Winterfylleth interview (05/2020)
|Conducted by:||RaduP (skype)|
[Main article photo by Hans van Hoor]
By now you probably heard the new Winterfylleth record, and if you didn't, what the hell are you doing reading a Winterfylleth interview? I was never a massive Winterfylleth fan, but 1) I love black metal; 2) I player Harold Godwinson in Crusader Kinds II to revert the Battle of Hastings; 3) I was pleasantly surprised by them doing a fully acoustic record. So the new album and this interview should keep up busy until the new Atavist comes around. This time the interview was in a short 30 minute slot, so I didn't have time to banter about David Lynch like I usually do.
The Reckoning Dawn
Radu: We're here with Chris of Winterfylleth. You have a new album coming up, The Reckoning Dawn. Was it in any way different to do a nu* metal Winterfylleth album after having done the acoustic Hallowing Of Heirdom? [* Ed: Don't be alarmed. This is a typo.]
Chris Naughton: I think so. I think the idea behind doing another metal album was obviously that we'd done an acoustic album and it had been quite a few years since we'd done a metal album, so I think we were all quite keen to take the learnings that we had from doing an acoustic album and apply those to a metal album. I guess what I mean by that is that we spent a lot of time on the acoustic album trying to find the atmosphere that we normally have in the metal songs with acoustic instruments that don't always naturally create it, trying to use strings and cello and sung voices and synth, things like that, around songs more than just the kind of wall of guitar noise that we generally have. I think that really helped with writing the new album and I think that's why we're quite keen to explore doing a metal album with everything we've learned.
Radu: Yes, like you're probably much better at doing vocal harmonies.
CN: I mean, I hope that we've always been fairly good at doing them, but I think that we really had to think a lot harder on vocal harmonies on that album, because most of the song lyrics on the Hallowing album were three layers of voices almost every moment of singing, so it's really challenging but also really interesting to try and create songs that have got those layers of harmonies so they don't compete with each other and it sounds nice and natural and, I suppose, evocative and atmospheric. So yeah, I think we definitely got a lot better at doing that now, but I hope we were always pretty good at it. But I think some of the stuff on the new album particularly, on Hallowing as well, shows just how much we tried with that stuff.
Radu: Yeah, it was surprising to me as well that you've done a fully acoustic album, but it's something that makes sense, especially for you, but would it ever make sense to do another acoustic album after this?
CN: I don't know, to be honest. It's a good question. I think that acoustic music is really important to Winterfylleth in the sense that we've always talked about history and heritage and folklore and interesting folk stories of the British Isles, and I guess that folk music or acoustic music has got quite a big history in this country and Europe in general, I guess.
Radu: And it's not like Anglo-Saxons were making black metal.
CN: Exactly. (laughs) So I've always been keen for us to explore it or to have elements of it in the music because I think it adds a nice contrast to the metal. It's not just the same blastbeat for 60 minutes of an album. But also I think it helps us to be able to go and play some different kinds of shows as well. When we've written an acoustic album, it means that we can maybe go play some kind of folk shows or reach different people with the music that maybe just don't like the idea of metal. I guess that's not necessarily why we did it, but obviously those are a happy consequence of making that music. I think we just wanted to prove to ourselves that we could make a credible folk album -
Radu: You did.
CN: - and have it be genuine and not cheesy, but I think there will be more acoustic material to come from Winterfylleth in the coming years, but I'm not sure like you said whether we'll do another full album of it. Maybe we'll do an EP or maybe we'll do, like, a second disc on an album that's got a few acoustic songs on it or something, because I think it's something we'd like to explore further in the live environment as well. I don't want to rule it out, but obviously we're a metal band and that's our prime focus.
Radu: That's a bit of a problem you have here, because now you have two different shows, maybe for two different audiences, and the same name for the band, so it could be a bit confusing.
CN: (laughs) Yeah. Well, we've actually - yes, I agree, but we've always said that we want to be really explicit about how we communicate those shows. If we don't say it's an acoustic show, then it's not an acoustic show, so I'm hoping that that works for us, but also we try to use the metal logo for the metal shows and a kind of text font logo for acoustic stuff that gives it a little bit of differentiation so that you know that it's not gonna be a metal show… I don't know, I hope that it translates to people, but I agree that we need to be clear on it. But maybe there's the potential one day to do a show supporting ourselves, doing a fully acoustic set and then a full metal set, perhaps.
Radu: Oh. I guess that would be a bit tiring, doing two sets a day.
CN: Possibly, but I'm sure we could manage it for a one-off show.
Radu: That would be great. So Winterfylleth isn't the only band of yours that has an album coming out this month. What can you tell us about the new Atavist record?
CN: Yeah, it's an interesting time to be releasing music, isn't it?
CN: Given that the world is in such a crazy lockdown… But it's just kind of happened that way. I don't think I ever intended for both of these albums to come out at a similar time, but they just have. The Atavist album - Atavist was my band for many years before we started doing Winterfylleth, and once we started doing Winterfylleth and got quite deep into doing that, I sort of put that band down, really, and didn't do a lot more with it. I think the last album we made with Atavist was in 2007?
Radu: Yeah, about when you started doing Winterfylleth more… kind of started doing it.
CN: Yeah, exactly, so we started doing Winterfylleth and then put an album out in 2008, and then, obviously, every few years since then, so Atavist kind of took a back seat, and also the guys that were involved in Atavist, like, one of them was Simon, who's the drummer in Winterfylleth, so we kept together doing that, but the other guys had different priorities and we weren't doing a lot with Atavist at the time, so it just kind of took a back seat, but we've always sort of stayed friends over the years and talked about doing things again. In about 2016 or 2017 we sort of picked the idea up again of doing Atavist and we've slowly been writing an album really, probably since about 2011 I've been doing bits and pieces, but it's always taken a back seat to Winterfylleth. And now we finally had enough material, which I think is really strong, and we wanted to put an album together, just put it out and see what people think, you know, 13 years since the last album, so -
Radu: Yeah, see if there's still interest in it.
CN: Yeah, I think so. Hopefully there is, but if you don't put it out, then you'll never know. And also new bands put albums out all the time, so even if nobody remembers the band - which I'm sure a few people do - I'm hoping there's a new audience of fans who will like that band. There's lots of great albums like that that people are into, so I don't see why people wouldn't like it. Obviously we've got the backing of the same label as Winterfylleth and all that kind of press that those guys can help us with, so I'm hoping it reaches - well, it's obviously reached you -
CN: So let's hope it reaches other people.
Radu: Yes, but I had to do my research.
CN: (laughs) Well, indeed. But the press coverage hasn't fully started for that one, 'cause we're doing all the Winterfylleth stuff at the moment, so I'm hoping it becomes a little bit more visible in the next three or four weeks.
Radu: Yeah, I hope so. Don't forget to do the press for it as well.
CN: Oh, no, we will, don't worry. Actually, that one's not coming out until the 19th June, so we've got probably six or seven weeks before that one, whereas Winterfylleth's out in a week's time, a week today. [Ed: That's now a week ago. We're late.]
Radu: Oh. I don't know where I read that Atavist was coming in, like, two weeks?
CN: No, no, it's coming in… six weeks, I think. Hang on. One, two, three, four, five… [skips six] …seven weeks. It's coming in seven weeks, so it's the 19th of June it's coming out.
Radu: Perfect. You know, for me, the less music out there right now the better, because that means I have more time to listen to everything.
CN: Yeah, it's an interesting one, isn't it? We had this question a few times, should we delay the release of the album, and I was like, "I don't know!" Maybe people want some new albums when they're stuck at home. Maybe it's the right time to release an album. I mean, obviously it's not the right time to sell the new album through shops, but you can always get albums online or digital or whatever or Spotify or any of those things, so I think people will check it out and then once the shops open again I'm sure people will buy it, so I think it's maybe a good time, I don't know.
Radu: Yeah, people who buy physical albums right now are not really the type of people who would say, "Oh, I've already heard it; I'm not going to buy it." If they're really interested in buying it even though they have the stream option, they would buy it even if it was delayed, the physical album.
CN: Yeah, I think so. Fortunately for us, the album was actually made before the lockdown, so the physical products exist. We've been setting up preorders this week and the label have got preorders and some of the independent shops that are still doing mail order and things have all bought it. Obviously the high-street shops are not open to sell it yet, but you can still get it, and I think - for example, Paradise Lost - they're another great band from near where we live, very close by - they did the same thing. They were asked by their label if they wanted to delay the album and I think they feel the same. It's just that people need some interest and some hope and some new stuff in these strange days, so why not put a new album out?
Winterfylleth as shot by Dan Walmsley
Radu: Yeah. Okay. So even though most of the music you've worked on could be categorized as either black metal or doom metal, you've still covered a wide array of sounds, like the pastoral Winterfylleth, the sludgy Atavist, the post-induced Cloaca, the raw Ashes, the stoner-ish Megatronn- but other than Winterfylleth, Atavist, and Nine Covens, the one that fascinated me the most was Cloaca, not only because it is the most experimental album of the bunch, but because I have no idea why you decided to name it after a bird's excretory orifice. Is there any chance -
CN: No, go on, it's all right.
Radu: Is there any chance of there ever being a new Cloaca album?
CN: Um… There might be, but it won't have me on it, I don't think, if there is. What's interesting is the name. Well… it wasn't really my band at all originally; it was some other guy's, this main guy called Lewis [Naylor], whose band that was, really. They really liked Atavist and asked me to produce their album, and then as the album was being made, their singer left, so I ended up kind of helping them write some stuff and then doing vocals with it. So I don't know, really. I do like that album, and actually, the name - they would pronounce it "kloʊˈeɪkə" -
Radu: Oh. [Ed: Radu has been pronouncing the word very Romanianly.]
CN: - but, I mean, it's news to me, that's just how he pronounced it - but there is another definition of it, actually. I think it does mean what you say, which is, um…
CN: …a kind of… orifice…
Radu: (giggling childishly)
CN: …but I think it also means a kind of place of mystery or something as well? [Ed: It's Latin for "sewer", which sort of works.]
Radu: Well, they're both places of mystery to me.
CN: (laughs) Exactly, yes. I think that's where it was coming from, but, yeah, that was not really my thing; I just sort of helped them with vocals and production, so… I think it's a great album, I think it's cool, and we recorded that album with Greg [Chandler] from the band Esoteric, so that was an interesting experience, to work with him, 'cause normally I record all of our stuff with this guy Chris Fielding near where we live, he's a good friend of ours, so it was interesting to work with Greg as well, so… It's a cool album and I put it out on my record label and it did pretty well, so who knows? Maybe those guys'll do something one day, but they live quite far away from me, so I don't know if it would involve me, but never say never, you know?
Radu: Yeah. But you know you could just form a new band and call it "Cloaca", because I've seen that happen a lot of times. Some guy who was barely with the band reforms it under the new name and puts a patent on the name, so the others can't reform it. [Ed: I find it hard to believe that anybody would do such a thing.]
CN: Oh, God, I've got too many bands to be worried about stuff like that, never mind getting involved with Cloaca again!
Radu: Yeah, I don't suppose any of the other ones would get any revival, now that Atavist got one?
CN: Well, I mean, Nine Covens is still going, so we… Again, I live quite far away from those guys; they live in the south of England and I live in t' nawth of England, but that band was always a sort of studio project, really. I mean, we do stuff kind of sporadically and we've been demoing new songs over the past couple of years, and those guys know that Winterfylleth is my main focus and obviously some of those guys are in other bands as well - Stafford [Glover], who plays the bass, he's in Extreme Noise Terror, and Paul [Ryan], who played the other guitar, he was in a band called The King Is Blind and he's in a few other bands and he's also a huge agent as well, so he's really busy, too. Well, he's not busy at the moment, 'cause obviously there's no shows, but he's generally pretty busy.
CN: So there will be some more Nine Covens stuff at some point, but obviously the main focus at the moment is this Winterfylleth album, 'cause that's my main project and that's a kind of key focus album for me, really, so…
Radu: And then Atavist.
CN: And then Atavist in six, seven weeks' time, yeah.
Radu: And I don't suppose you're gonna be starting new projects, considering how many you already have.
CN: (laughs) Um… Not at the moment. Part of me would like to make a death metal album at some point.
Radu: Yeah, you should.
CN: I'm a big fan of that sort of stuff. I really like the old-school death metal, stuff like Bolt Thrower and Hail Of Bullets and Immolation and all those kinds of bands.
Radu: And if there's a market for it, it's right now. Half of the demos we review are death metal ones anyway.
CN: Yeah, that's the thing; I would want it to be kind of interesting. Some of the most interesting death metal is coming out in the last few years, for me. I really like the traditional stuff and I'd probably want to make a more traditional-sounding death metal album, like Bolt Thrower or whatever, but bands like Grave Miasma, for example, that kind of death metal - I like Corpsessed and I like Sulphur Aeon and bands like that that kind of have this sort of atmospheric, almost swirly, chaotic style of death metal as well. It's good riffs, but it's also quite atmospheric. It's interesting.
Radu: Yeah, it's like a blend with what black metal does best, which is create atmosphere.
Radu: So it takes that characteristic of it.
CN: Definitely. I agree.
Radu: And you could also - now that you're gonna start a death metal project, you should also start a punk project, but instead of advocating for freedom you're gonna advocate for feudalism.
CN: Something like that. I, uh… Well, I left my punk days behind me a long time ago. I came from quite a punk city when I was growing up, so some of the first bands I was ever watching were punk and ska bands. Yeah, I did grow up listening to a lot of that stuff, but I kind of stopped doing that when I discovered more extreme metal. But yeah, I did used to play in a punk band when I was very, very young, but obviously it was rubbish like everybody's first band.
Radu: (laughs) Of course. Well, I'm glad you're not doing a ska Winterfylleth album.
CN: (laughs) No, that's probably never going to happen.
Radu: You said "probably", not "definitely". [Ed: Boy, don't tempt the gods.]
CN: Ah, no, no, it's definitely not going to happen, but who knows? Maybe I'll get into my 50s or 60s and decide that I really like ska again. Who knows?
Radu: So for a person playing in so many bands themed around Anglo-Saxon heritage, you sure don't have a problem playing the role of Apollo in Hammer Of The Gods.
Radu: (with hints of accusation and jealousy) Why Apollo of all the possible gods? [Ed: Aphrodite was taken.]
CN: I don't know. That was just a joke band, really, with some guys from the label. I don't know why we did that band, to be honest. It's quite bad, really.
CN: I guess you have to have a sense of humor in life, and although, you know, my passion is history and black metal and stuff like that, and obviously there's a mystery and a mystique that comes with that stuff, I am a normal person as well, to some extent. I do have a sense of humor, I do have the ability to laugh at myself or to be involved in things like that. We made those songs - it was just to do some stuff with some guys from the label, really, and get to know them. I don't know why - I can't even remember why we decided to do it with a Greek mythology thing; I think it was the singer's idea. What's funny is there's some really kind of well-known members of that band, like Darren [Toms, a.k.a. Zeus], who's the drummer, he used to play with that band The Hurt Process, who were a really big punk band back in the day. The singer, Rob [Newson, a.k.a. Poseidon] used to be in Landmine Spring, who used to be a really big metal band back in the '90s, 2000s. Dan [Capp, a.k.a. Ares], who was the guitar player, he's now in Winterfylleth. So yeah, some quite well-known musicians in that band, considering it was a bit of a joke. Although we actually did a full tour with Crowbar, which is hilarious.
(mutual peals of laughter; it is indeed hilarious)
Radu: Well, what bothered me about it is why didn't you use the Roman version of the names instead of the Greek ones, considering Britain was Roman? You could have tied it with, like, Winterfylleth being the continuation of that period.
CN: I don't think we were thinking that carefully about it, to be honest, but you're not wrong.
Radu: Well, if you do revive the band, now you know.
CN: (laughs) Thanks, man. I'll take your advice.
A good ol' gathering
Radu: You're probably more familiar with this than me. What were the religious beliefs of England before its Christianization?
CN: Well, there's lots of things, really, wasn't there? It depends on how far back you go. I mean, it gets called lots of things: heathenism, paganism, all those kinds of things. There's lots of really early beliefs and I guess almost tribal belief systems in the British Isles before then. I guess that's why we kind of try to incorporate bits and pieces of that into some of the artwork and some of the runes as well. I would say that someone like Dan is way more close to that stuff than I am, but if you see Dan's Wolcensmen folk project that he does, which is his solo project, that's our other guitar player, he's really interested in that stuff and uses a lot of symbolism. But I guess there's a specific kind of… I don't know what you call them, like English or British rune rows that there are and there's a few specific runes that exist as well… There's a kind of Northern European religious history, I suppose, isn't there, that's kind of similar across lots of European countries and the folk tales kind of mirror one another in lots of ways, but there was a few specifics in the British Isles as well, and obviously it was quite a tribal period of time, and then ultimately you had things like Christianity came and swept through a lot of the paganism and through the isolated heathenism that was in the country and tried to convert us all to their way of thinking.
Radu: Yeah. But Christianity did have a bit of a positive influence if you think that a lot of the knowledge from earlier periods was in the monasteries where the monks were transcribing it and they were keeping the records of those times.
CN: Yeah, it's an interesting thought, actually, because some people would argue that Christianity has really been a good thing, the idea that you all have the same belief system and you all believe in the idea of community and the spirit that comes with that. I think it's a difficult one because lots of people these days don't believe in the idea of a God, but they do believe in the idea of community, so you can see how the amazing Gothic buildings and the amazing artwork and works of music and praise that came out of Christianity, how much of an impact they had on the world. I just think these days that many people like to forego the idea of there being some kind of religious deity that controls everything, but I think you can't argue the impact of the beauty that can be found in some of the things that Christianity brought to this country.
Radu: Yeah, a lot of religions I see have two different aspects. There's the cultural aspect and the connection with the deity, and you can kind of tie those two apart.
CN: Yes, that's true.
Radu: Even a lot of people's interest in heathenism doesn't have to do with connection to the gods but with connection to the ancestors and their way of life.
CN: Yeah, I think you're absolutely right, and I think that's how many people see it. That's why some people said to us, "Did you not feel weird playing heathen music in churches when you were doing your acoustic album?" I was saying, you know, like you said, you have to kind of split that culture away from it. It's a beautiful, atmospheric, amazing building that would represent those songs really well, and I think a lot of that early music came from worship music, didn't it, from people who were creating music to worship God or Jesus or whatever it might have been, other gods, so it's something that's important to our history and it would be a strange thing to gloss over, but we always focus a little bit more on the ancient history, because there's a lot of interesting tales within that. I think people know Christianity a lot more. It's like, it would be strange for us to do, like a lot of bands have done, Nordic-themed lyrics and aesthetic, because I think everyone knows that quite well and sometimes people have gone too far with it and almost turned it into a kind of cartoonish version of what are quite heartfelt stories -
Radu: Yeah, pretty much.
CN: I think we just wanted to focus on something that I guess belongs to us a little bit more, in a way, and was something that was important for the development of our country, so that's why we stuck with that. There is no doubt that there is interest in other areas and you could have a look at Christianity quite easily and - [alarm goes off]
Radu: Okay, so since we have such limited time, I'm gonna sprint through the next questions. Are you familiar with Anglish?
Radu: It is a linguistic purist attempt of removing non-Germanic words from the English language.
CN: Oh, yes, I am, very much so! There's another name for it, which they call "plain English", and actually you'd do well to speak to Dan, who is our other guitar player, about that, because he writes all of the lyrics for his other band, Wolcensmen, in plain English, which is a challenge in and of itself because you have to swap out different words for the ones that mean something similar, but, yeah, I'm very aware of it. It's an interesting concept, and actually there's a society called the Plain English Society who have got some interesting books on it. [Ed: I think he might be referring to the Plain English Campaign.]
Radu: Yes, because all I know is that words like literature are replaced with words like bookcraft, which sound very Germanic and it's kind of cool. Okay, so, as someone from Huddersfield, how does it feel knowing that Americans made their bastardized version of rugby and called it by the name of another sport? [Ed: I feel I should say something out of principle, but I also don't care.]
CN: Rugby? (laughs) Yeah, I don't really care too much about that, to be honest, but I am just glad that one of the great British institutions, which is rugby, or rugby leagues, was born in Huddersfield, in the George Hotel, if I'm right [Ed: he is], which is right in the center of town, so it's one of the main things that the town is famous for. Yeah, it's a quite interesting and cool fact about where I'm from -
CN: - and interesting that you were able to find out that's where I grew up.
Radu: (nervously hiding his surveillance gear) I do my research.
Radu: Okay. I was actually surprised - like, it is not a city I have heard of before and I was expecting it to have a few thousand people, but you actually have more than the city that I live in.
CN: It's - I want to say it's - I think it might be the biggest town in England? Or at least it claims to be. It's interesting, yeah. Obviously it's really nearby to where - like, My Dying Bride are from just next to there, so are Paradise Lost -
Radu: Oh, okay.
CN: - so lots of those Peaceville bands. Peaceville's from very close to there, so we all grew up with that stuff.
Radu: Okay. Well, I think that's about it.
CN: Cool. Well, thanks for your time, and obviously I look forward to seeing what you come up with.
Radu: Sure. Do you have anything to say to our readers?
CN: Well, ah, we got a new album, The Reckoning Dawn, coming out May the 8th. We hope you enjoy it and that everyone can come and see us at a show one day. Thanks for your support.
CN: See you later.
Radu: See you later. I hope the next interviewer doesn't have interesting questions.
CN: (laughs) Cheers, man. Appreciate it.
||Posted on 13.05.2020 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.|
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