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Keith Fay and John Clohessy (Cruachan)

Interview with Keith Fay and John Clohessy from Cruachan
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 25 May 2004, 11:32 PM

When you hear someone say Folk Metal what band do you think of? Well, I'll tell you what I think of…I think of Ireland's Cruachan. A unique mixture of folk music together with Black Metal, combined with myths and stories from lands unknown (or not that unknown after all). Here's the Interview I had with Keith Fay and John Clohessy, two Irish musicians with a lot to say about the band, their beliefs and much more.

People describe Cruachan as a Folk Metal band. How would you describe your band to someone who’s never of you before but might be interested in buying one of your albums right after this Interview?

\[John] I would describe it as a…Folk Metal band!

That’s how you’d describe your music?

\[John] It’s hard to say really, isn’t it? There are bands which I’d usually describe as Folk Metal; one of them would be Skyclad. In Cruachan we’ve mixed all kinds of music; we’ve got Classical music, Black Metal, Rock and of course a lot of Folk music. I don’t know, we’ve been called a Folk Metal, Pagan Metal, Celtic Metal. It works for us but you kind of think there must be a better description for us out there but there isn’t.

There isn’t, right?

\[John] We’re just Cruachan and that’s it!

From Tuatha Na Gael to Pagan it’s been 9 years. Are you satisfied with Cruachan’s course through those 9 years?

\[John] Um, jee, it’s been longer than 9 years hasn’t it?

\[Keith] From 1995 to now. But from recording the demo Celtic it’s been something like 12. That’s the way we look at it and it’s been a fucking long time!\[Laughs]

It is!

\[Keith] Realistically we wouldn’t be happy with the passage that we’ve had. We broke up, we’ve hit brick walls, we tried to sign with a great record Label which we didn’t; we didn’t even play outside of Ireland until two years, so it’s been a hard road and it’s been a very slow road as well, to get where we are. It looks that it’s changing for the better now. Since the release of Folk-lore we’ve played in Russia, Norway and Belgium and there a lot of concerts in the horizon. We’re very happy where we are now but the last ten years have been a really hard flog! \[laughs]

So you’re happy right now…

\[Keith] Right now I’m quite happy and we’ve got a lot of potential, a lot of room to develop and we’re getting to play a lot more concerts. What do you think John?

\[John] I think we’re making a lot of steps in the right direction as well. I think we set ourselves nicely there with Pagan. I think it’s our strongest work so far. I also think that with Karmageddon our album is more out there, we’ve got a lot more attention from the media than in the past…radio stations, printed magazines, online magazines.

You completely satisfied with Karmageddon Media?

\[Keith] Of course but we still do have a few communication problems with them. That’s not anything disturbing though if you come to think of the promotion our album’s got. We’ve never done so many bloody Interviews before! \[Laughs]. This is our third week doing Interviews and some days we’ve got like six or eight! But I mean it’s fantastic, don’t get me wrong.

Haven’t you ever had an experience like this one in the past?

\[Keith] We’re folklore. We went to Holland and spent three solid days doing Interviews in the record label etc but compared to Folk-lore we’ve done three times as many Interviews as we did back then.

\[John] It’s getting bigger and bigger!

 And that’s how it should be! \[Laughs]. Ok, in my review of Pagan I quote Pagan is a mythological dream scape like all the other Cruachan albums. Do you agree with that? How do you manage to maintain such a fantastic t hematology?

\[Keith] I’ll let John answer it. The first part.

\[John] Well, the first part…Dream scape, oh yeah. That’s what it is. Musically an escape anyway. That’s what you want to get across with your music.

\[Keith] The way you’ve described it as a dream scape, well, it’s a perfect word for me to describe it, especially when you look at The Middle Kingdom!

The Middle Kingdom is personally my favorite album!

\[Keith] It’s also my brother John’s favorite album and I’m very proud of The Middle Kingdom. Every album that we have has a different feel, has a different vibe, there are moments of melody, moments of extremity, moments of life, moments of mellowness. I definitely agree with the quote that you said. I forgot the second part of the question though…\[Laughs]

Hahaha, it’s ok, I’ll remind you. How do you manage to maintain such a fantastic thematology. Do you consider yourselves to be dreamers?

\[Keith] No, I wouldn’t say that, I’m really set with my ways. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s that we’ve been doing this for like 12 years now and it’s probably second nature.

Yeah but you really seem to have studied your books you know. You really seem into these things. You must have read a lot of mythology and history books…

\[John] I know exactly what you’re saying but I don’t know what the school curriculum in Greece is like; in Ireland we grow up learnig about our history and past.

Well of course, it’s like that in every country of the world. But you know not all people do remember things like that after school!

\[Keith] Yeah, I know what you mean. A lot of people are that way. If you’re interested though like we are then you do enjoy reading about different cultures, history…We even learned about Greek history, it’s part of the school ciriculum from an early age…Roman history and obviously religious history and stuff like that. If I look at ourselves as an example, I think you’d call us geeks or whatever! \[Laughs] You just look through history…Take Cruachan’s history behind the songs; swords, shields, warriors, battles, people being killed…I mean isn’t that the most Heavy Metal theme going? It’s just pure metal and that’s what we draw our influence from!That’s what we write about, Celtic history…it’s pure heavy metal.

I like that kind of mixture. That’s what makes some bands (at least) unique compared to all the mass in Metal.

\[John]Especially now. There are so many bands doing the same stuff over and over…

Tell me about that. What’s your opinion?

\[Keith] When we first started what we were doing, we had Skyclad and probably they were the only ones doing Folk Metal and we were completely different…we were a Black Metal. There was nobody that had done that, we were around first. And now, when you take a look at the scene it’s like a wilderness. These bands are really passionate about what they do and it is fantastic music. But even that’s different than what we’re doing. In the 80’s we had Thrash Metal, then in the early 90’s Death Metal came and Black Metal in the mid-90’s…thousands of bands doing the same thing. But as the years progress there’s always a core element that remains from each scene. Heavy Metal though is one kind I think will always be around; nothing like the trends of Death Metal or Thrash Metal. Heavy Metal is the core element which has always survived.

What are your influences? What did you grow up with?

\[Keith] I’ll let John answer for us all…

\[John] We listened to a lot of Folk music obviously \[laughs] but I used to listen to Ac/Dc etc…Hard Rock, Heavy Metal bands…

You’re an Ac/Dc fan?

\[John] Well I had a couple of their albums, I always thought their playing was very good. I loved Back In Black…

\[Keith] Well as I was the younger brother, I always looked at my brother John, who’s four years older than me. He got into metal back in 1986 with Metallica and Slayer etc…

The typical bands…

\[Keith] Yeah, the typical bands and I was like I’ll do what my older brother’s doing.

The typical passing onto among brothers.

\[Keith] Yes, exactly. I even remember in early 1990 I’d have lots of strange albums, which I’d show to my friends and they’d go like who the fuck is that?. It felt great to have the most bizzare releases. I got into Black Metal around 1992. As you grow older, as the years go by you start listening to more types of music though.

Do you ever feel you get influenced by new-age bands?

\[Keith] I’d never quote one influence. I simply can’t cause if you look at my CD collection and then you listen to Cruachan you’ll go like where the fuck do you get your music from?!\[Laughs] That’s a good thing. You don’t want to be influenced by anybody…

It’s your music!

\[Keith] Exactly! It has to be fresh, it has to be original. That’s probably what kept Cruachan where we are all those years. It’s not exactly about uniqueness but we’ve got a lot of people who love us for what we do…

Let’s focus on Pagan for a while. Except for all the new work on this album, there’s one or two songs which have been re-released, like for example The Fall Of Gondolin. Why’s that?

\[Keith] When we were doing The Middle Kingdom we talked a lot about songs there that didn’t have decent recordings. Maybe that’s what a lot of people liked about it, that version of the album. We didn’t like that though, we preffer a much better production and we decided that out of every album we’re going to have either a section of the song which we’ve done in The Middle Kingdom with….We can’t remember! \[Laughs] We’ve kind of been drinking like a lot of beer…\[Laughs]

It’s ok, really! \[Laughs]

\[John] We decided to release a bonus track each time, on every album; a better version, like we did on Folklore and Pagan.

I read the notes inside Pagan’s booklet and I must admit that the stories behind the songs are pretty amazing. How long does it take for you to create songs out of myths and historical facts? For example Michael Collins was an Irish rebellion against the Brittish rule, right?

\[John] Nice example. Well, everybody would know about Michael Collins in Ireland.

\[Keith] Actually he got our independence back from the Brittish rule. In my opinion he was what Ghandi was to India or what William Wallace was to Scotland.

But they ambushed him and killed him right?

\[John] In the end, yes. It’s still a hot topic in Ireland. At the time our country went into civil war because of what Michael Collins had done. There’s a lot of people who’ll say he’s a hero, he got the freedom of the country and there’s a lot of people who’d say he’s not because he left six counties under Brittish rule. It’s really a shady part of Irish history, I mean, we’re still not sure about the rumors that he commited suicide and everything…

There’s still rumors and urban legends going on about him?

\[Keith] Yeah, the two biggest political parties in Ireland are because of that story, of Michael Collins…

See how an Interview can turn out to be one hell of a history lesson? Some thousands of visitors might be reading this!\[Laughs]

\[Keith] Brilliant! We’ll educate them! \[Laughs]

Tell me about the song Pagan. If I hadn’t read your notes I’d swear you were even more pissed off with the Christian Church than what was obvious in the notes. Do you feel the lyrics are more vulgar than they should have been or less? I’m asking that becaise as you know, religion is a very delicate matter for most of the people in the world.

\[Keith] Like I said in the notes, I have no problem with people’s beliefs. You’re Christian, I respect you \[he’s not reffering to me]. All my friends are Catholics so…no problem at all!You have your beliefs, you do your own things, that’s fine.My problem’s with the whole creation of the Church…

Well you seemed more pissed off than just that. I mean, I read the lyrics and I went oh my, this guy’s totally pissed off!.

\[Keith] Well, living in Ireland’s been a problem, living with all these pedophile priests. They’re the most disgusting, lowest form of human life. To do that to a child. And not only that, if you’re Catholic, you can’t even have sex before you marry….that’s not a way to treat a human being.How the fuck would they know how to love a woman?

You might draw wrong conclusions but I just wanted to do that song, that’s how I felt about it. I’m not here to preach but it’s blind faith…I hate what the Church has done to so many people, how many have died or have been tortured because of the Church and the lies they’ve spread.

Keith and John, what do you consider yourselves to be, religiously?

\[John] I’d be probably agnostic more than anything. I think there’s something there but…

You want proof?

\[John] Yeah, well ok, there’s a lot of proof but it’s amazing when you think what goes on around you in the natural world. Maybe that’s what God is; mother nature. I can’t understand why people are killing each other, why people are fighting each other, like in the Middle East…it’s like arguing under the same God.

\[Keith] I definitely consider myself to be a pagan.Because of all these reason’s we’re saying, because of all these organized religions with their rules and regulations; you must do this and you must do that.

But to be a pagan is to believe in nature, right?

\[Keith] To be a pagan is to be whatever you want. To have your own belief system, no organizations behind it. A pagan belief is to believe in something, anything!…uh, I’m getting frustrated right now! \[Laughs]

Oh no, let’s move on to another question then!\[Laughs] Let’s talk about Some Say The Devil Is Dead. If someone who’s Brittish reads through the song’s lyrics, I guess he’d feel a bit pissed off. I’m not Irish, nor Brittish but that’s what comes to my mind after reading the lyrics.

\[Keith] But we didn’t actually write the lyrics…

I know you didn’t. It’s from an anonymous writer, right? He sent it to you?

\[Keith] Oh no, it’s old. It was written when we were under Brittish rule, over a hundred years ago. I guess the people back then, who were being constantly invaded by the Brittish army wrote that the devil joined the Brittish army because this thing would go on and on…To me it could have been any army, the Jewish army, the Palaistinian army, anything…The lyrics are funny, like a game you’d be singing along as a child, due to what this country’s been through in the past.

Yeah it is kind of funny. The lyrics I mean…Now, tell me about the mistake in the tracklisting because I’m a bit confused. Did the mistake happen on the promo CD only or did it happen on the official release too? And I was wondering why there was no singing on some tracks when there were lyrics in the booklet…

\[Keith] A bit of a fuck up happened there actually! \[Laughs] Basically when we sent the masters off to Hammerheart at the time, we had the tracklisting which is on the CD at the moment.Then we decided we would change Summoning Of The Sidhe, we wanted to move it down three places, to be a kind of an intro. So I sent the e-mail to everybody I needed to send it to at Hammerheart and they looked at it and went fine. So obviously when we went to the mastering studio…it was ignored!

Now I see what you meant by communication problems!

\[Keith]Yeah.

\[John] Oh yeah.

Is it going to be fixed on the official release?

\[Keith] No, the official release has the same mistake. Hopefully they’re going to fix the future press and this will just be…collector’s items or something! \[Laughs]

What about future plans? I read in the news that you’re going to be headlining the Pagan Metal Festival in Germany, in November I think.

\[Keith] Yeah, that’s been confirmed recently. We’re simply over the moon about it!

\[John] We have a lot of fans in Greece but in Germany, the support we get from the fans there is unimaginable! We’ve alaways wanted to play there, so for us it’s a big step.

Are you going to be visiting other countries as well?

\[John] Oh we’d love to go to Greece! When we signed up with our booking agency, called Shadow Smile we were talking about about a couple of places we’d like to play. We might be going on a small tour after this summer!

\[Keith] Hey, promoters down there in Greece, if you just give us a call, we’ll be on the next plane over!

 Well it’s not a difficult thing to book a band to play at your festival…If you’ve got the money I guess…

\[Keith] Yup! There you have it! \[Laughs]

 Hey promoters! Are you listening? \[Laughs] Any plans on a next album?

\[Keith] No plans actually, no. We weren’t happy with happy with the production on Pagan, we weren’t happy with the engineer, we weren’t happy with the studio…so the plans for the next one will be what’s going to be again a big step, we want to go to a really-really recognized studio in Germany with a really recognized producer for probably…the best Cruachan album!

The ending of this Interview belongs to you guys. Send out a message to all the people who’ll be reading this Interview, from all over the world!

\[Keith] I just have to say that…whoever you are, thanks for the support! We really appreciate it. We may not get to tour in your country for whatever reasons but hopefully that will change now and thanks for all the e-mails with the strange things in them, which we don’t know what to do with them, we really appreciate that…and…we love you all!

\[John] And to Greece: We hope these Olympic Games will be the best, ever!

Thanks Keith and John for this Interview. I wish you all the best!

\[Keith] Thanks man!

\[John] Likewise!



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