Only The Runes Can Say
~ Interview mit Guv – Sänger, Gitarrist und Gründungsmitglied der Epic-Heavy Metal-Band RUNEMASTER ~
Wenn eine Band dreizehn Jahre benötigt, um ihr Debüt herauszubringen und dieses dann auch noch vom hiesigen Rezensenten zu einer der besten Veröffentlichungen eines „Newcomers“ im laufenden Jahr deklariert wird (siehe hier), dann ist es mehr als angebracht, der Band einige naheliegende und manche nicht ganz so naheliegende Fragen zum Album, zur Band, zum Universum und dem ganzen Rest zu stellen. Apropos stellen…den Fragen hat sich Sänger und Gitarrist Guv gestellt, oder genauer gesagt, zur Beantwortung derselben in die Tasten gehauen.
Und los geht‘s:
First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your strong debut album ‚Wanderer‘. But before we get to the here and now, I ask you to reveal something about yourself and your musical past. I’m especially interested in the period between 2007, the year RUNEMASTER was founded and 2015, the year in which you gave your first sign of life with the EP named ´Futhark Dawning´.
Hello and thank you for your interest in RUNEMASTER.
We started creating songs and playing shows around Edinburgh in 2007 and continued in this fashion for around a year before various other commitments took priority and we put the project into hibernation until time and circumstance were more suitable. Aidan and I were the surviving two members of that original line-up. Of that period only the song´The Leavings Of The Wolf´remained unchanged and that one ended up on the ´Futhark Dawning´ EP. If I recall it was around 2014 we started to play again with Keith on drums and Bob on bass and we reworked a couple of old songs and added several new ones to the live set before recording the first EP in June 2015.
Only your drummer Keith can be identified via Metal-Archives as Keith „Feets“ Blaikie due to his participation in the band DOG TIRED. Why do you only appear at RUNEMASTER with your first name (I assume that it is yours)?
Firstly, I’d like to point out, by request of Keith, that he has never been known as “Feets” and that was a remnant of an old joke made by his brother. Somehow that made it onto metal archives and has stuck, unfortunately for him, haha.
Yes, we just use our first names (except mine which is a nickname shortened from my Surname) as when the time came to identify ourselves on the EP we chose to keep it simple and that has remained the same also.
Most fans of Epic Metal immediately associate their music with Vikings, Longships, Looting etc. How did this very specific thematic focus of the band come about, which mainly focuses on the runes and the religious-mystical meanings associated with them.
I think once we settled on the RUNEMASTER name the subsequent lyrical theme was pre-determined from that point. Initially at that time in 2007 I had plans for the music to be perhaps more in a harsher black metal-style and the mystical and esoteric elements were more appropriate to tell the story. After some time the whole thought process became more rounded and conceptual in my mind and the way I wanted to say certain things within the lyrics were naturally wrapped up within that concept.
After all, Scotland in particular has a very interesting historical people with the Picts. As a lover of this country, who has already traveled there several times, I know the atmosphere that the “Ring Of Brodgar“ on Orkney, the decorated stelae (e.g. the Shandwick Stone), or the many Cairns (especially the Camster Cairns) radiate. Have you ever thought about expanding your range of topics in this direction, for example?
Nothing would really be ruled out if there was a particular story to tell or message to convey and since sites such as the “Ring of Brodgar” may have stood almost 5.000 years ago there is no way to know for certain the thought process of those who erected it. In that respect the understanding of ancient Neolithic sites is, in itself, a mystery to be unravelled and a personal journey toward that understanding, so I’d say that would fit very well within the themes of RUNEMASTER.
How do I have to imagine the creation process of the texts? Is there a main songwriter or do you gather for a brainstorming session and then roll over specialist literature?
How do you get inspiration while writing songs? Do you get to the lyrics through music or vice versa?
I tend to handle the lyrics on my own where the music is a collaborative and natural process. Sometimes the lyrics are already written and may influence the song and other times a riff or part may influence the lyric. There are certainly no rules when it comes to the creation of art.
I wouldn’t say there was any specific literature of influence, perhaps for reference if a line or part needs fleshed out, but I’d say experience and feeling are the main source of inspiration and runelore is the tool of expression.
Most people interested in metal connect Edinburgh with the legendary NWoBHM band HOLOCAUST or, if they also like Punk, with the mighty THE EXPLOITED. But tell a little about the current music scene from and in Edinburgh and beyond. Are there enough locations for live gigs? What are the currently most popular metal bands from Edinburgh/Scotland?
The Edinburgh scene is pretty close knit and band members will also act as promoters for local shows that, although fairly small, are always popular with the Heavy Metal-fans in the city. We have unfortunately lost a number of good and much loved venues over the past few years for various reasons. For a city that hosts the largest arts festival in the world, the local authorities have inexplicably appeared very hostile toward local venues in the other 11 months of the year. A sign of the times perhaps.
Nevertheless, bands such as DOG TIRED and KING WITCH (siehe auch hier) are doing great things and are gaining some decent recognition further afield. Hopefully that trajectory remains an upward one and may draw further attention to the many great bands in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow too.
I recognized a shirt from SLAYER on your band photo, i.e. a band that is musically not in the immediate vicinity of what you are doing in music. Which music do you listen to privately or when you meet, e.g. before or after rehearsals?
Well, we are all fans of great heavy music and SLAYER certainly falls in that category but as is normal, we all have a fairly varied taste ranging from prog to black metal. I won’t speak for the other guys, but I tend to survive on a staple diet of BLACK SABBATH, MANILLA ROAD and BATHORY with lots of other stuff thrown in. ManOwaR was always a favourite for car journeys to rehearsal, probably due to a show we played with ROSS THE BOSS and it was on loop for months.
The Greek-based label „Alone Records“ released your first two, until then only digitally available, EPs on CD in 2016. How did the contact with „Alone Records“ come about?
That contract came about much in the same way as the one with Rafchild. We uploaded the EP’s on bandcamp and the label approached us. We have never been very involved with self promotion haha.
Three years have passed since your last (digital) publication. Did you work on the new album all the time? At what stage did „Rafchild Records“ get in contact with you and how much of ´Wanderer´ already existed then?
I guess we did work on the songs that whole time but there was never a timescale. It was ready when it was ready. We had already uploaded the finished album when Raf approached us this time and offered a good deal that suited us both.
´Wanderer´ makes a very well thought-out impression. From the naming to the cover artwork to the positioning of the titles, everything fits together perfectly. Is that all thanks to you guys?
Once we had all the songs ready the tracklist order almost chose itself as it really was the culmination of a natural process. The artwork was the last thing to be finalised and I think it represents the sound of the album very well.
´Wanderer´ will be released on vinyl later in the year. Are there any plans to have the previous EPs also subsequently pressed onto vinyl?
At the moment there are no vinyl plans for the first two EP’s, but we may find a way to do something with the 3rd EP ´By Thorn and Thunder´ as that one still only has a digital release and it would be nice to do a physical product.
A synthesizer can be heard on the album, even if only briefly and very discreetly. How did this come about and will it continue to be used in the future? Can you also imagine integrating other instruments into your music?
As I said before, nothing within reason would be ruled out and on this occasion the synth adds a nice texture and atmosphere to heighten the overall experience of the music. If it adds something to the music then absolutely.
Usually after a release a band goes on tour to promote the album. In times of Corona everything is a little different. What is the current situation in Scotland? Is there already the possibility to give concerts in front of an audience?
The current situation is obviously very difficult in that respect and at the time of writing this there doesn’t appear to be any resolution. We can only hope there will still be venues once the world comes through this.
I assume that you have performed in most of Edinburgh’s clubs and in many places in Scotland. What about the rest of the British Isles? Or have you ever left them for a gig?
What are your plans for the future?
Yes, Edinburgh and Glasgow have been our base for live performance and we have ventured to Yorkshire to play on the excellent Warhorns Festival at which we had a great time. So far, the confines of our island has been our limit.
As for the future? Only the runes can say.
And finally … do you like Single Malt Whisky and if so, do you prefer Speyside or Islay? Or do you stick strictly to mead and beer?
Absolutely. Malt is one of the finer things to be enjoyed. A preference for Islay such as Laphroaig and Ardbeg with a special mention for Highland Park as a less smokey alternative.
Thank you for the interview and good luck with ‚Wanderer‘.
You are very welcome, and thanks once again for your interest in the band.