Interview with Fernando Salmerón (guitars) of VELKHANOS
Interview by Kat Knite
Pre-order ‘The Wrath’:
Art Gates Records – Itunes – Google Play
VELKHANOS are a five-piece band from Spain that blend Melodic Death Metal and Black Metal, combining extreme brutality with the emotion of heavy metal. They formed in 2018 and have now released their debut album ‘The Wrath’ through Art Gates Records worldwide. VELKHANOS is made up of Miriam Ortiz (vocals), Fernando Salmerón (guitars), Pablo Ato (guitars), Ángel Lucas (bass), and José Antonio Montiel (drums).
I had the pleasure of interviewing guitarist Fernando Salmerón, about their new record, the metal scene in Spain, and what the band hope to do in the coming years. Check out what he had to say down below!
First of all, I’d like to say congratulations on your upcoming debut album, ‘The Wrath’! It must be so exciting to finally put your work out into the world. I listened to the album and really enjoyed it personally. How are you feeling about this release?
Thank you! We are very excited about the release. To be honest, we were caught by surprise, we were not expecting to have this much impact. Although the reviews are good, we are still nervous about the public’s response to the album, since it’s a work with a blend of many different styles and while some will enjoy it, it might not please those who are looking for something more purist; but obviously we did not want to do the same old thing.
When did the writing process for the album begin, and who does most of the writing for the band?
The writing process began after a few practice sessions when the band had explored some of our possibilities and there was some material to work with. I generally write the songs, although when we are practising we each tweak our own arrangements or we write our own solos… Some songs have been a joint effort with Pablo and Miriam. Furthermore, my friend Adrian wrote the beautiful Spanish guitar ending for ‘The Last Day’.
Which themes do you feel are most explored on ‘The Wrath’, and what is the meaning of the album to you?
This album, in particular, is centred on religion, that’s why there is some mythology in there, although we have tried to steer clear of clichés, avoiding names of gods or beings. The idea was to talk about the relationship between God and human beings. Who created who? Do we try to justify our actions in the name of a greater good? Are our successes or failures the favour or punishment of some deity?
Our lyrics are based on these concepts, beginning with ‘Bring Me The Fire’ which is about the afterlife, the struggle amongst religions to add another soul to their list; about the Inquisition (‘The Eye Of God’), the search of a god’s compassion through sacrifice (‘Moloch’) or simply telling a tale such as ‘Dagon’, H. P. Lovecraft’s work, which also fits the album theme.
Can you please explain the meaning of the song ‘Dagon’? How does this ancient Mesopotamian deity weave into the fabric of your record?
Some time ago, while researching for a different project, I found information about Dagon and other Mesopotamian deities. Later on, I read Lovecraft’s short story and when working on ‘The Wrath’ I thought it would be a fitting story to add.
What does the name ‘Velkhanos’ mean, and how did you come up with it?
Velkhanos was the god of fire and nature according to Cretan mythology. We are really passionate about Mediterranean culture and all the blend of civilizations it entailed. Velkhanos, the god, has been present in the great Greek and Roman civilizations, which are precisely the maximum representative of Mediterranean cultural symbiosis. Velkhanos, the band, is a symbiosis of styles within the Metal. This made us relate and also lead us to centre our first album on religion.
How did you all meet each other and decide to form a band together?
It was a series of coincidences. José played in a band with a cousin of mine and one day we got together and jammed just for fun. He liked trying new things and up until then he had never played metal. The next time we got together I invited Pablo over, I knew he played really well and José and I wanted to try something more fully rounded. That sounded great and the three of us spent the whole summer practising. In August, I met Ángel in Bilbao’s local festivities (we come from the same town in Murcia, talk about coincidences) and I asked him to join this project. Last but not least came Miriam, who was Pablo’s then-girlfriend, after she came to a practice session one day. When all five got together, that’s when the magic happened.
You’re a fairly new group, formed in 2018. What has been the greatest challenge for you so far?
I think the biggest challenge was getting this project rolling in a quick fashion and avoiding mistakes we made on previous bands. Besides, Ángel and José came from playing in completely different styles, Pablo had never played in a band before and Miriam had never done guttural vocals. We did challenge ourselves.
What is the metal scene like in Spain?
I think we currently are in an excellent moment for metal in Spain, we have a great variety of bands and styles. There are really great hidden jewels (Soulitude, Grimah, In Thousand Lakes…) and bands that have been around for 20 years and are now crushing it (Vhäldemar…) I our region, Murcia, there is also a ridiculous number of musicians and bands with talent drinking from many different styles (Injector, Nudo, Murdery, 4Copola, Darknoise, Immortal Shadow…) However, attendance to live shows is not that great unless it’s a really potent band, and I think the current crisis will not help this situation.
We have the bitter with the sweet, on one side we have a flourishing scene and on the other, as always, only a handful of people show up for small gigs. There is a big difference with the metal public and other kinds of the public; in metal, almost everyone has his own band, and they’re not just a few. That’s why we think indoor festivals, the ones made during winter, are important because they give newer bands the chance of being discovered.
With events having to be cancelled due to COVID-19, were you guys affected? And once it’s over do you have any planned show/overseas tours?
Luckily for us, we had just signed with Art Gates Records, we hadn’t begun to work on new events. We only had to cancel two live shows and we delayed some photoshoots and videoclips. Every cloud has a silver lining, in this case, it meant we got to work harder on our live sets to give our audience the best show we possibly can. Regarding overseas tours, we are not sure about that. It requires enormous investment and we don’t even know how many people would be able to attend a live show, so I think it will be off the table until February or March.
What has been your favourite gig to play so far and why?
The best shows are the ones yet to come. We are looking forward to going out on the road and unveiling our live show for everyone to see, we are giving it our all and we have so many ideas.
Where would be your dream place to play and perform with?
I think the consensus would be Wacken Open Air Festival with Iron Maiden (although Pablo might prefer Metallica).
I love the Spanish guitar influence on some of the tracks; it’s so beautiful, mysterious, and dark. Who are your favourite Spanish artists, from any genre/era?
Paco de Lucía, Manuel Morao, Manolo Sanlúcar, Vicente Amigo, Moraito Chico… From our region (Murcia) I’d choose Carlos Piñana. I also like Ben Woods from the United States.
Are any of the band members classically trained, and is it common in the culture of Spain to receive classical training?
Pablo is currently training to be a classic guitar teacher, Miriam has trained in singing for many years and is part of a chamber choir. I did study music for as long as my time allowed me. We have music schools and conservatories in most towns and cities, but it is not the most common hobby. Mind you, we have musicians of the highest level because musical training is very thorough.
If not, how did you all learn your instruments?
José and Ángel are self-taught, they learned by playing with friends. In my case, I had to abandon my musical studies when my academic studies required more of my time, so I carried on by myself as well.
When did you know that you wanted to play music and be in a band?
Ever since I can remember, my dad used to play ‘Live After Death’ or ‘Maiden England’ and I used to dream that I played those shows. I was 13 when I played in my first band, and 15 years later I met the right people to undertake the project that is Velkhanos.
Do you work any other jobs aside from music? Is it hard to juggle both?
Of course, we do, it is very hard to earn a living out of music in this day and age, and I am of the opinion that if I don’t need this for a living I can take more risks. If we had to rely on music to pay our bills, we would have to play it safe. It can be hard to balance both things; music needs many hours and sometimes work schedules can make it hard to get together and play.
Have you started writing any more songs for the next album yet?
During the recording of ‘The Wrath’ I started getting some documentation and some music ready for the next album, we already have a clear idea for it. We will experiment with some things that didn’t fit in with ‘The Wrath’ and some other things will be better captured in the next album. We are going to do more solid work, with a deeper concept, where we will push our level to its maximum. We think it will surprise and consolidate the fans that ‘The Wrath’ will generate.
The world has been going through crazy times lately with the lockdown. I hope you have been doing okay. How have you been coping with everything? How have you been occupying your time and has the pandemic affected you personally or anyone close to you?
We have remained very active during confinement. Some of us have been working or studying, I personally have been preparing all the physical edition material, the video lyrics, the quarantine video, covers for singles, new album ideas… as well as researching some systems we want to implement for our live shows. We have kept busy and that is good for the mind. We have been lucky and nobody close to us has been affected by COVID-19.
One last question: Whiskey, Tequila, or Wine? What’s your favourite poison? 😉
We do like whiskey, but our land produces magnificent wines that have never fail to impress; so we choose wine.
Thank you so much again for your time, and for sharing your album with us. I’m wishing the best for you on the release of ‘The Wrath’! Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Thank you for your support! We would like for everyone to give the full album a chance, you might not enjoy one track but you will like some other, and for the listener to enjoy all of the work we have put into it. We are looking forward to going out on the road to present our album and giving the audience the best we have.