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Damna (Elvenking)

Interview with Damna from Elvenking
by Kai "Guy" Naiman at 15 September 2019, 3:38 AM

ELVENKING is a Pagan Folk Melodic Metal band. With nine studio albums under their belts (the newest one, ‘Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire’ included), they surely are veterans and one of the most unique bands of the scene. Recently, Metal Temple Editor Guy "Kai" Naiman had the chance to catch up with ELVENKING singer Damna to talk about the new album, what life is like on the road, and a few other topics. Check it out!

I have to say I’m excited. You released your newest album “Reader Of The Runes – Divination “, last week, it’s an amazing album – and it’s your tenth album, so congratulations on that achievement.

Thank you so much.

How do you feel, now that the cat’s out of the bag, and the album is out?

Well, it feels great, it’s a relief, you know, after all these hard months of work, and it’s so cool to see all the great reactions from the fans, especially, you know. We can see the fans are really enjoying the new songs, and this, you know, concept album that we’ve put out this time, yeah, it’s really exciting.

I understand it’s your first concept album, can you tell us about the story behind the concept?

Yeah, well, basically it’s the first time as you say, and it’s something that, you know, we’ve been wanting to do ever since the beginning as a band, actually, we’ve always been fascinated by concept albums, especially by bands like KING DIAMOND, in which, we, as kids, were able to enter a whole world that was kind of enriching experience, or rather a full experience around music. So this was one of the goals that we wanted to achieve in our career sooner or later, and this time, fortunately, I think we’ve had a strong idea and we developed it, and it came out so good in our opinion, and that’s why we thought it was worth trying the concept album card this time. So the story is built around this mysterious figure, the “Reader of the Runes”, the guy you see on the cover, and we’re still stuck in a world of unsafe, dark fantasy, and this mysterious appears in this village, and starts to make divinations to the people of the area, and the word starts to spread, and then, pretty much everyone from the village goes to this hut, to have their future revealed or have some visions of their destiny. There are actually eight characters which are the main focus of the story, and in this first part of the story, we get to know the characters and the divinations that the reader of the runes is making, having these visions for each of these characters. In the next chapter, I mean, in the next albums, you’ll get to know more about the link between all these characters, and what’s the story about.

So, is it a saga in progression?

Yeah, actually, we’ve already had the story in mind, and it was pretty much complicated, and multilayered, so we’ve decided to split it into three parts, actually.

So I guess it’s safe to assume that the next two parts are going to be the next two albums?

Exactly.

How was the experience when working on this album? It must’ve been a different experience than usual, given it’s your tenth album, and your first concept album.

Yeah, well, you know, many things were aligned this time because, of course, it’s our tenth album, and we’ve also had our record deal with AFM Records that expired after the latest album, so basically there a lot of new things going on for this album. We have this new contract, again with AFM Records, that I think we were all pretty much excited about, the band and the label, about going to do this tenth album together, the expectations for the new material was very high from them. And this time, they also worked with us in the making of the album, something we’ve never done so much in the past, you know, it was like working in a team, and I think that all of this was helping the enthusiasm for writing, recording and promoting the album. So, I think it was very exciting for us and for them at all.

You mentioned AFM Records was an important partner in the making of the album, so I wonder, except the promotional and general arrangements, did they do anything else on the album as well?

Yeah, you know, they were very active on the preproduction phase, they wanted us to let them hear the songs, somethings they gave their advice on the songs. It was cool and very positive, because it was like having another member in the band that was helping us choose things, like choosing the singles, and you know, all these decisions that are very tough for us because we’re very involved in the making of the album, and sometimes we don’t have that “fresh” look on things, so it was very helpful and pushing.

I wanted to ask you what is your favorite track in the album, and why?

Well, it’s a very difficult question, because I change my mind so often, but at the moment I’d say it’s the last song, “Reader Of The Runes – Book I”, which is the epic song of the album, I think it’s really represents our sound in the album, and it closes the album in such an epic and dramatic way – it was always meant to be this way, for both the story and the atmosphere and the mood set in the album.

Definitely. I mean, It’s probably my favorite track in the album, as well! Since we’re already discussing the album’s tracks, I’ve been asked by a fan to ask you what is the meaning behind the song “Warden Of The Bane”?

Well, “Warden Of The Bane” is about one of these characters. Actually the character that’s depicted in this song is an illusion artist who is kind of desperate about the fact that he’s not well understood by the mass of the people in general. So, basically, this is the kind of character we’re talking about in this song.

So, a nomad amongst people kind of situation then?

Well yeah. I think this is a pretty common topic in our lyrics when we’re writing stories, but on this story we have a lot of these characters, typical outsiders, outcasts from society or people who are not very well understood – and for this reason, they are not living a very happy existence. This is something that’s recurrent in our lyrics.

Another important aspect of the iconic Elvenking sound, would probably be the musicianship and the instrumentation in your songs. What, in your opinion, is the difference between recording this album and the rest of your discography, in this aspect?

Well, actually, during recording there are many changes, when we think about the previous album, I think we’ve pretty much found our own identity, especially since the “Pagan Manifesto” album. Since that album, we really found a way to express our music, our ideas and our identity as a band, as we’ve never done before, it’s something we keep on doing and with time, we’ve been consistent with it more and more. I think, with this album, we’re just improving that idea, improving that identity – that we’ve finally set in the “Pagan Manifesto” album.

That can be heard on “Reader Of The Runes – Divination” as well, and because the musicianship is so important and dynamic on this album, do you have any plans for releasing some instrumental tracks in the foreseeable future?

We’re not interested in doing something like that on purpose. We’ve done something like that in the past, but we’re not keen on doing it again. It’s just not our favorite way to express our music, but of course, if we’ll have the need for some instrumental pieces, especially now – when we’re doing these concept albums, maybe in the future we’ll have the need for having some instrumental pieces that could create some atmosphere and some special shade for the story. I think we will use more typical folk instruments in the future, because we’re really passionate about that, and it’s not always easy to do that because we have to know the right musicians to do that, but in the future, I think we’ll do more things like that. For example, on this album, we’re using a real harp, and the result was so amazing – to be able to create that sort of feeling and that sort of sound is something we’ll use more in the future.

Maybe a nice idea would be to implement those features in transitional tracks for a future concept album?

Yeah. On this album, we wanted to keep a straight feeling in the song. We didn’t want to have a heavy album, in terms of listening – like a million interludes or many instrumental bars, because we still wanted to showcase the story concept, and still have the possibility to have the songs that could, in a way, tell the story. But we didn’t want to push that too much. In the next album, we probably won’t be doing these kinds of long concept albums with long interludes etc, but I think that maybe eventually, in the next chapter, there will be a moment when we’ll need something in vein of “Diamonds In The Night”, for example, which is a two minutes long acoustic song, which really sets the atmosphere, and it shows the mind of the reader of the runes as he speaks, and so there’s a more quiet and atmospheric feeling. So maybe in the future we could do that, but we want to keep in mind that we still want to release straight albums, which you can enjoy listening to without making things too heavy or too demanding, if you know what I mean.

Absolutely. So I understand you guys will tour South America in October in order to promote your new album. How does the band prepare for the tour?

We’ll prepare the new songs, of course, because we haven’t rehearsed them live yet, except for the singles that we’ve played in summer festivals and in the latest shows. I think we will begin to play a new set starting from these upcoming shows in South America. It will be tough because we’re going to play six shows in six countries in six days, so it’ll be physically demanding, probably. \[laughs] But we’ve already played a few shows there before, but this time it’s going to be bigger, and I can’t wait for that.

Do you have any special for the fans in mind for this set of shows?

Well, it’s going to be the new album we’re going to focus on, of course. But we unfortunately can’t bring a lot of stuff there, with all of these flights, we can’t bring a lot of scenery and props or anything like that, but we’ll think about a very special set list for our fans over there.

Speaking of fans, number ten calls for celebration, don’t you think? How about an extensive tour around North America and Europe next year? I’m asking this because fans from all over the world, from Canada to Finland, even from places like Norway and Israel, were pleading for ELVENKING to play on their lands.

Yeah, yeah, I know that. \[laughs] At the moment we’re actually planning a couple of European tours for 2020. Our first tour will probably start in January, and it’ll be a co-headlining tour which we’re still talking about. It’ll definitely happen, and then we’ll have something more free I Europe, I think at around April. That’s the plan at the moment, but we’d really like to perform in North America, which is one of the places we really miss playing at. I think the first and last time we played there was in Atlanta, several years ago, at the ProgPower festival. It’s a country we really need to play at. It’s very difficult to make it happen, because of the costs of the flights, and we really need a partner that can help us bring us there, so maybe after the release of this album, some doors will open. I hope it’ll happen. We’re also going to work on playing at some other countries, Israel, for example, I think we’ll play there again. We’ve played In Tel Aviv for two or three times already and we still have a great connection with the guys from DESERT, so I think we’ll play in Israel again for sure. But let’s see what happens – now with these two European tours, we’ll have plenty of shows at least for the first half of 2020, and then we’ll see. We are trying to play as much as we can, of course.

If we’re already talking about touring – some artists like to travel around the locations they visit, climb mountains or visit local bars, while some like to stay in the tour bus and read a book in peace. What is your personal preferred activity while on tour?

Speaking for myself, I always like quietness – but you know, being a singer, I have to have to be quiet. \[laughs] Maybe it’s something I just developed with the years. There are nights where the guys are partying and going out, drinking a beer after the show, but I just have to stay in the tour bus, and have a quiet time, read a book or whatever, sleep or just rest. One thing I like when we’re touring, which we unfortunately can’t do too much when we have tight schedules and we don’t have that much time, is visit the places where we go. For example, I remember a great day in Mexico or another one in Japan. Those are experiences and memories that are really priceless. So, I usually like to do these kind of things, stay quiet or wandering in the city or in the nature, which I find where ever we go.

It sounds very hectic, to be honest. One day you’re having an amazing wander, and on another you have to lay down and remain still and quiet.

Yeah, unfortunately it’s something I have to do, especially when we have long tours, with twelve or thirteen shows in a row, there are no days off. I really need to just keep it low and rest. That’s the tough life of the singer. \[laughs]

Is there anything, in particular, that’s hard for you while on tour, apart from the need to remain quiet?

Well, no. It’s just a regular thing, you know. There’s nothing special, I mean, we’re not so demanding. There’s one thing we ask, and it’s having the right start, where we can prepare before the show. That’s really important to us, because with all of these costumes and the make-up and the warpaint, you really need some time and peace in order to prepare. Especially, there’s one thing that I find vital or essential, before going onstage, is having half an hour of total peace. It’s something that really helps charging before going onstage.

Let’s move on to some other questions from the fans, I don’t know if you read them or not.

I didn’t, no, I wanted to keep it as a surprise. \[laughs] Go ahead.

So, I’ll start with the hardest one. Ever since 1996, your life had become the life of a busy and a tense musician, sometimes that’s an understatement. Out of all the hardest moment you’ve been through in your career, which moment was particularly difficult for you?

There have been many, of course. The hardest are as an individual, but you know, who didn’t have bad moments in life? As a musician and a member of ELVENKING, I think that’s the hardest moment was when we split back in 2001-2002. When I went out of the band, after the “Heathenreel” album, they’ve had another singer and things weren’t so happy for both of us. I wasn’t happy and they were not happy, so then things turned the way they did. But at that moment, it was very tough. Just thinking about the history of the band.

I guess sometimes, losing an old band member can be just as, if not more than, painful than losing a close friend. Wouldn’t you agree?

Yeah, I agree. It was like losing a connection with what we liked to do in music, do you know what I mean? Losing a person is ok, but the connection with the things we like to do, and the way we loved to do them, was really strange. But, fortunately, things turned out this way.

Was it the same case when Zender and Gorland left?

No, it was a little bit different. There were no stupid things and no childish reasons for the split back then, unlike when I went out of the band, then that was bullshit. When Zender and Gorland decided to leave the band It was for reasons beyond control. For example, Gorland had a family, and he just couldn’t carry on with the stress and the schedule that we had as a band. It was his choice and we understood it. We’re still friends. It just wasn’t that kind of a split, if you know what I mean. We went on a band, of course, because this is our goal.

I have one more question – and I always seem to get that question from fans when I prepare for an interview. Now that you are a professional musician, how can you describe your life?

Well, I think it’s the same life, but I’ve got more things to do. \[laughs] I’ve got to work my ass off even more, because there are more things to do and more shows. The game have gotten really serious now, we’re not a popular band, and we’re not living out of doing this, but the amount of things we have to do, and the level of seriousness that we have to keep while doing these things. We really care about being professional, and having good things coming out of this band, so it gets really hard to keep up with out regular lives in the background. It’s satisfying, but it’s fucking tough. \[laughs] But that’s also why we’ve had band members that at some point couldn’t do it, because it’s really demanding. It’s really hard work, man.

I can only imagine so. With that in mind, do you have any pieces of advice for future aspiring musicians?

The advice I always give is that if you really want to do this, you have to know it’s not all fun and games. I mean, it is when you’re playing on stage, but still there’s a lot of hard work and a lot of things you have to take care of when running a band or playing in band. If you want to reach a certain level, you really have to know there are some choices that you have to make in your life. There are some sacrifices that you’d have to make and that’s difficult. But it pays off at the end, when things start to work, and you see your strain start turning into something beautiful, something that really makes you happy. It’s priceless. So, work your ass off and enjoy it.

That’s all the questions I have for you today. Do you have anything else to add?

No, I think you’ve asked a lot of cool questions here. \[laughs] Thanks so much, I just hope that the readers will enjoy the new album from ELVENKING and will give it a chance. Of course, let us know what you think about it, what are your favorite songs and so on. Also, what are your favorite characters in the story. We are really interested to know how our album is being received by our fans. So this is it.

Okay, so, I’d like to thank you again, for joining this interview with me tonight. It was my pleasure talking to you.

Thank you very much. Have a nice evening and take care.



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Edited 23 October 2019
 

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