Tharaphita from Estonia have returned after a long hiatus with their epic latest album “Ülestõus” Combining elements of pagan and black metal seamlessly, Tharaphita are poised to unleash their special brand of metal on the masses in 2015. I spoke with Ank (the main man in Tharaphita) to find out why such a long layoff, particulars on the album including the inspiration behind the album and upcoming touring plans…..
A big welcome back with your return with the epic “Ülestõus”, how has the feedback been on your latest album?
“Thanks! Feedback to the album has been really positive and encouraging. Reviews can be read at our Facebook. We have gained many new listeners and our old fans seem to be happy, too.”
Women and Children first
The big question is obviously what has Tharaphita been doing the last 6+ years or so? Was the band ever “broken up” or was this a self-imposed hiatus?
“The band was not broken up. I just wanted each detail of the album to be properly prepared. We recorded a demo before going to the studio. I really enjoyed the process of completing this album. But as we live in different places in Estonia, we did not have very much time to rehearse back then. Also, me and the drummer both had our first children and the guitar player with his wife had their second child. The previous bass player moved to Finland and search for a new bass player also took the time. Now I am really happy with the result.”
How does the songwriting process work in Tharaphita? Is there a “process”? Does it differ from previous releases at all?
“The process has always been similar. I usually create riffs and lyrics at home. Then I imagine how the song would sound like when all instruments added, and introduce my vision to the drummer. Sometimes I don´t have lyrics yet but I always think about the theme of the song. We complete the initial structure of a new song with the drummer and then I ask other band members to join with their instruments. I always encourage them to bring out their ideas. The result may somewhat differ from what I had initially meant but so far I have been really satisfied with these developments.”
“My creation process is spontaneous”
This is your 5th full length record since 1998…..do you think Tharaphita in 2015 still has a lot in common with the earlier recordings? What has changed if anything?
“Although our music and style have been changing in time, the special sound of Tharaphita is still recognizable. I am the main song writer and probably there are common features that can be noticed throughout my creation. However, the material on the latest albums is more varying, faster and a bit more technical. My creation process is spontaneous, I never intend to adjust my songs with the aim to sound different from or similar with other recordings.”
How do you balance personal/professional lives in the band? What arrangements do you need to make to write and record?
“The band has always been a hobby and all of us have other jobs for living. Of course, we don´t have so much time for rehearsals and touring as professional musicians do. I live 100 kilometers away from Tallinn, where we rehearse. The current bass player lives in Tartu, which is 180 kilometers from Tallinn. Fortunately, our families really support this hobby. For the last two years, me and my wife run a little agricultural house-holding. There are lots of work to do but I am my own boss now and can take time off for the band whenever I want to.
You are now on Vaarang Records…. is this your own label? Do you still feel it necessary to have a “Label” these days?
“This is my own label. I have made music for 20 years and I really wanted to experience what it is like to run the total process from recording the album to promotion. We decided to maintain copyright but we are interested in licensing „Ülestõus” to some professional label or finding distributors for spreading the album outside Estonia.”
Heinrici chronicon Livoniae
Your name is derived from the Estonian fire god Tarapita…..could you explain why you chose this as the name of the band? What is the story of Tarapita in simple terms?
“I am very interested in history and mythology. Old stories have given strength and wisdom for generations even while living under foreign rule. Learning about historical events and our ancestors´ lifestyle has inspired my creation. Taraphita was believed to be the mightiest of gods. I wanted to express this power through my music. Taraphita was first by letter mentioned in an old chronicle, Heinrici chronicon Livoniae, which describes events which took place on the Estonian and the Latvian territories in the end of the 12th century and at the beginning of the 13th century. It was the time of the Livonian crusades. This chronicle, though written by a person on the side of crusadors, also describes how extremely brave the local pagan tribes were in their fight for freedom. The fights on the Estonian territory during 1208-1227 ended up with the victory of the joined forces of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, the town of Riga and the Bishop of Riga over pagans in Saaremaa, who worshipped Taraphita as their fire god. The chronicle said that finally Jesus can take the throne of Taraphita. Nowadays many people have started to show interest in learning about the traditional way of living and being a part of the nature. I just can´t stand the point of view that it is acceptable for the human kind to live like parasites – exploiting and destroying all resources of their host – the Earth. Why should the Christian god help anyway if this world with all its´ nature, beauty and cruelty was his creation?”
The cover is also derived from stories of Tarapita as well….who did the cover and can you explain the concept behind it?
“The cover was made by Raivo Ird, an Estonian designer and coach of medieval fighting art. The cover of the album “Ülestõus” depicts the main crater of lake Kaali in Saaremaa, which was formed by a meteorite thousands of years ago. Saaremaa is the biggest island in Estonia and it was the last resistance place in Estonia to fall during the crusades. People in Saaremaa worshipped Tharaphita as their war and fire god. Tharaphita may actually be a modification of Thor. It is possible that legends of war and fire gods are related to falling meteorites seen by people, who could not explain these events scientifically and started to worship the fire in the sky. It was also possible to forge weapons of the meteorite iron.”
Paganism and History
You originally started as a black metal project called Ancestral Damnation but then decided to play more of a pagan metal style. Why did you decide to change? Have you ever considered doing a black metal project as well?
“In 1993, I got really into listening the second black metal wave bands, mainly from Scandinavian countries and Greece. I really wanted to play black metal then but the outcome just did not satisfy us. My band mates were not so fond of black metal music either. By 1995, I was fascinated with learning about paganism and our history. I also wanted to sing in my native language at the time when most of the Estonian metal bands used to write their lyrics in English. Black metal was still the core of our music but it became mixed with some epic elements and also influences of heavy and thrash metal. Being in the frames of a certain music style has never been a goal for us. We have always wanted to be original and not to copy any of our idols. In 2002-2004 I played in an Estonian black metal band Meinardus. At the moment, I want to fully concentrate on Tharaphita. Perhaps in the future I will make some other projects, too.”
What is the folk/pagan/Viking metal scene like in Estonia? Are there many bands that play in these styles that deserve some broader attention?
“Our most famous folk metal band is Metsatöll. They tour much and they are well known in Europe and in the USA. I also suggest you to listen to the following Estonian bands:
What are your thoughts about your music being available online without receiving compensation for it? Does it really matter at all as long as the music gets out there?
“I am an old-school guy and I like collecting CD-s. Of course, it is very comfortable to listen music from internet and I also use that opportunity. I have discovered many bands I never knew about before. Availability in internet enables to promote our own music and gain new listeners. Some of our songs can be listened at Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/Tharaphita. Soon we will make our music available in more web channels. However, I am not sure how internet will be affecting music industry in the future. It is definitely not easy to become a professional musician without getting fair compensation for this work but internet also enables to promote other goods with the band logo and make money of it (beer, wine or whatever). Nowadays one must know how to make business and not just hope on selling CD.”
Do you have any current concert or touring plans in the near future? How much of a priority is touring/concerts for Tharaphita?
“On the 15th of May, we will warm up Skyforger at their album presentation in Riga. We are very interested in gig opportunities outside Estonia. Until now, we have not been touring much. This is mainly because all band members have had jobs in Estonia. With only Tharaphita, it is not very realistic to dream about earning enough money for nice living, even if touring all the time.”
What are the main musical influences of Tharaphita? Have those influences changed over time from album to the next?
“I listen to very different genres of music and have some favourites bands among almost all styles of metal. Tharaphita is pagan/black metal with influences of heavy metal and thrash metal. While I started making music, we were more influenced by the Norwegian black metal scene. Before that, I had mainly listened to thrash and heavy. My great favourites are still Bathory, Burzum, Darkthrone. Rotting Christ Celtic Frost, Root, Masters Hammer, Running Wild, Accept, U.D.O., W.A.S.P., Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, Kreator, Slayer, Exciter, Judas Priest, Manowar, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Dio, Count Raven, Saint Vitus, Gods Tower, Skyforger, Kawir… It is an endless list.”
Any favorite music from 2014 and 2015?
“Two songs from Skyforger´s upcoming album sound really great. Recently, I have discovered bands like Myrkyr, Myrkgrav, High Spirits, Cales. I still like the latest albums of Accept, U.D.O, Overkill, Exodus, Vader, Skoggen, Manegarm, Europe, Aria and many more.”
Closing thoughts if any??
Listen to some of our songs at soundcloud!