With "Thunderforge-Perkonkalve" you have released your third full album via Folter Records. What are your expectations for it?
Hello, Alexander! I am Peter of SKYFORGER. Starting your interview I can say that our main expectations were – would the people like this album? We weren’t sure of it, because “Thunderforge” is a little bit different album from our previous ones. But now, after almost a year of release date, as we know it – everything is all right and we hear only a good words for this album.
How did you get the contract with Folter? Did you send out a demo/promo to potential labels and in the end, what was the decisive point to sign with Folter?
Yes, this was natural way to find another way record company for us. We worked hard on that all 2002 year, but somehow we didn’t succeed. Many companies simply refused because maybe this album was not what they wanted to hear, I don’t know… You know, we are not from the well-known countries of metal background, maybe that also made the labels to be more cautious towards us. Talking about Folter Records – we were on our “Christ Crushing Tour” European tour in October of 2002, and previously our manager did an appointment with Jörg from Folter in Bitterfeld in Germany. By the way, Folter Records was the first label that wanted to sign us back in 1997, when we had “Semigalls’ Warchant”, but at the time we choose Mascot, because of better conditions. So, we met Jörg and had a chat about possible deal and he agreed to sign us for “Thunderforge”. The main point we choose Folter, is that we spent already too much time for nothing, we got much of empty promises from various labels, including the lost one year with deal of Ars Metalli, damn that bitch! So finally this was the best choice for us at that time. But I have to say that we are very satisfied with the work Folter has done – this label is much better for us than Mascot.
This time around you use more influences from traditional Metal, especially in the riffing. How come that you are incorporating them into your sound now?
I can’t really answer to this question, because we simply made those songs and we don’t think much about that way – are these traditional or whatever style Metal riffs. The main thing is a song, how it sounds, is that cool enough. Every one of us has his own songwriting style and musical influences and result is a fusion of all those things.
You have a very interesting mix from Pagan Metal, traditional Metal and Folk, which makes SKYFORGER sound pretty unique. How did you find this style, how did it evolve?
I don’t know, I guess that happened naturally – we just mix Metal with Latvian folk music and it became this way. There weren’t any special searching for this musical style. This is also hard to say will that continue in future or we will find something new or different in our music. Ok, generally we have a view what we want to play, but again we don’t think too much to do all songs in one vein. Like I said, for us the main thing is a song – is that good or bad, and we can use every means to make it better. Of course, “better” means better in our own taste. All in all, our sound is pretty much coincidence: if we were not emerged from Latvia and its rich background of folklore, tales, myths and history, probably we’d be another boring Death Metal band haha from USA hahaha...
And how would you yourself describe your style musically?
Also vocally there now are some changes, like your voice is clearer than before and you also use some choirs. Has this been a conscious move or has it just "happened" during the creative period prior to the recordings of "Thunderforge-Perkonkalve"?
Some things like clear vocals and choirs were done especially for “Thunderforge” and some things were as you said – “just happened” during the recording. As every musician we grow and learn from album to album and try to put all these new founded discoveries into the music. The change of voice was quite natural; I got bored of the Black Metal voice and tried to do some new way for vocals. I have to say that many Black Metal singers become predictable within this department; also there is not much space for such new findings. I can’t say, for example, that choirs will be no more. We found them good and I assume that we continue to use them in our next albums, if there will be any haha… I am a bit superstitious about such things.
Your compositions are pretty layered and weave together many different influences, how do you normally approach the song writing process?
The songwriting process looks like that: Anybody of us in rehearsal can come up with some riffs he has made at home and he shows them to others. If all agree that these riffs are good, we continue to make a song. If this guy doesn’t have the rest of stuff to complete the song, others offer their riffs (if they have them) until we lead the song till the logical end. Sometimes some of us have full songs to offer and then we choose and decide is that good or bad. When song is ready, we often think about it for ourselves. If some have a feeling that this particular song isn’t good enough and if he can convince the rest of band, then we throw it away or try to rearrange it in some other way. We take decisions as a whole band and disputes are solved as matter of majority. By that we have a common knowledge about conception of whole new album and we have to keep it in mind when create riffs and sound passages. Of course, all this what I said above is just only in a few words and really songwriting is not so simple. Also one more moment: one has to be experienced in Metal music history, otherwise you can take some old riffs very easily haha… Music nowadays has gone a full circle and to think something very new becomes a lot more difficult as some ten years before. Perhaps our compositions sounds interesting because we have found our interest in Latvian folk music, we can scoop something fresh from there.
If you had one sentence to convince somebody of SKYFORGER and to buy "Thunderforge-Perkonkalve", what would you say?
I would say: “Hey, you know MANOWAR or CRADLE OF FILTH? Then our music is ten times better and greater!” No, no it is only a joke hahaha! I’d simply said: “If you like Metal, folk stuff and historical things, just try out SKYFORGER music and maybe you’ll find there something for yourself.”
Your lyrics deal a lot with the Latvian history, on "Latviesu Strelnieki"; for example, there were a lot of stories about Latvians in the Second World War. What do the lyrics of "Thunderforge-Perkonkalve" deal with?
The lyrics on “Thunderforge” deal with ancient Latvian mythology, traditions and pagan customs. Every our album had topics about war and battles and here we made an exception, we don’t want to be always repeated and become boring with those “war” topics. As I am quite fond of ancient beliefs and customs of the past, I felt that this is something new and interesting and I decided to dedicate an album to this topic. The initial drive was that I read some literature about the mythology of ancient Latvians and I saw that this has never been searched and explained to public, so I went for that. The religion of those people who lived here before thousand years were based on believing on gods of Nature and basically all their life turned around this central point. This mythology is still under mystery, because not many historical documents are left of those times, because when Christianity went in these shores, they eliminated all what concerned the culture of our forefathers. Today all that seems very interesting from the point of our technological century and many people want to know where their roots lie. I can say that this is not typical western or Scandinavian religion, but quite original in its meaning, so therefore I am glad that maybe SKYFORGER dug up something fresh. As we are a band, which is guided more to antiquity, this was a perfect theme to write an album for.
You are exclusively using Latvian lyrics in your songs. How it comes? Do you think that you could not express yourselves as well in English or is there a different reason for this?
Of course, I can’t write lyrics as good in English as I do it in Latvian – simply I am not used to do it. I try to write poetic lyrics and I can succeed the best in my native language, I am not so good with other languages. And by the way – in our songs we use some of traditional rhymes and it is nearly impossible to translate them in English and totally impossible is to sing traditional folk songs with English words. So, it felt just natural that we sing in Latvian and later include an English translation in CD booklet for fans to understand what’s going on. Well, so it was done in previous releases, but in fact on “Thunderforge” our translator guys tried to make it more in poetic way, if you have read the texts in booklet. Some English parts went out very cool indeed.
Don't you think that by only singing in Latvian you might not limit your potential fan base right from the start?
Maybe. But it seems to me that today people are more open-minded and don’t care too much about in which language you sing as it was years ago, when English was one and only language for the Rock music. Some find it interesting to hear also different languages. In any case it is too late for us to change to English now, we would risk of losing a lot of fans, especially here in
How important are the lyrics for you? You even provide English translations of them, so that those who cannot understand Latvian can follow them, to me that is a sign of great importance!
For me lyrics are very important! They are half of the song and I always try to write them as well as I can. I think lyrics together with riffs sets a proper mood for the song. And there will be no other way for me than to put that English translation in a CD’s booklet, because I certainly want to let people know about what is happening in our songs. It is important to me! Also I can say that this is very hard part and I need to wait for inspiration, therefore sometimes we delay our albums, because of lack of textual part.
There's been news about Folter releasing your legendary "Semigalls' Warchant" demo on CD, too, will it just be the demo songs or will there be bonus tracks and/or a remastering? Tell us more about it!
Hahaha… thank you for calling it legendary demo! When we made that our first record, we certainly didn’t know what to expect and nobody thought that we could go on with that. Only later we realized from masses of reviews that our demo tape is very popular. And today when we have so many requests for that demo from our fans we have thought of proper releasing “Semigalls’ Warchant” on Folter and we have already signed the deal for CD and limited edition LP. There will be all songs from our demo tape and we want to put some bonus material as well. Now it seems that we will put some of our very old stuffs, never released before. These are songs we created in times before “Semigalls’ Warchant”, but we want to rearrange and record them anew. And demo stuff will be remastered of course, because back then we did quite poor recording. This can be disposed of lack of our practice and bad studio equipment eight years ago. Anyway that will capture the spirit of that time. Today we work on that and we hope that in this autumn this album will be out. As for bonus songs – I can say that they are a little bit different than songs we hear in demo album, there are not so much Black Metal influences in them. They show what SKYFORGER was circa 1995 year. I hope the listeners will like them.
You also have just released a new album, which is pure Latvian Folk, can you tell me a bit more about it?
The title of an album is “Zobena Dziesma” or in English “Sword Song”. There are only pure Latvian folk songs plus one Lithuanian folk song, in total 13 songs. There’s no Metal music this time. We started to play folk music years ago, but at the beginning it was just a hobby, for ourselves. Later someone asked us to perform at the folk gigs and finally one our friend persuaded us to record us an album. This friend did all the money business for the album. Latvian government sponsored this album and before that we had to make a submission for such application and go through the contest for money. Otherwise we’d never released it from our personal funds. So, last year in September this folk music album saw daylight. The songs you can here there is like ones you can find in our Metal albums, for example “Neighed The Battle Horses” from “Kauja Pie Saules” album. We don’t know if we continue to do things like that, because our main subject of work is Metal music. Those who want to get this album, have to contact us, because this album is self-released. Also we make it possible to buy it in our concerts.
Had you played pure Folk shows before, too, or has this only been something that you started of late?
Yes, we played a lot of folk concerts around here, but we aren’t satisfied with ourselves. We are not that good folk musicians and here are many more talented folk bands around to see and hear. We start to think stop playing folk stuff and concentrate only on Metal. Simply we don’t have much time in our lives to dedicate ourselves to be a good Metal band and to be a good folk band too. I mean all this asks for a lot of free time and a serious work. Unfortunately we don’t have this free time for being a folk band. Ok, I guess that time will show what we are capable to produce in this field.
What does the Latvian Folk and the Latvian heritage mean to you? On your site you have an own section for history, mythology etc.
What can I say? It is just part of my life – the history is my biggest interest besides the music and it is only naturally that I express this my “obsession” through music. But if you mean, do I perform some rituals or things like that – no, I am man of today, and I don’t live in Middle Ages. I have a computer and electric guitar haha… But all those historical things are always in my mind and heart. Our Internet section of history is meant for the fans of SKYFORGER to tell them about our album topics. We try to be up-to-date band, if I can say so.
Which SKYFORGER song do you like most and which one least and why?
Of course, I like all songs of SKYFORGER and if I don’t, then they aren’t included in our albums. But if we talk, maybe I can name some favourites of today and some I don’t like so much. The songs I like most are: “Thunderforge” and “The Shortest Night Of The Year” from “Thunderforge” album; “Six Days Of Madness” from “Latvian Riflemen” and “Kurshi” from “Kauja Pie Saules” album.
The songs I like not too much are: “The Viestard’s Fight At Mezotne” from “Kauja Pie Saules” and “The March Of 1916” of “Latvian Riflemen”. Why? Because today I find these songs too fast and not so melodic as I like them to be. Telling you the truth, I don’t like to listen to my music at home and for me it is still a strange feeling that there are a lot people who like our music and my voice. Maybe I am just too shy haha…
In the past you haven't had much luck with your record label(s), "Kauja Pie Saules" had been released via II Moons, then Mascot decided to close that sub-label and released "Latviesu Strelnieki" themselves before completely changing their label direction and now you are with Folter. In how far did these problems hamper the success story of SKYFORGER?
These problems deal nothing with our music and band’s attitude. This was just a bad luck with label’s attitudes towards us. Personally for some of us it was a disappointment or depression because things were not going as well as we expected. Our albums were very poorly promoted and distributed and no support tours were organized. But we overcame it and got a good experience and lesson how to deal with music business. Today things are going much better than in times when we were part of Mascot Records. If we had that feeling as we were younger, when our first album came out, who knows how things would be today… This is just life and you have to accept it like it is. The best part of current label is that we know Jörg from Folter personally, not only from the e-mails. He is our friend and that is much in this business.
How do you define success? Only in sales numbers or are there other things that you measure success in and in how far do you think that SKYFORGER is achieving these?
Besides the sales numbers it is important how many people come to our shows and how they react to our music. For me the last two things are more important than sales. I am not saying that sales are not important at all, but I can feel success much more at heart when I see that hall is full of crowd and they say good words about my music. We are gaining some of little success today, but I know that we’ll never be that big to play major festivals and stuff like that, because we play kind of specific music, not for the masses. But if we will get any bigger than today, I will be just glad.
In the beginnings you had been the target of several attacks because of the use of ancient Pagan and Latvian symbols, which unfortunately had been abused by the Nazis. Are you still getting confronted with these accusations?
Yeah, but not that much as in the beginning. This is thanks to so called “success”, what we really are about. I hope as time passes by people start to forget these Nazi things and this will not be so actual. Especially the olden signs which are ancient ones and part of human culture. I have been told as it goes in
Could you please give us a few words on each member's personality?
Hmm… I am 30 years old, quiet; maybe shy, but good guy hahaha… The bass man is Edgar “Zirgs”, 32 years old, sometimes hearty and sometimes selfish, but all in all a really good fellow. Only he is married and has two children – twin brothers. Our guitarist Rihard is also 30 years old; sometimes quiet, but sometimes becomes a little aggressive, his thoughts change too fast and I presume that he still doesn’t know what he really wants from life. And the drummer Edgar “Mazais” is the youngest of us; he is 25 years old. He has his own high ambitions, but of course he is just normal “face” as we all are. Well, this what I write here is total bullshit, because I cannot describe someone else’s personality in a few words - sorry. If my band mates weren’t good enough guys - I wouldn’t play with them. Basically we are nothing special in terms of personalities, just the simple people. No one is preoccupied with thoughts that he is something special, as many Metal bands pretend to be – some sorts of evil incarnations or defenders of the world, this makes me laugh a lot when I read about their new images.
What are you guys doing besides SKYFORGER, job wise as well as hobbies?
We all are working to earn for life, because of course we can’t get enough money from music. I do work in theater as a plumber, you know all that what is connected with water and pipes. My hobbies are history, fishing, traveling and computer games (what a shame haha…) Zirgs work in a printing office as a “paper-cutter”, his main free time goes with family and also he keep up a big CD record collection. Rihard works in our postal system; he is maniac about guitar playing and sport. Mazais works in University as a watchman and his hobbies are ice hockey, sport and also computer games.
Not really so much here. Besides your named ones, here is also an old Death Metal band – SANCTIMONY and a couple new uprising extreme bands: Black Metal band – URSKUMUG and Grind Metal outfit FLAYING. Here are of course are more bands, but I don’t know them well.
How is it for a Metal band like SKYFORGER to live in
We can’t complain because we are one of the most popular Metal bands here, many people support us and comes to our concerts. But gigs happen not so often, because Metal music is underground like everywhere. The main problem is in the same money again, not so many bands can buy good equipment and record songs in studios. Here is not specialized Metal radios or TV shows and also no Metal magazines or zines. You know that
Do you get many opportunities to play live?
Yes, certainly. Enough even sometimes to refuse to play because there are a lot native gigs around
And how could we imagine a SKYFORGER show?
Nothing special and extravagant – we don’t have money to buy pyrotechnics or expensive things like that. In connection with our music we wear an ancient Latvian warrior clothing to put more emphasis on sight. These are made by some our fans that work for cloth factories. Sometimes we use folk instruments on stage and sometimes we can organize some battle fight performed by some friends or some another rowing haha… But all in all, our shows are looking like hundreds of another Metal shows. We simply try to express us as strong and emotional as we just can - to give some real “power” to audience.
If you could pick two bands to go on tour with, which ones would you pick and why?
For us the main thing is not the name of the band, but the people that we travel with, so I can’t specify any bands. They have to be good guys, so we can have some fun together. Right at moment I can tell that three so far best bands we are traveled with are Lithuanian OBTEST and German TRIMONIUM and MENHIR. We have had a cool time with them. I guess that mostly all Metal bands are cool guys, simply had not chance to experience that on road.
As I said above, nowadays we have had many foreign bands here, as I remember – CANNIBAL CORPSE two times, IMPALED NAZARENE, DARK FUNERAL, BEHEMOTH, VADER and so on. Also from oldies we see such as DEEP PURPLE, WHITESNAKE,
Many years back I received a tape album of a band called HEAVEN GREY, which was excellent Doom Metal with cello. Do you know anything about the whereabouts of this band?
Of course I know this band. We have played many times together years ago and shared backstage drinks. Unfortunately HEAVEN GREY is no more. As I know they had two or three tape albums and that’s all. Only two guys from this band plays some sort of Rock music, both in different bands. The reason of their split was probably lack of band spirit and also their bass player was very famous for his drinking. Probably it could not last anymore, I don’t know.
To end this interview, I have my traditional last question: What is your favourite question about SKYFORGER that you have never been asked yet, but would finally like to answer?
Sorry, but I have nothing at moment in my head to ask myself about SKYFORGER… but I know there is one question you would certainly want to ask me: “Why it takes so long, so very long time for you to answer this interview?” Ten thousand times “Sorry” for that, I am simply too lazy and can’t get myself together to start to write. I only hope that you don’t kill me when we meet someday hahaha…!
I have to thank you for your excellent reviews of our albums; to me they make me keep on going and gives some power to continue make more music! Ok, I will finish this interview; I have been sitting and writing for past seven hours, have to get some beer and rest hahaha… Thanks for your support and interest into SKYFORGER’s music! Also using the chance I would like to say some Hellos to all our fans, who have been patient to read this interview until this place!
NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN, NOTHING WILL BE FORGOTTEN!
PETER & SKYFORGER
1997: Semigalls’ Warchant (Demo) 1998: Kauja Pie Saules (CD, II Moons) 2000: Latviesu Strelnieki (CD, II Moons) 2003: Perkonkalve (CD, Folter) 2003: Zobena Dziesma (CD, Self-production)
1997: Semigalls’ Warchant (Demo)
1998: Kauja Pie Saules (CD, II Moons)
2000: Latviesu Strelnieki (CD, II Moons)
2003: Perkonkalve (CD, Folter)
2003: Zobena Dziesma (CD, Self-production)
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