Interview with Chrigel Glanzmann of Eluveitie

Below is an exchange I had recently with Chrigel Glanzmann, the lead singer of Eluveitie, the Swiss folk metal band on whose work I’m writing I’ve written an essay (comparing it to Charles Gleyre’s “The Romans Going Under the Yoke”). 

Hey ….Chrigel from Eluveitie here. Thanks for your message. What an awesome undertaking! I’m really curious about the essay.

Yes of course I know Gleyre’s painting, it’s one of my favorites. smile emoticon
Even though it’s quite romanticizing probably. It was created not too long after the epoch of the Helvetic Republic (1798–1803), where the Helvetians were idealized and romanisiert (Divico got conventionalized as “national hero”, ect).
Nevertheless, really awesome painting.

Don’t hesitate to write if you’d like to discuss the topic. smile emoticon


Hey Chris

Nice to talk to you! 🙂 It’s really interesting.

My answers below:

I can’t thank you enough for getting back to me about Charles Gleyre. As I mentioned, I’m writing an essay on Eluveitie and Gleyre. There are some important connections I think. If you’re OK with my asking a few questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
So, it seems to me that “Divico” pays at least some homage to the painting.  When you (as Divico) say, “Like the ancient oak/ standing enthroned/ This old man I have become,” I can’t help but think of the large oak in Les Romains. It’s interesting, because Caesar talks about him as an old man– but it was he who defeated the Romans 50 years earlier, as depicted in the painting.
Yeah, true. When I wrote that lyrics, it’s basically poetic licenese. But I did let myself lead & inspire by 2 things:
– my own imagination, my empathy (having in mind what I learned about Divico, the Helvetians, the Celts in general, their culture, their time, ect. I tried to imagine what he probably could have thought, ect.

– the way the Helvetians portrayed themselves (according to ancient historians), ect.: They seem to have been open-minded, yet still stubborn, they seem very proud… and bravery seems to have been something quite important to them.

Honestly, I don’t think that Caesar’s informations given in de bello gallico are correct that much. These writings are political propaganda in most parts. It’s even scientifically unclear if it was Divico who led the Helvetians…. as you correctly state: He defeated the Romans 50 years earlier; so that would make him a really old leader for an untertaking like this! I think it’s more likely that Caesar named Divicos name simply due to the fact that it was a well-known and much feared/hated name to his readership (which we had to win over and get the senate’s blessing for his private war)…

Anyway: Actually it’s not possible to tell concrete and accurate things on this topic… we just don’t know after all.

Be this as it may:
At the time of the Roman invasion Divico must have been an elderly man indeed. And for sure he was a proud, dignified man, honoured by his people.
Of course, that happens after the slaughter at the Saône, which is the subject of “Meet the Enemy.”  Such a great song, so full of fury–and justifiably so. It’s an atrocity how many people died there at Caesar’s hands. A question: what have you read on this, specifically? Did you read Caesar in school? Or maybe there was a favorite teacher who introduced you to it? There aren’t that many songs with ludus latrunculorum mentioned in them!
I’ve read de bello gallico. At home though, not in school. 😉
Besides I’ve read (am constantly reading) scientifical secondary literature.
If it comes to our album “Helvetios” and thus “Meet the enemy”: I discussed a lot with a scientist of Vienna university (dep. celtic studies) about all the details of the story… we analysed a lot, read between (Caesar’s) lines, compared, ect. and thus tried to paint a picture as accurate as possible.
Haha, ludus latrunculorum; yeah maybe you’re right. 🙂 A board game… that’s (sadly) a good way to describe Caesar’s acts in the gallic wars. He moved men like figures on a board. Why ludus latrunculorum… it’s something I always do in my lyrics when a song is written from a “gallic” point of view (=like written from a person who lived back then): I try to find metaphors, phrases, ect. as they could have been used back then.
And yes, it was an atrocity, especially facing the fact how many of them were civilians… women, children, elderly.
I guess my real question is this– why do you channel the ancient Helvetians in your music?
why not? 😉 😛
Joking aside: The Celtic culture just always was kind of a topic in my life. When I formed Eluveitie it was clear from the start that it will be a Celtic-focused project, all dealing with Celtic history and culture.
Why the Helvetians – well, our music deals with the Celts in general, but true, a lot of songs deal with helvetic topics in particular (especially since the album tries to portray the gallic wars from a helvetic point of view). But anyway – since we’re from Switzerland having a name like Eluveitie kinda makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? 🙂 The Helvetians lived on “our” ground are partly our forefathers and left a lot of heritage until to the present in Switzerland; so we’re facing their legacies anyway. But yeah, after all Eluveitie is about the Celtic culture and history in gereal, actually.
In one interview, you said about Helvetios, “It’s sometimes quite shocking to realize how little we learned in the past 2,000 years, because it’s the same crazy things going on, over and over again. So I wouldn’t say the things we’re singing about don’t have anything to do with our everyday lives; I think they actually do.”  What crazy things do you mean?
wars and especially wars like the gallic wars (invasions for economic reasons), political propaganda (the controlling of the populations minds for particular – often selfish, destructive, career-obsessed – reasons), ect.
…just to name a few. 
OK, here’s a really nerdy last question. In “Divico,” the Celtic tune in the background is “Haughs o’ Cromdale.” Any particular reason? I have this theory …
haha, a theory? 🙂 sounds intresting!
But well, it was basically for musical reasongs. The tune just fitted well. But yeah… it’s original lyrics actually fit quite well too. 😉 
I’m sorry to ask so many questions!

It was a pleasure and honor to talk to you!


About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
This entry was posted in Classics, Education, Ireland, Italy, Language & Etymology, Military, Music, Rome, Trees & Flowers. Bookmark the permalink.

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