Vampire Magazine
© Robin; Vampire Magazine


1. Hello Peter, thank you that you're willing to answer my questions. How is life in Latvia at the moment, to start very cliché?
Hello Robin! Well, finally I am having a free evening and I decided to answer some interviews hehe. Life here is pretty ok, only this stupid Christmas circus is getting a bit on my nerves. But otherwise I am ok, working almost everyday and drinking beer sometimes. Everyday is work and home, so I can say, pretty average feelings.
2. I want to start this interview with a question about media. Have you ever experienced negativity about Skyforger, coming out of big media such as newspapers or television? And then I mean things concerning ideology, politics or whatsoever...
Not really. I can say, that we are not that kind of band that goes into often on TV or big newspapers, but all what here is been written is generally positive about us. The situation with journalists is quite funny here, because all who like metal music, they get some promos from us when there is something new, and they almost always write pretty good reviews about us. We are not a political band, so we never get asked to comment such things, and by this time also everybody knows that we are singing about historical things, so there’s no reason to connect us with politics. I sometimes get, from foreign press, many questions about our political situation of today, so I have to explain because they don’t know anybody else to ask to. Then I have to answer and tell about much various stuffs here: politics, our history pages, about which beer is better, how about girls, famous places for tourists and other such things. Sometimes it is boring, but I try to understand those people, because it all seems a new info for them.
3. Almost everyone within the (underground) Metal scene hates the big media, since they spread rumours about metalheads or certain genres that are based upon nothing. In my opinion that raped vision of the Metalscene is quite funny, but what do you think as an artist of such rumours spread by those journalists?
I think they must be killed haha. No, that’s a joke, but seriously this is a very bad situation when you read bullshit about your fave music style or bands. Unfortunately it’s very easy to lay down some lines full of shit nowadays. Such people are going mostly for cheap popularity and also don’t care about facts, never check out how it was in reality. Sadly such things can happen. When you are getting more well known, many eyes are turned on you and everyone wants to get something sensational out of nothing. Hopefully the truth always will prevail and such people won’t be writing anymore.
4. About some things that are said about Skyforger on forums, etc. “Skyforger is a Nazi band!” is a good example of that. I know it’s not the case, but let’s get this clear for everyone. The swastika that can be found in the logo has nothing to do with neo-nazism, but with the mythological Latvian meaning of it - which is “happiness, energy, fire, thunder and wind” isn’t it? Could you tell us more about the symbols you use?
Yes, this is quite a good example. Unluckily we have to taste it on our own personal skin sometimes, which is making you think, how certain people sometimes are narrow-minded. Those people just take a look at our logo, then they recollect something what they have seen on TV about WW2, and remember that bad guys Nazis also had something like that on their war machines and banners. So in their minds logically we’re also one of them and are named as Nazis too. Amen. Such logic is so poor! We often have to meet such primitive and archaic views. People are afraid to see things more openly, to talk about them, finally to know something more. It’s like - my mother said: “Don’t touch it!” So I never touch it, because my mother always knows it better. In real life it happens like this. This story told our label manager. He started to run out of “Thunderforge” album so he ordered to press another thousand CD’s to the same factory where was pressing done for some 3-4 times of that album before. Accidently, the boss of the factory came in and saw the cover of ‘Thunderforge’. He probably had never seen that before, but he didn’t like it. In his view this fantasy painting of an old man with a hammer in hands contained a fascistic meaning, also he didn’t like the logo, and when he found the word “hail!” in end in the thank list, this was enough for him - he banned all bands and releases of our label. The label guy asked how it was possible that they used to be allowed to press them. He said – “I don’t know, but now you cannot do it anymore..” He never cared to open the booklet, read some lyrics or ask some people what this band is about, to check our homepage, or to finally call our label to find out more. Most ironic thing was that he just got scared from word “hail” which is old English word and means “hello, how are you”. He just remembered possibly that Nazis said something similar (heil), and banned all production. So the label had to find new factory. If looking that way, then Manowar’s song “Hail and Kill” also is very fascistic and should be banned haha. In the same time they easily press CD’s with satanic images or pictures where all human guts are turned inside out… do you think this is normal attitude? Or some shops refuse to sell “Semigalls’ Warchant” CD, because it looks very Nazi-like haha. Tell me something funnier in this world? That CD is absolutely about old pagan themes, but they see this damn thing everywhere! Such imbecile people are a lot around. Luckily I see that healthy people are in bigger proportion and they see that our music is what matters, not some crap ideology what happened 50 years ago. We simply wanted to use our national symbols as part of our band, because we sing about our countries past, it was natural for us. Are we guilty that Hitler stole some pagan signs for his use and today everyone dumb idiot recognize only this meaning? We have many hundreds versions of firecrosses, thundercrosses, various old pagan signs that are used even today for some dress adornments, in newspapers, in architecture, even we have some parliament party which has a firecross in logo. And it all has nothing to do with nazi movement. Should we burn and erase all that from of our culture? Those people should be more learning and they would find that such signs were known even 5000 years ago and they come originally from India, which has been a cradle of civilization. Later they spread out and many tribes used them as sings of protection against bad spirits; later they turned into primitive language. Moreover, Nazis in WW2 killed my grandfather, so why should I praise now their ideology? And to tell truth, I’ve never cared about any ideology anyway. I have better things to do in my life - like music.
Sometimes this shit is just too much for me; maybe we will change our logo for sake of eternal rest with the next album… We also cannot play any bigger festivals, just because of this. I still don’t know what we will do about it.
5. People have always considered Skyforger as a unique mix of several Metal-styles. Was that the goal you wanted to achieve, when it comes to the thoughts people have about Skyforger?
I can’t say really what we wanted to achieve when we started. We just wanted to make some good Heavy Metal music, and what came out you can see today. I think, it is just a combination of our old influences, our musical views, also our Latvian native surroundings play some role too. We all do like folklore music and it seemed right to include it here and there. People and media found that cool and interesting, so that’s great. I sometimes think, that every style has some positive sides and why not to take some best of them, and fuse ‘em into one?
6. Can you say in just one sentence what the main message of Skyforger is, that has to be known by the listeners?
I want to say that we don’t carry any hidden messages, neither ideological nor political ones; we are just Heavy Metal band. But if you ask me, here you are:
“Always remember who you are and where you come from, and be proud of your country and its roots.”
7. About the history of Skyforger then.
“Semigalls’ Warchant” is your first demo. I want to ask you something about the name. The Semigalls is an ancient folk that lived in Latvia, you consider them as your forefathers, your ancestors. You honour the Semigalls, but as far as I know, you’ve always lived with the Kurshi and Latgalls. What makes you honour the Semigalls?
Yes, there were four main tribes who lived in today territory of Latvia. Kurshi were living by the seaside, so they were sailors and sea riders. Semigalls are important to us because they were only one who never gave up to Christian intruders who came here to get new lands. Other tribes were more less easy to conquer, but Semigalls although small in number they fought for many years until they were beaten away from native castles. This is documented fact from German chronicles. We have the same blood and wanted to create some songs in memory of those great people.
8. Semigalls’ Warchant is the rawest work of Skyforger, was your intention with this demo to make Black Metal, influenced by Pagan/Folk Metal, or are there other reasons for this mixture of styles?
Actually in demo you will not find many folkish stuffs. This is angry, grim Black Metal, accidentally colored by some folk instrument. It shows the state of mind how we were feeling at that time. Only reason why it came out like that was that we wanted to move away from doom roots and make more angry music. Black Metal seemed right choice, and also our new guitarist Rihard was huge fan of that. Later we started to seek for our own style.
9. What is the biggest difference between the before mentioned demo and the debut album: “Kauja Pie Saules”? I think this album may be considered as a step in the direction of the music you were going to make in the future with albums like “Latvian Riflemen” and “Thunderforge”. Do you agree?
You are right; it was like something in between. Two things would be a difference from demo: the quality of recording and much bigger use of folk instruments. I guess “Kauja Pie Saules” (The Battle of Sun) album will always be something special for me, because it was first real CD for us and we were very happy when got it out. It got good reviews everywhere and we were suddenly compared to bands like Borknagar and Satyricon. It was unexpected and in the same time good to hear.
10. Your best album is in my opinion “Latvian Riflemen”. This is an album in which the nationalism is very clear. On the back of the LP I have, I can find the sentence: “The Latvians have never been conquerors, we just have been fighting for the land of our fathers that belongs to us by right.” Is this still something many people think in Latvia? Or are you ‘just one of the few’ nationalists around there?
Yes, this is what mostly Latvians think, we are not only a few national minded people. I just wanted to say that despite the fact that we are small country and all big neighbors came with their big armies and tried to annihilate us in every possible way, we still live and breathe. And our aim of independent country is established. Latvian Riflemen era was very important period in our history, as reading the books I understood that people can become a hero even today, not only many centuries ago. This is something inside all of us. This passion for freedom, idea of own country, will to sacrifice your life for better future – I could not stay away from idea to make an album about those people who stood for months in water and mud, just because we can now live free. Probably these feelings somehow also showed up in music - album turned out angry and desperate. I would never want to live under foreign rules, then better is to die in battle. This is my nationalism and how I see it.
11. Is ancient history more important than good future?
Both are important. I believe that without valuing own history is also no future.
12. I guess “Thunderforge”, the third album; made the big switch to the audience you have now. Can you tell us something about the concept of the album?
We wanted for longer time to make an album which would be more calm and melodic, because otherwise we could be branded as “battle” band, but we didn’t want to be seen that way, we wanted to show more sides of band and that we are able to write also different styled songs. Yes, after this album that was surely most catchy one, we started to get a lot more attention than ever before. Songs were in first places at rock tops, we were invited to play gigs and so on.
I guess it was nothing bad. Every musician wants to write his “Reign In Blood”, so maybe “Thunderforge” was ours… I don’t know. I hope that our best album is still coming haha. We wanted to touch old pagan mythology of ancient tribes and whole album is dedicated to olden gods, various pagan customs and rituals. You can read more about it in our webpage. It was never before touched theme, though we walked around it a long time before.
13. Your most beautiful album had yet to come, in my opinion. I’m talking about the last/new - release: “Sword Song”. This is typical Slavonic folk music, without any Metal influences. We can find some remade tracks of the demo upon it, but also tracks already released on other albums. Why have you chosen this complete different direction for this in 2003 released album?
Yes, I agree that for many it was unexpected move, but only not for us. It was in the air somewhere all the time – to record fully acoustic album and finally collect all songs what we have into one full length. We were doing live sets for many years now and people started to question us when we are going to do the album after all, hehe. So, idea was given from the fans naturally. There are a lot more new songs, which are not on any metal albums. Also we re-recorded some folk songs, which we thought was crappy done before. I would not call it Slavonic music. It is purely Baltic style folk songs; you just don’t feel the difference between both. When you look at Chinese and Japanese guys, they might look also similar from beginning, but they are not. The whole folk music scene can differ very much even within our country. You travel 100 km from your place and you’d find different accent, other music instruments and other approach to folk music. Yes, I have to tell you that we will re-release this album properly though Dutch label Vic Records next year, with some bonus tracks and additional artwork. Also LP version is coming. The reason of this is such that we are not able to promote CD alone; actually we never did it. Hopefully this label will give it a right spin.
14. About the last thing that came out by Skyforger; the re-release of the “Semigalls’ Warchant” demo. Is it re-released because it was sold out?
Exactly like this. From the start it was only about 500 tapes, which are sold out ages ago. But as this was our first record, many fans simply mailed and asked where to get it. I dubbed quite a lot of tapes and later burned & sent many CDR’s to fans, but this was not solution. Later appeared plan to release it properly, our label Folter Records agreed that it would be good idea. We added 4 new songs, did a 16 page booklet with some liner notes, old photos, and here we are. The response are very well for now, mostly all reviews I have seen are about 7-9 from 10 points. Sure, it’s up to taste, but it was meant for band fans anyway. We got many newer fans that would like to hear demo, so why not give them what they want.
15. About touring've done many, many gigs. Don't you ever get tired of touring through Europe?
Oh, not so many haha. Maybe some 150 gigs in our history only. In first years we were not that active band and did about some 5-7 shows a year, that was it. Now we got better touring situation, much experience and there are people who work for us organizing concerts, so we try from time to time visit countries outside Latvia, and play some gigs. For instance this year we were for first time in Ireland and Hungary, and later I read many good reviews. If such happen, I am happy too because this is what Heavy Metal is about – good music, beer and fun. From other hand I have to say that touring is not only pure joy, drinking beer and party all the time. It is actually hard job and makes a lot of stress. Every time there are some problems like getting late to shows and thus - bad sound; even stolen or forgotten instruments, very little sleeping which causes later some illnesses, problems with voice, you hardly get any showers etc. But I have to say that emotional factor of well-done concert overweight that all.
16. Have you ever done a show outside Europe?
No. Hopefully we will be able to do some USA gigs in next years, which would be most possible.
17. Be honest on this one, don't say Holland because I'm Dutch hehe...what is the best country to perform in, when you take especially the audience in consideration?
Yes, I know that there is difference. We did a tour with Salacious Gods and they told us about it. The most special country of course is Latvia, because here is our home and all fans are very special. They sing along and concerts are very emotional. But to say truth, situation everywhere is mostly the same. Finland is great, Germany too, Holland & Belgium also, all the rest of countries we were playing were great feelings. There’s been also disasters, when comes only some 20 people to gig, but it was fun later to see how they jumped all around the place haha.
18. What shows have you planned?
Well, we have two concerts in 27/28 January in Finland; then we kick off European tour with Swedish Viking Metal band Manegarm and Dutch Heavy Metal band Goddess Of Desire in 2nd March, this gig is in Arnhem. Later we do also one Belgium gig. Full dates you will find in our homepage. Then in 8th April we are playing Ragnarok festival in Germany, this will be a bigger one. They are gigs I can say about right now.
19. We also have to talk about your future, obviously. Is there going to be a new album? Will that be a lengthening piece of Thunderforge, or are you going to make another Folk-album like Sword Song?
We are working on the new songs now. Right now there are some 4-5 songs almost ready, but surely album can see light of day only somewhere at end of 2007, we always work slowly and want to do all perfect. It is done with folk albums for some time. Next one 100% surely will be full metal album! Stylistically it would be something in between “Thunderforge” and Thrash Metal. I have to say it, because we are on Thrash wave now and Black Metal is slowly slipping away. Simply there are too many Black Metal bands on this world and I think this style has emptied itself.
20. Your main subject regarding lyrics is the ancient history of Latvia, the predecessors in the fight against everything ‘not-Latvian’ in Latvia. Is this subject ever going to change, or will Skyforger quit when you’ve said everything you wanted about this subject?
I have thought about this matter by the glass of beer many times – when we should finish this entire affair… answer is not easy to get actually. I think, yes, when we will have no more to say musically, then we will quit with an honour. But subject wise, I think, we still have many not covered fields and topics. Our history is long one and I have picture of next album theme in my mind already.
I guess, we have our style and we won’t change it.
21. I would like to thank you for this interview. You may end it...
Thank you too. Have a success and many good interviews in next year. I hope to see you guys somewhere on our concerts. Happy 2006-year!
Nothing is forgotten, nothing will be forgotten!