Waylander [exclusive interview]
Formed in 1993, WAYLANDER released their debut demo, Once Upon An Era, in early 1995. Mixing Irish folk music with extreme Metal, Waylander were soon dubbed Folk, Celtic, and Pagan Metal. In 1996, with the addition of a full-time tin-whistle player, Waylander released their 2nd demo, Dawning of a New Age, which soon gained Waylander a prominent position in the fledgling Folk Metal scene. This was cemented when Waylander signed to Century Media and in 1998, their debut album was released, entitled Reawakening Pride Once Lost. After overcoming some line-up changes, Waylander signed with Blackened Records and released their sophomore album, The Light, the Dark and the Endless Knot, in early 2001. Despite some serious upheaval within the ranks, Waylander managed significant appearances at festivals such as Bloodstock and Day of Darkness.
Grim Magazine: Greetings to you Ciaran/ArdChieftain O’Hagan! Why don’t you first introduce yourself to all who may be reading? Also, if you would be so kind, let everyone know who is currently among the ranks of Waylander and what their duties in the band are. I know there have been some big line-up changes recently that people may not have heard about.
ArdChieftain: Greetings from the Emerald Isle. I don’t like to speak too soon, but it looks like we have a full and somewhat stable line-up at the moment. It’s been musical chairs with the line-up for many years but the current crop of Waylander warriors are; Michael Proctor on bass guitar, Den Ferran on Drums [ our original drummer ], Saul McMichael on guitars and recent addition, Alan Connolly on guitars, joining me, ArdChieftain O’Hagan on vocals. That is ¾ of the Reawakening Pride Once Lost line-up so perhaps this augers well, time will tell.
Grim Magazine: It’s been a long four or more years now since the last Waylander album “The Light The Dark And The Endless Knot” came out. What has caused the delay of the release of the next album? I had heard a while back that the band had hoped to have the new album released in time for the last Bloodstock Festival you played, but that obviously didn’t happen. When can we expect a new album to be released?
ArdChieftain: There are so many reasons for the delay, most involve line-up hassles and are explained on our website at www.clanwaylander.org. After we sacked the drummer and guitarist from the 2nd album [upon its release], we went through a very lean time with no creativity in terms of writing new compositions, whatsoever. This culminated in original guitarist Dermot being sacked in late 2002. In all honesty, it has been a desperate struggle ever since to try and find members with the required folk background. We have about 8 songs written over the last 2 and a half years and are now re-writing/re-structuring those songs, stamping the personalities of the current members upon the compositions. At this stage we are finishing up the 3rd song, so progress is definitely being made. The plan at the moment is to record an album in November/December and if this line-up remains focused and stays together there is no reason whatsoever why this goal should not be achieved.
Grim Magazine: Do you have any new song titles or maybe an album title for the new album you can share here? Do you have any artwork in mind?
ArdChieftain: The 3rd Waylander album is entitled, ‘ Honour Amongst Chaos ‘ and will contain between 8 to 10 songs. Definite song titles thus far include; Walk with Honor, Galloping Gaels, Dine in the Other-world, Usurpers of our Legacy, Bru Na Boinne, As the Deities Clash, Takers of Heads and a few other titles which I haven’t quite decided upon just yet. We are also discussing the possibility of doing a version of the classic Horslips song, Dearg Doom, provided we get permission to do so. As the song is about Cu Chulainn and inspired my notion of mixing up Metal and Folk when I first heard it more than 20 years ago, it seems more than appropriate that Waylander tackles this song. As for Artwork, well, I have some rough ideas in my head somewhere and soon it will be time to try and find an artist who is completely inexpensive, yet artistically outstanding. The album cover should be a representation of the album title, using strong symbolism to convey the true meaning of the phrase, ‘ Honor Among Chaos ‘.
Grim Magazine: What direction do you plan on going with Waylander’s sound? I love both of the albums, but I like “Reawakening Pride Once Lost” more because it is Folksier and uses more tin whistle than “The Light The Dark And The Endless Knot” did. It seems a lot of Folk Metal bands these days are losing more and more of their Folk influence with each album they release, which I think is a shame. Can we expect a Folksy new album or will the sound continue to shy away from Folk even more than the last album did?
ArdChieftain: Firstly I disagree that there is more tin-whistle on the 1st album. Mairtin’s playing on the 2nd album was much better and way more original. Due to there being 2 guitars he didn’t need to simply play the obvious melody but played numerous counter-melodies throughout the length of the album, which took away from the ‘ in your face ‘ vibe of the whistle from the debut album. Anyway, it’s difficult to get a grasp on our sound at the moment really due to our lack of decent equipment and resultant poor quality of our rehearsal tapes. We will have Mairtin play some Whistle in the studio and maybe have a little Flute and Uileann pipes as well, but we are simply in no position whatsoever to have folk musicians in the band on a permanent basis.
ArdChieftain: Those who have heard our new material have expressed varied opinions, some claiming we are folksier, others claiming the opposite. Some claiming the new material is like the natural step from the 1st album, while others claim we have taken the best elements from both albums and added a little more tempo and extremity to our sound. Although these opinions are varied and, on the surface, contradict each other, they all have an element of truth in them nevertheless. As for bands getting less and less folksy, well, I think this is a natural step as a band develops more of its own identity. The folk influences are always there but are no longer obvious, with many subtle folk melodies working away on the sub-conscious. I prefer albums, which take a dozen listens to truly appreciate. You can’t play a jig all the time!
Grim Magazine: I mentioned this in the Waylander forum, but I swear that Waylander covering Denis Leary’s “Traditional Irish Folk Song” would be an act of pure genius. Is this something you would consider doing? I’d give you five dollars for your trouble. Hahaha…
ArdChieftain: 5 doll – ah ??!! Do I look like a Vietnamese prostitute to you?? Mmm……no, we won’t be playing any cover songs of that ilk. Waylander has an ethos which I thought was obvious…..then again, maybe it’s not.
Grim Magazine: Is Waylander still signed to Blackened Records, or is that deal null and void now?
ArdChieftain: I would guess Blackened would hide in a cupboard if I re-contacted them regarding taking up the option for another album!! Believe me, the feeling is entirely mutual. I envisage no problems at all in finding another Record Label. We are Waylander after all.
Grim Magazine: I see that “Reawakening Pride Once Lost” is being re-released on Midhir Records. That’s a good thing in my opinion because the Century Media version is damn near impossible to find now. Can you tell us what may be different about this album in terms of artwork and track-listing? I heard there also may be a bonus C.D. included filled with acoustic tracks? I already own the original version of the C.D., but I’ll definitely pick up the re-release if there’s going to be bonus material on it!
ArdChieftain: Yes, John from Ulster’s, ‘ Midhir Records ’ bought the license for the 1st album from Century Media, something which we are extremely pleased about. The unavailability of the 1st album has been irritating us for a number of years now as we’ve received 100’s of e-mails and letters requesting that album, not to mention being pestered at gigs for a copy. The bonus tracks change on a weekly basis, haha, but this week it looks like it’ll be some tracks from our early demo tapes. I am meeting with John in the next few weeks to discuss the layout of the booklet and the Artwork changes. There will be nothing radical, more a case of re-interpreting the original layout by shifting things around. A fresh visual for a release, which, we hope will herald the return of Waylander.
Grim Magazine: What’s the deal with the two different covers for “Reawakening Pride Once Lost”? I’ve seen a pic on your website of Bruce Dickinson holding up a copy of the album, but it has a totally different cover than the version I have. Was this an early pressing of the C.D. that he’s showing, or maybe one just printed especially for Bruce? (Heh!).
ArdChieftain: The copy Bruce Dickinson is proudly displaying on our website is the Promo. I remember when we received the promos and being aghast at the logo, which we decided reminded us of a Superman logo! Some quick phone conversations took place after that. Century media then changed the logo to the one we had told them to use in the first place, but they still managed to leave Michael’s name out of the credits. Did they think we had no bassist or something, and that someone just sneaked into our band photos just for a laugh? Let’s just say that there were a lot of arguments with the label at the time. Being promised the Cradle of Filth tour support, then finding out via the press that we actually weren’t on the tour was another thing which caused a lot of friction, not only between band and label but between band members also. In retrospect, this is when it all began to go wrong for Waylander.
Grim Magazine: You just played a few dates with the Latvian Folk Metal band Skyforger. Man, what I wouldn’t have given to see both bands play live in the same place and on the same night! Skyforger rules! How did those shows go for you? Were there mass amounts of alcohol consumed? I saw some photos of a show or two and I see the band painted themselves up like Blue Man Group. My only conclusion was there was drinking involved somewhere to come up with that idea.
ArdChieftain: The Skyforger tour of Ireland was something I began planning last September/October after being blown away by Skyforger’s, ‘ Thunderforge ‘ album. The original plan was a full 4 date tour plus a folk gig, with ourselves and Skyforger as co-headliners. However, Waylander more or less finished in December so plans had to be amended. I’d worked too hard to just abandon Skyforger so I went ahead and organized the dates regardless. As things turned out, Waylander began jamming again in mid-February and about 4/5 weeks before the Skyforger tour, realized that we would be capable of getting a set together. By this stage, it was too late to add us to all the dates but I managed to squeeze us onto the gigs in Derry and Belfast. This was new guitarist Alan’s ‘ rite of passage ‘ in the band, in traditional Waylander fashion we threw him in at the deep end.
ArdChieftain: There were problems on the first night in Derry, with a very poor crowd [thanks to cryptic promotions abandonment ], and terrible sound problems during our set, Alan breaking strings, microphone cutting out etc It was one of those nights for us, best forgotten. Skyforger was savage though, being blessed with a perfect sound. The tour went well overall, we were able to pay Skyforger the money we had agreed upon, they sold out of all their merchandise and made many friends over here. Waylander’s gig in Belfast was a touching moment for us on so many levels. It was yet another comeback gig, but the fact that Den was back in his rightful place behind the drum-kit, added to the fact that a lot of people had traveled to Belfast to see us play, made it a special night all around. There was plenty of drink on the go as is to be expected on tour. As for us wearing the Woad [ the blue war-paint ], well, we’ve been doing that since about 1996 so it’s nothing new at all. A Waylander gig is akin to going into Battle so the Woad is more than appropriate as it ties in with the War Banners and adds to the visuals of a Waylander performance.
Grim Magazine: Did Grandma Fart make an appearance at any of the shows? Damn, that lady has every perfect quality I look for in a woman. She has looks and brains and likes to have a good time it seems. I wanted to take her out on a date or two when I went to Ireland last year, but her grandson (your former tin-whistler Mairtin MacCormaic) told me they had to lock that lovely woman away just before I went there!
ArdChieftain: It’s easy to see where Mairtin gets his ‘unique’ personality from, as Granny Fart is someone who you will NEVER forget the meeting. In fact, I know several people who are still traumatized by meeting ‘her’ and will have to remain on strong tranquilizers for several years to come. The last time I met Granny Fart was at the Glenside Metal meeting in late 2002 and she was definitely going off the rails, so much so that Mairtin disappeared for most of the day and only re-appeared just in time for his farewell performance with Waylander. I reckon Mairtin is ashamed of his Granny as he always seems to disappear every time she turns up at a gig. I don’t really blame Mairtin as Granny fart is a brazen hussy and no mistake.
Grim Magazine: When are you going to ever get your asses over here and play the U.S.A.? I know since the country is so big it’s hard to do a full tour here, but maybe you could come over and make an appearance at a festival or two? Windir made a big splash when they played at the Milwaukee Metal Fest a few years ago. Most American fans had never heard that type of Metal before, and they ate it right up! I think Waylander would have the same shocking effect on an unsuspecting American audience.
ArdChieftain: Yes, we will endeavor to make it across the big puddle to the north Americas in 2006 but we really need to be invited. I will be sending out promos and copies of our 1st album to as many promoters/bands/radio stations etc as I can, once we get the promo recorded and packaged. We have penciled in September/October of 2006 for an American excursion, so hopefully, we can achieve our goals and make the trip. If anyone reading this would be interested in inviting Waylander over there or who may know someone who might, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me and we’ll toil hard to make it so. Milwaukee Metal fest would be nice.
Grim Magazine: Now for some more personal questions. The last I knew the E.U. had failed to recognize Gaelic as an official language. Has this situation changed at all, and what do you think of their decision to not recognize it? It seems like yet one more attempt at globalization to me.
ArdChieftain: Globalization, like communism and world peace, is an ideal, which is fatally flawed, as it leaves out one extremely important factor, human beings, and human nature. It is wrong because it goes against the very fabric of human identity, of who you are and where you come from The US is the prime example of why globalization doesn’t work. All men are equal but some are more equal than others, meaning that there will be a distinct hierarchy within this set-up and as such, can only be seen as a means to control nations who either cannot or think they cannot stand on their own two feet. Britain, Russia, Germany, and France are desperately scrambling to be America’s second in command. It’s pathetic really. The whole political correctness movement is a cleverly manipulated plot to undermine nationalism in my opinion.
ArdChieftain: The non-recognition of the Irish language by the E.U. is an absolute fucking disgrace, but the inactivity of the Irish government is ten times worse. It’s treason in my book. Between that and allowing a motorway to be constructed within spitting distance of the Hill of Tara, the seat of the High Kings of Ireland and the spiritual center of our island, my heart is broken. If these aren’t treasonous acts I really don’t know what is. Americanized mass media and the pursuit of money are steadily sucking the soul from our land.
ArdChieftain: Gaelige is supposed to be on the decline with the Gaeltacht areas becoming fragmented due to the purchase of holiday homes in those areas. The continued lack of investment in these areas in terms of employment certainly doesn’t help the cause, with the young people migrating to the cities, where their native tongue is of little relevance to their lives. However, it seems that there are more and more people, and I include myself here, who, upon hearing of this shocking decision to belittle our mother tongue, have reacted in a positive light and resultant are re-learning the language in a bid help keep Gaelige alive. Gaelige apart from being one of the oldest languages in Europe, apart from being the language of the land is one of the most beautiful and poetic languages one could imagine. Quite often it is difficult to translate certain words or phrases, simply because the English language doesn’t have the means to do it justice.
Grim Magazine: In the week and a half or so that I was in Ireland my cousins took me to a few different pubs. I wanted to hear some nice traditional Folk music but was rather surprised to find all of the pubs played pretty much what the bars in the U.S.A. play. Do us Americans just have the wrong idea that Folk Music is played all the time in Ireland? Or maybe I just went to the wrong pubs or something?
ArdChieftain: I’ve already lamented the Americanization of Ireland, which has polluted our country. Extreme capitalism aided by the enormous influential entity that is the mass media has been slowly sucking the soul from the people since the 1970’s and decade by decade, as more and more people become indoctrinated into this way of looking at life, the ability to even know what culture is, is sadly becoming alien to the people here. Young people, especially in the towns and cities, no longer need or want to play traditional music, or speak their own language or, indeed, even care about their culture, about who they are or where they came from. Folk music is still here in abundance though, it just takes a bit of investigating so that it can be sought out and enjoyed. Gaeltacht and country areas, in general, are usually the best bets for finding good ‘ sessions ‘. So, to summarize, yes, of course, you Americans have the wrong idea [so what’s new, eh?] and yes, you certainly went to the wrong pubs or area.
Grim Magazine: Is Waylander what you and the guys do full-time or do you have regular jobs as well? I know a lot of bands still work other jobs, but I don’t know how in the hell they get time off for touring and recording, etc. If I went into my boss and said I needed two weeks off to go on a tour of Europe all I’d get is hysterical laughter.
ArdChieftain: Firstly, let’s put the generally perceived idea that bands actually make money, to bed right now. A band needs to be selling about 100,000 units before they can truly get a decent annual wage from their music. Even Cannibal Corpse have to take part-time jobs sometimes to pay the rent until the next royalty cheque comes. Waylander sells less than 10% of that number, so yes, we need to work. Getting the time off work is not as easy as you can imagine. It’s all about luck in finding an understanding boss really.
Grim Magazine: What is your personal opinion about Mairtin MacCormaic? He seems like a nice guy to me, but you have to wonder what is up with a guy that likes to refer to himself as “jedifart”. Why would a sane person want people to call him a term that brings to mind images of Star Wars characters passing gas?
ArdChieftain: I first met Fart at one of our gigs in Kil, in Co.Kildare in 1995. I’d been in contact with his co-conspirator in Lycanthropy fanzine, Snert so had heard of this lad with the funny name. Before sound-checks in the venue, I heard someone playing Born to the Fight on what sounded like a tin-whistle so I went to investigate. I found Fart on the stairs playing Waylander songs on the tin-whistle, which was surprising in itself, but when I noticed that he was playing them through his nose I was dumbfounded. I knew there and then that if we ever needed a whistle player, we’d found one! It was ages before I even found out the man’s real name. He’s a character and no mistake, a show-off, a madman and a comedian all rolled up into one package. However, he is also a great musician and can actually be very intelligent and responsible when needs must. He is the Editor of Ireland’s only professionally written Metal magazine, Metalworks, and yes, he’s seen the new Star Wars at least 50 times by now I suspect. He has always been known as Fart, which is merely a shortened version of his full title. If anyone should meet him they should ask him for his full title, as well as getting him to translate his name into various European languages. (laughs) Be prepared for several cracked ribs.
Grim Magazine: What bands influence you personally and what bands influenced Waylander as a whole?
ArdChieftain: Waylander took a blueprint from the Horslips [Irish folk/rock from the 70’s], to which Metal of the extreme variety was to be added. Skyclad showed that it could be done, so taking inspiration from the fact that an English band could do it, we went about trying to find a sound we liked, confident that with our Irish background we could pull it off equally as well. For me this was the realization of the vision I’d had since the age of 14, to form a ‘ Heavy Metal Horslips ‘ type band, with lyrical inspiration taken from Irish Legends. At the time, the Metal influences were the likes of Sabbat, Iron Maiden, Paradise Lost, Sepultura, Kreator. As the years have passed and as members have come and gone the influences have changed or developed accordingly. The bands I like are usually those with an identity of their own, an atmosphere is vitally important too. My all-time favorites in no particular order would be; Sabbat, Skyclad, Horslips, Clannad, Bathory, Kreator, Iron Maiden, Bolt Thrower, Death, Judas Priest, Carcass, Skyforger, Primordial, Enslaved, Amon Amarth, Disaster and many more which I can’t recall just now.
ArdChieftain: Waylander now, basically take influence from all and any forms of folk and metal music. The important issue is that of bringing together the components into something coherent, something with a unique identity and atmosphere with each song being a living breathing entity all of its own. Each song should be a unique and special journey for the listener.
Grim Magazine: If you talk to people in the U.S.A. about Folk music, they immediately assume that you’re talking about Irish Folk music for some reason, even though every country on Earth has Folk music of their own. When it comes to Folk Metal, very few bands in this genre are actually from Ireland it seems though. There are Waylander and Cruachan and that’s about it! Why do you think that is? It seems like the majority of Folk Metal bands are coming out of Germany and Scandinavia.
ArdChieftain: Again, the mass media have a lot to answer for as they basically tell the populace what music is cool or hip at any given moment and with the national radio stations controlling the playlists dictated by major record labels, then ignorance and intolerance abound. It’s not a one-way street though as Metal fans here can be equally as intolerant. Many people won’t like Folk Metal because of the Metal parts while many Metal fans won’t like it due to the Folk elements. In Ireland, like the u.k., the media has far too much influence on the casual music fan, people aren’t open-minded or individual enough to think for themselves. In Europe, it seems that people support the bands from their own countries and take pride in that while here it is almost the opposite, with apathy and jealousy rampant. Primordial is Ireland’s biggest Metal band in terms of sales and international profile, yet they’d be lucky to sell much more than 500 copies of their albums in their own country or pull more than 300 punters to a gig.
ArdChieftain: The gulf between bands like Metallica, Slipknot, Iron Maiden etc and the underground and Irish bands is truly enormous in terms of profile. There is no National radio show dedicated to Metal, there is little or no help from the National newspapers or music magazines and only recently, here in North Ireland have local television taken any notice of our homegrown talent. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as I honestly think the situation is slowly but surely heading in the right direction. Some Metal related business’ have sprung up around the country in recent years, several record Companies have formed, a number of concert promoters have become involved, not to mention Metal shops and a national Metal magazine.
ArdChieftain: Anyway, to actually answer your question….well, there aren’t that many Folk Metal bands from Ireland I suppose. Bands who come under the folk/Pagan Metal banner include, Primordial, Mael Mordha, Belinus, and Runecaster, making half a dozen bands in total. It doesn’t bother me that there are so few bands as quality comes before quantity every time. Each and every one of the aforementioned bands has a sound of their own making, and while each would have folk influences, these are interpreted very differently, not to mention the vast spectrum of metal genres to which each of these bands draws influence. I’d like to see 3 or 4 more bands spring up in various parts of the country, especially in the west. When you consider that 4 out of the 6 bands have either released albums on record labels or are about to in Mael Mordha’s case, it augers well indeed.
ArdChieftain: Skyclad were the original Folk Metal band I suppose and they certainly influenced both Waylander and Cruachan, but coming from Ireland I’m sure both Keith [Cruachan] and myself thought we had a divine right to play Folk Metal, especially as we’re both influenced by the Horslips as well. It is nice to be cited as an influence or seen as a forefather of a certain genre, but it really was a coincidence that Primordial, Cruachan, and Waylander sprang up within little more than a year of each other. To me, the Folk Metal scene at the minute is the most interesting with such diversity in sound and approach that it is truly a breath of fresh air in a stale Metal scene. I enjoy hearing folk music from all over the world and especially enjoy reading about and studying up on, the history and mythologies of the various nations. Kind of puts a spanner in the works of those who still try to cry ‘’ fascist ‘’ at every mention of anything nationalistic, don’t you think?
Grim Magazine: What do you think of the current state of Folk Metal? The genre has really spread out lately to countries such as Russia, Korea, Greece, and even South America recently with bands like ‘Folklord’ and ‘Diadema’ Tristis. I like that this is happening because I get to hear traditional Folk musical styles from different countries mixed with Metal. Is this okay by you as well or do you think it’s overcrowding the genre?
ArdChieftain: I think it’s great that this genre is getting the recognition it deserves. It’s long overdue really. Like all scenes though, there are varying degrees in terms of standards, with many poor or average bands doing the rounds, with many bands perhaps playing this style for all the wrong reasons. The black metal scene, for example, is an insult to people like myself who don’t hold with fascist ideals at all. I also cannot understand why certain bands [some of whom have a decent international profile] play folk music from other lands and expect to be credible. It makes no sense whatsoever. Like everything in life though, the cream will almost always rise to the top and these are the bands who will be the ambassadors for Folk/Pagan metal in the years to come. I’d really like to hear a Peruvian folk-metal band, using pan-pipes and sharing the ancient Incan knowledge with us. I’d also like to hear a Maori Folk Metal band, complete with Hakas, the whole works! Now, THAT would be interesting!
Grim Magazine: Well, sad to say, but we have come to the end of the interview. I thank you, Ciaran on behalf of all Grim Magazine staff for taking the time to do this interview with me. I look forward (very eagerly I might add) to the re-release of “Reawakening Pride Once Lost” and I hope a new studio album as well not too far in the distant future. I leave the last word to you to add anything that you wish.
ArdChieftain: Many thanks for this chance to actually do an interview again as it’s been a few years since I’ve done one, so consider this an exclusive if you wish! It seems certain that Waylander will finally be back in action before too long with the re-release of Reawakening Pride Once Lost and the ongoing writing of a new album [Honour Amongst Chaos]. The line-up seems stable enough at the moment and the plan is to play as many concerts in as many countries as we can in 2006, just as soon as the next album is released. There is a possibility that we will play some shows to help promote the re-release before the end of the year, but we have decided to be extremely selective in which shows we accept. Any promoters or bands wishing to put a show on for Waylander, send me an e-mail. For all updates and information on all activities in the world of Waylander, visit our website www.waylanderband.com. Protect our planet, invoke the Ancient Gods and Walk with Honor.
(1998) Waylander – Reawakening Pride Once Lost
(2001) Waylander – The Light, the Dark and the Endless Knot
(2008) Waylander – Honour Amongst Chaos
(2012) Waylander – Kindred Spirits
With: Ciaran O’Hagan – vocalist
Interview Date: June 10th, 2005
Years Active: 1993-present
Genre: Celtic/Folk/Pagan Metal
Website: Band Website
Label: Listenable Records
Reviewed by: Grim Magazine
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