Rock Impressions

CRUACHAN INTERVIEW WITH Keith Fay! (italian version)
by Giancarlo Bolther

Hi Giancarlo,
Please find enclosed the Cruachan-interview... hope you like it!
Thanx for the support and stay in touch.
Cheers, Pat.

You are at your third album, would you do a balance of your career?
My (Keith Fay) musical career started a long time ago. My first band was a grindcore band called P.U.S., It was in 1990 and I was only 14 years old. I left this band and joined a death metal band called Crypt, I was still only 14 but the other members were in their early 20's, John Clohessy was the bass player. At the time I was very influenced by Mick Harris and Mille from Kreator, Black metal was very underground at the time and the now popular screaming vocals were unheard of, I like to think I was the first in Ireland to sing that way. Anyway, after a few demos the band broke up in 1991. I then formed Minas Tirith, a Tolkien concept band. At this time I was starting to listen to more folk music and I picked up Skyclads first album. That album really had an impact on me and I immediately came up with better plans. I was now a lot more into black metal and decided I would combine irish folk and black metal. I changed the name Minas Tirith to Cruachan and we recorded our first demo, Celtica. This demo caused a bit of a stir and got the german label NEP interested, they signed us in 1993 and we released our first album "Tuatha na Gael" in 1994/1995. This album became a huge success for the label but because they were so small they could not do any promotion nor could they meet the demand for sales so it became very hard to find after the initial sell out. We began to look for another, bigger label and were offered a deal by Century Media records, this seemed great at the time but we soon realised it was not too good. The contract they offered us was insane, they wanted to take all musical rights away from us and we coud not do that so we turned them down. The band more or less broke up after that because we felt we had no where to go, that all record labels would be the same. Soon after breaking up we began to receive a lot of fan mail from around the world telling us to get back together, we were surprised at the amount we got. I also hated not being in the band so we did not stay broken up for too long. We began to write new material, I got everyone back that was interested (John C. and John O' F.) and we signed to Hammerheart Records. Joe joined just 4 weeks before we recorded the middle kingdom and Karen was originally just a guest vocalists but ended up joining.

Only three albums in eight years, you aren't a prolific band, there are some reasons about that?
I always say it is the quality that is important not the quantity ha ha!! Seriously though, at the beginning it took the normal amount of time to find our first record deal, we formed in 1991/92 but our first album was not out until 1995. This is were the delay really happened, between "tuatha" and "kingdom" but as I said above, there was a 1 year break up of the band in this period. With the new album "folklore", the gap has only been a year and a half, plus we had our single "Ride - On" out in between. This is how we intend to carry on.

How important was for your sound the entry of Karen in the band?
Extremely important. Since the release of "tuatha" we have always gad a female singer in the band. When we originally went to record the middle kingdom, Karen was just a guest, I did not think she was interested in being in a full time band. I knew all our new stuff was intended for female singing but I was going to try sing the parts in a normal voice, I sucked big time. I can sing aggressively but not softly so I knew something had to be done, I asked Karen would she sing the rest of the songs because I was really happy with the singing that she had done for the tracks "the Fianna" and "The Middle Kingdom". She said yes and joined the band soon after.

Can you tell us more about the songs and the making of the new album and what does it mean the title of the new album for you?
I will tell you more about my favourite song, Bloody Sunday. Most of the music for the song was written in late 1996 but the lyrics were completely different and it went by a different name. It was recorded for the 1997 promo although sounds very different to the version on the album. The song was more or less forgotten about after the band re-formed and it was only by chance that I heard it while listening to an old rehearsal tape. When writing the lyrics to bloody Sunday I knew that I needed a powerful folk part to make the song work, I decided to use the music from the old version. The actual recording process for folklore was brilliant, we had a really great time. After we recorded the main parts of the songs, we would always experiment with different instruments playing different parts to see how they would sound. If we had accepted some of the additions and experiments, the songs could have turned out totally different. The title, Folk-Lore, is a very fitting title for Cruachans music. We could have called any of our other albums folk-lore and it would have fitted perfectly. The word "folk" means people and "lore" is their history and that is essentially what Cruachan sing about, the history of the people.

In your lirics i have felt the interest not only for fairies tales but also for the actual problems of your country, would you like to tell me more?
Although the main concept for Cruachan is celtic history, I will always write a few songs about different themes, mainly for my own reasons but also to give people something unexpected. On FolkLore there is a song called Bloody Sunday, the lyrics tell of a horrific event in very recent Irish history where British soldiers shot and killed innocent, un-armed and peaceful protestors in Northern Ireland. The actual background is explained in our lyric sheet but I felt that in todays climate, with what has happened on September 11th, that people should know that it is not terrorists from thousand of miles away that commit horrible murders, it can also be the armed forces of your closest neighbour. I hear on the news about the uncivilised Talibaan, I wonder what the people of England think about their armu killing innocent people in their name. Anyway, this atrocity was covered up in the 1970's but is currently under investigation again and hopefully the truth will be told to the world, will the British government apologise? Will an apology be enough? We will see.

In the booklet of your albums you usually explain the songs, what are you really saying to your audience, why do you need to explain your lyrics?
I remember on our first album Tuatha na Gael, I was reading through the booklet and thinking that not many people would understand the plot of some songs. For me it was ok because I knew the actual story but this is not the case for many others. When it came time to prepare the booklet for The Middle Kingdom I thought it would be a good idea to explain the songs so that people would be in no doubt as to what they are about. I do accept that a lot of bands write strange obscure lyrics and often tell their fans to make their own interpretation but this cannot happen with our lyrics, in most cases there is only one way for the song to be interpreted.

There is a concept behind your albums?
Not really, the concept of Cruachan is to tell tales of celtic and Irish history. We hope that we will inspire our fans to learn about the history in their own country. In these modern, technological times, people are more and more forgetting their culture and heritage and it saddens me a lot.

Your covers have always had a great importance, would you explain to us the new one, please?
The cover for FolkLore was again painted by my brother John, who is our flute player. We wanted the cover to appear darker than the middle kingdom, and reflect somewhat the feeling of tuatha na gael, which is why John painted the elaborate celtic border around the main painting. The painting itself shows a celtic druid performing a Votive offering to the Gods. He would cast swords, shields etc. into a lake as an offering.

The tradition of the Celtic rock has got a long history, the oldest band i remember are Horslips, do you fit into this tradition or you are something totally new?
I think we fit right into this tradition although there are not many bands like us left. The Horslips have been a huge influence on Cruachan, what they were doing in the 70's is the equivalent of what we do now in the year 2002.

I believe that there are more connections between heavy metal and folk music than people can find out, for example in my opinion Iron Maiden use a lot folk melodies (in songs like Afraid to shoot strangers), have you got the same impression?
Yes, I have said that many times in the past. Heavy metal and folk music are both very primal musical forms and I see heavy metal as an extension of folk music because the creators of modern metal, bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon etc. were very influenced by folk music and as you say it can be heard in the guitar riffs.

Have you ever thinked to do an acoustic album, possibly with old artists like Chieftains?
If I knew The Chieftans would work with us I would be absolutely honoured. If we became a big enough musical presence that our record label could afford to allow us record an acoustic/un-plugged album I would definitely take the opportunity. A lot of our songs would work brilliantly as acoustic only, On FolkLore I wrote the song Bloody Sunday with the acoustic version in the back of my mind.

Through your web site i've seen that there is an important folk metal scene, can you tell me more about that world, are you in touch with the other bands, there are some that you like?
The folk metal scene seems to be growing stronger day by day. When we released tuatha na gael I remember we were very alone except for the obvious bands such as Skyclad. When we came back with the middle kingdom it was a bit of a shack, where did all these folk metal bands come from. Hopefully the muical form will grow stronger than ever. Some of the folk metal bands that I listen to would be Skyclad (obviously), Goat of Mendes, Otyg etc.

There is a song that have surprised me a lot, it is "Unstabled", is the most complex of yours: a medieval intro, black atmospheres, reggae/rap refrain, folk passages, heavy metal structure. Can you tell me more about this unusually song and why you haven't pursuit this crossover in the new record?
Yeah, Unstabled got a lot of mixed reactions across the world, some people loved the song.others really hated it. I can't see any rap stuff in it, I hate rap but I do listen to a bit of Ska music and thought it would be really weird to do a metal - folk - ska song...and then write the words about horsys. I just done it as one off thing and don't intend to do anymore ska stuff, but you never know!!!

You have played in a lot of celtic festivals, how was the audience response to your new kink of celtic rock?
The audiences really enjoy our music. We always get a mix of people at our shows, heavy metal people and normal people, it can be very strange to see.

What does it mean for you Paganism and to be a pagan?
Paganism is a very personal religion and a lot of people have their own interpretation of beliefs. I will not go into detail about my beliefs because I treat them as very personal. As I grow older I realise that when you are serious about a religion, you do not exploit your beliefs like so many childish black metal bands who only sing about sat*n because it is trendy, if they were true believers they would know different. Anyway, I don 't want to get into that, each to their own etc.

It's in opposition to Christianity, which is very important in Ireland for a lot of reasons and aslo for the national identity?
Hmmmm, even today it is hard for a country to lose an identity it has had from many years ago. Italians only eat pasta, Dutch people wear funny wooden shoes..that is not true and Neither is Irelands immense Christianity. Very few people go to church now in Ireland, which to be very honest, I think is sad. Ok, I am not a Christian but I would prefer that people believe in something rather than nothing and modern Christianity is not as bad as it was hundreds of years ago, but I do believe that most of Christianity's belief systems have been proven to be wrong, creations of a simple people hundreds of years ago.

Ireland is a wonderful country, very poetic and magic, people is very particular and friendly, when i was there i was very impressed and now, when i see a film like The Field or In The Name Of Father I'm capturated by his particular atmosphere and i felt into nostalghia, how important for you is to be Irish men?
Like most people in the world we are very proud of our nationality, no doubt if I was born Italian, being the nationalistic person that I am, I would be the very same about Italy. Although the points you have said about Ireland is exactly the same for Italy and you have a better football team ha ha!!!!!

I've read that there were a lot of connections between nazis and celtic culture and the celtic cross is used by the right youngs as a symbol. Your celtic interest has something to do with this politic attitude?
NOOOOOO!!!!, We do not support this attitude at all, yes the nazis adopted very famous symbols, the swastika was from the roman army many years ago (as far as I know) and the celtic cross is a very famous symbol in Ireland. The nazis distorted them for ever but Ireland still uses the celtic cross, in catholic churches, grave stones etc. I think the swastika will always remain destroyed however.

It's is possible that you will play in Italy in future?
I hope so, obviously we cannot fund a tour ourselves, it would be up to Hammerheart Records to fund any tours that we do although we have recently signed with the metalmania booking agency so hopefully they can do something for us.

A salute to your italian fans?
Failte romhait mo chara, which means hello my friends, thanks and respect to all the people from the great Italian empire that have been in contact over the years, a mighty celtic hail to you all from the Cruachan ranks. Visit our website for more Cruachan news:

Cheers Giancarlo, keep in touch!!!


Interviews: 2004

Reviews (in italian): Folk-Lore; Tuatha Na Gael; Pagan
; The Morrigans' Call

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