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Peter (Skyforger)

Interview with Peter from Skyforger
by Harry Papadopoulos at 03 July 2010, 2:07 PM

They may be not one of the biggest names in the folk metal scene. They actually may never be. But SKYFORGER is a band with both feet down to earth, writing great music and they deserve to have a brighter future. Peter, one of the most talkative guys that I’ve interviewed until now, talks about everyone and everything (from music ‘till politics in a way) without any hesitation, and of course about their new concept album “Kurbads”. Hope to see you somewhere, sometime and drink a couple of beers.

Hailz Peter! How are you? And where are you at the moment?
Hey there, Harry! Finally at home, back from my work and ready to answer your questions, so let’s go.

Your new album is out in the stores for some days now. Are you satisfied about the final result?
I think it still hard to say. We don’t know how sales of new album “Kurbads” going are, but I don’t have any big expectations here anyway. There are a lot of people, who told us that this is our best album and lots who like it. But in same way there are also people who are disappointed with “Kurbads”. Well, it makes me feel not that good, he he. Seems those people wanted something like our old albums and more black metal there. Some absolutely don’t like that there are thrash riffs present, and someone compares us with ELUVEITIE or FINNTROLL or some other mainstream folk metal bands, while we think that we are way different from them. Of course we know that it is not possible to satisfy every fan out there, we just made songs in our ordinary way, without any special intention to be thrash or black or whatever. What can I say: we are sorry, guys, if you got disappointed – album is done, but I understand that fans always wants all new albums to be like their favorite album. Sometimes this is just not possible, ‘cos time goes on, people change and also sounds recording possibilities. Wise saying is that’s not possible to step in the same river once again.

How long did it take you to complete “Kurbads”? Can you give us any details about the studio you recorded the album and who did the mixing and the production?
We started to work on songs 3-4 years ago (approximately in 2007), but it went slow in the beginning. Finally when all possible songs were ready, we went to studio and suddenly our second guitarist Rihards left the band. So I had to do all guitar jobs there. It took me some time again to learn his riffs and to rearrange everything to my taste. At first we did raw recording and listened to it for a while to make all possible changes for the best result. We changed a lot even in studio at the spot, as we had no rush. I must say that we did not have any record deal at time, and the idea was to finish album and then only shop around for some possible labels.We recorded everything here in Latvia, in our band-mate’s Kaspars studio – Lauska Studio. So we hadn’t that much stress as we were alone there, it was like you are recording everything in your friend’s home. We recorded things, then went home and listened to them and if we weren’t satisfied next time we rerecorded them. Kaspars asked not that much money for an hour as we would spend in big professional studio. After all, we did all of our albums this way – I mean here in Latvia, in our friends’ studios. I think we are used to it and possibly cannot record anything worthy in foreign professional studios where every minute is ticking! Later we went to our sound engineer Gints’ studio – Phoenix (where we recorded all previous albums) and did all mixing plus mastering there. That took another 6 months. That’s how it happened.

Peter, seven years is a long time between two albums, don’t you agree? What was going on in the SKYFORGER camp during those years? Why did it take you so long to record a studio album?
There were various obstacles. We ran out of fresh good ideas for longer period, which we could honestly put in new album. Second guitarists also were our Achilles heel and it consumed time to teach them songs all over again.Then that entire big commercial folk metal boom threw us in some kind of depression – suddenly there were so many bands around, singing and playing almost the same like we did years ago. We even thought about to start playing something different or call it a quit! And finally of course there was our personal life: shortage of time we could spare for the band due our daily jobs, families and personal problems. Nevertheless we were around all this time – at least playing actively concerts and festivals with our older albums. By the way, in 2005 we re-released our old demo with 4 new tracks inside and toured around with that release as well. Even when we started recording session it went slow, because of those damn daily jobs we had. Like today we record some guitar parts and next possible time to get in studio is only next week, when we could arrange another free day.

If I’m not mistaken, “Kurbads” is a concept album. Can you give our readers some details about the main character, Kurbads?
This is ancient tale of our nation, written down 200 years ago, when there were still old people who knew century’s old local legends. Kurbads is a man, who was born magically from a white mare, when she ate entrails which were thrown out after horse lady cooked magical pike-fish for herself to get a child. Kurbads grew up very fast and become unnaturally strong. After that he cleared his yard and new barn from evil creatures, like 3, 6 and 9-headed ogres, he went out into the world to do some greater deeds. But the wives of those killed ogres, three witches and especially the oldest one – Snake Witch were after him and wanted him dead. He managed to kill two witches, trick Snake Witch and get away unharmed. He arrived in their kingdom, where devils had kidnapped king’s daughter. Kurbads offered his help and went into the Underworld, where after many adventures he managed to get back and saved king’s daughter. He married that daughter and lived in peace for some time. Still Snake Witch is alive and wants revenge. She calls nine evil kings from nine kingdoms, who are led by the invincible ogre – Black Rider and they invaded Kurbads’ land and wanted to kill him. In the final battle Kurbads manages to slay Black Rider, but became wounded in shoulder. Snake Witch saw it and spat her venom into that wound. Then Kurbads in last action raised his hand and crushed Snake Witch and soon after died himself of deadly poison. So that’s the story in short.

How did you get the idea about a concept album for a Latvian fairytale hero?
This idea was in my mind already for years. I thought about it already after we made “Latvian Riflemen” album (around 2000), but the time wasn’t right then and I got some other ideas which I wanted to do fore mostly. This story is known for most part of Latvians. We heard or read it, when we were kids: some from our grandmothers or in school. It’s a popular fairytale here, but the most popular is another one: about a man who was born from a bear – Lāčausis (Bear-ear) or Lāčplēsis (Bearslayer). We didn’t want to make an album about those two last stories, because they are told and used already by many bands here, so we took a less popular – about Kurbads. In my mind this tale was very “metal”.

Again, if I’m not mistaken, this is your first album for Metal Blade. How do you feel being a part of a label like that? Did you have other propositions from other labels?
Yea, we sent out 3 raw mixed songs to a few more labels, which we thought we could possibly sign with. I don’t remember now who gave back responses – our manager takes care about such things, but to tell it shortly: Metal Blade was the best well known out of all, so we took a chance. To be true not much for us is changed, band feels the same as before – we have not suddenly become stars, he he. We know that we’re not a priority band there; they have bigger guys to work with than SKYFORGER. They just released our album, so I can’t say anything more. We still work alot on our own, doing own promotion, own gigs. We are even still in contact with guys from our old label: Folter Records. Good news is that with the help of Metal Blade we can sell our albums in more places now, even in USA, but we aren’t that commercially successful so far to hope that they will give us main support. Time will tell how things will go, but so far we are satisfied with everything. There is absolutely no pressure or strict orders from Metal Blade side, so it’s cool.

You are singing at your mother tongue. Do you believe that this is a disadvantage for you, since many fans don’t speak Latvian, or is it an advantage, giving your music a more folk-ish character?
It’s 50/50, in my opinion. In one way it is disadvantage for the band as in the live shows people can’t sing along with us as they do here in Latvia. Maybe it would give us more success if people could sing our songs and understand all lyrics without any translations. But on the other hand it again gives us and our music more colors, make us different from others. Our language goes perfectly with our folk melodies; we can’t do that in English in no way for sure!
Today English language isn’t mandatory for metal music, many bands sing in their native language. I can bet metal fans are tired of same cheesy lyrics (fly–sky-die a la MANOWAR heh) and they are more open-minded now than years before. And in the end it can give a space for more imaginations and fantasies while listening to a song with a different language - when you don’t understand a word, but can make your images about what they are singing and what it can be all about.

Are there any plans for a video clip for your new album?
There are some, but still we aren’t sure. Metal Blade doesn’t give us support here, as they think videos are waste of money. On some point they are right. There is no more Headbangers Ball or similar channels / programs where you can show your videos nowadays and all you have left mainly is YouTube.
But to make one video cost a lot of bloody money! We will spend that pile of money and in the end we will get some good video (maybe) to just put it in YouTube. Too expensive for just own fun!
But we will see, we already found guys here, who can make something for us, just need to get finances. The main point of making video is that we don’t have real videos, except one very old, for years. At the end we need one to support our album.

Nobody can say that the Latvian Metal scene is known to the rest of Europe. Is there a big scene and are there any bands that you think they can make the big step?
Our scene here is small as our country is. Though new bands are rising up lately and there are few goods old bands. But unfortunately our metal scene is in deep underground - not much places to play around - we have only one bigger metal club: Melnā Piekdiena (Black Friday), no any metal magazines or special metal shops, even not talking about some radio or TV at all. Gigs happen time from time and in summer there’s even few fests around Baltics, but that’s not much. As post-Soviet country we were (and are now) left behind all main metal events and movements. In Soviet times rock and metal was forbidden here and people still have this reserved attitude against metal and punk and even alternative bands here. That scene lives only on enthusiasm so far. People are happy if they have chance to play somewhere at all! The bad thing for many Latvian bands is that they are eager to copy their idols, but in reality no fans are interested in another METALLICA or PANTERA, even if those copyists do it on high professional level. But still you can found bands worthy to listen to: SANCTIMONY, FRAILTY, HUSKVARN, PRETERNATURAL, HEAVEN GREY, FLAYING, and from new ones could LASSIE THE CAT, OCULARIS INFERNUM and maybe few more. Let’s hope they will have some breakthrough and become known outside our borders anytime soon.

What are your ambitions about SKYFORGER? How high you think you can go?
I don’t know… Every musician has big dreams, like become very popular and live only from our music etc, but those are just dreams.
I saw it many times: if there is some greater possibility or goal ahead of us, we just became unsure of ourselves, maybe even afraid to go on. It is like: it’s OK as it is now. In words, yeah we want it all, but in reality - when there is a chance, it is hard to make some sacrifices towards that. But I know that it can be very hard for band from far corner-side of Europe to become very popular. As I said, we aren’t living in mainland of Europe, do not sing in English and all these years we never had strong support from our labels. So in the end we don’t think much about it, we just do what we like and what we want.Only time will show how it will be…

Since vinyl is back, well truly it never left us (ha ha), are you planning to release “Kurbads” in vinyl?
Yea, I heard that there’s a plan to do that and it seems that it will be released by our old label Folter Records from Germany! Only I don’t know when. Hope that it can happen in this summer or autumn.

I saw at you page that you are going to play at some festivals. Any plans for a tour as headliners?
Still not sure it they will make all dates booked, but we had an offer to take part as headliners in “Light A Pagan Fire” tour with German bands like GERNOTSHAGEN, ODROERIT and XIV DARK CENTURIES (from 16.09 -25.09. 2010). We’ll see, anyway all recently updated info always can be found on our Myspace.

Peter, can you tell our readers your top five Folk bands? They don’t have to be Metal ones.
I never thought about it – I, especially, don’t listen folk metal that much. I think those are bands who are our friends and with whom we mostly hang out at festivals and get drunk (he he): MENHIR, ODTEST, METSATÖLL, HEIDEVOLK and MÅNEGARM. Five as you asked but there are more. And of course I listen to these bands and like them very much!

Are there any plans in the future to record an album like “Zobena Dziesma”?
Some friends asked us this question too. I don’t know, we always say “no”, because there are enough brilliant Latvian folk bands that do that many times better than we do. But… I saw how people like that album and songs, so maybe. We will think about it in future he he. So I better say: “never say never”.

Well, that’s all for me Peter; wish you all the best for the future. Feel free to end this interview as you like.
Thank you too for this interview! Hails to all our fans out there in Hellas and beyond! I hope that you will like our new album. It is a conceptual story and lyrics / artwork are important part of whole album. See you somewhere, sometimes…


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Edited 28 January 2023

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