Interview: ARKONA
Title: Beyond comparison

Much too long these pleasantly courageous Russian Pagan Folk Metal masters lived a shadow existence in its homeland, in concerns of popularity and success in other areas.

When Arkona blew then some years ago finally to the concerted attack on Europe, one triumph could be booked after the other.

No wonder, one can say, because the gigantic joyful playing heathen horde around the enormously charismatic female vocalist Masha ,Scream‘ Arhipova has a big special in their sound: smart mixed become beautifully traditional folklore elements with hard Metal and a breathtaking multitude at handy songwriting ideas.

And the end result astonishes fans of this kind of music again and again from album to album. By the way, now these bunch, which gets also outside of the Pagan Folk Metal profession more und more popular, releases the hefty EP „Stenka Na Stenku“. Thought as a transition to the next longplayer spectacle, this new publication shows the creating of the Russians of the most melodic side until now.

Masha, nearly one whole decade of existence lies behind you guys - when you think about all these time, what's going on in your head?

„Time runs very fast and when we start to think about past time, we start to understand, that a lot of planned things is still not realized. We got a lot of experience, but didn’t loose atmosphere of our songs. Our way is the development of our ideas. Ideas, which we believe from the beginning of our history.“

Arkona still stands for pure heathen loyalty and absolute upright musical attitude - but did you ever thought to quit the band?

„How do you think – if it is possible to cut man’s head and after it ask him to live and think? Arkona is realizing my ideas and my musical thoughts, which is connected with my every day life, that’s why situation from your question is imposible.“

The upcoming Arkona record - what can you do for the fans with your upcoming music that other candidates can't?

„We are always release something new, something, which is not like other bands. EP called ,Stenka Na Stenku‘ will contain 6 songs, all of them different between each other. It contains 4 cover versions: ,Valenki‘ – traditional song, ,Noviy Mir‘ (,Odda Mailbmi‘) – Shaman band, ,Duren’ – Svarga band and ,Goi, Rode, Goi‘ – acoustic version of an older Arkona song. Also, there will be a common song with band Varg: ,Skal‘ and the main song ,Stenka Na Stenku‘, which will be in our next album, too. We took off all funny and cheerful songs from these EP, except one, to avoid a break in the epic atmosphere in the release. I’m sure, all fans of a ,bright‘ side of our music gonna like these EP. I see no reason to compare it with some other band. Fans love us because we are Arkona and we are not similar with some other band.“

The new material sounds surprisingly partly pretty breezy - how did develop the new songs until that fine result?

„We are always working hard to get the maximum result. All our albums have different sound, so new material is different too, but we do nothing especially for it. First we write, than mix and then we get the final result, but about that can tell only our listeners in the end. We are still making all by ourselves, from song-writing and arrangements to sound production and searching for the new sound for every new Arkona release.“

Please report us a bit about the songwriting process for „Stenka Na Stenku“!

„,Stenka Na Stenku‘ means in translation ,Wall To Wall‘. This song was written like many others: melody come to my mind and after some hours the song was finished, it was during some of our Russian tours. This song dedicated to old Russian fun, when two groups of men(walls) started a friendly fist fighting.

,Valenki‘ is an old Russian cheerful national song. Valenki are traditional winter shoes in Russia. I have had this idea for a very long time in my mind, but didn’t want to make this song for an album. But when we decided to make an EP, I arranged this song with a great pleasure.

,Goi, Rode, Goi‘: 9 January 2010, on my 27th birthday, we have made a special birthday show in Moscow and we played there 10 Arkona’s songs in acoustic versions. I think, that ,Goi, Rode, Goi‘ is the best song from this acoustic material, that’s why we recorded it for EP. This is a new song, not like only acoustic version of ,Goi, Rode, Goi‘, because we made an absolutely new, shamanic atmosphere for it.

,Skal‘: I already read some comments from German-speaking fans about this song … Pagan Fest tour, nightliner with Varg, a lot of alcohol. This song was created during this tour and tells about this atmosphere. I like a lot this German phrase and I wanted to create something like anthem. Hope, the result is not very roughly and people will listen to it with humor.

,Duren’: It’s a cover version of a Svarga song. We had a presentation of album in October 2009 in Moscow. It was one of surprises for the show. We made this song especially for the show, but it sounds very far from original, so we decided to record it.

,Noviy Mir‘ (,Odda Mailbmi‘): Story of this song is similar with ,Duren’. In March 2008 we were celebrating spring equinox together with Korpiklaani in Moscow. For this show we made a common song with Jonne, it’s old song of Shaman band. I remember on this song, how we have played very bad, but Jonne tell something like ,Yes, we played like shit, but it was funny!‘ After some time I wrote Russian lyrics for this song and we have recorded it for the EP.“

Have been used any Russian traditional melodies as basics for the songs of „Stenka Na Stenku“?

„Only in the track ,Valenki‘.“

Main news to report about new facets of your upcoming music?

„Now we are on final stage of recording of our new album ,Slovo‘. This album take much more efforts than all others of Arkona before. First time with Arkona you will hear professional an academic choir and a chamber orchestra. We have even more participants and instruments. So, I think no need more comments, and all will hear it 27th of August, when album will be released. Now we need to record just choirs and orchestra. As always this album is very various. It’s not so long like ,Goi, Rode, Goi‘, but it sound even more epic. In any case, just our fans will evaluate it. I bear a lot of hopes in me for our new album, because the songs, which these album contains, are my favorite ones so far at all.“

Please tell me also about your proudest own achievements on new album „Slovo“.

„We will be proud when this album will be finally done. Now we are working on it, so all comments will be later.“

Which topics will contain the lyrics of „Slovo“?

„When this album will be released, I hope that we return to our conversation and all the talk in great detail. I prefer to discuss only about the finished work.“

Which differences to the previous EP release are waiting there then for the listeners? Please tell us about the direction of the upcoming Arkona-hymns on „Slovo“!

„Mentioned EP was released specifically apart from the upcoming album to divide the party-atmosphere of the EP and the epic and monumental atmosphere of ,Slovo‘. Those fans, who like our 3 last albums, will 100 % like the new album. ,Slovo‘, perhaps is more melancholic and contains more ballads than ever. And perhaps it is also closer to the atmosphere of ,Ot Serdca K Nebu‘ than to ,Goi, Rode, Goi‘, but again I can’t tell that it similar with our first albums. We are again able to offer the listener something new. This idea and the atmosphere of Arkona has been included in the new artistic frames.“

Will the upcoming frontcover artwork again as submitted by Kris Verwimp?

„Kris became a real member of our band meanwhile, who is responsible for visualization of our songs. And it‘s difficult for us all to imagine our new album without his great artworks. For these album Kris again made a monumental job and drew detailed designs for each song of the album.“

What expectation(s) do you have in mind regarding the next release of Arkona?

„We're worried before any release of a new Arkona album, waiting for feedback from our fans. We‘ve played some of the new songs already on some live shows and the reactions were very positive luckily! I am sure that everything will be fine in the end!“

Which is your preferred kind of traditional Russian beer, booze and meal at all?

„Unfortunately, Russian beer, which is made for the Russian market, got more like a beer beverage with the taste of alcohol than beer itself. The demand for alcohol in this country exceeds the supply and beer do not have time to go through all the process and ,degrees‘ in the increase with the addition of ethanol. So many people killed their health and beer in Russia with such poison! So, if I drink beer, I do it in Germany or Czech Republic. They still respect the tradition of bear making and consumers health. Concerning the traditional Russian drinks, I prefer Kvas. It is a non-alcoholic drink with not more than 1.5 %, made by fermentation of grain crops. The method of preparation is like beer, but with other ingredients. Cold Kvas refreshes, tones. We are suffering in European tours without the drink. Also, I personally suffer without salted fish. Raw fish, which is salted and dried in the sun. Usually this river fish species or fish comes from the Azov and Black Sea, Roach, Chahon, Vimba. No one in Europe, except Norway, does it use it in food, so I take a kilogram of salted dried fish with me for a tour. But it is anytime quickly eaten up as well, as other band members know a lot about this fine dish. Also, I prefer the homemade soups. In Europe we ate some vegetarian cream soups, which are more similar to shit of a small child, but it's not a real soup. A real soup is a Russian Borsch! You have excellent beer in Europe, but not the best kitchen, I say. I do not understand how you can have these endless vegetable purees and cabbage day by day? I think that you should try it with Russian Borsch, Okroshka and Pelmeni!“

To which bands do you prefer to listen to these days, Masha?

„Folk music. Lithuanian band Dionis is perfect, good jobs made also some bands from Ukraine DakhaBrakha and Burdon. In Russia Vedan Kolod is the best.“

Which are your biggest hopes for the global heathen music scene and the world itself for 2011?

„The most part of albums, which I waiting for, is already released. Unfortunately I like not all of them. The best album of recent years have Skyforger and Metsatöll.“

What are you still looking for in terms of development of Arkona's musical style?

„I‘am trying to get a better song writer, to develop my musical thinking. The main aim for me is that I don‘t stop, but every time to use something new in my music. Still I had done it good.“

What is - beside heathendom - still most holy for you in these world? Your children?

„Yes, my children are the continuation of my life and nothing can be more important for me. A man without children is the living dead, doomed to oblivion after his death, because our souls and fire will live in our children, when we will move to another state. I’m really sad about many European people, who live only for themselves. I’m really sad about mothers, who have chosen death for their child. Abortion is murder, which will destroy the soul and all life. Only birth of a new child can help in this situation.“

Do your children already listen to Arkona's music?

„Of course! Our eldest son already took part in our new album in the song ,Potomok‘. Our second son is very young, just 2 years old, but he is also interested, when he‘s hearing his mother’s voice on Arkona’s albums.“

Arkona meanwhile are playing live everywhere weekend after weekend, and also not only in the summer months. Do you still find the time, to practice your love to ancient ideals and your dedication for our Mother Nature in the forests of your home area, Masha?

„Yes, unfortunately we must miss a lot of celebrations because of our shows, but beliefs lives in man’s heart, doesn’t matter where he stays.“

Which has been your greatest experienced moment with the horde of Arkona so far in 2011 ?

„This summer! We played festivals such as Hellfest, Graspop, Exit and With Full Force. We have had a great support from thousands of our fans and it was really cool.“

Which got meanwhile your preferred country to play live?

„I think, it depends on circumstances, but not on a country. For example, this year we played two shows one by one in Madrid and Barcelona. In Madrid was a wild and great support and in Barcelona we got not so hot reactions. But the concert place in Barcelona was much more better for shows and fans. Even when we playing many shows in Germany we meet absolutely different reactions. So it’s all not about country directly.“

Here you have the place for some additional words to your listeners and fans!

„I told you many things in the past, so my wishes for you are still the same: just be yourself and be healthy!“

© Markus Eck, 20.04.2011

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