Waylander is a pagan metal band, formed in Armagh (Northern Ireland) in 1993. A year ago they released 4th full lenght album entitled "Kindred Spirits", containing a great portion of oldschool pagan metal. It was a good oportunity to ask them some questions. Read what a co-founder and vocalist of the group, Ard Chieftain O'Hagan, have to say about last album, his band and some other various things.
1. Hello! Let’s start this interview with something nice and easy – please name some good music that you have listened to recently.
Greetings. Recently I have been listening to my old tapes. A lot of the old Thrash stuff hasn’t aged well but Sepultura’s "Schizophrenia" is one album that stands the test of time. I’ve been really enjoying Bathory’s "Blood Fire Death" and "Under the Sign of the Black Mark", truly inspiring music.
2. OK, that was a warm up, now let’s talk about your band. It’s been a more than a year since you released your last opus „Kindred Spirits”. What were fans’ reactions on this material? Did you receive any negative opinions?
Most people were of the opinion that Kindred Spirits is our strongest album thus far, which is obviously pleasing to us. I honestly can’t recall reading a really negative review, which makes me a tad paranoid to be honest!
3. I must say that the title „Kindred Spirits” is very intriguing. Can you tell me something about the lyrical concept of this album? What are your favourite lyrics and why?
Kindred Spirits refers to those who are followers of the olden ways, those who consider the Earth we live on to be sacred. On this album I am quite pleased with the lyrics to Lamh Dearg, I think they set the scene well and poses some questions which would be considered a bit controversial round these parts.
4. It seems that a lyrical part of your creativeness is very important to you. Do you think that people who listens to your music get interest in Irish literature and history?
Over the years many people have developed an interest in Irish Folklore and History after getting into Waylander. It is very gratifying to say the least and makes it all worth while for me on a personal level. Coming from the north I find it especially pleasing when people from opposing traditions can both take something positive and enlightening from my words.
5. When it comes to a metal section your music is very diverse – there are many musical influences which we can hear on every album; black metal, doom, thrash and even classic heavy… Each member of the band is such an open-minded person, haha?
Some of us are more open minded than others, that’s for sure! Basically, we are all just Metal fans who don’t as a rule get ourselves bogged down in any one particular genre. From a personal perspective I just couldn’t imagine only listening to one genre only, it would bore me to tears. Diversity is the spice of life.
6. As far as I know your plan was to create a bit more heavy album than “Honour Amongst Chaos”. I think that you’ve reached the goal. But why did you decide to go into darker musical fields? What was inspiring for you this time during a composing process?
Most of us are into the more extreme end of metal so it made sense that we travelled down that road a little more than usual. We did agree at the outset of this album that this was our goal but to be honest it wasn’t really discussed much more after that initial meeting.
7. You are playing folk metal in very oldschool way – I mean, the folk tunes are only an addition to a purely metal core. I’d like to know how looks your style of making new songs. Do you always starts with a metal riff, or sometimes the first step is a creation of folk tunes?
For the most part the riff comes first but obviously there are exceptions to this rule. Whatever sounds good to us really is our simplistic way of judging things. We have always said we are a Metal band, not a Folk band and that remains true to this day and I am pretty sure this will continue to be our mantra.
8. By the way, I heard that you don’t like the term “folk metal”. Is that true? Do you think that there are to many poor bands, and so you don’t want to be associated with them? Nowadays there are loads of bands that plays jolly polka-metal, singing about trolls and booze, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise for me…
Haha, yes, I think you have hit the nail on the head there. When we began there was no such thing as folk metal, it was something that was invented by journalists. At the end of the day it isn’t very important what we are dubbed. We are what we are, like it or not, call it what you will.
9. One more question bounded with genres. I noticed quite many times that your band is labeled as “Viking metal”. Don’t you think it’s kinda weird for a Celtic band, especially that your ancestors were fighting with the Scandinavian raiders during the Viking Age?
I’ve never really noticed that we’ve been called Viking metal before. Now, that is the height of lazy journalism! In fact, it is retarded. The Irish, after all, gave the norsemen quite a few kickings over the years!
10. OK, back to the music. What inspires you when you are adding folk tunes into the songs? A Celtic folk scene is pretty big, so can you name some particular bands?
Horslips and Clannad always. There’s no point in getting bogged down in listing bands. At the end of the day, the irish traditional music scene is alive and vibrant and there is a multitude of things to be inspired by.
11. Let’s talk a bit about your past now. There are quite many interviews in which you’re describing band’s history, so I will focus only on some details here. You founded your band 20 years ago, in 1993, in the time when folk metal almost hadn’t exist. Can I know how has it happen that you started to incorporate a folk tunes into your music? Maybe a Skyclad was one of inspirations for you back than?
Many years before Waylander I had an idea for a heavy metal version of the Horslips but nothing ever came of it. When Skyclad came along it was only a matter of time before Waylander were formed. I was a big Sabbat fan and was quite blown away by "Wayward Sons" when it came out.
12. By the way, what do you think about this band nowadays? Don’t you think that they deserve more attention, as one of the pioneers of this pagan/folk metal genre?
To be honest I’m not that bothered by anything post "Jonah’s Ark". And, yes, they definitely should get a lot more credit for defining a genre.
13. Until “The Light, The Dark and The Endless Knot” your music was a bit more raw and extreme. So how has it happen that you had soften your sound on “Honour Amongst Chaos”? That was a plan, or maybe it came naturally to light during the creation of the new album?
No plan, and I have to disagree with you here as I don’t think our sound softened at all on Honour Amongst Chaos. We did consciously add more atmosphere but I think the almost ‘ proggy ‘ feel to the album came about due to the length of time we had the songs around for. We couldn’t resist adding little parts here and there. At one stage one of the songs clocked in at 23 minutes for example but we somehow managed to edit it down to 10 minutes.
14. “The Light…” has a very weird artwork, well, at least I think it’s a bit weird haha. Can you tell me what story is hidden behind this picture?
It’s all about perceptions of Light and Dark. One figure is the Horned God, Cernunnos, who the christian church demonized, who became the satan figure. The other is the Earth Goddess, a representation of Light. The Endless Knot connects both of them as they are all part of the cycle of life. The artwork does seem different for Waylander, but in saying that, that album was also very different for Waylander. In effect this was an experimental album which didn’t quite turn out how we expected it to. The artwork was created by Paul McCarroll of Unhinged art fame and was a definite deviation from his normal work.
15. As I see it, after releasing “Honour…” your position on pagan metal scene has strengthen. This album had much better promotion than the previous ones, and since then you don’t struggle with too many line-up changes. What do you think about it? It seems that Listenable cares pretty well about your band.
I agree with you here. Listenable have done all they can for such a small label. They took a punt on us when noone else would so we will always be grateful for that. As for lineup changes, well, these things happen, we’ve got to the stage now where it no longer fazes us in any way.
16. OK, now let’s talk about some things outside the world of music. I know that nowadays not many people on your island speaks Irish. So do you know this language personally?
The language is still spoken in many areas and the number of primary schools who teach through the language is very much on the increase, so I think the language is here to stay. As for me, I am not fluent but I still can converse on a basic level and have a great respect for the language of my land. My son and nephew are now learning the language so I am trying to help them out and in turn this is good for me as i now have to polish up on my knowledge.
17. The Irish literature is reach in many meaningful characters. Who is the most inspiring Irish hero for you and why?
CuChulainn, without a shadow of a doubt. He trained as a warrior near to where I was born, at Emain Macha, the Ancient capital of the northern province of Ulster, so I always have and always will have a special place in my heart for CuChulainn.
18. Last question is simple. What are your plans for the future?
To write more music that inspires us.
19. That’s everything I’d like to ask. Thank you very much for your time, and good luck in the future! If there is anything you would like to add, feel free to do it. Cheers!
Many thanks for the questions and the support, it is greatly appreciated.
A single from "Kindred Spirits":
Photos: band's archieve.
Interview by Vladyka 2013. Please do not copy this interview without HA'Z permission. Respect the copyrights!