17 Jun 2011

Katla interview from Sveriges Radio

Date: June 10th 2010.
Translation by WiCkEdRock.

Katla:I like that, sort of like, especially with the style we're doing, one of those screaming, howling ?? style. You can sound sort of like, aah, angry and evil in that language, you can sort of tear at the word in a way.

Reporter:His artist name is Katla. His actual name is Jan Jemsen and he writes the songs for the Finnish folk metal band Finntroll. The group has chosen to sing in Swedish and Jan Jemsen tries to explain why the language is so well suited for the genre.

Katla:Well, words like for example Vidunder are, I think that word is so powerful, it describes it in an entirely different way than if it would say hyrvryät (? Finnish) if I wrote it in Finnish. Then it would sound like Lordi, like, that wouldn't be what we were after at all. If we're going to discuss song titles then I'm really fond of the word "ur" (used in for example URkraft (ancient/extreme power), URåldrig (ancient)), because that word holds such a terrible amount of power.

Reporter:For Jan Jemsen the language choice is partly about the Swedish words, that they sound more ancient, powerful and bewitching/magical. But it's also that the Swedish tone and word length suits the groups' way of singing.

Katla:You can howl and scream better in that language, but if I wanted to sing in Finnish I would like to sing it more with tone, maybe more like a sort of clean vocals instead.

Reporter:Finntroll is a Finnish band that has chosen to sing in Swedish. The first in the genre, folk metal.

(Followed by short bit about a band called Delta Boys)

Reporter:blablabla delta boys did it for their fans, but finntroll did it for completely different reasons. Swedish gave a possibility to hiss, scream and howl in a better way. And the Swedish mythologi and folk music gave the songwriter Jan Jemsen ideas for lyrics.

Katla:Nursery rhyme lyrics inspired me a whole lot, I like that concept that you back in the old days, when you had gone to bed, the parents would sing and maybe they'd warn about these creatures. Those songs or motives have been very interesting.

(followed by the lullaby Trollmor)

Katla:Nowadays when I write a lyrics it's more like, I emanate more from that it's a poem or some sort of "kväde" (another word for poem more associated to ancient nordic times) instead of some kind of nursery rhyme. But for the first two, three records I have a lot of stuff that could be a nursery rhyme, but maybe a little bit more bloody or more naughty version.

Reporter:blablabla the decision to record in Swedish came suddenly in the end of the 90s.

Katla:When we were taping the first tracks someone said that now we're gonna have some lyrics, så they said to me that now I should write something in Swedish. Then we started laughing, what we were doing couldn't be happening, it's gonna become like the muppet show, that. But then when you listened to the whole thing we were set that this sounds different, and well, like you say, it turned out a bit strange the way it happened, and then so strange and personal so we got attached to it. Sometimes it happens that you try a lot of different and then all of the sudden something completely illogical happens and it works really well.

Reporter:The other members of Finntroll only speak Finnish, but can still understand the lyrics that Jan wrote. They had learned Swedish through the obligatory education. Finntroll got an increasingly bigger audience back home in Finland, their first two records sold well. Soon the band started getting e-mails from fans who wanted to thank, not just for the music, but because they had gotten such good Swedish grades from having listened to the lyrics of Finntroll.

Katla:And that was really interesting for me that, even though I didn't mean to we got some other sort of cultural meaning because of that.

Reporter:That sounds really interesting! Because it's really a kind of special vocabulary you're using for your lyrics. It's not really everyday Swedish.

Katla:No no, that's the Trollswedish for you. that's my own Swedish.

Reporter:But I'm also thinking about this with Swedish and Finnish, my perception is that the Finnish population in Finland isn't too keen on Swedish, doesn't want to use Swedish, and it's become a language that's being forced on you. So I'm thinking how was this received, that you were singing in this language that you don't really want to make use of?

Katla:I have to say that it was received better than in, for example, Sweden. I think it's pretty odd, but I was thinking about today that this was, we're always saying that this was like commercial suicide. well, we didn't start off thinking like that but if you're going out to do gigs and the dream was to make a living of it, you didn't expect that part of the gang was going to live off of it today.

Reporter: But it wasn't only in Finland that Finntroll's language choice made an impression. In St.Petersburg lives Alexandro strani, a big finntroll fan since the beginning of the 2000s. And to understand Finntrolls lyrics he decided to learn swedish.

blablabla Svartby interview in English, among other things they talk about the title of their first album "Kom i min kittel", which by many Swedes sounded like "Cum in my cauldron". He was a bit embarassed about that.

Johanna Koljonen: Jan Jemsen that we heard in the Finntroll reportage earlier, he went to the same high school as me, and he used to scare the shit out of us kids as the dungeon master for the Swedish roleplaying game Kult. That was completely irrelevant, but I just wanted to tell that I was studying classical singing around this time, and I had such a near metal experience when he once heard me sing and wondered if I didn't want to be in his new band. Well, I said, why not. During this time we listened a lot to an album by the Norwegian folk metal band Storm that was named Nordanvind. This wasn't the same as the white power band Storm. So I was very excited and almost became member of Finntroll, but then it didn't happen because Nightwish came out with their first album and those classical vocals quickly became a cliché. And it was pretty obvious that I wasn't as good a singer as Tarja Turonen, so I was screwed! But almost, my life could almost have been different.