Quality over quantity
On numerous occasion I have made everyone well aware hopefully of the existence of Wolcensmen. This project has absolutely hypnotized me over the last 2 plus years with the epic debut album ”Songs Of The Fyrgen”. I would say if anyone wants to know what “heathen folk” is, this is where to start. So now the spell has been strengthened with a follow up EP “Songs From The Mere” featuring 5 tracks. The EP is available with the reissue of album via Indie Recordings or separately now. Main protagonist of Wolcensmen Dan Capp answered some questions for us regarding the EP, the tracks and gave us an exclusive regarding the next release….check it out…..
Songs From the Mere
Congrats on the release of “Songs From The Mere”….what has been the response to it so far?
“Hi again Jeff. Thank you! The response so far has been incredibly warm. It has actually been publicly available as part of the Indie Recordings reissue since November 2018, so I thought that when I released it as a standalone digital release a month and a half later, it would lose some of the impact of a new release. On the contrary – people rushed to pre-order on Bandcamp, which I find very humbling; That people would have such faith in my music that they pre-order something which is not in any way a limited edition.”
Many people have told me that “Lady of the Depe” is the best song I’ve written yet, and others have praised the Bathory cover for its spirit. Others have commented on the improved vocal proficiency, and that’s something I’ve worked hard on. So all-in-all I feel a real sense of accomplishment.
This EP was released in tandem with the re-issue of your stellar debut album ‘Songs From The Fyrgen” as well as a standalone release… could you describe the reason for the re-issue of the album and the process of releasing this with the album and as a separate release?
“Indie Recordings expressed an interest in signing Wolcensmen in 2017, and we struck a deal in October of that year. They felt that ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’ deserved a chance at wider distribution and press coverage, and proposed reissuing it. Originally, they just wanted to remaster the album, but gradually we realised that it could benefit from a remix too. There was a lot of work behind the scenes last year to get the sound right.
The EP was my idea, and my thinking behind it was twofold: I wanted the reissue to be special in some way, rather than being a lazy re-release, and also, I hadn’t written and recorded any new music since 2015. At the time I recorded the EP (July 2018) I was already in the depths of writing the next album, but I felt it was time to give fans something fresh in the interim, and to show the kind of thing they might expect on the next album. “Lady of the Depe”, in particular, is a good representation of the direction my songwriting is taking.
In addition to the remix and new music, Indie asked if I would be willing to write some liner notes discussing the themes in the lyrics – for both the ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’ and ‘Songs from the Mere’ songs. So, I took some time to as concisely as possible give an insight to my thought-process and the passions behind the songs. I’ve not heard much feedback on the liner notes, but I hope listeners have found them interesting.”
Since we didn’t review the re-issue, could you briefly explain the main differences between the original and the re-issue (if any major ones)?
“Sure. We got rid of most of the fade-ins and fade-outs, for starters. Stamos Kouliosis, who took care of the remix, was very considerate and understanding of the intended atmosphere of the album. He changed some of the drum sounds and improved the horn sound.
Sonically, the remix has more ‘punch’ to it and a drier soundscape, so there’s more space between the instruments and perhaps more separation. Overall it sounds more professional, but I have to confess that I think the original mix still has a charm of its own – it’s perhaps a bit more ethereal sounding. A lot of people prefer the newer mix, but some prefer the old. They give a slightly different listening experience.”
The EP features 5 tracks including 2 instrumentals and a cover….were these the only tracks that you had in mind for this release?
“I did have a couple of other song ideas I considered adding to the EP, but for various reasons decided to keep it to the 5 tracks. When I first thought to record a bonus EP, the original intention was to very roughly record some simple guitar compositions at home. But, seemingly, as with everything I do, I couldn’t help but take it to the fullest realization possible and the EP turned into a studio project, with the goal of producing something that sounded at least as good as the first album – a statement of intent, to let the world know that Wolcensmen is committed to producing in the highest quality.
The EP was self-funded also, with limited studio time, and as a family-man I felt I didn’t have time to bring another song to its fullest potential. I’m glad I kept the EP as it is and I think the songs sit well together. ‘Quality over quantity’ will always be a personal motto of mine.”
Warm Natural Sounds
How did the success of the debut album effect the EP if at all in terms of song selection, writing, recording etc?
“Good question. The main example I can give is that some of the drums on the debut album are sampled as opposed to live instruments. I wanted to try and record only live drums, so we did on the EP (with the assistance of my friend Callum Cox). It definitely gives the music a slightly different vibe.
Other examples are that I was adamant about not using a guitar pick at all when performing the classical guitar parts, which is something I did on ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’. It isn’t really the proper way to get a natural feel from classical guitar. Myself and Mark Mynett, who engineers and mixed the EP, went to great lengths to get warm, natural guitar sounds in general.
I didn’t consciously change my writing style at all. When composing a song, I always go where my instinct takes me without thinking about convention or trying to sound like something a band I like composed. I begin with a melody or chord sequence, and then the song grows from that in the most natural and effective way possible.”
“Mere” from my understanding means “lake” where “Fyrgen” meant mountain or hillside from what I recall…how do the songs differ in terms of these locales being backdrops for them? Is it a mood or feeling they invoke when they came together?
“Ever since I started Wolcensmen, I wanted to take the listener somewhere – on a journey of escapism. Unsurprisingly, for a Black Metal fan of many years, I have always been drawn to wild forests. This is the kind of environment I had in mind when composing ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’.
With ‘Songs from the Mere’ I didn’t write with woodland in mind. Conceptually there was more of an esoteric, religious feeling coming through. This is particularly present in ‘Lady of the Depe’ which incorporates a lot of Pagan tradition within it and is very directly related to water and lakes. As a small example, the etymology of ‘lake’ and ‘law’ are intimately bound, via the words ‘lay’ and ‘layer’. Law was ‘laid down’ as the layers upon a well, with the flow and expansion of a society’s shared Wyrd. Water is closely tied to the Pagan worldview.”
I still think your vocals are the most underrated part of your music….how has you opinion changed regarding your vocal? Do you have more confidence in it than previously? Are you willing to take more chances with it now?
“Well thank you for saying so Jeff. I never intended to sing, but I couldn’t find anyone else to do it. After the success of the first album, I made it my goal to improve vocally, and have been coached for the last year or so by a very experienced old musician guy called George King. I’m grateful to him for helping me to get closer to my potential and I’m a lot happier with my current ability. There are always improvements to be made though; However, what matters most is the spirit and feeling in the performance and I’ve always given as much as I can of that.
I’d like the vocals to become a more expressive instrument in the Wolcensmen sound, rather than being just functional (which is what I think they’ve been until now, mostly). I can foresee getting bolder with the lead vocals in future, yes.”
Jo Quail plays a major role here on Cello in the overall Wolcensmen sound…..do you write parts or give her ideas on what you are looking for or does she have free reign to write complimentary parts?
“Jo has become a good friend and is a wonderful person and exceptional cellist. Mostly, I write her parts for her. Though, when I do, I give her free-reign to alter them as she sees fit. Flatteringly, she almost never feels the need to change the cello lines I write and is very dedicated to realizing my vision. There are some exceptions though, as I’ll mention in response to your next question.”
You collaborated with Jo in writing the instrumental “Beholdinge, He….” which leads into your epic cover of Bathory’s “Man Of Iron”…..was this written specifically in mind as a “intro” into the cover? What is the concept behind this track to be the companion to this piece?
“Yes, ‘Beholdinge, He…’ was written as an intro to ‘Man of Iron’. The reason I did this was because I generally don’t like cover songs that add nothing new or different (what’s the point?). I wanted the cover itself to be very faithful to Quorthon’s original, so the best way I could think of adding something new was to write a new introductory section. I also foresaw that it could be a perfect opportunity to let Jo Quail do what she does best: Wild, expressive cello ‘jams’ which can be so dramatic, and which she’s known for. I asked Jo if she’d be up for composing something to accompany my chord/riff sequence and I didn’t doubt for a moment she’d do so with flying colours.
What I hadn’t anticipated is that so many people would find the moment where the intro transitions into the cover song so rousing. I knew it would be a good way of easing into the song if I ever played it live, but it has actually become a notable moment on the EP too.”
I feel that Bathory is completely underrated and really not as well known (especially here in the US) as they/Quorthon should be. Could you share with us your feeling on what Bathory’s music means to you? Of all of the tracks how did you land on “Man Of Iron” to cover?
“That’s interesting, because in Europe I wouldn’t consider Bathory underrated. I suspect that it is so in America because the rise of Black Metal is a little more recent there, with bands therefore being inspired foremost by the 90s Scandinavian bands. Bathory’s ‘Blood on Ice’ album is one of the first Black/Pagan Metal albums I ever heard, in the late 90s. I was instantly immersed in the journey of that concept story, with the epic cover art, samples and musty production. Quite simply, it’s one of my all-time favourite albums (with other Bathory albums not far behind), and one of those very ‘formative’ records in my musical upbringing. I first covered ‘Man of Iron’ at Wolcensmen’s first live performance in 2017. It’s a comfortable song for me to play and sing, so I knew I had to record it someday. it’s quite a simple, pure song and speaks strongly to my own sense of how chords and vocal melodies should progress.
The fact that Bathory’s music is so influential, despite the rough/DIY recordings and technical mistakes, demonstrates how powerful the riffs and songwriting are. Quorthon was a man who was more interested in getting across the spirit of a song or lyric than doing so with technical perfection. You can only worship such sincerity and purity of intent. Bathory was the perfect blend of melody and aggression, wildness and control, vision and action. What kind of imagination does it take to trailblaze at least two subgenres of metal, and to create a concept album is immersive as ‘Blood on Ice’?”
The Greene Wall
You also took a track from 2007 “The Greene Wall” and recorded it for this EP…. how was it looking back on one of your earlier tracks and making it for this release?
“It was interesting. Ever since I started Wolcensmen, that song has been at the back of my mind as one that needed to be finished and recorded someday. It’s maybe not the best song I’ve ever written, but it needed to be done and the EP was a perfect time to do it. I’d never have considered saving it for the next full-length – not because I didn’t consider it good enough, but because with the next album it’s important to me that all songs were written around the same time (reasons for this will become apparent).
The end section of ‘The Greene Wall’ is entirely new, but everything up to the quiet break (aside from some of the cello and vocal melodies) is over ten years old. It’s a song that has a dark, mysterious character, and the fact that I still felt the need to finish and record it after so many years speaks, I think, for the quality of the original idea. Or maybe I just subconsciously liked the idea of presenting something a little bit more immature, from the mind of a younger self.”
How have you been supporting your music via live performances and touring? How is performing the tracks live?
“This has been a real challenge, and I’m proud of how well my friends and I have pulled it together. Wolcensmen music was never written to be performed live, and so we had to work out new arrangements for the available instruments (we couldn’t have horn and flute onstage, for example). I had to learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time too. The songs sound pretty different live, but their soul is intact and the feedback from attendees has been moving.
One of the biggest problems is that Dark, Pagan, Neo-classical Folk music is such a niche thing – especially in England. The audiences are small (but enthusiastic), and the venues need to be special in some way; Yet the cost and effort of bringing it to the stage is quite significant. It’s been a real labour of love.”
Fire in the White Stone
What are the near future plans for touring and new material?
“There won’t be any touring, but there will be a new album this year. I can announce here, exclusively, that the title of the album will be ‘Fire in the White Stone’. The songs are written, and the recording will be finished by about Spring-time. There is quite a bit of non-musical work to do for the release too, but I shan’t say more yet. I’m treating this as though it might be the final album and statement of Wolcensmen (though don’t take that too literally – I thought ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’ would be the first and last Wolcensmen album I’d make). I find it a healthy attitude, because with so much mediocre, ‘filler’ music around, what’s the point in aiming to create anything short of an album that’s among the best in its genre – at least for the year it is released?”
Favorite music from 2018? Any albums you are looking forward to in the upcoming year?
“I loved the Darkest album ‘Light’, as well as the latest Whoredom Rife, Solstice, Visigoth and Aorlhac albums. In terms of more folkish, ritual music, Leidungr, Runahild and Torulf released cool albums. As you can see, I listen mostly to metal.
I’m hoping we’ll see a new Atlantean Kodex album this year. I really don’t know what’s on the cards other than that; Perhaps a new Forefather album? I like surprises, and I’m always on the lookout for great new music.”
“Thank you for the ongoing support Jeff, and Folk Metal NL. I challenge readers to join me in remembering to develop a real relationship with the music they love. Before the days of Internet streaming some of us would listen to the same record repeatedly for at least a week or two; getting to know every lyric, riff and change. Nowadays too many people cycle randomly through playlists, never experiencing music the way the artist intended it to be. Quality over quantity – it’s important.”