Greetings over there. Hope all is fine with the band and its members. First, thank you very much for taking your time to answer this interview. I highly admire your band and deeply appreciate this. Please, I ask you to introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi, Markus! Peter is my name and I’m singer, guitar player of Skyforger. I also write most of music and all lyrics for the band.
It has been almost four years since the release of Kurbads. I believe that Skyforger is working on a new album, which we all are expecting with much anticipation. What can you tell us a bit about this new release? And was there a particular reason for the band to take a longer time to work on a new album?
Yep, we are working on new album right now – still need to record some vocal parts and then will come mix and such things. All in all we expect to release it in autumn this year.
Album itself will be another conceptual work, this time it will tell story about Old Prussians the third Baltic nation, which are extinct now. For us, the last Baltic people – Latvians and Lithuanians, it is very important topic: Old Prussians was a great part of our history and culture, they bore the hardest blow of Northern Crusades in 13th century and possibly because of them Lithuania had a chance to build up its state and became the Grand Duchy.
As Old Prussians are no more as a nation, their legacy now remains only in a few scarce historical books. That’s why we think it is important to remind our people about them right now, because and only few of our natives today know who the hell was Old Prussians and how big influence they left on our culture.
The songs itself will tell about some important events and key figures from those times, like Great Prussian uprising in 1260, pagan sacred place of Romuva, the high priest Krive Krivaito, old gods and war heroes like Herkus Monte.
I think 4 years for us it’s ok to make an album. We aren’t professional musicians, who live by their music – it’s just our free time hobby. Also we never rush with songs and riffs, chose carefully what we want to hear in the end. As not being commercial band we had all the time we need to make songs sound exactly what we like them to be. It also took some time for me to study carefully history of Old Prussians to stick with correct historical facts in my lyrics.
After all maybe it’s better to make one thorough conceptual album with idea and passion within four years than half backed products every year.
So far, having your entire discography in mind, which would be your favorite Skyforger album? And which do you consider the most important for the band so far? Is there anything that you’d change concerning your previous releases if you had the chance to?
I don’t know, I think I can’t say that this or that album is better or more important than some other. All of them come with different concepts and are more like books. For example Pērkoņkalve/Thunderforge tells about our Latvian mythology while Latviešu strēlnieki/Latvian Riflemen is about World War I. They all are different and important in band’s history. We also have this idea to try and not repeat ourselves – what’s done is done and we move on. And that’s why our every album differs each from other.
About changing things, maybe from today’s perspective, technical capabilities and musical experience I could change some parts in old albums, but I don’t think it’s worth it. The old albums have their own charm, rawness and youthful maximalism – I believe fans love them as they are (as we do). Today many bands re-record their old albums, try to make them sound better, but in my experience they are never as good as they was, they can’t recreate that feeling/atmosphere they once had. So better don’t do it!
Latvia’s music plays a big part in your sound; it must be great and, in a way, a bit less difficult, to have this traditional element to draw influences from? Still on the influences subject, could you share with us what are/ would be the main influences for Skyforger when creating the lyrics and the music? It can be anything that somehow influences the band.
Yeah, in our country folk music and folk movement is quite strong, so it’s not that hard to find riffs, ideas if it’s all around you.
For lyrics I draw influences from history books – history is my biggest life’s hobby together with music, although I’m not a professional historian myself.
For music, we are influenced by many bands and styles, but yeah, you can call us old school guys. We started listen to metal in 80’s and grew up along with it. Heavy/Hard, Thrash, Death, Black and folk music, it all has influence on us. We try not to stick with one particular genre, but mix them all together in our music. So I guess it is hard to define which metal style Skyforger really is – pagan/folk, but mainly because of lyrics than music.
I guess you like to hear some band names, well ok, just a few we like a lot:
Venom, Razor, Cathedral, Bathory, Dio, Saxon, Dark Throne, Black Sabbath, Morbid Angel and so on and on.
But I can tell you that most common for those bands we love and have big influences from is because they have ideas and meaning behind their music, not just playing for fun or because many others do the same.
Which were the main reasons why you created Skyforger? When the band was created, did you ever think that one day you’d be playing in countries that are so far away from Latvia, such as Brazil, for example? And how do you feel when you get to know that people outside Latvia or even Europe for that matter, but from practically all over the world, love your music?
We started in times of Soviet Union, when we lived here under control of Russia, behind the Iron Curtain. In those times there was no slightest chance for us to ever go and play around the world. Our biggest dream was maybe to record our CD one day! There was even problem to get or buy metal records and only few had them.
We started as every other young lad, who was passionate with metal and wanted to play music. We had no great expectations, just wanted to be like our idols from behind Iron Curtain and maybe one day step on stage. We had poor equipment, only few of us had good guitars like Gibson or Fender, the rest used selfmade ones. We learned to play by ourselves, just by listening records. Then there were some underground gigs here and there, but nothing big – metal was absolute underground in Latvia.
And later, when our country became free and we first time went behind our borders, it was blast, the real breakthrough for us! For the people who lived in times of totalitarian regime, we hold it very dear, this possibility to be free and have a chance to play in different countries. From perspective of those old times it is unbelievable where we are now and have so many friends from all around the world and what’s more – our band is known and we have a lot of fans! We are happy that we had such chance in our life!
As Skyforger the band is going to complete twenty years anniversary (not counting the years as Grindmaster Dead). Are you planning something to celebrate such an important mark in the band’s history?
Ha ha no, I don’t think so. We don’t like such band’s birthdays or anniversary celebrations. Why? I think who cares – new album that’s ok, but apart from that? We better play another normal concert with lots of old songs than some pompous fake anniversary. No one even remember if band really started in that year ha ha.
Personally I don’t like such celebrations, better work for something new I guess.
In addition to the previous question, how do you compare the times in which Skyforger started as a band and nowadays? Not only about the music created, but the industry, the opportunities for bands as well as the metal scene in Latvia.
Today is very different than when we started. New bands have more possibilities than we had back then. Now we know more about music business, our borders are open; bands have good equipment and so on.
But yet Latvia still is a small backward country in means of metal music industry – we have no labels, magazines, metal radio or big festivals. We can’t sell here thousands of albums. Everything holds upon enthusiasm, it is still underground. As a result many new bands give up as soon as they don’t feel payback of their hard work. You can’t earn money here with metal music. But on other hand many of those new bands work in wrong direction. They try too hard to be the same like their idols. In my view you must be very original and different if you want to become known from such a small country as Latvia is. Especially today, when there are millions of bands around the world trying hard to be heard. To get somewhere you must be in right time with right people in right place or know right people.
Folk Metal has become a genre on its own in the Metal scene. We see so many bands emerging everyday, but, unfortunately many of them are mere clones or pretty bad ones. How do you feel over this overflow on the genre and what a creative band like Skyforger does to not be harmed by this overflow?
Maybe it isn’t that hard to stay away from all that for a band, who sits here in Latvia. But yeah, it saddens me when I see in which direction folk/pagan metal went; I had a different vision in my mind. When we started pagan metal was very close to black metal just with folk music influences and there were strong ideas behind lyrics.
Today it became of some kind of “”Lord of Rings”” with Vikings. Now Vikings are everywhere – with plastic helmets and drinking horns in hands jumping jolly polkas around. It is not serious anymore, it is just for fun.
But that’s how things happen in music industry I guess – if there is audience, who are ready to buy, why not make it commercial and sell it.
Then again I think decline of folk metal is started and will stay only those, who are really into it, the rest will move on to another commercial successful thing.
Maybe no big deal in the end: there are still bands, who take folk/pagan metal serious and have heart and meaning in their music, maybe they aren’t the most popular bands of the genre, because they didn’t took it on commercial level, bet they will be there even after popularity of folk metal will fade away.
You’re signed to a huge label, which is Metal Blade. How have they treated the band so far? Are you satisfied with their work? One thing that I wonder, as I’m not in a band, is that what do you do to not become just one more band on the label’s roster? And I’ve interviewed many bands that, right now, prefer to work independently, as they have control over every single aspect of their releases, even though it’s much more work, how do you feel over this
Right on spot, right on spot! We were just another band on the bottom of label’s list. I don’t know why they really signed us – probably to try something different and see how it goes?
Apart from releasing our album and putting it in stores we didn’t feel any difference as when we were not signed with Metal Blade. I guess it helped a lot for there was possibility to buy our album in USA and other countries where we previously had no chance to sell CDs, but the rest stayed the same for the band. We still did all things by ourselves – I mean concerts, festivals, promotion, tours.
In the end they didn’t sold as much CDs as they expected, so our contract is cancelled now and we are not Metal Blade band anymore he he.
Unfortunately the lesson is that we lost our rights to Kurbads album just like that. I think we will join the camp of those independent bands you talked about – we don’t see any reason to sign another contract with another label and lose another album. It seems to me that in times of music piracy labels don’t have the power they once had. With young people more listening to music from Ephones or Iphads than actual CDs there is no real incentive to sign with some label, better then sell your music on internet by yourself. But we will see – never say never…
This is more of a personal question now, but, who knows, maybe some of the readers would like to know this as well. I’ve always wanted to visit Latvia and I’m planning a trip for 2015. Well, to the Baltic Countries, to be more precise. I believe that they are indeed very beautiful. I got some suggestions from a Lithuanian lady when I was in Firenze/ Italy concerning Lithuania, but I would like to know more about Latvia as well. What you have to visit and know when travelling to your beautiful country?
Check out google, mate ha ha. But it really depends on what you want to see I guess. There are a lot of beautiful places out in country side, museums and such things. For example Āraiši lake fortress from 9th century or wooden pagan castle in Tērvete with beautiful park around it. Sigulda with some old caves and Crusaders’ castle, Open air museum near Riga with houses from 18 -19th century, stone covered seaside, pagan cult places, like ancient oaks and gothic old city of capital Riga itself.
In all of my interviews I leave this space to get to know a bit more about the person behind the music, nothing that would invade your privacy, of course. I just wanted you to share some of your favorite activities, hobbies or interests when not playing music. Are you more of a calm, home person or do you prefer to go out? A nature or a city person? Anything that you’d like to share with us.
Yeah I am more of loner, home person, I have my being in masses feeling from concerts and that’s enough for me. I live with my girlfriend; have no children as I dedicated my life/time more to music and band. I like to be in nature, but unfortunately lived my whole life in city. I work as a plumber (water master) in local Theater with poor payment, but I don’t care for money and wealth that much. Have no car neither driver license, I go around with bicycle. History is my biggest hobby, I love to read books and watch documentaries. I also love RPG videogames, they give me a chance to escape this reality and live in fantasy worlds ha ha.
I consider myself a calm person and friendly alcoholic who have no aggression spikes, maybe a little bit shy and I love to keep to myself. Sometimes I am grumpy and also lazy as hell, one who loves to say: “”I will do this tomorrow”” instead of doing things right now and today. Well, that’s how I see myself.
And so we reach the end of this interview. One more time I want to show my gratitude for this interview and thank you for your time. I also would like to wish the band and the members all of the best. Do you have any last words for our readers?
Thanx, Markus for this chance to tell about Skyforger. For everyone, who is interested in Skyforger and our upcoming album, I suggest checking out our pages here:
All info about when and where you can find there. As I said new album ”Senprūsija” (Old Prussia) will be out around this autumn and probably we will sell it by ourselves this time. Musically in my view it could be more like our older albums, with some black metal touch again.
So see you around on concerts – next one outside Latvia will be in Germany, near Berlin, Rock for Roots.
All photos belong to their rightful owners.June 14, 2014