All Hail The Elvenking!
Interview with guitarist - Aydan

Interviewed by EvilG

Every now and then a new band comes along and awakens you. A band that puts a unique twist on a familiar sound. In this case it's folk elements mixed with power metal along with the varied vocals styles from clean to near black metal. Presenting a challenging listen, Elvenking also seem to be having a bit of a hard time getting there name out despite rave reviews the world over. Hopefully it's just a matter of time before people catch on!!!


Lets start with something simple...tell me about the band's name - where it comes from and what it means.

We came out with this name a long time ago, when only Jarpen and myself were in the band. It comes from J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" (the most metal book in the world) … In my opinion it reflects well the spirit of the band and it lets me think about old fairytales.

 

 

How about some background info on you...what part of Italy are you from and what is your background in metal in terms of how you got into metal and maybe some info on the bands and path that led you to being a part of Elvenking?!?!!

Well, we live in the north east of Italy, not far from the borders with Austria and Yugoslavia. The band is formed in October 1997, by an initiative of mine and Jarpen's , old friends who share the same passion for metal music and folkloristic traditions. We had a lot of line-up problems at the beginning, looking for the right people, so we had a lot of time wasted searching for them! Then in March 1998 the singer Damnagoras joined the band and the following September it was the time for drummer Zender. The bass player was found after the release of our first and only demo-cd TO OAK WOODS BESTOWED and his name is Gorlan. The actual line up is really solid, we have a lot of things in common and we are close friends. We have that feeling that I think a band must have! After the release of "To oak…" we sent it to a few labels, and after 3 days we received the first phone-calls …We have chosen AFM Records (label of Edguy, Avantasia, Steel Attack,…) simply because they seemed really interested in our music! We have chosen to be well followed by a not-so-big label, instead of being the last band of more famous record companies.

 

 

The music of Elvenking is refreshingly unique. What bands influenced you from both the metal side and the folk side of things?

As you said, our goal is trying to find an own way of playing. Our influences come from all the metal scene and obviously from a lot of folk music and dances from all over the world. For what about the metal part, from power to thrash or death metal, we listen to it all! To name you a few bands Skyclad, Blind Guardian, In Flames, Soilwork, Helloween, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Annihilator, Cradle of Filth, Dark Tranquillity,… 'Bout the folk side, a part from Skyclad again, a lot of traditional music and chants, but also some "modern" artists like The Pogues or the great Loreena McKennith.

 

 

Regarding the "folk" side of the band...does your interest in "folk" only reach as far as the music or do you delve deeper into history, customs, etc...if so to what extent and how does your interest impact your daily life?

Our interest in folk doesn't stop at the music style itself, but we love the traditions, history and culture. We're so fascinated by some kind of culture and we like to study and learn more about them. We also try always to learn more from the traditional chants, to get the right way to make our music.

 

 

What current metal bands do people compare you with (Rhapsody or Blind Guardian?) and what ones do you think are accurate?

Yes, this two bands are the one more credited, but the great thing is that everyone has underlined the fact that Elvenking sounds like no one else. We're honoured about being compared to this two great bands , but we think to have created an individual sound…I don't want to use the word "original", because I believe that nowadays nothing can be considered original in music, but at least we're trying not to sound as a copy of this band or that other…And the great thing is that everyone underlined this fact and this is the most important thing for us. If I had to add another important influence for Elvenking's way of playing (maybe the most important) I say Skyclad!

 

 

Elvenking's lyrics make for an interesting read...tell me what types of things influence your writing (books, movies, life, etc...)

I could be banal but almost everything could inspire our songwriting...a state of mind, the reading of a book, the viewing of a film, a walk in the woods....really almost everything! We often use imaginary images to depict our ideas and thoughts. Of course our fans can read between the lines, but sometime we like to go straight to the point even using fantasy themes...or just sometimes we love to use fantasy themes to entertain and to make the listener, read a good story.

 

Regarding your new (and might I saw totally fucking godly) album HEATHENREEL what is a "Heathenreel" and why did you pick it for the album title?

Ehi, thank you for your flattering words!!! "Heathenreel" is a play on words with the words "Heathenry" and "reel" that is a kind of Scottish folk dance. It may represents very well the content of the album, and it has something mysterious in it.

 

 

I love the cover art for the album. Can you describe what it represents and perhaps a bit about the development process for the cover?

The cover art has been created by the wizard Travis Smith. I think it gives the listener a great link with "Heathenreel"'s music. It is magic and relaxing but also obscure and mysterious and that's what we asked Travis. He usually does very complex works but we asked him to be as simple and direct as possible. The figure-spirit in the middle is correlated with word "Reel" of the title. The link between the spirit dancing and the obscure face in the sky could be a good way of thinking about its meaning.

 

 

Some of the songs from your DEMO (TO OAK WOODS BESTOWED) are on your album. Firstly, why did you include them and secondly were they totally re-recorded for the album?

Well, simply because they were good enough to be included in the full-length. Some of the songs of the demo were left out, even if they're still good songs in my opinion! So "White Willow, "Oakenshield" as well as the intro has been re-recorded for "Heathenreel". We decided to give them a completely new sound, with a better production and they're also recorded in brand new versions, different from the ones on "To Oak Woods Bestowed". I think that the new versions give the songs a new life.

 

 

The new album was recorded in Italy but the mixing and mastering was done in Sweden. Can you tell me why you chose to record with Luigi Stefanini and then go to Sweden to mix with the guru Fredrik Nordstrom?

Fredrik is simply our favorite producer so far. I personally think that he's the greatest of all and his ability in giving his works that fantastic warm and acoustic sound fit perfectly with what we were thinking of. Unfortunately our budget was quite low and we couldn't work totally with him on the album, so we decided to record the album in Italy with Luigi Stefanini (who took care of the production of "To Oak Woods Bestowed") and then mix the album with Fredrik in Sweden. This has allowed us to remain in the budget and to have (in part) the particular Fredman's sound we were looking for. For the next album we would like to work completely at Fredman studios, from the beginning, but I don't know yet if this will be possible.

 

 

A number of guest musicians are credited in the CDs liner notes. Can you tell me how you hooked up with them? Did you just happen to know some flute and fiddle players or what?

Yes, they're all great friends! It's a great fortune for us and we all know them very well, and the guys who played the violins and the flutes on the album play in a prog band together with our bass player Gorlan. The band is called Sherpa and I played with them for some years, too. The singer Laura DeLuca, who played the Spring character on "Seasonspeech", for example, comes from another death metal band of friends called Tystnaden, simply an amazing band!

 

 

What did these non-metal musician type of people think of Elvenking and the way you were blending in their instruments/vocals within a metal meets folk sound?

As I told you they are involved in metal/rock music, so they simply like our music. Also the soprano singer Pauline Tacey loves our music, and this makes everything easier.

 

 

As you know, I am ecstatic about the new album...I am not blowing smoke when I say you are the best new band of 2001 (considering this is your first full length album). Have all the response from the fans/media been positive? I can't imagine people not appreciating your music?!?!

The response from both people and media are simply amazing, even if there have been some negative reactions…to be sincere the only one 'till now is German magazine Rock Hard, but we know that "Heathenreel" is not a simple album and it needs a couple of listens to be assimilated.

 

 

If I understand things correctly, the band is now a signed to AFM records. Did they sign the band for just this album, or is this a multi-album deal?

Actually we have signed for 2 albums, with an option for other 2. At the moment we are working on the new album which will be hopefully released around September 2002. After it I don't know what will happen!

 

 

Have AFM been advertising and promoting the band as much as you would of liked? I kind of get the impression they only promote Edguy? If it wasn't for my contact with you, I would not of heard the band because AFM has never sent an album or e-mailed a thing about Elvenking to me...and that is a total shame!!!

Well, I think you have told everything…I didn't know the fact.

 

 

If you don't mind me asking...how has the new album been selling?

Oh God!!! I would like to know it, perhaps even more than you!!! Ah ah ah! Unfortunately I don't have an idea, probably it's kind of early to know.

 

 

What country do you sell the most albums in and are you most popular in Italy?

About sales, I really don't know yet. For sure we're receiving great comments from all over the world, from Europe to South America, from US to Japan or Korea.

 

 

How much does Elvenking play live? What locations and have you been to and have you been trying to get on a tour?

Not as much as we would like to do, but now that the album is out, we will see if the situation is going to change…There are some good possibilities for some summer festivals and stuff but nothing is confirmed yet. As I told you, unfortunately no tours for us by now…

 

 

It's too bad your label didn't add you to the Edguy tour in Europe!!! (Or would you like that kind of a tour package?)

I think that you'd have to ask that directly to them and to the tour promoters. Maybe the other bands are simply better than us. Not having the chance to play live would be really difficult for us to spread our name around.

 

 

Have you been invited to play shows with any of the "bigger" Italian metal bands like Rhapsody or Labyrinth? And...have you played any shows in Italy with some of the lesser known bands like Thy Majestie (another band I love from Italy!).

No, not Rhapsody nor Labyrinth… It would be great if they could use the fact of being great and famous bands to help other good and unknown Italian bands, giving them chances to tour together…Hey, Evil, this would be simply great!!!! …  

We live really far from Thy Majestie (opposite sides of Italy) so until now nothing has been done together, but for the future hope there will be some possibilities.

 

 

I know we spoke of lyrics earlier in the interview but if you don't mind giving us some specifics on the lyrics I'd love to know more about the songs on HEATHENREEL. If you have the time to perhaps give a few lines on EVERY song that would be totally AWESOME!  I'm basically interesting in synopsis information on what the song is about, it's meaning and what inspired it....yes I'm quite inquisitive when it comes to a band who's lyrics I like!! :-)

1. TO OAK WOODS BESTOWED
No lyrics on this one, sorry. It's the intro that introduces the listener to the world of Elvenking!

2. PAGAN PURITY
Probably the most representative song for what the lyrics are about. It's about the communion between Man and Nature, seen as a superior entity. If someone owns "To oak woods bestowed" maybe they have noted that there are some verses in the back-card of the cd with the words of Pagan's chorus. When we had in mind the vocal line of the song we found out that it will fit perfectly with that words, that were originally written for a sung version of "To oak woods bestowed" never recorded.

3. THE DWELLER OF RHYMES
A folk character who observes human life from above and sees the tragedies and happiness of Man. "Knowledge alone could make him stand…"

4. THE REGALITY DANCE
This is a particular text, about those kind of persons who find themselves better than all the others. Often the reality is so far from this! This kind of argumentation is narrated in a very ironic form, with a lot of sarcasm. For the fact that it is a particular and different lyric we're quite proud of it.

5. WHITE WILLOW
Like "Oakenshield" a fantasy-like story that hide deeper senses. Using stories or fairytales is a good way to express committed concepts. In the case of "White willow" we are talking about thinking with your own mind and having your very own ideas in every single aspect of your life, without being influenced by anything. A very complex argument.

6. SKYWARDS
Really deep lyrics for this one. I prefer not to talk explicitly of this one…everyone could find the own meaning out of "Skywards".

7. OAKENSHIELD
As part of "To oak…" the song has also older lyrics, more involved with fantasy themes. Nevertheless contains also some deeper meanings. The story of the magic shield (obviously "stolen" from Tolkien's "The Hobbit" - only in the name) is the pretext to see in the "inner deep" of human within.

8. HOBS AN' FEATHERS
It is a story inspired by Irish and folkloristic legends. You know, those short legends and stories like the one of the leprechaun or similar. This song is about this little "leprechaun-like" creatures that roam in the forests in search for gold, but instead of gold, they find, down in the ghosts' tombs, only a chest full of feathers. As you see it is just a funny story, with no particular meaning.

9. CONJURING OF THE 14Th
I wrote this song inspired from the movie "Sleepy Hollow", even if the main riffs are quite old. It is basically a horror story, with all the foggy and wet atmospheres of the mentioned film. It talks about a small village hidden in the brushwood whose inhabitants are really strange people. When the people of the near city don't see any of those villagers in town for too much days, a companion is sent to see what has happened. They find only 13 empty houses. But no one of those sent to the village will return to town as before and one by one all die, apparently of natural causes. Apparently…You'll understand what is really happened reading carefully the lyrics.

10. A DREADFUL STRAIN
The lyrics of this one are based on some existing Irish legends, talking about strange strains living through the brushwood, and of important figures of the folklore like Jack-in-the-green.

11. SEASONSPEECH
This song is as complex in the lyrics as in the music! It is an ideal speech between the four seasons and you can hear Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall (each one represented by a different singer) pronounce their sentences, one towards the other. It is an anthem to the mightiness and grandeur of Nature.

 

 

Tell me about the "construction" of the song "Seasonspeech" - I love the mingling of the vocalists there. Was that a time consuming task and did it turn out as you had envisioned?

The genesis of "Seasonspeech" has been so long! We had a song called "The honours" that didn't come out as we wanted and we were working on it for a lot of time, but it still didn't convince us 100%. So we started from the beginning with new ideas and "Seasonspeech" came out, naturally. We had a vocal line in mind and I started thinking about the lyrics and I had the idea of that wave between four different voices. I worked on it for some time and then I presented it to the other guys. They were a bit surprised in the beginning but the thing worked out well. Right from the start I had in mind Laura DeLuca for the Spring character… I phoned her to explain the idea and she was really happy about it.

 

 

The Japanese version of HEATHENREEL has the cover song "PENNY DREADFUL" by Skyclad. Why did you choose that particular song? Do you plan to eventually put an MP3 of that song online so people outside of Japan can hear your version?

Yep, we recorded a version of Skyclad's "Penny Dreadful" for Japanese or South American versions but we got some problems with these licensees and I fear that the song won't be published by now! This is a pity because in my opinion our version came out good. And this is the reason why we don't make it downloadable from our website yet: we think that it's too good to not be published and maybe we could use it in some other way in the near future, for sure! Not everything wasn't worth the effort, because at Wacken festival in Germany we have met Skyclad's ex-singer Martin Walkyier and we have first gave him a copy of "Heathenreel". He immediately called us back telling that he loved the cd, and obviously we have sent him our version of "Penny Dreadful" and he was totally surprised about it. In short, Martin will appear on our next album as a guest singer in a couple of songs and he will write some of his fantastic lyrics for some of our new compositions. And we are also planning together a great surprise for all Skyclad's fans! Wait and see…

 

 

What is your opinion of playing/recording cover songs in Elvenking? Are there any other songs you guys have covered or plan to?

We use to play a lot of covers during live shows especially when we have to play for more than 2 hours! Obviously we don't have 2 hours of our music to play and so we used to add some cover versions of metal classics (also not metal). For what about recordings, there is a plan to do a cover of Kate Bush's "The red shoes" together with Martin Walkyier, but I still don't know if this will ever happen.

 

 

Has any thought gone into Elvenking's next album or has any writing taken place yet? IF so - any idea of when it may be available?

Yeah, for sure!!! Actually we are really involved in the songwriting process for the next album. We have a bunch of good songs ready but we are writing and destroying tons of ideas so I cannot tell you nothing sure about the direction of the new album. The only thing sure is that it will be 100% Elvenking! I can tell you that our second full-length is planned for September 2002, but as you know these dates are made to not be respected!

 

 

Do all the members of Elvenking ONLY play in Elvenking or do any of you play in any outside projects?

Well, some of us plays in other bands or have some personal projects, but we are all involved 100% in Elvenking and everything else passes in the background. Basically we play in other bands just for fun, to help some friends in completing line-ups or…simply for money!!! (playing covers in the clubs yields more than Elvenking at the moment!)

 

 

Are you all yet able to make you "living" form the band alone?

NOOOOOO! Absolutely! We play only for fun and we spend on the band so much more than what we receive back! Ah ah ah!

 

 

What are your goals or hopes for the band?

Living from the band alone!!!! Ah ah ah ! Yeah, the very big Metal Utopia: living with music. :-) Being serious, the best thing for now would be to have good sales with "Heathenreel" and play some gigs. Then, time will show...we are not in any hurry!!! We are still young!!

 

 

Did you expect the band to get as far as you have or did you know you had something special right from the beginning?

We didn't expected all this, believe me! We've been lucky and we're happy of having the possibility to record our songs seeing them released worldwide! All that future has in store for us will be simply something more. From the beginning we knew to be kind of different from other bands but we didn't know if this would have been a good thing, ah ah ah!

 

 

If there are any other news items about yourself or the band that you'd like to let me know about please do so!!!!!

Well, as I told you before, the new Elvenking album is planned for Autumn 2002, so remember the date! We are also planning together with Martin Walkyier a great project for all the Skyclad's fan out there who are dejected about the split with Martin. Probably the first act of this project will be at UK metal festival Bloodstock, but maybe I'm telling you too much… 

 

 

Thanks for your time!!!!!!

Thank you so much to you and to Metal-Rules.com for all the support! We really need it!!!!


Other Elvenking Material In Metal-Rules.com

You can order HEATHENREEL here. Be sure to check out the band's fine website at www.elvenking.net.

Reviews:
To Oak Woods Bestowed (2000, demo)
Heathenreel (2001)

Elvenking Featured Artist (Metal-Rules.com)


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Sunday, March 10, 2002