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Turisas Frontman Mathias Nygard Talks Paganfest, Influences + More

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Turisas frontman Mathia Nygard was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. The Finnish heavy metaler talked all about the his thoughts on Paganfest, the band’s first headlining tour in the U.S., sharing a bus with Russian band Arkona, his diverse musical influences and much more. If you missed Jackie’s show, check out her interview with Mathias Nygard of Turisas below:

Paganfest America Part 3, Turisas first ever U.S. headlining run is now under way and it’s going to be happening through mid April – a gathering of bands from around the world. Turisas being from Finland, Alestorm who are from Scotland, Arkona who are from Russia and the U.S’s own Huntress, does a gathering of the tribes like this, comradery develop between bands on a tour like Paganfest?

Yeah definitely, we actually toured with both Alestorm before and Arkona as well so we already know each other, that’s good. This time around I guess we’ll be splitting a bus with the Russians so it’s going to be interesting getting to know the guys in Arkona even better.

Oh boy.

[Laughs] Yeah Fins and Russians on the same bus.

That sounds like trouble.

Yeah it might be but it also sounds like a great party, it depends how you’re looking at it.

What is it that makes the process of putting on the Turisas gear feel like you’re suiting up for battle?

It’s sort of a routine that when you’ve done that before the show, before every show we ever done, basically for more than a decade, it sort of became this routine – some bands might gather and have their own pre-show prep shout or whatever for us the whole putting on the costume and everything is getting mentally prepared for the show and also slipping into that stage persona or character. Even if it’s not really a theater play in any way it’s still different when you go up on stage. So from that hour that it takes for us to get on the whole costume and all the makeup and everything, it’s a time where we close down to only the band and get really focused and it’s good.

How much do you rely on that battle mentality to deliver the songs on stage?

Well I think when you go up on stage it’s sort of like – I don’t think any band whether you wear costumes or makeup or if you just go up in a t-shirt you’re still there to perform and you’re still there to give your ultimate best and I think you can’t go up there and be sort of “Sorry for playing here guys.” It’s a full on attitude and I think any band really if you want to be a good band you need to have that to get anywhere, if you’re there apologizing to the crowd it won’t really work.

Mathias, growing up in Finland, what type of bands were you listening to that you feel inspired you to put together a band like Turisas?

I think one of the most important ones for our career was the Finnish band Amorphis – who in the early mid ’90s were still pretty rooted in death metal but they sort of started incorporating these folkloric elements and picking up influences from Finnish folklore into their music which then later on went and developed into a pretty daring direction. I think that was the initial spark for many of us to see that you could do metal but also have something of your own culture in there. A similar example even from the complete opposite side of the globe was Sepultura, who had their own cultural element to their style of extreme music and I think that was a big inspiration for us and what we’re doing even up ‘til today.

Mathias, what’s the trick to making a band rooted in Medieval-lore make sense to a culture like ours, defined by social networking and iPhones?

[Laughs] Well, I think people might be too obsessed with putting cultures of anything into boxes and I don’t see America as only a nation of iPhones and technology. On the other hand, Europe is just as full of social networking just as America so it doesn’t really differ there. I guess it’s more like what the people themselves feel they relate to and most Americans still have their culture even if it’s like from overseas or wherever and they kind of feel rooted, whether it’s Irish or South American or Italian roots they still feel some sort of connection to where they are from of course in addition to having American culture on top of its own.

There’s always this sort of question whether band’s from Brazil can play metal based on that or Scandinavian themes or whatever and whether it’s believable or not and I think it’s not really about that. People are a bit too fussed about whether some geographical location is entitled to do this or that kind of music or whatever and I think it’s more about a person, him or herself connected to and feels some sort of connections to and therefore I wouldn’t say Americans would be any further away from what we really write or think about than modern day Europe.

Mathias, is there anything you’re looking forward to about coming back to the states – I know its been a while.

It’s been a while and well of course first and foremost we get to escape the Finnish long winter which is still going on, so we get over there and Spring is pretty far in America right now I suppose so that’s gonna be good. Of course, there’s a lot of venues we played on previous tours, it’s gonna be good to come back and see some familiar places, some familiar people as well. Most of all it’s gonna be cool to be getting over to play those full sets, those full length headline shows because we been over so many times playing support slots and very short shows so finally we get to give the full show to the audience that’s been waiting for that for a long time.

Next week, Full Metal Jackie will have Bobby Blitz of Overkill on her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.

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