interview: Dawid Krosnia
‘There is always a kind of second meaning in the lyrics which eludes to wider social and political themes’
photo: Winterfylleth by Daniel Walmsley
Winterfylleth, with their latest release The Dark Hereafter, are once again entering the atmospheric regions of black metal. We caught up with Chris Naughton (guitars, vocals) to find out more about the album and see where the band is going next. Chris has also kindly shared some information about the next record, which may surprise you all.
The Goat Tavern: Hi Chris, How are you? I’m actually writing these questions on the Halloween eve. Do you celebrate this thing? Is your house filled with skeletons and carved pumpkins? Or you just simply don’t give a damn?!
Chris Naughton: Mostly, it’s just a silly American festival that has no interest for me.
Congratulations on your latest musical effort, The Dark Hereafter! Last month, you played the release show in London in the company of Fen and Crom Dubh. Were you happy with the gig? How has your new creation been received so far by the public and media?
The show was good. It’s always a pleasure to play with Fen, and it was good to align with Crom Dubh for the first time as well. The response to the new record has been amazingly positive so far, many people claiming ‘it’s our best yet…‘ etc. so yeah, we couldn’t ask for a better reaction. We’re very chuffed so far.
The Dark Hereafter came out exactly a month ago. The material sounds very honest and mature. What do you think makes this album different from the previous long play, The Divination of Antiquity?
The Dark Hereafter discusses how our greedy, power hungry, governmental decision making has led to a forceful reaction from the places we have invaded, bombed or otherwise tried to control over the years. The actual Dark Hereafter in this instance is the impact of terrorism on our societies, and that of social upheaval and of displacement in the populations of many countries our governments have invaded, as a result. It is very much a reflection on the state of the world as we see it now, which can be viewed as a very dark, unsettled place to be. This is also reflected in the whole image and feel of the artwork and the material within I think. The art has a much darker hue to it than say The Divination… which was very bright, stark and vibrant. Also, I think the songs are a little darker and heavier on the whole this time round.
All Winterfylleth records have similar themes, exploring fields of nature, history and English heritage. I think this is very admirable and patriotic. There is lot of bands using similar inspirations in the black metal scene these days but not as good as you and the Ukrainian Drudkh. The music and lyrical concept forms a strong and unbreakable unit filled with many exciting emotions. Can you tell me what was running through your head when writing the material for the The Dark Hereafter?
As ever, we are discussing issues of politics and social issues within the album, and I guess as a reaction to how we see these things unfolding in our reality. There is always a kind of ‘second meaning‘ in the lyrics which eludes to wider social and political themes and I think this album pushes that into some darker places. We have covered off the concept of The Dark Hereafter above. However, we do touch on other areas.
Pariah’s Path is fairly straight forward in that it deals with the need for us to ostracise our so-called leaders and make them Pariah’s for what they are doing to the world.
Ensigns of Victory is about how there is always an evil behind the flags of war. We send our troops off into other countries to do the bidding of the government (usually under the pretence of protecting our homes and families from tyranny) all shrouded in the knowledge that we are ‘bringing democracy‘ to the country in question, or ‘liberating them‘ from dictatorial rule etc. Usually, our flag is actually a force for corporate evil doing and we stick it in the ground after winning over the local people (usually through force) and it then serves to become a symbol for their exploitation, for the acquisition of their resources and not that of a noble cause which is being defended by good people.
One of the main songs on this release, Green Cathedral is about how we should look towards localism as opposed to globalism in our daily practices, to help curtail the impending environmental struggles of the future. Lots of global business interests are so unaccountable and wasteful that we as people need to take some kind of power back from them and make more sensible choices in our lives. If we don’t buy from them or utilise their services, they can’t deforest the world or cause so much waste and harm as a result.
photo: ‘Green Cathedral’, copyright: Winterfylleth
Do you write your music over long periods of times or is just very spontaneous? Is it different form one record to another?
The writing process for us is a very fluid and continuous thing. We’re not the sort of band who thinks ‘oh shit – we’re in the studio in 6 months – we better starting writing!‘ So there are always unfinished ideas here and there, riffs to work with etc. So, ironically with this being our shortest release so far, the songs weren’t crammed together over a short period of time. In fact, a few ideas are 2 or 3 years old but we just hadn’t properly realised them or found the correct context for them, until now. In the case of the track Green Cathedral, this one was slightly different as it came about from wanting to do a track in a particular style before we even had one riff to work with. Normally, we shy away from that kind of mindset as we just go with what comes out, it’s a very natural process and that’’ how we feel it should be – and I think people can hear that and hopefully recognise that it comes from a genuine place. However, once we had that opening riff, that track just grew and grew very naturally on its own and we knew we had something special pretty quickly. It was also a great opportunity to involve our 5th member, Mark Deeks, for the first time in the creative process and his contributions were invaluable here.
Winterfylleth full-length albums
Your relationship with Candlelight Records looks very healthy. It’s your fifth record under their wings. Are you planning to try someone else in future? Do you get many offers from other labels?
No, for the moment we have 2 albums left to do on Candlelight/Spinefarm, and given all of our discography is in the same place, then for now it makes sense we remain here. As I’m sure you can imagine, we get numerous offers from other labels, but mostly just feeling out what is going on. For now, we remain where we began and are still building the band and our profile as a result.
For the first time in your career you’ve included a cover song on the full-length album. The only other time you recorded a cover was on the split with Drudkh a couple of years ago. Why this song? Does Ulver have a special meaning for you? By the way, I’ve heard that some people thought that Led Astray in the Forest Dark was actually a Winterfylleth song? Is that true? I think that means you’ve done a good job!
Firstly – ‘thank you‘ for recognising it as a cover! You wouldn’t believe the amount of write ups we have seen since the release seemingly oblivious as to what that song is! We had wanted to do another cover track for a while and we were scratching our heads as to what to do. It was our drummer Simon that was initially championing this song as Begtatt is a particular favourite with him – as it is with us all, truthfully. There are also a million and one Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum cover versions out there and we wanted to do something a little different but also something that felt precious to us and also relevant as to where we are coming from. We always want to do something a little different with a cover version without straying too far from the source material, so this time we translated the title and lyrics from old Danish into English from a recent translation provided by Ulver in their Trolsk Sortmetall boxset. We spent a lot of time trying to get the music as faithful a homage as we could – we’re very pleased with the final result.
Next year you are celebrating a decade of Winterfylleth’s existence. I think you’ve done pretty well – five albums, great amount of live shows here and abroad. Do you have any special plans how to celebrate such occasion? Can we expect a special release as a ‘thank you‘ for your fans? A live DVD maybe?
Not sure yet to be honest, we must do something, but I’m not sure what yet. Watch this space.
You’ve had few opportunities to tour with one of the biggest names in the metal industry. Is there a band that you’d like to share the stage with? Did you have a moment in your career where you’ve stopped and thought to yourself, ‘fuck… I can’t believe this is happening!‘?
Having toured with some of our favourite bands and some of the greats in our genre, there have definitely been a few times we’ve felt very fortunate to be able to do so. Particularly touring with a band like Enslaved, who were a big inspiration for us. It’s strange to go on tour with bands like that, but also a positive reflection of how hard we’ve worked and how far we’ve come in the last 10 years since we started the band. We look forward to what comes next and we hope to keep organically building up what we can do in that regard.
photo: Chris Naughton live with Winterfylleth at Brutal Assault 2015, copyright: Dawid Krosnia / The Goat Tavern
What does give you guys more pleasure, playing for your UK fans or playing abroad? Do you approach your shows differently when abroad?
Playing anywhere is a privilege to be honest. So many younger or less established bands struggle to get heard, or to raise their heads above the water these days. I feel you have to be humble and accepting of the chances you are offered as a band. Within reason, as in, not selling yourselves short just to get a gig, but making sure you take good opportunities for the band that help you to grow as players, and as a live entity in your own right.
Your schedule for next year is filling up slowly. What can we expect from Winterfylleth soon? What is priority – broadening your UK audience or gaining fans in Europe and further beyond?
We have a few festival dates coming up before the end of the year – Into Darkness in Holland and De Mortem et Diabolum in Germany. Then, we are looking to tour in the first few months of next year. After that we are booked in to record the next (acoustic) album in June/July 2017. So hopefully, by year end there will be a new Winterfylleth album for all to enjoy.
Thanks for your time Chris and keep up the good work. Do you have any last words?
Thank you for reading and please be sure to check out our new record The Dark Hereafter, which is available now.