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woensdag 27 april 2011
CRUACHAN: Back to the Days of Blackened Folk

Interview with vocalist/multi instrumentalist Keith Fay of Cruachan by Vera in March 2011

Rumours were spread that the new Cruachan album ‘Blood On The Black Robe’ should go back to the style of the heavier, harsher early days. That’s why I was on the tiptoe of expectations for the new work of these veterans of Irish folk metal. Indeed, in 1995 they were already breaking boundaries by blending snappy black metal with Celtic folk elements. Unfortunately our first conversation was delayed for a special reason, as I learned the next day from the singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Keith Fay. It turned into our second debonair dialogue, just as the one in 2006.

What happened to you?
One week ago in Dublin city centre, fifteen little bastards attacked me and beat me up. I was with my sister and they were calling my sisters bad names and I said: hey that’s my sister, why don’t you get away and the next moment they were beating me with metal barrels on the head and I was unconscious. They kicked me for two minutes and then ran away. There is something wrong with my eyes. Yesterday I went to the hospital and I thought it would only take one hour, but it took eight hours before I was home again. It is a bit of a nightmare.

Fortunately everything will be alright in the end, but we decided to talk about more positive things, like the new album!

When I read that ‘Blood On The Black Robe’ should herald a return to harsher stuff, I was excited. But this evolution was already noticeable on the previous album, isn’t it?
On ‘The Morrigon’s Call’, indeed. As far as for two years I wanted to get the heavier, more extreme stuff in again, so we were going in that direction, but with a full time female vocalist and the type of stuff we were doing, I never could go 100% back to the way I wanted to do it. We are still good friends with Karen, but when Karen left the band we just made a decision: we will not replace her. We will now take the opportunity to move and do the type of music we wanted to do for quite some time. In that sense, Karen’s departure was a good thing. We thought with ‘The Morrigon’s Call’ we took that kind of Celtic folk metal pretty much as far as it could go and we did not want to do more of the same. We are very proud of that great CD but we definitely wanted to take another route. When you see how popular folk metal has become, it is almost becoming a parody of itself. So many bands are doing funny drinking songs. These people are missing the point of folk music. In folk music – especially when coming from Ireland – there is a lot of sadness and darkness. When you look at the Irish people and what they have gone through… let’s take this darkness and the more sombre side of folk music and that’s exactly what we have done with the new album. There are no happy drinking songs or funny folk tunes on the album. We just wanted to show people there is another way of doing this.

And you have succeeded in that, because ‘Blood On The Black Robe’ is a stunner!
Hey and let me tell you: this is only the beginning! We’re looking at a whole rebirth of the band Cruachan. There will be no more slowdowns in album releases. This is a great time for the band. It feels like a new beginning. Wait till you hear the next album, we are already working on new stuff for the next one! We want to do a better album every time.

That’s great news! And you have signed a deal for three albums with Candlelight, that’s positive news after all the trouble with labels, isn’t it?
Yes, yes.

But I was wondering: with the previous album, AFM kind of saved you from going to court and paying a lot for the studio. Why is the relationship stopped after only one album then?
I would never say anything bad about the guys of AFM. They really helped us and they helped us getting that album out in a really bad time. We were signed to Black Lotus. They went bankrupt, but we had already recorded the album and had no money to pay the studio. So we were in a lot of trouble. ‘The Morrigon’s Call’ was sent to a few labels and AFM came straight in. We never really considered another record label, we just jumped and took the first real offer. When the album was released, we did not get the kind of support as with previous labels. They had a very different way of working. They are very focused on Germany and parts of Austria and we did not feel so happy about that. Having said that, I am also very realistic about that, ‘The Morrigon’s Call’ is our best selling album. We feel it could have done better, if we had a much better relationship, but I will never say a bad word about AFM. I love them and I love what they have done for us, they helped us so much. I really respect them, but at the end of the day I have to do what is best for my band. I spoke to them and told them what I was thinking and they understood my thoughts. They let us go, we recorded a new demo and scored a new record deal. It is hard to deny; you have heard the album, Candlelight is such a better record label for that type of music, for promotion, for the channels they cover. It suits much better with our music.

I think you started writing songs for this album, right after Karen left…
Yes. It has been close to five years between albums, but the main delay was caused by personal stuff. I was moving, relationships with girlfriends were breaking down. I had many personal things to resolve before even thinking about writing new music. And we all have very professional jobs that we have to dedicate a lot of time to for our career. Between the whole band, we have ten children, it is a lot of work. Well, we have done it in the past and we will do it again. We just had a lot of personal things that delayed the whole process. We are much more focused now, so there will not be such a gap again. When Karen left, that was coincidentally the time when we started working on the new songs. Fortunately, otherwise we had half an album with one style and the other half with another style. It was good we only got into the song writing process after she left.

But you are still good friends, because she is doing guest vocals on three songs…
Yes and on future albums we will go to Karen again if female vocals are needed.

You did not play so much live gigs last years, so I was very happy to see you at Nepherex fest in Dendermonde (Belgium) in 2008…
Oh brilliant (laughs). It is ironic you know. The best thing about being in Cruachan for me, is playing live. It is the greatest experience and unfortunately, because all kinds of circumstances, we don’t get to do it that often. I am going to make sure to try to change that as well. The best thing is to be on tour out there, meeting people, hang out with the fans. In three weeks we are off to the Ukraine and I just can’t wait to get out there. There will be probably a small tour in Europe and in South America later. That’s what I live for. That’s what it is all about for me!

Is there a kind of theme in the lyrics or do they cover all kinds of subjects?
We did not want a theme. We just write what we feel. Looking through at what has actually appeared on that album, from a pagan view point, there is a very strong antichristian theme running through the album. When you are reading through the lyrics it seems as if you are dealing with a Norwegian black metal band (laughs). Everything is from a pagan view point, there is nothing satanic in any way. This blind faith that people have today; they need to realize the religion today has come from a horrific tough and weird thing. The lyrics on the new album are against those horrible acts religion has done in the past. People get so freaked out today about Islamic fundamentalists, but one thousand years ago, Christianity was doing the very same things. We have no clue what Christianity represented back in those times. Obviously we have some Celtic mythology songs, which we have always had, it is our main theme. We have an interesting song about the Irish involvement in the Spanish civil war; it is called ‘The Column’, which is surprising, but you know, it had to be done. When you have a new Cruachan album and you read the liner notes, you always have a big history lesson anyway.

But Ireland has gone through many things in its history, even recently. In 2005 it was still considered as the best place to live in Europe and now you have a huge crisis again…
It is getting worse and worse. There is a song on the album called ‘Primeval Odium’ which is written about Ireland as if it has a vice, it is speaking about the wrong’s and it is dealing with what the island is going through right now. Luckily, I am fine, I kept my job. I work in information technology for a big multinational company and my job is secure and the rest of the band is okay, but I have seen lots of friends and relatives losing jobs and struggling. Even the house I am living in now, at that time I paid 230.000 euro and now it is worth 150.000 euro. I feel screwed! I need to make sure I never leave this house.

Do you think the introduction of the euro was a bad thing?
It is hard to say. When they first introduced me to the euro and it was mentioned as an idea I thought it was brilliant. I travelled Europe a lot, so the thought of not having to change money with every border was fantastic. But there’s always going to be downsides and loss of financial torrent. Ireland being part of a greater thing was fine, but economical it might not work. Maybe it is because a lot of bankers had the opportunity to do bad banking, that’s exactly what happened in Ireland: all the bad banking because of the euro. If we still had ponds, it is hard to say if that would have happened. Certainly a lot of support has come from Europe since we went into the euro, so I do not know. I am not an economist.

But you just had elections I think, isn’t it?
Yes and the ruling party for eight years Fianna Fáil has been defeated.

You have a new one?
Yeah, we do. Fine Gael will be the new ruling party. The two main parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael came from the armies of the civil war eighty years ago. (1922-23) Fine Gael will not have an overall majority, they will have a coalition with Labour, the socialists. In a way, the idiots that fucked the country up, are gone. Hopefully now these new guys will be able to help us and sort it out.

I remember there used to be confusion about the fact that your brother John Fay would be a member of the band or not. Well, things seem to be sorted out, since he is in the band now…
Well, it is a whole history of my brother in and out and in again. I kind of knew he was going to come back after ‘The Morrigan’s Call’, but it is so embarrassing to mention every time. To be honest, you are the first interviewer who talks about that now with the new album, so I think nobody noticed he has been gone. He has done the artwork too, but he has done it really fast. I think he knows for himself that he could have done better. I think the landscapes are really great, but… well, it is nice.

But he worked together with Erinfireart. I guess that’s for the booklet and the layout?
Erinfireart is a friend and artist here in Dublin; a really very talented artist. He provided two paintings, just to fit in, in the booklet, to give it a bit of atmosphere. That’s all, just two pieces of artwork that he already had that we scanned and put in the booklet.

Where did you record the album?
In a studio in Dublin called Trackmix Studio and it is run by one guy. If you book the studio, he is the producer. It is a much better studio than we have been in before and the producer works with metal a lot; so you can hear the difference on the album, compared to like ‘Pagan’. It is really a well produced album, but still a lot of problems. I only listened to the album a few days ago and it was like: fuck, how did that escape my ears? But anyways, my younger brother did not even notice what I was talking about, so in general it is fine. Let’s call it room for improvement. I think we will go back to that studio next time, because we are very happy with it and it is close to home: very convenient.

I found out that you have contributed to the ‘Hell-bent For Cooking Book’…
Yes, I did (laughs). With Irish beef stew, the best! The recipe I put in that book is from my mother. It is one of my favourite meals. If it is prepared properly, it is absolutely beautiful and it is a real Warrior kind of, Pagan kind of Food. Real old type Irish food. It is great to give you power and strength. I love cooking whenever I can, but because of my lifestyle and being so busy I often use ready meals from the supermarket.

Well, that’s it for now, thank you very much for the interview, let’s round off with your words…
Everybody who’s reading this: better buy the album, do not download it!

Watch the special live track – perfectly edited – of ‘I Am Warrior’ of these forefathers of folk metal on YouTube and remember: Cruachan, Skyclad and Waylander were the first bands to mix metal with folk, the echelons of the genre!

Geplaatst door Vera op woensdag 27 april 2011 - 23:15:40
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