Three years after their two very successful performances in Athens and Thessaloniki, Skyclad return with a new album and prepared for us six concerts for their Greek Tour. For that reason Metal Invader (for the fifth time in its history) seized the opportunity to talk to the band. Enjoy…
Congratulations on your new album. I really loved it. But why it took it so long to be released?
It certainly wasn’t planned this way. We started working on a follow up album for ‘In The… All Together’ in 2011 but then things happened, that were both good and bad, that stopped all work on new material until 2016. By this point Dave Pugh was back in the band and things seemed a lot more positive. So once we decided to go for a new album in actually came together quite quickly. It seems to have been well received and I’m glad you are enjoying it.
Is the album title ‘Forward Into the Past’ a statement about the music direction?
No, not really. It isn’t so much about the music on the album more to do with a feeling I have about the music industry – or more specifically the rock music industry. I look at things like the resurgence of vinyl sales, and the sales of back catalogue, heritage or ‘legacy acts’ and ‘boutique festivals’ and I think we have kind of come to a point where rock and metal are ‘done’. We know how to do it and do it well and the new technology and ‘way of doing things’ doesn’t really work for us; so we’ll stick with the ‘real thing’; which means physical product, watching live music buying t-shirts and so on.
What are your expectations from the new album? Is it just a (good) reason for touring?
It definitely isn’t just a reason for touring – just the opposite. As we have a large back catalogue, we could go on playing ‘the Noise years’ or ‘the Massacre Years’ or celebrating the anniversary of this album or whatever as a sort of ‘heritage act’. But Skyclad have never really stopped playing live, we just kept on going, admittedly at our own pace, but doing just what we wanted to do. We see this new album as a way of showing people that we are still very much together and enjoying making music together. In fact, it feels sort of like a new ‘first album’, because we are back to being a six piece band and are really looking forward to seeing what we can do live and in the studio for subsequent releases.
Once again the lyrics are the ace up your sleeve. Not so many bands out there pick so difficult subjects or using strong language about them. You talk among other stuff about Brexit and refugees being some kind of a radical activist or something. Do you think metalheads are sensitive about these issues or are we marching on a right wing direction (as an audience) talking about wars and nationalism as many bands from all over the world are preaching through their songs?
I think Skyclad has always made strong comments about socio-political issues and these topics are very much in the ‘lexicon’ of metal. For example, for thrash bands of the late 80s talking about nuclear war, corporate business and so on like ‘punks with long hair’. This album is no different as it re-visits some of these issues and 2016 provided a wealth of material to make this an easy process. However, I agree that there is a worrying trend towards nationalism or ‘jingoism’ and I am sure people are ‘sensitive’ to these issues. We don’t live in a bubble and we are affected by these issues and so, as artists, we can choose to make some comment on this in our work. Though I accept that people don’t want to make it part of their appeal, preferring entertainment or escapism or whatever, and that is fine.
Can you tell us what the lyrics are about in a track by track presentation from you?
Well, basically, there are ten tracks on the new album plus an intro, an outro and a short instrumental break in the middle. The intro and outro are a welcome and a farewell to the listener from the ‘master of ceremonies’ and the ten songs each have a different ‘theme’. These themes fall into ‘grand’ themes (politics, the environment and the music business) and more ‘personal’ themes (Fate, confusion and disillusionment) alongside more traditional or ‘bawdy’ songs – so that the album has some variety. I think which songs deal with which topics are fairly easy to make out.
Where does ‘Forward Into the Past’ stand in your back catalogue? Which is the album from the 90’s that you believe is closer to its sound?
There have been comments to the effect that this album sounds like a Skyclad album from the mid-nineties, but it really wasn’t planned that way. Maybe it is because we recorded it in Newcastle with our old equipment and Dave was back in the band that people have made this observation but we didn’t try to make it sound like anything other than good. Albums just seem to take on their own character, depending on when and where we make them. Albums like Jonah’s Ark and The Answer Machine come to mind but they sound different to each other, though I do see how this new album fits in with the back catalogue and that’s not a bad thing.
How do you feel with this whole commercial success that folk bands achieved (not only metal bands, I’m talking mostly about Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphy’s etc)? Do you think that you should take more credits about it, or more money, fame?
Honestly, I don’t think the band is interested in taking credit for anything or wanting to steal anyone’s thunder. Obviously, it would be great if more people supported the band so that we could do more in terms of touring and recording and so on but we can only do what we think best and try to enjoy ourselves; whether that makes us money or more famous is not really what motivates us.
What kind of people still wondering about Martin’s return more than the new albums? Is nostalgia the main problem of nowadays audience? Do they miss the good old days so much or they just want to piss and moan about everything?
To be honest I have no idea. I think some people will just moan and complain whatever happens and ‘you can never please all of the people all of the time’. Having said that, nostalgia certainly plays a part in the thinking behind ‘Forward Into The Past’.
We all know that the etymology behind the term “Skyclad” comes from a pagan/wiccan term for ritual nudity. Have you ever performed live naked?
No, I haven’t and have no wish to. I think the guys had to do a sales conference in the nude back in the 90s – but that was a one-off, behind closed doors and someone’s bad idea of a joke.
In this album you have a song called “Last Summer’s Rain” and in your previous one a song called “Black Summer Rain”. What’s the problem with your summer vacations?
I don’t have any problems with vacations; it really is just a coincidence. These songs were written years apart and ‘Last Summer’s Rain’ is about how people can look back on the past through ‘rose tinted spectacles’, where ‘Black Summer Rain’ doesn’t and is much darker.
Dave Pugh is back after a couple of years. How important was his return on the 90’s feeling we can hear on the new album?
I think that that makes Dave sound like an old relic; which he certainly is but not in a musical sense. No, it wasn’t because he was in the band that the album sounds that way. It was great to have his contributions for the guitar and mandolin parts but also for the songwriting and arranging; he contributed two tracks for the album.
As Pokemon-game was a trend -almost a viral menace- last year did teenagers or anyone outside the metal community reach you about Folkemon album?
No, we heard nothing at all. Luckily, I know very little about Pokemon.
Is there any Satan album in the making? When we should see Satan live in Greece?
I believe they are busy writing some new material and should be recording later in the year. But I can’t say when they will be coming to Greece.
What we should expect in your Greek tour that starts in a couple of days? Whose idea was to play in so many towns here?
When we played in 2014, some of the promoters said that not everyone could make it to the shows in Athens and Thessaloniki and that they could arrange more gigs. So we said if they could arrange it we would do it – and they did so here we go. We are looking at this tour as a sort of week-long album launch party and so we will be playing some of the new songs live for the very first time.
Any message to your fans in Greece?
We had a great time in 2014 and we are hoping to build on that this time with our first proper tour. Greece has always been a special place for Skyclad and so we have put together a Greek version of our new lyric video for ‘Change Is Coming’ and we hope to have a few more goodies with us to help make this week a big release party for ‘Forward Into The past’.
The closing is yours.
Sorry for the long wait for a new album, but now that it’s done – enjoy and see you at a gig near you.