2015 marks the return of the mighty Forefather with their amazing album “Curse Of The Cwelled”. With their signature style, they have created a catalogue of 7 instantly recognizable albums that make them stand out from the crowd. Athelstan and Wulfstan (Forefather’s only 2 members since day one) have created a unique blend of multiple styles and merged them into their distinct songs and writing process. Wulfstan graciously answered some questions regarding the new album, the “Forefather” sound and some other items of note regarding all things Forefather……
First of all, congratulations on another incredible album with “Curse of The Cwelled”…have you gotten some other reviews in besides folk-metal.nl’s and if so how has the feedback been?
“Thanks! Yes, it’s still early days but we have had some other reviews too. Very positive response so far, which is encouraging. General comments from Forefather fans have also been very complimentary. I suppose that’s the most important thing.”
‘Last Of The Line’ was released in 2011 (your latest release prior to ‘Curse….’) Is this how long it took to get ‘Curse….’ ready for release?
“I suppose so! The gap between the release of “Last…” and “Curse…” was about 3 years, 5 months. Most of that is the song-writing phase, which isn’t something we work on every day. We just pick up a guitar whenever we feel like it and make a note of anything that we discover that sounds interesting. Eventually songs emerge. It’s a natural process. We don’t pressure ourselves to hit deadlines. Once we are happy that we have enough music, we start the process of properly recording the album. With “Curse…” this was June 2014, so it took less than a year to get to the release. But even during recording we sometimes take an occasional month or week off.”
Are any of the tracks on the new album songs that were not included on a previous release for one reason or another? Or is everything newer/written since ‘Last Of The Line’?
“The first two riffs in “By My Lord I Will Lie” were written many years ago, maybe around 2005. For whatever reason I was never able to develop them into something I was totally happy with. Then one day, I don’t know why, something ‘clicked’ and I was able to make progress and finish the song quite easily. “Awakened Hate” was also mostly written around 2005, with some arrangements changed in more recent times. “Master of Fate” and “River-Maid’s Farewell” were both written and 95% arranged ready for “Last of the Line”, but for some reason they didn’t make it on the album. I think it was due to there being other songs of similar type. Nearly all the lyrics for “Curse…” were written during the recording phase, which is normal for us now. Some ideas began earlier but all after the release of ‘Last…’.”
Is there a set of “music rules” that Forefather more or less sticks to? (Meaning when you write something that you either discard or keep based on whether it “sounds” or “feels” like a Forefather track?)
‘I wouldn’t say we have rules but we have an instinct for what sounds appropriate for Forefather. The boundaries are quite wide though, so we don’t feel restricted.”
How do the ideas come to fruition? Who does what in the process (if there is one)?
“Most songs develop from just playing around on the guitar. There is no magic. Every now and then we discover a good riff or melody and things develop from there. You get a feeling for what should follow. Of course, some songs come to life very easily while others require more patience or fail to lead anywhere. We work entirely separately on the music. In the old days if someone got stuck, the other person would step in to help, but from memory I don’t think that’s happened for a long time. The lyrics are a different matter. Overall we find them harder than the music. On “Curse…” Athelstan was struggling for inspiration so I helped out a lot. Usually the atmosphere and emotion of the music gives you a good idea for the subject matter of the lyrics. During the recording phase Athelstan often has additional production ideas like guitar harmonies, keyboard etc for all the songs and I sometimes suggest arrangement ideas for his songs.”
Sound of Forefather
How many songs do you typically write for a pending release and then is there a process to eliminate the tracks that don’t fit or are the songs you write the only ones?
“We aim for about 25 minutes each. In the past we’ve usually only written exactly what we needed, but this time we had a lot of tracks left over. We eliminated them early in the recording phase either because we thought that they needed a bit more work, or because we had too many songs of a particular tempo or with certain kinds of riffs or melodies. Some of these songs or parts of them may reappear on a future album.”
Your sound to me (and a lot of others) is instantly recognizable. Do you perceive that you have a “sound”?
“Yes, but I would struggle to describe it! I think it’s great that people think we have a distinct sound. I’m not sure how we do it. Maybe it’s because we have always been isolated and not part of a scene.”
Are there outside influences to keep the song writing process “fresh”? What other interests do you intertwine into the music?
“I think composers never stop being influenced, but they are most strongly influenced and moulded when they are young. Any new elements to our music in later years have probably been quite subtle to listeners’ ears. I couldn’t point to anything specific that I think has had a noticeable effect on our recent songs. I think we are mainly influenced by our own music, by Forefather.”
Has there ever been a thought to bringing in other musicians for one reason or another to fulfil the concept or do the two of you figure out a way so that it will always be just the two of you?
“We have never considered looking for other members. In the early days we had a friend who played drums but we ended up drifting apart. He never performed on any actual recordings, but we did rehearse songs regularly. The only thing we would consider these days is something like a guest vocalist for a specific part (like if we need a female vocal) or perhaps a session drummer. The creative side will always be just us two and we will always be the only official members.”
Are there clashes ever in song direction/style behind the scenes?
“No, I don’t think so. I can’t think of any instances when one of us has told the other we don’t like this or that song. A few minor disagreements on things like arrangement or production perhaps. We are very confident in each other’s ability to write songs and filter out the stuff that’s not good enough.”
Genre tags are thrown about in metal…..I have heard you called everything from Viking, Pagan and everything in between…..is “Anglo-Saxon Metal” the closest tag that you can identify and be ok with?
“Anglo-Saxon Metal is more appropriate than Pagan Metal because a lot of our songs are based on Anglo-Saxon history, but not many are specifically about paganism. Calling us Viking Metal seems weird because we address that period from an English perspective, when the Vikings were the enemy. But, of course, when people talk about Pagan Metal or Viking Metal they are often referring to a style of music, rather than a band’s lyrical inspiration. The whole genre thing is pretty tiresome. People will always try and put you in a certain category, and that’s fine.”
1999’s ‘Deep Into Time’ was re-issued recently by Heidens Hart records…..what made you decide to re-issue your first album? Will there be more re-issues forthcoming?
“Really it was Heidens Hart’s decision. They were interested to do it and we were happy for them to. They had already re-released ‘Steadfast’ successfully. I suppose it’s likely that they will continue with ‘The Fighting Man’ at some point but we haven’t discussed that yet. It would be good to have all the albums available on CD again.
Do you have an opinion on the state of the music “business” in general? Are you ok with your music being available for sharing without being compensated as long as it gets out there?
“There is little choice but to be ok with it. I think the upsides probably outweigh the downsides. Technology improvements have made recording much easier. The internet makes it much easier to promote your music more cheaply and effectively. It’s a good time to be a listener because you can pretty much listen to everything for free if you want, but the internet companies seem to have adapted and now revenue from streaming is collected and is being paid to artists.”
Will there ever be a possibility of a tour or one show live performance? What would the circumstances have to be for this to ever possibly happen?
“There is always a possibility but it’s unlikely for the foreseeable future. I think there would have to be a big shift in our mindset and day-to-day lives. We haven’t rehearsed any of our songs properly since I think 2001!”
Are there any newer albums you have listened to that are your favorites and in heavy rotation?
“I discovered Powerwolf in the last year or so and they really impressed me. I also enjoyed ‘Nagelfar’ by Fejd and Amon Amarth’s latest effort. I like Unleashed so I will be getting a copy of their new album.”
“Thanks for the interview! And hails to everyone who has supported the new album by buying the CD or download!”