Pagan or just Helsott
Helsott from southern California US have released an amazing album recently called Woven. It is there first full length album following the release of an EP called Folkvangr in 2011. With a blend of thrash and pagan metal influences it became of one of favs of 2014. I spoke with Eric Dow (vocalist) to see how things are faring in the Helsott camp and their plans for the near future……
First of all, congratulations on one of my favorite albums of 2014. How has the album been received so far?
Thanks, I am glad you enjoy the album. The reception for Woven thus far has been very positive. We have been humbled yet again by our amazing fans.
How did the writing process differ from the Folkvangr EP if at all? What is the inspiration for the songs? Who does what in the writing process? Is the music done and the lyrics added, vice versa or neither?
The process for Woven was exactly the same as Folkvangr. I wrote the lyrics and Mark wrote the guitar parts as I sang the vocal patterns. After the guitar parts and arrangements were taken care of Cooper and Mikey would add the rhythm. After ironing out the song we would then record it and send it to Steph in Massachusetts. She then adds her orchestrations/keys and vocals and that would really give the song its character. We draw our inspirations from many different mediums. History, music, books, movies, alcohol…etc.
Steph Robinson really adds a different dynamic to the Helsott sound….how much is she involved in the process?
She’s amazing!!! We send her our songs and she adds her touch to them. She writes and records her own parts. She always nails it. We look forward to having her touch on many Helsott albums and live performances in the future.
How were you able to have Roy Z. (Halford, Bruce Dickinson) do the mix on the album?
Our manager at the time is friends with him. She contacted him and he asked me to send him the Folkvangr EP. She e-mailed me and said that Roy had agreed to work with us. Not an amazing story or anything but we are grateful nonetheless.
What made you to decide to put 3 of the Folkvangr EP songs on the new album?
Eric (Helsott): During our indiegogo campaign to raise the funds to record Woven, a fan contacted us and asked if the Folkvangr stuff was going to be on Woven. I told him no, and he was not happy about that. So he contributed a lot of money to the campaign so we could at least get the songs re-mixed and re-mastered. We waited to hear how the songs came out to decide whether they were good enough to include as bonus tracks on Woven. I get e-mails all the time asking where people can get their hands on Folkvangr so at the end of the day the decision to add the Folkvangr stuff as a bonus on Woven was made because of the demand from the fans. We value our fans.
The artwork for the album is hauntingly beautiful….what is the idea behind it and who came up with the concept behind it?
It’s great. I think it’s the best album cover of the year. Felipe Machado Franco hit the ball out of the park with that one. I came up with the idea of having the Norns weaving fate on the cover. I told Felipe that I wanted either earthy green tones or cold white tones. He loved the idea of doing a white toned album cover. His covers are typically dark and usually are heavy in blues, reds, and oranges. I think he loved the idea of something a bit different. The other thing I told Felipe is that I wanted a very modern and beautiful take on the Norns… oh and boobies.
You also are an accomplished drummer in your other project Battlefront. Does that other project influence your work in Helsott at all?
No, not at all. That to me is the point of being in Battlefront. It has nothing to do with Helsott. In Helsott I am the front man and I take that very seriously. I am very intense when it comes to Helsott. In Battlefront I can just relax behind the drums and enjoy playing music from a purely rhythmic perspective. I have been a drummer for 16 years. I have only been fronting a band for 5 years now. I love doing both but I feel like they are so different from each other. I need that contrast.
What are your/the bands main influences musically? Other influences outside of music??
I think you can tell by listening to Helsott that we all draw our influences from different places. I think it makes the music feel a bit different. We all draw influence from music but also from life, stories, books, movies… etc. Musically, I draw most of my influences from bands like Amon Amarth, Iron Maiden, and Therion. Mark draws from Iron Maiden, Pantera, Metallica, Motley Crue, Amon Amarth, and Ensiferum. Dave draws from bands like Pantera and Wintersun, but he likes to listen to jazzy experimental type stuff too. Coop listens to a bit of everything. He loves death metal, pagan/folk metal, and Rush. Steph is classically trained and loves her music dark and doomy. She’s definitely a black/death metal girl. Mikey listens to everything from Tom Petty to Fleshgod Apocalypse.
Do you think that the “Pagan Metal” genre tag is accurate/limiting? Is there another tag that you feel is more appropriate?
Heavy Metal would be the most important. In the realm of sub-genres I believe Pagan Metal fits quite well. Musically we are a mutt and it’s hard to put a finger on what definitive sub-genre we belong too. So the fact that all of our lyrics have the pagan theme is what drew us to the Pagan Metal tag. I think it is limiting, in some ways. It’s more difficult because we are Americans and a lot of people don’t think Americans should be playing folk/pagan metal. So we love the challenge. There are definitely people out there who don’t understand the sub-genres of Folk and Pagan Metal. Some people think that you have to be burning churches to be black metal. Or that you need to be plotting murder in order to be true death metal. The same nonsense goes on with pagan/viking metal. Do you think that Ensiferum wake up every morning in their longhouses and run down to the stream to get a drink and bathe? After that they head to the feasting hall in preparation to board the longships that will take them to the next raid. No, they live in the same modern world that I live in. They don’t get flak for writing songs like Stone Cold Metal, so why should we get flak for writing songs like Folkvangr? They are just lyrics and titles. The irony is, if we just called ourselves Melodic Death Metal we wouldn’t be getting questioned by anyone.
Is there a plan for a US or International tour in the near future? How was it being the opening act on Paganfest last year? Do you still keep in contact with bands from the tour (Trollfest, Heidevolk, TYR and Ensiferum)?
We are focused on shopping record labels right now. But the plan is to be touring the world in the next couple of years. We will be touring the US next year. Maybe more than once. Paganfest was an incredible experience had by all. All of the bands we toured with spoke of how great that tour was. The comradery was impeccable. Everyone got along great and everyone had a blast. The tour was a great success and we were a part of a great tour package that brought a lot of joy to people’s lives in the spring of 2013. Priceless. We are still in contact with Trollfest, Heidevolk, and Tyr. Great bands and great people. We are honoured to call them friends.
What are your/the bands favorite albums of the year to this point?
Tough question, the rest of the band is not with me so I will not answer for them on this one but for me in no particular order would be albums from: Trollfest, Cannibal Corpse, Einherjer, Obituary, SepticFlesh, Behemoth, Equilibrium, Falconer, Elvenking, Primordial, and more I’m sure.
How excited are you about going on the70K Tons Of Metal Cruise? Who are you looking forward to seeing/meeting the most?
70K is the best. I always look forward to it. This year I am very excited about Blind Guardian, Therion, In Extremo, Einherjer, Equilibrium, Annihilator, Cannibal Corpse, Kataklysm, Ensiferum, Alestorm, Korpiklaani, God Dethroned, Artillery, Amorphis, Threshold, Primal Fear, Tank… I mean that’s just for starters.
Your Indiegogo campaign seemed to be a huge success. How was the process of asking your fans to donate to the completion of the album?
It was a lot of work. I handled most of it myself so at times I was a bit overwhelmed by it. We don’t like asking for much but with the perks we offered at the price we were asking, we felt like it was more of a long term pre-order rather than a donation. We definitely didn’t want it to take as long as it did and we appreciate everyone for understanding. We made some great friends and fans in the process so we are absolutely happy that we decided to go with crowdfunding for Woven.
Any other comments in closing?
Thank you for thinking about us we appreciate your support!!! YOU ARE HELSOTT