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:
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!
ATTENTION: HELP SKYFORGER PLAY AT SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL 2012 BY VOTING ONCE PER DAY UNTIL 23 JANUARY. CLICK HERE
[Want to know about the South African Metal scene
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