Skyclad interview (08/2014)
|With:||Steve Ramsey, Graeme English, Georgina "George" Biddle, Kevin Ridley, Arron Walton, Dave P|
|Conducted by:||Darkside Momo (in person)|
Skyclad's actual logo
Seeing Skyclad live finally? Sure. Interviewing them? Sure too! But well, it's been a while since I last interviewed artists… And it shows I was a bit rusty, so I'm not really satisfied on how I did that. But everything went really well anyway, as everyone was so nice; this was indeed a cool moment, and time to learn a few juicy bits!
Darkside Momo: My first question will be a simple one… How would you describe Skyclad in a few words for those of our readers that don't know you yet?
Steve Ramsey (guitars): Grandfathers of Folk Metal?
Kevin Ridley (vocals, acoustic guitar): Grandfathers of Folk Metal! (laughs)
DSM: And that's true! Now, what are your impressions of your show today?
KR: Really, really impressed by the French crowd today! We don't play in France very much, so…
DSM: No… Sadly, no.
KR: Sadly, but it's not our fault; this is the first time we're asked to play Hellfest and the reaction was brilliant! And "oh, come by again! Oh, encore!"…
DSM: Yeah I'll be happy to see you again!
Georgina Biddle (violin, keyboards): Yeah, great crowd, it was great to see the mosh-pit going on, and so many people at the side of the stage, they were really just going for it... This was fun.
DSM: Anything to add?
SR: (nods in approval) No, no, there were a lot of people, which was great!
DSM: And so, how did this reunion with Dave Pugh happen?
SR: We actually saw Dave sing… We did a series of concerts in London, and his band was playing. He's a singer in a band; with us he merely did the guitars, now he sings.
DSM: What's the band's name?
KR: Eliminator. It's a heavy metal band.
SR: Yeah, of course. We sort of called over Dave, and we talked about what we were gonna do, that we'd do some old songs, and he said "oh, I'd love to go and play", so that's how it happened, you know. This year we've already played a couple of gigs where we played some of the old material - first five albums - and we told him we would be doing that. He said he would love to be taking part, and we answered "yeah" and that's it, that's how it came together. And we're also gonna do Bloodstock this year, and he's gonna play with us as well.
DSM: Great news! And apart of Bloodstock, do you have any others shows planned already?
SR: A new album…
KR: New album!
SR: Great news! I was gonna ask about that later…
KR: We only have Bloodstock at the moment because, as you know, yesterday Satan was playing…
DSM: Yeah, I was there.
KR: They have a lot of shows this year, they go to America on tour, so we try to fit some Skyclad in between all the Satan sets and tours, but we did some shows in Greece early on the year, then some festivals, and then I don't know, we'll see what happens.
SR: We really, really need to get a new album out there, and then we'll tour again.
KR: Maybe next year an album, and then we'll tour for it.
DSM: Have you already written some material or not yet?
KR: Yeah, some, yeah! (He hesitates a bit) We've got er, five or six things, but I've got an idea of where we're going, so… But as I've said these guys have been really busy this year. It's a bit of a surprise, really, I suppose, that they've been asked to do so much stuff as well so… you just have to go with it. So we're working with Skyclad...
DSM: …in the holes in the planning…
DSM: Now some questions about the past of the band. When The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth came out, it was maybe the first metal album with violin in it. How did you envision it at the time, and did you expect it to create something so big as folk metal? You said "grandfathers", but it you envision it somehow?
SR: I was kind of more like an experiment, you know? (Graeme English laughs) We thought it'd be less work, so it's only one song in the album. It's essentially a thrash album, with one folk metal tune; we had a violin player to come down and play on that song, and while he was there we said "we'll stick a couple bits in here and a couple bits in there", and we liked it, we liked how it sounded and the metal stuff as well… So by the next album we just had a fiddle player in the band, Fritha Jenkins. And it went on from that.
Graeme English (bass): We thought at first, there would be more featured of it, you know?
DSM: And then the band evolved, and became somehow more mellow, more folk and less metal. Did you plan it, or did it came naturally, album after album?
SR: Yeah it sort of… became what we should do, it went that way. I still think the albums are sort of a half / half, even now; it's half folk metal and half traditional metal or other kinds of metal or even sometimes other styles of music, you know. I think that a lot of bands find their style, and they just continue to do that style, and it's difficult to do that if you've written so many albums with Skyclad. If we just took one thing and did it all over again, I think by now we would be pretty fed up with it.
DSM: Probably! Something to add?
KR: Well it's, it's... What I'd like to add is, the thing with Skyclad - I mean not us particularly but with a lot of folk metal bands as well - you tend to have like a formula and things and then you have to write an album, and the next album's the same and… Skyclad, they do folk metal, but we can play other things as well: we can do blues, we can do hard rock, we can do whatever we want. The main thing is "Skyclad is Skyclad", you know, and we like to experiment and change over time; sometimes we can go to be really acoustic, and next metal. We can be thrash, so, and everywhere in between: keyboards in some albums, and some albums "no keyboards, just all-guitar" and we like to, I don't know, keep things interesting, because if you felt like the next album is just the same as the last album, it won't be…
DSM: it won't work.
KR: It won't be really interesting… The last album we did, we worked together as a band really really hard for a long period of time so we can play those songs live as they're very complicated in terms of time and structure and everything else, and all the harmony and stuff. And that was a good challenge for us, and that was different to what happened the album before, you know, so the next album…
DSM: Won't be like this.
KR: Won't be like this, no. It just will be something different.
DSM: Any hints for the fans? (we both laugh)
KR: it will be different from the last one, I know that. And more… Maybe more conceptual, it has some ideas that tie things together.
DSM: You'll still be writing lyrics, I suppose?
KR: Yeah, yeah.
DSM: And (turning towards Steve Ramsey) you'll still be writing most of the music?
KR: It's kind of the way it's planned.
DSM: (towards Kevin again) A few questions for you now… You've been producing Skyclad's albums since the very beginning. Did you know them beforehand?
KR: A bit… Not very much, mostly through the management company, 'cause I was brought in by the them to work with Skyclad so I knew them vaguely through that. But I, er, I met Steve Ramsey at the start, that was just four people, just the idea... I was there right at the beginning... I was in the studio with the management, just got together with them and they went to record and they just kept experimenting.
DSM: And you've been working with them ever since!
KR: Unfortunately yeah! (everyone laughs) If I had done murder I would have been released years ago (everyone laughs again), it's a life sentence with Skyclad, yeah!
DSM: And how did you work on that very first Skyclad album? It was something quite different at the time - even if it was a thrash album, it was already different…
KR: Well, as I said, we got that uniqueness of the songs but we decided to experiment with some bits and pieces, with violin session musicians; we worked with people like Sting's guitar player [Dominic Miller], he's a classical guitar player…
GE: And his engineer as well!
KR: And we had some keyboards parts put in. We experimented with it, and we had the violin guy to do some bits and pieces. And then the next album, like Steve said, we had some people like Dave [Pugh], who joined the band, and then they became a six-piece band.
DSM: And now, you're a six-piece band again.
KR: Yeah, at the beginning it was four, and then six, so there's been a few… line-up changes over the years.
DSM: I wanted to speak about one of those… What did happen with Martin Walkyier? Maybe you don't want to speak of it, I don't know…
SR: It's fine. He left in 2001 because we lost a publishing deal, and that's where we were getting our wages from, to live on, and he didn't… All we had to do was wait until we signed a new publishing deal, but he wasn't open to do that, so…
GE & KR: He left.
DSM: So, no hopes to have a two-singers-fronted Skyclad for some special show or something?
KR: I can't see that happening! (everyone laughs)
SR: When he left, he then made up a lot of stories about why he left, and they weren't true, and some very nasty things…
GE: And none of it's true!… He must have got bored of us too!
SR : He must have got bored of us too, yeah. But there was no need for it. And he sorta… He put the final nail in the coffin when Keith, our drummer, Keith Baxter died - a good friend of Dave's. We tried to contact him about it, to see if he wanted to come to the funeral and he just ignored us. So that was the end.
DSM: All bridges burnt, no going back.
SR: No, there's no fixing on that. (Graeme English nods)
DSM: Okay. Sorry for asking, as it did bring back bad memories. (Dave Pugh arrives at this moment, as Kevin remarks there's the whole 2014 Skyclad line-up here now). As we've already talked about the new album, some miscellaneous questions now… Did you see any bands during this Hellfest? Did you have time?
(new round of laughter)
Kevin Ridley, Georgina Biddle, Steve Ramsey at Hellfest. Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
SR: Yes…. A little bit of Slayer yesterday… I did interviews all day (everyone laughs). We really all want to see Clutch today.
KR: Dave and I we saw a good chunk of Slayer; I don't think Dave can remember much of it! (laughs)
Arron Walton: Some bits of Iron Maiden… And Satan.
Georgina Biddle (violin, keyboards): Yeah, we were forced… (laughs)
KR: And we can watch Deep Purple tonight. I've not seen Deep Purple before.
DSM: Never ever?
SR: I've seen this line-up. But... We tried to get out last night to see Maiden… The audience is so big, there are so many people you couldn't get anywhere near the stage so… We had a walk around the park, watching the screen. You know you could actually just see that on TV… The sound was not so good…
DSM: That's the problem with festivals. Too many people… A last question now, what are your favourite bands nowadays, for each of you! Last band you loved the most, or something like that?
GE: I don't know… I just like such a wide variety of music, I haven't got a band that I strongly like, you know. I tend to listen a lot of stuff on YouTube now, so like everyone else I don't buy so many albums anymore. I'm ruining the business! (laughs)
SR: The band I liked the most from the last few years is System Of A Down. I think they brought something very new, very original to metal, you know; great harmonies, great guitar work, using aggression without being too over the top, you know, it's still melodic.
DSM: Did you find them inspiring, as a guitar player yourself?
SR: Yeah very, very inspiring, it's great stuff. I mean, nothing that we could use in Skyclad, but I love the style of playing, I love the harmonies with the vocals. Great band!
GE: It's great to hear something being done that's new, you know. It's hard to create something new and they achieved it. Must have been their influences from Armenia, from their cultural background
SR: They actually use a little bit of Armenian folk music in their songs, and it's great, you know? They sorta try to draw from traditions, like we did, and I think that's great for all the bands that do that. You know, all the bands from, like, Norway and Finland, they use different styles, take music from the roots where they live, and that's a great thing as well.
DSM: (turns towards Geoegina Biddle) Your turn!
GB: (hesitates) Oh… I've somewhat a lot of varied tastes, but I really like folk, and I actually quite like Country / Western as well. But most of the older stuff.
KR: You're into the older stuff?
GB: Yeah. But, you know… I find that folk music now has been more popular in general, like the BBC did a promotion day. They actually had a folk day where they were trying to promote folk music in general. It was all folk music, which is great, and it was in England, and I think first time was two years ago, and I believe they do that now every year; there are a lot more folk bands and therefore it's more popular. And because I play the violin I'm really interested; also there's quite a strong tradition in the North-East, in Newcastle's folk music, so that's probably what I'm listening to the most.
Arron Walton (drums): My two sort of long-term obsessive types of bands are Tool and Atheist… I listened to Tool by accident; they supported Rage Against The Machine on the first Rage Against The Machine tour and since then…
DSM: You've been a fan.
AW: Yeah. Atheist I've seen them at least once. Clutch, same type of thing. So they're like the two cool bands I listen to the most.
SR: Fear Factory, no?
AW: Yeah, Fear Factory. At the moment I'm also listening to djent bands like Meshuggah and Periphery. Tomas Haake is a drummer… (at loss for words) It's the type of drumming I'd like to be able to do, in terms of having goals and "play like". It's something… (others approve) Technically it's fantastic. I enjoy listening to the band, not just the drummer.
DSM: And you?
KR: Believe it or not, very strange thing these last few years, I listened to some music from America, which I didn't do for a long long long time, for about twenty years, and I started to listen to a lot of Americana music. I like it very much!
DSM: It's some different sort of folk music...
KR: Yeah such it is, and even things as pure as Anaïs Mitchell, for example, who does real folk music, to the point where I regressed to somebody with a guitar, a voice which is quite pure… This is quite new for me! Midlake I like, too. I ignored America for a long time because the music we play, the folk music is old and European-based, and I forgot about America, and in the 1990's I liked Pearl Jam and bands like, you know, Soundgarden…
DSM: Grunge movement in general?
KR: Yeah, that's the thing. And then I… forgot. Faith No More, bands like this, I used to listen to but then I forgot. And the last few years I listened to a lot of roots-y American stuff, you know, a lot of American things.
DSM: OK! And you, Dave, any bands you liked the most recently.
KR: Oh, none at all!!
Dave Pugh (guitars): Recently? I'm not into new bands, really, I'm old-school. Scorpions, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden…
KR: Yeah Dave sings in a band…
GE: An old-school band!
DP: Yeah, a bit like Saxon actually.
DSM: Maybe a bit like Satan? (laughs)
KR: No, that's too thrash!
SR: It's much like Iron Maiden and Saxon, so old stuff.
DSM: New Wave Of British Heavy Metal!
DP: Yeah… I'm old! (laughs)
Skyclad 2014! Left to right : Dave Pugh, Kevin Ridley; seated, Arron Walton, Georgina Biddle, Steve Ramsey, Graeme English.
Thanks again to everyone involved, all the Skyclad members obviously, but also to Ian Cleary for his kindness and to Ben for the beers! Also thanks to Collin for the extra transcription work before publishing
||Posted on 14.08.2014 by Once your regular Hellfest reporter, now retired. I (strangely enough) listen to a lot of metal. And enjoy good beers, comics, novels and role-playing games.|
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