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Interviews Tverd

Interview with Vetrodar (Guitar)

Interview conducted by MetalMike

Date online: July 23, 2009

Interview with Vetrodar, lead guitarist and songwriter for Russian Folk/Metal band Tverd. Vetrodar's command of English is limited so I have edited his English responses to make them easier to read.

Let me start with an apology of sorts. I didn't actually look up the name Tverd to see what it translates to in English. Another reviewer on our site wrote that it means "Ancient Fortress." Is that correct? Does the name Tverd have any relation to Tver, the city in Russia where the band is from?

Greetings! It is not necessary to apologize. The word "Tverd" is very difficult to translate from Russian into English as it refers to a uniquely Russian heritage. It is an old Slavic word that describes the beginning of the earth, of life, of the universe. The Slavs, and most other European people, believe that our universe consists of several levels, or worlds, many of which are invisible to mortals, yet they can affect us. The Slavic version of this legend is similar to Scandinavian legends, but there are some distinctions. The Slavic universe consists of Yav', (the "real" world where people live), Nav', (the underground dark world of the dead), and Prav', or Earie, (the heavenly world of Gods and Heroes). The world tree sprouts in the real world and its branches extend to the heavenly world, and acts as a bridge between the two. Tverd is the border between Yav' and Prav'. It can be thought of as a thin ocean of vital force with Earie as an island. A second translation of "Tverd" is "Ancient Fortress" so many Slavic people used the name for their defensive structures. Lastly, it can be translated to mean "strong" or "firm." I am proud to say that our city, Tver, does, in fact, derive its name from the word "Tverd"! By the way, as you pointed out, the last Pagan Reign album was called "Tverd" and the new album, Follow the Sun's Way, is a continuation of the stories we sung about in Pagan Reign, with some new ideas and music.

The music on Follow the Sun's Way is very diverse, which makes for a captivating listening experience. Was this planned? What inspired you to choose the Folk Metal genre?

It is hard to say if the diversity was planned or not. I write music that I like to hear and will change the theme or spirit of the music as I feel necessary. I try to write music that fits the theme of the story. On Follow the Sun's Way, I tried to write music that would combine with the lyrics to form a complete picture. It is a pity many listeners do not understand Russian, but I can tell you the lyrics are very beautiful and descriptive. I try to use music in the same way an artist uses paint. Each song is a "musical" picture with its own unique subject. I chose the Folk genre because I like heavy music and find Slavic folklore very interesting. It is easy to write about because it is such a part of our Russian heritage and speaks to our souls. The idea to combine folklore and heavy music began in 1996 with Pagan Reign and continues today.

What was the driving force behind the formation of Tverd? In general, the sound of the band seems similar to Pagan Reign. Was there a change of musical direction between the members of Pagan Reign? Is the goal to pick up where Pagan Reign left off musically or are you hoping to distance Tverd's sound on future releases?

Since I created 80% of the material in Pagan Reign, it is natural that the two bands would sound similar. I tried to approach Follow the Sun's Way with all the experience and professionalism I have gained over the years. Svetlana's and Alexander's voices on the album are simply amazing and they enabled the songs to become more majestic and epic. I have written songs that are very personal. Pagan Reign broke up because we all had different directions we wanted to go in. Sloven (drums) and Orey (guitar, vocals) did not want to be professional musicians any longer. Everyone has chosen a different road. Music is a part of my life and I wanted to continue performing. I changed the name of the group in honour and respect of these people.

How about a little history behind the formation of the band? A couple of you were in Pagan Reign while others are from a local university. How did everyone get together?

It is a long and interesting history. In 2007, with the breakup of Pagan Reign, I had a choice to either continue or throw everything away. It was a difficult time for me. But it didn't take me long to choose music and a week later Demosthen (drums), a very talented and professional musician, accepted my offer to start a new band. I asked my good friend Ratibor if he would play rhythm guitar and he also agreed. I had a lot of new material and we began to work it over and come up with some new ideas. It then took a long time to find a suitable bass player. Most of the people we tried out came across as irresponsible. That's when I asked my father, Sigurd, who is an excellent bass player, to join, and everything has worked out ideally. We all agreed that to play the kind of folkloric music we were working on we would need to both female and male vocals. I asked a friend of mine, Svetlana Lebedeva, who is the head of the folklore ensemble "Slavianochka" at the Tver state university, if she would be interested. She agreed and is now completely enamored with Tverd. Then we got a break with Alexander. He was the winner of the Gold Voice of Tver opera competition and also agreed to join us. When we heard the first recordings with the whole band, we knew the album would be magnificent. Everyone is professional and enjoys the studio work and is looking forward to playing live.

Russian-language albums seem to be enjoying a lot of success in the U.S. right now, but I'm sure many of us wonder what the songs are about. Can you give us an idea of what the songs on Follow the Sun's Way are about?

The lyrics cover many themes from fighting hymns, pagan celebratory ceremonies and holidays, Slavic pagan outlook, the eulogy of the beauty of Russian nature, ancient history and the legends of the Slavs. We also sing about the passing of the time of heroes who put honour and the freedom of people above their own lives. The basic idea of the album, Follow the Sun's Way is the "Solar" way of our ancestors; the outlook of strong, fair people living in harmony with laws of the Universe. We wanted to reflect the culture and values of the people of the past. Each song is a separate heroic history, a pagan holiday or an epic hymn. The last track, "The Russian Land's Sorrow," is devoted to the movement of time. We wanted to show that folklore music is not affected by the modern schizophrenic dead electronic world. We are throwing down a challenge to chaos and moral decline in modern society. We speak: people, it is time to change!

Having not only harsh vocals but both male and female clean vocals is rather uncommon in metal at this time. What was behind the decision to include all three on Follow the Sun's Way?

We realized it was impossible to reflect all the variety of the folklore we wanted to sing about with just harsh vocals. Our music is more epic and melodius than the last project (Pagan Reign) so we decided to bring traditional Russian folklore singing as well as academic opera singing. In my opinion, this has made our music more melodic while retaining the heavy sounds of the guitars and drums. Everything fits together perfectly.

How does the band recreate their sound, with all the folk instrumentation, live? Are you able to play the instruments in the live setting or do you need to use prerecorded music?

It depends on the conditions but we try to use actual musicians to play the folkloric instruments when we play live. Sometimes, there are limitations like not enough space or the sound isn't right, and we use a soundtrack for the folklore instruments.

Since Svetlana (female vocals) and Alexander (clean male vocals) are part of the local university are they able to join you on tour or are they only part of the studio band?

Both Svetlana and Alexander are part of the band and if either cannot be part of a show, the group should refuse the concert. Their voices are unique and it is best when we are all able to take part in live shows.

Any plans to tour outside of Russia? Is North America a possibility?

We would love to play other countries in Europe and also America. We are looking for the right tours to be part of. We have a series of shows set for the spring of 2010 in Europe.

You were the main creative force in Pagan Reign. Has that continued with Tverd or have the other band members contributed to the writing of the songs on Follow the Sun's Way?

All the songs are written by me. In the course of recording, everyone puts in their ideas for arrangements or changes to the songs. This allows the music to take on new and interesting qualities. But basically I write all the songs.

What is it like have a father-son (Sigurd Bass, Vetrodar Guitar) team in the band?

It is great! My father is a very talented musician and I have always hoped to work with him. I have him to thank for my growth as a composer.

What other music do the band members like to listen to?

I like all kinds of good metal music, classical and, of course, folklore. The other band members listen to a lot of different music. ;-)

What are some of the band members' interests outside of music?

I am a psychiatric doctor, studying psychiatric science (both psychological and medical). I love women, travelling, and have a great interest in parapsychology. My father, Sigurd, is a former military pilot. Svetlana is a teacher of Russian and the head of the folklore ensemble at the state university. She is a very well respected woman in Tver. Alexander Ivanov graduated from an academy named Gnesin in Moscow with a degree in academic opera vocal performance. He gives solo concerts and works in private business. Ratibor works in the business world as well. Demosthen plays in a local Death Metal band, in addition to Tverd, when he is not working. In Russia, it is impossible to survive simply as a musician and many talented artists are unable to perform because they are too busy trying to take care of their homes and daily lives. Times are difficult in Russia, very difficult. I would even say they are menacing.

Are there any particular musicians Tverd would like to work with in the future?

We plan to invite an entire orchestra of folkloric string instruments as well as copper wind instruments for the recording of a future album. It will be a whole new approach to creating Folk Metal music.

What is next for Tverd?

We are currently working on our next album, Rus. It will be an epic Folk Metal opera and will tell the true history of the formation of the medieval Russian state. It is based on a poem by a talented young writer named Ili Maslov. We plan to publish the poem, in the form of a book, in addition to the album. We are working with a design studio, Insight Studio, on this project.

Is there anything you'd like readers to know about the band that we haven't covered?

We are very serious about our work and have a lot of ideas which we plan to record. Our history has just begun!

Thanks again for taking some time out of your schedule to answer a few question and good luck to Tverd in the future. Follow the Sun's Way is a great debut and I'm certainly looking forward to more great music to come!

Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview and for the wishes! We hope to see everyone on tour.

Other information about Tverd on this site
Review: Follow the Sun's Way
Review: Follow the Sun's Way
Review: Rus: Prophetic Oleg

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