Interview by Andy Axworthy
Hailing from Bratislava, Galadriel have been delivering their own brand of doom, death and heavy metal since “Empire of Emptiness” was released in 1997. A band that writes from the heart their style has matured over the years, though it has never lost its edge. With their latest release – “The 7th Queen Enthroned” – about to hit the stores we took some time out with singer Sona Witch Kozakova to talk about life, reality and a damn good metal album.
Hi Sona. A warm welcome from Femme Metal. How are you today?
Hi Femme Metal, I heartily greet the readers of Femme Metal Webzine. Thank you for asking, I’m enjoying the first cold days of autumn.
You joined Galadriel in ’96. How did you get drawn to music, to metal in particular, and how did you end up joining Galadriel?
When I was twelve, my brother brought home his first metal vinyls and I was so fascinated by the metal music. And it keeps me during all my life. We’ve been always dreaming about forming a metal band. But everything started many years later when I met Dodo and Voloda at some festival in Czech Republic and we were talking about the music and life. So I have told them about my dreams to be a singer. These guys were preparing the recording of the first Galadriel demo and one month later they came to my house and asked me to record vocals on their demo because their vocalist left the band.
It’s been quite a journey from “Empire of Emptiness” to latest release, “The 7th Queen Enthroned”. For you, what would you say has remained constant and also, what has changed the most over that time?
There are many changes of course. It’s hard to compare middle 90s age and nowadays. When we were at the beginning it was all about the young enthusiasm, easygoing life, dreams and plans. Later we found out it will be not that easy to reach our goals and nothing is for free. We gave all our lives to the band. Many of the plans we have did not realize by now. Now all of us have many problems with jobs, bills or credits. But we are trying to approach very seriously to the band and trying to grow every day. I’m challenging myself when I’m not satisfied with my performance almost everytime. I think we’re still trying to be kind to our fans and supporters. Every one is so important to us.
While a metal heart beats at its centre, Galadriel is a band that is not afraid to experiment with its sound. Is that something that evolves during songwriting and rehearsal or do you go into the studio with a particular idea in mind?
There are some experiments that were created in the studio of course but most of these elements and ideas we were preparing in the rehearsal or at home. Many times when we are working on new songs, at the first steps, we are working at home and sending ideas and demo mp3s through Internet so everybody can think about that in the quiet of home. That’s for example my best way to be creative. I need to think about songs and melodies first and after I’m ready to perform my ideas I record them. After we have few ideas to work with we can meet in the rehearsal and work together.
In terms of songwriting, where do you get your imagery and inspirations from, both personally and within the band?
There are some things and themes around us that hurt us and we are thinking about them and talking about our opinions. Everyone of us has some dark and light places in his soul. There are some feelings growing in those places. The feelings give us the ideas for melodies or lyrics. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, looking thourgh the window, and it just show up in my mind. I wake up with some strong feelings and they need to go out. So I take my phone and record some melodies in working quality.
Talking of the band, could you introduce us to and tell us a bit more about your fellow band members?
Actually we are in this line-up: Dodo Datel (vox, bass), Tomax Gabris (guit), me (vox) and live co-performers Jano Valer Tornad (drums), Peter Lipovsky (guit) and Andrej Kutis (keys).
The “7th Queen Enthroned” is your latest release and the next step forward in the band‘s evolution. How do you feel about the album, and what has been the reaction from the press and fans alike?
I feel good with new album. We tried to do our best in conditions and possibilities we had. I think we did another step forward. The final release of the album is delayed and I have not the CD in my hands yet. We have published two songs on the Internet and the reactions are really positive what is encouraging but I think our fans will let us know their emotions and feelings after the CD will be definitely out for some time.
Can you tell us more about the idea behind the album title? Where did it come from? Is it a theme in its own right or does it form part of a story arc with “World Under World” and “Renascence of Ancient Spirit”?
We feel there are many bad things and situations in the world and everyday we’re waiting for another bomb or terroristic attack. Greed and recklessness of people in combination with aggressiveness and arrogance move our world more and more to extensive conflicts. Also the drop of mineral resources and environmental blindness, fails and mistakes of mankind fill us up with very bad feelings. It looks there is too many people on this planet… and that’s dangerous. Our “7th Queen” is some status of mankind after collapse of life on Earth. However she (the Queen) tries to do something, to save the life, everything she touches is turned to death and dust. She’s a mirror of mankind. Hopeless she fights for the change (like few parts of people) but all her endeavors are smashed by aggressive and destructive thoughts and feelings. So she was enthroned by mankind. People have chosen this way of extinction… There are some parallels with some themes we used on our previous albums but every one of our albums stands alone for itself.
How about the album artwork? What is the story behind the design?
Yes, we tried to put our thoughts from lyrics and songs also to the cover. So we wanted to show some desolated hopeless woman in pain in a dead world. I’ve been a part of the team which prepared the latex fashion show of my friend Krisztina Csizmadia few years ago in Austria. I was working as a make-up designer and the model Lizzy Meow was one of most important part of the show that night. When Dodo told me about his idea of the cover we were talking about some possibilities and then we decided to ask Lizzy for the cooperation, we knew she is open for some kind of destructive or cyberpunk ideas, haha. Yes, we are really happy she said yes to our offer. The photo-shooting was taken in Vienna by the photographer Marius Sachtikus and Lizzy‘s make-up was done by Nadja Hluchowski. This photoshooting was really professional and we were selecting from more than 200 pictures. All post-production works were done by Dodo himself.
“The 7th Queen Enthroned” is a consistently strong album. Rockers like “Still Not Dead Enough” and “The Last Time” sit comfortably alongside hard hitting yet atmospheric tracks like “Crucifixion Deluxe” and “Eosphorus”. Which song is your own current favourite from this release and why do you like it so much?
Thank you! I really love all songs on the record. It’s hard to choose one or two. Maybe I will be able to choose after some shows we will play and I will know how can I sing each of the songs on stage. I’m really looking for singing “Crucifixion DeLuxe” because in that song I sing with different style. We will not play “Eosphorus” live because this song is dedicated to the dead daughter of my close friend. And there are so many actual sad emotions in my heart that I cannot sing it now correctly. Maybe later…
How about your personal musical influences? Which bands and/or singers do you enjoy listening to and which of them inspired you the most when you were starting out as a vocalist?
When the idea to be a singer first came to my mind I decided to be singer with growling vocals, haha. I was really listening to bands like Aphyx, Obituary or Morbid Angel in the beginning of 90s. But as you know I’m using clear vocals because Dodo is singing the growling parts, haha. As there were not so many female vocalist in harder or darker metal genres in my beginnings it’s really hard to say about some idols. I always loved Kari Rueslatten, she was singing in doom metal band The 3rd And The Mortal, and I also love her solo works despite of fact she is far from metal music nowadays. Another my favourite singer is Anneke van Giersbergen, I love Lisa Gerrard… later Sharon den Adel, Sarah Jezebel Deva or Mariangela Demurtas. There are many talented and brilliant female vocalists I love to listen to and I still love clear and growling male vocals too 🙂
You recently played the Gothoom Festival. How was the show and what was the highlight of your day? Did you manage to see any of the other bands that were playing?
Yes, it was the festival promoted and organized by our label Gothoom Productions. Our show was quite good despite of fact our line up was completed with new guys and they have only few days to learn how to play the songs. But guys were cool and we really enjoyed it. Maybe it was a not so much comfortable situation for us as we were playing right after the headliner of the day, Septicflesh, and many people were still oriented their way but our fans were cool. It’s always difficult to look at the other bands, because we need to prepare for our show. But we have seen some parts of shows of Doomas, Septicflesh and Skyforger…
What other interests do you have outside of the band? How do you relax when you’ve got some time to yourself?
Oh, I have really many many interests, haha. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning I don’t know what to do first. I want to do so many things when I have some free time. My biggest pleasure are animals and we have many animals, so in my free time I take the care of them. I also spend my free time making art… I create jewelery, some characters or I paint… that’s my biggest relax. But sometimes I only lay on the sofa with some book.
As a band, Galadriel have grown up with the Internet. How do the events of the latest release compare with the experience of getting “Empire of Emptiness” marketed and distributed back in the day? What do you personally think has been gained – or lost – in this media change?
Well, yes. On one hand Internet has changed everything. When we were promoting our first album in 1997 it was everything more complicated. We used the classic mail way to spread our music to magazines. We used the classic mail way to answer to letters of fans and answer the interviews. Now we can upload some song to YouTube or to one of many players on the web or social web and send link directly to our fans. Everything is faster and easier. So it’s definitely more comfortable and more effective than in the past. On the other hand was so cool when we get first letters from fans written by their hands and they traveled to our city to buy the CD directly from us. So I think it was more ‘heart to heart’ way of communication.
With the Web now putting the world at your fingertips, which parts of the world outside of Slovakia are currently showing the greatest interest in your music and which countries and/or festivals would you like to play and why?
Outside of Slovakia and Czechia… I think we have many fans in the countries of South America. This is the part of the world where people really love this kind of music and are really thankful for every band that comes there to tour. So I would love to travel there to play some shows but it’s not easy for a band like Galadriel. And festivals… hmm… yes, Hellfest would be cool or Metal Female Voices Festival is growing more and more and that would be another great adventure to play there. And Wacken of course… all the world is meeting up on Wacken. And there is another great new kind of festivals on the boats. That would be cool too, haha.
What is next for you and Galadriel? Are you taking the album on the road and further afield?
So, now we are really looking forward to the release party show of our new album here in Bratislava, Slovakia. We would like to play many shows in 2013 all around Europe, we have some ideas and offers and I hope most of them will come true. And I hope our fans will not wait for next album another five years!
Thanks for sharing this time with us. To wind up, is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?
My pleasure. Thank you for interesting questions. I’m sending heartily greetings to all readers of Femme Metal Webzine and I hope we will see you under stage next year 🙂 Keep an eye open on our website or Facebook profile to stay tuned about everything. Check out our new album “The 7th Queen Enthroned” too 🙂 Save the Nature, save animals and all what’s alive… Thanks!