SKÁLD: Connected with the sky and the earth

It’s been some time that we met SKÁLD in Helsinki, but now their new album “Huldufolk” is available. SKÁLD recently changed the lineup, therefore almost all musicians are sort of new to the project. Only mastermind Christophe Voisin-Boisvinet has remained from the founding members. Certainly, there might be some online discussion on what lineup is better and more “true”. I only heard SKÁLD music on Spotify before the first time I saw them live, and the concert left me very pleased with the band’s raw energy and beauty.

Unexpectedly, the entire band was present for the interview, recorded audio only, therefore I can not always identify reliably from the recording who contributed some of the responses.

Could you please introduce yourselves first?

C: This is Christoph, head of the band, main composer, and producer.
(someone): The Maestro.
Marti Ilmar Uibo: OK, I am Marti, I am a percussionist and singer, and also I play kantele.
Steeve Petit: I am Steve, I do the same thing, I am a singer and percussionist.
Lily Jung: I am Lily, and I am an actual female singer of the SKÁLD.
Ravn: I am Ravn, I am a multiinstrumentalist, I play a lot of string instruments.
Julien Loko : I am Julian, and I play different instruments and I also sing.
C: The band is a collective.

You have just a few interviews, maybe could you tell me how SKÁLD started?
(translating Cristoph, Marti) In the beginning, Cristoph wanted just to bring knowledge about mythology, and all the things in this area.

You sing in Old Norse, Icelandic, Faroese, and some other languages. What sources do you use for texts?  I know so far about the Edda.
M: Sources also come from Regius Codex, XII century, which is a copy of a copy of a copy of an Icelandic manuscript, and all the texts come from this manuscript.
And I can add just one thing, Christoph is working with people who know very well the Old Norse, pronunciation, and different authors, who can bring the view of the Old Norse. So it [SKÁLD music] is not just “to take some part” [in the folk genre] and sing “a free interpretation”. We work with people who know exactly how we can pronounce the words, and [they know] the meaning of everything.[What it means] to make a song is not just to take a bit of a text and to bring some music. We bring different pieces [of the song together] to make sense very very clearly in the song. It’s not just to sing a song about Odin, just spell things – such as, if we read something about Odin, and we wrote a song. There is clearly some sense for all aspects of the song from the beginning [of composition]. It’s very built for text and music. Everything is very close [to actual knowledge from the sources].

How many books are there to take ideas from?
C: There are many, but SKÁLD is only focusing on Regius Codex.
C,M: This manuscript is divided into many parts. SKÁLD is using 3 very important part [??], the beginning, and the Voluspa.

Any interesting instruments that you are playing that are worth mentioning?
M: Many many instruments. Also, even more, instruments are used in the process of the recording. On stage, we have a mouth harp…
Someone: We are very lucky because we play with someone who really knows the Nordic instrument. Ravn is playing many instruments, fast, and well, so to speak.
Ravn: Also we worked on the new album, out very soon, many-many new instruments, we play tagelharpa (jouhikko in Finland), hurdy-gurdy, some nyckelharpa, some instruments from Mongolia like Morin khuur; we work with many instruments to bring new colors, and new songs, that come from ancient times.
M: if I can add, for the percussion we use a lot of different materials. Of course, we use skin drums, shaman drums, different types of skin (cow), use the sound of bells, we use wood, and a lot of different materials from nature to create sound.
C: Percussion is the main instrument in SKÁLD.

No human bones by chance?
M: No, it is difficult to find human bones. (Laughs) In France, it is not allowed to have human bones for a few years.

Proportions of natural instruments and electronic additions?
– Ha. It’s a good question. Christof, tell us!
– First of all, there is no “electronic instrument”. Acoustic is in thinking and building make clearly to make some very modern patterns. So you can “feel” it’s “electronic”, but there are no electronics. Everything that you hear is played [on an instrument] and is mixed in some way to put something modern into the sound. There are no computers.

Since you mentioned a new album, can you share something about it?
– Yeah. We can.  (pauses, pretending that answer is given, laughs).
– Tonight we are playing two songs from the next album. It is a very intense thing, because we just recorded the songs in the studio, and then we try them onstage, to see clearly the reactions, and how people feel about new songs.  As Cristoph said we cite different parts of mythology, and we try to bring different periods of this music. This new album is a [enlarged] period of this mythology. It’s a challenge for us to bring new parts of the music this way.
– The album talks about all the creatures of the forest. So we talk about trolls, elves, invisible…

Some people think that you make albums in connection with ‘elements’, water, air, and so on. Is it the same for this new album, or not anymore?
– The album is more about people of the forest. But of course, in the forest, you can find some water…

In some interviews, you mentioned some misconceptions about Vikings that you would like to dispel…
–  Instead of other Nordic bands who play Viking music, SKÁLD is not defining the warrior side. It’s clearly more poetic. We talk about magic, we talk about poetry, we talk about spirituality. And we do not bring something … we do not bring berserker on stage. Clearly. We are one berserker??. So it is very different because when we talk about Vikings, people think we are making some ‘reconstitutions’ of some things – and it is not a way for SKÁLD. We have different interpretations. More poetic.

Many bands play folk today, is it good or bad that we have so many? Is it a risk that the genre will become too mainstream?
– We do not think so. I think it is good for everyone, that there are a lot of bands that play Nordic Music because everyone is playing with their own interpretation. We do not want to try something like Wardruna, or Heilung, we do know that they exist, but it’s something different, I think we can compare it to jazz, metal… there are a lot of ways to make Jazz music, not a problem that people play that music, it is good.

How does it feel to be onstage when playing such music? Are you in some sort of trance?
Lily:  I do not feel it’s a normal gig. I feel connected with the sky and the earth. When we play the song, sometimes she feels some trance. It’s like something ceremonial. Not just standing like normal in front of the mic. She brights the song. She’s like Völva and she brings very different, very strong (loud) feelings onstage.
C: It’s not really a ritual. But each song is a ritual experience.

We have a civilization built on tech.  Why it is important to play folk in such a world, which is so intertwined with technology?
– For me, this music is important, because we are just talking about our ancestors. They do have a special feeling and special way with nature, with the world, and all [youth] people lived in a narrow world with a lot of changes. For me, also today, we are going to move to change things, have a new feeling with nature, things are changing, we can learn from that. For me, it is important to know what our ancestors did. To have a more respectful way with nature and also to discover new things.
– I think we share the same way of thought. We [would need to] really live in the proper way, even if we live in an urban area, we are clearly sensible with the Earth and the climate, with everything. So I think if everyone here can play this music, it is because, first, we understand the way to think to play this music. It is not just something to bring a costume and give an acting about something. We clearly feel the same way [as our ancestors].
C: On the new album, we are talking about that older civilization, more than on the previous releases.

Any message for the listeners?
– We are really happy first to be here in Scandinavia, which “brought up ” this music to civilization, and also to get a good response from the crowd. It’s a great experience for the band also, a big tour, so we are learning a lot of things, and we are building things together every day. Even if we are tired (laughs).
– That’s part of the show. And it’s something very very hard for us to bring THIS music to THIS country. We just wait for every evening, every show, and the reaction of the crowd. During all the songs, we are looking [to the crowd]: “it’s cool, it’s cool, we can play, we can go on”. Everything is very positive on this tour. And then we finish [the tour] at home, with friends, it is easier for us.
– It was challenging, but we do it very seriously and very respectfully to the culture, we come with very good intentions. And people like it, it for the best
– And for us, it is pretty good to have feedback from people in these [Nordic] countries,  for us the feeling is very important, it means a lot for us because we play for “Viking” [countries] too. And it is a good experience to have this feedback.
– It is good to experience different crowds, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, and Danish. It is very different. But always positive. Let’s see in Helsinki tonight (laughs).

Thank you for the interview!

Askar Ibragimov

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