Aydan of Elvenking
Interviewed by EvilG
Interview questions by EvilG & Shaq
Elvenking are an Italian folk/power metal band that emerged in the late 90’s and shook the underground with the release of the now cult classic HEATHENREEL in 2001. I spoke to the band’s guitarist, Aydan, about that monumental album, the bands changes since then and about their latest acoustic album TWO TRAGEDY POETS (…and a Caravan of Weird Figures).
With a band name like Elvenking….do you have any songs about Elves who are kings?
Ah ah absolutely not! The name Elvenking was taken from the Elvenking gate of Tolkien’s “The hobbit”.
Did you toy with other band names like “DragonKing”, “Dwarfenking”, or some other such fantasy based name? Haha!
You know, when you are very young you have also different point of views and different interests. Obviously at the time we were a lot in to the “Lord of the Rings” thing (much earlier than the movies were released) and we thought that the name would fit greatly to a metal band. Maybe nowadays the name of the band doesn’t reflect exactly our musical and lyrical direction but in a way you are getting used to your good old band name.
As you know, I’ve followed Elvenking since the first album (which I gave a 5/5 score to way back in 2001). I have to admit though that although I’ve enjoyed all your albums since then, it’s still my favorite Elvenking by far! Is there a reason why this album is so fucking awesome? Would you say it’s your MASTER OF PUPPETS or does the band even view this album with as much reverence as it seems I (and from what I understand a lot of fans) do? How do you feel about that record now?
Well, we used to receive very different opinions on that album. When it was released years ago it received a lot of bad critics from the press. It looks really funny nowadays how it is considered as kind of a “cult” album. Journalist and reviewers are really strange people, ah ah ! We know that a lot of people love the album now. To be sincere when I listen again to it I hear a whirlwind of ideas flowing through the songs. Maybe sometime you can hear that there is a young band behind all that but with a lot passion and will to create something different and fresh. I love the magic that you can feel through the notes of that album.
Do you think you’ll ever record an album like HEATHENREEL again or do you strive to always re-invent yourselves to some degree?
Well, I do not think we will ever try to recreate things that we did in the past. Most of the time you try to copy from what you already did the result is a total failure. But most of all we are band that always looks forward; we want to try different things each time, we’re always searching for new paths to follow and for us as musicians and songwriters is the most important thing.
Can you explain what went on with the vocalist situation where you had Damnagoras on lead vocals then Kleid then back to Damnagoras?
Well, Damna left the band after some contrast inside the band. We did an album with a different singer, but the thing didn’t work at all. If the whole thing would have been managed in a more mature way from all sides the situation would have surely been different but at the time we were also younger and more impulsive! haha!
Aydan, you recently had to have a replacement play a few shows for you as a result of an injury to your shoulder. Couldn’t the dates of been rescheduled rather then have someone fill in? Did it feel weird to sit at home while someone else attempted to fill your boots?
Yep I broke my shoulder and wasn’t able to play guitar for one month, and the band played 4 gigs with a session guitar player replacing me. As you said maybe it would have been better to reschedule the shows. The fact is that we were already been forced to cancel the same dates for personal problems in Fall 2008 and these were the rescheduled gigs so we felt it was correct to go out and play and I’ve been the first one to tell the others to play the gigs without me. Obviously is always hard to present the band at the best with session musicians but I think that the guys did a great work. For me being at home and receiving sms from my fellows on how good the gigs were etc has been hard but it’s a part of the show. ha.
Your album cover art for THE SCYTHE is very eye catching. It’s the type of album cover that would make me want to check out the band (if I hadn’t already) ha! So what was the band’s involvement, if any, in the selection and development of the piece?
The artist of the cover Gyula Hancsack surely hates us so much: as he said, it’s so hard to work with us because we have very clear ideas on the graphic works and I think he did at least 20 tries for the cover and we were always telling him, no, change that little particular, the colours are not right, try to create the right atmosphere…and he was totally stressed about our requests ah ah !
So I would say that our involvement was total.
Why did you decide to do the acoustic album TWO TRAGEDY POETS?
It was a thing we were thinking since a couple of years. We know that the acoustic stuff is part of our DNA as musicians, but at the same time we didn’t want to force ourselves to put in our albums acoustic cuts because we are supposed to, and we wanted to have a space to express 100% our needs having the possibility to concentrate only on that specific side.
Do you approach songwriting any differently knowing it’s acoustic vs. electric?
We weren’t exactly sure on how the whole thing would have worked when we started songwriting and we were a little be scared. But in the end everything came out totally natural. We knew that the work was different compared to an electric album and we used a different approach in the songwriting. But everything came out without problems.
Were the songs written new for the acoustic album or were they a collection of acoustic songs that you had on hand and just now decided to release on one album?
I would say that most of the material was written for the album. But we had some ideas left from the songwriting process of previous albums and other projects that were never recorded because they didn’t fit in. So there are some old ideas that we had, we listened to some old demo recordings we did in the past and we chose the stuff that could work for this particular album.
Obviously you are aware that there will be a certain percentage of your fans who will not have any desire to hear acoustic music, at least an album full of it. So was the the goal here to get people who are not into metal to check out your band? Has it worked? Did you get any reviews or interviews in non-metal publications because the album wasn’t really heavy metal?
Yep, we’re aware of that. Surely this is not an album for everybody. For sure those more open minded will surely find something interesting in the album. We do not consider this as an official album; it is more a musical experiment to allow us to explore also our softer acoustic side in a more complete way comparing to our standard albums. After a very heavy album as “The scythe” was we felt it would have been a perfect time to do it. Yes we had a lot of interviews especially in the gothic press, thing that usually does not happen with our standard works.
Now that you have a semi-acoustic album, have you considered playing any acoustic shows?
We had some ideas about it but at the moment we prefer to play standard electric shows. We are playing live some songs out of “Two tragedy poets” in a re-arranged electric version and they worked great in this new form. Maybe in the future we will organize some totally acoustic shows, maybe in some particular venues.
I’ve read a lot of negative reviews of THE SCYTHE. A lot of people didn’t like the ‘core’ aspects and the downplaying of the folk influences. Do you think you went a little too far outside of your realm or do you have any regrets at all about the direction?
Well, probably you are referring to those kind of “fan review” done by possibly 14 year old guys around the net eh eh ! All the official press of the world gave the album amazing ratings…Obviously you cannot judge a work just on the fact that misses something that you were expecting. Being a concept album about Death was pretty obvious that some of the folk touches and maybe more happy riffing were missing. I do not see a happy folky jig talking about Death and desperation. By the way we were totally prepared on the critics because we knew that the album was a little bit different, but this happens all the time with every Elvenking release. Now a lot of people is complaining about the acoustic album because it is not like “The scythe”; and the story will go on… It’s pretty funny!
THE SCYTHE saw the band take a different approach to Elvenking’s style, and then TWO TRAGEDY POETS was yet another side of the band. What can we expect from the next album?
Obviously something different again! haha. That’s the main thing in Elvenking. Trying to not repeat ourselves and propose every time something as fresh and unique as possible; it’s one of our more important goals in this band.
THE SCYTHE is Elvenking’s heaviest and best selling album, while TWO TRAGEDY POETS is a return to a more folk-oriented sound. How do you think some of your newer fans that discovered the band on THE SCYTHE will react to TWO TRAGEDY POETS?
As said earlier, someone who maybe discovered Elvenking with “The Scythe” is shocked by “Two tragedy poets” and asks for material similar to “The scythe” one. As you can see we are far from being a band interested in the commercial way of doing music, otherwise we would have followed the trail of the most selling album, instead of doing something that is totally out of any commercial and business idea. Obviously doing a totally acoustic album for a metal audience is not something that can be appreciated by everyone.
Even though TWO TRAGEDY POETS album is acoustic, some consider this a return to what they like from you with the more folk elements which were not so prevalent on THE SCYTHE. Did the cries from fans over the missing folk elements play any part in releasing TWO TRAGEDY POETS?
Absolutely not. If we would listen to what fans tell everyday we would go crazy because everyone asks for a different thing “More folk, more heaviness, more acoustic stuff, more modern elements,…”. You just have to follow your ideas and where music takes you. That’s’ the only thing that works for Elvenking,. Doing what really please us as musicians and songwriters. Then if somebody else out there will appreciate our work as well…well, that’s even better!
How did you decide to cover “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”?
Obviously because we are children of the 80s and we love it!!! That was the time when we were very young and we began to have contact with music and try to understand it. We love a lot of the songs from that period because they are closely linked to our memories of the time, so “Heaven is a place on earth” was a natural choice for us. As you can see in the end we went a bit too far and we placed a lot of electric guitars there to be included in an acoustic album but we like it! We tried to keep all the 80s feeling of the song; we didn’t want to have a modern version of it, or something like that, but doing an 80s cover in the style of the 80s. ha!
Has any new material been written yet?
Well, just yesterday we rehearse the first new song. We had a meeting and took a listen through all the new material we have in hands and I would say that we have plenty of good ideas to be developed. I think we will concentrate in rehearsing the new songs from now on and I think we will soon have a good bunch of tracks to valuate and understand what kind of direction the new album will take.
Last year Elvenking was able to play the US as part of ProgPower USA. How was that experience for you?
Oh it was amazing. We had a blast! It was our first time in the US and we didn’t know what to expect. You know, here in Europe you hear voices on how bad is the metal market there etc. Instead the whole Progpower thing was awesome, great organization, amazing crowd, lot of great bands. We have been welcome greatly by the audience there and everybody was so happy. Beside this the American people were so friendly to us and we had so much fun.
Folk metal seems to be doing well in North America lately, with the success of PaganFest. Are there any plans to try and get back to North America for a tour?
The problem is that touring America costs so much, because of the long travels, planes and planes to take, etc. It is really a economic thing. But, also after the reaction at PP, we will surely hope to come back and play there very soon!
What is your opinion of the current organized effort to introduce the mainstream metal public to folk metal? Do you think tours like Paganfest are genuine in their sincerity or just pandering to the public in hopes of capturing the next big thing in heavy music?
Well, the fact is that the whole folk metal scene seems like becoming a trend and a lot of bands are following the trail as usual. When we formed back in 1997 there was no scene at all and Skyclad were our idols. Now it seems like there is this folk-viking-humppa-whatever boom . As every trend it will soon die and disappear and only the best bands will remain. Hope to be one of them. ha!
Skyclad has to be considered one of the obvious main influences found in the folkish music of Elvenking. On that note, what was it like to collaborate musically with ex-Skyclad voclaist Martin Walkyier some years ago?
Martin was one of our biggest hero when we started the band and playing with him was an incredible thing. We did a show at Bloodstock in UK playing just Skyclad songs with him singing. The press described as “Skyclad on steroids” . Was fucking cool!
Because the band hails from Italy, what was the benefit of signing with AFM from Germany?
When we signed the contract were really other times and for an Italian band being signed to a German label was like a dream. The whole thing was not a benefit for the Italian scene, because here we are considered like a foreign band and we do not have links to the big festivals which are often run by label leaders and shit similar. But on the other hand is great to be with AFM, which is really a serious label and is working very good. Te next album is our last album of the contract so we will see.
Jarpen was a guitarist in Elvenking from 1997 – 2005. Why did he decide to step down?
He wasn’t interested in playing this kind of music anymore. He was a lot in alternative stuff like Deftones and Korn at the time, and didn’t felt comfortable with our music. He really didn’t stand the folk influences as well. It was the best thing to go separate ways but we are still great friends, and he also sang with us the backing vocals on “Two tragedy poets”. Unfortunately he left the music scene completely, he sold all his equipment and he doesn’t play at all. We asked him to join us on stage in a couple of occasion sjust to celebrate the band together, but he was forced to say no.
Jarpen’s replacement (on guitar at least) is Raffaello "Rafahel" Indri who was a live guitarist with you before becoming an official member. How did you hook up with him and what different style or ideas does he bring to Elvenking?
When Jarpen left the band we played for nearly 2 years with a 5 piece line up because we felt it was so difficult to replace him. Then we felt that the 2 guitars work was really missing on stage and while I remained as the only one guitar player in the studio albums we added a second guitar live. We went through different guitarists before Rafahel joined us. He played with us on stage for more than one year and we felt he was the right one to add in the line up. Now we are working on the new album and we will see what will happen. On stage he did an amazing work in this period.
At what point did the band decide to make Rafahel an official member of Elvenking? What made him standout against other session guitarists?
The main thing for us to valuate was the human side and how he interact with the band. This was the most important thing and we saw how he perfectly.
What music have you been listening too recently?
A lot of stuff as usual, new and old shit. The last Candlemass album is amazing!
What is next for Elvenking?
Playing a lot and try to reach as much people as possible. We have some important festivals to play this summer like Summer Breeze in Germany and a couple of shows in UK. And the rest of the year we will be totally concentrate in preparing the new album. I am really curious to see what it will come out!
Thanks for your time!
Thanks for the cool interview!