is we probably have the best fans in the world. I think our fan-ship is really amazing and in each continent on this planet we really have a lot of people who pretty much always come to our shows whenever we play where-ever they live. So, I think this is something amazing and something that fills us with deep gratefulness and sometimes a little bit unbelief maybe, but basically gratefulness.
Given that Pantheon is predominantly acoustic, and is named Evocation II, will fans be finding there to be a distinct difference on stage between when you toured the first and second album? Obviously, you have some extra members now but do you see an evolution there?
Yes, and no. I think Evocation II really meets the original concept, written more than eight years ago. I also think, regarding the atmosphere, you know, the ‘aura’ the album has, it’s very close to the aura of Evocation part one. But, at the same time, yeah, I think there is a development mostly of musical nature, because just in musical terms, the second one is just made on a much, much higher level, just playing wise. That’s a pretty natural thing, I suppose. We’ve been doing this for 15 years now, and in the last 15 years every single one of us also grew as a musician. This is something that really defers from part one, you can hear that development or evolution.
Will you plan then to do an acoustic only tour? And, without pushing my luck too much, can I give our Australian readers some good news about when they might get to see that tour?
Again, yes and no. (laughs). With Australia, we are working on coming back as soon as possible, of course. Whenever we come back, we will for sure play some tracks off Evocation II. As far as it looks now (but never say never), as far as it looks now, we won’t play a purely acoustic tour anywhere, for several reasons. On the one hand, we just basically did that, as a warm up to the acoustic album. We just had this last year, this special kind of tour, unfortunately only in Switzerland though. It was a tour throughout the country that lasted all year long. It was just every month, a couple of shows, and it was this special event that took place in a tent something like a circus tent. It wasn’t a circus, of course, but they took place in a tent, with seated rows and everything, just really nice ambience. The idea was to play a long acoustic block, including some folk guest musicians and so on. So, we actually did that, and for now, we’re heavily tour planned, the touring cycle until the end of the year is fixed and official already. The planning for next year is still going on, but these tours will definitely be full-on metal tours. But of course, we will nevertheless still play some acoustic tracks and quite some tracks off Evocation part II. And, to be honest, I think both blend nicely and there’s quite a lot of tracks off Evocation II that you can perfectly and nicely blend in to a metal set actually. And, this is what we’re going to do.
EVOCATION II: Pantheon is out August 18th via Nuclear Blast Records!
Pre-order your copy today HERE!