Let’s start from the beginning... At first WelicoRuss was a one-man project, later the band transformated to full-crew band. Please tell us about this fact.
I’d define Welicoruss history like this: 2002 – 2005: Alexey’s one-man band project.
2005 – 2012: Russian period. 2013 – Now: modern (European) period.
So, though the name Welicoruss first appeared in 2002, it’s more correct to count the band’s history from 2005, because in the beginning Alex was doing several musical projects in different genres like MidGard and StigMata66. But only Welicoruss has turned into a real full-crew band. In that period there was created the material for the first album “WinterMoon Symphony” (2008). You can even find some demos of that time in the internet.
Your first album was released in 2008. The next full length album in 2015. What happened to WelicoRuss between these albums?
Actually, between these albums there happened a mini-album „Apeiron” (2009), EP „Kharnha” (2011), two long tours around Russia and two videoclips :) But on my opinion the most important thing was Alex’s move to Prague in November 2013 when we all met together and started absolutely new period of band’s history. This exactly allowed us to complete and issue the album „Az Esm” and the videoclip with the same name.
WelicoRuss lyrics are based on heathenism, nature and culture of Russian people. Are you the slavic heathens?
I can’t say we are heathens in a common meaning of this word. We all have huge respect to our past and we are strongly inspired by the ancient pagan images, but we don’t participate to any heathen movement and we don’t worship any gods. Though when I was 13-14 years old, I took this pagan stuff really serious and even did some primitive rituals :) But as I grown up I started to treat it with scientific interest and made many researches since those times.
But Alex’s and Gojko’s approach to the paganism is a bit different. They are not interested in Slavic beliefs so deeply, but instead they are more into esoteric and occult stuff. I’d even say, that almost every time I enter Alex’s room, I see “Agni Yoga” book by Nicholas Roerich on his table.
WelicoRuss is more known in Western Europe than in Poland, you played a lot of gigs there. But I don’t think if a lot of western metalheads know Russian language. How do they feel your music and tales, in your opinion?
I think many people around the world know at least couple basic phrases in foreign languages. Of course, it’s not enough to understand the lyrics, but it’s always a pleasure when somebody tells you „Privet” or „Spasibo” :) We try to answer them in the same way: „Danke schön”, „Merci beaucoup”, „Dzieki bardzo” etc. On my opinion, the biggest advantage of our music is that it doesn’t actually require the knowledge of Russian language. We use vocal as an equal instrument to guitars or drums. And more than on our live concerts we try to express the meaning of the music by our movements and poses. So people simply feel the overall music, and if they need to understand the lyrics, we have them all translated to English in our booklets or on our website.
Have you ever played gigs in Romania?
Not yet, but we are confirmed on Folk & Metal Fest IV in Bucharest on 29.09.2017. It will be our first appearance in Romania.
Let’s go back to the albums. As we talked, „I Am” was created in 2015. Are you thinking about new album stuff or rather WelicoRuss is just playing gigs in Europe?
Actually, the material for the album was ready couple years before, but it was long and difficult process to bring it to a final condition. The songs were composed and recorded with previous line-up, and we had to record them again in our current line-up, because we were not satisfied with the original quality. Then we changed several sound engineers, who made mixing and mastering for us, when in January 2015 we were finally ready to issue it.
Now we’ve learnt the lesson and we are not going to repeat our previous mistakes. Several songs of a new album are already composed, we have great experience in studio and we know the whole production chain of making and issuing the album. So this time it’ll not take years, though there appeared certain problem of lack of free time between our concerts. So back to your question: we are planning both to play as many gigs as possible and to make new album this year. These things are equally important for us.
Tell us more about the gigs – which gig would you like to remember as just „simply the best” and which one was „the worst”?
When you play more than 50 shows per year, you face so many different and unique situations, that it’s hard to tell something really outstanding. Most of our best memories come from gigs on open-air festivals. We still remember with a great pleasure such events as Made of Metal festival 2014, Wolfszeit festival 2015, Exit festival 2015 in Serbia, and of course Ragnarök Festival 2016, where we played before 5000 people!
And as it’s more pleasant to remember good things rather than bad, we try not to focus on the worst gigs. Though inside the band we make our TOP-5 of best/worst situations for fun, we don’t actually want to spread the bad information about people, clubs, promoters etc. Because sometimes people sincerely tries to make a good concert for you, but they simply don’t know how to do that - and it turns to a bad gig.
But this might be the great sarcasm from life that our best and our worst shows happened within the same month! Our simply the worst gig was in Zagan in Poland, right after Ragnarök Festival 2016. I can’t tell the details, but trust me, it was completely awful.
I would like to return to your lyrics. How deeply do you try to use traditional Russian folklore legends and tales? And what is the main source of your inspirations?
Until this moment we didn’t use actual references to the real legends and tales. You could say that our current lyrics are a fantasy inspired by heathen spirit, nature and some occult philosophy. But next album is going to be a bit different – with more ethnic influences, which may affect the lyrics also. We all have different sources of inspirations, but the main is simply life. I mean the situations we face every day, our concert trips, our holidays etc. We are always on road and we see many different things on our way every time.
But for me there is one more inspiration source – the books. I love reading some scientific researches about ancient religions, and such reality is way more interesting than any fantasy. Though not everything could be on the album, I’ll try to gather the most interesting moments in a blog or a website.
And what about the pure music? Let’s talk about your music inspirations.
At this time our musical tastes are almost synchronized :) We all love classical music of any kind. I’d even add that any music that became a classics, worth listening – not depending on genre. Now our biggest hits within a band are such progressive metal bands as Dream Theater, Opeth, Gojira, Meshuggah, Tesseract, Animals as Leaders etc. We are also being inspired by the bands of our genre: Dimmu Borgir, Cridle of Filth, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Carach Angren, Septic Flesh etc. But we also don’t forget about folklore roots and we all admire such great project as Wardruna. Last time we’ve discovered several good academic folk groups from Soviet period, when such kind of music was strongly supported by the state. Just imagine huge choirs and ensembles of 50-100 people playing Slavic folk songs in modern versions made by the professional composers – this sounds very powerful and beautiful!
Some time ago WelicoRuss moved from Russian Novosibirsk to Czech’s Prague. How did this fact change WelicoRuss’ sound?
It mostly affected the amount of gigs. But it’s quite logical – the more shows you play, the more professional are your skills. Now we have the sound we like and we perform the well-organized show which we are improving on each gig. We’ve met many new musicians from all over the Europe and we share our experience between each other. So it’s another advantage of being in Prague. So I can ensure you, now we are quite pleased of how we sound and how we look like (though the sound often depends on the club and sound guy).
What are your plans to for the nearest future?
You can see most of our plans on our tour page http://welicoruss.net/tour/ :) But also, as I’ve mentioned above, we are preparing new album (or at least EP) and we are also working on our first DVD with backstage footages and full live concert of our 10th anniversary in Prague in 2015. It all requires much time, which we don’t have enough unfortunately.
In the end: what would you like to tell to Pest Webzine readers?
I would like to tell that we are always glad to see you guys on our concerts – just follow our tour dates and don’t miss when we come to your city! We can ensure you – you’ll not leave our show disappointed – we always bring the best metal show with us! Stay true!
Answers by Dmitriy Zhikharevichj
Interviewed by Vilcin