Skyforger explains about Pagan beliefs

interview with Peter, November 2005

Please give us a short introduction of yourself?
Hi there! My name is Peter and I am from Skyforger, Latvian Pagan Metal band. We were established in 1995 when we decided to change our band name, and also musical style. Previously we played doom metal with deathly vocals, but then we took more black metal direction with some local Latvian folk music touch. We did release our demo “Semigalls’ Warchant” in 1997, first full length “Kauja Pie Saules” in 1998, second CD Latvian Riflemen in 2000 and then we decided to change labels. Thus we found Folter Records in Germany and released our third album “Thunderforge” on them. There is also pure folk album Sword Song, which we did release by ourselves. In meanwhile when we don’t record, we play live and so far we have done some 150 gigs, also many in Europe.

Your style is a blend of black with Latvian folk into Pagan metal. Why is this a good combination?
Hmm, cannot give you any clear answer. This is the same like you speak English, but I am born here and talk Latvian. We don’t actually play black metal, but there are only some components of that, mixed with some thrash, some heavy and some doom metal. We support pagan ideas and lifestyle, so we try also to play something what feels closer to us. All I can say, we try to be original and find our own style.

The Baltic area has own religion and beliefs. Can you tell us something more about this?
This is too large topic to tell in here. We have some material in our homepage for such purposes. We have very large mythological legacy left by our forefathers, and that is not exactly similar to Scandinavian myths. And I don’t believe to that too, I only have respect for such a big fantasy of people, who invited them. But ok now, about main gods in couple of words:

a) The most often mentioned god definitely is Dievs. It’s a god of sky and fertility. The main concept of his appearance is that of a plain-looking wise old man with a white beard, who appears in everyday-life situations, he can help with virtually everything.

b) Perkons (Thundergod) - is one of the main deities in Latvian pagan religion. The origin of Perkons is closely connected with its natural appearance - rain, thunder, and lightning. Also in different cases seen as war god or the heavenly smith. Perkons has a sword and can use his arms to create thunder and lightning for persecution of the Velns (Devil).

c) Saule (Sun) is the most powerful of Latvian heavenly goddesses. She is the goddess of the sun and of fertility, the patroness of all unfortunate people. She is said to live on the top of the heavenly mountain (some model of world), where she rides during the day in her chariot.

d) Meness (Moon) - protector of travelers and soldiers, depicted as the source of light at night.
e) Usi?s is the god of light in Latvian mythology and closely connected to the morning or evening star. In other traditions he is also protector of horses and brings the summer. There are more characters like Mara - protective deity of cattle; Laima - the deity of fate, the personification of it, whether as luck or as bad luck and many more - Janis, Velns, Jumis, Auseklis etc. Everybody has important role in our forefather’s imagination and everyday life.

Why did you want to pay tribute to your forefathers on the ’Sword Song’ CD? People in Argentina don't know that Latvia is a country!
We want to tell about our heritage on every CD, not only on this one. We are nationally minded people and want to sing about what feels right to us, but not about other worn out topics. All CD’s tell some old story of the real event or legend which has happened in the deep past, so we hope that people will find it interesting, even being so far away in Argentina or Chile. I know that there is our fan that lives in very end of Chile (close to Antarctica) and he send us emails often. Or we have even one fan in New Zealand.

And how do look towards other religions like Christians and Muslims?
I don’t like any organized mass religion, be it rotten Christians or stupid Muslims, who think that with bombs and terror they will make peace in world. Instead I prefer to be with myself and do stick to what feels right only for me, not for some brain washers. I don’t deny that every religion can mean something to somebody, but I don’t like that they sell it on every corner and wants by all means to get inside as many people as possible. Today this entire circus has turned only into cheap money-making machine and it looks very disgusting.

And isn't religion the biggest root of all Evil?
Very true words, name into witch burnings or Inquisition, which killed more people than in WW1. The idea was maybe good, but actually human mind is tended to make some benefits for him, where is some collective society observed. I would certainly vote for such Pagan religion, if there would be any, because it’s more close to people and every individual. Church has proved that they are not tolerant to any other way of life; to another point of views; they are responsible for biggest atrocities in history. Pagan beliefs were more laid back and taught how to live closely in connection with Nature, but not how to make another wars.

Is your roots and beliefs the reason why you choose to mix it with black metal? Why is black metal chosen when it comes to religion?
No, not exactly. Like I said, we have never been a real black metal band, because real black metal is played grimmer than we do. That’s why we have always empathized that we are Pagan Metal band. Moreover also black metal with its Satanic ideas is just other opposite form if Christianity. We have never wanted to teach or preach people for something, and we don’t want it too. Religious minded people are sick for it, and here lies the biggest difference between them and us.

Active since 1995 you celebrate the 10th anniversary. Is there something special you have in mind to celebrate this?
We did this re-release of our demo and completed it with especially written EP, so we can make demo available again. It was sold out long time ago and also it was only on cheap tape, so now it is on beautiful CD/LP versions. I guess this is good present for fans and also for us. Also we did especially concert here in Latvia, and it turned out great.

What progression did you make in the 10 years? What is your biggest effort?
Hmm, you should listen to all albums in line and then you will hear progression. I think, that with this time we have proven that we change a bit with each album, but this is not really like we wanted to do it, but it comes out naturally. If we decide to sing about war, songs must be angry and hateful to enemy, but if this is about some softer topic, so I look for another forms of expression. We definitely can make better music now, than 10 years ago, when we were young and blood boiled. Nobody can do good music when you just start to play guitar; today we can do it much better, so this is maybe biggest effort.

I only have your latest disc “Semigalls’ Warchant” and on there are 4 new songs. The biggest difference for me was the vocals. I really liked the old vocal style. Why did you change?
Nothing is strange here. Did you think that we would start to roar now in black metal voice just like 8 years ago? This is long time ago gone period and I have no interest to return to it. I know that many fans want me to return to good old black metal voice and music, but I feel that we are growing musically and this would be deny your inner feelings just to please fans. I am not a big fan of black metal anymore like I was years ago. When we discovered it, it was something like “Wow, this is something what we would never thought possible...” So, we wanted to try it out and mix it with our own ideas about heavy metal. Slowly this first fuss went away and we wanted to find our own style. There are too many similar vocals like demo vocal and I didn’t want to be one of them. We honestly explained it in the CD booklet too. Plus another factor is rather different technical level of equipment between both times. I think that we could not get that sound back even if we would try it. Times have changed and we have to change with them. I don’t think that it would be very necessary that we start to make songs in vein of demo. There are about a million other bands that do it. We even didn’t discuss this question in band.

You also did some European tours. How was it? Did people enjoy? Think people understand you and where you stand for?
So far we have played 3 European tours and have played many gigs and they always has been successful. Europe has a good gig culture and people are supportive. I don’t know what much to add here. Sometimes there is some badly attended gig like in Ireland, where we got 20 people in first gig, but for everything there are own explanation. But next gig we got 10 times more. Very recently we returned from Central Europe tour, in Czech republic, Slovakia and Hungary, and all gigs went really well. In Budapest was metal festival and we had some thousand in front of stage, it was great. People knew us and had a good time. So I can say that everywhere metal scene is the same basically.

Are you going in discussion with fans after a show if they tell you suck?
Mostly such people don’t come to tell it, if they didn’t like it. There are always some fans that come and want to get some signature or ask a question. I am ready always to explain something if there is need. But from other hand I am more shy man and don’t go much around talking with fans, only if they ask for something. But I am in peace if somebody doesn’t like us; you cannot be good to all.

Do you play covers on stage? Which bands influenced you to make music yourself?
Not anymore. We did it when we were younger and didn’t have that many songs. We had some covers of Running Wild (Raw Ride), some three Manowar songs, Darkthrone, Judas Priest and some more. Today we play only our own songs on stage.
The biggest influences you can see already above, all bands we liked very much. But of course, list is a lot bigger, name only Saxon, Dio, some older thrash bands like Mekong Delta, Celtic Frost, Razor, also Bathory.

Btw, could you recall your thoughts when hearing Quorthon passed away?
I was sad to hear it. I liked his music very much, because Bathory was first and still best “pagan metal” metal band for me and so it will stay. It gave me as youngster many great emotions and urged also to do something by myself.

How does a show look like? Any visual aspects? Or naked female surprises?
Probably for somebody bizarre will seem Skyforger outlook – our decision to look like that since the very first days of the band in 1995. We wanted to create music about old forgotten tales of our country’s heritage, so we decided that it would be cool if we can bring extra feelings onto stage also by our image – ancient dress, swords, banners with olden signs, old music instruments, jewelry etc. I personally think that this is something for the “eyes” of the audience, but their ears we fill with music, which is also our attempt to collide two seemingly not possible to join styles – folk music and modern Metal music. I guess this is maybe something fresh yet. We try to play as energetic as we just can and the biggest joy is to see that crowd is happy and that they feel all emotions, which Metal gig should provide – power, aggression, melody and passion. If I see that people are banging like hell, sweating, drinking - then it has been a good concert. Naked females we don’t have on stage, sorry!J

Is there something you MUST tell us?
We are going into tour again, in March 2006 with two bands: Manegarm from Sweden and Goddess of Desire from The Netherlands, so check out our homepage for updates and hope to see you in some concert! Also if somebody doesn’t know it yet, we have this old/new CD ‘Semigalls’ Warchant” out already since this summer, check it out.

Last rites?
Thank you for interview and given support, may the ancient Gods watch upon you all!
Nothing is forgotten, nothing will be forgotten!
Interviewer: twansibon
Nov 9, 2005

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