HEIDEVOLK – It’s not about music, it’s about stories

by Irene Donatoni

Shortly before they entered the scene on the stage of the Simm City in Vienna alongside Korpiklaani, Arkona and Trollfest, we managed to reach Joost and Koen from Heidevolk to get an interview. We talked about the new album, of course, and about music. But above all about the lyrics and their realization.

Italian version

Hi guys, thank you for your willingness! You have been in the Folk Metal scene for 15 years now. Did you celebrate? How?

Joost: We really did a lot: a mini-tour, then we ate and drank a little… but not so “wildly”, this time.

Koen: Yes, we did a couple of special shows, especially in our region, choosing some special sets to play an acoustic version of our songs. In this case, we have reintroduced the violinist who plays live, not just on the track. Moreover, we recorded a DVD of these shows.

J: And we did a barbecue, do you remember? Only with the band members, but it was a special occasion!

Together with the celebrations for your fifteenth year, you have released a new album this January, “Vuur Van Verzet”. How did it go? How was it welcomed?

J: We experienced some troubles because we wanted to record within the last year. There was a bit of pressure and even metal press was expecting to hear about the release of the album by that time. However, despite the hitch, the public seems enthusiastic!

You have reintroduced many more folk chunks and instruments and a 24-piece choir. Compared to “Velua”, it is a different type of album. Why this change and on what did you focus your attention?

K: Keep in mind that every Heidevolk album is centered on a particular topic, on a story. As for “Velua”, we were focused on our region of origin, Veluwe, and therefore each song was dedicated to myths, legends, and the nature of that area. But this time we returned back to “Batavi”, as we wanted to talk about tribes fighting each other and moving in the current “Europe”. And then the decline of the Roman Empire… in a nutshell, the topic is again purely historical. Basically, it was “Velua” the real exception from what we usually play. You see, lyrics are the main point of our music. So the lyrics and the stories behind every song come first, then the music follows. This combination of elements must create the idea and the atmosphere of the story.

J: I agree… as Koen said, we explored the collapse of the Roman Empire and then the reappropriation of territories by tribes: they had lost their identity, they had sold everything… and finally they had the possibility to rediscover their places and to reform those hierarchies between people and tribes that had previously seen them form a civilization, a social order.

That’s why “The Fire of Resistance” (the meaning of “Vuur Van Verzet”)…

K: The songs generate this atmosphere of resistance and of finding the strength in oneself in order to fight for what is one own. To say that this is ours. Speaking of the music itself, “Velua” was almost melodic… the new album is stronger, more aggressive and powerful.

J: But there also are stories that deal with finding a new land… the Saxons and the Angles went to Britain and that’s why we have got the song “The Alliance” in two languages, because it takes the perspective of Baltic people who are moving to those territories – that’s why we use Dutch – and then of the people of the coast in England – and so there is a part in English. On one side, they have invited them to come, on the other side, they were practically replaced.

You talk with real ardor about these lyrics. You pay close attention to the research process…

K: Always. This is our intent. In the first instance, it is not about music, it is about events to narrate. And about the whole composition. We think a lot about history and facts, but we also put our heart, also because we are proud of where we come from. But just to be clear: in a positive and proactive sense.

J: On this point, I have to add that the albums actually reflect what happened in the band. Some members left it in the last few years and so we had to constantly find a new balance. The emotions derive also from this, from the mix between what we live and the stories that we deepen.

In fact, it was risky to change both voices in such a short time, a challenge!

K: And we are happy with what came out of it (laughs)!

J: Yeah, you never know… Lars luckily worked with us on the penultimate album, on “Velua”. So it was like if we had changed one voice. Although, compared to previous years, there has been a total change. However, we have been together for three years now.  and it works well!

Returning to the lyrics, don’t you find risky to highlight so much themes like the origins, the tradition, now that Europe is facing extremisms, which are made even stronger by these symbols? What role does the artist play in this context?

K: Absolutely yes, there is this possibility that what we talked about could be used in another perspective. I just want to say: “it does not belong to us”. We look only at History.

J: The riskiest thing with the extremists or with the counter-extremists, who are extremists in their turn, is that they don’t pay attention, they don’t listen to History, they just lose interest. For example, do you know what happened at the Olympics? Norwegians could not wear the uniforms produced for them because there were some depicted runes on them. But I mean… they have used them for hundreds of years, why should they not be allowed to use these symbols only because 70 years ago someone blew all up? But in general, I want to say that we do not have a particular political idea…

K: … or agenda. We do not care about politics, we only care about the past.

J: We hope people will learn a lesson rather than go back and do the exact same things.

What lessons for example?

J: Engagement. In fact, for “Velua” one lesson is “stop sitting on the sofa!” Turn off those TVs and watch what is happening in your neighborhood, what kind of stories are there. There is an unexplored treasure of events and experiences everywhere. Everywhere! It could be just a bridge, but let’s look at how it’s called! What does it mean, why was it named this way? One can learn that there was maybe a village there, or a special place or a connection… it would be so easy and fast! But now people watch Netflix…

Speaking of music, do you find that there is an increase of bands who follow this genre? How difficult is it to stand out from other folk / pagan metal bands?

J: I think it’s a natural thing for us. Because we were born following two tendencies, basically: on one side the Viking issue, on the other side the folk metal band way. We wanted to combine these forces.

K: The idea of the two singers started there. This is our most characteristic element. In this sense, I would define Heidevolk as a sort of strange outsiders of the scene. If you look at our sound, there is something typical that comes mainly from the two voices. And then the kind of metal we do is somehow more related to rock, we go in an AC/DC direction, and we don’t think about things like: oh, here we have to put a quick chunk, with blast beat and so on… As we said, it always starts from what the story is… and when we have the story, the music comes.

J: Sometimes it happens that we realize we have not given the right tone to the story and so we give up and restart the process again.

K: It’s also the reason why we’re happy to have reintroduced more folk instruments: it allows us to work a lot in this direction. Being a metal band is also a part of the game, but it comes later.

Do you have any plans for the future?

J: There are enough stories to tell. About recordings, we are still at an early stage compared to what we want to undertake. We would also like to work on an acoustic album. I have no clue how much it will might require, but that’s the idea.

K: A true acoustic album, a whole one. Only the voices, two acoustic guitars, the violin and medieval instruments, percussions… therefore even more “folky”.

J: Last year we set an acoustic set of thirty minutes, just to celebrate the fifteenth year. And it was interesting because the festival was a black/heavy metal one, with Satyricon. We decided to create something completely different and people enjoyed the concert. It was awesome.

I would finish by talking about the fact that you are taking more and more care of the video side and media in general…

J: It’s something that is now becoming a natural course. We are about to release a new video clip of “A Wolf in My Heart”. First of all, we like being creative. But now it is essential and a growing trend. Now everything is “media”, now it is so normal to do something and post it taking a picture or a small video.

Does it bother you that people at concerts pull out their mobile phones to take pictures or videos?

J: No, absolutely. It’s a way to have a piece of that experience in your hand. There was that kind of Robbie Williams’ concert where 60.000 people were taking pictures at a given moment, all of them. With 60.000 flashes! Oh, we cannot do it because he has already done it, but it was a great idea!

K: If you see us on the stage, you can feel that it’s not a problem for us. Also because a lot of things happen during the concert: we are six people, we play, we run, we jump… it’s a show to live fully, we’re having fun too! And people want to join. There are people who don’t even think about pulling out their phones and film because there’s so much to do and watch!

J: And I don’t think that making a video and watching it at home can provide the same fun (they laugh)!

K: We try anyway to use this medium in a creative way. We told people to turn around and take a selfie with us. It’s nice because it’s ridiculous and we told people: “this is your moment!”

I guess, like “it’s now or never!”
Thank you guys for your willingness and for having deepened the aspect of using history in music… now I leave you since you’re busy, see you next time and enjoy the concert!

J & K: Thanks to you and a greeting to MetalPit readers!

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