THE DEMO CORNER
This interview was conducted by Philip A. Wickstrand with vocalist/guitarist Arkadius Antonik and drummer Lars Wehner at the Hawthorne Starbucks in Portland, OR on May 1, 2012.
One of Folk Metal’s longest running acts, SUIDAKRA have been going strong since 1994 and have put ten albums under their belt thus far. With such a long run and with the explosion of Folk Metal lately, it’s a bit odd seeing them on a tour supporting bands like OVERKILL and GOD FORBID. But no matter the seemingly randomly arranged tour, SUIDAKRA always come on strong and win new fans with every show.
Phil: How’s the tour been so far?
Arkadius: It’s pretty cool. The only thing is that the first two shows were a bit strange. I mean, the first one was like every tour start; chaotic, stressful, so we had to cut our set into fifteen minutes, which is three songs, and the second show was the New [England Metal and] Hardcore Festival. We didn’t really fit in. [laughs]
Phil: Yeah, the lineup gets worse and worse every year; it used to be half good bands and now it’s only two or three good bands and the rest is terrible.
Arkadius: We had to play at twelve o’clock AM and we also had to cut the set into fifteen minutes, so I at that time, I really didn’t have to the tour feeling, you know; it was kind of strange, but from the third show on everything went perfect, man. So we had the schedule every day the same and people were cool. It was pretty cool. We were very happy to be here again.
Phil: Do you feel like you’re the odd band out on this tour?
Arkadius: Yes, kind of. I mean, first of all, we’re the only band from Europe, so we’re a bit more Europe sounding music. That’s the first thing and the other, of course, we have this whole Folk stuff, we’re the only band to play the Folk/Celtic/Pagan stuff. So first of all, I thought before we’d just start with this tour, if we would fit in, I wasn’t really sure, but that seemed to be the only opportunity to come back to the States, so we said yes to the offer. But right now I feel pretty cool because the OVERKILL fans, they like harder music. I think it would be much harder for us to play with Power Metal bands or something like that, so we just catch a lot of OVERKILL fans.
Lars: It works, definitely. Sometimes people wait the first two songs but then after the third song they came into the music. Mostly.
Arkadius: Check it out. Usually after the show when we go to the merch booth the people come, “I listened to you guys for the first time and you’re awesome!” so it’s kind of cool promotion for us to reach new fans.
Phil: Tell us a bit about the vinyl issue of Book of Dowth. Is it mastered specifically for vinyl or is it the same master as the CD version?
Arkadius: It’s the same version as the CD version. It has a bit of different artwork, specially made for this vinyl. We grew up with vinyl and it was like a dream for us to release a vinyl. It’s very hard nowadays because the labels just want to make business and they are very skeptical, if you sell a lot of stuff, because usually the older people just collect them. And this time we just said we were signed by AFM Records and I knew that they just released some vinyls and I just asked them and they checked it out with their vinyl distribution partners, “Yeah, it might work” and I was like “Yes!” For the first time in SUIDAKRA’s history we had vinyls. I mentioned that the whole design is different; the lyrics are a sheet with a new design, stuff like that. It looks pretty nice.
Phil: How do you feel about the album now that it’s been out for over a year?
Arkadius: For me personally, I still like it. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, man. [laughter] No, I’m really into it still. We just started right now writing new material and when I just listened to Book of Dowth, I still feel like it’s really fresh and new and I still love to play the songs, because sometimes you just release an album, everything is new, excited, so it’s not a real surprise that every band says it’s the best one and stuff like that. But after playing it for a year, over and over again, sometimes a few songs get bored, stuff like that, to play them and it didn’t happen with Book of Dowth because it’s also different, the melody in song which is more folky, then you have “Balor” which is more straight in your face and stuff like. So I’m very happy with the results and with the feedback from the press and the fans.
Lars: I love it because the lyrics and the music really fits together and it’s still, if you listen to the album, like… I have no idea how we made it.
Arkadius: No, like every time. We wonder how we do it. Usually you’re in the song writing process and it just happens. After that, you just listen to it, all the arrangements and you just think “Holy shit! We made it, man!”
Lars: Sometimes you surprise yourself.
Phil: You were talking about working on new material; what kind of direction are you going with it and when do you think you’re going to have another album ready to record?
Arkadius: The plan is to go into the studio in January next year, so I think the release will be mid-2013. This is the plan we have right now. We just finished three new songs, the third song right before we came over to the States and it’s going to be, again, different from Book of Dowth, I don’t think it’s going to be that dark, but it’s very hard at this point to say in which direction we will go because, you know, it’s just a process, when you just write lyrics… the concept will be much more complex; a bunch of different stories, different moods and I think when I listen to the three new songs, I would say it’s going to be much more bombastic, more heavy…
Lars: A little bit more heroic.
Arkadius: Yeah, heroic, epic. I introduced much more orchestra. I think it’s going to be really cool to realize that on stage with the whole orchestra arrangement.
Phil: So onstage orchestra arrangements, like you were thinking maybe of adding some of that to the live set, like maybe for a festival or a special show?
Arkadius: I think that would be too expensive, of course. But no, the things I will program are whole orchestral samples, so it’s not like synthesizers, so every instrument is just recorded with three different microphone positions. It’s a real instrument and you can really hear it.
Phil: Okay, when you said onstage, I thought you were talking about possibly performing with an orchestra.
Arkadius: No, no, no - we just use samples, but we will use the same program live and it will sound really, really realistic.
Phil: You guys just played India. How was that? And now that you’ve played there, what other seldom played part of the world would you like to play next if you get the right offer?
Lars: I’d like to play everywhere! [laughter] If they have power, we’ll play there. India was kind of weird ‘cause it’s a totally different culture. At the concert, for example, you had on one side the girls and the other side the boys. For Europeans, if you go there and it’s like “Whoa, okay, what’s going on?” but the people are very friendly and we didn’t expect so many Metal fans in India.
Arkadius: We didn’t know what to expect because we didn’t even know that there was such a big Metal scene, you know. When we went over we were blown away, man - there were four or five thousand people a show. They were so much into it that I had the feeling that we were just watching an IRON MAIDEN video. I’ve never experienced something like that before. And the culture’s totally different, their way of living…
Lars: You have the rich and poor on one street. A big house and then you see people living on the street and that’s home.
Arkadius: But the thing is they have this… I don’t know… every child, when they’re homeless and stuff like that, they get something to eat because they don’t want anybody to get to sleep at night with being hungry, so it’s a kind of cool thing. But some places are really destroyed and stuff like that; a very primitive way of living, but it’s kind of a different world. Like you’ve just entered into a different world; you have cows because they holy in India, just walking on the highways, nobody cares about it, just eating newspapers and stuff like that.
Lars: All the trash.
Arkadius: Yeah, all the trash, so it was kind of a really strange yet cool experiences we’ve made there. For me, for Lars, I love to play everywhere. I’m very happy to be in America again, for example, no matter if we’ve been here before or not. And maybe in Japan even though it’s kind of dangerous being there after the atomic stuff and Australia would be cool. A lot of countries, we’ve never been there.
Phil: Has there been any discussion about bringing back some of the older albums into print? It’s very difficult to find albums like Lupine Essence and Lays from Afar unless you want to pay forty bucks on eBay.
Arkadius: Yeah, we just re-released The Arcanum because as an artist, ten years after the release, you get the rights back. So you’re able to re-release it on your own, maybe you find a new label that will do it and we just did it with The Arcanum because I felt that there are a lot of new SUIDAKRA fans that love this album very much and couldn’t get it. So we just re-released it with a totally new booklet, you know, a lot of pictures from that time and Kris Verwimp, our artist, just reworked the artwork, which looks pretty nice and we also remastered that and recorded cover songs. The idea is maybe to do it with the other albums as well, maybe with the next release. First of all, the labels are very skeptical on re-release, “We don’t know, so let’s do one album and then we just look.” There were five hundred copies printed and it’s nearly sold out, so I think it shouldn’t be a problem to do other re-releases and records. For me personally, it’s really sometimes a pain in the ass because these countries we’ve never played before, we just show up with only one release and people think “Oh, you guys exist for one year? You just release one?” “No, man - we’ve existed for eighteen years and released a lot more,” so it’s kind of strange because people who like [unintelligible] sometimes no opportunity because of this whole shitty business stuff, but we work on that.
Phil: Speaking of being around for a long time, now that Folk and Pagan Metal is getting bigger worldwide, do you feel that you have been given proper recognition as being who was doing it long before it was cool?
Arkadius: Not really. I mean, maybe through the whole Pagan stuff there’s a better chance to fit into a package because when you have this Paganfest, Heidenfest going on in America and Europe, so it’s kind of easier for us to say “Okay, we would fit into this package and we’ll have the right audience for us,” that’s the only thing I would say because before this whole trend it was kind of hard, you know, which band you have to go on tour with, like here - it doesn’t really fit. But sometimes it works, sometimes not. That’s kind of easy after that trend but I wouldn’t say that we have much bigger recognition just because we did it before. It’s like with every trend - you have bands that just show up, getting really big in a short time and after a few years when most of the bands disappear and only a few are left, so we [unintelligible] a great long time before this trend, I think that we will survive the trend, so we don’t give a shit about trends, man.
Phil: Recommend a book for our readers and then explain why you recommend that particular work.
Arkadius: I have to admit that I don’t read that much books because Kris Verwimp is doing the whole concept, so of course I read a lot of history book but I wouldn’t recommend them because they are, for people that are not interested in history, pretty boring. But there are not much Celtic books; I’m very interested all history; Second World War, First World War and the seventh century, so there’s no special book that I will recommend to you.
Lars: Jesus Christ, I wish I could read, man! [laughter]
Phil: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Arkadius: Yeah, thank you for the interview - it was great to meet you again and we also want to thank all the American fans. I mean, we have reached the half part of this tour and it was really, really cool to be here again because we always feel that we kinda get really cool support from American fans. We really appreciate it and we also want to thank everybody who supported us in any other way, with buying our shirt or our latest album, Book of Dowth, and check out our Facebook page, because it’s made by us so we just enter everybody. And yeah, Metal rules.
Interviewer: Philip A. Wickstrand
June 18, 2012
All content © 2013 Metal Psalter Webzine | Bands, labels, artists and photographers retain their respective © to their logos, artwork and photos | Design and Layout © 2013 Dynamico Designs
(Click on Photo to Enlarge)
Arkadius "Akki" Antonik - Vocals,
Marcus Riewaldt - Bass
Lars Wehner - Drums,
Label: Wacken Records/SPV
Genre: Folk/Black/Death Metal
PHOTOS BY PHIL A. WICKSTRAND
(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
Lupine Essence (1997)
Auld Lang Syne (1998)
Lays From Afar (1999)
The Arcanum (2000)
Emprise to Avalon (2002)
Signs for the Fallen (2003)
Command to Charge (2005)
Book of Dowth (2011)