"You're my first interview today", starts Skyclad frontman Martin Walkyier. "I'll be going for another few hours, way into the early morning, maybe 2:30am. I guess you're pretty lucky, as I am still awake to talk to you... <laughs>"
And so starts the interview with the ever polite and jolly Martin Walkyier to discuss the band's new platter titled _Folkemon_. It has been a bizarre revolution of metal mastery and some odd ideas thrown in for good measure over the years (just check out the bizarre Pokemon a la cat minstrel cover art), but the band has endured time and their fans are still around to cherish their music.
"I think with this record, seeing that it is somewhat of a tenth anniversary of Skyclad, we wanted to release an album that brought in all of the elements that we have tried to bring to the band over the years. We wanted to offer a bit for everyone. We changed so much over the years and had to adapt to what was going on, and we wanted to bring those good ideas into this record."
"We spent a lot of time trying to make a record that was fresh and full of inspiration, especially for our debut for Nuclear Blast. It all turned out well, I tell you."
Knowing quite well that he and his band -- guitarists Kevin Ridley and Steve Ramsey, bassist Graeme English, George Biddle on fiddle and keyboard/piano, and drummer Jay Graham -- bring a lot of fun and creativity to their sound, does Walkyier find that just familiar terrain to work with? Or is there more to Skyclad than what people might expect?
"I think our lyrics are very dark indeed if people really take time to look past the music that we play", confesses Walkyier. "I think some of our stuff is a lot heavier and more disturbing than most of the death metal bands out there. We deal with a lot of modern social problems like pollution, unemployment and stuff that we have dealt with, but yes, there are times we throw in a song about drinking or rock 'n' roll to lighten things up a bit. I think that lyrically we are quite intense for the most part. It is good to be light-hearted at times, but regardless if it is that way or darker in idea, we always give the most that we can to what Skyclad does. It is always 100%."
Listening to the new album, there seems to be a lot of references to the modern age of mankind, most notably the song "When God Logs Off" -- no doubt a reference of sorts to the Internet. Right, Martin?
"Actually it is a reference to man's obsession with technology", he explains. "Technology is a fantastic thing when it is used properly. But if you look at most inventions that man has created in the last few hundred years, they have been used in the wrong way, to bring forth death and destruction. Or exploit the environment. The song really goes to show that even though technology has taken us forward as a species, we should never forget where we came from and keep a strong hold on our ancestral past. Only from doing that can we have a firm grasp of where out future will take us."
Seeing that Skyclad have been known to bring a lot of diversity to their sound, what is Walkyier's take on many bands over the last few years working hard to bring multiple sounds/styles to metal music? Is he impressed? Does he care?
"I think it's really good when people try and mix different types of music together 'cause innovation is what music is all about. People should always try to break new ground. I admire anyone who tries to do something different with music nowadays and experiment. I'm not too fond of bands that follow trends and jump on bandwagons and follow what is fashionable at that time. I like those who take chances."
So would Martin agree when I call Skyclad "weird"?
"We certainly are", he says. "And we are certainly proud of it. I am glad that people see us that way, really. If weird means actually trying to pass a message off with your music, a very important message about what it means to be a human being in the turn of the millennium and in a world where we are racing onwards faster than our minds can grasp, then I'm proud to call what we do weird. We are trying to make unique music, a modern metal band trying to use traditional instruments, and just be proud of where it takes us and the heritage of where we came from. You have to embrace your heritage or it will be forgotten."
And knowing of Walkyier's background, I can't end this interview without asking a few questions about his old metal act Sabbat, a band who produced one of metal's most prized gems: 1988's _History of a Time to Come_.
"Actually I am reforming the old band as a tribute to that band", Walkyier reveals. "I am actually intending for this band to be much better than the original band -- hopefully. It'll be interesting to see how it all works out. The name of the band is Return to the Sabbat. The reason I am doing this is because I feel that we weren't able to do as much with the band back then because of the band members at the time", he reveals. "It was a bit of a personality clash back then and it didn't work out. The band, which we plan to play a few shows with, will be comprised of myself, Frazer Craske (bass) and Simon Negus (drums). They both also played on the second Sabbat album (1989's _Dreamweaver_) but not the third one. We had all left by then. <laughs> We'll also have another guitar player (who will be in place of ex-guitarist and now producer Andy Sneap) to help mend it all."
He ends: "We are trying to make a record that'll be a good one for all those that went out and bought the third Sabbat record (1991's _Mourning Has Broken_) at that time and were disappointed. I think we just owe those fans something."