Russia’s Arkona are folk metal legends. They have worked hard to achieve fame and success and have become heroes in their homeland. They have re-recorded their Vozrozhdeniye album which has renewed interest in the band across the globe. During their recent North American tour, I got a chance to speak to vocalist Masha “Scream” about the band’s history, re-releasing the album, Russian metal and what 2017 holds for Arkona.
Jack: Good morning, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
Masha “Scream”: At the moment, we are in Canada on tour with The Agonist, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Epica. Things are going very well, people are giving warm welcome to us, it is clear that most of them were not previously familiar with our band, but now we are confident that we have a lot of new fans!
Jack: Arkona formed in 2002. How did you all meet?
Masha: We lived in the same town with the members of first line-up of Arkona. Someone I knew before, someone join the band after friend’s advice. The history of the band can be found on our official website.
Jack: As a band you are heavily influenced by Russian folklore and Slavic mythology, and their music incorporates several traditional Russian musical instruments. Was this one of the main motivations for forming the band?
Masha: The impetus for the creation of the band was my passion for heavy music. Before Arkona, our band was called differently, and had nothing to do with folklore. Later, when our drummer became interested in the pagan tradition he brought me into that. But even then we did not have any folk instruments. They appeared much later, when the line-up of the Arkona was fully changed.
Jack: When you formed in 2002, did you ever imagine you’d still be making music and touring fourteen years later?
Masha: Of course, back in the days I would not imagine what awaits me in the future. I just did what I felt, without any definite plans and continue to do so now. What can we expect in future only time knows, but we are ready for everything!
Jack: What was the biggest challenge in the earliest days of the band?
Masha: Relationships with people. It is always the most difficult moment when you are in society. The struggle of interests and different attitude to the whole creative work finally played their role and the people from old line-up quit the band quite fast. But instead of it, I found the new people, with whom we live as one family together for fifteen years. So everything what is happening in our life – all for the better.
Jack: You’re going to be releasing a re-recording of Vozrozhdeniye. Why did you decide to re-record it?
Masha: We just wanted to make our old songs in a new sound. Look at the past through the eyes of the present. We can say that we have changed clothes to the old songs, showing it to people in a completely new way.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Masha: Recording process was the same as always. First we recorded the drums, and then all the other instruments and vocals. I added a lot of new arrangements in the songs and in my opinion they sounds much more interesting and more varied than ever before. Some of the vocal parts and arrangements have been invented by me right during voice recording. Also instead of keyboards we recorded live wind instruments and folk songs are now devoted to folklore atmosphere even more than it was previously.
Jack: Did revisiting the material bring back warm memories of writing the material?
Masha: Of course! It’s always a pleasure to return to the past and remember how it was.
Jack: How has the metal scene in Russia changed since Arkona formed?
Masha: Absolutely not changed since then in my opinion. Although I’m not really following the Russian metal scene. I can see and I like the fact, that there are many young and talented bands that also now develop themselves and develop our metal scene in the right direction.
Jack: Is it weird knowing that bands consider you an influence?
Masha: A strange feeling [is one that] I feel in my stomach after eating something wrong on tour [smiles]. I think it is a common thing, that young bands draw inspiration and experience from more experienced bands! This means only one thing for me: I’m doing all this for a reason, and I appreciate it a lot.
Jack: Do you have day jobs outside of the band?
Masha: Personally, I do not work. I have two children and when I’m at home I’m spending all my time with them also working on their education.
Jack: You’re playing America this month with The Agonist, Epica and Fleshgod Apocalypse, do you prefer playing mixed bills?
Masha: We are currently doing this and I can say that this is a really interesting tour! Of course, due to the fact that we are a support band, we can’t have such a powerful show as we usually do as a headliner. Every band has its own drum kit, there is very limited space on stage. Also there is no sound check, which making everything more difficult, but the nicest and amazing support every night covers all those small details!
Jack: Do you notice any noticeable differences between the US and Europe at all?
Masha: Personally, I do not notice the difference. It is comfortable for us to play anywhere in the world.
Jack: What are your plans for next year? Will we see any new music at all?
Masha: We are working on it right now. I have already written four songs for the new album and continue to write more as I have so many ideas in my head at the moment. We hope that by the end of the year we will make our fans happy with some good news!
Jack: Will your next album be a concept album like Yav, or something different?
Masha: There are no concrete plans so far. It’s too early stage right now, everything is just starting to build, but I can say that most likely it will again be different from all our previous creations. Let’s see!
Jack: You’ve not been in the UK for two years, do you plan on coming back?
Masha: There are no definite plans in this direction right now, but perhaps soon something will appear! Follow the news!
Jack: Arkona first visited the UK in 2010 was part of Paganfest. Do you have fond memories of that tour?
Masha: To be honest we have so many concerts that everything just mixed up in my head. But it is clear that I would like to go back to your country!
Jack: Finally, “Yarilo” from Goi, Rode, Goi, was featured on an episode of The Office. How did this come about?
Masha: This happened all the way through Napalm Records. They gave it to the television show and they just sold a song without our knowledge. Unfortunately, this is one of the bad things of the contract. Hope our music will never appear in a porn movie for example. [Smiles]