An e-mail conversation with Keith Fay.
1) Cruachan started in 1992, that's quite a while ago. Can you tell me a bit more about the history of Cruachan?
I can of course; I have been playing in metal bands for a very long time. My first band was a grindcore band called P.U.S., It was in 1990 and I was only 14 years old. I left this band and joined a death metal band called Crypt, I was still only 14 but the other members were in their early 20's, John Clohessy was the bass player. At the time I was very influenced by Mick Harris and Mille from Kreator, Black metal was very underground at the time and the now popular screaming vocals were unheard of, I like to think I was the first in Ireland to sing that way. Anyway, after a few demos the band broke up in 1991. I then formed Minas Tirith, a Tolkien concept band. At this time I was starting to listen to more folk music and I picked up Skyclads first album. That album really had an impact on me and I immediately came up with better and more elaborate plans. I was now a lot more into black metal and decided I would combine irish folk and black metal. I changed the name Minas Tirith to Cruachan and we recorded our first demo, 'Celtica'. This demo caused a bit of a stir and got the German label NEP interested, they signed us in 1993 and we released our first album 'Tuatha na Gael' in 1994/1995. This album became a huge success for the label but because they were so small they could not do any promotion nor could they meet the demand for sales so it became very hard to find after the initial sell out. We began to look for another, bigger label and were offered a deal by Century Media Records, this seemed great at the time but we soon realised it was not too good. The contract they offered us was insane, they wanted to take all musical rights away from us and we could not do that so we turned them down. The band more or less broke up after that because we felt we had no where to go, that all record labels would be the same. Soon after breaking up we began to receive a lot of fan mail from around the world telling us to get back together, we really did make a lot of fans from 'Tuatha na Gael'. I also hated not being in the band so we decided to get back together. We began to write new material, I got everyone back that was interested (Jay moved to America and Leon went into a blues band) and we signed to Hammerheart Records. Joe joined just 4 weeks before we recorded the middle kingdom and Karen was originally just a guest vocalist but ended up joining. Since then we have released FolkLore and have now released Pagan. Hope I didn't bore you with that!!
2) Pagan hit the stores about a month ago. I guess you've read some reviews/reactions on the album ever since. How are they so far? Are you satisfied?
I am really satisfied, we all feel that this is our best work to date but were worried that the bad production would mean people would not give the songs a chance but that is not happening. A lot of reviews are mentioning the production, saying that it should be better but they are also saying that it is a great album and that is what matters. Sure enough I have also seen some very bad reviews, mainly from people who just cant understand what folk metal is all about, I respect there opinion but if they don't understand the music they shouldn't really be reviewing a folk metal band. Oh well!
3) Who came up with the idea to hire John Howe (official Lord of the Rings-illustrator) to design the Pagan cover art? Are you happy with the result?
It was me and my brother John. We had been in touch with John Howe for a while and we thought it would be a really cool thing if we could get him to do the cover. Luckily he was interested as he had always wanted to do a CD cover. We are delighted with the result, he has done an excellent job on the cover, I feel really proud when I see the CD in the shops.
4) I can imagine that the recordings took quite a while because of all the different instruments. What kind of (other) problems were there during the recording sessions?
Where do I begin? The whole recording process was a f**king disaster, the studio was really poor. Even the guitar sound caused so much hassle; we just could not get a decent guitar sound. I spent one whole day going back and forth from a music shop trying different distortion pedals and stuff, in the end I had to go out and buy a bloody Marshall Amp to get a half way decent sound. Then we found out the producer was just no where near the quality of producers that we have worked with in the past. He would settle for badly played music, he would not notice if guitars were out of tune or anything, it was a nightmare from day one to the end.
5) Is it a learning process for future recordings when you have to deal with such problems?
Oh yes!! Big time! We will never go through that again; already we are planning to record the next album in Germany with a big name producer.
6) On the album I hear lots of instruments; I've read that in a few songs you use 16 instruments, how do you deal with that when you play live?
Easy, we don't!! It is impossible to fully recreate what you can hear on a Cruachan CD, and we will never use backing tracks. Our fans just have to accept that if they want to hear our music as good as it is on CD; they should probably just stay home and listen to the CD. We usually have at least one folk instrument live, we have a new band member now who mainly plays violin so we are now incorporating that into our live set, which means parts that were played on flute will now be on violin. Although he does play flute aswell and we will make sure that we have some flute parts.
7) 'Some say the devil is dead' is really not a folklore song in my opinion and it doesn't really fit on the album. How did you come up with such a song and why is it on a Cruachan-album?
'Some say the devil is dead' is the only true folk song on the album, it is a really old Irish song performed by many different folk bands in Ireland for many years. We even used a fantastic folk singer, Chris Kavanagh to give it that extra edge. Cruachan always record true folk songs such as Spancill Hill, The rocky road to Dublin etc. and this song is no different.
8 ) Their live shows are unique, with a true Celtic taste - dressed in historically accurate Celtic dress with war-banners etc. (when the venue allows!!) Do you use such things as war-banners and Celtic clothes just to entertain or is there a message behind it? Besides Cruachan is a Celtic band of course.
To be honest it would be more for entertainment purposes. We are a Celtic band and we just want to take our songs, our music to another level. If you read our lyrics you can get lost in an ancient world of warriors, battles etc. if you come to see the band and we are wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I feel it kind of takes away from what we are trying to do.
9) After releasing a new album there will be a lot of touring I think. Are there particular countries you're looking forward to perform? Why (not)?
I am really looking forward to our first ever German show at the Pagan Metal Festival near Frankfurt. We have many German fans and have had them for many years and finally we can repay their loyalty by performing for them. It will be a great night for us and for the fans.
10) Is there something you'd definitely like to accomplish with Cruachan?
I would like to become more popular, I would like to be recognised more for what we are doing, keeping the ancient tales alive in a modern, technological world. We may never get any recognition at all and if we don't I don't care, it will have been fun trying.
11) To end this talk; is there anything left to say to our beloved Metal Rage-readers?
Thanks for the support, stay metal!!!!