Welicoruss have just released their most epic work to date with “Az Esm”, an album filled with all the magic, mysticism and heavy pagan metal tracks you have come to expect from them. Alexey was able to spare a few minutes to answer some questions regarding the new album, new lineup, new locale and the process of recording the album……
First off, congratulations on “Az Esm’”, surely to be one of my top albums of the year…how have the reviews and feedback been on the album so far?
“Hi! Thank you for the kind words! Feedback has really surprised me, and though we have not received most of reviews yet, the already written ones are very pleasant! Almost every day we receive messages from fans about how much they loved this album, and it’s so much pleasure to hear it, because it means that we have done good work)”
You decided to uproot yourself from Russia and move to the Czech Republic. How did you find it acclimating to Prague? Was there a specific reason you decide to move? Was it necessary to your musical process in some way?
“Yes, the main reason was some kind of determination of my life priorities. It was difficult to become professional musician in Russia, so I decided to change band’s location. I offered it to former members, but they denied it.
Anyway, most of relocation difficulties are passed; I’ve learnt basic language and found new band members, so now we are playing many concerts around Europe.”
Going back thru your catalog, you have always had a story in your music. What are the biggest inspirations for the songs? Have your inspirations changed since your move?
“Usually, there is no any story in songs (except some ones). Songs are mostly just a complex of my feelings, emotions and ideas. I take my inspiration from books, environment, nature and everything else, what makes me think. Indeed, I can’t say things, that inspire me, have changed in time.”
“Az Esm’” really does seem to me to have a concept behind it. Do you believe it does? Is it simple to describe what you believe it is if there is one?
“Yes, “Az Esm’” is deeply conceptual album, and I can’t describe it just in few words. I don’t want to sound pretentiously, but it is my message to everybody in form of sounds and information. But I would rather say, that it is not direct message, but allegorical, like, you know, everybody understands it in his own way) But the main subjects are inner structure of the World and inner world of human. Album is deeply personal for me, and I hope people will understand it.”
How does your musical/song writing process works if there is one? Do you have ideas for a song that you write down and then work around it with music or the other way around?
“Everything is individual. Sometimes there come just few words in my mind. Then the whole conception grows up from it. For example, now I’m writing a song for the next album. Idea has come to me immediately, and it is so strong, that the whole music appeared also immediately, conceptually just by stroke of the brush.
Sometimes you just sit with guitar and spend hours for making riffs and think, what to do with it)
So each time it’s different.”
Do you think the new band members (Gojko-guitar, Dmitriy-bass and David-drums) have influenced/changed the Welicoruss sound if it all? Do you still have musical control and final say on what works for the songs? Do you allow for their contribution? Do they have any say or do you feel that they are just fulfilling your musical concept?
“This album was mostly done with former members, so the new ones just didn’t have much possibility to influence it. I always liked to make music together with other people, because you can create more interesting things this way. But sometimes cooperation turns to mess, and you just can’t find compromise for a long time. So I came to conclusion that the band has to have only one main source of creativity. In any case, if somebody offers something interesting, it usually turns into our songs. Surely, next album will contain common songs.”
Have you become more comfortable in writing lyrics over the years and expressing yourself thru words? Do you think that previously you let the music fulfill the concept more than the lyrics so to speak?
“Yes, I didn’t think much about lyrics on first albums – I was just creating music, and that’s it. In years, as I was growing up, my worldview changed and everything became more serious. I’ve recognized the purpose of art and I’ve come to conclusion, that music is not just stuff for fun, but also a ritual and educational process. So the lyrics became much more complex.”
You sing in Russian but also include your lyrics in English. Have you ever performed any of the songs in English? Do you find the English language limiting in expressing your lyrics? Will you ever do any music in English in the future?
“Currently we are singing only in Russian, but in future we plan to make some experiments with languages. We’d like to make our conception more understandable for everybody. But this doesn’t mean, that we’ll reject mother tongue. At least, we don’t know English good enough to write in it as good as in Russian.”
As an independent artist, you have to be adept at numerous tasks to get your music to the masses such as recording, producing, artwork, social media, etc. Which of these do you feel are your strongest and weakest points? What do like and dislike the most?
“Yes, we have to do a lot of things, and it takes much time. Most of all of course I like to make and record music. The thing which I hate to do most is promotion, because you spend a lot of hours on it, and you can never be sure in results.”
I have heard Welicoruss called everything from “Pagan Metal” to “Symphonic Black Metal”….are both of these accurate descriptions or neither? What do prefer to describe your style?
“As people say, the style should be described by the reviewers, and we are just musicians, who make music. We didn’t choose any style, it just happened) But we got used to call our style symphonic black/pagan metal to make people recognize us easer.”
You have numerous guest musicians on the new album…how were you able to have some many artist contribute? Did you have specific artists in mind to perform their parts or did you have to audition artists for the parts?
“Actually, all musicians usually like to make experiments, so it wasn’t a big problem to find so many participants on this album. If you have a goal, you’ll manage to do everything. So I just set a goal – for example to find percussionists – and I reached it)”
Assuming that you have a personal and/or professional life outside of Welicoruss, how are you able to prioritize what needs to get done with the music, recording, etc? Are there times when the music has to be set aside for other parts of your personal life?
“It is not so easy, and I always have to sacrifice something. I believe that if you want to succeed in something, you have to pay much attention to it. I have moments, when I do music more, and sometimes I spend more time for family and other things, but in each case it’s important to plan everything and organize yourself.”
What are your feelings on the ease with which your music is available and downloaded without you being compensated? Does it really matter or are you OK with it just getting out there for people to hear?
“It’s a difficult question. I think everybody should consider that it’s hard to make an art, when you always have to look for money to make it real. Surely, there should by some compensation, but on the other hand, it’s important for us to let mass of people hear us. I think there should be some compromise.”
I see there are some tour dates throughout Europe over the next few months. What are your thoughts on the upcoming tour and touring in general? Is it a necessary task for you? What can people expect when you perform live?
“Yes, currently we are working hard on our tour dates – this is the most prioritized thing for us now. Concerts are live incarnation of our ideas, so it is very important for us and for spreading the music.
On our concerts we are trying to do our best and to make performance full of energy to make people remember it! We are waiting for you on our shows!”
“At the end, I would like to wish everybody, who didn’t listen our new album Az Esm’ yet to listen it in any form! We have been making it for 5 years and we put a lot of things there, so we want you to feel all the atmosphere and ideas!