Congratulations with your new CD 'Folkemon'. IMHO one of the best this year.
Thank you very much. That's very nice to know, every one seems to like it. When you're busy working on it gets difficult to get away from it, and when you're writing all the lyrics I tend to go a bit crazy in the end, it makes you a bit mad with words flying around your head. Then it's nice when it's finished people say :'Hey. It's good'.
What does 'Folkemon' mean?
It's a bit of a joke really, it's like 'Pokemon' . We were thinking of a title that would capture peoples imagination and make them laugh. When they (hopefully) buy the album they'll see that Skyclad is a very serious band, and we have a real serious message behind the lyrics. It's also a reflection on the state of the world today were most of our children don't know anything about politics, or the damage we're doing to the environment, but they can name all the hundreds of different Pokemon characters, and they're fantastic on every computer game, but they can't actually hold a conversation with another human being.
The cover shows a cat who looks like a wanderer playing the violin. Does this symbolise anything?
Well, he looks a bit like the stupid Pokemon cat, and he's kind of a gypsy wandering cat, playing the violin, he's been in a lot of fights, and is coming home in the Skyclad house, coming through the catflap in the door.
Skyclad in known for it's mix between Metal and Folk, and this time you focused more on the Metal aspect of Skyclad. Do you decide what to do in the studio while recording or do you write your material before.
A bit of both really, we don't have much of a plan. We all get our heads together and then decide what we're gonna do. We're very lucky in a way, because we never had a record company or manager telling us what to do. We've always done exactly what we wanted, a very liberating way to work and write music. With this album, from the minute we started writing the material, we realised it would gonna be a lot heavier. Maybe the next album will become even more heavier, maybe it would become unplugged, we don't know yet. There's no master business plan behind Skyclad.
So 'Skyclad Goes Black Metal' is possible?
Yes! Anything's possible in Skyclad. That makes it so much fun to be in the band, because even I don't know what the next album will be like. I can imagine what kind of lyrics I would write, but I don't know what the music will be like.
But why this fascination for Folk and Medieval stuff?
Folk/Traditional music has a very long history in Europe. It's part of the original music, kind of, near as we can get, that our ancestors would be listening to a long time ago, and I think it's very important to keep this tradition alive. As a very positive thing, as part of our heritage, our tradition, and I think it's good if we show the young people of today that it's not 'uncool' to have music with violins in. When we first started making the Skyclad music, we were the first Metal band ever to have a female violin player, and most people thought we were crazy. Now there are a lot of bands all using traditional instruments.
Like the German Folk/Metal band 'In Extremo'.
Yes, good friends of ours, very nice people. You know, it's very important. If this music dies out, if the young people of today think : "Oh, that's for the old people", it would be quite sad, because I think something would be lost.
But in England, Ireland or Wales it's much easier to get in contact with Traditional music than in Holland, which has not much tradition left.
Yes, more than likely, but we try to tell more people, because it's a very cool kind of music. The thing I like about Metal music is that it's (normally) played by musicians on stage, with no technology, no drumcomputers, it's very real and honest music. And Folk/Traditional music is the same. It's very well played by musicians in bars, when they play they have a great atmosphere, just like Metal shows. When you go to an Irish pub and see a band play, or when we play unplugged in a Irish bar, the crowds are crazy you know. It's the kind of music that wants you to jump up and down, tap your feet, and so does Metal Music. This kind of traditional music originally had very political lyrics and was written and sung around the campfire by poor people, who were sick of the Lords, the Landlords, the bosses who were controlling their lives, and that relates to what we do with Skyclad lyrics. You know, the same kind of thing. We're singing songs kind of for the poor people and against the rich. I've got nothing against rich people or being rich, but the people who abuse that privilege, who don't use it to actually make the world a better place.
So it's safe to say that you're in fact minstrels of the 21st century?
Yes, I would take that as a very great compliment indeed. That is how news used to be spread, by people singing songs, telling stories around the campfire, travelling from village to village before there was any papers or television, and really all we're trying to do is to keep that tradition on in a Heavy Metal Folk kind of way.
On your website it states (in relation with the new album) : "This is Metal". The obvious question then is of course : What is Skyclad's definition of Metal, and what's not?
I didn't actually say that, so this is a big secret between me and you hahaha. It's just a quote our webmaster invented. It is, because we've gone back a bit to our roots, I think, it's like we try to do, like we always try to do, is do the most honest album that reflects the way we feel at the time. I think, you know, new album , new record label, new feelings, new energy, and we wanted to put that in the music. The way our webmaster said it on my behalf was not the way I would have said it, but fair enough.
I played this CD a few times to people who've never heard of you before, and they thought it was like a very heavy version of the Levellers.
The Levellers is a very good band, so that's cool. Other people have said it either, but I don't think we're much like them, because they play a very different style. I think we're nearly going as long as the Levellers, so maybe we also can say the Levellers is a more acoustic version of Skyclad.
It's a shame that I don't have a lyric sheet, for I guess that they are rather comic and sarcastic. I've picked out a few titles and like you to comment on it:
The Great Brain Robbery
It's about the big rip-off been carried out by the people who run the world, the business people and the big corporations who basically are selling the general population a load of lies. These people employ people to work for them below wages, work very hard, and than with the money they make, they put adverts on the television which say : 'buy the new TV, you don't need you're old car anymore, get a new microwave, throw away the old, you need this new computergame'. Basically they've got a whole world full of people who slave away all day long, all of their lives, spending money on shit they don't really need but are told they need it. If that isn't the perfect crime, I don't know what is, because the perfect crime is happening all around us, every minute of the day, and everyone is to stupid to realise it.
Think Back And Lie Of England
A lot of British people are very eager to speak about what the nazi's did in WWII, and what the American settlers did to the native Indians, but they're not brave enough to stand up and look back on what Britain has done in the past. We went to countries thousands of miles away (China, India, Australia), we took people away from their homes and made them into slaves, we've killed millions of them as well. And also what we've done to our own brothers and sisters, what the English people did to the Scots, Welsh and Irish people. We've treated them really like slaves, like second class subhuman beings. I'm very proud to be British, but I think it's very important than people look back and learn the lessons from history and make sure these things don't happen again, because the time we forget, the time's come everything starts to happen all over again.
I'm not sure, if anybody knows what this song's about I would like them to tell me because it's a strange one. No, it's a song about a Victorian gentlemen, with a stiff upper lip, walking around in a foreign country, looking at the local flowers and plants and the animals, and he here's the sound of a violin coming through the trees and out of the wood comes a gypsy wood-spirit, a very sexy one. She seduces him and have sex with him, and he goes like : "Oh goodness gracious me, I can't do this" and he's very shocked and embarrassed by the whole thing, but he gives in to her in the end. It's kind of my song about the way people say it's a man's world, but I think that in the end of the day woman are far more clever and cunning in many ways then man are, and in a certain aspect they rule this world, and have it under control.
The Disenchanted Forest
It's a fantasy song about an imaginary battle. A young guy with his brothers is cutting down the harvest, and when they finished their work they get a big barrel of ale to celebrate the work is done. It's a hot summer day, and they get so drunk they fall asleep. When the guy wakes up, he's on his own, his brothers are disappeared. Then he sees two mighty army's facing one another. One army is the army of progress and technology, with guys with chainsaws, bulldozers, a lot of machinery. The other army is the force of the forest, the force of nature. He watches this battle, he hides in the bushes and watches those two great army's collide together. One side wants to cut down the forest and the other side is fighting to protect it and in the end the young guy decides he can't hide anymore and he runs from out of the bush, he picks up a fallen sword and he joins and he fights on the side of nature. But in the battle he's killed and the story actually is being told by his ghost in the end. Even though this is a fantasy story, it really is not, for it's based on the battles between organisations like Greenpeace and Friends Of The Earth, people who want to save the planet, and people who want to destroy it. The basic theme of the story is : Who's gonna stand up and fight? All of us from Skyclad are supporting organisations like Greenpeace and others, for those are the ones who stand up and take on the battle.
You don't see much of that political awareness in Metal Music, but more in styles like Hardcore.
Well, I've always been into that, right since the days of my former band Sabbat, I always felt very strongly about things like that, maybe I'm in the wrong type of music, I don't know. I think it's important that if you feel that way, you should as loud as you can. I'm not saying every band should do it, but it's what we do. A guy said to me earlier today : 'Why don't you have fantasy lyrics?' I answered him that there was already enough fantasy in the world, told to us by our politicians every day.
When God Logs-Off
It's about, again, man kind's fascination with technology, and the way in the year 2000 we seem to be looking for the answers to everything. And now scientists have mapped out the human genome, so we can understand DNA. And they said on TV that it was a great day for humanity. I think in 200 years time, when we have cloned and stuff like that, and the world has become a much more evil place, historians will look back and say it was the worst day in the history of the human race. Because it has the potential to cure a lot of illness and to make the world better, but look at every invention human kind ever came up with, and they've always used it for the wrong reasons. I think it's a song as well about looking for answers, and the meaning of life.
Do you believe in God, or Gods, or whatever?
I most certainly do, not in the Christian god, but I'm a very spiritual person indeed. I believe all of this can't be by accident and that there is a reason for it. What that reason is I don't understand, but I think it's something bigger than we ever can imagine. All these people from all these different religions spending the whole time bitching each other of and fighting. They just should all realise that's not the way to forward. All these world religions preach peace and understanding, but in the end of the day all they do is spread hatred.
Any Old Irony
This is our 10th anniversary song, cause we've done 10 albums with Skyclad, it's our 10th year, and in this song we'd like to thank our brothers and sisters Skyclad fans who've supported us the last 10 years, and it's also kind of a joke, and the guys in the band make a bit of fun out of each other.
The lyrics for 'Crux Of The Message' were written by Alison LR Davies. Who is she and why did you ask her for these guest lyrics.
Ashe's a friend of mine from Nottingham, a young writer. She writes poetry and very strange psychological horror stories. I'm a big fan of our work, but she isn't famous or so. I read a poem by her called 'the storm' but we didn't think that this would fit in with the rest of the titles. But one of the lyrics in the poem was 'Crux Of The Message', so we kind of changed that. Basically all you hear is a story about a storm blowing in and than the thunder and lightning rages, and in the end all blows away and is quiet again. It reminded me of a band, arriving in a town, setting up their equipment (the howling wind), doing the show (thunder and lightning) and leaving town. It was written in a beautiful way so I guessed she could do with a lucky break.
On the album there will be two bonustracks. One instrumental called 'Loco Commotion' and a Tenpole Tudor cover called 'Swords Of A Thousand Men'. A surprising choice.
'Swords Of A Thousand Men' was a huge hit for them in England before the well known 'Wunderbar'. We all grew up with this one, so we wanted to do this one one time. It's a bit of a party song, or drinking song.
The promo's have been mailed out a few weeks ago, how are the reactions so far?
Very very good. Everybody loves it which makes it very enjoyable to do the interviews. If everyone hated it, it would be the worst nightmare in de world and I would be crying right now.
This fall you'll do a short promo tour through Europe. Why not make it a normal tour rightaway?
Because we basically had two years of not doing a great deal, and I think we would like to let our new album build our profile a little bit. It would be very crazy now to play a tour in front of 400 people when maybe in 3 months we can play in front of a thousand or 1500 people. Our last year on Massacre was not very good in terms of promotion, and the we had a year spend on looking for the right record company, talking to everybody, writing material for the new album. So we thought, what we would do, let's do a little promo/launch party and then hope to play a lot of festivals next year. With the backing of Nuclear Blast that should be possible.
You are performing as guest on the new Cradle Of Filth album. You did the vocals on the old Sabbat cover 'For Those Who Died'. Why did they choose to cover that song with you on vocals.
They were all big Sabbat fans when they were very young, and used to come to the concerts. I met them in a club called 'Rock City' in Nottingham, and we had a beer together. Pretty soon we were drunk, and I said that they must do a Sabbat cover, and I would do vocals on it. Much later when we were rehearsing for going into the studio, the telephone rang. It was Sean, the guitarist from Cradle. And he said that they were gonna do a Sabbat track, and if I felt like coming down. So I did, and the rest is history. I think they made a great cover of it, I haven't heard a final mix, but what I heard in the recording studio sounded very good indeed.
What are you're thoughts on the re-release of Sabbat's 'History Of A Time To Come'?
Well, I wish that Noise Records had asked for my help a little bit, because I could have written a biography for it, or I could have found some bonus material, Andy (Sneap) could have remixed some tracks. I think it's a shame because nobody bothered to tell me, I only found out when my friend who owns a record shop called me up one day and said : 'Hey, they've re-released 'History Of A Time To Come''. It really is a shame because it could have been so much better.
Your former Sabbath colleague Andy Sneap has become a well known producer (he did bands like Machine Head, Nevermore). Never thought of letting him produce a Skyclad album?
I don't know if he would be the right guy for a band like Skyclad. I'm sure that with bands like Nevermore, or the more real full on Metal kind of bands he works great. We've considered it but in the end thought it wasn't such a good idea, so we produced ourselves. Besides that, Andy can be quite difficult to work with from time to time, but maybe in the future, who knows?
You're also planning to set up your personal website (www.martinwalkyier.com). What can we expect from this site.
There will be some short stories, poetry, some explanations of the lyrics, some crazy photo's of me at home, on holiday, whatever, some merchandise maybe. I haven't done anything for it yet I have to admit, I'm a very naughty boy. When I'm finished with this promotion campaign I'll get to it, and probably the first things will be explanations of the Folkemon lyrics.
Any final comments?
I just want to say a very big hello to everyone out there, it's the 10th anniversary of Skyclad, I hope everybody enjoys the Folkemon album as we enjoyed making it. I, and the rest of the guys in Skyclad, consider that we are very privileged to be able to have made our music and have such a lot of fun for the last 10 fantastic years, and we could not have done that if the people out there haven't had bought the records, and come along to the concerts and been such great boys and girl (haha). Thanks very much and hopefully we'll have another 10 great years of Skyclad.