At the beginning I would like to ask about the newest SSOGE album. „Navaz” is a pure folkmetal in my opinion. You perfectly combine the best things from folk and doom and heavy metal. I play in the folkmetal band and I know the problems with composing folk songs as metal tracks. How do you manage to do it?
Hanka: Hello! It’s hard to say. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s a natural way for us. You know, our usual way of composing new material is dwelling at our home, Radek playing acoustic guitar and me playing piano and singing, just jamming without restraint. But then we work on it as the band together, in our rehearsal room and it becomes harder and harder. When we are satisfied with the final shape, we send the demo-record to our producer Tomas Kocko and then we discuss some arranging matters, add some other melodies, another voices in choirs, layers… Maybe the point is we don’t try to wring metal in folk or folk in metal, but from the very beginning to fuse both styles together…
"Navaz” was released by French label, Roland Grapow, ex. Helloween guitarist, mastered it. How and when did you catch the contact with him and how did you colaborate? How did he react to slavic folklore in metal music?
Hanka: It is a kind of coincidence – Roland fell in love, moved to Slovakia and built a studio there. We heard some of his works and found that he was the right person for us. The Grapow Studios was the best choice we could make and we love sound from here. Roland is a professional, fine guy, not cocky rockstar, a good friend and mentor. He made a great sound according to our idea, powerful and really heavy guitars combined with a soft sound of violin, cello, vocals and choirs, all well-balanced. It was difficult to fulfill our idea because our sound is a kind of compromise all the time. But we are more than satisfied. We have learned a lot from Roland and we knew his name could help ‘to open the doors’. After all, we don’t seem like losers when we were recording with mighty Roland Grapow, do we? :) As for his attitude – we visited him for about a month before recording session, had a talk and played some demo-records. He was listening to it just for about a minute and said "ok, I like it and I’m looking forward for the recording”. So… All was pretty fine. :)
Radek: Only one small correction – Roland’s work wasn’t only mastering, but he worked on recording, mixing and co-producing our new album. And I confirm that it was more than inspiring to spend two weeks in his studio, watch his work and talk to him…
„Navaz” is not only music, but lyrics as well. Some of them were inspired by old slavic tales, legends and slavic beliefs, I think. Tell us how it happened that you turned your interests to folklore at the beggining of your career? Did you find ideas to your lyrics just only in Moravia or did you use materials from other slavic lands too? Are these lyrics taken from authentic folklore or are they completely thought up by you?
Hanka: You know, the connection of our music and the land we live in is entirely obvious. We come from folk-memory, culture and heritage of our ancestors. So you can find folklore motifs as well as folk literature motifs in our music and lyrics. For example our new album "Návaz”. I wanted to write lyrics that result of the oldest ideas of man about the world around. To go back to pagan times, when man lived close to the nature, revered a female cult and met nymphs in the wood… At first I read tons of books kind of legends, myths, Slavic encyclopedias and stuff like that. So there are some lyrics inspired by authentic folklore, like "Zlatohlav” which comes from the local legend (Beskydy mountains) about a treasure hidden in a mount. Man and his wife are searching for the treasure but don’t know they can wake up the Evil (Golden Head of the Snake) in the mount. But they do and the only way to survive is that wife has to sacrifice herself. She looks at the Golden Head 's eyes and turns into stone. Maybe she is still there nowadays and you can hear her singing or lamenting from time to time... A lot of stories I thought up by myself. And, I can’t forget to mention, I was inspired by fantasy literature too, namely by Juraj Cervenak from Slovakia, one of the most gifted (Slavic) fantasy author I know. He has inspired me to write the song "Slava” and "Pramen, co vi”.
SSOGE has been inspired by folklore since the beginning. Folk sounds are heard in your music all the time. Tell us about it.
Radek: There’s nothing special about it. We come from Moravia, the beautiful land in the very eastern part of present Czech Republic, land with strong folklore tradition. And we try to show it in our music as well. Though we grew from My Dying Bride’s style, doom/death metal music in the beginning of our career, more and more we are looking forward to the fusion of our folk music and rock/metal, still with the strong doomy touch. It is mostly noticeable on our last two albums – "Relic Dances” (2004) and the new one – "Návaz”. That’s what we like and want to do.
I found a description, that SSOGE is a kind of slavic’s My Dying Bride... What do you think about it?
Radek: Well, as I said before, maybe it was right at the beginning of our career, but now? Hard to say… MDB were one of my favs in nineties, I still love their "The Angel and the Dark River” album and whole second half of nineties era including experimental "34.788%” album which I love too, but to tell the truth, I haven’t listened to them for years. If there are some bands I can mention we worship at present, there are names like Gaate, Orphaned Land, Valravn, Amorphis, Lumsk, Tenhi… But I agree there’s still something doomy in our music and I’m really glad for that!
Let’s talk about your previous album. „Osameli” contains one track, called „Pohanska” which was recorded with Tomas Kocko and Orchestr folk group. Please tell us when and where you met Tomas and about this colaboration.
Radek: Well, as time is still passing by, it is about ten years ago we met Tomas. At the beginning we just wanted him to help us with arranging strings, but soon we found he is the right person for producing our entire work. So, at the beginning, he supplied us with interesting folklore records and we did the same to him with metal albums to broaden horizons. Then we (the band) started to compose new material and supply him with tons of demo-records. We used to meet and discuss our music in our rehearsal room, at home, at Tomas’cottage in Beskydy mountains. No wonder we became friends soon… :) You know the present situation – Tom is still producing our music and we are helping him with his recordings, just like in the case of "Pohanská" song. Just few days ago we recorded some heavy guitars for his new album „Godula"…
Are you going to make any official videos to the Navaz’s tracks?
Radek: Yes, we are. Better said we have already done that. We choose "Skryj hlavu do dlaní” song, of course an edit version as the original song has more than seven minutes, and shot a video about a month ago. Just now it’s in the state of post-production. Hope to publish it within two or three weeks, watch out, it will give you the willies!
At your official website I found some information about your concerts in Czech Republic and Slovakia. Are you going to promote Navaz in other countries?
Hanka: Of course we would like to support our new album live abroad and I hope our label Season Of Mist has been negotiating with some booking agencies just now, so we’ll see. We’ll keep you updated, please see our webpages www.ssoge.com!
Thank you for intie, stay in touch, Slava!
Thank you for intie and support, Slava !!!
Answers by Hanka Hajdova and Radek Hajda
Interviewed by Vilcin