Interview by Erwin Van Dijk
An interview with Ally from Ally The Fiddle. A fiddle in a metal band? Twenty years ago this would have been a ridiculous idea. But today there are many bands with a violin player. Think of Heidevolk and Stream of Passion. And Haggard of course. Ally, or Almut Storch – Hukriede is the violin player of the German Medieval Classical Deathmetal Band Haggard. She is also known for her work with Die Apokalyptischen Reiter or ASP although I doubt that there is anyone outside Germany who have ever heard of ASP. Ally The Fiddle is her solo band. Tony Cannella did a review of the album Red Unicorn and now it is time for an interview.
Did you have classical training or were you taught to play by ear like many violin players in the folk genre?
Well, in fact I studied violin at the academy in Rostock (North Germany) and have the diploma to work as a professional (classical) violinist. But to play Folk-Fiddle I took two or three lessons with the German Fiddler Bernd Lüthke (“Midnight Court” / Berlin) to come into it.
I did an interview with Maaike Peterse, who plays the cello in Kingfisher Sky and she started with the violin before switching to the Cello. Can you play other instruments besides the Fiddle & E Violin?
To study violin means you also have to play the piano. It is a really beautiful instrument and I started to practice a little bit more And I play a very little bit guitar. That helps me to compose and to understand Rock and Metal Music, because of its difference to the piano.
The violin seems to be an instrument typical for the folk & pagan metal these days (like Eluveitie, Korpiklaani etc). What type of violin/fiddle do you use?
I play an old classical instrument from the 19th century, combined with a pickup system (based on a capaciter microphone). I love that violin because of its warmth and tenderness. My E-Violin is a white Fender V8. Not even the best choice, because it is heavy.
For some reason most women in rock & metal bands (especially folk oriented bands) play the violin. (Marcela Bovio from Stream of Passion, Klaartje from Myrkvar etc). Do you think this means that the violin has become an instrument for women?
No, of course not! There are enough bands, who show us that this is not completely a ladies instrument: Koorpiklaani, Letzte Instanz, Haggard but maybe it is a way for women to take part in Metal Music. There are not many feminine rock singers or guitar- and bass players. On the other hand I personally feel the violin is a rather feminine instrument: intense and powerful but not rough.
To what kind of music do you listen yourself and who are your favourite bands and musicians?
My very favourite is the Canadian band The Tea Party; especially the oriental sounding songs combined with that deep sonorous voice of singer Jeff. And I am influenced by the Fusion violinist Jerry Goodman (formerly Mahavishnu Orchestra). He inspires me a lot and always puts me in a good mood! My favourite metal bands are: Killswitch Engage (my newest exploration – what a singer!!!), Symphony X, Iron Maiden, Opeth, Knorkator (a very funny German band) and Haggard (I love the new album “Tales of Ithiria”!). And of course ASP as my favourite Gothic band. There are very well known in Germany and you really MUST listen to them!!
Ally The Fiddle is an instrumental band and instrumental bands are quite rare. Record companies might this even consider a risk. Have you ever considered to use vocals on “Red Unicorn”?
Yes, that is a big issue for us! The record companies don’t like to take the risk and we have to discuss a lot with those companies and booking agencies. So I can’t exclude, that we would never use some vocals, but I’d love to try it first without! We made a compromise by using a speaker for one song – but for the companies and agencies it seems not to be enough….
And what made you decide to start a solo band?
I am working with many bands in many different styles and in many different studios. So I think it is natural, that you wish to make your own music. On the one hand you always have to make musical compromises; on the other hand your instrument rarely gets the chance to be shown in its full beauty. So at least I wanted to know, how I sound.
Where do you get the inspiration for the songs, and can you tell us something about the songs on the EP?
I was playing that tune with different folk bands. But I always thought, that sounds like a real metal song! So I will rerecord that tune in a harder and faster version on our following album – on “Red Unicorn” I added a second melody to make a rocky but poetic version. By the way: the tune was composed by the American fiddler Amy Cann and brought to fame by the great American fiddler Natalie McMaster.
I always listened to that tune while I was in the gym. It was written by the guys from Wolfstone(Ireland) and grew to a really unforgettable! So I created my own epical version with hard guitars on one side and the soft violin, viola and harp on the other side.
“The Mason’s Apron”:
That’s a well known traditional tune, that I heard in a similar but traditional version by the brothers Skirm and Dezi Donnelly. To record that song I thought to myself, which components I would want to hear on a violinist’s solo album. And one of them is of course some the virtous stuff in that piece. So, that’s it!
“Days of Thunder”:
These lines have been in my ear for a long time. When I met my guitarist Rob I could make the song complete. Especially with his marvellous solos at the battle part between guitar and violin. Days of Thunder tells about a “final day”, the “judgement day”. So is the medieval “Dies Irae” – a sacred musical theme – the red line of the whole song.
Now we are in the mystical Ireland. I’m sure, there is no saga about a Red Unicorn, but such a powerful and divine animal seemed for me to be the best creature to transport that story. It’s the only song with lyrics and speaker. Here I used two Irish Tunes: Paddy Ryan’s Dream and A Bunch of Keys. I really love that “gothic” song and it tells much about my view of human beings….
The EP was released in 2008, almost a year ago. Are you working on a full length album?
Of course we are! But we are in a need of a record company to finance and to promote it.
And what can we expect from Ally The Fiddle in the future?
We hope to inspire you on many festivals and to spoil you with many beautiful albums!
And the last question, is there anything the reader should know that I have not asked?
Not at all. But if there are any questions more, please ask us: firstname.lastname@example.org