You are an Italian band, but the music is influenced by folk traditions of the North. Where does this interest come from?
It is not so strange because we, as a band, live near the mountains near Austria, near the Alps. I know a lot of people who think “they are from Italy, so sunny beaches, sunshine” but in fact it is not true. We live here in the mountains, there is still a folk tradition, folk chants as well, legends and stories like the North, that's one point. On the other side I was always fascinated by legends from the North, countries like Northern England and Ireland, so it came out naturally to use that in the music and in the lyrical concept.
Since when music became a big part of your life?
Well, Elvenking was formed in 1997, so we are a couple of years in the music business. At least, and I'm speaking now for myself, I was always fascinated by folk and metal since I was a very young kid. When I formed the band it came out naturally, both on the lyrical side as on the musical part, that the folkloric stuff I loved since I was very young could be mixed with my metal passion.
It was obvious that from the beginning you wanted to do something different.
I remember that when we started the band, there weren't so much bands that played folk influenced music. We were formed in 1997 but we thought about the band before, at least a couple of years before, since 1994. What we wanted to do was following the steps of our metal heroes at that time but also try to do something personal. Since the time of our first demo CD everybody underlined the fact that we were trying to create something, I would not dare to say unique, at least something different.
There have been some changes since the first record.
The original singer left the band because he had some health problems. But right now I know he is completely OK. I'm going to have a beer with him tonight. So we have recorded the album with a new singer but also the music is a bit different from the first one. We tried to do it a little different because we don't want to copy ourselves. That should be strange for we also don't want to copy others. It is more straight-forward and less complex. But I don't know the direction of the band in future. We have tried to do this on 'Wyrd' but we are rehearsing some new songs now and maybe on the next record we sound again like in the beginning.
What does 'Wyrd' mean?
It's very difficult to explain. It's a kind of pagan concept that could be translated as destiny or fate. A concept from the pagan tradition of the North. It could be seen as a great web where the souls of men, animals and all existing creatures on earth float in this web. We can see it as destiny. It came especially from Bryan Bates' 'The Way Of Wyrd', a book of a professor on the English university. Not that simple…
I guess the lyrics are not that simple too?
Especially those of the first album are complicated, for I think that the lyrics have changed a bit too. They are less descriptive and more personal now. They are not so easy to explain. A couple of lyrics are more straight now, like 'The Perpetual Knot', others are into our inner self. For example, the final long song which is divided in 3 à 4 parts of the day. Each part is linked with a part of our human life. Dawn is linked with love, the night with death and so on. It wasn't so easy to write them but on the other side, these were the songs that gave me personally more satisfaction in writing the lyrics.
What struck me also, you guys all have nicknames.
On the other side of the phone resounds a glorious laugh. “Obviously they are not nicknames, they are all invented. You know, since the beginning it was not only the music but also the concept around the band that was important. We decided it was better not to use our natural Italian names, trying to have a complete concept, more into the folk atmosphere”.
You recorded the album in Germany with Martin Buchwalter. How did you get to know him?
Martin Buchwalter is the drummer of a band called Perzonal War, that is on AFM Records like us. We played together a concert in Budapest in Hungary and we got in contact. When it was time to record the album we were still in contact with him, we have talked a bit and we have said: OK, let's have a try and do a nice trip to Germany. It was totally fantastic. The guys of Perzonal War are so nice people.
I've seen there are many guest vocals on the album, and flute and a string quartet. Where these the additional recordings in Italy?
Yes, to create more folk atmosphere we tend to add some particular instruments like a flute, like strings and in this case also female vocals. Obviously it was not possible to bring all these people to Germany to record them. We have done some additional recording sessions in Italy to record all this kind of stuff. It is very important for the music because it creates more atmosphere. So we have the most harder metal stuff and on the other side the magical touch.
It is impossible to talk to you without mentioning the name of Martin Walkyer (the former Skyclad singer).
Aydan laughs and tells about the relationship with Martin : “We met him at Wacken in 2001. Basically after he left Skyclad but he loved the Skyclad songs so that he wanted to try to play them again. Since all Elvenking members are great Skyclad fans we took our chance and he decided to do at least a couple of concerts together with us. We have done a couple of gigs, one in Italy and one in the United Kingdom; Elvenking playing only Skyclad stuff with Martin on vocals. It was something really special. It was a dream come true to be on the same stage with Martin singing and us playing Skyclad songs. All the reactions have been great because we have played the older songs from the first albums and people went crazy when listening to that older stuff. After that Martin had to write the lyrics for a song for our new album. But in the end he got problems with his father falling ill. At least on this album it didn't happen but sure it will happen in the future”.
You also hoped that he would sing one track.
We really would like so. He is very busy with his new project The Clandestine but in the future we would like to have him as a guest on our next album. He is still in Sabbat and we have also played a concert with them.
Were there any particular differences in the writing process this time?
Not so different, because we always write what we feel. As I told you we wanted to do something different but it didn't change the way of writing.
The artwork is very stylistic and detailed. Who is Duncan Storr?
Duncan Storr is the cover artist of most of the Skyclad albums. The artwork is very different from the first album, it's a kind of shock. What we wanted to do was completely different to underline the difference between the two albums and to focus on the folk style. And Duncan Storr is the right one for this kind of stuff. The former one was done by Travis Smith but he is more into the darker stuff, so it was kind of difficult for Travis to do the cover.
All the bandmembers have been to Ireland and Scotland. Does it feel like a second home for you?
Not a second home. I was in Ireland and Scotland a lot of times because I like the folk culture over there and I'm sure I will go there again many times in future. There you can, at least for the time you are there, being part of that culture I love so much.
Don't you dream of touring there and becoming more famous in the regions you love?
For sure, it is really a dream. We will see what we can do because right now the music market is really in a crisis. I think the sad thing is, since the beginning, all about money. Unfortunately you have to face the problems of the music business with people telling you, try to be more commercial, try to be more light…what we won't do!
In the beginning most of the response came from Italy and Germany. Do you see any signs of expanding success with the second album?
Yes, for sure. We have a lot of people from all over the world showing interest. This can open doors for the future. I think we need at least another album to see how things really evolve.
If money wouldn't matter, what could we expect from an Elvenking gig?
We really like to play live to transform our concept in a little magic event. The atmosphere is very important to underline the difference between the romantic stuff and the harder stuff. If money wouldn't matter we would build a stage with folkloric landscapes and so…
What is for you the ultimate folk metal song?
Aydan laughs and thinks for a while, then concludes: “It will definitely be a Skyclad song…let me think…it could be 'Spinning Jenny'”.
The website has been renewed…
No, we haven't done it yet, we still have to do it although all the recent info is there. It will change in a couple of weeks, a guy from Poland is occupied with that.
Are there any concrete tour plans?
I think we will first do an Italian tour in the fall. Then later we will do a German tour and maybe outside Germany too I hope. Maybe we can tour with a bigger band. But the reviews are pretty well on the album, with the exception of Rock Hard in Germany, but I don't know why but they always give us bad reviews. So I hope it can be followed by touring a lot.
Can you tell a bit about all the other members in the band?
Jarpen, the other guitarist: he's my friend since I was five years old or so. It was my mate since the beginning. I played only with him, so it was great. I know Gorlan, the bass player and Elyghen, the violin player since I was eighteen, because they are from the same town. We have played together since we were kids. Zender, the drummer, is the most silent guy. The guy who doesn't talk too much but when he talks he has something to say. Always silent and looking around what happens… And Kleid, the singer, the new one, he's a very crazy guy…
How did you meet him?
Well, some guy suggests him, we have rehearsed with him and everything turned out fine.
Talking about the Italian rock scene in general, I dropped some names and this is the result.
We have played with Novembre, they are doing well. I know Inner Shrine but we haven't played with them yet but I sure want to check out the latest album. In 1999 all the bands coming from Italy were trying to follow the steps of Labyrinth and Rhapsody. There was a huge number of similar bands because it was the trend of the moment. Rhapsody were very unique when they started. But after that it is too much similar. Time Machine is another band you've mentioned, they are trying to do something special at least but I didn't follow them since 'Act II: Galileo'. Lacuna Coil are most famous at the moment, right now, they even are very famous in the USA.
Would you go for a success like that, if it happens?
Sure, I would like to but I'm getting too old to dream about that.
What are your dreams with Elvenking for this year?
My dreams are: first of all, that our new album will have a good reaction of people all over the world, they are coming to our shows and then a good touring would be important. What really matters to me at the moment though is keep on composing good music, especially music that could make people dream. Because, what we are calling the new album right now, has been written about a year ago, it's already old stuff for us.
More things to come from this pagan medieval band! But first of all: check out their excellent new album 'Wyrd'.