by Michael Lohr
One of my primary journalistic goals when I first started writing for Fiddler was to expand our readership’s horizons far beyond familiar shores. I wanted to explore other worlds of the fiddle not normally seen or experienced on the streets of Nashville, the hollows of Appalachia or the verdant fields of the Irish countryside.
And in this spirit of adventure I had the pleasure to interview Meri Tadić, the Classically-trained fiddle player for the Zurich, Switzerland-based heavy metal (yes, heavy metal) band, Eluveitie (pronounced el-VAY-ti). Founded in 2002, and with several studio albums and major tours to their credit, Eluveitie are considered one of the premiere Folk Metal bands in the world.
Q. Growing up in Switzerland, how did you first start playing the fiddle? What was it about the fiddle that first attracted you? Were there any other musical instruments that interested you?
A. I picked up the fiddle when I was thirteen years old after a less successful and satisfactory time with the traverse flute and the obligatory recorder courses in elementary school. To be fair I couldn’t stand it and I always loved string instruments in general. I think my older brother and my father were always a big influence on me musically. My brother pointed out the violin to me one day as I wanted to play a string instrument and over night I just knew that I wanted to play the violin. I simply love the warm sound of it and the never-ending possibilities, techniques and styles.
Q. How did you get involved with Eluveitie? At first glance, a heavy metal band seems like such an unlikely gig to do for a fiddle/violin player to get involved with.
A. Well, I met Christian Chrigel Glanzmann (lead singer, mandola, gaita), about ten years ago in a local pub when he was trying to realize what became our first EP “Ven”. He was very sure of having fiddles playing in his metal band from the very start. That’s what it was all about. He wanted to meld the traditional sound of folk instruments into the riffing and melodic metal guitars and created a music style we usually refer today as Folk Metal.
Q. What is the origin of the band’s name, Eluveitie?
A. The name of our band, Eluveitie, comes from graffiti discovered on a pottery vessel excavated in the ancient Etruscan settlement of Mantua from around 300 BC. The word “eluveitie” is believed by scholars to be the Etruscan form of the Celtic/Gaulish “helvetios” or Helvetian. It is believed that the vessel was owned by a Celtic Swiss Helvetian that lived there or was something acquired in trade goods from the Helvetian tribe.
Q. Eluveitie is sometimes known to sing lyrics written in the ancient Gaulish language. Who does this type of linguistic transcription? Do you guys ever use any other languages such as Wendish, ancient Etruscan or Latin?
A. So far it is Christian who is taking care of the linguistic department. He comes up with lyrics and their translations, presenting them to us after he has completed the research and translation process. He is working closely with different Celtologists across Europe and this is and always was his special field of interest. I highly doubt that we will ever be singing in another language than Gaulish and English.
Q. Tell me about your latest Eluveitie album, Helvetios on Nuclear Blast Records in Germany?
A. The album tells the story of the Gaulish Wars with Rome from a Celtic point of view and especially from the Helvetii tribal point of view. The Helvetii were the Celtic tribe that inhabited Switzerland in the last centuries BC. From the Gaulish tribes, the Helvetians in particularly, comes the symbol that we use on the album cover. It is a depiction of an ornament, which has been found many times during archeological excavations. We wanted the CD to look like a book cover, actually. The idea was to create pictures of what it would have been like thousands of years ago and “documented” the wars photographically. It is again a concept album and it tells a continuing story. We tried to make it almost like a “movie soundtrack” so there’s a lot of epic moments as well as rough and aggressive riffing and so far it definitely is my favorite album.
Q. What are some of your musical influences? And what was it about these people that influenced you so?
A. It’s really hard for me to answer this question properly. My influences range from Regina Carter’s most wonderful jazzy violin tracks, up to the latest The Mars Volta or ZZ Top albums, many old school metal bands such as At the Gates, Pantera and Iron Maiden, but also a lot of contemporary pop, hip hop, folk or country acts. So I don’t really know myself what it is about these people and bands that impress me or take my interest musically. I thought about that before already and I still don’t have an answer. The source of the muse, that moves me, eludes me.
Q. What is your favorite fiddle brand to play? What brand of fiddle and accompanied products do you use/endorse? Why do you like them so much?
A. I am proudly endorsed by Bridge Violins (www.bridgeinstruments.co.uk) from the UK. They have an excellent, high quality instrument in the Bridge Tasman Electro Acoustic fiddle. I have suffered for many years on other electric fiddles. Especially since I play with in-ear monitors and I do depend on a natural and warm sound. It is unbelievably hard for most sound technicians to get the right frequencies on the fiddle. With the Bridge Tasman Electro Acoustic I am assured to have an awesome and natural sound from the instrument itself and our technicians have found them easier to dial in. Apart from that, I am using Pirastro Evah Pirazzi or D’Addario Helicore Strings. As for the rosin I am always using the one made by Larsen Strings from Sweden.
Q. Do you have any venue or festival that is your favorite to play?
A. We’ve played at all the large festivals around Europe such as Wacken in Germany and Download in the UK, but our very own Elu & Friends Music Festival, which takes part every year around New Year’s Eve in Switzerland, is also very special to me.
Q. Eluveitie played India for the first time in 2010. How was that tour?
A. That was a very intense and beautiful experience indeed. I have never been to India before and we all really didn’t know what to expect. Since we were the only international act we were not sure if all the people, approximately 500-600, that were there in the afternoon would stay until our show started. When we were about to go on stage we were shocked to see that no less than 20,000 people have found their way to the festival and welcomed us frenetically. This was really overwhelming and somewhat surreal. The people are so very nice and polite in India and when we now sometimes talk about it, in retrospective, it feels like I was dreaming.
Q. In addition to Eluveitie, you also have the Irij musical project and perform with godnr.universe!? Could you please tell me about them?
A. Yes, I brought Irij into life in 2007. I just had all these ideas and inspirations on my mind for quite some time and so I started to get down with them. Mostly I was inspired by songs, customs and stories from my parents’ homeland, Croatia. Everything is played and done by myself; expect the lyrics, which are mostly of traditional origin. So it is kind of the most personal musical project I have. My first EP was released in 2009 and I am about to release my first full length album this year under the name of “Same Zgode.” Furthermore, I am heavily working on a first video clip. So yes, I am pretty deep into the preparations for the new Irij album right now.
As for godnr.universe! that is another dream that came true to me. Anna Murphy (who plays the hurdy gurdy in Eluveitie) and I wanted to do our own, more modern and pop-oriented music project for a very long time. We actually have a lot of unreleased songs for godnr.universe! ready to go. We just didn’t get around to making some space and time for godnr.universe! since we are both very busy with Eluveitie and keeping up with all of our side projects as well. Music is a very time consuming thing. But the time will definitely come and our godnr.universe! material will reveal itself to the world.
Q. What has been the oddest thing either onstage or off that you’ve seen/experienced while on tour? You know, your ‘Spinal Tap’ moment.
A. Oh there have been too many I’m afraid! But recently on our show in Phoenix, Arizona we had a guy jump on stage to play the flute with us. He was very excited of course and in the heat of the moment he thought it would be a great idea to play through my vocal mic. Unfortunately I have that mic pretty loud on my own in-ears and the guy really blew my ears out. Literally!
I had to stop playing and remove my in-ears instantly because he still didn’t realize what it was doing to me. But after all that, I found it really funny and I’m glad that he had a great time that night! He was such a fun, goofy guy we just had to let him finish the song with us!
Q. What additional projects are you planning in the future?
A. We are touring with the Swedish band Sabaton all across Eastern Europe soon. In the Spring we will be visiting Australia and China for the very first time and of course I will be finishing my Irij record in-between. Maybe I will be up for some Irij live sessions at sometime in the future.
I also might do a book of sheet music for all the Eluveitie fiddle fans because they keep asking me for sheet music of our songs. I have always written down my fiddle lines for every single song on every Eluveitie album. I might as well just publish an Eluveitie transcription book.
Q. Any last thoughts?
A. Thank you for the interview, enjoy life and fiddle up everybody!
A word of caution to those interested in giving Eluveitie a listen. Their sound is not for everyone. While they infuse traditional Celtic folk melodies, period instruments, etc, they are pure, thunderous power metal played with mostly harsh style vocals, no clean singing. Those of you unaccustomed to such a vocal style, will find listening, a difficult task.
To learn more about Eluveitie please go to these websites:
Official Eluveitie Website: http://www.eluveitie.ch
To learn more about Meri Tadić, and her Irij and godnr.universe! musical projects please go to these websites:
Eluveitie Website: http://www.eluveitie.ch/band/meri-tadic/
And for those of you that can read Italian, please go here: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meri_Tedic