Hi Miron! Thank you for agreeing to talk to Metal On Loud Magazine! As a huge fan of Symphonic Black Metal and your band, respect!
Hails upon thee, o' fair lady of the Metal On Loud realm! Thank you very much for the kind words and the given chance to remind folks about our existence! Indeed, you are dragging Tvangeste from the darkness of oblivion and into the burning light of modern Metal life and, frankly speaking, I am really glad about that fact, so—my respect goes back, M'lady!
Tell our readers how the idea of the band was born, and why Tvangeste?
Oh, that's quite a long story. A boring one as well so let's make it simple: the idea was born in 1996 when our former bass player, Edgar, and myself decided to start a Pagan Black Metal project. Our main idea behind that was to spread the word and let people worldwide know about the existence of Prussia—an ancient land on the shores of the Baltic sea. That was quite important for us so the band's name was chosen accordingly. Tvangeste was a small Prussian settlement destroyed by Christians (knights of Teutonic Order) in 1255. On ruins of Tvangeste a castle was built, named Königsberg: the town I used to live in, the land we love immensely...
Why have you chosen this music genre (Symphonic Black Metal)? And what were your influences?
I had a pretty wild mix of initial influences starting with The Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Beatles (my dad played their songs to me at age of five or so) via W.A.S.P and Accept to In Flames; Jason Becker and Rhapsody, not to mention a serious knowledge of Classical music, but I felt that I needed something more... something straightforward and rough; heavy but still beautiful. That's how I came to Symphonic Metal. Metal was a genre where it was possible to utilize all of my favorite musical elements and combine them, all under the flag of a strong Metal Symphony from the Baltic shores.
Can you advise our readers modern Symphonic Black Metal bands besides Tvangeste :)?
Oh, honestly, I am a bad counselor when it comes to music as I, being a pure conservative to the bones, tend not to listen to a lot of new music. Hence I have no idea what to suggest. On top of that, I have one peculiar habit, and that is not to listen to the music I play. I am trying to protect myself from “unconscious theft” through unwanted influence, and I don't listen to my music after it is recorded—that's a fact! I get fed up with those tunes during the countless rehearsals, recording sessions, and days spent of mixing and mastering. I could recommend a couple of old but extremely underrated acts though: Thy Serpent, Gotherfall. I bet not many of you have heard of those and, believe me, both are worth listening to! I lied. At least one band I can recommend is Carach Angren (thanks to the “Attention: Black Metal!” documentary where both Tvangeste and Carach Angren [on top of many others] were featured).
Your song "Birth Of Hero" from the album FireStorm featured in Brutal Legend. Do you connect the band success with this event?
Ermm... let's start with “success” as I'd prefer not to consider Tvangeste as an overall successful act. On the contrary, we fucked up nearly all possible chances given by fortune (Gods, providence, whatever mighty else that might be), but still, somehow, our music was delivered to the world of Metal and got us loads of devoted fans around 2000-2005. Some of those were the “Brutal Legend” creators so that's how we got in there. One day Electronic Arts contacted our Canadian label Neoblast Records (Tvangeste's FireStorm was released in more than 10 countries including Canada) and asked if that was possible to license one of Tvangeste's songs for the game. Simple. But, after the game was released we got a lot of “fresh blood”—new good friends from all over the globe, and that success was connected to the game, that's for sure! On top of that I managed to “play a celebrity” in Toronto, signing DVDs during the “Brutal Legend” promo campaign. Pretty funny experience that was!
You have been on a quite long hiatus. The last album was released in 2003. What were you doing as a musician during this period?
That's one hell of a frustration and total self-disappointment. Too much to tell on the matter, but I'd rather share a tiny bit to avoid being boring: upon our arrival to Canada I lost inspiration. I didn't have much to say as my soul went into a sort of slumber and refused to produce anything worthy. I am strictly against releasing new albums for the sake of releasing new albums. I know, it is not good at all for the band to disappear like that. It was a suicide of some kind but I really was empty. I had been playing same 1-2 hours a day, but no serious music for Tvangeste was composed. At that period of time I concentrated on other projects: I collaborated with Arafel (I have recorded all vocals for their Second Strike: Through the Flames of the Ages), and co-produced Hatecraft's Lost Consolation and The Sundial's Transition. Together with Natu (my wife and Tvangeste keyboardess since 2000) I was working on several music scores for Canadian movies and TV. So it looks like we are back on track now! At least for one more album. Or maybe even two released simultaneously. Still not certain about that but at least we have all music composed and that is awesome.
What are the most significant events which happened in your life recently?
Seven months ago I became a father of a nice little fellow called Stefan-Björn. This is, most likely, the biggest and the most significant event in my entire life, recent time inclusive. I am trying to be a good dad which is a hard task to perform and a serious responsibility to bear. Alas! He hates guitar and apparently is inclined to go Mom's way of a keyboarder—though I am not to give up that fast, so we'll see!
A banal question, but, as your big fan, I must ask: what should we expect from Tvangeste in the nearest future?
Aha! The question I have been eagerly waiting for! First of all, with all regret I have no idea what “the nearest future” might be, but I do promise that we have been/will be doing our best to finish the material for Tvangeste's long awaited “number three”. Here is what we have at the moment: at least two hours of quite good music (keeping in mind my self-criticism that really means something!) Currently we are working on drum parts with our Norwegian friend Jorn Oyhus (the man of many talents known for his works in Fatal Impact, Byrdi and Nordjevel—the band I'd strongly recommend you all to check out now!) Also it is a pleasure to announce that our beautiful soprano diva Ola will be recording her vocals for the new album, as well as our incredible violin player Katya will be performing for the new album. This summer, the Baltic Symphony Orchestra's ex-conductor and our good friend Alex Bourundusian paid us a brief visit (on his way to Toronto to perform at Roy Thomson Hall with his homeland's Yerevan Philharmonic Orchestra), and it looks like we'll be working together once again! The new album will be a slightly different as Firestorm's follow-up; there are more melodic lines, more choirs and opera singing. The album will close our “Prussian saga” so it is also going to be a conceptual album based on two interwoven stories. One particularly interesting thing about the new album is that it will be available in two versions: an usual Extreme Metal one and one with a slightly different mix and clean vocals, performed by a guest vocalist whose name I, regrettably, cannot reveal so far. Believe me, that will be really interesting and worth checking out. So Tvangeste is to cover both camps: young metalheads and those devoted old fans who have been with us since FireStorm or, maybe, even since Damnation of Regiomontum days.
What would you wish to young musicians who just joined the Metal music industry? Any secret or advice how to become popular as Tvangeste?
Again, to become as popular as we have has a negative meaning, keeping in mind all the circumstances mentioned above, but we got very lucky with our Norwegian label and, later on, with our Japanese label and management (World Chaos. We shared this label with some outstanding artists such as Illnath, Tyrant and many others). Indeed, in 2003-2006 we could be easily added to the top division of Metal artists. So my advice would be:
1. Try to understand what you really want (money, fame, self expression?) and make a plan.
2. Work hard, be creative, and don't be a copycat—go your own way.
3. Stay honest with yourself and loyal to your beliefs.
Your slogan is "stay far from commerce as commerce kills your soul"? Have you ever changed your mind?
You are right and, indeed, the slogan has been mine since the very beginning of Tvangeste. It always amazes me when people who barely started their way in music already have loads of merch for sale while we didn't have a single t-shirt released. I was strictly against making money on our fans, but that proved to be a wrong move! As I understand it now (heh, it has taken not that long after all: 1996-2016), people need your merchandise. I was asked many times questions like “Hey, mate, do you have tees or hoodies as I'd like to buy one?” and my answer was “no”. But, seriously, that was a mistake. I haven't changed my mind and I still do believe that music should be free (both of our albums have been online since the first day of release) but now I also understand that musicians have to eat something and pay their bloody bills and taxes. So that's when merchandise (especially when paired with live performances) is a good answer.
What would you wish to say to the die-hard metalheads of Metal On Loud Magazine?
Well, postpone dying hard, it's time to live! The main question is how you are going to live your life. Look around. The world is fucked up and obviously, the majority don't give a shit. It is XXI Century and we so called “homo sapiens” are still the same. Same wars, same lies... I don't have a real power to suggest you anything, who on earth am I? But I'd love to share this planet with people who can think; with guys and ladies with ability to form their own opinion and walk their own ways. Believe nobody, stay alert, and act the way you won't regret when the time to die hard comes.
Thank you very much for your time, and most importantly for the awesome music! Metal On Loud Magazine wishes you and your musical family all the best in all your endeavours!
Thank you very much once again. I do hope my answers have not bored your readers to death. I swear I tried to be laconic. All the best to Metal On Loud, in my humble opinion, one of the best Metal related sources I have recently stumbled upon! Keep it METAL, keep it ON...keep it LOUD!!!!!
“Love and respect your friends and let your enemies die!”