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Forefather - The best of two worlds (Wulfstan/Athelstan) -

Hi there, Alex from "The Metal Observer" here, how are things in the FOREFATHER camp?


Wulfstan: Quite stressful at the moment. Not necessarily because of what’s happening with FOREFATHER, just things going on in our lives. I’m looking forward to a lot of things being sorted out in the coming weeks.


Even though FOREFATHER already have four albums out by now, I guess that hardly anyone has heard about FOREFATHER yet. I know that this is maybe the most standard of questions, but please give us at least a bit of info about the past of FOREFATHER so far.


Athelstan: Ok, to keep it simple we started in late '97 and decided we would record and release our first album ourselves, so we wrote the songs for "Deep Into Time" and recorded it in our home studio "The Croft" in the summer of '98. We released it on our own label Angelisc Enterprises in March '99. Reviews were very positive and next we released "The Fighting Man" in 2000 on the same label. Just after that we collaborated with Millennium Metal Music on Germany to release a limited edition CD of raw demo and unreleased tracks entitled "Legends Untold". Then came "Engla Tocyme" in March 2002, again on Angelisc.


"Ours Is The Kingdom" is your fourth album to date and in my opinion the best one (and the others were far from shabby either, if I may add!). How much could you rely on your experiences won from the previous albums?


Wulfstan: I think it’s probably our best album so far too. What happened with the previous albums didn’t really affect the song writing process for the new album except wanting to pick up some speed from “Engla Tocyme”. Where most of the experience from the old albums came in useful was in the recording process. You learn from previous mistakes and improve each time.


What strikes with a song such as "The Shield-Wall" is the intense and furious drumming (I normally hate blast beats) on the one side and the magnificent melodies and brilliant clear vocals. How important is the balance between heaviness and these great and catchy melodies?


Athelstan: A lot of people have commented on this. I think it's very important because it adds originality. I mean, who else really does Black Metal blast beats with clean epic vocals in that way? It's not just that though because the riffs are different to the average Black Metal riff. They have a more positive feel. FOREFATHER riffs rarely have an "evil" sound. I think here we get the best of two worlds - Black Metal with more powerful melodies and Power Metal with more aggression.


"The Sea-Kings" is a pretty unusual song for FOREFATHER, all a kind of keyboards. What is the background (musically) for this one?


Wulfstan: When you look at “The Swan’s Road” from “Engla Tocyme”, “The Sea-Kings” is not so strange. It’s a similar sort of track. This piece was actually written by Athelstan many, many years ago but was never used. We thought it was too good to be left unheard. In fact I persuaded Athelstan to re-record it for the album.


"To The Mountains They Fled" and "Threads Of Time" bear quite some Power Metal analogies in their riffing. Is this coincidence or part of your influences?


Athelstan: Well, we do listen to some Power Metal so I suppose this has an effect on our song writing. With the middle part of "Threads Of Time" I was unsure whether to put it into the song or not because it sounded quite different to the usual FOREFATHER style, but the riff was too good, so I put it in!


You have done everything on your own again, production, recording and mix, plus song writing and performing, which is pretty impressive. Is "The Croft" your own studio?


Wulfstan: It is a home studio. It has evolved from the most primitive of set-ups to something more credible. It’s nothing like an actual recording studio though. You don’t really need a recording studio these days and we prefer handling everything at home anyway. “Ours Is The Kingdom” was recorded in a similar way to “Engla Tocyme” but with some new equipment and better techniques.


I have dubbed your style Anglo Saxon Metal, like in Viking Metal, just with a completely different lyrical background. Could you tell me a bit more about the foundation of your lyrics? You seem to be rooted very firmly in the history of England, aren't you?


Athelstan: Yes, we concentrate on the roots of England itself (different from Britain). This is from around 449AD, when the first Germanic invaders arrived in Britain, to 1066AD. They were first brought in by the British king Vortigern to help fight against the Picts in the north, but with time they came to conquer and settle the land for themselves. "To The Mountains They Fled" is about this subject. These tribes of Angles, Saxons and Jutes formed the basis of the English nation. The Angle tribe eventually gave it its name. In 1066, with the Norman invasion, almost the entire English ruling elite was wiped out and England was changed forever. The Norman rule brought in a new era of oppression for the English people, and ever since that date there has been a large degree of separation from our roots. We try to revive these roots by using old English poetry, history and language as inspiration.


Could you please tell us a bit about what the songs on "Ours Is The Kingdom" deal with, like song by song?


Wulfstan: (deep breath) “The Shield-Wall” is just a simple song about fighting in an Anglo-Saxon shield-wall. “Ours Is The Kingdom” is about reclaiming our kingdom from Christianity/religion. “Proud To Be Proud” is a fuck you to the liberal elite who look down on any form of English pride. “The Golden Dragon” is about the true flag of England and the real origins of the current flag. “Smashed By Fate” is inspired by an Old English poem about Roman ruins in Anglo-Saxon England and how the Saxons avoided the empty Roman towns, believing them to be bad luck. The instrumental the “The Sea-Kings” is a tribute to our sea-faring founding fathers. “To The Mountains They Fled” is about the plight of the native Britons in the face of our Anglo-Saxon invading forefathers. “The Folk That Time Forgot” is about how the modern English have no idea who they are and how our heritage is basically forgotten. “Threads Of Time” is about the Anglo-Saxon concept of Wyrd (fate). “Keep Marching On” is meant to bring to mind an army marching to a decisive battle with an inspirational leader motivating them at the front. “Rebel Of The Marshlands” is a tribute to Hereward the Wake who resisted the Norman occupation of England in the years following the Battle of Hastings and “Wudugast” is a fantastical story of a warrior who is killed in a forest and his spirit is condemned to dwell there for as long as the forest remains.


A regular on our forum said that FOREFATHER and AMON AMARTH could kind of join together for an epic Anglo Saxons vs. Vikings…


Athelstan: Ha! Yes, but who would be last on the bill? The headliner would be the winner of the battle. It's an interesting idea. Obviously we're not able to play live at the moment though. I've only heard a couple of AMON AMARTH tracks, but they sounded good.


How does a FOREFATHER song usually come to be? How could we envision the song writing process?


Wulfstan: We always write separately because when we’ve tried to write together things usually get chaotic. Most songs evolve out of 1 or 2 main strong riffs and the rest sort of follows naturally. Where one person gets stuck the other may come in and finish it off. This is when you get a dual song-writing credit. Lyrics are usually written at the last minute before and during recording.


The artwork again has been put into the trusted hands of Chrille Andersson (C.A.Interactive), who already had done the last three covers for FOREFATHER. How did you get in touch with him and which information does he get from you guys to make his covers?


Athelstan: We first contacted him in 2000 after seeing some of his art on his website. I think someone told us about his work. We saw "The Fighting Man" picture and had to have it! It fitted the theme of the album perfectly. Ever since we have worked with him very successfully. He creates great iconic artwork. Actually, "Ours Is The Kingdom" is the only time we have given him an idea to work with (the downfall of Christianity). By amazing coincidence when it came to the time for artwork for "Engla Tocyme" he contacted us and said he'd done us a new picture. It fitted the lyrical theme exactly! Obviously he knew our general style, but to get the exact theme of the album without being told was great. The theme was the Germanic invaders coming to Britain and taking the land, and the use of the Anglo-Saxon warrior towering over Stonehenge was very symbolic.


And how important is the "big picture", that artwork, lyrics, music and all fit together?


Wulfstan: It’s obviously important. The particular style of a song or mood of a song gives you an idea of right type of lyrics to write and the cover needs to represent in some way the title of the album. I think all our albums have done that pretty well.


After three full albums, excellent albums, if I may add, you finally scored an "official" deal with Karmageddon Media. How did that one come to be? Did you have more offers?


Athelstan: We had a couple of other offers around the same time, but we decided Karmageddon (or Hammerheart as they used to be) suited us best. They contacted us some time in early/mid 2003 and expressed interest, but then said they would just keep an eye on us. Luckily later on in the year they offered us the deal. We accepted, with a few alterations. They were impressed with "Engla Tocyme" and obviously saw some quality in us.


Now that you are signed to them, what are your expectations to where this may put FOREFATHER on the Metal map?


Wulfstan: We are realistic. We don’t expect to become superstars and we wouldn’t want that anyway. We just expect to get more exposure. There are lots of people around who would like our music who may not have had the chance to hear our music before and with Karmageddon’s good distribution they will be able to now. Our target with this album is just to increase our fan base and be better known in the Metal world.


Where do your pseudonyms Wulfstan and Athelstan come from?


Athelstan: When we started we wanted to have names that fitted in with the theme of the band, so we chose names based on the Old English language. Although there are 2 famous figures from English history with these names (king Athelstan and Bishop Wulfstan), we didn't choose them to represent these people. They are just general Old English names. Since after the Norman conquest in 1066, this type of name became less popular, and now they are almost extinct.


You two are brothers. Now I am sure that it helps, because you know each other and each other's abilities very well, but doesn't it sometimes also sometimes bring in some friction, as between most brothers?


Wulfstan: We only have minor disagreements and only rarely. Generally we have the same vision for FOREFATHER and we are very similar people. It’s good to work with people that you get along with really well. You don’t have to be related. It just so happens that we’re brothers and we get along great.


Ever since the inception of FOREFATHER, it's been you two, Athelstan and Wulfstan. Have you ever thought about adding more members?


Athelstan: No, not really. It works well how it is. FOREFATHER is a very personal project and we would not invite others to contribute music or lyrics to it.


As a duo, I could imagine it is not all that obvious to do live shows. Have there ever been any and are there any plans for shows or even a tour?


Wulfstan: We’d need extra musicians for live shows and since we’re not very enthusiastic about it anyway we haven’t made an effort to find them. There have never been any shows and there are no plans for any in the future. I don’t think I could ever tour. It’s not for me. But maybe a few shows here and there in the future. But none for the foreseeable future.


During the recording sessions, I am sure that there've been some funny/weird stories, could you share one of each with us and our readers?


Athelstan: Well, there was me attempting to sing on "Keep Marching On" which was quite funny. Apart from that, I can only think of the time we recorded the sound effects for "The Sea-Kings" by a small pond, using tree branches as oars. We just about managed to avoid falling in, but still had to cope with dogs coming to swim and spray us (and our equipment) with filthy pond water. Still, if you could have seen the studio scene during the recording of the "Deep Into Time" intro track, you would have chuckled! We don't usually have much "fun" during recording. We just get tense and stressed! Sound effects is where the comedy comes in.


You also have/had a label called Angelisc Enterprises, which you had released the first FOREFATHER albums as well as SYMBEL over. Is it still alive?


Wulfstan: It’s just about alive although we plan on killing it off and re-launching with a new name later this year. We have agreed to release the debut CD of Dutch band THRONAR which will happen late 2004/early 2005 and we’ll also probably handle the next SYMBEL CD.


FOREFATHER surely is more than "just a band" for you two, when listening to your songs, reading through the lyrics and looking at the artwork and all, it becomes pretty clear that this is coming from the heart and is done with passion. So what does FOREFATHER mean to you?


Wulfstan: Besides from doing what we do as a simple love of Heavy Metal music it is also a vehicle for our passion for our neglected and suppressed Anglo-Saxon English heritage. We feel as strongly about that as we do about our music. So FOREFATHER means a lot to us. The music and the lyrics both represent strong feelings.


What is your personal favourite and least favourite song of FOREFATHER and why?


Wulfstan: Now there’s an easy question haha. I can’t say I dislike any of our songs but maybe the one I’m least enthusiastic about is “Iron Hand” (sorry Athelstan). It’s really hard to say though. It’s still a great song I think. Favourite? Again virtually impossible to say. I think “The Paths Of Yesterdays” is one of our classics. It never fails to send a shiver down my spine.


How would you yourself describe FOREFATHER in one sentence?


Wulfstan: A very talented and interesting, unique sounding Anglo-Saxon Metal assault that is well worth you checking out if you haven't already.


How have FOREFATHER changed for you personal, if you compare them to the "normal" demo band and the band that now has released four albums already?


Wulfstan: We've just got a bit better at what we do through writing and recording experience and perhaps our Anglo-Saxon nationalism has become more stubborn with age haha.


What had been the goals for FOREFATHER back then when you started out, which of them have you achieved and how have they changed?


Athelstan: The goal at the start was just to write an album, get it released and hopefully eventually get noticed by a bigger label, so that has been achieved.


How do you define success? Only in terms of sales or is there a different definition of success for you as a band?


Wulfstan: Album sales is one way of defining success but look around at some of the shit that sells millions of albums. I think really we just want to become one of the top acts in our genre and be respected by our peers. If we could make a living at the same time that would be superb, but it's not realistic. I'm not ashamed to make money from our music if we can.


Does the name FOREFATHER have any particular meaning to you or is it "just a name"?


Athelstan: It's just a name, but obviously it reflects the lyrical themes which are important.


You have been around for quite some while now in the British underground scene, how is your perception of Metal and its acceptance in Great Britain?


Wulfstan: My personal perception of Metal is that it's the greatest form of music there is and I'm very particular about what is Metal and what isn't. It's more than a type of music to me. It's an attitude. Richard Wagner had the Metal attitude over a hundred years before JUDAS PRIEST haha. It's not accepted in England at all. The media here think Metal died in the 80s and that even then it was MÖTLEY CRÜE and DEF LEPPARD. You might hear about IRON MAIDEN or JUDAS PRIEST now and then but only usually to have the piss taken out of them. Of course there is now all this pseudo Metal shit about like SLIPKNOT and FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND though. You can't avoid that crap.


Do you think that there still is a real underground, as there had been many years back?


Wulfstan: I can only speak from our experience operating an underground label. To us it is clear that there is a real Metal underground and it's as strong as it was back in 1999 when we released "Deep Into Time".


What made you start to play music and form a band in first place?


Wulfstan: I was inspired to play guitar by IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA and MEGADETH mainly. I learnt guitar by learning the songs of those bands. Obviously METALLICA and MEGADETH have turned into total embarrassments now but I actually think, looking back, they were always prats. I somehow find it easier to forgive Dave Mustaine though because I think he is/was genuinely unstable. I also think he was/is a greater Metal song-writer/guitarist than Hetfield. I still love MAIDEN. They'll never match the brilliance of the 80s albums but at least they've stuck to their guns and not gone mad or sold out.


What would you do, if you weren't able to compose music?


Athelstan: I'd probably put all of my effort into running a successful label or magazine or something. Contribute to the Metal scene in a different way.


Which album in musical history would you wish was yours and why?


Wulfstan: METALLICA'y black album because then I'd be fucking loaded! haha No, seriously it's maybe a toss-up between IRON MAIDEN's "Powerslave" and MEGADETH's "Rust In Peace".


How important do you think is the internet nowadays to promote an up and coming band?


Athelstan: It's just another medium for promotion. It's definitely very useful because for example if I hear a track of a band I like somewhere I can look them up on the internet and read reviews and find out where to buy their albums. So it's a pretty important promotion medium.


What do you love to hate in the music industry?


Wulfstan: I love to hate Lars Ulrich.


If time travel was possible, which historical period would you like to visit and why? What would you miss the most from our time?


Athelstan: You would expect me to say go back to Anglo-Saxon England, but in some ways that would ruin the magic and mystery. I would go back to pre-history to see if we humans really were seeded by extra-terrestrials or not. That would answer a lot of questions about the gods. From our time I would miss Heavy Metal and Formula 1.


If your music was an emotion, what would it be?


Wulfstan: It couldn't be just one. It would be a mixture of anger, hate, love and pride.


What is your opinion about internet radio? (“The Shield-Wall” is in rotation at “The Metal Observer Radio” at ;)


Athelstan: Honestly I never listen to internet radio, but I think it's a good idea. I haven't quite got used to the idea of listening to the radio on my computer yet.


Just as a side question - what do you think about "The Metal Observer"?


Wulfstan: I think “The Metal Observer” is fantastic because it gives us great reviews! Your interviews could be a bit shorter though haha. Just kidding. I think it's great that there are people out there supporting Metal whether they're in a band or writing for a magazine or running a webzine. It all helps to keep the Metal heart beating.


To finish the interview, my traditional last question, what is your favourite question about FOREFATHER that you have never been asked yet, but would finally like to answer?


Athelstan: Which method of execution would you prefer for Tony Blair? Electric chair, hanging, beheading or firing squad?


1999: Deep Into Time (CD, Angelisc)

2000: Legends Untold (CD, Millenium Metal Music)

2000: The Fighting Man (CD, Angelisc)

2002: Engla Tocyme (CD, Angelisc)

2004: Ours Is The Kingdom (CD, Karmageddon Media)


Alexander Melzer

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