If you are looking for an amazingly diverse, heavy, new folk metal album look no further than the debut from Poland’s Windmill. “Dance Of Fire And Freedom” is chock full of great tracks from beginning to end and will be a certain addition to my top albums for the year. Multi-instrumentalist Jan took charge of the question answering for us. He gave us some detailed responses regarding the album, the song writing, their influences, playing live and a few other things… check it out…
Dance of Fire And Freedom
Congrats on your debut album “Dance Of Fire And Freedom”…. how has it been received so far?
“Thanks a lot <3 So far all reviews and the community feedback we got have been mostly positive, especially praising the songwriting and atmosphere of the songs, but I’d say that we need more time, more reviews and more feedback to truly see the reception of the album, however we’re 99% satisfied with the results, and I think that is the most important thing :D”
Could you give us a little history of the band and how you landed on Windmill as the name of the project?
“Well – at first, before we decided to play folk metal we had a couple other ideas for names, too cringy to mention here. But when we finally decided on playing FM the name was the first thing we (it was Domin’s idea I believe) created, almost instantly.
See, Windmill in polish is translated to Młyn, which aside from the big building in which flour is made can also mean a ton of other things – a moshpit, an intense situation, chaos in general (you can say You have a Windmill on your head when someone has fucked up hair), and it’s generally charged with chaotic, but mostly positive energy which I feel perfectly suits us (and that is the most important point of naming things)
We originally wanted to keep the name Młyn, but seeing how non-polish speakers butcher the name Mgła we decided to just translate it to increase our international appeal, just like we did with the album title (Dance of Fire and Freedom – Taniec Ognia i Wolności, just like the first track).
It also needs to be mentioned that before Windmill, all of us (the first lineup – Me, Barto, Domin and Burzan) were all classmates in middle school, and soon after graduating we got back in touch and by Burzan’s idea formed a band, which then evolved into Windmill.”
You are obviously a folk metal band, but have touches of other styles including thrash and progressive… is there a simple way of describing your sound/style? Do you have a folk metal sub-genre that works in describing your sound?
“I believe that progressive folk metal works for us, even if it doesn’t fully fit our music yet. The “progressive” tag describes the mentality of the musicians and their attitude towards songwriting, their genre’s legacy and staple elements etc. and the subversion of stereotypes more than a specific sound. Bands like Opeth, Amorphis, Gojira, Mastodon and dare I say System of a Down are all progressive, each in a different way. In Dance of Fire and Freedom this was mostly shown in the arrangements, as songwriting was mostly done between March 2017 and August 2018, so eons ago in terms of musical progress, but the prog elements will be plentiful in the future releases’ songwriting as well.
As for the thrash influence – it’s incidental at most and probably won’t be present in our future releases.”
The tracks on the album have a solid blend of styles and tempos…..did you have a large selection of songs that were possibilities for the album? Were there tracks that didn’t work in the final cut of what would be the debut?
“Actually almost all of the songs that we’ve ever written are on the album. The only one that we dropped just before recording was “Płynne Złoto” (Liquid Gold), a drinking song that we felt didn’t fit at all to the album’s growing progressive soundscape (this was at the time of preparing arrangements for the album). We did have a couple other songs in our catalog that we either wrote, but never even played at rehearsal or played a few times at our first shows and then dropped in favor of newer, better tracks and those still give us Vietnam-style flashbacks when somebody digs up an old recording or a Guitar Pro file.”
How does your song writing process work (if you have one)? Is there one member who takes the lead with track development/music/lyrics or does everyone contribute to the process? Do you start with riffs and then lyrics or are they independent of each other and then put together?
“First of all – 4 of the songs on the album were written by our former member Burzan, those being Północny Wiatr, Nadchodzi Burza, Biesiady Czas and Stalowy Władca. We only made a few tweaks and of course arranged them from the ground up during the production of the album. I have no idea about his writing process so let’s skip that.
Out of the other songs I wrote a good 3/4rds of the music and all the arrangements, the rest was collaborative effort. However the main themes or first riffs/melodies for most of the songs weren’t written by me, but by Barto or Domin, as that’s what I have the most problems with. Once the spark is lit I can build the rest of the bonfire myself 😀
When it comes to music first vs lyrics first from the Windmill-written songs only Klątwa Utopca and Embers were music-first. For Taniec Ognia, Triskelion, Matoha and Wyraj the lyrics were written before the music, and that was very convenient for us, as we had at least a basic structure of the songs written into the structure of the lyrics that we could decode easily.”
A majority of the album is in your native Polish with one exception (“Embers”) being sung in English…. are you comfortable with doing both? Do you feel that English is a necessity in possibly gaining a larger fan base? Are there concepts/words that just don’t translate as well to English?
“To be honest the language of the lyrics isn’t important at all, people aren’t gonna turn away from our music because they can’t understand the lyrics. The language of the titles is more important, as that’s what’s being taken into account by algorithms. Some concepts don’t translate well unless you have a great level of fluidity in another language, that’s why all but one of our lyrics (mostly written by Barto) are in Polish. However in future releases we’ll try to make the songwriting process a more collective effort with Barto writing the ideas and me trying to translate them into English, as we feel this would make it more justifiable to title the songs/albums in English as well as open a few doors for us when it comes to guest vocalists (expect great things 😉 )
How is the folk metal scene in your hometown of Gdansk? Do you have other bands that you hang around with or you tend to play shows with?
“Actually for most of our band’s existence we were the only active Folk metal band in the larger region of the Tricity (Gdańsk, Sopot, Gdynia and surrounding towns and villages) and probably the whole of Pomerania. There was a band called Rum, however they disbanded some time before our formation and have been getting back from hiatus only since the end of the last year. They still haven’t made any major moves, so I’d still say that we’re currently the only ones around here.
Most of the Polish folk metal scene is centered around Warsaw and the Silesia region, respectively Central and Southern Poland, so usually we’re the ones from the furthest away, but there is definitely an amazing sense of community and even a familial bond among the bands, which is something that can’t be said about most of the metal scenes in Poland. We’ve been welcomed into the family from our first show and have been a part of it since, and for that we’re very grateful <3″
What bands/albums are your biggest influences on your sound? When you started out did you have a template of what you hoped to achieve?
“I’d say that the most influential band for my songwriting for Windmill (best seen in Taniec Ognia and Embers from Dance…, the last two tracks that were written for the album) would have to be Amorphis (Elegy, Tuonela, Am Universum, Eclipse and Red Cloud albums, all for various reasons) – no other band known to me combines death metal with progressive rock, folk instruments, synthesizer parts, psychedelic soundscapes, folklore inspired lyrics that aren’t cheesy in any way ever and amazing songwriting as well as they do, they had many different sounds and ideas throughout their discography and at least two of their albums would make it into my top 10 of all time – the Tuonela/Am Universum sound is one that I’d like to pursuit in the future with Windmill, while still retaining the folk instruments and our own energy 😀
Some other albums that influence me heavily in the songwriting or arrangement process include Sleep At The Edge of Earth by Wilderun, Wisdom Eyes by Nine Treasures, Blackwater Park by Opeth, Blood Mountain by Mastodon, Where Owls Know My Name by Rivers of Nihil, Fragile by Yes, Controller by Misery Signals, Mesmerize/Hypnotize by System of a Down and Manala, the darkest album of Korpiklaani”
Lyrically, you have a wide range of subject matter from nature to magic to mythology and fantasy themes…where do you draw the inspiration from? Books? Movies? TV?
“I’ll have to speak for Barto, our main lyricwriter, in this one, but from what I know he’s a big fan of Romantic era literature, which was probably the most prominent movement in Polish literature and poetry ever and spawned many great works referencing folklore and old traditions (Dziady by Mickiewicz being the most known one), as well as any good book, movie or any other art form that has to do with any European culture and folklore. There isn’t that much credible information on Slavic folklore, which is why we don’t focus on it exclusively, but instead try to write about indo-european lore and symbolism in a more general sense, it’s all very similar anyway.
I myself don’t consume that much fiction to be honest, neither books, movies nor games, so most of my lyrical inspiration (although not really shown in this particular album, it’ll be more of a thing in the future) comes from philosophical concepts and my own experiences, trying to turn them into metaphors and romanticizing them a bit, it’s quite therapeutic.
How do you feel about playing live? Is it hard to arrange touring/shows with the band members various schedules/commitments? Any plans on touring to support the album? Do you tend to play shows with other folk metal acts or a blend of bands in various metal styles?
“It’s not the in-band organizing that’s hard, we have no problem with finding time for practice and shows, and we’ve yet to turn down a gig offer. The hard part is finding opportunities, as pretty much all folk metal shows in Poland are done under the “Folk Metal Night” banner, which has a pretty strict schedule, and unless we talk to the organizers a good couple of months beforehand, we’ll most likely miss the whole season (case in point – we had just one gig booked for the spring/summer season, that on top of everything got cancelled due to the Coronavirus panic surge). As you know, folk metal isn’t that well received among most other metal fans, so booking gigs with bands outside the folk metal scene isn’t really an option. We have plans for autumn and winter, and we’ll try to capitalize on the album hype as much as we can, but we can’t really confirm anything yet. As for our view on the whole live experience – it’s fun, very fun and satisfying (especially with the right audience, Warsaw we love you *wink wink*) but also pretty exhausting. Not the playing itself, but all the little things you have to manage before and after the performance, especially if the club doesn’t provide what we expected it to provide.”
How do you feel about navigating social media (You Tube, Facebook etc) and how do you use it to promote the band? Is it a necessity to be able to be proficient in all aspects of band promotion or do you have someone that does your promotion work for you?
“I’m the social media manager, so I’ll state my personal opinion for all my projects from here on out – I honestly fucking hate it. It’s a really passionate type of hate that I have for few things other than this. It’s an absolute necessity, and unless you have the money to hire a social media manager you have to do it yourself. Not only is it a requirement to constantly bring new content to the table, which is next to impossible unless you’re a touring band (but by then you can probably afford a manager), but the content needs to be “fast paced” and clickbaity, which removes most of the nuance, the message that I’d like any of my art to carry. Not to mention shit like gimmick covers (a million Toss a Coin… covers that recently flooded YT being only the most recent example) and other types of content made only for views with no other value to be found. Another problem is that aside from constantly uploading content, you need to have the money to back it – as most sites cut your default reaches and expect you to pay to return them back to where they should’ve been in the first place, and low prices they are not. Marketing in general is one of the biggest annoyances of the modern world I think, and having to do it myself in order to succeed in art is even more frustrating. 0/10 wouldn’t recommend”
Labels and Bandcamp
Being an independent band at this point has its challenges…. do you have aspirations of being on a label and the obligations of being on one? Pros and cons? How has your experience using Bandcamp been so far?
“Bandcamp is a pretty intuitive website, but there’s no chance you’ll get featured on the front page unless you’re a trendy or gimmicky band, so as we just have our music uploaded there, and hope to sell as many copies as we can. As of right now we have no plans on joining any label, as there is no label that we feel would benefit us more than them. Black metal and tech death both have some quality underground labels that promote the content well, create a sense of community in the signed artists and, at least to the person on the outside, make a really good impression. Folk metal doesn’t have such a label, and I don’t think it will.”
Now that your first album is completed, do you have plans in the works for album number 2? Will you change/alter what you do or have any idea of what it will be?
“We have a “plan” for album 2, in the sense that it will happen in the unspecified future. The current idea is that it will be a concept album, we have the vaguest draft of the story written down, and it definitely will be more progressive, more layered and (petraining to the story’s concept) more psychedelic. Other than that we can’t tell you a specific date, we’re planning to make a lot more content for Dance of Fire and Freedom, and right now our collective mind is focused on that. Only when we finish everything that is to be made for album 1, will we start any work on album 2.”
Any albums you are looking forward to in 2020?
“2019 was a year chock full of great albums (Alcest, Numenorean, Wilderun, Fen, Aether, Suldusk, Illyria, Eluveitie, Inferi, Flub, Cult of Luna and so on…) and I’m still catching up to some of the more obscure releases, but from the albums that have been officially announced for 2020 I’m looking forward to new The Black Dahlia Murder, Enslaved, Ne Obliviscaris, Black Crown Initiate and Nine Treasures. I’m also hoping we’ll hear at least an announcement about new records from bands like Virvum, Amorphis, Lantlos, If These Trees Could Talk and Rivers of Nihil that have either gone long without an album or have teased something, in public or private but never really made an official move. Maybe even System of a Down will finally give us any sort of info about any sort of new output from them #webelieve”
“Y’all check out our album and give us as much detailed feedback as you can, we live for it <3
Stay in drugs, don’t do school, have fun ;3