An Interview with Forefather…
Greetings over there. It is a great pleasure to interview you. I also would like to thank you for taking your time to answer the following questions. Before it all, I ask you please to introduce yourself to our readers.
Greetings, no problem. I am Wulfstan and, along with my brother Athelstan, one half of Forefather from Surrey, England. We released our first album “Deep Into Time” in 1999 but the Forefather concept and the first songs existed in the latter half of 1997. We’ve completed a further five albums since.
To start this interview, I’d like to ask you how is everything at the Forefather camp. Your latest album, “Last of the Line”, was released in 2011. Any plans for a new release?
Everything’s fine. We have a hard-drive full of new songs in rough form, about 20 or so. I think they’re all good enough but we get more critical the older we get, and it gets harder to write stuff that feels as exciting as what’s come before. A new album is definitely on the way but we’re slow workers. We’re considering a double-album or maybe two albums six months apart. Nothing’s certain.
In most of my interviews I prefer to present the band to the listeners rather than to get into very intricate details, although not being superficial in the entire interview. For a person that isn’t familiar with Forefather’s great music, could you describe it for them as well as suggest one of your albums to start getting into your music?
Stylistically we incorporate elements of what people might call Black/Folk/Pagan/Heavy Metal. The first bands we obsessed over while growing up were Iron Maiden and Metallica. We learned guitar playing along to their albums in the early 90s, so they undoubtedly left their mark. By the time we conceived Forefather we’d been listening to a lot of Black Metal, particularly the Norwegian variety. Throw in a bit of Hammerheart-era Bathory and that was the Forefather recipe. Obviously it’s been fine-tuned and tweaked since. To a new listener I would recommended giving our fifth album “Steadfast” a spin. It’s probably our most complete work but opinions will vary.
Connected to the previous question, the band prefers to “label” (I’ll use label for the lack of a better word right now) as Anglo-Saxon Metal. As any of your listeners is aware, the band’s lyrics are rooted in English history. Having that in mind, tell us, please a bit of what your lyrics consist of, if there are other works that influences your lyrics.
Anglo-Saxon Metal refers to the Anglo-Saxon period of English history. It’s like an English equivalent of Viking Metal. I think we’d always found history fascinating but it was through listening to the Scandinavian bands and reading their Viking-inspired lyrics that we were led to get into England’s history of the same period. Of course, there is an overlap between the Anglo-Saxon and Viking world, but we very much identify as Englishman and it would’ve seemed strange to have lyrics from a Viking perspective. So we take inspiration from Anglo-Saxon history, the language and poetry, the myths and legends. We also write about wider dark-age themes though, that don’t relate to a particular tribe or nation. In future we might reference later English historical periods more, but still keeping to the Anglo-Saxon spirit. Athelstan has a new song based around the 14th century Peasant’s Revolt. On our most recent album “Last of the Line” I wrote a song about Tolkien’s Fall of Numenor and there might be more things like to come.
The band is proud of defending its culture, the old Saxon way of living, in conclusion, defending nationalism, something, in my humble view, is pretty normal. Tell us a bit more about this and what do you have to say for those that claims that Forefather is a xenophobic as well as a racist band?
We are simply unapologetic Englishmen. We say that the English exist, whereas the British establishment claims either that we don’t exist or that anyone can be English, therefore rendering being English completely meaningless. We also believe that England is our sacred homeland and not simply a set of square kilometers to be abused by economics. The situation is the same in all western European countries. Words like “xenophobic” and “racist” are just slanderous insults. They have no real meaning.
Forefather members consist of two brothers. How easy or difficult is it when it comes to working with family? I too work with my brother, most of the times it’s great, but there can be some harsh arguments other times. Does something similar happen when it comes to Forefather as well? How do you deal with this?
It’s easy for us because as well as being brothers we are also best friends, and we generally have the same tastes, interests and opinions. Of course, we have arguments too, but they are quickly forgiven and forgotten. In fact Forefather is the only thing we ever argue about! haha It’s never anything serious though.
Could you tell us a bit about your work with the label Seven Kingdoms? It is the follow-up to your previous label Angelisc, right? Is the label looking for new bands to release or do you want to stick only with Forefather and Athelstan?
Seven Kingdoms is basically just a name for the business side of Forefather (the boring, annoying stuff!). We released a few other bands’ albums in the beginning but we don’t do that anymore. We get stressed enough dealing with our music without worrying about other people’s! We changed the name from Angelisc because a lot of people (understandably) didn’t know how to pronounce it properly. Seven Kingdoms refers to the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England. It’s nothing to do with Game of Thrones! Haha
Tell us a bit about the side-project Athelstan, which features both Forefather members. As far as I’m concerned, Athelstan has released one album “The Ride” in 2013. Enlighten us about the differences and similarities with Forefather, both musically as well as lyrically.
Clearly the Athelstan solo stuff is pretty similar to Forefather, especially when I sing on some tracks. But I think it’s subtly different, maybe more reflective and mystical. It’s also mainly instrumental unlike Forefather. Basically Athelstan had some tracks that he felt didn’t quite fit in with Forefather and they were playing on his mind. He thought that by releasing them as an album he could move on and forget about them. He wasn’t too concerned what people thought about it in relation to Forefather, but I think it’s a really cool album.
Back to Forefather now, your cover art is always great, of course in my modest opinion. They completely fit the band’s music, something very important. Who creates them? And how important is this for the band? Not only the cover art, but all the work with booklets as well.
The first four albums were all designed by a Swedish fellow called Chrille Andersson. Apart from “The Fighting Man”, which was an already existing artwork, they were all designed under instruction from us. I think the cover for “Engla Tocyme” (The Coming of the English) is the best of those because it captures the essence of the album title most effectively. “Steadfast”, which is our favourite cover of all, was painted by Martin Hanford. He also did a great piece for the “Wolfhead’s Tree” t-shirt. “Last of the Line” was done by Peter Takacs from Hungary and depicts the vessel of Elendil after he escapes the downfall of Numenor. We always put a lot of thought into the covers (as we do with all aspects of Forefather). They have an important impact on how people perceive the albums. I think with our next album(s) we would like to work with Martin Hanford again if possible. Aside from being an excellent artist, he was the most able at bringing our vision into reality.
I’ve read an interview with the band in which it was stated that Formula 1 was one of your passions. I don’t know how old this interview is, but this caught my attention as I too am a Formula 1 fan. Been following since the times I didn’t even understand it (as a small kid). Do you still like F1? How do you feel over all the changes on the regulations? Do you prefer the old or the new Formula 1? What about the teams and drives, which ones are your favorites?
Yes, we are still hardcore F1 followers. If I had to give up Metal or F1, that would be a very difficult choice! I don’t think I’ve missed a race since the Monaco GP of 1994, the race after Senna’s death. We’d watched it now and then beforehand when our Dad had it on the TV. I can remember watching Senna and Mansell’s duel at Monaco in ’92. Sadly it was the sensation around Senna’s death in ’94 that really brought F1 to the forefront of our minds. We’re not big fans of the new power units for 2014. They just don’t sound brutal enough. I suppose we’ll get used to it though. And of course double-points for the last race is fucking ridiculous. For me the best era was the early 2000s. Some may say the racing wasn’t so interesting because of Schumacher’s domination but the cars were amazing, so brutal. And we’re both Schumacher fans so we were getting the right results too! Obviously we’re both really hoping he can make a good recovery from his skiing accident. These days I like Vettel and Alonso the most. I also look forward to seeing Hülkenberg in a top team. Team-wise, we spent many years supporting Schumacher with Ferrari and I still would say they are my favourite team, although I’ve always had more loyalty to drivers than teams.
Apart Formula One, what are the main interests that you have outside the metal world? Anything you’d like to share with us? By the way, is Forefather still your work or did you guys have other regular jobs nowadays as well?
Staying with sport, I also try and watch all the MotoGP races, and I follow the pro-cycling Grand Tours (Tour de France, etc). The PDC darts is always fun! Outside of Metal but still within music, in the last few years I got more deeply interested in the operas of Richard Wagner. Music and F1 have always been my main passions really. Apart from that just the usual things.
We’ve always made a little bit of money from Forefather but, unsurprisingly, not enough to live on. We could make more money if we wanted but it probably still wouldn’t be enough, and it would just cause us more stress.
And we’ve reached the end of this interview. One more time I want to thank you very much for this opportunity. I also would like to wish you and the band all the best in the future. Do you have any last words for our readers?
Thanks for your interest and good wishes. To your readers I would say keep an eye on our website for updates on a new album. Thanks to all of you who have supported us over the years and we hope that those of you who haven’t heard us will give us a listen. Cheers!May 2, 2014