Interview by Si Smith
Arkona are probably one of the best known Russian folk metal bands and a new release is always hotly anticipated. While we wait for a new album, an EP has been released recently containing a variety of tracks that explore the various inspirations for the band and provide us with a bit more metal to dance and mosh to. I spoke to Masha Scream to ask her about the new EP and the band in general.
First of all, welcome to Femme Metal webzine, it is great to speak with you today. It’s no secret that the roots to the band Arkona began in the pagan community “Vyatichi” – are you guys still members and how is the community these days?
The Pagan community appeared when Arkona was created and with other people. Now members of our band are not taking part in any community.
All these years on from your formation in 2002, are you still discovering new and exciting lyrical material in the ancient national beliefs and history of Slavonic Russia, or do you think this kind of material limits you as a band?
We are not just a musical band. In Arkona I’m explaining my worldview to people and I create the music as my soul wants it.We are known as a diverse band, I always make a lot of experiments, developing in the arrangements. Every time I use something new in my songs, so nothing is limiting me.
In 2004 the first LP “Vozrozhdenie” was recorded without even a single rehearsal – I gather that things are very different now from how they were at the beginning, seeing as there are now so many orchestrations and ethnic instruments involved also…..have things changed that much since then? Is there anything about those times that you miss?
Old albums are still loved by me and the most of listeners. Some fans even believe that our first works much better than our next, because it has its own individual atmosphere and tells about the life that I had before. All that I have done – was done sincerely, and it’s the most important thing!
Many speak of your “irrepressible creativity” which always pushes you on to cover new ground with the band – what would you say are the things that drive you personally? What really inspires you?
I’m inspired by life and all depends on the situation around me. Every my song is an emotional flash or pain about something.
Signing with Napalm Records must have been a high point of your careers – as time goes on are they still the best place for you to be? In what ways do they help you as a band?
Yes, we are fully satisfied of working with Napalm Records! We are really getting the biggest support in promotion and many other things. It’s very important when band and label are working and developing together, and the same time – we are a help to each other.
You are well known as an active live band, as shown by your recent live DVD. Heidenfest kicks off in late September this year, billing you alongside Finntroll, Turisas and others. What are the keys to maintaining your artistic integrity as a live band would you say? Are there any particular live events you are looking forward to this year?
We never sit in one place. Always we’re in movement: making albums, playing shows. The number of shows has started to grow. Of course, we are spending a lot of time on tours and every show for us is a part of every day life. The shows, which I waited for, is already in the past, but all of us so much like to play live, so we are waiting for every show!
On May “Stenka na Stenku” is released to the public. What are your hopes for this release?
EP is already released, so all hopes are come true! Some people like the EP, some don’t like but it must be like that! So, all is going normal!
The new (title) track from the album is a traditional style folk romp through two and a half minutes. For our non-Russian readers, would you like to tell us the inspiration behind this delightful track?
This song is called “Stenka na Stenku” and it will be on new album. “Stenka na Stenku” translated means “Wall on Wall” – it’s a ancient Slavic men’s fun, it can consist of any number of people of different ages. They were formed in 2 groups (walls). They stay face to face and start a friendly fist-fight. In ancient times it made strong warriors from men. It is something similar to the “Wall of death” . I was inspired by the idea of a Slavic celebration “Perunov Den’”.The music, which I made first, fit the atmosphere of this celebration.
In “Valenki” the pace is picked up quite a bit alongside some pretty emotional vocals from yourself as well as hearty “gang vocals”. Once again traditional rhythms win through – is this still where the band’s strengths lie do you think, or will you be experimenting more in the future?
This song is a Russian national song, we just recorded a metal cover of it. In any case this song is not showing a further way of development of our band, because we always bring in the music something new. I just saw an arrangement of this song as you can hear it on the EP.
“Goi Rode Goi” has become quite an recognisable anthem for the band recently, accompanied as it was by the dynamic promotional video. Your acoustic treatment on this EP certainly takes it into new territory. What is it about this song that made it such a good candidate for reworking? Are there any other classics we will see reworked soon?
We use this version of song before recording on acoustic show of Arkona in Moscow. Then we decided to record it, because, in my opinion, it’s the most successful from all our acoustic program. Yes, we plan in future to record a full acoustic album with new and old songs, but still it is only in the plans.
“Skal” features Freki from Varg as guest musician – how did Freki get involved with this project?
We were on tour with Varg last year and this song was our “drinking song”! Later we decided to realize it and show friendship of Russian and German people. I think – we made it not bad ?
Your final two tracks on the CD are covers of slightly more melancholy tracks which show off your diversity as artists. Why were these tracks and these bands particularly chosen (Svarga and Shaman)? Do you have any guidelines in mind when interpreting other bands’ songs?
Both bands I respect a lot and I show them my respect with these cover versions.
As most of this release is taken up with non-album tracks, what can we expect from the new album? Any secrets you can reveal?!?
Now, I will not tell about all the secrets of the new album, because you will hear it very soon. I will tell you just that this album is my favorite and it is the most strong album of all our history.
It appears that ardent fans always lap up this kind of release, with acoustic versions and covers, as they provide unique views of bands we have already come to know and love. How important are your fans to you, and have you any special message for diehard fans that may be reading this interview now?
Not all people understand me and my songs, but those who can do it – really great people! So stay the same and listen to your heart!
Finally, at this point in your career when you look back do you have any regrets? Or advice for people also pursuing their dream to be in a folk metal band?
“Regret is a sin” – the words of one famous band. You don’t need to regret about what you have done because it’s part of your life and also part of you. You just need to remember your mistakes and to not make them again in the future!.
It only leaves me to say thank you to you for giving us of your time. We wish Arkona all success in the future with this and the new album.
Masha Scream : MySpace
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