Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Thanks for taking time out for this interview. Congratulations on your début, Nine Waves From The Shore (Ed: Jason’s review is here). According to your bio, Celtachor began as an idea in 2007 and the band became full time in 2010. What was it that you wanted to achieve with Celtachor?
Stephen: Celtachor’s main goal was always to inform people through the art of storytelling.
David: A lot of people know the happier side of Celtic/Irish tales but we wanted to tell the more human and darker side of the story. There are a lot darker, more tragic tales that need to be shared and told.
Fionn: In my case I was shocked by the lack of knowledge, and at times the disregard people of my generation have for the old Irish stories. For me, it’s about passing them on and ensuring our heritage is present in our lives.
Jason: Where does the band name come from and what does it mean?
Stephen: The name came from the amalgamation of two words Celta being another form of the word “keltoi” which the Romans named the Celtic tribes of Europe and “chor” being the Irish for “all”. In some ways the name means all of the Celt or the stories that we deal with in particular. So we feel the name worked for us in what we are aiming to talk about and base our music on.
Jason: Musically, who are the band’s main influences? How much impact have they had on the band’s sound?
Stephen: The band have many various inspirations; each member brings something different to the music; we all have our own influences but it all melds in well together when we are creating the band’s music, sound and atmosphere.
David: There are a lot of artists I like. I listen to as much as I can. There are bands I like and a few I can’t stand but I try not to limit my hearing. Immortal and Skyforger would be influences for me as well as Black Sabbath and Slayer but I don’t think I can point a finger at anyone and say we were directly influenced by anyone of them.
Anais: We really listen to all sorts of music. For Celtachor I’d say we get our influences from traditional Irish folk as well as from Bathory, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Skyforger, Opeth, Primordial…
Fionn: I don’t think we can point to any one band or musician and say, “Here is our greatest influence”. I know for me the rolling riffs from bands like Primordial, Fen, Drudkh, Agalloch, etc. are influential. It’s all about keeping the flow organic and emotive.
Jason: Did you start writing when the band took shape or were the songs already written? How have the songs developed since the band came together?
Stephen: When the band finally had a stable line-up, we began writing the material for the first demo and then the album. The songs are stronger, more focused, and nearer to what we had intended from the start and we are continuing to progress and get stronger. The album currently in the works will show another level to how we work and how we want to create a visual in the mind of the listener and bring them back to that place and time.
David: Myself and Stephen wrote the first two demo’s, we still have riffs and ideas from that period in the background, but with a full line-up it opens the doors for more. With having a full-time rhythm section and the extra guitar there is so much more we can do with the songs from [2010 demo] In The Halls of Our Ancient Fathers that I couldn’t do before.
Fionn: I was a latecomer to the band you could say, but my presence made its way into the new album in the songs ‘…Bodh Dearg’, ‘…The Dagda’ and ‘Tar éis an Sidhe’ for example. We’re realizing what we can and can’t do as a band.
Jason: How has the band evolved since it took shape in 2010?
Stephen: The band currently are a strong workforce connected by friendship and the common goal and wavelength to tell these stories in our own way with honesty, focus and passion from the heart and we believe very much so in what we are doing. We are getting stronger with each passing month and putting in the hard work to make our music the best it can be.
David: We’re a much better focused and stronger unit at the moment. I feel we are in a great place right now as a group; a tight unit and we’re happy.
Fionn: Having two guitar players definitely opens the potential sound scape, I think we have a clearer vision of the sound we are aiming to create than we had, even before the album.
Jason: How do the songs come together? Is it the music or the lyrics and the mythology that comes first, or do they inform each other?
Stephen: Basically we start with a concept and write the music around the concept or saga we are dealing with at the time.
David: We’ll strip the idea down and get the essence of what we’re looking to tell people. I think we try to capture the emotions and atmosphere of the subject involved and flesh it out.
Anais: We start by deciding which part of the Irish mythology we will tell for the whole album and separate it between a few different tracks that will have a different emotion to them depending on the story. ‘…The Dagda’ for example is a very sad song telling of a father crying his dead son; ‘The Battle Of Tailtin’ and ‘Anann…’ are faster and more violent as they tell of battles and Goddess of War, ‘…Bodb Dearg’ is slower and strong, to tell of the new king etc.
Fionn: In a way I think the stories and the music inform themselves, we work from the story, we write to reflect the elements in a given story, but in saying that the riffs don’t write themselves, it’s a challenge. But the results are great when we can listen back to a track and say, Yeah, I can really hear the waves, or the rain, wind, sorrow, etc.
Jason: How do you work to achieve the balance between the folk and the metal aspects?
Stephen: We focus on creating our own folk tunes rather than using tunes that are already established. We aren’t a typical folk metal band to copy what has gone before but it works for some bands.
David: As Stephen said we write our own folk music. You’re always going to have influence from others along the line but I think it’s important to really focus on trying to develop our own “Folk” sound.
Anais: It comes naturally to write this music for us; we don’t really get any issue in terms of melding the two styles.
Fionn: I think as long as people can hear the “Irishness” in our music we are achieving something, if that’s not through the whistle and the bodhran then it’s through the rolling and crashing of the riffs. We aim to make it a sort of sound scape of Ireland; we want you to hear the hills, the trees, the rivers, the sea, the rain. We use traditional folk melodies for inspiration but don’t usually copy and paste anything directly. Iit can be hard to keep a unique sound when a lot of bands are doing the same thing.
Jason: Can you tell us about the folk melodies on the album? Where are they from?
Stephen: We create our own folk music in the songs we create. For some bands it works great that they can mix the two but for us it is simply not in our interest to copy what has gone on before.
Fionn: We wrote them ourselves. When you know your modes and scales it’s not so hard to write your own music in the Irish folk style. Traditional music is definitely and always will be a key influence. We want to be careful not to just copy and paste though; that doesn’t flow with the idea behind what we’re about.
Jason: What did you set out to achieve with Nine Waves From The Shore?
Stephen: We set out to continue storytelling with a début that we could be proud of and be a proper interpretation of what we can do and set a benchmark for the music we want to create. By further improving upon it and working on our next release we are on the right track.
David: Musically I wanted to impact on people, from start to finish. We’re not the same as the others before or after us. We’re not out to redefine or reshape the genre. We just wanted to be as honest as possible with the music. This is what it is: it’ hard, heavy, atmospheric. It’s not supposed to be happy, “Hey, lets get some beers and dance…” That’s not going to happen, it didn’t happen; history and mythology are cruel and unforgiving. The hero doesn’t get the girl, he gets beaten, enslaved or slain; it’s revenge, sorrow and tragedy.
Fionn: I think the guys have said everything I wanted to say here, we wanted to make an impact basically, tell the stories, but also get people thinking, “Hey, that wasn’t half bad. I must keep an eye out for them in the future.”
Jason: As “narrators of Irish mythology”, there must be a lot of research involved. Which texts have you been researching? Are there any specific texts that informed the album?
Stephen: I research a few books some from old Irish translated and some from modern adaptions of particular stories to get an understanding of the concept we are dealing with and work from. Everyone in the band has an interest in Irish Mythology and working together to create the right atmosphere is a very important part of what we do.
Anais: We all read a few different books on the subject; one that we particularly like is the excellent translation of the Irish mythology “Gods And Fighting Men” by Lady Gregory.
Jason: Can you tell us about the album title and how it relates to the music and lyrics/concept?
Stephen: The Title “Nine Waves From The Shore” is part of a section of the concept where the druid Amergin was told to send his men nine waves from the shore when they were battling Cermait’s sons. Past the ninth wave was a magical boundary and when the Tuatha did cast spells upon the Gaels, even though many Gaels did die, Amergin cast a wind against his enemy and they returned to the shore. The concept for this album deals with the landing of the Gael, the battles fought and four important figures in Irish mythology dealt out in detail.
Jason: Mythology and black metal seem to go hand-in-hand. What do you think it is that brings them together?
Stephen: We are all influenced from black/death/folk and the like. I think black metal in some ways can help create a particular atmosphere to express a certain event or scene.
Jason: Are there any tracks on Nine Waves From The Shore that you are particularly proud of?
Stephen: My favourite track from the album has to be ‘The Kingship Of Bodb Dearg’. It is a track that shows what we can do atmosphere-wise, but a lot of our tracks of the new album do this but that track would be my favourite, yes.
David: ‘The Landing…” and “The Sorrow Of The Dagda”; they’re very powerful tracks for me, there is so much that went in to them.
Anais: I’d say ‘The Landing of Amergin’ for my part and ‘… Bodb Dearg’.
Jason: Are there any tracks that indicate where you see the band heading in future?
Stephen: We are always working through concepts. The next concept is a continuation of a story we covered before. We can’t say much more than that at the moment but it should be interesting to see how people receive it. An epic in all proportions definitely.
David: Sound-wise we are always continuing to progress it, as I feel there was a massive step up in sound from the demo to the album. There’s no formula were following.
Jason: Can you tell us about the artwork? Who’s the artist and why did you choose to work with him/her? How much direction did you give the artist in its creation?
Stephen: Our artist for this album is our very own drummer, the extremely talented Anais Chareyre. I gave Anais a rough idea of how I saw the front cover; she took what I said and in her own vision created the cover. Needless to say we are all over the moon with her work and she has breathed new life into the music through it.
Anais: Thanks Stephen. Just like the music, we worked together on the concept of the album cover, the idea and the general layout came from Stephen from a while ago. The battle between the Gaels and the Tuathas, and Danu the Irish goddess watching over them. I made an oil painting on canvas for this, it’s around 1x1m. I’m happy with the result!
Jason: Do you have any plans to tour in support of the album? If so, will you be coming to the Midlands?
Stephen: We are heading to York to support Heidevolk on February 23rd if anyone wants to catch us then. If there is enough interest to have us we are always interested just get in touch with your local promoters and things can happen from there.
Jason: For a band that has just released their début, the internet must play a vital role in the band’s presence in the music scene. What are your views on the internet and its impact on the music scene and industry?
Stephen: Absolutely the internet is essential when it comes to promotion only so much can be done from word of mouth and printed ‘zines but it all helps at the end of the day. Be it new reviews, interviews music showcases, live videos, the works, the internet is important in the regard of promotion. It has had a negative impact in regards people downloading albums illegally but now that bands can showcase and stream their albums online it might tempt more people to put their hand in their pocket to either buy a CD or download a digital copy of said album.
Jason: With the impact if illegal file-sharing on music sales, as a relatively young band releasing their début, do you have any concerns about survival in what many claim to be an industry in demise?
Stephen: You have to adapt to the situation no matter what walls you put up to safeguard your music. There will always be a way that people will try to find around it, offering more merchandise and playing more regularly in various countries seems to be the way to do it. CDs will always sell as people still like to have a hard copy rather than a computer full of mp3’s, but with that said, people want to have the ease to rip their music to an mp3 player or iphone or ipod. Have to be able to adapt to change; if a band can’t, they are doomed in a nutshell.
David: In the beginning we gave out In The Halls… as a free download. But we also sold it as a CD as well. Lots of people got hold of it and we sold out of the CD. People are buying the demo now. It has its pro’s and con’s and you have to work at it. People will buy albums. Fans will support bands.
Anais: As any band it costs us a lot to make our music; we obviously don’t do this for money (we lose a lot more than we make), but we do need support and we’re really thankful to see people supporting us!
Jason: What does the future hold for Celtachor? Are you working on new material? Do you know which part of Irish mythology will be the focus for your next work?
Stephen: The concept is already finished and ready for the next work we won’t be able to disclose the information till nearer the time of its release but I think there will be plenty that our fans will find interest in. We hope to get to Europe later in the year and spread the music overseas and a few other plans in the works all will become clear soon! Keep up to date with us on Facebook/twitter/youtube and our official website at www.celtachor.com
Jason: Many thanks for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any final words for our readers?
Stephen: Many thanks for the interview Jason and a great hail and regards to our supporters! Your on-going support is appreciated! Keep the fires burning!
Slainte agus Tainte!
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