– Hi Adam, thanks for taking your time, hope you are all healthy over there. How has this whole pandemic situation affected MALOKARPATAN with the release of «Krupinské ohne»? As for instance your tour with CULT OF FIRE has been rescheduled to the end of the year.
Hello, no problem, thank you as well! If you don’t mind, I’d rather skip commenting this corona hysteria altogether, as I am already completely sick of it and of the general stupidity of people. The tour so far is rescheduled to autumn, although to be honest I don’t see it very realistic when looking at the absurd developments in the world. The album itself is so far doing very well sales-wise, the first vinyl edition is already completely sold out by Invictus Productions and a second one is on its way.
– To begin with, how did MALOKARPATAN evolve from a solo project to a full band? Is it easy to keep the core elements and the essence intact having more people involved?
It basically grew out of the offers to play live. I could record the albums all by myself, except drums which I suck at. But since we started playing live very soon after the release of the debut album, it all kind of evolved naturally. So to keep some sort of band spirit alive, I just let others become full-time members, the only thing that remained is that I always write all the music and lyrics myself. Of course having more members also influences the arrangements of the songs so you can hear their contributions there even if I write all the basic riffs. It definitely isn’t easy to keep a band together, as I basically prefer working on the material alone, so you have to compromise certain things. For this reason, and to keep a healthy balance for myself, I am currently working on a new project outside of Malokarpatan.
– How easy is to find band mates in Slovakia? How is the Metal scene over there? At it isn’t really known as a specially wide or prolific one.
Extremely difficult for the specific kind of music I prefer to play. People here tend to have a questionable taste in metal and only listen to the most notoriously known mainstream acts, also anything old school tends to be detested. So I just work with long time contacts – if I had to rely on recruiting members randomly, I might as well give up. The scene here is ridiculously tiny. The golden days of metal here were during the late 80s – early 90s when we were still part of the old country Czechoslovakia. We also had a quite lively death metal scene during the 90s, but I prefer my death metal to be 80s.
– MALOKARPATAN is a band that always provides a sense of wholeness. You seem to also focus on the aesthetic and in building an eerie yet unique imagery. What do you want to project with your aesthetics?
I like to have a full sensory experience, as I love when other bands do that too. The sort of bands that created a full world of their own and you are drawn into it immidiately after pushing play. Music, lyrics, artwork, band photos – this all should be contributing to build that special world. In our case this is a world akin to what you can see in pub scenes in the old Hammer Horror movies or in movies like Nosferatu – peasants in a remote East European mountain village being scared of the supernatural evil roaming the surrounding wilderness.
– You are heavily influenced by the classics yet not being a copy-cat, creating a specific kind of sound. What bands/artists resonate with you in that sense?
Thank you for the compliment! You mean as in, what other current bands are heavily influenced by the classics, yet they try to build a thing of their own? Negative Plane, Funereal Presence, Chevalier, Cultes Des Ghoules, Faustcoven, Furze, Vultures Vengeance, Hexenbrett… When it comes to just black metal, I think Finland has currently the best scene.
– The classic Metal bands from Czechoslovakia share a very unique sense of darkness and an interest for the Otherwordly that make them eerily special, from MASTER’S HAMMER to ROOT. Is this a cultural thing? Do your surroundings and legacy inspire your artistic creation?
Definitely works that way to me, but I can’t speak for others I guess. That old style of Root, Master’s Hammer, Torr was a specific period of time and nobody plays music like that anymore. For example in Greece you have new bands playing in the old style of their area – like Ithaqua or Cult of Eibon, but with the exception of short lived projects like Zlo, this is nonexistent in the former Czechoslovakia. Although to be exact, when I was starting Malokarpatan, this also wasn’t my intentional decision. I just wanted to play black metal in the 80s way, with lyrical concept being influenced by my surroundings and local culture. So it kind of half-coincidentally ended up reminding those classic local bands, due to also having the same influences as they did – Venom, Bathory, Mercyful Fate. It was only on Krupinské Ohne where I was directly influenced by the old «Czechoslovakian Black Metal» sound. I was always heavily influenced by Tormentor from Hungary though, if you can somehow count that as local, at least concerning the wider Central European region.
– «Krupinské ohne» is your first concept album. Tell us a little about this. Did it happen naturallly? Was it something you had planned to do at some point? What are some of your favourite concept albums that you could use as an example?
Yes, I always wanted to make a concept album as I am a huge fan of those. You kind of got to have some of that nerdy autism to fully enjoy this. Number one influence in this would of course be King Diamond, I hardly listen to any artist more than to him and Mercyful Fate. He is just out of this world and there will never be anyone like him anymore. Other major inspiration was progressive rock of the 70s – I was reading Rick Wakeman’s autobiography books and listening a lot especially to his King Arthur inspired album. And then there were the more «local» ones: Tudor – Bloody Mary, Root – Kärgeräs and Cerberus – Trójska vojna.
– And what’s the main concept and the important topics or stories covered here?
The album tells a mostly real story of a witches coven in the small town of Krupina during 17th century. This was writte down in the town chronicles at the time and later examined in a book dedicated to this topic that came out in the late 70s. I took a lot of the lyrics directly from the transcribed confessions of the witches. Some small parts of the story I added from my own fantasy, but most of the it is taken from those 17th century accounts – from the first contacts of the witches with a figure that once appeared as a huge black goat, once dressed as a nobleman, through the various black magic acts they were involved in under direction of this figure, up to their death on the pyres.
– How different was to write a concept record? How was the songwriting process?
It was a bit more complicated than to just write a standard album for sure. I tried to perfectly fit the story with the developments in the music, so when there is a change of scenery or mood in the lyrics, the music follows it. I wanted the album to work almost like a theatre play or a movie.
– You deal with the folklore and myths of your land. Is dealing with this something that fits your imagery? Or a cultural statement?
It’s just the most natural form of inspiration as the folklore legends of our own country we know the best and are the easiest to associate with. If you look at the lyrics from a wider perspective, they still follow the basic ideological outlines of black metal – we just look for the dark side – the ideological platform of the Adversary – in our local culture.
– Language can be an aesthetic/aristic mean too. What language/vocabulary do you use for your lyrics and how much focus do you put on it? As I read you for instance use archaic words from different dialects.
Yes, our lyrics are not in conventional Slovak language. Which makes up a rather funny situation in that sometimes even Slovak people themselves have problems to understand our lyrics, if they for example come from the opposite side of the country where the dialects are different. I use a sort of freeform mix of local dialects from the western part of Slovakia where we are located and mix that up with a lot of archaic words which I get from literature of previous centuries – 19th century most often (the poets of Slovak Romanticism movement), but sometimes it goes even further into the past – such as with the new album that has 17th century vocabulary in many places.
– You also deal with withcraft from a more general or wide perspective. In fact in all your albums there are altered states, references to the hallucinogen, in this case going from references to mandrake to some details on the cover. In what stories do folklore from your country and witchcraft interwine? From what perspective do you write about these main themes? Since you’re not giving a history lesson.
Traditional culture of our country is deeply pagan at its core, it was just dressed up in Catholicism on the surface. These women (and men) who were regarded as witches during the witch-hunt period in Europe, I think they were just continuators of something more ancient, a Pan- European spirituality that survived long centuries into the christianisation. Scholars who spoke of such theories were for example Margaret Murray, Carlo Ginzburg or Jules Michelet. What we can gather from the descriptions of the Sabbath rites – it resembles a pre-Christian fertility cult with aspects of shamanism (the nightsky travel towards the remote place where the Sabbath was held). It is very likely that at least some of these nocturnal journeys were aided with hallucinogenic herbs and ointments that caused altered states of mind and opened gateways for certain powers to manifest. In some of the more remote corners of Slovakia, there were these folk healer women still during the 20th century, whom would be regarded as witches three centuries back. I try to write of these things from a bit more simplistic perspective – that of a common peasant basically, but on the new album I used a more pompous tone so it would resemble a book from the past centuries, aimed at a scholarly audience of those times.
– As I mentioned the cover artwork; who’s the figure? And what does the whole cover represent? There are a lot of symbols.
Quite easy one, it is the Devil! Nothing subtle about that part, the witches in the story directly talk of various contacts with him, so I sort of decided to put the main figure behind this right on the front cover. The peculiar way he looks is a combination of inspirations I got from Czechoslovakian cinematography of the 50s and primitive medieval woodcuts. I would prefer people to look for the symbols themselves and possibly find their own personal meanings, but I would just mention that the lizards symbolize the underworld and the lantern surrounded with fireflies represents the Promethean/Luciferian themes of the album (regarding the witch covens being followers of True Knowledge, the one obscured from the masses by the Church the same way as it was obscured by the tyrant demiurge god Jahve who was jealous of humans discovering forbidden knowledge).
– You have always used a lot of samples. What’s the story of some of the samples used on the new album?
Some are put there purely just for enhancement of atmosphere, some have stronger symbolic significance. The sample in the beginning of the mandrake-themed song is taken from an old local movie dealing with Emperor Rudolph II, a known patron of occultism and alchemy in Central Europe. In this scene the emperor sets out to pull a mandrake root at a gallows hill. In the final song of the album, there is a spoken sample of a witch interrogation taken from a 50s movie dealing with a witch process in Slovakia, so it fits perfectly as the song itself is about the final part of the story where the witches are imprisoned and tortured to give confessions. The beginning of the third song is from the old Czechoslovakian movie Witchhammer, so again a direct hint. But a lot of this stuff I also recorded by myself, using various usual and less usual percussion instruments and other things like stylophone or glockenspiel for example.
– «Krupinské ohne» has a very specific atmosphere. What did inspire the whole ambience of the album (besides other music)?
Folklore, books, movies, my personal life, everything basically. Trips to castles, sinister ambience of certain places in the woods, classic epic movies from the 50s-60s. Also I was trying to get into the mindset and atmosphere of these 17th century small town folk – how differently they saw the world than the mediocre postmodern man glued to dumb Netflix series, thinking how he fully understands the world because he reads pop-science articles. My disgust for nowadays humanity inspires me a lot, and makes me respect more those people of bygone eras when life was more mysterious and dangerous.
– This is an album with a strong 70’s Prog feeling I’d dare say. Even songs are lengthier. Do tracks develop and flow more naturally this way?
Very true! Well it’s just my natural bad habit to write lengthy songs with many altering parts. Sometimes I in fact hate this, because there is nothing wrong about short catchy songs with simple structure. But it’s somehow in my nature to write this way and on this album I just consciously let it take over fully. I think it fits perfectly with the conceptual nature of the record, so I had no regret doing it this way. It will make this album stand out among our records, not necessarily in a competitive way, rather just as something different.
– This said; what do styles that might be apparently opposite at first glance for some, such as Heavy Metal, Black Metal or Prog Rock have in common?
They all share a fascination for the past – myths, folklore, history. They share a deep inner longing for eras that were more magical, less mundane than our life in boring glass cities with soulless architecture and cheap plastic products. If you take bands as different as Yes, Cirith Ungol and for example, early Satyricon – they also all share an unconventional songwriting, long songs that take you on a journey instead of just repeating verse-chorus patterns. This disdain for conventions is what attracted me to black metal many years ago.
– On the record there are several new elements, and some non-standard instruments. Which ones did you use this time? And what do they add to the album/songs?
I add them to enrich the atmospheric elements – to make the album feel like a theatrical play or an epic movie. This time (unlike on Nordkarpatenland, where I also planned to do this) I had enough time to record these less standard instruments, so we used loads of them. For ghostly ambience, I used noises of a stylophone and whirly tubes which are quite literally just plastic tubes you swirl around and they make an eerie sound. Glockenspiel was used in several parts for its unique mystical sound. And then I used tons of various percussion – vintage movie soundtracks and some classical music (for example Alpensinfonie by Richard Strauss) was the inspiration there.
– In fact every album you release is different but what’s the bond that ties them together?
Fortunately I am (so far) unable to repeat the same album twice. Once I get to that point, I guess that is the beginning of a creative death for every musician. Malokarpatan albums are all closely tied by our overall concept of the dark and grotesque parts of local folklore – there are many ways to portray these moods, from the primitive darkness of our debut to the more elaborate epic ways of Krupinské ohne.
– Does a different album require a different sound?
Not necessarily for every band, but I prefer it that way. So far, I used a totally different guitar sound for each album. I prefer variety over monotony. There are also bands that find a very specific guitar sound and they then used it on all albums – nothing wrong with that either. I just prefer altering the overall sound for whatever the album we are working on is asking for. Krupinské ohne is darker and gloomier than the energetic songs of Nordkarpatenland, so I also made the guitar sound more obscure and muddy.
– All this about «Krupinské ohne» being said; how would you describe it in just 3 words?
Epic, gloomy and eccentric I guess? The mixture of those three elements gave it its spirit.
-And before we wrap this interview up, what are now your near-future plans? What are you focusing on?
At the moment not much is happening in the Malokarpatan camp, as all future gigs were cancelled or postponed due to the current situation. Krupinské ohne was a tiresome process in the end, I am very satisfied with the results now, but I needed to focus on something else after it. So right now I am recording a new project, rather different from Malokarpatan. It is inspired by the more melodic, atmospheric side of mid-to-late 90s black metal I grew up with as a kid. Hopefully it will come out during this year already, although I so far have no label selected for it. It will be a bit of an international thing, as the drummer is from Finland. The other guys as far as I know are also working on some new material for Krolok and Algor.
-That’s all from our side, thank you once more for answering our interview. If you’d like to add some final words; feel free to do it.
You are welcome and thank you as well for your interest in Malokarpatan! For the readers, hard to say any exact plans at the moment, but they can definitely expect some new music eventually coming out from all Malokarpatan members in our other bands.