Skyforger vocalist and guitarist Peter Kvetkovskis took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about the band’s latest offering, Kurbads. For the past fifteen years Skyforger have been releasing albums and touring as much as possible. Their music is described as an extreme blend of traditional Baltic Folk music and various metal influences ranging from Norwegian inspired black metal through to 80s-rooted heavy metal. It is this combination of a variety of genres that really caught my attention and made me want to listen to more of the group’s music. Here is what Peter had to say about the band and the new release, Kurbads.
Your brand new CD, Kurbads, was released on May 11th, 2010. Now that it is complete how do you feel about it? Are you satisfied with the outcome?
Peter: If you mean are we satisfied with what we did, then more or less yes. Sure there are a lot of things we would go and change now if it were possible, but in the end for us it seems Kurbads is our best album we have done so far. We spent the most amount of time making it. But if you mean are we satisfied with reaction and how well album is going – I don’t know. I think it is still too early for us to say something. We got a lot of positive reviews (mainly 7, 8 or 9 out of 10) as well as some half-negative ones, mostly from people who wanted to hear more black metal sounds or wanted the album to be part two in the style of some of our older albums, like Latvian Riflemen, for example. We did what we did and I doubt that we will go back ever. I think every album of ours is different and so is Kurbads. We hope very much that those fans who became disappointed with a quick first listen – will listen to it for second time, check out the lyrics and the album artwork and maybe they will change their mind.
What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Peter: Roughly our writing process is something like this: Me or our bass player Zirgs, we just play guitars at home and then try to catch some “fine” riffs in my understanding “out of nowhere”. If there are some more riffs, we as a whole band try to stick them together in some logical and good sounding way, until the song is looking ready. Then we listen to the song for a while and if we feel that there is something not right we try to rearrange it or even throw it out. Sometimes when we start to create songs we have an approximate idea about what it could be and then we try to work that way. So mostly we work with riffs at home and then try to stick them into songs together as a whole band.
For this album we started to work on songs some three years ago and it went slow in the beginning. Finally when all possible songs were ready we were ready to enter the studio, and then out of blue our second guitarist Richards left the band. I was forced to do all of the guitar work. It took me some time again to learn his riffs and to re-arrange everything to my taste. At first we did a raw record and listened to it for a while to make all possible changes for the best result. We also changed a lot, even in recording process, as we had no rush from anyone. We recorded everything here in Latvia, in our bandmate’s, (Kaspars), studio. We recorded things, then went home and listened to them and if we weren’t satisfied, next time we re-recorded them. Lately we went to our old sound engineer Gints Lundbergs studio and did all mixing plus mastering there.
Do you think the band is getting more respect now as opposed to 10 or 15 years ago?
Peter: I am not sure… It is hard to say for us, because we aren’t that much around in press anyway, if we compare with other bands. We live in far eastern side of Europe and are left behind all main processes in metal music. We just hear something from here or there or what is written on the internet. I mean we are not in the middle of things so it is hard to judge. For example when we arrive at some place for the first time, we are very surprised when we see people come to our show wearing our t-shirts! But logically, sure – I think we have more fans now than some ten years ago – we have released six albums and played a lot, so our fan base must be growing bigger pretty naturally. In our country it is definitely – we got more than 1,000 people at our Kurbads release show here in Riga, while years ago there was only 300-400. One thousand people for our country is very good for an underground metal band like us!
You’ve been through a number of labels with Skyforger. This latest album comes to us by way of Metal Blade Records – how did you get in touch with them? Did you notice any difference from the other labels you’ve worked with over the years?
Peter: It happened pretty simply – when the album was about half ready, we sent out a promo CD with three new songs from the upcoming album to all known labels we liked to work with. After a while a few responded and Metal Blade was one of them. Surely, after a bit of thinking we agreed. There were other labels who wanted to sign us, but we certainly chose Metal Blade as one of biggest and most serious in the music business. I think the primary reasons of such attention are that we were around for some longer time period already, made a few good albums and played gigs enough to make our word known – that all helped. Before we were on small labels, so I don’t think that there are possibilities to compare them with such big one as Metal Blade is. Though we had a good time as well when we were on Folter Records (our previous label in Germany) and we are still in touch. They helped us a lot and gave us a good start.
In a hundred years from now what will the music history books say about your band?
Peter: Possibly we will be named as “that band who advertised so much about Latvia” with our music and lyrics. A band, whose albums can be a good material from which to learn something about Latvian and Baltic culture and its rich history, folklore and traditions, I hope so…
Are there any contemporary bands that you guys admire?
Peter: Admire is maybe too loud to say (as we know how everything goes more or less in music kitchen), but let’s say – to have a respect. Those bands can be Månegarm, Obtest, Metsatöll, Menhir, Arkona, Heidevolk, Trimonium and some others. It’s because only we know those guys personally, we have toured together and respect them as great musicians, composers and first of all as nice persons with whom we gladly keep contact and know that they are full heart into things they sing about.
Did you ever imagine you’d be releasing albums almost 15 years later?
Peter: I don’t think that far ahead, but who knows. We have been into music almost all our life, what would we do without it? The question is if there will be anyone who will listen to us after 15 years if we are still around and recording albums. Though approximately we will be about 50 years old then, hmm – if we ever survive that long! You never know what the next day or even the next corner can bring to you life – everything can happen. Yes, but I hope that we still be there on stage! Just look at the metal legend Dio, he was just getting better with every year.
Can you offer any advice to any of the younger readers who may be reading this out there and are trying to reach out a career in the music business?
Peter: Nope, I can’t. I know how it is: young people don’t need any advice, especially from older guys! They will not listen anyway. If I’d say, “don’t go there, I was there already and there is nothing,” they will go there anyway in spite. They will learn only from their own mistakes. I acted the same way, when I was younger and do even now sometimes!
What have been the best countries to play so far?
Peter: It is Germany, of course, business wise. Germany is a big country for metal music; there are a lot of things going on all the time, festivals, markets and lots of fans. But in post-soviet countries, places like Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia are great too, for example. People there are more warm-hearted and crazier about metal and it is understandable, because they (and we too) were left behind the iron curtain for many years and now want to take metal back.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
Peter: I hope it is still ahead! But to mention something, it can be our first tour behind Latvia (and old Soviet Union) border, a two week tour in Europe. It was something special, because it was for a first time; we met a hall full of fans that were waiting for us already. We looked with eyes wide open and learned a lot of things. It can be hard to imagine, but we grew up in that damn Soviet Union (even if we do not belong there completely), where everything was forbidden, there was no rock music allowed, no metal t-shirts, no festivals or metal concerts of that kind. And when union fell apart and things start to come to us, everything was like a miracle. It was like we discovered a new world! I still remember those days at the end of the 80’s when someone brought up a lousy, ten times copied tape with now classic metal records (like Maiden, Accept, Manowar) and you didn’t even know the name of those bands. But it was cool.
What are your touring plans for 2010?
Peter: We just returned from Metal fest, a 3 day festival line in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Our nigthliner was always standing next to Six Feet Under’s bus and the Sepultura guys were also there. We will try and promote Kurbads live as much as we can, though there are no big tours for us in summertime; mainly festivals or weekends in clubs. In autumn there is a small tour we are invited to do: “Light A Pagan Fire” – tour with German bands like Gernotshagen, Odroerir and XIV Dark Centuries (16.09 -25.09. 2010). After that we will do a Finnish tour and there are talks of some full length tours in spring of 2011. But mostly we cannot invest in long tours because of our daily jobs, families and things like that; we aren’t professional musicians that can live only from the band. We must work and music is just a big hobby.
Any closing words?
Peter: Thank you so much for this interview, this is the first one I have done for the Kurbads album in America. A big hail to all our fans out there, I hope you guys will like Kurbads, even if it is different from our previous albums. Just give it a try. Best wishes.