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Welicoruss's Alexey Boganov: "…at first we thought that a label was not needed and that nowadays everything can be done by yourself, but in fact it was a mistake because, as they say, one is not a warrior in the field..."

Interview with Alexey Boganov from Welicoruss
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 15 April 2020, 11:02 PM

The invasion of the North, the coming forces of the horde from the cold Siberia. Mystical and enchanting, the upcoming surge of power from the Russian lands is about to erupt at the heart of Europe, no matter the season. The arrival of Welicoruss was long time ago, yet year after year, putting a lot of work on their efforts to be recognized, their influence grew, and has been growing, stronger. Signing with a German label, alongside to release their new album “Siberian Heathen Horde”, their time is now. Steinmetal had a talk with Alexey Boganov, the band's leader, about the new partnership, going English, a little virus chat and more…

Hello Alexey, it has been a long time since last time we talked, and it was on totally different matters, into the booking business. How have you been doing?

Yes, a lot of time has passed since our last interview. During this time, we have progressed quite strongly - we played a huge number of concerts (over 400), managed to perform at the largest festivals (Hellfest, Ragnarok fest, Wave Gotik Treffen, Exit fest, Catacomb Fest and etc.). All this time we worked on a new album, but it was delayed quite a long time primarily because of our perfectionism and inner problems in band, but after leaving of our guitarist Gojko Maric, everything went even faster.

Times changed, and we have been experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic, spreading worldwide. With everything closed down, people cooped up at home, what is your take on all that has been happening? Do you see an end to it? Any idea why the Russian front is so silent, there is really nothing there to report?

Russia is not silent about kronavirus - there are already more than 4000 infected and this number is increasing every day, but unlike many European countries, Russia is now taking very tough measures to fight the spread of the virus. It sounds strange but police and army are literally at every step - controlling if people are sitting at home or not. In addition, there are a lot of measures for building of new hospitals, production of apparatus for ventilation of the lungs, 16 types of vaccines against the virus are being actively developed immediately. The excitement around coronavirus in my opinion is exaggerated and mass media strongly promote this topic. I am sure that medicine will be invented soon, virus will recede and everything will come back as it was before. But frankly speaking, the inner feeling that all this is fake, that the virus did something artificially to immerse all of humanity in this state and at the same time share power and money, does not leave me.

The pandemic has taken its toll also on the music business, with everything out of commission, even temporarily is destructive for whoever is involved. You live in Prague as far as I know, what is going on over there? Does the local Metal scene have an anchor to hold on to?

Yes, indeed, due to the current situation, many clubs announced that they could close, but so far no one did that. Government is trying to soften and make life easier for everyone somehow, including clubs. I hope that this will not last long and they will withstand.

With Welicoruss being an immensely active band touring wise, I can only assume that the effect on you guys is major. However, bands here and there have been utilizing ways in order to promote their music and show the world that no virus can beat them or make them succumb to nothingness. Where is Welicoruss in all this? Have you been doing things online in order to continue pushing the name and music?

It so happened that when the virus started in Europe, my daughter was born and all the negativity from the situation with coronavirus was absorbed by the big positive feeling from the birth of my daughter. In addition, because of this birth, we did not specifically book concerts for six months in advance, therefore, we had practically no cancellations of concerts (except literally 5-6). Another question is that in the second half of 2020 we have a big tour planned with the German legend Eisregen, which is a huge breakthrough for us in Germany and I really hope that this tour will not be canceled. I am not a fan of these online concerts and similar things, but we try to keep in touch with fans, actively communicate, make interesting posts and create additional content. Quarantine time is a great opportunity to think deeply about yourself, about life, about creativity and create something new. That is what we are doing.

For some good news and accomplishments, after many years of being independent, Welicoruss signed with a label, and not Russian or Eastern European, but the German El Puerto Records. Did you feel that it was the right time to make this step into Western Europe? I thought that you guys have been ready for years to do so? Is this the next step in the ladder that you were looking for?

The issue about labels is not a simple one. The path of each musician is very thorny and controversial. We are musicians who constantly travel on tours, meet a lot of people in the business as well as with musicians who share some kind of information about how it is best for the band to exist - be independent or sign up for a label. Our opinion about the matter constantly changed over time, at first we thought that a label was not needed and that nowadays everything can be done by yourself, but in fact it was a mistake because, as they say, one is not a warrior in the field. A musician cannot do everything by himself; a musician should create music, write new songs and albums! We spent just tons of time to somehow break through and make ourselves known on the European scene, I’m sure if someone would do it for us, we would write a lot more music. In addition, there are things that only label could do and not band itself. We need a team of people who would promote both the album and band themselves. The main question here is that these people should be honest, responsible and do their job well. That is why we chose El Puerto, these are good guys who possess these qualities and believe in us even more than ourselves.

Your new album, “Siberian Heathen Horde”, is your first war cry in English ever since the band was formed. Though it still exhibits sections in Russian, it is actually quite interesting listening to the singing in English. What can you share about the experience of writing material in English? Would you say that the shifting of your state of mind from Russian to English went smoothly or there are still struggles here and there?

It doesn’t matter to us what language to sing, there was no painful choice between languages. Yes, I like how the Russian language sounds, it is authentic and interesting, but it is very important for us to convey the main idea to the listener, it so happened that in the world English has become international and a huge number of people understand it, we are going to meet the listener.

What I liked about the title of the album, “Siberian Heathen Horde”, is that beyond being a mere title, it is a statement, a status, like “this is who we are and who are you?”. What is your viewpoint on this title? Perhaps it is a sort of you introducing yourselves to the West in an official format?

Yes, you are right! We are trying to create something like a brand that we are, wild barbarians from Siberia! For us this topic is very deep and personal, we always tried to create an areola of mysticism and ritual around what we doing, because for us it is not entertainment but something much more. Personally, I devoted most of my life to the music and I hope I will continue to make happy the whole world with new music for a long time!

What can you tell about the philosophies that guide “Siberian Heathen Horde” along the way? On which issues or stories have been dwelling that took form within the album? Any themes that made an impact on you that you felt the need to write about this release?

“Siberian Heathen Horde”, however, like all previous albums, is deeply conceptual, but to see this concept in explicit form is very difficult. The main theme of the title track tells a fairy tale about half-beasts, half-barbarians, who came from distant mystical Siberian forests, who create many wild and furious things, lead a primitive lifestyle, but at the same time they are endowed with the same primitive connection with the otherworldly higher world with which all of humanity now has least of all in common. First song, “Spellcaster”, is about an old man who lives on the outskirts and everyone is afraid of him and tells a lot of terrible gossip about him, but in fact he helped and saved the world from dishonesty in an invisible world. Song “Frostbounded” is about hero dying in ice and cold, which fetters him and because of that he feels how he is slowly dying. “Path OF Seduction” is about the path of the initiates, those to whom the material world is not enough and they want more in spiritual development. The last song “Hymn of Lost Souls” is about suffering in the World, and that everyone is doomed because the human being is weak. Every song is a well-developed separate philosophy; I think that an inquisitive listener will have something to read in the evening!

Last time that I listened to Welicoruss was after the “Az Esm” was released. That record truly showed that something wicked this way comes, yet only years later in the picture of “Siberian Heathen Horde”. A wholesome of gloominess and darkness surrounds this album, two leading motifs that commanded the music, other than the fact that the music went forward into being artistically challenging at times. How do you find the musical progress of Welicoruss on this album? How do you find it to be uncanny in contrast to various other albums of similar vibes?

Album “Az Esm” had a slightly different message and atmosphere, it is softer, thoughtful, of course there are several battle tracks, but still it is different. “Siberian Heathen Horde” is furious album, wild and aggressive, melancholic, but you don’t need to talk about the epic, Welicoruss is essentially epic. For me personally, progress is enormous, postproduction in my opinion is ingenious, guitar riffs have become simpler, clearer, readable, in general music has become more straightforward and understandable. There is nothing superfluous in the arrangement and each note is verified and sit in its place. We are proud of this album!

One of the main aspects of the album that I truly admire are the orchestrations, no doubt, there is an elevation within “Siberian Heathen Horde”, it might be dark, yet it is also filled with drama, as if it was taken from a soundtrack of a movie. How do you find the orchestration within the songs’ arrangements? Is this part of the next level Welicoruss?

Story with the orchestra is - I worked on each part for a long time, trying to achieve the most interesting full sound, it should not sound like an electronically invented arrangement. I believe that I partially succeeded. There were experiments with different moods, keys, melodies. There was a lot of work, but it's worth it. I write music strictly according to my intuition.


Another fine factor that made this release thrilling were the varied vocal ranges and variations. Other than the guest appearances, which one of them I would like to ask separately, can you say that “Siberian Heathen Horde” pushed you to the edge in terms of your own vocal abilities, along with others the participated?

Well, except Rob, we have no guests on this album. We wrote all vocals with our drummer Ilya, who has an amazing voice and a sense of music. We had an idea to make our fans sing refrains and some kind of melody with us, not only sing but also understand what they are singing. Only in this unity of information and energy is this ritual will be born. Almost every song in the album has some kind of vocal melodies and difficultly composed polyphonic choruses, I think this is big step forward!

The songwriting for “Siberian Heathen Horde” was probably a challenging process, what can you share about it? Which attributes in your songwriting were fulfilled differently in comparison to your previous works?

I have to say right away - our former guitarist Gojko Maric took part in writing some of the songs on this album, and of course this leaves its mark on the songs and mood. You can feel it for example on the first song “Spellcaster”, which sounds a little bit unusual for us, or for example, he came up with an excellent piano part on the last song “Hymn Of Lost Souls”. The interspersing of his ideas is in many songs, but nevertheless almost 80% of everything was composed by me. It is also necessary to say that our drummer Ilya, a brilliant musician and a drummer showed himself on this album. He made very lively and interesting drum parts that made our music very rich. Before being recorded, this album was played out at concerts and rehearsals for a long time until finally it was completely prepared.

My album’s favorite, “Metaphysical”, is no doubt one of the band’s foremost tracks, if not the finest of them all. The addition of Robert Carson (Xaon) was a profound decision and choice, he nailed his part as a clean vocalist. What can you tell about this great collaboration with Carson? What can you tell about the creation of this tune and the vision behind it?

This song is very different from what we did before, because I decided to work a little bit with the style and mix it with progressive Djent metal. My vocals didn't fit there in some parts, that is why we invited our friend Rob from the Xaon band to sing there. Actually, it was Gojko’s idea, and even he didn’t know that Rob could sing also clean vocals. We will do similar things further as well.

What can you tell about the studio work on “Siberian Heathen Horde”? Which steps were taken in order to reach such a high level of sound? What is your own appreciation of the album’s sound?

I believe that we managed to achieve a high level of sound, we are proud of it! This is a very difficult task - to make a successful mix of band in which dense orchestra plays, with many melodies, and also a lot of other instruments and vocals. In addition, it was impossible to lose vivacity, and metal sound itself! And we succeeded! We intentionally did not want to make a very hard sound, as many require of us, we believe that the album should sound both bright and furious at the same time.

Which of the album’s songs do you find as the one most influential to you? That one track that you can’t simply leave and have to listen to on a daily basis?

This is definitely the title track “Siberian Heathen Horde”. This is definitely a hit. “Spellcaster” and “Frostbounded”. This is the best three in my opinion.

How has the press been welcoming the arrival of “Siberian Heathen Horde”? Would you say that there is a change in the attitude towards the band, now with an album in English?

Of course, a lot of people immediately noted that songs are in English. Reviews are very good, but honestly I don’t like to be compared with Dimmu Borgir, we are called the Russian copy of this band, but this is actually not the case if you listen to the music very much despite the fact that there are some external common signs.

A lot of bands have been planning their shows for the end of the year or 2021 even. Have you started putting plans into motion for Welicoruss?

Yes, we, too, are beginning to plan tour activities for the next year, without concerts it is very boring and interesting to live

What do you think are the band’s main challenges going forward in time, after the Covid-19 will let us live our lives in peace?

You talk too much about this virus! It’s not worth it - and it’s better to concentrate on music itself ;) The main task of band will be to present our new album on scene to the largest possible audience and of course composing of the next album that we have already begun to do. And of course, now we are working on our first DVD, which we promised to publish several years ago, but for some reason this did not happen and therefore it will take place on November 5 this year on the day of the 15th anniversary of Welicoruss!

Alexey, I wish to thank you for this interview, it was a pleasure no doubt to talk to you again, and this time on the band’s music. All the best and keep safe!

Thank you very much for such interesting questions, interest in our work as a whole, we are very glad that you liked our album and I hope all your readers will like it! Good luck to you all!


 



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