Alternative Series: HOKUM (South Africa)

The Past
When I was a teenager growing up in the SA live scene I fell in love with a band called Marlowe. Their complex sound and mammoth stage show entranced me and I followed them around almost religiously. I saw them for the first time in a small pizza place/beat bar and watched them grow into one of the most legendary rock bands in South African history.
Their single Babies Breath shot them to stardom and became a number 1 hit on South African radio and I even saw their video on MTV, which at the time, no other South African rock band had done.
Their first album Lines from a Broken Telephone was one of the best albums of its time and still holds its ground as a classic album.
Drummer Rory Mayne departed from the band leaving Scott Wareham (Vocals, Guitar) Conrad de Jong (Guitar) and Jason Jackson (bass) with a choice, and they chose to head back to the rehearsal studio and craft something truly special.
And Hokum was born. 
Jason moved to Drums, and all three of them became more involved in the production, synth based low end and sound design that would help them redefine a digital (almost industrial) piece to their complex puzzle.
A few years have passed and now and they are ready to introduce their beautiful, intense and chaotic sound to the world. More Intense, more melodic and more brutal than ever.
Don’t just take my word for it, there are demo’s from the beginning of Hokum on their Soundcloud listen to the Demos they made of Kiss the weapon and the light that never ends to get an idea of how awesome this band is. 
The Present  
The Money Eaters is the debut album of Hokum.
We have been working hard on this album for more than a year now, so far the singles Touch Power, The Emerald and most recently Converse have been well received so far. The Emerald peaking at number 3 on The SA Alternative rock chart (5fm)
For me, this is a dream come true. I am working with the people I most looked up to as a teenager. The songs are amongst the best I have ever heard, and I am doing everything in my power to bring out the utmost best in this project.
It is a great honour to be a part of this. 
          DYLAN ELLIS  (Rock Producer/Engineer/Mixer)
Click HERE to find out more about Dylan Ellis

Hokum, thank you – for taking some time out of your daily lives to do this interview with Air Guitar Blog. The band was previously known to South Africans as Marlowe! How has things changed since then? In particular reference to the members as well as musically?

Marlowe was an amazing experience for us as we got a taste of fame due to a song called Babies Breath but this was also a curse in a way because from that song we were almost expected to go that route in song writing which started to confine our creativity and push ourselves to find what we were looking for. When our drummer decided to part ways we decided to leave behind the name Marlowe. Our bassist became the drummer and we started to program bass tracks and backing sounds using a laptop. We are still the same band but a basset as a drummer (which he is first a drummer at heart) and a new name HOKUM but now with a blank canvas and no one telling us what and how to do what we think we do best. As HOKUM we have complete freedom to do what we like but we did sacrifice a lot of fans who do not know who we are now and that little bit of commercial success we had, but we are far happier now in doing what we do.
Scott Wareham on guitar and vox, Conrad de Jong on guitar and Jason Jackson on drums is our line-up as HOKUM.

Does the band name, Hokum have any particular origins or was it chosen as arbitrary with no reference or meaning?

HOKUM was the name of one of the last Marlowe songs written and it felt good to have that small link into the new project. HOKUM meaning sentimental nonsense
Hokum has been described as having an “Intense, more melodic and more brutal than ever.” by Dylan Ellis. How would the Band describe their sound to a new audience?

Describing a sound is very difficult if one has not heard it. We try to find an aggressive tight easy to follow but hard to play riff around songs, we never force anything but let it grow into a piece of music then mold it into a song. We try to not get to complex in the sound but due to doing it for a while what we think is not complex is pretty weird and difficult to understand to most victims to our sound. Melodic force seems to be a common end for most songs.
Tell me more about Hokum’s last release. How did the concept come about for The Money Eaters? What was it like to work with renowned producer Dylan Ellis?

We have been working on our sound for a few years now and a full album of songs went unreleased and into history, we have now a defined sound which is HOKUM rather than a bit of Marlowe bleeding in. Dylan being an ex fan and now an amazing part of the team knows our sound and what we want from it. We have released three tracks with him in the driver seat and we are pleased with what is happening. Touch Power, The Emerald and Converse and very different songs but have a connection that is still HOKUM. He is getting a very clean full sound for us with smoothness mixed in but still very powerful. We look forward to continually working with him one song at a time. We are very slow at studio work so we conceptualize a look we want for each song, do a new photo shoot (with photographer Guy Standley) for the look of the band and song and realize it as a single. This has kept hype up and interest up in us which we are enjoying while we slowly creep toward a full length album release.
How important are the lyrics for Hokum? Who writes them and what kind of themes inspire the lyrics?

Scott Wareham writes the lyrics. Once a piece of music is complete he works on the lyrics and turns the music into a song that has meaning and purpose. He grabs inspiration from everyday occurrences from small insignificant situations to theories that only a few could grasp. He has a wide range of common sense and is open to challenge most thoughts so his writing style is very much true to him and not trying to please.

What are Hokum’s latest projects? Any shows or gigs planned for 2012?

We are always playing, always writing, always recording and always releasing we are one big project and 2012 is the year we are in.

What are the biggest surprises, musically, that have come out of the year 2011 for Hokum?

We released two exceptional singles, Converse and The Emerald. The Emerald is for us a masterpiece in power and force and to hear the support we received for it was grand.

What is Hokum’s take on the South African Metal music scene? Is there a limited scene or is it the Artist who creates the scene?

The music scene is a wave. We are in it doing what we do if people wanna join in then do it. Do not blame the scene, just enjoy.

Does Hokum have any last words?

We appreciate the exposure and chance to answer your questions. You can download tracks from Soundcloud and Facebook and Twitter

A big thank-you to HOKUM for agreeing to do this interview!
Not to forget Dylan Ellis for the kind words and for sharing Hokum with us.


This is MY Metal Life – Ray Westland

(Founder/Chief Editor of Alternative Matter, Music Critic, Writer and Metalhead)

As a fan and major collector of all things metal, I always turn to the music critics to know what is going on, which bands are good and which need more work or when things are being released. These music critics often sell their souls and pour their hearts into blogs, webzines and magazines to give us the latest news, reviews and interviews of our beloved artists. 
One such fine example of a music critic would be Raymond Westland of Alternative Matter. Air Guitar Blog has been fortunate to have a chat with Ray about his views on the music industry at the current time, running Alternative Matter and exactly how did he get into heavy metal.
Raymond Westland
 You are the Founder/Chief Editor of Alternative Matter (fantastic magazine by the way). Do tell our readers, how and where did the concept come about?

Thank you very much for your kind words! The concept stems from a project/blog I had called Home Nucleonics (yes, named after the famous Strapping Young Lad song), which was all about forward thinking and experimental metal bands. After a year or so I had the feeling Home Nucleonics had ran its course and HN merged together with UK-based webzine ThisIsNotAScene. Together with Tony Burgio, I founded Alternative Matter (AM) in April 2011. We basically used the same concept behind Home Nucleonics, but we expended by adding different music genres, like Dark/Doom Jazz, Post rock/metal/core, Ambient, Industrial, Electro and Dark wave. Mind you, experimental, progressive and atmospheric rock and metal is still our “core business”, but we don’t mind expending in other musical directions as well. AM started out as a 2 man enterprise, but nowadays there 25 people from all over the world involved with our webzine, thus proving that metal is a truly global phenomenon

Running a web magazine is not easy and there is constant need to update the magazine on a daily basis. What would you say are the biggest challenges to work with such a medium and how do you as Chief Editor overcome this?

Running a webzine like Alternative Matter is very much a balancing act. On one side you need to keep the labels and PR people happy by honouring the agreements you have with them and making sure that reviews and interviews are published on time. On the other hand you need to keep your writers happy and focussed by making sure they receive the kind of promos they like for instance. They all have their own personalities and character traits, so you have to take that into account as well. The biggest obstacle is the sheer amount of time running a zine consumes, but luckily I have some very capable senior editors who help share the load. Running a zine is a lot of fun, but it’s takes a lot of dedication and hard work.
Alternative Matter Webzine
You have been fortunate to interview and review many Artists. Would you like to mention any possible favourites or moments that stick out the most to you in regards to a good interview or review?

That’s a very hard question to answer, because I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years. Recently I did an interview with Micheal Berberian from Season Of Mist which was quite a memorable undertaking. Last June I did an interview with Devin Townsend in Groningen, which turned into a very candid conversation. Several years ago I did an interview with Al Jourgensen from Ministry for a Dutch zine called Zwaremetalen in Amsterdam. The most memorable moment of that particular interview was the copious amounts of red wine Al drunk during the interview, without getting intoxicated whatsoever…

Working at Alternative Matter offers great insight into what is going on in the music industry especially the metal and alternative niche. Do you have any predictions on “break-through bands in 2012”?

Very hard to say. In all honesty I’m not really interested in so-called break-through bands or artists. I’m only interested in high quality music and whether that comes from a young and upcoming band or a band with 20 years experience under their belt, it’s all good to me.

Recently, Alternative Matter has been digging behind-the-scenes for information from Label owners such as Michael Berberian (Season Of Mist) and Brian Slagel (Metal Blade). What are your insights of the industry at the moment in regards to downloading and the rise of social media causing conflict with Record Labels?

I’ve heard many different answers and opinions from bands, artists and people from the industry alike. Some are complaining about the loss of revenue, while others see it as a golden opportunity to sell their music directly to any potential clients, without the interference of a music label. Fact of the matter is that since the rise of Napster back in the late nineties the proverbial floodgate has opened as far as (illegal) downloading is concerned and I think has become such a commodity that’s it’s here to stay, regardless of any attempts to curtail this phenomenon through legislation. I think that music labels should embrace the possibilities the current developments offer and use it to their advantage.
Apart from reviewing and interviewing the big bands, can smaller and unsigned bands turn to Alternative Matter for some exposure? If so, how can they contact the webzine?

Well, Alternative Matter is actually more committed to support smaller and unsigned bands, than to supporting big names like a Metallica or Iron Maiden for instance. When bands want to get featured they only need to fill in the contact form at our website and we’ll get in touch with them

For a bit of personal interest, how did you get into Heavy Metal?

I always had an interest in guitar music. When I was still living at my parents my father played a lot of records by Deep Purple, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Toto and Camel. In my early teens One by Metallica received a lot of airplay on the radio, so after hearing that song I was forever hooked on everything metal. Over the years my taste developed from the more traditional styles of metal to the more experimental subgenres. Lately I’m listening a lot to Killing Joke, King Crimson, Ministry, Will Haven, Amebix. Deftones, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, Devin Townsend and Obake

So, if I may interject, would you say that the music taste began with parental influence?
Well, my father’s record collection certainly laid the foundation for my little obsession with metal. However, exploring the metal genre was something I did entirely on my own. Writing for several different webzines and hosting a metal program also unlocked a host of great bands. The internet is also a great source when you’re looking for new and exciting bands.
I agree! Going back to Alternative Matter, do you have any future plans that you would like to share with our readers? Will there be any possible plans for expansion?

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, but a lot is still in its infant stages, so it’s still too early to say anything about it.

Fair enough. So, we have come to the end of the interview. Ray, would you like to add any final words?

Thank you very much for having me and I hope that your readers will visit Alternative Matter!

A very warm thank you to Raymond Westland for taking some time out to chat to Air Guitar and to inform the readers of what goes on behind the scenes of a great webzine like Alternative Matter.

Dear Readers of Air Guitar, please do visit Alternative Matter and so click here!

“Alternative Matter is not your average metal weblog or webzine. We focus on the experimental, progressive, technical and atmospheric bands and artists within the rock and metal realm. They are the unsung heroes that take our beloved genre to new creative heights and explore uncharted waters.”

This is MY Metal Life – Mark DeVito

(Graphic Artist, Merchandise Designer, Proud Father and Metalhead)

Instead of the usual talk about heavy metal bands – we decided to redirect our attention to people behind-the-scenes and delve into their “Metal Lifestyle”. So, who designed your Metallica, Anthrax and Slipknot T-Shirts? It was the same designer that created the last two Motörhead album artworks! And I have the exclusive scoop on this designer’s “Metal Lifestyle”! Let me introduce Mark DeVito!
Mark DeVito with Mikkey Dee

Being a former graphic artist – you turned to designing ‘metal wear’ for babies. Can you explain to our readers, how this concept came about?

I started Metal Babies when my son, Aidan, was born back in 2002, as I was working at a music merchandise company and threw a couple of baby clothes up on the press and ran some joke stuff on them…”Never Say Diaper” and “Future Headbanger”, just for fun, for my kid and a few friends, and it took off! I started getting emails from all over; Japanese radio interviews, an article in Playboy, and wound up being asked to tour the line with Ozzfest! It was amazing, and a perfect fit. Everyone from my era was having kids at this time, and we ALL hated pastel onesies and the likes, so black metal baby clothes was what had to happen. It just blew up from there. Then, of course, like all good ideas, everyone knocked off my stuff, but we’re still the original all-heavy metal baby clothing company, which just saying it sounds hilarious!
Mark DeVito with son Aidan

In regards to graphic designing – you have worked with many metal bands and their merchandising. How did you get into this career field and do tell us, which metal bands have you enjoyed working with?

Well, actually, I am “currently” still a graphic artist. LOL! I started drawing when I was a kid, and grew up around a bunch of rockers, so most of the first designs I was doing (while learning) was copying all the band’s logos on people’s army jackets, leather jackets, denim…whatever! Everything from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath. Then, I fell into the local bay area thrash metal scene, by drawing flyers, painting backdrops, designing logos and shirts for bands like, Legacy (now Testament), Exodus, Laaz Rockit, Ruffians etc. I have been going to concerts since I was 13 and have always been, and remain, a huge fan of metal music.
I got to meet Metallica at a lot of their house parties, and wound up designing shirts for them back in ’88 and have done projects for them for over 23 years now. Since, I’ve worked for bands like Anthrax, Slayer, Slipknot, and now have been working for Motörhead for the past 5 years. I’ve designed their last two album covers [Motörizer and The World is Yours], and design a majority of their t-shirts.

I have worked for a lot of companies and as an independent (for over 27 years now), and have enjoyed working with most of the top Metal and Hard Rock bands in the world, and it is an honour, to be certain. I always loved t-shirts, mostly because I would go to so many shows, that I started to collect a shirt from every show I would go to. I think it just became an obsession to be able to be involved with the bands I grew up with…it was either that or become a pizza chef. LOL! [We are glad you are not a pizza chef!]

Queensryche 2008-2009 World Tour – women’s shirt design sold throughout tour

I LOVE working with Motörhead, as they are my all-time favourite band, and it is a dream come true to even be considered designing something for them. I still can’t believe it. They are the nicest folks, too…they have the best crew in the world, and all of them are the coolest! It is very much like a family and I am honoured to be asked to be a part of their family. Metallica has been fun, sometimes, not so much fun, but overall, I love those guys. Anthrax is great because of their great sense of humour. All the local guys I grew up with, like Death Angel and Testament, Laaz and Ruffians. I see those guys all the time, we’re all good friends and they have always been so kind to me. I just love working with any and all metal/hard rock bands!

Twisted Sister – World Tour shirt – used for stage backdrop and website logo/main page graphic

Metal Babies has become a favourite for many Metalheads and their little offspring. Some of the designs are really awesome and non-offensive. One of my personal favourites is “Nappath Baby Nappath” [which is a parody of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath]. How often do you come up with such quirky slogans?

That’s very nice of you to say…That one was always my favourite, and for some reason, there is something that is in the universe that prohibits the one you like the best from ever being popular, so there it is. I’ve only printed that design twice (took it on Ozzfest and it did really well), but it sits on the vine on the website, un-purchased! LOL!

My unborn niece/nephew will be getting this.

I tell everyone that I came up with the idea as the result of three combined existences: love for metal music, sleep deprivation due to a new baby in the house, and a great deal of caffeine. I’ve always loved parody, and that was my first shirt for Metallica – a parody of the Capn’ Crunch box, “The Capn’s of Krunch” I’m a huge fan of comedy movies, the goofier the better, and music is my life, and since I can’t play a note on any instrument, I draw for bands, instead. Gary Holt (long-time friend and guitarist for Exodus) actually called me up with the idea for “For those about to Walk”! He’s a very funny guy; loves tongue-in-cheek stuff like me – the minute you take yourself too seriously is the point in your life where you lose your identity. I never take what I do too seriously, and hope that in my designs I help the bands laugh at themselves a little, because life is one big running joke, and death is the punch line. [Ha!]

Metallica 1988-1989 World Tour – Crew shirt design – used for tour laminates, posters and patches

Recently Metal Babies has featured in Metal Hammer and (surprisingly) Playboy magazine. How has Metal Babies been received by the general media and public?

It comes and goes, as anyone can tell you, ebbs and flows. I’ve been doing music art for over 27 years, and Metal Babies has been going for nearly 10 years, and when you get a bit of recognition for anything you do, it’s a blessing. It’s not why anyone does what they do (or it shouldn’t be), because we do what we do because we love it, not to get accolades. And actually, we’ve only had one negative response from a media source, and that was because we were somehow lumped in with a very vulgar line of baby clothes, and they were an extreme right news organization. My mother-in-law is a pretty religious, and I have her seal of approval, that’s good enough for me.
Heaven & Hell – Retail shirt design

For a bit of personal interest; how did you get into heavy metal music? Now that you are a father – will you encourage your son to listen to the artists that you grew-up with or not?

I grew up around a lot of music, both my parents and neighbourhood friends. I was always the youngest in the crowd, as I loved hanging with the older kids, because they listened to the cool music. I would be taken to shows by the older kids as a sort of “novelty”, like “look how young this kid is and his going to AC/DC or Aerosmith”…and I LOVED it. I started going to big rock concerts back in ’79, then when thrash metal started in the Bay Area, it was right there, and I went to as much as I could afford! It was more than just the music, it was a scene. It wasn’t Rockstars and groupies, it was friends and brothers. It wasn’t arenas and venues, it was bars and clubs. You would find yourself standing in between Paul Baloff  (R.I.P. of Exodus) and James Hetfield, and they’d be arguing over who was heavier, “Tank or Warlock?” and they would drag you into the conversation to settle it! We were all friends and saw each other socially every weekend for years. There would be the same 20-30 kids at these little dives to see our friends play music, and when we blinked, they were playing the same music, only in coliseums and to 15,000 people!
I try not to impose too much on my kids, as kids are their own people, and are brutally honest when it comes to what they like and don’t…like broccoli. Though, I will tell you this. My daughter had her assessment for Kindergarten, and the teacher asked her to sing her ABC’s. My daughter, Wylder, refused. The teacher asked her, “Don’t you like to sing?” To which my daughter said “Yes!” She asked her to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Wylder yet again, refused. The teacher started to give up and then said, “Why don’t you sing a song YOU want to sing?” That’s when Wylder turned, stood up and started belting out, Highway to Hell. I gotta tell you, I’ve been proud of very little in this life but that day, I blushed with pride. LOL!!! My son loves AC/DC, The Ramones, L.A. Guns Never Enough and Humble Pie. He also listens to Fitz and the Tantrums, the Ravonettes and various Hip Hop stuff, and I just love the fact that he loves music. I recently designed a drum kit wrap for Mikkey Dee of Motörhead, and he [Aidan] really wants to play drums, so I think I’m going to be able to hook him up. Wylder asked for a little acoustic guitar, she loves AC/DC, Ramones and Gary Moore…so there’s that. LOL! [Parenting done right!]
Mark DeVito’s children Wylder and Aidan 

The Tinman Merchandising company is growing and quickly too. What are your future plans for Metal Babies?

I work for Tinman as their art director, and Metal Babies is my side venture that I had before coming aboard Tinman, and I brought it over to Tinman as they run their webstores extremely efficiently and honestly. I plan and hope that I can grow along with Tinman, designing for our bands and giving them the level of service that we are proud to be able to offer. We’re as big as the big guys, just smaller. Seriously, we’re an independently run company doing good work for our clients, and every customer is important, like it should be.
The future for Metal Babies? Well, I have a couple of ideas to expand a bit, working on a book, friends and I are putting a documentary together about some of the art department experiences we had working at Tower Records, lots of things to keep me busy these days.
Would you like to add any last words for our readers?

Listen to what you love and learn to do what makes you happy, not what is to make you money. The money will come once you’ve done the first thing and then the money will not be as important. Stay true to yourself, your friends and family and you will not fail.
Journey 2006 Tour – Main tour shirt / dateback
For more information on Mark DeVito and his works of awesome Art please click here.

To access the Tinman Merchandising company or to view the Merchandise catalogue, please click here.

I have to admit that this is one of the more entertaining interviews that I have done in a long time! A grand thanks to Mark DeVito for doing this interview!


Heavy Metal as we know it has become much more than just music – it has integrated into our lives, our environments and has fallen into the crevices of our very own experiences. For some, Metal is what they eat, breathe and sleep with. 

Thanks to social media sites and the growing popularity of the world wide web, finding Metalheads, Headbangers or like-minded individuals has never been easier! On facebook – one can friend an army of Metal soldiers, on twitter one can construct a stream of Metal followers, on social bookmarking sites – one can find relative up-to-date articles on Heavy Metal bands and so the list goes on…

The point is Metal has become Global.

Recently on twitter, I posted the question How did you get into Heavy Metal? The response that followed was amazing! Metal men and Metal maidens, I present to you the replies:

Some of us started with the Big Four. In this case Metallica who have seemed to impress with their brutal and in my opinion best album Master Of Puppets

Simple I like metal since I was little… Started with Metallica… Korn… Papa Roach and since that its never been the same! – alejmuri Alejandro Murillo

I was always attracted to guitar music from early on…once I heard Metallica’s One I was sold… – HomeNucleonics RaymondW 

 I heard the “Master of Puppets” record from my cousin when it first came out. BLEW MY MIND!!! It was all downhill from there – mor_metal_thn_u Wade 

Hearing the opening riff to Enter Sandman at a friend’s house, aged 11. Fucking awesome moment. – Mr_Fred_Guest Adam 

Some of us got our first taste of metal through family and friends. May we be forever grateful to them for showing us the light!

 When I was 6 yrs. old I was in the car with my uncle and he put in a Manowar cassette. The sound was fierce. I was hooked! – Man_O_Thor Frank Santorelli 

My brother made me listen to it, we worked together, and he controlled the radio. 😀 – kels_72 Kelly  

The power and brusque of Black Sabbath and its members had a great hold amongst most of us and still does to this very day. [R.I.P Dio]

 I started with Black Sabbath. Good drum beats attract me. – Netteallica  Lynette 

When I listened to Dio’s “I speed at night”, I was excited by its speed and heaviness. I had never experienced such a song! – metamimi Hiro 

There was a video show called ‘Power Hour’. Heard Ozzy’s ‘Ultimate Sin’. I loved it, my parents hated it, I was hooked. – Habsdad Darren G  

There was the New Wave of British Heavy Metal which swept most of the wayward souls into a frenzy! Then of course, there was MTV but nowadays MTV is dead to Metal. Amen.

 I was raised on nwobhm by a uncle which is where my love for Diamond Head comes from and it went from there to where I am now – manc_metalhead Jay 

Well I’ve got into Rock music first, when I was 13 years old by MTV till 17 I got into metal music till this day! \m/ – Rattlehead81 Rashed I 

Those Cowboys from Hell gave many of us a reason to live life to the full and raise the horns. [R.I.P Dimebag Darrell]

 I guess I was born into it. My family listened to rock, and eventually I found Pantera. The rest is history. –  1spookydick Keith Roberto Hatlak 

Easy one this. One listen to cowboys from hell by pantera and it was metal all the way – GrindHorizon Grind Horizon  

Gene Simmons. Enough said.

 Two words says it all: Kiss – Destroyer –BrianBasher Brian Basher 

The 80’s seemed to have produced some of the finest Metal bands as well as albums of all time. I think many of you would agree.

 Heard Twisted Sister in the early 80’s and I was hooked. – Rajendra Rajendra Singh 

Went to see Judas priests in 1983 at a tender age of 13 they blew my head off and I loved it – sharkymarky06 mark horbury  

For some (including myself) going to a Metal show was where it all really began…

@danicouture and Bill Kennedy took me to a show in a remote Etobicoke warehouse in November of 2008 and changed my life. – NatalieZed NatalieZed 

Spheres Of Madness-Decapitated….blew my brain out of my ass and was hooked from then on – unhallowedmag Unhallowed Nation 

Derek Riggs began more than just a trend – he started an army.

Was impressed by Iron Maiden’s album covers as very young girl and then later heard Run To The Hills by accident on the radio. – ironmadna Madna 

Raise the Horns to all who have contributed! To simply follow these awesome Metalheads on twitter, click on the red tag next to the quote. \m/ 



I left my country South Africa to embark on an adventure for twelve glorious months! I was working in Germany, a small delightful place in the Rhineland country-side. Many incredible friends were made; mostly headbangers, metalheads and those who were simply wayward souls. We always worked hard in the days and played equally harder in the nights – sipping large gauntlets of wine and beer. Several discussions and laughs were had, and of course our mutual love for Heavy Metal was never forgotten.
It was then, that a friend recommended a lengthy list of Heavy Metal bands to listen to – some of them I have never heard of but once I did – I would never stop listening to them!
That is the day that I discovered SKYFORGER!
The intriguing part is that SKYFORGER is from Latvia, a very small country that one would not consider to have any involvement in Heavy Metal music. The other mystery was that SKYFORGER sang primarily in Latvian yet there was an abundance of emotion and attention reflected into their composition that it did not even bother me or any listener that I knew of.
SKYFORGER was an unknown and mystic name to me and because of their marvellous music – I wanted to find out more about this metal band. Here I am fortunate enough to present to our devoted readers of Air Guitar an exclusive interview with lead vocalist and guitarist Pēteris Kvetkovskis.
So, let’s go for it:
Hello Peter!
Latvia is a small country on the map so could you explain about the Latvian metal scene? Has the Metal scene in Latvia developed since SKYFORGER began and how has this affected the band?
Sveiks! / Hello!
Unfortunately, besides SKYFORGER there are just a few bands who are a bit known beyond Latvian borders. The bands come and go but there’s only a few who are serious and working around for years. Problem is most of our young bands are so called “cover bands”. What I mean is: they start by playing, learning and making covers for their beloved world known idols and when they try to make something own after some years, they cannot break that big influence they already got in them. So a lot of bands sound like copies of some big star bands and in the end, besides their friends – no one is interested in them. That’s the problem here.
SKYFORGER then somehow stand aside from the local scene – we are somehow on our own, possibly because we are different – there are no bands here that play something like we do! Unfortunately we are only one pagan/folk band in Latvia so far. I don’t know why, but maybe other bands are just afraid to play that kind of music and become named SKYFORGER number 2 or whatever like that.
Anyway we can’t complain. We have a great fan base here in our country and thanks to our success behind Latvia, we are known even outside the local metal underground.
Congratulations for winning the Best Rock Album at the Latvian Music Awards and another award at the Latvian Metal Awards! How does SKYFORGER feel to receive these awards? How do the awards affect the future for SKYFORGER?
The first good thing is it showed that metal is finally accepted as rock music for non metal people here and metal band can break behind the local underground scene walls. All 15 years, before these Awards, best rock album nomination always got some cheesy pop-rock local stars. Metal bands weren’t nominated at all!
Other good thing is that our name rang around for some time and got known for different auditory, who never heard about us before but were willing to listen such music.
But apart from that it wasn’t a big impact on our career – more or less things remained the same. Of course we were happy and glad for such approval from fans and other people, but in the end it did not change anything big in our life or music.

The 5 year break between Semigalls’ Warchant and Kurbads shows a very different approach from SKYFORGER. The Kurbads album has much more detail and attention to the folk elements whereas Semigalls’ Warchant is more concentrated on the Black Metal elements. Why has SKYFORGER chosen this new approach?
Well, if you do listen to SKYFORGER’s albums you can see that almost every of them are different. We make a big deal for every detail we are singing about and we always want to make a mood for every album: music and lyrics work together and we make an atmosphere which we want to hear. A simple example can be like this: if a song lyric is about battle, we want to make it fast and furious musically to create a feeling about battle when you listen to that song.
The answer to your question lies somewhere else: Semigalls’ Warchant was recorded back in 1997 and is a demo re-release, plus added Asinslauks EP (2005). Kurbads is already the latest album which we worked on straightly since around 2006.
Lyrically Kurbads is an epic tale about hero that’s why it is so different for Semigalls’ Warchant album which was more about ancient battles and pagan religion.
Of course, the big role plays in the musical development which we as musicians have put through in all of our years – it is the same for every band around. You grow up, become more skilled, become wiser and your view upon the world changes – it all goes into your music too.
But it does not mean that Kurbads is how SKYFORGER will go to sound now! Next album will have a different topic which means a different approach and a different sound.
We shall see…

Mythology plays a central factor in SKYFORGER’s work and makes the Band cutting-edge unique. What is the Band’s main goal in trying to resonate the history of Latvia and the Baltic’s?

Baltic cultures have suffered a lot in context of European culture and history. We were there from the very beginnings and gave our great share through all centuries. Our land has always been a place where bigger countries marched through for wars and had their own interests. We were under so many occupations and foreign rules for centuries and that’s why nowadays Baltic nation’s culture and history is almost unknown or most of the time ignored when there are discussions about big western European history. Things started to change slowly and we want to put our share here: to let people in the world know about Baltic regions, its culture and history which was almost lost through all the centuries!

Most of SKYFORGER’s lyrics are in Latvian and this includes a sense of pride in Baltic mythology. However, do SKYFORGER intend to write more English lyrics to make the work and Band more accessible to an international audience?

No. We chose our path already and don’t want to change it only because of some commercial possibilities. Latvian language is one of the oldest survived ancient languages and we are glad to represent it through our songs. Another obstacle is that many times, we use folk rhymes/songs in our music and those songs/words can’t be put in different languages because it simply will not fit and it is hard even to translate them properly!
Though, I don’t see it as problem anymore in our times. Now a lot of bands sing in their native language, people get tired of the same English verses (sky-die-fly) for years and today have no problem to listen to something different, I think. Sometimes it is even better, because you can have some of your own imaginations set in about what is this song and after all we always have a full booklet with English translations and lot of information about the topic.

In several interviews, SKYFORGER has shown disinterest in playing mainstream and being commercialized. Why is this so?

Because we are taking our music seriously – we have this meaning behind it all and with the commercial attitude it is hard to do something like this.
Plus, we don’t like that much mainstream we all have now, it so cheesy and everything is for sale and shiny shows. Metal music has lost its first meaning – rebellion against mainstream society, it is almost like pop music now! Though, it’s a different time now and different generation, maybe this is how it must be hmm….
On another hand we can’t say that we are almost non-commercial. After all we play around, sell albums and merchandise and surely that is great that if people come and listen to our band – things we sing about we want to let them be heard. So let it be – also commercial but in healthy doses, heehee.

SKYFORGER has been playing some bigger events like Brutal Assault, Hellfest, now you are confirmed for Masters of Rock in Czech Republic and as I can see from your sites that SKYFORGER is now into the band competition for Sweden Rock Festival! What is the band expecting at these festivals and what can the audience expect at the festivals?
We always expect to find new fans and hope that a lot of new people discover our music and will find it good. Big festivals are the best choice for that! All sorts of people just hang around there and therefore it is a good chance that they will hear your band too.
Of course we have fans already and sure they will be there, but to obtain new ones are never bad.
What can be expected from us? Unfortunately I can’t say that there will be a show in a KISS fashion with fireworks and stage installations! Heehee! We will do the best from our side to make an atmosphere and a memorable show with our music and the energy we have on stage.

Over the years; SKYFORGER has played several gigs in Europe. Are there any particular favorite places to perform? Are there any places that SKYFORGER will not perform at again?

No, there are no places where we are not going to again. Only if the gig organization was really bad and you can expect the same things again.
Every country is different, though metalheads more or less are the same all over the world – they are true music fanatics.
Everywhere there are people who listen and support our band, so we have a great feeling and want to play again, even if sometimes there aren’t that much people by the stage!
There is still lot of countries we have not played yet and we want to visit them all, even in Africa if there will ever be such a possibility.
The world is changing and people become more open minded, old preconceptions are slowly fading away and it is only for good, especially to share cultural legacies we all have!
Any last words – to make sure that SKYFORGER is a name that will stick in the minds of South Africans?
What to say here: I think our band is unique enough to listen, especially if you are interested in North European history. We are not another Scandinavian Viking band; we came from Baltic lands and we share our own special culture and history (though it might be very close to Viking and celtic). Our countries were the very last pagan fortresses in the Europe and our old traditions, customs and folklore miraculously has survived through centuries of oppression. We want to share it now to the whole world and let people know about the two still survived Baltic peoples: Latvians and Lithuanians and our culture.
This is what SKYFORGER is about!
Many thanks for given opportunity! Best wishes to all metal fans in South Africa.
Nothing is forgotten, nothing will be forgotten!

Thank you, Peter! Awesome interview! A special thanks to the band SKYFORGER and to the manager, Andy, for arranging this interview!
For more information on my favourite and very awesome band, SKYFORGER, go to the SKYFORGER page or Facebook page or Twitter page for more information! 

[Want to know about the South African Metal scene? Then click here]

Alternative Series: GUILT MONKEY (Belgium)


Since Saturday morning, I have been dancing around my bedroom like a Buffoon on speed to a track called “Rage” off the début album, Crash and Burn from a little known band called Guilt Monkey.
Surprisingly, they’re not metal (my preferred taste) nor will I endorse them as such – Guilt Monkey is prototype smooth rock and roll with hard licks and a bite of sophistication. There is definite evidence of a groovy and melodic hook that glides throughout the album albeit fresher than a nun’s daisy scented underwear!

The three-piece Belgium based Rockers comprise of vocalist and guitars man, Brin Addison, pots and pans player, Thibault Jungers and bass player Colin Delloye who are all responsible for the energetic and pulsating sounds of Guilt Monkey. It must be noted that these three musicians are far from new and actually know the weave in and around the music industry so expect more flesh to the bone!
I can picture the scene, of myself, with a glass of Red in hand and Doc Martens encasing my feet, jumping around to the groove of “Rage” with its damn catchy riff’s and neat vocals. The trio of Rockers can take stupendous credit for the opening track, as each member displays great techniques of their craft. Further into the debut album, a track entitled “Ride the Wave” hits the nail of commercial awesome. Yes! I truly believe that Guilt Monkey can take this track to heights of strong success especially with the subtle hints of inspiration taken from Deep Purple and Queens of The Stone Age. There is a beautiful cross-fire of creative skill bleeding through the track with the lyrics centre folded on modern world tribulations. As for the track simply entitled “Crash and Burn”, its sophisticated rock with intelligent helpings of lyrical charm and a slamming riff. I have no critiques on the Crash and Burn album – a rare argument in a post-rock era.
With that said; the blues musical tones, the powerful drums, the surging bass and the prowess of the guitar combine to a striking Guilt Monkey debut album which can be best described as Fuck, Yeah!

The genre of Guilt Monkey does get blurred between hard alternative and classic rock not that it matters. In terms of listenership, Crash and Burn can garner many friends and fans within the parameters of clean cut, leave out the frills, rock and roll! There is some serious addition of quality and patience placed within Guilt Monkey’s compositions and it is professionally produced. What more could you possibly want? Guilt Monkey’s, Crash and Burn album is worth every penny – serving its purpose in the car, at the bus stop, at pre-drinks, for when you meet your in-laws and of course for when you close the curtains and dance around like a Buffoon!
For more Guilt Monkey and how to order you copy of the Crash and Burn album, click on the following links: Soundcloud and Facebook. I highly recommend! 

This is MY Metal Life – Headbanger’s Kitchen (India)

The Naked Demonstealer
Metal and Food, oh, glorious food! Iron Men and Maidens, welcome to the Headbanger’s Kitchen! 
(Episode 8 featuring Karnivool)

Headbanger’s Kitchen was a concept born from me wanting to convert my facebook cooking blog into video format. About 3-4 years ago I started uploading photos and recipes of food I was cooking on my facebook profile and I got a lot of positive responses to that which made me give a second thought to making youtube video recipes since the whole video thing was taking off and I called and had a chat with Srinivas Sunderrajan who made the Demonic Resurrection video and asked if he’d help me out and that is kind of how I decided to give it a name and then came up with the idea of getting a metal band on the show and interviewing them. If I’m not mistaken it was Mephisto the keyboardist of Demonic Resurrection who threw up the name Headbanger’s Kitchen and then we put out a small contest to design a logo and then Danish from Bangalore sent us the ass kicking logo that we have today. We even got a 16 year old whiz kid Pratheek from Hyderabad to design and maintain our website so we’re a pan India team of people working on it now.

In regards to cooking; is this a self-taught experience or have you an entitled qualification?
I have no qualifications in cooking department. I sort of learned at a young age from my grandfather and my mom and during my 7th and 8th grade I took cooking as a hobby and actually very seriously considered becoming a chef, that was till I decided to become a computer engineer. However as you can see I’m not a computer engineer so that went out the window pretty quick too.

How often do you upload new content, and how much time do you usually use on an episode? If possible, can you elaborate on the process of an episode?
We are as off now a monthly show and we plan to keep it that way. However we’ve been known to skip a month here and there. The process of shooting the episode itself takes about 2 days time and the editing takes another couple of days. The other stuff like learning the dish and figuring out what I’m going to make takes more time depending on who our guest is. So for example when we heard that Karnivool was coming to India we immediately wrote to them and got an ok for the show, then it took me 7 days to master the dish because I wanted to make something Indian for them and since that really isn’t my forte it took me some time to master it. We normally shoot the making off and the interview part the same day if the band is a local one but if the band is from out of town we do them separately since most artists are on a fairly tight schedule.

How has Headbanger’s Kitchen been publically received by general media and audience?
We’ve got some tremendous feedback from people and most people have LOVED the show, I remember in the initial day’s metal heads telling me that their mothers are watching the show and that was really cool. I also suddenly started seeing a lot of metal kids cooking and uploading photos of their food so it has been really awesome, I’m also proud to say that some of the recipes are being made in France and Norway. So the reaction has been awesome, of course there is criticism as well, there is the inane thought that it’s not metal to cook or I’ve sold out (!!!!) and then there were some who thought that I was doing this instead of touring and writing music which wasn’t really the case since that is my priority in life. The media reaction was great as well, we got a lot of positive feedback, I think the mainstream media in India was expecting to see a lot of blood and guts since they think metal is all about that, but it’s been a really fun process so far.
On each episode of Headbanger’s Kitchen there is always a band/musician appearance – how do you select your guests?
It really depends, the show itself started when Nervecell came to India. We had discussed the show and it was kind of sitting on the backburner till Nervecell announced their tour of India in October 2010 and I was involved in it so they had like a week free in Mumbai and so I called Srinivas and said ‘Look Nervecell is in town let’s shoot the first episode with them’ and it was done, the episode however was released only in March 2011. For me it was pretty obvious I had to get the biggest Indian bands on the show and Bhayanak Maut and Scribe were the obvious choice, later on it was just decided according to which artist is touring India and available to come on the show and if it was a local artist who is really creating a lot of buzz at the moment. So that is kind of how we pick our guests.

What are your future plans in regards to Headbanger’s Kitchen?
We definitely want to keep doing this and we can hopefully monetize this since the show doesn’t pay for itself just yet and we’re also hoping to release some merchandise in 2012 but no real extravagant plans, but I’d really like to interview some of my heroes. 

For more information and super yummy episodes of Headbanger’s Kitchen follow these Links! Headbangers Kitchen   or on Facebook. Devilishly Tasty Looking!

Band Horn: Another Hell (Sweden)

Breaking the Mould

Swedish “rust” metal band, Another Hell, possesses the quality to pay meticulous detail to attention and that is what sets them apart from their fellow competition! Their EP, Drowning in Dirt pays tribute to the above statement; absolutely well produced with crisp vocals, thunderous drums, a number of slick shreds and of course the icing of a slim bass-line. A perfect metal combination!

Although, Another Hell, are not new on the block – they have been perfecting their instrumental techniques since the early ‘90’s under a different name. After a hiatus, the band reformed, reshuffled and re-collected their thoughts in northern Sweden as Another Hell.
“We are very satisfied with the EP,” says bass player, Jim Edström. “We kind of just play what we think sounds good and I personally don’t think about what it sounds like.” Play what sounds good indeed! Another Hell tracks don’t just ride on the composition of rhythm but also contain a strong lyrical message. As Edström elaborates, “It is about environmental issues, political issues and injustice issues too but there is so much more than that; like greed and power.”

The capacity of power that Another Hell captures in their music is duly evident in their tracks, “Capitol Hill” and “Redemption”. A slight influence by bands like Metallica and Machine Head can be recognized but only for a split second. As Edström, mentioned in an earlier interview that he listened solely to Metallica for years and years until he was introduced to Machine Head. However, the band is far more groove/death heavy and the EP is only a slice of the real metal pie. Another Hell is currently working on a full length release. “We have no release date as yet so I cannot tell you anymore on that but it will be a great release. There is a lot of work going in there!” exclaims Edström.
You can tell that a profuse amount of work and attention to the finer details are going to take place on Another Hell’s working title release. It must be noted that the band’s work does not stop there. They are equally devoted to their fans as Edström discusses, “Looking back at 2011, the biggest surprise musically has to be very many people and fans that have supported us from all over. I hope this continues.”
Another Hell are definitely on the right path musically and have a number of grand expectations with their soon to be release. Glancing at Another Hell’s Twitter, Facebook and Officialpage has me guessing – just how quickly will it be before the band breaks out into a much greater scene? My estimated time frame – very soon!
A glorious thank you to Jim Edström for agreeing to do the interview as well as Biodagar (Leticia) for organizing everything and the members of Another Hell for agreeing to be featured on Air Guitar!