Interview: Valsaland-project from Sweden

Not long ago I browsed through Ausculto’s Twitter-followers and came up with Valsaland. I decided to explore the project and from the first looks I could tell that it wasn’t just a demo band that I was dealing with. The man behind the project himself, Goblin Mikkanen, contacted us after we had shared Valsaland’s video in social media. He had to be punished with an interview.

Who are you and where do you come from? What kind of musical background do you have?
– It’s my project, I compose, mix and play lots of the instruments. But there are about 25 musicians also playing on the recordings. Soon a lot more people. And very many more for the film productions.

So it’s quite a squad. How long has Valsaland been running?
– For about 5 years as my private studio project. First official release was in May 2014.

This style of post rock music comes quite a little from Sweden although your country’s musical success has been pretty strong. Can you name some of the biggest influences in both music and video side of yours project?
– I really don’t know. You tell me what you think.

I find influences from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky. Magyar Posse could be a Finnish counterpart. But you have clearly your own style. The traditional Swedish high quality, which makes the Finns envious, shines through. That’s what I think.

You emphasize a lot on visuality. Which one comes first – idea of the music or a vision of the video? Do the songs change after making the video or vice versa?
– The video ideas grow when the music is being written and then the music and the sound landscape continues growing side by side with the story of the video.

Although we study it here in Finland our skill for Swedish isn’t fully sufficient to understand the songs. The videos can be thrilling although the music isn’t that raw and hard. What kind of stories do the songs tell?
– I’ll answer song by song because there’s no big common denominator between the songs.
Fåån (fool/dork): Does anyone wanna be my friend?
Leka (play): Made-up language
Hennings Sagoland (Henning’s wonderland: Hennings wonderland. You think you are there. But you are over here.
Lilla vän jag vill bo i en husvagn (little friend, I wanna live in a caravan): Lyrics the same.

There’s a lot of performers on your videos. How do you recruit them?
– With streetcasting. They’re non-professional friends and other people with no acting experience.

We are from Finland and many places in Stockholm is familiar. How difficult is filming in the center of city?
– This far there have been no problems. And I haven’t applied for permission. I sometimes put a fake SVT sticker on the cameras 🙂

Valsaland hasn’t published so many videos yet and the processes of making them are presumably long. How long did it take to make the video for ”Fåån” for example?
– Several hundred hours. We are nonetheless trying to put our debut album in the following autumn.

What kind of music equipment is used to create the music? Is it all computer-based or do you play with real, traditional instruments?
– They’re all acoustic, recorded instruments. Drums, bass, guitars, piano, organ, (psycho)acoustic effects, strings, brass/wind, choir etc…

So it’s really ambitious operationing. This leads us smoothly to our next question: is there any live gigs coming? Or what are in general Valsaland’s goals?
– No gigs for the nearest future. But hopefully a 200 person (rockband, string section, wind section, full choir) band tour in a few years. I’m working on it.

The previously mentioned debut album should be released this autumn and new singles and videos in autumn/winter. There’s also many upcoming collaborations with filmmakers and musical institutes.

Utterly a staggering project. We are waiting with interest for the moment when Valsaland comes into it’s own live. They have the qualifications to do something great.

Although Mikkanen himself remains a bit mysterious figure he must be asked whether has any Finnish ancestry or is he rather related to goblins?
– I’m half Finn, but sadly I can’t speak Finnish. Only the rude words.

That’s enough so that we can be proud of this band as well. Good luck with the future!

During our interview the video for ”Fåån” won the award for the best video clip and music video in Skepto International Film Festival in Italy. The prize didn’t go to wrong address.