Riharda intervija
Author: Fjordi
© Fjordi

Skyforger is a band that I had been always eager to interview and I was lucky to have a meeting with guitar player Rihard. They hail from Latvia, and theyґre the most popular band in that small Baltic country. They are characterised by loyalty to their roots, their good taste for true metal and singing about national history in their lyrics. As it usually happens, the best things take their time, but after requesting and waiting in a patient way, some delays and some losses of the questions list, we could get their impressions to our lush questions...
Hey freedom fighters! What is the Skyforger horde doing right now? Is the new assault being prepared?
Hello Fjordi! Hail to Denmark! At first thank you very much for your interest in Skyforger music! My name is Rihard and I play guitar for Skyforger. Sorry for such huge delay with the interview, Peter (singer) has been busy in last months, and he handed over this interview to me. I will try to answer your questions as well as I can.
Firstly I want to say that Skyforger released our third CD - "Thunderforge" three months ago through German label Folter Records. It's been well received by our fans around as far as I know. Right now we have finished working in studio on upcoming pure folk music album "Zobena Dziesma" (Sword Song), which will be released by ourselves in this September. It contains 13 songs and it will deal with our national heritage of war and mythological songs. Don't mix this folk album with our new metal album "Thunderforge". "Sword Song" is our fourth album and is definitely one-off in the fields of folk music. It was just like a small devil that we had to do, in order to escape from it :) According to concerts in this summer we have played at German summer festival "Under The Black Sun". This was a very cool black metal festival and our performance turned out well. We also know that in the beginning of 2004 we will tour Germany and possibly some neighbour countries - Austria and Holland with German metal bands Trimonium and Menhir. Some other gigs are in planning. Concerning new metal songs, yes, a new assault is slowly being prepared; we have three new songs half ready, but without lyrics yet.
You wrote about Latvian events in two different ages, in your two first full-length albums. Could you anticipate any lyrical topics treated in the next album? Will it be again related to Latvia and war?
Yes, we have been working on two different subjects on two previous LP's - pagan battles on "Kauja Pie Saules" 1998 and "Latvian Riflemen" topic on our second album, in 2000. As this interview has been made quite a long time ago, by this time we have our new, third CD out - "Thunderforge". I think that this album is 'different' than previous album "Latvian Riflemen". In this album we explored new paths, which we have always wanted to do before, to escape from 'battle' themes. We had it already in the minds a couple years ago. This "Thunderforge" album is different in many meanings - it deals with Latvian mythology, which is our long forgotten religion of our forefathers. Album is slower, doomier, and not so aggressive; also we use a lot of folk instruments to get the ancient sound. For the first time we have experimented with synth and it will give a more monumental sound. As for sound I can say that this will be much better, because studio always improves with new equipment. As you know we have recorded all our albums in one studio - "Phoenix".
The last album was heavier, is your taste more oriented to black metal or you prefer heavy metal bands? I know you even play live Manowar's "Hail and kill" and Running Wild's "Raw Ride"! These are bands that many people in the metal scene despise, by the way (however, they've got great albums, I don't know why so many people speaks shit about them!). Is classic heavy metal among your preferences when listening to music? What could be the style of the new album?
Interesting question. I can say that our musical preferences are somewhere in between black metal and heavy metal. The music we play is quite hard to describe, something from every style, sometimes you can hear even doom metal, and it possibly comes from pre-Skyforger period. Some of us like more than one kind of music - I am more kind of a black metal fan; Peter is definitely a heavy metal guy, our bass player is also very educated metal lover, we all have many records and like to listen to them often. Talking about Manowar and Running Wild, we like those bands, because they have written some of the best heavy metal tunes, and our played cover songs are just our fun, when we do them. Of course Manowar men are stupid posers, but it doesn't matter. Sometimes we like to play covers, it comes from the beginning of Skyforger, we have Judas Priest, Amorphis, Darkthrone songs etc. Yes, when we go on gigs, usually we listen to some heavy metal CDs; it's a great fun. The style of our new album definitely will differ from our previous works, because we don't like to repeat one theme. I guess that our new album will be the fastest and hardest work ever, but until that it's still a lot of time to go.
Nowadays your "Semigalls' Warchant" demo has become sort of a cult act. Are you planning to release it again in the future? I think it's quite good, in fact it received great reviews on the metal press, you know...
Yes haha…kind of cult act. We still like this record very much and don't want to forget by no means! We often play these songs in gigs and I think they have stood the test of time. I cannot tell you about sales of our demo, but the reaction has been very positive and overwhelming, it was even voted as "Demo of the Year" in German's Ablaze magazine, and also all main metal press who got the promo copy put out the good marks. Maybe right now we have gone a bit away from pure black metal, but it's a logic evolution of the band, we don't want to produce two similar albums in a row. But it's our past and I cannot see any problems with that. I can tell you fresh news that we plan to release finally "Semigalls' Warchant" on CD/LP format by Folter Records and that will happen in December 24, in day of Winter Solstice [great news and great release date! - Fjordi]. The idea of such release has been always somewhere in the air, because demo is sold out long ago, but fans still write and demand it. We'll remaster that and add new artwork and some bonus tracks. So, it will be available again.
Baltic coutries situation and scene: is it difficult to release, record and play in a band in your country?
It depends on what is difficult to you… :) for example if standard American gets into the desert; he soon will die, because he is a weak and miserable creature used to drink coca-cola and eat hot-dogs, but native desert people will survive. Yes, it is quite hard to run the band here, to find record deals and generally live a worthwhile life of the metal musician. Especially it's hard for younger bands, I should say that we have some popularity around thanks to immense work for Skyforger. But we have dealt very well with such situation. There are many countries in South where heavy metal is even prohibited, so in Europe everything is OK yet :)
Latvia is very unknown country, specially when it comes to metal bands. How is your daily life in Latvia? Speak some lines about your country, you seem to be very proud of being Latvian, since the things you reflect on Skyforger lyrics...
Latvia is usual small Baltic country; as you might know recently we parted from USSR (13 years ago)… so then it was a terrible time, our nation was almost close to obliteration, our language was out of use and in all places Russian was the main language. Many Russian immigrants were placed here by purpose in order to grow up their number here artificially. Meanwhile Latvians were repressed by all means, some were deported to distant districts into Siberia, where thereґs no daylight and where it's eternal coldness. Generally foreign people don't understand this situation and stupidly ask: you should ask for your lawyer…that was totalitarian regime and secret agents were everywhere. Finally we got independence and right now we can use preferences of free world. Skyforger could not be possible in that time… That's also one of the reasons we are so proud of our nationality and language and generally our culture. We are just fans of all these things and it seemed natural to sing about those themes. Besides we like heavy music, so result is visible. :) Life here is the same as in every European country, nothing much to tell. Of course we are still quite poor economically but I guess we'll get better in future.
I notice certain Master's Hammer influences in "Kauja Pie Saules", but not in the same way like in "Latvian Riflemen". Master's Hammer came from an Eastern Europe country like yours... are you into this band? I think it's sort of a cult band among the Eastern metal scene...
To tell the truth I have never heard of Master's Hammer… :) I don't know such band, so I cannot talk about it. But to keep up the question I can freely say that we don't have any bands as idols and we don't take any band as influence. The only source we draw inspiration is old Latvian songs and historical events, the rest is our imagination and fantasy.
What is the importance of the past and tradition in the nowadays world, for you? What are your points of view about technological progression, scorn of the past cultures and the oblivion of the own roots?
Past and traditions are important to us. Old people say that one which doesn't know the past, will not know future either… at least we have studied historical events and have read many books about our interesting themes. Of course, new technology progress is cool and we like it, that would be stupid to deny it. For example, the internet and new recording technologies allow us things, which wasn't possible ten years ago, so why donґt use them? Concerning the own cultural heritage, I think that every country has to be proud of own traditions and past, can you imagine yourself without your mythology and Viking history? And let those powers that try to destroy them, fall down and perish.
Our music has no political meaning at all, I'd say probably it's based on our love to Latvian country, history and folklore. We have no aim to teach people some certain thoughts, but just to express our point of view to public. Paganism is also very important to us, but it's much more in a philosophical way, I mean, to live following Our Mother Nature rules, in confidence with our forests, meadows, birds and animals etc. I'd call it just a normal and comprehensive way of life. That has always been the way of our forefathers. In opposite take a look at American way of life, why do they need four cars, if there are only three family members? [Lack of many spiritual things makes them to want more material things, I think -Fjordi] I guess this non-economical living very soon will pay back to the world [Maybe itґs already doing that -Fjordi]. The world is full of stupid conquerors, which present their interests everywhere where there's some goodness out of land, and they are blind to minor problems of some small nations. To such americanization, cosmopolitism, injustice, despotism etc. goes out my big "fuck you". But to finish this question with a happier note, I'd say also that our ideology is Metal Music, we are metalheads and so it will be always!
In the past it seems that nazi-like symbols have caused a certain controversy around the Skyforger concept, until the point that you had to state on album back covers that you hadn't nothing to do with nazism with the "no nazi stuff here - only pagan symbols" issue. Tell me what is your opinion about nazism right now. As you may know there are bunch of bands dubbed as "National Socialist black metal". Share some thoughts with us...
This question is old as the the band itself… :) I have no any bad thoughts for those people who ask such questions… the whole shit started when we chose to have a firecross (ancient Latvian symbol) in our logo. This logo did look cool and it had some certain meaning in that, firecross was like joining element. Unfortunately soon we understood that we could have problems with that, our previous record company insisted on changing the logo, but we didn't allow that. So then it followed a compromise, with the warning on the CDs. All this was due to the sales of CDs, because they were anxious that some might think that this was a nazi band. I can say that many stupid people out there in the world only know Hitler's regime in the last century, and they always start to whine when seeing some similar sign. This symbol is 5000 years old and it could be found at many cultures around the world. It gives power to the one that carries that. Nazis needed a sign, so they stole it, simple as that. Now this sign is damaged. I can also say that this is part of our culture, and it's legal here. Of course, we are not a NSBM band and those who think so, can go fuck off.
Folk passages are a trademark trait on Skyforger music... but do you include the folk intruments in live shows?
No, folk instruments in live show are quite hard to use, so we have parted with such idea. Heavy metal sound is thick and solid, and for such fragile instruments it's hard to break through it. That's why in live concerts we just play those melodies on guitars. We often incorporate some folk singing, but such songs are a quite small number.
"Pagan metal" is a description often used when refering to Skyforger... labels usually are a bit absurd and too short to describe a myriad of feelings expressed through the music, I think... how do you like your music to be described? (Hint: "Skyforger sounds like Skyforger" is not accepted, hehe!) Besides that, what do you think about Odinism and the bands that carry its flag?
Hehe… it's also a very difficult question. I guess "pagan metal" or "folk metal" would be more proper… I don't know, we never have put any sticker to our music. That's mostly metal press and their imagination. Through all these years I have seen so many labels and comparisons to Skyforger's music… Some of them are interesting; some are stupid. I usually don't care about it. I believe our way of music is hard to describe, because we mix a lot of music styles, and change topics and sound from album to album. It's not true heavy metal or true black metal. :) It's not by purpose but it comes out naturally. I cannot give any clear answer to this question and nobody from the band can do it. Many call us 'black metal'… I guess that was not right from the very beginning. We are something in between :) and with a folk music touch. Odin and those bands… yes, sometimes we are called Viking metal too :), it just shows incompetence of those writers. I respect the bands under the Odin flag, it's nothing wrong with that IMHO. Every metal style, be it pagan, heavy, death, gore or 'whatever' metal have rights to live since there are people interested in such styles. People should be open-minded and then we'd have no problems in this world. All the shit starts when some stupid morons consider themselves more than others and then they have rights to rule over people. Sadly, such are the biggest part, that's why metal is in the underground.
You've been proud enough to sing in Latvian, except for some songs on the "Semigalls' Warchant" demo. I'd like to see the reasons, and if you want to keep on doing it in the future. Would the album sales make you change the language of the songs? Perhaps you realised many bands have shifted to English after using their native tongues in the beginning of their careers (the cases of Ulver, Enslaved, Dimmu Borgir, Borknagar...) What are your thoughts about this fact?
I can explain this situation with singing languages. In Skyforger's beginnings (in 1995) we were more orientated to English tongue, because of the bandґs past. Three members played since 1991 and their style was brutal doom metal a la Cathedral. Of course working language was English. Later, when the idea around Skyforger was forming, still Grindmaster Dead was inside them (I joined only in 1996) and Peter wrote some songs in English. They are very cool, but anyway later we decided to keep up a national touch and to sing only in Latvian. Also Peter is not so good at English poetry, it comes more naturally for him to compose lyrics in Latvian. I just can say that his lyrics in our tongue are pure masterpieces; I could never do it. He is definitely a real poet, and many people have told me that lyrics for "Latvian Riflemen" are so real and alive, so you can feel yourself like being into the battle-pit and the result is tears… About bands which turn later into English speaking ones as success approaches… I can say that this is not what we ever will do, this is not possible with Skyforger! If it's done by purpose, then these bands are commercial sell-outs and music is not so important for them. I don't support such system. However, first Borknagar CD is great, I've heard it [I agree - Fjordi].
What is your favourite beer? Is Latvian beer any remarkable? Let's speak about this interesting topic...
My fave beers are Latvian made - 'Bauskas Gaišais' and 'Tervetes Alus', these are light beers and are brewed by centuries of old traditions. We have many sorts of beer and I don't fear this sentence: I can say that these beers are much better that usual European beers- Heineken, Budweiser etc. These are overpriced, unnatural, disgusting piss. That's problem with big companies, which produce it for masses and don't care about individual customer. When we meet, I'd tell you more… :) [I will remember it! -Fjordi]
Do you think if you were born in another country you would be far more famous than you are now? Is the country of origin a great advantage/disadvantage?
Yes, I think so. Far more, I know it. I know how record labels look at incoming promo/demo records… from Scandinavia it goes into section A, from Europe - section B, from another countries (including Eastern Europe) section C, D or whatever. Maybe after one month somebody will listen to the record. I just sometimes listen to bands from big labels and cannot believe that they are signed with such crappy music and shitty sound. The answer is origin country… So, we are in a way unlucky, but in fact I don't give a shit about it.
I'd like to know your opinion about other neighbour bands as Ha Lela, Neglected Fields or Zpoan Vtenz.
Ha Lela is a fucking dead band, I don't know what's so special about them. They realized one CD years ago and disappeared. Nobody have ever seen this band on stage… Neglected Fields are from Latvia, they are not my cup of tea, because they play technical death metal, that style cannot bring many new fields to explore… it's been repeated and repeated again. Zpoan Vtenz was dead, but just this week I heard that they're alive again and playing in a festival in Lithuania; they are a cool pagan band. Basically nothing new on these shores, except maybe one good new act - we have here three promising guys who will release their demo soon (in November), their name is Urskumug. Their stage image is very unusual and the music they play, I'd describe as ancient black metal, maybe they will get some recognition, who knows? Lyrics match fantastic, and death themes and their works are quite original. Of course there are more bands around.
Well, that's all. Thank you very much for your time. Now you can close this interview with some wise words...
Thank you too for your questions, I hope that we play one day in Denmark :)
I wish you all the best and the last words… visit our homepage, there's always latest news about Skyforger - http://www.skyforger.lv/
Nothing's forgotten, nothing will be forgotten!