– Hello, thanks for your time. What’s currently going on in the SKYFORGER’s camp?
Hail there! The summer comes to an end for us and so all the big festivals, now we can start to work more intense on new songs and that is what we are doing right now!
– First off, I would like you to make some history of SKYFORGER.
Skyforger was made back in 1995, when we decided to completely change our previous band’s style and meaning. We were very overwhelmed by black metal at that time and that is why Skyforger was born. To add something own, we tried to mix it with Latvian folkmusic.
In 1997 we released our demo Semigalls Warchant and lately signed with Dutch Mascot records. In 1998 we went away from black metal and tried to find our own style with our next albums Kauja pie Saules /Battle of Saule and later in 2000 Latviešu Strēlnieki/Latvian Riflemen.
After that we signed with German Folter records and made album Pērkoņkalve/Thunderforge in 2003. In same year we recorded self financed pure folk album Zobena dziesma/Sword Song. In 2005 we re-released our old demo with 4 new songs as an EP Asinslauks/Bloodfield included there. Now we are signed with Metal Blade and Kurbads is our latest piece of work.
So up to this date we released 6 albums: Kauja pie Saules/Battle of Saule 1998,
Latviešu Strēlnieki/Latvian Riflemen 2000,
Zobena dziesma/Sword Song 2003
Semigalls’ Warchant (old demo) 2005
About line up. There was a lot of people coming and going and I doubt it will be interesting to readers, so in short: main players through all the years are me – Peter (vocals,guitars), Edgars “Zirgs” (bass) and Edgars”Mazais” (drums). Lately Kaspars (all folkinstruments) joined band and second guitarist Egons as a newest member right now.
Lyrically we sing about Latvia/Baltic region history and that was always main thing in our band – I’m a big history enthusiast, so it is naturally that I want to incorporate my interests in my music.
– What are the band’s main musical influences?
We can talk long and wide here as we listen and got influences from lots and lots of bands! People in Skyforger listen almost everything from pop to jazz. But if I must name some metal bands, then they could be those:
Bathory, Cathedral, Emperor, Iron Maiden, Morbid Angel, Mekong Delta, Razor, Venom and so on, plus some of our Latvian local folk bands from whom we took strong influences, like Iļģi for example.
– And why such name? Both it’s meaning an origin.
As we sing about our native history, traditions, folklore, we chose band’s name which is going to fit with these things.
Skyforger or Blacksmith of the Sky is one of the names how our people call thunder god Pērkons here. They believed, when there is storm outside, when thunder and lightings fly, Pērkons is working in his forge. He forged Sun and sometimes he forges weapons for sons of Dievs (Old God) or rings and jewelry for daughters of Saule (Sun). Pērkons is also known as god of war and main god of all Baltic people. Pronouncing his name aloud was taboo and people called him in various names and Skyforger (in Latvian Debesu Kalējs) is just but one of them.
– Though your latest «Kurbads» was released last 2010, I would like to get a little bit into it so, first of all, How has its feedback?
Generally it was very good; in most times we got 8 points out of 10 from reviewers. Thought I must admit that there was a lot of people who were disappointed with Kurbads as it was different from some of our previous albums. Possibly not that harsh and extreme. But it happened due to our topic of album: fairytale/legend about epic hero. We tried to make this heroic feeling, to fit music with lyrics and that’s why Kurbads is different from Latvian Riflemen for example – an historical album about I World War.
A lot of help here for us there came from Metal Blade: with them behind our backs now we can spread our music in wider area than before.
So all in all I thing Kurbads was successful step for us.
– There were none less than 7 years between «Zobena Dziesma (Swordsong)» and «Kurbads»; why did it take you so long?
There were various obstacles for such long silence.
We ran out of fresh good ideas that we can honestly put in new album. Second guitarists came and went and it consumed time to teach them songs all over again.
We don’t saw an urge at that moment to just make album for albums sake and to keep our band’s name around to just be in line. We better wait for something that we all really like, than throw out half made crap.
Then there was our personal life and real shortage of time which we can to dedicate to band. We all work for living here – thing is that we are not professional musicians; we all have jobs for our daily life, so music is just a hobby for us. Some have families and in the end there isn’t much of free time left for the band, unfortunately.
– What were the main lyrical ideas behind this «Kurbads»? I know is a concept album, so I would also like you to shed some light on its main character.
Kurbads is a Latvian fairy tale/legend survived from olden times. There were some folk enthusiasts, who traveled the land and recorded all possible folk stuff from people in 19th century.
Among others there was fairytales about man who was born magically from various things (mare, iron, ox, dog, wolf etc), but mostly from bear. He grew up very strong and went out to the world to help poor people and fight evil.
I found this tale very interesting, but knowing how popular in Latvia is tale about Bearslayer (man who was born from bear), I took another variation (less popular but known very well) about Kurbads, son of mare.
Whole album tells Kurbads story: from time of birth till death in last battle, his adventures and fight against his archenemy Snake Witch. There can be found very archaic topics, like ritual of initiation, venturing into realm of dead (underworld), ancient witchcraft and magic as well as old customs and way of how people saw our world. Even act of how Kurbads born is magical, I thought its roots came from times of Stone Age, when people took some magical beast or god as procreator of all kin.
The idea about such album was born long time ago. This story is known for most Latvians. We heard it, when we were kids: some from grandparents, some in school.
But main thing here is: we wanted to share this part of Baltic culture, culture which is still unknown for the rest of the world; it was ignored for ages, even if
we (Latvians and Lithuanians) came from same roots as other European nations!
– You have always sang in your mother tongue but, have you ever considered singing in any other language?
Well, we had few songs in English in our demo Semigall’s Warchand, but that was at very beginning. As we are trying to spread and popularize our Latvian/Baltic culture, we have one song in Lithuanian language and soon we will made one in Old Prussian language, but that’s all about it.
I very hope and as far as I see it really is that way, that today people don’t have problems with other languages in metal/rock music as it was years back, when there was only English dominating the scene. People became more open minded and this is very great!
And after all we always have English translation for all of our lyrics.
– You’ve been with different labels throughout th years, and this was your first effort with Metal Blade; how’s everything been with them so far? Has affected you in a posotive way being with such a big label for Metal?
In my view labels have lost their big power witch they had some years back. More or less thanks to music piracy. Though we are still an underground band and don’t have that much experience with serious music business.
To say truth not much is changed for us since we signed with Metal Blade. They just helped us with album and released it and that’s all. They have those big bands they work with and we understand it very well.
Metal Blade gave us bigger area where we can spread our music now and this is one big step forward for band like Skyforger.
– SKYFORGER has been evolving (in sound terms), adding influences from differente Metal styles but; how could you describe your sound?
Hmm – it is very hard, even for me! I think Skyforger is an extreme sounding metal something in between thrash and black metal.
– It seems now to be an urge for Folk Metal and there are many bands emerging; who are your favorite ones? Do you think there is a concrete reason for this current «growth»?
In my view this “”growth”” has ended now, no? I think the obvious reason for it was popularity. People just jump in to get fame and popularity. But it is natural and happened with all other music styles and mainstreams. That’s nothing new.
The bands I like are those who took it all serious and have meaning behind everything they do!
The bands who not set commerce and popularity as their main goal.
Menhir and Odroerir, Obtest, Manegarm, Heidevolk, Waylander, Hromovlad are those who come in mind, but there are more of course!
– Latvia isn’t really known for his Metal scene so, how could you tell us about it? Any interesting bands?
Not much to tell here. Small scene for small country. The bands come and go and only few who are serious and working around for years. Problem is most of our bands is so called “”cover bands””. What I mean is: they start by playing, learning and making covers for their beloved world known idols and when they try to make something own after years, they cannot break that big influence they already got in them. So a lot of bands sound like copies of some big star bands and in the end beside their friends none is interested in them. That’s the problem here.
But still you can found some worthy to listen to: Sanctimony, Frailty, Husqarn, Lassie the Cat and some new bands like Malduguns or Diseim.
We very hope that things will change for Latvia in future and soon we will have some new great bands, which will be very know in world’s metal scene!
– And is it hard to succeed in a country with a non really known Metal scene?
Skyforger then somehow stand aside from local scene – we are somehow on our own, possibly because we are different – there is no band here that plays something same we do! We are almost one and only pagan/folk band in Latvia so far. I don’t know why, but other bands are just afraid to play that kind of music.
Anyway we can’t complain. We had great fan base here in our country and thanx to our success behind Latvia borders we are known even outside local metal underground here.
The big obstacle which helped us of course was that national thing we have in our music, but even then our music is different from what most bands play around. And this is why we succeed here in our own country.
– Finally, what are your near-future plans? Will we have to wait another 7 years until your next full-length album?
I very hope that not! As I said we are working on new songs, 4 already are made and I have ideas for more, so we will try to make it as soon as possible this time he he!
We will go and play around as always, though this time we will move East – to Russia in this autumn.
We very hope that soon there will be possibility to play in Spain again as we have great memories from times we was there for first times!
– That’s all, thanks again. If you want to add some final thoughts; last lines are yours.
Thank you for this chance to spread word about Skyforger and big Hail to all our fans and friends there in Spain –hope to see you soon again guys!