Skyforger interview (07/2016)
|Bad English (e-mail)
Bad English: This may be a weird question, but how do you envision the Latvian metal scene if bands such as Skyforger and Heaven Grey had never existed?
Peter Kvetkovskis: Well, there was always and still is another bands around - the metal scene here is quite big enough even without Skyforger or Heaven Grey. The question is how unique and original those bands are, but that's another topic to talk about I guess. It is very hard to make your name worldwide if you are from such a small far away country like Latvia is. You must be somehow original to stand out from millions of bands playing all around the world. Also you must be in right time and right and luckily for us we were. I could guess that many people here, who maybe tried to play something in a vein we do, just gave up only because they don't wanted to be called copy of Skyforger - who knows, but I think we have enough of good bands here to keep metal scene going and new promising bands have been seen lately.
Bad English: Let's go back to the roots, to your first concerts outside Latvia. How did audiences accept what was at that time such an unknown band, singing in a foreign language from a country that many people couldn't locate on a map?
PK: Surprisingly for us it was quite good for our first appearance behind our borders. I guess our performance and how we act on stage played some big role there. Also pagan metal was just started and people were really
interested to see something like that. Of course it was in absolute underground, small venues, no big crowds and all that stuff, but yeah it was not bad for first time and gave us dose of enthusiasm to keep on going. I must add that honestly for all these years I never heard someone complaining about us singing in our native language, but that's probably because of pagan/folk style itself, as it deals with traditions, folklore and history and language is part of it. It's absolutely not possible to sing your folk songs in English!
Bad English: Over time, the band has changed its line-up. Do you still keep up with the old members at all?
PK: Well, with some yes and with others not that much. There is never been hate between us and some of the old members, we just went each his own way and hardly meet again. But with some guys, like our first drummer Imants and guitarists Mārtiņ? or Egons, we are still friends and meet quite often, they come to our concerts and sometimes even join us on stage!
Bad English: Sometimes I get the feeling that this band is known and appreciated for its metal aspects abroad more than in Latvia, and that in many cases Latvian non-metalheads also like band and know it from its patriotic, historical lyrics. Would you say this is true?
PK: I must agree. Being one of the very few Latvian bands, who are playing that much abroad and showing up on big well-known festival band lists, it gave us some increased popularity here in Latvia, also among non-metalheads. We really appreciate when our people acknowledge what we are doing and how we are bringing message about our culture behind the borders. I guess it is quite an achievement, because metal here is still the underground music, hardly known to wider audience.
Bad English: Isn't it a curse to be so big in Latvia, because every year you need to play on the 11th and 18th of November? Don't you guys want take a year off and see all the sights as ordinary visitors?
PK: Oh, we do! We aren't playing on 11th November (Remembrance Day of Latvian soldiers) every year and never been playing on 18th November (Foundation day of Latvian republic) at all! We aren't some kind national heroes, who appear on every patriotic event ha ha, it's a little bit exaggerated.
Bad English: Lithuania has Kilkim ?aibu, which has been around for 15 years, and Estonia has Hard Rock Lager Festival, also a long-running event. Why doesn't Latvia have any long-running festivals?
PK: We had one, actually it all started here in '90s, called Baltijas Saule (The Baltic Sun) with folk groups and pagan metal bands from Baltic countries playing on the island near the center of capital Riga. But unfortunately it was shut down after few years, because of some greedy people and money problems. Then our Lithuanian friends tried to make same kind of festival in their country which is now known as Kilkim ?aibu. The good news is that same guy Valdis, who did that Baltijas Saule, is now back with brand new folk/pagan oriented festival here in Latvia, called Zobens un Lemess! Last year it was first time and it went very well, so this year we are looking for another chance. It will happen in July at the country side near beautiful lake. Last year there were playing folk groups, many local metal bands and few guests from abroad - bands from Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine and also Celtachor from Ireland. This year we expect even more with bands like Mael Mórdha and possibly Rotting Christ as headliners. But full lineup is still in work. There will be also many other activities, like reenactment clubs, medieval market and craftsmen and so on.
Bad English: The eternal question: what do you think about the internet, illegal downloads, Spotify, the good and bad aspects of the internet, etc., and how it affects your band?
PK: I understand that it is absolutely not possible to stop piracy and downloads. For the band, who aren't selling millions of copies it's no big deal - at least people have a chance to listen to our stuff - I guess it's better than nothing ha ha. Well, this is time of internet, it holds the power now and that's why we went away from label system and released our latest album ourselves. The time of CDs is in the past, people now download and listen music on their computer and mobile phones, CD is more like a souvenir and you can't change it, so we better adapt.
Bad English: In countries where metal is banned, listeners can be sentenced to death, and no CDs are available, would you mind if in such a situation someone secretly downloaded your album for free?
PK: Pff sure! As I stated we aren't earning big money from selling albums, so every chance if someone discovers and listens our band is fine enough for us. Not being a commercial act we don't care that much if someone is not paying for our CDs, for a small band it is 10 times better when your name and music is spread than getting few more cents. I know maybe my point is wrong, but for me money and commerce isn't that big deal - I'm all about ideas and music.
Bad English: Latvian history is rich, but to me, picking up themes to make a concept album is difficult. How is it in your case?
PK: I'm dealing with history all my life, it's my biggest hobby, I research and read a lot. And yes, I still have some more ideas - of course it becomes harder with every new album to not repeat yourself, but I'm working on it. Another thing is how to show or tell it, from which angle, there is many different ways, so you must think and find the right one. Honestly I never stress that much about it; I wait for some divine intervention - it somehow comes one day into my mind, new idea and I'll start to work on it. Well, that's my way ha ha.
Bad English: I hope you don't mind my asking, but is music your business, and you can make a living from touring, or do you guys have day jobs?
PK: Sure, no problem! No, music is just or hobby, we can't make that much money to live from it, so we all have daily jobs. I guess to get some money from music you must start to do it professionally, like job, but here we are, just self-made enthusiasts, without proper musical education or will to do it that way. Also it is too late for us now to change something at your 40's. Personally I work in theater as a plumber and heating system operator. The payment is poor, but I work in shifts and have free time for the band. As I said above money means little to me in this life.
Bad English: You have played around all of Europe now. Is there a place where you would love to play, or maybe don't want to play at all?
PK: Hmm, no I don't remember any place so bad that we would never like to return there again. Yeah, there are sometime bad venues or bad equipment on stage or bad attitude from organizers, but we are all about fans, right? Metal heads are the same across the globe, be it Brazil or Belarus - when we see and feel that people came to hear our music and support our band, we are happy, no matter what!
Bad English: So-called pagan metal seems more suited for open-air festivals; where do you guys prefer to play, open-air or inside venues?
PK: We love both, but somehow for me small venues are more intimate, more close to people. Also on smaller stages you can get better onstage sound, when we are packed together tight. But then again in open-airs there is
bigger crowd and if you manage to get in contact with it, it feels fantastic. So in the end it I must say its 50 /50.
Bad English: I know it's way too early to ask, but do you have any plans for the next album? What are the band's plans for 2016?
PK: Not yet. I need to relax and get away from all it to start a new. I don't even think about it, as I said, I will wait for that divine intervention to get moving. We prefer not bake one album after another if there isn't real meaning and great ideas behind it, we better wait and do it right, not just album for album's sake. For this year we have mini tour ahead and some festivals around Europe in summer, so our schedule is set for now. I also think that we still need to play more of stuff from Senprūsija around before introducing something new, so it will be just concerts for this year.
Bad English: For a small country, there are two ways to achieve global recognition. One is sport; another is music. I would say that Skyforger has done a great job in achieving this for Latvia, because in many cases metalheads look at the booklet, Google the things that the band is singing about, and know more about the country than the average person. What is your take on your role in making Latvia known to the international community?
PK: You mean as Skyforger? Well, this is our "'mission" as a band to spread word about Latvian and Baltic history, if we succeed, then we are happy. The idea was to tell young people here about their roots and past with a metal music as our tool, because sometimes it works times better than school books and dry lessons, you see. We also had a goal to tell these stories abroad, because knowledge of this region is very poor outside thanks to many historical obstacles and sheer ignorance from historians, so we took that job ha ha. History is written by the victors and Baltic people were never the one, we must use every tool, in our case it is music, to make it right!
Bad English: How do you write music - in the old school jamming way, or the so-called modern way, where everybody writes part, sends it via e-mails, and does basically all of the writing via computers?
PK: Our approach is different. We wrote songs by sticking riffs together. In life it looks like this: I have some riffs made at home, then I show them to the guys on rehearsal and ask for their opinion and then we try to stick them together in composition. Sometimes other guys come with their riffs, it's not only me all the time, but the process is same. Then we record that new made song at rehearsal room and listen at home. When something feels not right we rearrange, throw some riffs out and try to make new ones till the song is complete and sounds good for us. So, yeah, this is our way of making songs.
Bad English: Thanks again for your time, and best of luck in the future. Do you have any last words for our readers?
PK: Thanks for this chance to spread word about Skyforger and guys, check out our latest album Senprūsija (it got great reviews really) along with DVD - you can buy them with other stuff
straight from us here: Skyforger shop. Also check our Facebook for latest news and see you on concerts any soon!
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