Irish Darkness captured in Music

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By: Jeff

Celtachor have returned from the mist shrouded hills of Ireland and have finished recording their 2nd epic album “Nuada Of The Silver Arm” being released on Trollzorn Records on April 24th. I was able to get responses from Steve, David, Fionn and Anais regarding the new album, the concepts behind it and now being part of the Trollzorn record family…

First off, big congrats on your amazing new album “Nuada Of The Silver Arm” How has it been received so far?
Anais: Thank you! So far all the reviews are very good, we’re really glad about this!
David: Very well so far. Reviews have been brilliant and we’re really excited to see how people will react when they hear it. It’s kind of scary as well; I think people might be expecting something else sound wise, typical of folk/pagan metal these days and I think Celtachor is going to surprise them.
Steve: Cheers yea it seems to be hitting the mark, delighted we put a lot of work into it so hopefully our fans will enjoy it, and we can make some new ones!

You tackle some very interesting subject matter in your music, specifically Irish mythology. How did you end gravitating toward this as subject matter for your musical creations?
Steve: I felt that the mythology needed to be retold in full without missing details that I think were important. We grew up with these stories as children and they should be kept alive, it’s part of the real culture of Ireland, something that should have a place instead of the gimmicky crap that gets peddled as “Irish” The main factor for Celtachor coming into being was to keep these stories alive.
Anais: It was the concept of the band straight away, since its creation. Stephen and Daithi felt like the traditions and mythology of their country were slowly getting lost, to become this Irish cliché of the Leprechaun, the Guinness and the Shamrock. Irish culture is so much more than that. Its mythology used to be told in class 20 years ago, and was almost completely dropped of the official program since.
Fionn: For me, I was growing tired of the constant desire to sound “American” that so many Irish bands seem to do. I needed something genuine and meaningful to work from, so I ended up naturally gravitating towards these sorts of bands until I joined Celtachor back in 2011/12.
David: It’s inherent in us to do this. I learned mythology in school and I have always been in love with it. It’s part of my Irish upbringing, of who I am so it’s just natural for me.

How did the recording and writing process differ from “Nine Waves From The Shore” if at all? Is music written first and then lyrics and subject matter added afterwards or is everything done at once?
Anais: At the beginning Stephen decides of which part of mythology we will cover, and separates it in several tracks. Then Fionn and Daithi start to write there riffs, targeting the right emotion for each track. We put them together at practice, rework riffs etc. Then we record a rough rehearsal of the tracks and Stephen writes the lyrics over. Fionn had joined the band when we had already written half the last album, so this time we started to write the new album as a full band. The two guitarists worked together but Fionn wrote the majority of the riffs this time. We also went for a real studio/sound engineer this time around, and that dramatically improved our sound. Ola Ersfjord did an amazing job at recording, producing and mixing us and Chris Common at mastering.
Fionn: It was much more professionally this time, though in saying that I’m sure we can improve on this in the future! Usually we have the subject matter (concept) to work from before we get the music, we look at the lyrics too, though personally for me, the general ‘theme’ of what we’re trying to achieve is more helpful than looking directly at lyrics.
David: We had a lot of changes with “Nine Wave From The Shore” from our demo. We spent a lot of time just jamming, no gigs, writing new songs and gelling as a band. Fionn (Stafort) joined nearly halfway through the writing of “Nine Waves” which I think was very important for us, he got to write straight away for the band and I think this really helped with writing the new album. Our guitar playing is very different to each other so it opens up a lot more avenues musically. We wrote a lot of music for this album, different versions of the same song so we had to play them, re-write them and play them again until we were 100% they were right.
Steve: The concept and “theme” is worked out first then the music to create the atmosphere we are looking for.

Along with amazing acts such as Primordial, Cruachan and Mael Mordha to name a few, you all seemingly have a very dismal tone to your music, yet all from a different perspective. Do you feel where all of you come from is a uniquely Irish perspective that no one else other than someone from Ireland would understand?
Steve: There is definitely something in the water in that regard, we definitely have an Irish sound, but we try to work from our own mix of influences, than clone someone else’s sound and aura. One thing I will say it is great to do the mythologies in this harsh way with darker tone, heavier music and still have moments of our own folk music shine through. They both complement each other well.
Anais: That’s interesting actually, it’s possible… There is something unique about some countries, something hard to explain, a “feeling”. Ireland is beautiful, cold and dark; its tradition, legends and mythology are infinitely rich, its past is bloody with sicknesses, famine, war, poverty… Anywhere you go in Ireland you feel those old stories, among the beautiful landscapes. I felt something like this, yet a bit different, when I visited Sweden years ago. Some countries are like that, maybe they give you this ingredient that makes band’s sound the way they do.
Fionn: I think there is a certain “Stoic-ness” to being Irish than doesn’t exist in many of our European counterparts, and for better or worse; it does manifest itself in our music, and the general aesthetic of ‘Irish bands’. I don’t think I could point at any one element and say “This is what makes us sound Irish”, but there definitely is something there. You’ve mentioned Primordial in the question, perfect example; “There is a darkness here, you cannot imagine, you cannot fathom”..
David: It’s the weather, something in the water lol. I think it comes from reading between the lines on a lot of subjects. Irish myth is usually seen as fairies and leprechauns and happy go lucky tales. But when you read them you can see the behind all the fluff, it’s tragic and blood thirsty so these are the parts we portray.

Stylistically, I see you tagged most as a black metal band with Celtic influences…do you think you are black metal in comparison to say other black metal bands or is it just as good a tag as any? If not black metal then what should you be tagged as? Or are tags limiting?
Anais: Oh nowadays it’s getting hard to tag bands. We play the music first, then we have to place it somewhere, I guess we do have black metal influences, especially Stephen, Fionn and I. We usually describe our band as darkened folk metal, whatever works!
Fionn: I think trying to “genre-fy” bands is hilarious, you end up with endless subgenres and sub-sub genres, but I suppose stylistically it fits, there are elements of Black and Doom metal there, as an ideology for me it’s less and less about the ‘groove’ and more about the atmosphere created, I think that probably leans closer to Black Metal than say, traditional “Folk-Metal” bands.
David: I really don’t know. It’s weird because in the beginning of Celtachor I didn’t actually listen to a lot of black metal. As I learned guitar I played a lot of trash and rock and doom. So how do I come out with black metal influenced folk metal? Ha ha. I play what I think is right, what feels should go “there”. We strive to give people a visual/emotional experience with Celtachor.
Steve: Tags can be a headache, but generally we take influences from black/doom/folk/ and merge them into one. If people want to put a tag us that is grand, but there is nothing 100% set in stone. Irish Mythology Metal ;)

The story of “Nuada Of The Silver Arm” is very interesting. How did you come to deciding on making this the subject of your latest release?
Steve: Generally I like to keep to a concept that works as a continuous story and I made sure that the continuation kept up for the second album. This album follows on from our demo “In The Halls Of Our Ancient Fathers” following the story of Lugh and Nuada as they fight against the Fomorian tyrant Balor Of The Evil Eye. This album follows Nuada mainly through the first Battle of Magh Tuiread where he loses his arm and the kingship of the Tuatha De Danann. The creation of this Silver Arm, reclaiming the kingship but to finally die in Battle at the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh. As with all our releases they will follow a concept and bring the listener into the world of the Irish sagas and mythologies.

celtachor nuada intOnce again, you have a haunting cover to the album thanks to your amazing drummer Anaïs, who also did the cover for “Nine Waves….”. What kind of direction is she given if any on the album cover design?
Anais: Thank you! Usually, once we have most of the tracks done for an album I come up with the cover composition, and show the steps of the painting process to the guys. We don’t usually disagree on anything when it comes to this and I follow their suggestions if they have some.
David: Anais really knows how to convey ideas with paint and art. The artwork is her visualisation of the stories, her own personal interpretation. It’s fantastic, I know it sounds biased but her art work speaks for its self. It’s brilliant.

You were signed to the mighty Trollzorn label in 2013. How has it been working with the label? What are the pros and cons of working with the label as opposed being independent?
Anais: This is our first album with Trollzorn, so as we are in the process of releasing it at the moment, we are only after discovering what it is. So far I can see our albums on sale on a ton of websites from all around the world; we have a professional promotion company spreading the word, reviews and interviews in magazines. They also got us to play Trollzorn festival in Germany last year which was amazing. I am sure this label will help us to get out there. It’s also an immense honour to be on the same label than Menhir, Obscurity and Cruachan! My big worry is financial; I hope we will make enough money from selling our album and mercy, to be able to fund our next recording.
Fionn: It’s an advantage, it doesn’t really stop us from doing anything we were doing before, but it’s definitely a help regarding promotion, distribution and printing of CD’s. We did all this before joining Trollzorn, but knowing there is someone there to help out is definitely encouraging.
Steve: I normally have handled all Press and PR for the band since it started with booking shows, but now David has taken the reigns as the bands booker. It is great to have the help of Trollzorn in promoting the new album and we are all delighted to be with them! Great label and lovely guys.

I ask many artists how they fill about their music being out there for anyone to freely download without the artists’ consent. Now being on a label, do you feel a greater need to protect your content than previously?
Anais: It’s tough, once you experienced how much of your life you spend practicing your instrument, rehearsing with your band , writing music, and especially SAVE the mad money it takes to record an album properly… That people can indeed enjoy it for free. I hope at least that if some people do this, they will come to our gigs and/or buy mercy, or do a little something to support us, so we can keep on existing.
Fionn: It’s practically impossible to do anything about (God-bless the internets, hey?). There is a need to protect original music, but it’s like trying to fight droplets of water in a river. It takes a lot of money, time and effort, and if people do download and enjoy our music, it would be nice if they could by some merch or a CD out of support! 
David: We spent a lot of our lives on this over the last few years. We’ve worked hard and it is hard to be in a band and want to play to people that like what you are doing, so when it’s taken away from you it just becomes even harder to do. I would rather they stream the hell out of album than take it without my consent.

You have some upcoming live dates with acts such as Skyforger and Heidevolk…any plans for more extensive touring this year?
Steve: We do indeed, if any promoter is reading this interview and may be interested in having us send Dave an email at celtachorbooking@hotmail.com we would love to play everywhere!
David: I’m working on it ha ha. There are a few things in the mix at the moment but as per usual I can’t say just yet.
Anais: We have plans yes, to be announced soon! It is quite hard to get out of the country as we live in Ireland though, once again a financial problem. When we do get gigs, we give the best we have, live show is important to us! When we travelled to UK, Germany and especially France, we really had our best gigs.

Do you think it is a necessity to tour to get in front of more people or is it not such a priority that you can market the band online just as effectively? Does the label have requirements of you to perform live?
Anais: Of course it’s extremely important, for us anyway. We do give a real show, we put a particular attention to it, and we don’t just show up in our baskets and jeans and stand on stage. The costumes, the props, the attitude on stage, we love to give it all we have! I would like the fans to see this about us. The label doesn’t specify an amount of gigs on the contract but that wouldn’t matter, we are anyway trying to get gigs all the time. We just don’t want to play Dublin 20 times.
Fionn: I think there are two answers to this question; in one sense, yes of course the live show is extremely important, it’s an experience that can’t be replicated on disk no matter what. In another sense, you look at bands like Agalloch, who didn’t play live until relatively recently, or Summoning or Drudkh, who’ve never performed live! I would literally choke someone to see Drudkh and I’m sure many others would too. Live is extremely necessary to involve someone in the music and hopefully deliver an experience they will remember. I suppose I’m just being nostalgic and remembering my younger days when all these bands were shrouded in mystery, you just don’t get that in this internet-age.
David: We’re under no obligation to play live at all but we love to play live, this is why we are a band. There is nothing like it in the world that been on a stage or floor or whatever playing ‘Your’ songs.
Steve: Playing live keeps me sane ha, but in all seriousness it’s important to spread the message live and on Cd etc , Obviously both scenarios can be different but live is where it is at for me. Nothing beats that interaction with your fans and potential new fans.
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We all have personal lives outside of music…how do you come together to write, record, perform etc? How do you all balance the personal sides and private side of the members of Celtachor?
Anais: It’s not always easy, we constantly have to keep in touch to see who is available when, we even set up a shared Google Calendar recently haha! Music takes an enormous part of your life, keeping a band working for years takes efforts and sacrifices from each of us. When we have no choice we come up with back up plans, for example our next two gigs with Skyforger and Heidevolk, Fionn won’t be able to join us, so we have Ade Mulgrew of Darkest Era to fill in for him.
Fionn: Of course, 5 separate people with 5 different lives, it’s hard to find time for everything, this year I’ve been extremely busy with college, we all have lives and need normal things like money, employment, relationships etc. We are all in regular communication and exchange ideas, working together and like Anais said; when we can’t do something for one reason or another, try finding an alternative.
David: It’s not easy, we all need to work, we all have private lives but Celtachor is such a part of us now that it we subconsciously work towards it ha ha. There is no escaping it. But we’ll practice, write and work on the band whenever we get the chance.

Musically or anything wise, who/what do you feel are your biggest influences (besides Irish mythology)?
Steve: Two of my biggest influences would be Skyforger and Jethro Tull. But I take inspiration from lots of different places, mainly nature and the countryside. Generally I listen to a lot of different music from classical to ambient folk gear it all goes together to form some of my ideas. We all work together on the music combining all the influences into one force.
Anais: We all have different influences I think. I listen to a lot of different music styles, but Celtachor related it would be Opeth, Bathory, Immortal, Primordial, Dead Can Dance, Sigur Ros… Drums wise I am influenced by Eric Moore, Martin Lopez, Hakan Jonsson, Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson, Jean Deflandre to name a few. Probably by Chad Davis too, as I learned Hour of 13’s three albums as session drummer, I think it stayed a bit in my style.
Fionn: As for musical influences, Metal largely falls short for me, there is so much re-hashing and re-hashing “oh hey here’s the same old chord progression you’ve been listening to for the last 30 years, hurdy-gur!” Of course there are some stand out bands, Drudkh, Primordial, Ulver, Fen, Urfaust, I’m sure there are others I’m not listing here. Mostly I’m listening to experimental synth and minimalist music, such as Brian Eno, Robert Rich, Mùm, Lustmord, Boards of Canada etc etc. Medieval and traditional music from around the world also interests me greatly; there are actually so many similarities in terms of modes and scales used between cultures.
David: I like a lot of music, yes I have my core influences but I don t think I could or would narrow it down.

Any favourite music from this year so far from any of you?
Anais: There are so many great albums already out this year! Heidevolk “Velua”, Glaciation “Sur les Falaises de Marbre”, Enslaved “In Times”, Der Weg einer Freiheit “Stellar”, Malthusian “Below the Hengiform”…
Fionn: Unfortunately I haven’t had much of a chance to scope out new music from 2015, it’s been really busy. Looking forward to it though.

Closing thoughts??
Steve: Cheers for the interview Jeff! Look forward to see how people like the new album and thanks to everyone for their ongoing support!
Fionn: Thanks for your time, hope you’ll enjoy the new album!
Anais: Thanks for the interview, and come check us out in Arnhem with Heidevolk the 2nd of May!
David: Listen to the album, let us know what you think, beat your promoters over the head to book us ha ha. But mainly thank you for your time. Listen to metal.